Mountain Biking The Mojave Road

My friend Jack wanted to cross the Mojave desert on a mountain bike and asked me if I wanted to join him. Of course! We found a few other friends who wanted to join in this adventure. Some riding bikes, some driving support vehicles with supplies and gear. Unfortunately most of them had to back out for one reason or another and we ended up with 2 riders and our friend Al driving a support vehicle.

We decided to tackle the 80 Mojave Road miles from Hwy 95 to the Soda Lake.

The photo gallery for this report can be found here: Mojave Road Biking

Day 1: March 21, 2014

We met in the morning in North County San Diego and drove out to the Mojave. We chose the scenic route via Twentynine Palms (lunch stop), Amboy, and Kelso (stop at the railroad depot) to Baker where we parked Jack's truck. After transferring Jack's gear into Al's truck we continued on to Laughlin, NV, for the night. After dinner we went to bed early in anticipation of a busy next day.

Just two hours after going to bed I woke up with some uncomfortable feeling in my digestive system. The first of many trips to the bathroom that night followed. A mild case of food poisoning at a very inopportune time! By breakfast I felt better, not 100% of course, but strong enough to risk a full breakfast.

Day 2: March 22, 2014
Biking Stats - Day 1:

  • Distance biked: ~ 50 miles
  • Elevation gain: ~ 3700 ft (GPS)

After breakfast we drove out to the intersection of Hwy 95 and the Mojave Road. After unloading our bikes and getting ready we started riding towards the Piute Mountains at 7:45 am. The road heads downhill from here so the sandy surface did not bother us too much. Towards the power line road it got a little rocky, but still very comfortable to ride. At the power line we headed south for the bypass of Piute Gorge. Next followed the climb up to the pass in the Piute Mountains. The road had some rough spots, but overall it was easier than we had feared. In particular it was not too steep. At the top of the pass the food poisoning caught up with me and I had to grab the shovel from the back of Al's truck and run for the bushes...

Then next stretch of road started out with a very nice solid surface and it was fun to roll along enjoying the views. Towards Lanfair/Ivanpah road it got a little sandy. But before we reached Lanfair we stopped and stashed the bikes behind some bushes and piled into Al's truck for a little side trip to the Lanfair buttes (Eagle Mountain on some topos) to check out some petro glyphs. During our break I got the final reminder of the food poisoning episode and had to use the shovel one last time. Lunch was just some salty crackers for me. Before we knew it we were back on our bikes.

Biking on Mojave Road

The next 5 miles were the hardest of the day. We had to tackle some of the sandiest road surface of the whole trip and had to do it in the noon heat. At one point we encountered a group of 7 motorcycle riders, they also had to work to negotiate the deep sand. The last rider stopped and remarked "You guys are f..... nuts". He had a point :)

We finally reached Cedar Canyon road which is a very wide, well graded road. So we got a few miles of comfortable pedaling before we left his highway for a swing by Government Holes. After returning to Cedar Canyon road we had a bit of a climb to the highest point of our ride. From there it was down hill all the way to the Kelso-Cima road and a little beyond. On this downhill section we had a close encounter with a convoy of vehicles racing up the road at very high speed on our side of the road. They were so close together and in each other's dust that really only the first driver could see anything. We barely managed to stay out of their path. Shortly after this unpleasant encounter we had a pleasant one as a herd of deer crossed the road right in front of us. At the bottom of Cedar Canyon road we had a short forced break as we had to let a Union Pacific coal train pass. Jack, who was ahead of me on this long and partially paved sections, actually contemplated zipping over the rail road just in front of the train, but at the last moment he decided to play it safe and stop.

Once the train had passed we continued on the final leg for the day down to Kelso wash and then up to the Beale Mountains where we made camp close to some old prospect sites. After setting up the tents we cleaned up - I took a quick hot shower courtesy of Al's well equipped truck - and had dinner and beers around a gas fired campfire. A few beers later we crawled into our tents for a well deserved rest.

Day 3: March 23, 2014
Biking Stats - Day 2:

  • Distance biked: ~37 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1400 ft (GPS)

The second day of riding started with a quick ride over to Marl Springs which we found completely dry. After the springs we had the final few miles of climbing before the road took us down to the Mail Box. I was disappointed to find the Mail Box completely covered in stickers. I remembered it's rusty original look and like that a lot better. The road gets quite sandy here and we were glad that it was going downhill. Five miles past the Mail Box we stopped at Aiken Cinder Mine Road, stashed our bikes once more and rode with Al to the lava tube a few miles up the road.

Bike and Joshua Tree
Break in sandy wash

Back on the Mojave Road we pushed on to it's intersection with Kelbaker road where we stopped for lunch. This section was very sandy and while still going downhill the gradient of the road was so small that it took a bit of effort to get through the sand. After lunch we rounded Seventeen Mile point from where the road heads straight down to Soda Dry Lake for about 10 miles. At the dry lake we left the Mojave Road heading north towards Baker instead. The last couple of miles before intersecting Kelbaker road again where the sandiest of the whole trip. Even airing down did not give me enough float to be able to ride. I finally went cross country next to the road for the last quarter mile, I wish I'd had that idea earlier!

After changing from completely soaked cloths we stopped in Baker for some cold drinks before heading back home the same way we had driven up.

All told we traced about 80 miles of the Mojave Road on this trip with a total of 87 miles on the bike. The road was quite suitable for mountain biking in the direction we did it in. Going from west to east would be harder since there would be the long climb from Soda Dry Lake to the ridge above Marl Springs in deep sand. Maybe with a bike like the Moonlander it wouldn't be so bad. That thing just floats on sand.