For many years, an epic bicycle ride has been staged on the mountain roads of the High Sierra. It’s called The Tour of the California Alps - Death Ride. Held on one day in July, it attracts 2,800 avid cyclists from across the country who test their fitness climbing the high and spectacular roads of the California Sierra Nevada mountain range. It is one of the most difficult one-day rides in the country.
The Death Ride has become so popular that it sells out months in advance. Many riders don’t get in, and the ones that do get in have to compete with all the other riders for dining, hotel rooms, and space on the road.
In 2003, UDC thought that a smaller, quieter, but just as challenging cycling experience over the same mountain roads would be a fun alternative. Thus was founded the Kiss of Death™. Instead of three thousand or more riders, Kiss of Death is limited to just 14. We challenge ourselves on all of the same bicycles climbs of the Death Ride, plus a few more. But instead of doing them all in one day, we do them over a long weekend.
What type of riders come on this trip? People training for the Death Ride. People who want to do the Death Ride but didn't win an entry. People who want a quieter, more relaxed version of the Death Ride. Or mostly, people who love the exhiliration and challenge of cycling the majestic and peaceful High Sierra of Alpine County—the least populated county in California.
We schedule the Kiss of Death in the weeks prior to the official Markleeville Death Ride. The roads are very quiet at this time in the High Sierra, and the selected date gives riders planning to do the Death Ride the ability to get in some high altitude training on the same hills they will be climbing.
I just returned from a 6-day cycling trip with Undiscovered Country Bike Tours. This was my first organized bike tour, and it met, perhaps exceeded, my expectations.
The tour went from Monterey, south on California Route 1 all the way to Cambria, and finally inland to Paso Robles.
My Excellent rating is based on the following:
1. Routes. This seems like a no-brainer (just go south!), but it's not. The routes were designed with ample time for stopping for photos along the spectacular coastline, and also offered extra challenges for riders who wanted more. For example, on Day 2, we had the option of a difficult 7 mile climb up Nacimiento Road, off Route 1. Not all riders opted for this, but the fact that some riders did it, did not cause any problems for the full group. Also, the route on the optional day's ride was very challenging, and a lot of fun, and it was different from the coastal riding we had been doing up to that point.
2. Guides. We had Laura and Daryl as our guides. A married couple, they took turns each day with one driving the van and the other cycling with us guests. They are California natives, they know the roads and each other very well, but they especially made all of us happy all throughout the whole trip. They took care of every detail - whether it was a small adjustment on seat hight, making sure our luggage was in our rooms, or encouraging us to push ourselves on challenging parts of the ride, they were there, and happy to do it.
3. Bicycles. From the outset, I felt confident that I was in good hands with using a bicycle from UDC. After initial registration for the trip, I received a package with a tape measure and a schematic drawing of a bike, to provide my bike measurements. My setup is slightly unusual, which UDC noticed, and checked with me to verify. Upon arrival, the bike was perfectly fit, with just some minor saddle adjustments necessary, since I brought my own saddle from home. The Scott bikes were in good mechanical condition, and we had no mechanicals during the entire trip. My friend rented a Garmin - it was a great idea for someone to try out using a Garmin, if you don't already own one. The unit came pre-loaded with all of the routes for the trip.
4. Accommodations. All of the hotels we stayed in were top-notch.
5. Food. Breakfast and dinner were included as part of the trip price, and the restaurants were all terrific. In Big Sur we didn't have any choice, but we were already staying at Big Sur Lodge, *the* place to stay. The dinners in Cambria and Paso Robles were terrific, and this is from a New Yorker!
6. Transportation. The tour ended in Paso Robles. Included in the trip price was Amtrak train fare back to Salinas, with transfer to Monterey. This was the only part of the trip that was not perfect. It is not UDC's fault that Amtrak was an hour late. However, I would have preferred if UDC listed the trip as ending in Paso Robles, and then giving us the option of Amtrak back to Monterey. If I had to make a choice, I probably would have preferred to rent a car earlier in the day, and go directly to LA or SF for flights back to NYC. Hindsight is 20/20 though! In this domain, I could be nit-picky and make my rating a 5-1/2.
The biggest compliment I can give is that the day after the tour, my friend and I logged on to their website to see what other tours were available that we could do next year.
Thanks UDC, and thanks Daryl and Laura!
TripAdvisor Review September 2013