Q&A Kyle Horvath

On the back of our recent Big Ride in Nevada, USA (issue 67), we sat down with local Nevada cycling travel expert, Kyle Horvath, to find out more about what makes his state so special

Kyle Horvath
Photo: Ryan Warner

Interview Jack Lynch

Cyclist: Thanks for making the time to chat with us, Kyle. First of all, why should I listen to you about riding in Nevada? Just joking – but tell us about your riding background.

Kyle Horvath: I played bikes all my time growing up in Virginia. Nothing competitive, just pedalling with friends and finding things to jump off of until it got dark.

I moved to Lake Tahoe after college in 2000 to be a USPTA-certified tennis teaching professional. Tennis was my thing.

I bought my first full suspension, a Proflex 857, and started riding west coast trails. Everything about that bike was wrong – I should be dead – but eventually marriage, kids, job all positioned themselves at the top of my priorities for over a decade.

My kids and job are still up there but bikes have found themselves back up into the top three. The people I started riding with again became my friend group.

Their kids became my kids’ friends. Bikes became important, and the people I rode bikes with became even more important.

I met some phenomenal humans who are doing things in their communities who are still an inspiration to me. That’s what started a real desire to get more people on bikes.

My kids are strong riders and I wanted their friends to be too, so I got involved with the state junior XC racing league, joined the local trail building organisation, started signing up for events, volunteering for events, putting on events.

Pretty much went all in on bikes and have zero regrets. The bike community has been good to me.

Now in the tourism industry, I’ve been able to help multiple communities in Nevada elevate their outdoor recreation position, find money for more trails, quantify the return on their investment, and generally grow the economy and community around something I absolutely love.

Lately I’ve been really enjoying bikepacking. Nevada is surrounded by well-known epics, but it’s all the undeveloped epic rides within Nevada that haven’t been put on the map yet that I’m all about.

I’ll be out this summer scouting out some more of the lines I’ve drawn on maps this winter.


Cyc: Despite our vast amounts of empty space and diverse landscape, Australia is relatively young in terms of our love of gravel. What’s your pitch to convert roadies to gravel crushers?

KH: We definitely share having vast amounts of empty and diverse landscapes. One of the few times I’ve ever been on a road bike is when my car was taken away my senior year of high school (that’s a wild story) and when I did the group ride around Lake Tahoe one September.

Nevada has hundreds of miles of paved roads, but it has thousands of miles of vacant dirt roads and trails to explore – with no traffic.

It doesn’t even seem like a tough decision. Plus, I can go visit places I wouldn’t want to drive my car to. I think the backcountry scenery is even prettier from the seat of a bike.

Honestly, not much has changed the landscape since the pioneer days. Plus, those dirt roads are there for a reason.

The destinations are all pretty interesting by way of their geologic or cultural history.

There are even some backcountry bars like Dirty Dick’s Saloon in Belmont and the Outdoor Inn in Jarbidge that are worth the pedal just to have a drink deep in the canyon.

You can’t get to either of those places on a road bike.


Cyc: Now, I’m a clueless Australian who is about a day away from you by plane. So tell me about the cycling scene in Nevada?

KH: Like everything in Nevada, the cycling scene is spread out. But as spread out as it is, everyone knows everyone and if you meet a rider in one part of the state, they probably have info about all the other rides around the rest of the state and a buddy there you should meet up with.

That makes it really welcoming for traveling cyclists. We want you to ride our trails and visit our communities, so you’re more likely to leave Nevada with new best friends and riding partners than feeling like an outsider.

Honestly, that is the vibe with everything around here, not just with bikes. Also, many communities are expanding their trail systems and starting to connect to neighbouring trail systems. It’s really exciting to see that kind of investment.

It’s community-driven, so when riders show up people are stoked to see you and that usually starts some pretty cool conversations.

The landscape is big! Even in places like Las Vegas and Tahoe the trails don’t feel too crowded, but then you get to destinations like Ely and Caliente that should be crowded because of how good their trails are and you are shocked to find out you own the place. All four of those mentioned destinations: totally different.

That’s why I recommend MTB road trips with your crew. Go get all of it! There is such diversity you can’t get a good feel for the whole state with just one destination. Preparation is the other thing.

People know to bring water to the desert but one thing that catches people off guard is our elevation and day to night temperature swings.

We are a high desert so you should be prepared and pack for a little of everything.

Kyle Horvath
Cyclist recently experienced Nevada’s vast off-road network for itself – check out our Big Ride in issue 67 or see it online now at cyclist.com.au

Cyc: How long do I need to holiday in Nevada to do the best rides? Where would I even start?

KH: At the bare minimum I’d say the best bike road trips are at least a week long. You could spend an entire week just riding bikes in destinations like Las Vegas, Reno/Carson City, Lake Tahoe, and Ely.

If it’s your first time to Nevada though, you should get out and explore the state. Stay in each place long enough to get a feel for the towns.

See some of the other attractions, soak in the culture, hang out with locals and then head off to the next unique destination.

Trails are a great catalyst to go and visit communities and learn about them when you otherwise probably wouldn’t go if they didn’t have trails.

In Nevada, a lot of our trails and gravel rides lead back to old ghost towns and mine sites. They’re worth taking some extra time to explore.

If you were to start the road trip in Las Vegas then you’d hit up spots like Spicer’s Ranch in Beatty, Tonopah, Ely, Caliente, and Boulder City.

If you were starting in Reno then after enjoying the capital, Carson City and neighbouring Lake Tahoe, your trip would head out Highway 50, ‘The Loneliest Road in America,’ with a stop to ride in Fallon, Austin, Eureka and Ely.

On either road trip make sure to take a side trip to Great Basin National Park.

Set the bike down and go hike Wheeler Peak at 13,000+ feet or go underground in Lehman Caves, one of the largest in the world, or go hang out with a 6,000-year-old Bristlecone Pine.

They’re all memorable experiences.


Cyc: If I were to bring just one bike, which bike am I bringing: road, gravel or MTB?

KH: Like many cyclist, I have all the bikes for all the disciplines. Some would say I have a problem, but there is so much diversity in terrain between the northern and the southern parts of the state.

Ideally, if you are visiting, you come out and rent a bike specific for the terrain you are in. If I only had one though, I absolutely love my Trek Stache hardtail mountain bike.

I will ride that thing anywhere and there is nothing it can’t handle.

Great on dirt roads or singletrack, loves the long, sustained climbs, rips the downhills, and the wider 29” tyres can handle the chunk and the loose sandier sections that Nevada can be known for.

It’s a great adventure bike. Places like Bootleg Canyon in Boulder City or Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in Tahoe would definitely be trails you’d want a full suspension bike.

Everything else you’d be good with a hardtail or mid travel full suspension.


Cyc: Can you describe your favourite rides in Nevada? Wow us!

KH: When I lived in Carson City I loved getting dropped off at the top of Mt. Rose Meadows and riding back to Carson City, hitting up some classic singletrack like the Rim Trail, Flume Trail, Cap to Tahoe and Ash Canyon.

It’s a 40-mile day but it’s like a greatest hits of Tahoe views, alpine lakes, wildflowers, and once all the climbing is done the downhill is so flowy and well-built all the way back to the capital city’s downtown.

Some people double down and do the 86-mile ‘Rose to Toads’ ride over Labor Day weekend, which stays on the Rim Trail and drops into South Lake Tahoe.

That ride is no joke. Success Loop gravel ride from Ely is an instant classic for anyone who rides it. You leave from Ely and can be almost immediately on dirt.

The loop goes out past Cave Lake State Park and high up into the mountains.

The landscape totally changes before dropping over the other side into a secluded valley that leads you back to town via a few options depending on your energy level.

Highlights are wildlife, fall colours, and limestone cliffs. The loop is 60+ miles with water sources to filter.

While we’re on Ely, I’ve really been enjoying a relatively easy 50-mile gravel loop called the Horse and Cattle Camp Loop that starts and finishes at the Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park.

The Toiyabe Crest Trail is a really exciting project happening out in the middle of the state. The Toiyabe Mountain Range is rugged and massive.

There was a ridge line trail built out there in the 1920s and through grants and volunteers a guy named Kurt Gensheimer is rehabilitating it and making it rideable.

It’s the toughest 30 miles you could ride, and unbelievably gorgeous in its vastness. It’s an adventure that will stick with you forever. But be prepared to work.

Off the main trail there are trails into the side canyons where there are creeks and campgrounds. The town of Kingston and Austin are the closest towns to the trail.

The Jarbidge Loop is unbelievable. The entire 75-mile loop is considered a national scenic byway for jeeps and ATVs.

I might have suffered that trip, I don’t remember, it was so beautiful. It is on the Idaho border and a long drive in any direction to get there, but it’s worth the effort.

The route goes down one river canyon, up and over a high savannah, into another river canyon and back up to the car. To be around that much water is rare in Nevada.

And there is a backcountry bar half way that has cold beer and hot food. The history of Jarbidge is really interesting. Read up on it before you go. It will make the trip that much cooler.


Cyc: Is there a famous bunch ride or other touristy-type of ride I need to experience?

KH: Every community has a signature bike event worth going to. I’m sure I’ll miss mentioning some. Tahoe is packed with races all summer.

You’ll compete with some exceptional athletes but the vibe is fun and the courses are world-class. Pro Rider Peter Stetina hosts a gravel ride in May out of the capital, Carson City.

It starts from downtown and goes up into some gorgeous mountains. Fears, Tears, and Beers is the original and longest running Enduro Mountain Bike Race in America.

That is every June in Ely. It’s a rowdy ride and a great party vibe. Bikepackers should join Kursten Graham on one of his Burrito Bikepacking group trips on the western side of the state.

Caliente has gotten into four-hour and six-hour races, as well as, some really fun group rides between all their state parks.

The Beaver Dam State Park Gravel Grinder is one of my favourites.

New races and events are popping up all the time, but nothing beats riding bikes at night with your crew at Burning Man.

Now that is an experience!


Cyc: And what about off the bike? What can I see and do, and do I take the family?

KH: What can you do off the bike in the state of Nevada? Where to begin? This state is over 160 years old and is connected to the American history that is so well-known.

Definitely, take time to absorb it all. Catch a train ride – the state has many railyards and train museums, but the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely is my favourite.

They let you load your bike on the train and get dropped off at the end of the line to ride back. Nevada is so rich in history, which includes rich Native American and prehistoric history, but museums aren’t the only thing to do off a bike.

The public art and galleries showcase the uniqueness of the cultures and landscapes. Nevada is also known for some pretty unusual desert art.

The food scene doesn’t disappoint. There is everything from the largest burger you’ve ever seen to farm-to-fork delicacies, and the local craft beer selection is so welcome after a long ride.

Nightlife in Nevada can mean anything from large concerts to just staring up at the stars. Even though Las Vegas is known as the entertainment capital of the world, every town has major annual events that are worth scheduling your trip around.

Some of the small town parties are the most fun and the best way to see the character of the communities.

When you are out exploring the mountains keep your eyes on the ground – the diverse geology and mining history means you can find some cool gems and minerals if you know what to look for.

Nevada also hosts two National Parks.

Great Basin National Park has massive peaks, caverns, a glacier, and the Bristlecone Pines, the oldest living things on the planet.

Death Valley straddles the Nevada-California border but is a totally different environment. And both are Dark Sky certified parks, so stick around after the sun goes down.


Cyclist Australia/NZ