All that bicycle commuting to the office is about to pay off, and it’s your time to shine at the Downieville Classic! Instead of spending your summer vacation lounging around on the sofa, you could be cycling at one of the top ten best bike festivals in the country (as chosen by Outside Magazine).
The Downieville Classic, held in the Tahoe National Forest, is a four-day cycle weekend of “semi-organized anarchy in the mountains.” Intermediate and experienced riders must prove just how hardened and unbreakable they really are.
The 29-mile course takes cyclists on a rugged route from the mountainous town of Sierra City to the crest of Sierra Nevada. Elevation starts at 4,100 feet, rising to over 7,000 then down a 5,200-foot drop into downtown Downieville. There are three challenging events to test you to your limits.
Explore the mountains, rivers, trees, and canyons on an epic and Goldrush-era course that’s one of the longest and most demanding downhill mountain bike races in the country. This event is not one for the faint-hearted, and you’ll need to dig deep to tackle cyclists’ favorite trails in Tahoe National Forest, such as The Butcher Trail and First Divide Trail along a rock wall.
If you’re attending the Downieville Classic event as a guest, then you’re in for a treat. The cyclist in the family can do all the hard work, and you can enjoy the festival entertainment. There’s an expo, marketplace, a river jump, a log pull competition, and even live music.
Late summer is a great time to visit Downieville, California, for the beautiful weather and competitive action begins here. Strap your best cycle into your motorhome and get going.
The Downieville Classic has been a popular event since its inception in 1995, which means that cycling spots sell out fast. You can register online and, depending on if the event sells out, upon arrival as well. If you’re on the fence about taking an RV trip to Downieville, then decide fast – for you don’t have long until some other avid cyclist takes your spot.
Downieville is on the Yuba River’s North Fork and has an elevation of nearly 3,000 feet. Roads into Downieville tend to be narrow and winding, and elevation can see the need for low gears in your motorhome. Given that the Downieville Classic is a summer event, at least you won’t have to contend with snow.
Upon reaching Downieville, which is between Plumas National Forest and Tahoe National Forest, it’s crucial to be aware of the many road closures and “no parking” areas that have been set up for the Downieville Classic.
Traffic control has been in place in the past along Main Street and the intersection of Highway 49, as well as many parts of downtown Downieville, which forms the last leg of the downtown mountain biking race. If you download a traffic app such as Quickmap, you can receive live information on road closures, so you know to avoid them.
Many parking areas in Downieville may not be accessible with a large RV, so you might need to carry out a bit of research to find out if there’s somewhere you can park daily or for the duration of your visit. The Cannon Park lot at the west end of Downieville from Nevada City is a popular parking option, as is the US Forest Service nearby. Competitors may park along Spring Street.
Highway 49 toward Sierra City boasts an abundance of options too. Some shuttles may be in operation to take you from pre-organized parking lots to the beginning of the Downieville Classic.
There are trail shuttles in operation throughout the four-day event. Some of these shuttles run from pre-organized parking lots and in downtown Downieville for competitors. For RV-goers who are purely in town for pleasure, you may like to organize a shuttle from your accommodation or use your campervan as your primary form of transport.
Backcountry camping is Downieville, California’s bread and butter, so there will be plenty of primitive RV camping spots in the vicinity of the Downieville Classic cycling trails and Tahoe National Forest. These run the length of Downieville, through Sierra City, Bassetts, and Packer Saddle.
There are no service hookups, but RV-goers can enjoy an off-the-grid natural experience. You can reserve what you believe is the best place for RV camping, but you can also turn up and hope for the best. Campfires and cooking fires may require permits or could be prohibited in high fire danger areas. Look out for signs and obey RV camping rules.
If your idea of taking an enjoyable RV road trip is luxury, sewer hookups, and having water available for hot showers, then a dedicated campground near Downieville Classic could be more to your liking. There are plenty of options both in Downieville and the nearby township of Sierra City. You can then travel daily to the bike festival without any hassle at all.
There is a lot of ground to cover during the Downieville Classic – both as a competitor and spectator. It’s a good idea to arm yourself with a site and course map and study it before you venture to the event site. You can then learn the best vantage points, proximity of your location to the festival action, and know if it’s best to cycle from your parking lot or walk. There will be trail shuttles available for competitors to get to starting points of the trailways.
While summertime temperatures in Downieville, California average around 70 degrees, they can skyrocket toward the end of July and into August. Therefore, you can expect to need shorts, t-shirts, sunhats, and comfortable footwear that’s suitable for variable terrain. Of course, if you are competing, you’ll need your best cycling clothing, too.
Before you hit the road on your RV adventure to the Downieville Classic, it’s a good idea to prepare a checklist of all the items you might require. Cooking and camping supplies are must-have additions to your motorhome, as well as recreational items you might need for hiking, cycling, fishing, and swimming. When you enter the festival, however, you can pack light. Cash, credit or debit card, water, and anything you need for the onsite activities should all make their way into your backpack.
Being out in the middle of a national forest can mean you face some new challenges that a city or township doesn’t have. There are insects, intense weather conditions, and tricky terrain to tackle. Don’t skimp on health and safety supplies.
Bring plenty of bug spray, drinking water, sunscreen, and a sunhat and sunglasses, too. Pack plenty of medical supplies, especially if you have allergies, as well as prescription medication and toiletries. While the nearby townships offer supplies for sale, it’s helpful if you bring as much from home as possible for convenience’s sake.
An authentic camping experience awaits on your trip to Downieville, and you may very well have the opportunity to create a campfire. Check the RV camping rules where you are staying to find out what is and isn’t allowed. Some permits may be required, but in any case, you’ll be able to make use of your onboard kitchen appliances.
Downieville doesn’t offer much in the way of cooking supplies, so you may need to make a quick trip into Sierra City where there is a small country store along the Golden Chain Highway or bring food and supplies with you.
Downieville and Sierra City are quite isolated from many of the larger cities, which means your dining options may be limited. The bike festival has plenty of dining options, but there are also a few in Sierra City. Wander down CA-49, also seen as Main Street, which connects the two small communities and dine at the bar and restaurant or local café.
You may want to bring plenty of cash to the Downieville Classic Festival, for vendor offerings are spectacular. There are cold beers and other drinks, merchandise, food trucks, and even delicious breakfasts hosted by local Downieville businesses. The township may be small, but it caters for large appetites.
There aren’t too many limitations on what you can and can’t bring to the Downieville Classic. However, competitors must read through the fine print of their competition entry to ensure both themselves and their bikes comply with the rules. Spectators must stay well back from the cycling course and abide by all regulations enforced by the track marshalls.
If you require any assistance, feel free to approach a cycling official. Otherwise, there is a sheriff’s office in Sierra City for any queries or concerns.
The weather in Downieville usually is stunning in the summer months. The region enjoys warm, dry summers that average around 70 degrees, and there are seldom scorching hot temperatures with which to contend. Nighttime temperatures may drop a little lower, but you won’t be in a hurry to reach for your winter coat. In fact, you’ll happily go swimming and enjoy other fun summer activities in California after your cycle race is complete.
There will likely be cooling stations and water available at the Downieville Classic, so talk to onsite officials to find out where those points are. If you find yourself with an injury, through cycling or something else, there will be a first aid tent set up for minor injuries. While there are medical centers in the area, the nearest one is still around an hour’s drive from Downieville.