By: Amanda Nauman, Co-Creator of Mammoth TUFF!
If you’ve never ridden gravel around Mammoth Lakes, you’re in for a few surprises. Most folks are familiar with the amazing skiing, snowboarding, road riding, and mountain biking opportunities around Mammoth Mountain, but the rise in popularity of gravel bikes has coincided with the recent rise in popularity of gravel riding around town as well. Riding gravel around Mammoth Lakes is unique for several different reasons, so we’ve put together six handy tips to have a great Mammoth TUFF weekend.
The event starts under the Village Gondola at 8,100 ft and folks coming from lower elevations should respect the altitude. Thinner atmosphere means a higher risk of sunburn and overheating which can trigger dehydration and make people susceptible to altitude sickness. The best suggestion is to lower your expectations of power output and fitness capabilities. Everyone will be operating at a lower capacity than normal at altitude, and it’s okay to accept that fact. Don’t get down because you feel like you’re slower because everyone else will be feeling it too! Coming in with that mindset will allow yourself to just do your best and have a good time.
Tuff (tŭf) is a general term for all consolidated pyroclastic, volcanic rocks. The name, Mammoth TUFF, is a nod to the Long Valley Caldera and the volcanic stone that defines ‘gravel’ in the area. Pumice stone is prevalent on the forest roads and it is a relatively soft, porous rock that is usually formed by the compaction and cementation of volcanic ash or dust. If you’ve ridden through pumice before, you know it mimics the feel of sand in areas because of how light and airy the material is. If you’ve never ridden through pumice, you’ll experience it in Mammoth. This is what we’re working with and while it’s a general term for all consolidated pyroclastic (explosive, volcanic origination) rocks, it’s also a fitting name for our event! The variety of volcanic rock from pumice to obsidian means that we recommend the widest tire you can fit in your frame and comfortably ride.
When it comes to the temperature at high elevation, be sure to layer, stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, and you will feel the effects of altitude less. The overnight lows start to dip in September, so prepare to be cold in the early morning and heat up throughout the day. Riders doing the TUFFEST route will be managing more heat in the valley, so layers of clothing you can remove will be critical.
People get dehydrated quicker at altitude so properly hydrating is important in avoiding the negative side effects from high elevation. Make sure you’re getting both plain water and some sort of drink mix or tab with electrolytes, especially surrounding activity. In each of the three distances at Mammoth TUFF, one feature that ties them all together is that the first half of the ride is primarily descending and the second half of the ride is primarily climbing back to town. Because of this, it’s often easy to forget to eat and drink while you’re having a blast in the downhill sections and it will come back to haunt you on the way back to the finish. Make a plan and set reminders for yourself to take care of the fueling and hydration so you can have the best time possible on the road.
The three-day nature of the event weekend gives you time to explore other areas of Mammoth and also partake in our festivities. On Friday, come jog or spectate the Mammoth BUFF, our beer run around the Village that will take place just before the Rider Meeting. There will also be free pre-rides on Friday morning from Footloose Sports if you’re able to join a day early. On Saturday, we are hosting a concert as part of the Free Summer Concert Series in the Village from 5:30-9:00pm. Folks riding the longer distances will still be finishing during this time and riders who finished earlier can clean up and enjoy the music in the evening. On Sunday, the awards ceremony takes place followed by the TUFF Raffle with an amazing array of products from our event partners. A portion of the proceeds from the raffle will benefit the Mammoth Mountain Community Foundation and Mammoth Lakes Recreation and it’s a great time to mingle and tell stories from the previous day’s ride.
The scenery is the best attraction in town and there are many different ways to see the sites. For the hikers, we suggest two starting spots that we frequent: Trolley Stop 100 – Coldwater Creek Trailhead, and Trolley Stop 101 – Lake George Trailhead. Both have decent parking options and allow you to access so many great views like Arrowhead Lake, Emerald Lake, Crystal Lake, and the Mammoth Crest. If you’re into mountain biking, make sure you hit the bike park on Sunday. Traditionally, this is the closing weekend of the bike park and a great day to shuttle and take chair lifts when the legs are tired. For non-cyclists and someone who doesn’t want to hike, we recommend buying Scenic Gondola Ride tickets for a ride up the gondola to the top of Mammoth Mountain. You get incredible views without having to walk to the top and free access to the Eleven53 Interpretive Center and Café. Unique to 2023 because of the record-breaking snow still lingering in June, the Mammoth Yoga Festival shifted and will take place the same weekend as Mammoth TUFF. Bring your yogi friends and family to partake in the Yoga Festival. There’s something for everyone!
Be sure to follow those suggestions to make the most of your Mammoth TUFF weekend!
For more information, check out the website here: www.tuff.ventures
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