There are a lot of great bike-riding events to choose from in the summer and fall around Lake Tahoe and Northern California. For me, however, one stands above the rest – the Tour de Manure in the Sierra Valley on June 18. The ride is well-organized and supported, the food at the finish is delicious and the Sierra Valley is a beautiful place to ride in the spring. But what really makes the tour special is the small-town, relaxed atmosphere that brings back a great crowd of Tahoe and Truckee locals year after year.
At a metric century distance of 62 miles, many will find the Tour de Manure a much more civilized and enjoyable ride than taking on the full 100 miles required in a regular century race, especially this early in the biking season. The ride begins between 8 and 9 a.m. in Sierraville, 25 miles north of Truckee. The goal is to finish before the notorious Sierra Valley afternoon winds kick in. The ride heads north on State Route 89, 4 miles to Sattley, where a right turn begins the long across-valley push on County Route A23 to Beckwourth.
“What really makes the tour special is the small-town,
relaxed atmospherethat brings back a great crowd
of Tahoe and Truckee locals year after year.”
After a short jaunt along State Route 70, the course turns right and follows lightly traveled Country Route A24 to the town of Loyalton. The ride is flat, providing riders with opportunity to enjoy the pretty, cow country views and smells that give the ride its name. Sierra Valley is also a wildflower and birders’ paradise. Look for eagles, hawks, sandhill cranes, red-winged blackbirds and a host of other interesting and sweetly singing birds. Hawks especially don’t seem to mind you riding close as they lounge on a fence post. You also might catch a glimpse of antelope enjoying the pasture lands.
After a rest stop in Loyalton, the riders finally get a chance to switch gears, with the 5-mile climb up Smithneck Road. The climb is steady, but gentle, and ends with a turn around and fun downhill return to Loyalton. Now, it’s time for the final leg: the 13-mile push back to Sierraville and the post-ride celebration.
What makes it great
While spinning along on lightly used, rural roads with wildflowers and cow pastures is all good, riding as part of a great peloton to ease the burden is even better. This ride is full of lines of folks riding along; find one that matches your speed and hang on. While in the past I had spent most of the ride by myself, last year I almost did the entire ride in a line of other riders. I arrived at the finish a half hour earlier than any previous tour and felt quite a bit more chipper than usual.
Whether you are riding alone or in a pack, you will appreciate the Berma Shave-style signs you pass as you roll along. One set says: “Sierra Valley, where Spandex meets Rawhide.” Another says: “Sattley: 52 people, 71 chickens, 101 cows, 34 goats.”
Once the riding is complete, the party begins. The food is excellent and there is lots of it. The bluegrass music from Tahoe and Sierra Valley locals Michael Hogan and The Simpletons will add to the fun.
The Tour de Manure is a fundraiser for Sierraville’s Fire Department. Folks from the town and all across the valley arrive at the start, early in the morning to volunteer to make this a great event.
Rick Maddalena, one of the event organizers, says the tour has both a financial and community benefit. The fire department has been able to purchase some much-needed equipment over the years with the $10,000 plus the tour brings in every year.
“It is has helped a number of people in town see the value of having bike-related tourism in the Valley,” said Maddalena.
With just a few restaurants and stores in the sleepy Sierra Valley, folks swarming in and spending money is a good thing. For the riders, it’s a chance to take a break from the bustle of Tahoe to enjoy a wonderful small-town get-together where the locals are happy to see you party down in their town.
To register, visit tourdemanure.org. Read Wet ‘n’ Dirty for details on other upcoming rides.
OTHER RIDES TO CONSIDER
Cycling the Sierra | June 18-22
Tour de Tahoe-Bike Big Blue | Sept. 11
Tahoe Sierra Century | Sept. 17
Edible Pedal | Sept. 18
The Great Lake Tahoe Bike Race | Sept. 18