Winter kinda snuck up on me this year.
I don’t know if it’s because the weather stays pretty constant here or that I rely on Game of Thrones to tell me what season it is, but to me December 21st is normally just another day on the calendar.
Now, I don’t get a lot of time to sneak in exotic rides, but I had a window on this marked day to do a ride I’ve been hoping to do for awhile.
Mount Pinos is not the most appropriate ride for this weather, but when you’re as dumb as I am and your mind is set, the possibilities are limitless!
My like-minded friend Sasha joined me and we knew it was going to be cold providing a chance to try out some of our winter gear.
The weather forecast a few days before showed it was going to be clear, but even the night before there was only a 20% chance of rain, so what could go wrong?
Our ride started around 6,000 feet and we were climbing 8.5 miles to 8,300, so we knew we had to prepare for the wind chill.
This was also going to be the highest point I’ve ever cycled, plus dealing with that elevation to start worried me a bit too as sometimes it takes me awhile to acclimate.
We drove for a little over an hour to the parking area at Cuddy Valley Road and Mil Portero Highway, which is a ten minute drive off of I-5.
Our preride gear check (without the gloves).
While we were already dressed to ride, there were definitely a few more layers that needed to be added.
To start the ride, these were the items I was wearing:
- Arm Warmers
- Long Sleeve Windbreaker
- Light Vest
- Bib Shorts
- Thermal-Inspired Tights
- Leg Warmers
- Light Gloves
- Cycling Cap
- Thermal Beanie
- Wool Socks
- Cycling Shoes
- Toe Covers
I also packed some extra gear for the ride which I’ll get into later.
We both also chose to rid our similarly built gravel bikes with Sasha sporting 32 slicks with me sticking to my 36 slightly treaded tubeless tires.
As we turned onto the wet Cuddy Valley Road, we were greeted by the unfriendly reminder of a sign that said, “Icy”.
Yup. Danger ahead..
At least going up, we could weigh the conditions on what peril we would be facing on the descent.
The climb itself was a nice and steady 5% – 6% which we kept an easy pace.
Cathedral of trees.
Our view was blocked by a wall of pines on both sides of the road, but just being surrounded by nature and clear air was good enough for me.
While the temperature showed 46F when we parked, I started partially unzipping my layers as we ascended.
An early view back to the start of Cuddy Valley Road.
The road was also more dry than wet, so this was encouraging the first few miles even as snow and ice started to show on the side of the road.
We also caught glimpses of a parallel fire road that looked intriguing to ride and even the helmetless motorcycle riders felt ready to have at it!
Hello to our two-wheeled brethren.
At times, there would be glimpses of the valleys below and in this weather they were somewhat occluded by the clouds.
Our only hazard was the two cars that passed us until mile 6 when the snow started to come down.
I left it to Sasha if he wanted to turn around, but we had gone this far….
Despite the snowfall coming down, I didn’t really feel the need to zip up.
No business like snow business.
The presence of ice increased as well climbed, but stayed pretty sloshy as I tested my bike through it.
We got a warning we were near the top when the “Pavement Ends” sign popped up.
Reaching the top at the Mt. Pinos Nordic Base.
Just after was the large parking lot for the nordic base which had just three cars parked.
From here, you can hike or bike up another 600ft. on dirt trail up to reach the peak of Mt. Pinos, but paved riding would suffice.
Sasha went out on the trail for about a hundred yards to test out riding on a snow trail, but the clumsiness angel on my shoulder told me to hang tight.
I took this pause to add a heavy jacket, replace my thin gloves with thicker ones and take some air out my tires before we were on our way.
As the snow continued to fall, it was apparent from the start that this was going to be a cold descent.
I was dumb at the start to stay near Sasha as his rear wheel sprayed me all from the wetness.
He kept a much quicker pace, but I was fine keeping at a casual 30mph on the way down.
Another sign I didn’t want to see was a snow plow as we began:
I spent the whole ride identifying each individual part of my body that was cold.
That was my way of making the time pass.
The descent was actually quite beautiful placing ourselves within the larger landscape even though I kept checking my Garmin to see how close I was to finishing it.
Our original plan was to ride a little more once we passed my car, but because the wetness was making it miserable, we called it a day.
As we were packing up, a mountain biker named Steve emerged from the hillside far more steady than us.
He was quite a bit more muddied, but not freezing like us even though we were fairly more clothed.
Steve from Culver City was far more smiley and composed than us.
The Minnesota plates on his car should have been a tipoff, but probably restricted a bit more on speed down the trail kept him warmer than us.
Although this was a good distance to travel, we were pretty happy to make the trip, elements and all.
We’re pretty eager to come back and explore more with better weather and preparedness, but most importantly we had an experience.
Thank you Mount Pinos, we’ll see you again.
But probably not for another few months….