Death Ride California – One of the classic road bike tours in the USA


Ride of death !!! – Image taken by: Aki Yamakawa

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Road bike tours are deeply rooted in alpine communities around the world. One of the most famous and legendary is the Tour de France which crosses the Alps. Each usually has a story or a reason why they come to fruition. So what about the United States? Do we have one with an interesting anecdote? With July 4e with the festivities underway, we are on the eve of one of the oldest road cycling tours in the United States. You understand ! It’s none other than the Death Ride California, and it definitely has a great story.

BD… Before the ride of death

Monitor Pass on Death Ride California Tour
View from the monitor pass – Image taken by: Aki Yamakawa

“Only” in his 40se year, the history and inspiration of Death Ride go back further in time. In the early 1970s there was a tour called “SuperTourHosted by Carter Squires of Diablo Wheelman’s. He called the 75 tour a “total failure because everyone finished.” To compensate, the 1976 tour was a monster ride. Only five of the 27 brave souls survived the entire 1,000 mile tour in two weeks. Now it’s a death ride!

Markleeville’s Great Death March

Death Ride 2017 California Road Bike Race Monitor Pass Summer Scenic View
Ride of death !!! – Image taken by: Aki Yamakawa

One of the most unique aspects of the tour was that each of the stops had a creative narrative written by a man named John F Scott. He was the one who saw the roadmap on day 5 of the tour and named it “Der Grosse Totenmarsch nach Markleeville”, which translates to The Great Markleeville Death March. The route has evolved over the years, but the inspiration for the name and route came from that eventful day of the SuperTour ’76.

Death Ride – How hard is the modern version?

Death Ride 2017 California Road Bike Race Ebbetts Pass Summer Scenic View Classic Road Bike Race
Climb to the back of the Ebbetts Pass – Image taken by: Zach Bass

Another monster-of-a-road The modern Death Ride alone brings together over 3,000 riders using all kinds of two-wheeled modes to really test their mettle. In one day, the elevation gain increased to 14,000 feet! The course spans 103 miles with 6 graded climbs through three deep mountain passes in Alpine County, just two miles from historic Markleeville:

  • 8,314-foot monitor
  • 8,730 foot Ebbetts
  • 8,580 foot Carson Pass

Event details

Start / Finish: Turtle Rock Park

Date: 7/17/2021

If you want to learn more about popular tours like the Death Ride California, get advice on gear, or just find out more about hidden destinations to explore on your ATV, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide to everything. which concerns two wheels: The Down & Dirty On the MTB.

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