Good weather breaking out the bicycles on Fort Irwin

Fort Irwin public affairs photo by Leslie Ozawa.

Now that the weather has turned markedly cooler, more Fort Irwin bicyclists have their wheels down on the paved roads and trails around Fort Irwin and beyond.

Keeping the bikes rolling is a big job at Fort Irwin Outdoor Recreation on Goldstone Road, just past the new water treatment plant.   

“We get all kinds of bikes,” said Ed Iden, Outdoor Recreation director. “Everything from Sally’s tricycle to bikes worth thousands of dollars.”

“We average about five bikes a week,” said recreation specialist Baylor Blessing. “Quite a few are from people PCS’ing in. We get children’s bikes and jogger strollers. They come in for tuneups or simple flats.”

Flats are big problem on Fort Irwin, Blessing said. Many are caused by the thorny seeds from the goathead plant (also known as puncture vine), an invasive species from Europe and Central Asia that thrives as a noxious weed in our Southwestern deserts.

The small seed, which can survive up to seven years before propagating, is shaped remarkably like a goat’s head, with two prickly horns and a pointy chin. The seed can travel far, when embedded in car tires, but its journey can also end abruptly, when it punctures the soles of walking feet and bicycle tires on desert trails and clearances.

Fortunately, for Fort Irwin bikers, the outdoor rec bike shop has a large selection of puncture-resistant tubes. More fortunately for the Fort Irwin community, the chief mechanic for bike servicing is Blessing, who’s been around bike shops since he was 16, while growing up in west Texas, and who got his bachelor’s degree in outdoor recreation at Idaho State University. “Three hours from Yellowstone and three hours from the Grand Tetons,” said Blessing.

Prices at the Outdoor Rec shop are more than reasonable. Full service is $30 (add more for parts), which includes adjusting cable and chain tensions, brake pads, gear shifts, lubrication. For the same price, they will also assemble your bike to custom-fit your body size and weight, as well as disassemble it for shipping (hopefully, you’ve kept the box it came in).

So with your bike ready to roll, where to go? Blessing said that popular bike routes on Fort Irwin include the perimeter roads (Outer Loop roads) and going up Goldstone Road, left onto NASA Road, and down to Fort Irwin Road.

“For those interested, we have information on going onto the NASA’s Deep Space Network complex on Goldstone,” Blessing said. The complex is usually off-limits to the public, but can be accessed by special authorizations.

The NASA Road goes past NASA’s giant satellite dishes with a turnaround at the NASA Apollo Station. The ride consists of giant curves on gentle ascents and descents along scenic desert landscapes and giant satellite dishes in the near distance, with a total gain of 433 feet over 10 miles one-way. It’s a great way to learn about the Mojave Desert along the way, in slow but not too slow motion, to notice the plants, the bugs, the birds, the rodents, and maybe some more rarely seen desert denizens. You also can puzzle over the weathered giant boulders and mute presence of geologic formations from millions of years ago. It’s also the main route of the Tour de Irwin bicycle race, which will celebrate its 11th year next April.