Nevada Highway 50 Loneliest Highway in America Solo Bicycle Record
I (Rich Staley, Owner of Great Basin Bicycles) have always wanted to ride across Nevada on Highway 50, The Loneliest Highway in America non stop from State Line, Lake Tahoe to Border Town at the Utah Border. I tried once at about the age of 25, when your only real energy food were basic powerbars. I learned a ton in that attempt, and only made it to Eureka before calling it quits. I realized that my body would not take in solid food while riding continuously for that amount of time. So, I ended up riding from Fallon, Nevada to Eureka on mostly grapes. It kept my energy level from crashing, but it did not keep it from gradually falling. The other problem I had on my previous attempt was that I started mid morning. I know the first 1/2 of this ride like the back of my hand, but don’t know the second half very well. When I reached the 1/2 way point last time, it was already dark, then the next 70 mile section to Eureka was mind numbing. I remember watching a car pass me, and watching their tail lights go up, up, up and up and shimmer away in the distance. I could not tell how steep the climb was, how long the climb was, and had no idea how to regulate the energy I had. I ended up completely exhausted at Eureka, and called it quits.
So finally, I decided to bite the bullet, and do it again at the age of 43. So, August 3rd, 2012 I took my crew up to Lake Tahoe, California – Nevada Stateline to start my trip at about 3:15pm. I had 3 friends crew for me. Pat, Marlies, and Jami. Pat and Marlies are experienced ultra distance cyclists, including riding the Furnace Creek 508 mile race as a solo tandem (I crewed for them during this event last year, and will again this year) and Pat just finished RAAM (Race Across America) as a two man team. And Jami is a fantastic friend of mine that completed Mountain Bike Nevada, 533 miles in 11 days all on a mountain bike. Pat has tricked his Honda Minivan out with bike racks on top, on the back, flood lights on the front, external speakers for the riders listening pleasure, and a full compliment of drawers all labeled and organized inside the mini van. He has this “grocery go getter” tricked out. So at 3:15 ish, I rolled up the Stateline, and started my quest for a non stop bicycle ride across the state on a 2012 Cannondale Super Six Carbon Ultegra DI2 bike with Profile Aero Bars, and Mavic R-Sys wheels. I opted for the R-sys wheels knowing that I was going to hit winds in every different direction, and did not want to get pushed around by deep dish aero wheels. My first leg was:
Stateline Tahoe to Fallon. 87.1 miles, and 2089 feet of climbing, 3 hours, 38 minutes.
This section starts out climbing up and out of the Lake Tahoe Basin, then down to Carson City, and out east to Fallon, Nevada. This was the hottest section of the trip hitting 112 degs F. I was doing ok with the heat, but the crew made a quick fuel grab in Carson City, and when they caught up with me they handed me the most amazing 7’11’ Slurpee ever. At 112 degs F, it hit the spot. I made it to Fallon, Nevada in 3 hrs, 38 minutes with fantastic tailwinds, but tons of heat. Through the heat, the crew handed me a tube sock filled with ice cubes to put around my neck. What a fantastic
Fallon to Austin. 110.5 miles and 4656 feet of climbing, 8 hrs and 26 minutes.
As I continued through Fallon, the crew picked up a pizza, more fuel, and another fantastic 7’11’ Slurpee. They caught up to me just before Sand Mountain. At this point, the sun was setting, and the temps were cooling to a low 100 degs F. The sunset was beautiful, and the desert colors were magnificent. These colors are something that I just live for. As the temps started to fall, it made it easier for me to drink, and eat. With the heat, everything I tried to eat or drink made me feel sick and bloated. So, all I could do was take in small amounts of food and drink, but constantly. Just past Sand Mountain it was getting dark, and the temps were now dropping into the upper 80s which was a fantastic temp. The winds had reduced, and the dropping temps were magnificent. As I got closer to Austin, I continued to get tired, and started dozing off on the bike, so about 40ish miles from Austin, I stopped for my first power nap of about 45 minutes. I had previously made Potato Soup which the fantastic crew heated up for me in Fallon, and hit the spot at this point in the ride. However, next time I think Chicken Noodle soup would be a better choice as it would not be as heavy. So, I drank as much as I could, and hit the road again. The crew followed me out onto the road in the Honda Mini Van with lights flooding, and speakers blearing. I continued to push on to Austin, and rode the gradual grade up into Austin.
Austin to Eureka. 69.7 miles and 2750 feet of climbing, 5 hours and 11 minutes.
This section was a relatively easy section. Right out of Austin you have Austin Summit which is a short but steep climb, then you get to blast down the other side. It was my goal to drop the crew in their Mini Van. So now it is just past 3am, and I am trying to drop the Mini Van just so I can go careening around steep corners in the dark with no lights from the van. Not smart at 50 miles per hour, but a ton of fun. I only dropped them on a couple of turns, but they caught up fast. Then you climb immediately up Bob Scot summit, then down into the valley with one small climb after the long valley. At this point, the sun was just starting to come up, and the temps were dropping into the mid 40s. So, I pulled over for another power nap and food to wait for the sun to come up, and the temps to climb a little bit. I slept for about 45 minutes with a little more time to eat, and the temps pulled back into the 50s, and back on the bike, and relatively flat to Eureka.
Eureka to Ely. 78.3 miles and 3907 feet of climbing, 5 hrs and 31 minutes.
We stopped quickly in Eureka. Here I was starting to feel the issues of not being able to take in solid food. So, Pat and Marlies recommended drinking Ensure. OMG, what a fantastic product. I had many different energy foods, gels, drinks, and nothing was really making a difference. This is where I quit on my previous attempt, but felt fantastic right now. The ensure took hold in about 10 minutes and I felt fantastic. I started to climb out of Eureka, and the crew stopped at a Delli for breakfast food, caught up to me and had me take a couple of bites of a breakfast bagel. Again, as a solid food, I could only take about 3 small bites, and that was about it. Right out of Eureka, NDOT had tarred the road and put down pea gravel. Every car that would pass the opposite direction would end up throwing the gravel at me as they passed doing 60 mph. The little pea gravel felt like bee stings with every passing car. This was only a 10ish mile section, so over fairly quickly. From this point on, the crew continued to pump me full of ice cold Ensure. It was amazing to see how quickly this product took effect. Continuing to Ely, we also discovered that water mellon wedges worked equally well. About 30 miles from Ely, the head winds started up, the afternoon thundershowers started to pop up, and the temps started to climb just over 100 degs again. Kind of like a humid convection bake oven.
Ely to Border Town Utah Border. 63.6 miles and 2967 feet of climbing, 4 hours and 23 minutes.
Leaving Ely, I was still bucking a slight headwind. My speed was a little lower, but not bad, and it was looking like I was going to finish at about 26ish hours. I continued to drink Ensure, and water mellon wedges with ice water in my bottles, and lastly we started to leave the energy drinks and moved to Pedialyte. It was not as sweet, and was much easier on my stomach. I still mainly drank water with the occasional water spiked with Pedialyte. Once I cleared my next to last climb, I was blasted with a horrific cross head wind, and looking down into Spring Valley, I could see a huge wind farm, and now realize why they are there. The road dropped into the valley, and turned right into the head wind. Once I got there, I ended up bucking a 40 mile head wind, and it was all I could do to turn 9.7 miles per hour, then the road turned up a canyon to the last climb, and the wind was coming strait down the canyon, and again, all I could muster up to do 5.8 mph up the hill to the top. That 25 miles took just over 2 hours to complete. That moved my finishing time to the 27ish hour mark. Once I got to the top of the climb, nothing could keep me from the end. I ended up dropping down on the aero bars, and held between 27.5 mph to 33 mph for the last 12 ish miles to the border.
And a huge, huge, huge thanks to Pat, Marlise, and Jami. There is no possible way that I could have accomplished this ride with out all of their magnificent support and knowledge.
Stateline Tahoe (California – Nevada Border) to Border Town (Nevada – Utah Border) Highway 50:
27 hrs, 17 minutes, 37 seconds total time including stops
15 mph average speed including stops
56.1 mph maximum speed
16,404 ft total elevation gain (I used Strava to break the sections down to give me milage and elevation gain. The elev gain does not add up perfectly, but it is close.)
112 deg F (according to our vehicle) 111.2 deg F according to my Garmin 800 Max temp
44.6 deg F minimum temp
Here is the Garmin Link to the ride: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/209926053#
Here is the Strava Link to the ride: http://app.strava.com/rides/18192221#
Here is the Flickr Link to the pics: http://www.flickr.com/photos/22831145@N03/sets/72157631059578258/
About Rich Staley
Shop owner, Rich Staley, has been teaching basic bicycle maintenance at Great Basin Bicycles since 1990, to help consumers take care of their own bikes.