Death Ride – One Of The Classic Road Bike Tours In The U.S.

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

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Road Bike Tours are deeply entrenched in Alpine communities around the world. One of the most famous and legendary is the Tour De France running through the Alps. Each one typically has a story or a reason they come to fruition. So, what about the U.S.? Do we have one with an interesting anecdote? With the July 4th festivities fully underway, we’re on the eve of one of the oldest road cycling tours in the U.S. You got it! It’s none other than the Death Ride California, and it definitely has a great story.

BD… Before Death Ride

Monitor Pass on Death Ride California tour
View from Monitor Pass – Image taken by: Aki Yamakawa

“Only” in its 40th year, the Death Ride’s history and inspiration go further back in time. In the early 70’s, there was a tour named “SuperTour” organized by Carter Squires of the Diablo Wheelman’s. He categorized the ’75 tour as an “utter failure because everyone finished.” To make up for it, the 1976 tour was a monster of a course. Only five of the 27 brave souls survived the entire 1,000 mile tour across two weeks. Now that’s a Death Ride!

The Great Markleeville Death March

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

One of the more unique aspects to the tour was that each of the stages had a creative narrative written by a gentleman named John F Scott. It was he who saw the route sheet 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 of the name and route came from that eventful day on the SuperTour ’76.

Death Ride – How Tough Is The Modern Version?

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

Another monster-of-a-route in its own right, the modern day Death Ride constitutes over 3,000 cyclists using all kinds of two wheel modes to truly test their mettle. As a one day tour, the elevation gain has increased to 14,000 feet! The course spans 103 miles with 6 rated climbs across three mountain passes deep in Alpine County, only 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 grassroot tours like the Death Ride California, get tips on gear, or just learn about hidden destinations to explore on your mountain bike, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide on everything two wheels: The Down & Dirty On Mountain Biking.

5 thoughts on “Death Ride – One Of The Classic Road Bike Tours In The U.S.

  1. The Death Ride is not a race. It I an organized and supported ride. There are no categories or prizes for the riders.

        1. Hey Kerry,

          Personally, I think of everything as a “race” if it’s against someone or yourself but I’m guessing those who do the Death Ride want it to only be called an organized ride. Anyways, I’ve made sure that the word race isn’t mentioned anywhere in the article. Instead we’ve called it a “tour.”

          Thanks,

          Alex

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