Notes from the 2018 Stagecoach 400

Oh, the Stagecoach 400.  I did it back in 2015 on the SS… when Brendan ran it clockwise.  The diversity of terrain, scenery and vibe of the route are hard to beat.  Mountains, deserts, oceans, farms, singletrack, urban bike paths, college campuses, breweries, bourgeoisie, hobos, rednecks, no necks all cleverly crammed into 385 miles and 32k climbing.  Highly rewarding.  No small task.


Fantastic singletrack climbing out of San Diego towards Alpine, Day 2.  Bike performed flawlessly.  No mechanicals, and the Conti Trail Kings were the perfect tire overall.

Round two.  Why, again?  Not as an end, but a means to – training for the Tour Divide.  Stoked that it’s now run counter-clock, so I still had some course knowledge, but it felt fresh going the opposite direction, and dare I say, easier?

Goals?  Mostly mental prep for the TD.  Balance highs and lows.  Work through setbacks.  Practice positive.  Way more important to exercise the mind – face the sleep monsters, weather monsters, and the deep, dark low spots that only show up on a true bikepacking event.  So yeah – kind of a TD warmup.  Also great multi-day  Raoring practice.  Ride hard, but stop and smell the roses.  Gauge fitness, continue shaking down gear/packing/hydration/fueling for the TD.


Quick snack break.  Anza, Day 1.

I rode at what I perceive to be my “TD pace” – not “Stagecoach Race Pace”.  I wanted to put in 100 miles/10k climbing a day, but also sleep well, enjoy the route, meet cool peeps, eat well, and not feel like I was racing.  Success!  I finished in 3.5 days, with mind and body completely great at the end.  This gives me some encouragement for the TD – knowing I can potentially hold this pace for many days.  That being said, here are some thoughts/memories I jotted down during this adventure:

  • Heavy mud climbing Thomas Mtn out of Idyllwild from recent rains – but nothing too bad
  • Nippy dogs yelling and running at me as I was leaving Anza, then a trail runner came up and they went for him – haha, the decoy!  I pedaled past and left them.  Yes, I looked back and he was fine.
  • I didn’t realize my bladder leaked until I started climbing Chihuahua.  I’d finished my water bottles already, and was counting on the 2L in my bladder to get me through the next 25 miles of hot weather / slow going riding.  4 hours without water was a great mental test for me.  Composed and calm.  I did find a spigot about half way through which pushed out brown water.  I filled my bottles with it, and was ready to filter it in an emergency, but only if it came to that.  I was dehydrated by the time I hit Warner Springs, but nothing too bad.


    The spigot I found that spit out brown water.  Luckily, I never had to drink it 🙂

  • Met Sarah and Lauren and rode with them for the next few hours.  (I should’ve taken some pics with them!)  The slower pace helped me to re-hydrate and it was great having company, as I never get much on these ITT’s.  After they decided to camp, I kept on towards San Diego.
  • Took a 15 minute siesta at the weird old building at the top of Black Canyon Rd.  Just what the doctor ordered before a magical descent.
  • Ate a fresh orange off a tree before reaching Escondido
  • Rode by a homeless lady who was using a bigger iPhone than mine.  Ummm….
  • Right knee hurt day one, stale legs morning of second day, but then they came around and knee pain stopped as I was climbing towards Alpine.  Thank gosh!
  • Had a left over fat boy pita from the greek place in Alpine for brekky in Descanso post office to get out of the rain/wind


    Shelter from the wind/rain.  Eating my leftover half of a “Fat Boy Pita” for brekky at the post office in Descanso.  So quiet.  I could hear the time clock punch every minute.

  • Rain and gale force winds continued up Cuyamaca, Indian Creek, and Noble, and headwinds almost unbearable on Sunrise Highway.  Took cover in pit toilet at Lucky 7 to warm up a bit before descending Oriflamme.  My headlight was in a feed bag pouch and must have bounced out during the rocky descent.  Bummer.  Didn’t notice it was gone for another 60 miles or so.

    Can’t tell from the photo – but rain, wind, and mud made very slow going through Cuyamaca and up Noble.  Great mental practice!!


    Last time, I climbed Oriflamme in the dark.  So happy to descend it this time, as the sun started to poke out and reveal magical views after getting pelted by rain for 5 hours.

  • Yahoo, reached the desert, sun popped, temps raised, dried out at Agua Caliente with Mark before cutting through sand and washboards of Fish Creek Wash to Split Mountain.  Headwinds turned to tailwinds and helped me through that junk show.


    So good to make it to Agua Caliente and thaw out / let my clothes dry out for a bit.  The desert can be your best friend or your worst enemy.

  • Once back on the pavement, nothing but headwinds all the way to the Iron Door Saloon.  Cookie brought me a pizza, some wings, and a couple hot dogs, which I washed down with a couple of Budweisers (yes, I know).  That’s as craft as it was gonna get.
  • Chatted with Dave, Biker Jim, and Steve and learned that Stephen Hawking passed away.  That was sad.  Steve lived 300′ from the bar, and invited me to camp in his front yard.  I said yes.  We chatted til the wee hours by firelight.


    Hangin with Steve, so stoked he let me camp in his front yard.  You meet some great peeps on these adventures.

  • The Greatest Showman soundtrack replayed dozens of times and got me through the headwinds into Borrego Springs and up Coyote Canyon through shin deep water in the Willows and eventually to the snack shop at the RV Park.


    Found this bighorn by the Willows in Coyote Canyon.

  • Problems with right foot getting hot spots and going numb.  I’ll try playing with cleat placement.
  • Rode the rest of the way into Idyllwild with no music, just enjoying the quiet.  Ordered a burrito to go from La Casita, took a warm bath at the Idyllwild Inn, watched some mindless TV and settled into sleep.
  • Next time, I’ll pack a few stakes for my tent which flopped around in the wind.
  • I rode sans chamois.  I made it through, but it was tough on the nethers.  I think I’m gonna give in and try a chamois on the Tour De Los Padres next month.
  • Might try a different dry bag with loops in it, as mine kept sliding out sideways over techy/bumpy terrain.


    Trail magic.  I was face down in the aerobars, zoned out, when Jon yelled my name.  An ice cold beer and some good conversation were exactly what I needed before climbing to Alpine.  Life is good! 

**I’m Alan – passionate cyclist and owner of The Maven Bike Shop in Mammoth Lakes, CA – if you ever wanna chat bikes, get a price quote, or anything else – please contact me.  Let us help get you on a Salsa, Pivot, Niner or Surly.  — Ride bikes.  Drink beer.  Live happy.
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