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Old 06-07-2014, 12:31 AM   #1
Skippii OP
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Question Riding Death Valley in July or August?

As a guy from the East Coast, what's it like?
I've heard it gets quite warm there.

Here's the deal: I'm riding from Virginia across the country on the Trans-America Trail on a DRZ-400, and I plan to stay in Las Vegas for a while and do a bunch of riding around that area before I get back on the trail. I've always wanted to visit Death Valley. I was in the area 12 years ago as a teenager (with a car), and had to choose between seeing Seguaro or Death Valley. I went to see the cacti. My parents went to see Death Valley and said it was awesome.

I've heard that Death Valley has some amazing riding for a dual sport bike. I've looked at some of the group rides and ride reports here and had a big desire to do them myself. I've also heard that it's best to ride it in February, as it's too hot to ride in July or August. On the other hand, when my parents were there, they said there were a bunch of people running an ultramarthon, so I'm skeptical that it's such a bad idea to do the same thing on a motorcycle.
How bad is it?

I understand that heat over there isn't the same as heat over here. Here in Virginia, it's easy to tell when you're getting dehydrated because in our ~100% humidity, you can just measure the buckets of sweat coming out of your armpits to see how much water you've lost. And since it doesn't evaporate, you can just wring out your shirt into your mouth and rehydrate with very little loss!

I'd had a couple of thoughts about doing a ride. I'd thought about riding in in the evening to watch the sunset, camping, and riding out again in the morning as the sun rose, thus avoiding most of the heat.

Then some people told me this was a bad idea since the temperature in the valley drops so much that it gets freezing cold at night. Weather reports seem to show the temps drop into the 70s and 80s at night. I'm either missing something, or you southern Cali people have a very different idea of "freezing cold" than we do on the East coast.

So, I'm interested to know about it. If it really is dangerous, I've got no problem scrapping the whole idea and spending more time eating cheese in Wisconsin. But if it can be done safely, I want to do it.

From people with experience, can you shed some light on some of the rumors I've heard?
Can it be done safely?
Will a water-cooled bike like the DRZ stay cool enough?
Will the tires really melt on the road?
What's an appropriate amount of water to bring? I'll have the 4 liters of water in the Sweetcheeks seat, a camelbak, and space to carry another couple liters. I know changing a tire in the sun out here usually makes me pretty thirsty, so hopefully I won't need to do that.

For the most part, I want to do most of my cross country trip alone, but for specific parts like this, I'd actually like to go with a group. Anyone interested?
As I said, the idea of riding in full sun 130*F temps doesn't really sound like fun to me, but riding in the evening and morning to watch the sun rise and set over the valley with more reasonable temperature...that sounds like a good time.
Plus, if it's as dangerous as people say, having a few people with me might be a good idea.
Who's in?
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Old 06-07-2014, 12:49 AM   #2
tbarstow
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It could be done.

Yes, So Cal people do not understand "freezing cold". The temperatures at elevation will get quite cool in the evenings.

It will be f'n hot. You will go through water extremely fast, but you may not really notice how much you are sweating. Your 4-6 liters of water will last you a couple of hours and outside of the places that sell gas, there is no other usable water in the park. Avoid your vented gear, as you want your perspiration to stay around for a bit to do you some good.

Staying out of the sun if you do have problems is paramount. Be prepared to spend a day in the desert if you need outside help, as all of the park is remote. Realize that the heat will sap your strength and endurance, so trying to do a 500 mile loop probably isn't a good idea. The new park manager isn't keen on people doing things that might be considered dangerous, so the Badwater Ultra isn't happening in DV this year.

Your water-cooled bike will be fine. Some people go to a heavier weight oil during the summer months to help remove heat from the oil cooled components.

I have yet to melt a tire here in Las Vegas, but the hot pavement does eat them pretty quickly.
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Old 06-07-2014, 01:10 AM   #3
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Try it in Feb, Mar or April. They have reasons for naming their communities FURNACE Creek and DEATH Valley. I've checked the temps out there in the summer and at five a.m., the low would be 96! Seven hours after sunset and it's still nearly in triple digits. Highs can be in the one teens and even twenties!
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Old 06-07-2014, 07:33 AM   #4
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The TAT runs near Vegas? Im pretty sure 125 degrees is doable at times in DV,if you enjoy a good dry heat then it could be just the place.
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Old 06-07-2014, 07:51 AM   #5
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Get up at 4 am and get moving.

First crack of light get moving, I experienced 125 degrees, I don't believe it is good for you felt a little sick. Stay at the Motel at F.C. and hit the pool, and keep your bike in the shade, things warp, est gauges. But get up early move out of the valley, and eat a good breakfast out of the hell.

But I was young and with 2 gallons of water you could do it. Remember a flat tire out there is SERIOUS, as there is NO SHADE.
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Old 06-07-2014, 03:33 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Foot dragger View Post
The TAT runs near Vegas? .
Yes if viewing from Mars but on Earth it is no where near Vegas especially in elevation. Northern Nevada is only for summer riding because of snow in winter. Vegas is the opposite.
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Old 06-07-2014, 03:49 PM   #7
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I hate heat, wouldn`t be there in the summer, or Vegas either for that matter. That`s a personal thing, though- if you think you`d be okay with 120-ish F at near 0 humidity, go ahead and just be careful and sensible (not running way the hell off the beaten track alone or in mid afternoon). Your night time plans might actually be the ticket if you have the option of scheduling with enough moon to light up the scenery for you. I did an early spring bicycle tour a few years ago, looping around within and near the park, often riding at night just because I love how the pre-dawn desert looks. That was mid Feb, I believe, and I had uncomfortably cold fingers a few times at higher elevations due to insuficient cold gear. No big deal. Remember that there`s a difference of over 5000 feet in elevation between the valley bottom and the road passes (over 11K difference if you count the peaks within the park), which accounts for a lot of the temperature discrepancy you`re getting. That same elevation/temperature difference can be used to your advantage when doing your short term planning.
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Old 06-07-2014, 04:33 PM   #8
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I'll throw in my two cents here. Ther warmest I've ever riden is 118f and it was unbearable as far as I'm concerned. At first I thought if I'm cruising fast enough the breeze will help cool me a little. No it actually made it feel worse. Luckly I was close to Lake Mead and just parked and sat in the water and waited until dark to finish my ride.

I myself would not even remotely consider riding in DV in the summer. Throw in that it sounds like you may be riding alone and I would call it full on crazy. There have been more than one who have perished out in the summer desert riding alone.

You will be challenged enough getting thru Nevada desert. When you go thru Moab pick up a cooling vest at one of the bike shops. My partner and I got these last year when riding the TAT and it helped a lot. You just soak them in water.

I see that you posted in a other thread about detouring off the TAT to check out Downieville. Now that make much more sense.
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Old 06-07-2014, 05:45 PM   #9
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You could make an overnighter out of Las Vegas and just ride through DV to say you did it.

Take 160 to Pahrump.

Take a left on 372 Nevada/178 California to Shoshone. Turn right at the end.

Go through Shoshone, make sure the room you booked previously there is good for that night. They also have a camp ground and swimming pool.

After Shoshone take a left on 178 and ride through DV.

At Furnace Creek area take a right on 190.

At DV junction take a right on 127.

Get back to Shoshone and have a GREAT time in the 'Crowbar'...café and full bar......anything can happen...................
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Old 06-07-2014, 08:22 PM   #10
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DV will be slightly hotter than other places you'll encounter in the West in summer. The real risk is that in summer, few venture off pavement so if you do have trouble it's unlikely anyone will wander by. That said, there are places you could experience it by just going a few miles off pavement and then turning around, and the likelihood of trouble would be low. Don't underestimate the lack of services ... water, gas, food etc. Even shade. One other thing. DV is actually very varied terrain. Stay close to the developed areas in the valley itself, and perhaps venture off road at higher elevations where it will be much cooler.

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Old 06-08-2014, 08:51 AM   #11
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Stoopid in DV can get you killed.
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Old 06-08-2014, 09:55 PM   #12
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Death Valley.

Last March I camped at Stovepipe wells. The day time temperature at Furnace creek was only 103 degree. The nightime temps did not feel much cooler, so tent sleeping was not that enjoyable.
I was also riding with my helmet face shield CLOSED most of the time.
The dry heat will scorch your face!
I used about a gallon of water before I got up to Scottys Castle.
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Old 06-08-2014, 11:19 PM   #13
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If you want to know what it feels like riding in 110+ hear, goto a gas station bathroom with one of the heated, blowing hand dryers. Turn on, and stick face 6 inch from it. And I am not joking at all.
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Old 06-09-2014, 12:26 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fletch123 View Post
I'll throw in my two cents here. The warmest I've ever riden is 118f and it was unbearable as far as I'm concerned. At first I thought if I'm cruising fast enough the breeze will help cool me a little. No it actually made it feel worse.
It has always been my understanding that there is no windchill when air temps are much above body temperature. I've always been told to use Windbreakers or even leather to keep the hot air away.
Quote:
I myself would not even remotely consider riding in DV in the summer. Throw in that it sounds like you may be riding alone and I would call it full on crazy. There have been more than one who have perished out in the summer desert riding alone.
I don't really want to ride it alone. I was hoping to find 2 or 3 riders here who'd accompany me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dman View Post
DV will be slightly hotter than other places you'll encounter in the West in summer. The real risk is that in summer, few venture off pavement so if you do have trouble it's unlikely anyone will wander by. That said, there are places you could experience it by just going a few miles off pavement and then turning around, and the likelihood of trouble would be low. Don't underestimate the lack of services ... water, gas, food etc. Even shade. One other thing. DV is actually very varied terrain. Stay close to the developed areas in the valley itself, and perhaps venture off road at higher elevations where it will be much cooler.
-dman
I wasn't planning to venture very far away. As I said, just ride in for sunset, camp, and ride out at sunrise. It looks like there's a good 3+ hours between sunrise and temps hitting triple digits. I was planning to be out of the park before that happens.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Foot dragger
The TAT runs near Vegas? Im pretty sure 125 degrees is doable at times in DV,if you enjoy a good dry heat then it could be just the place.
No, I'm just taking a long detour. I have a friend who lives in Vegas, so I figured that would be a good place to schedule my 3rd shower of the trip, as well as change my tires and oil.
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Old 06-09-2014, 12:37 AM   #15
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