The Gravel Ride. A cycling podcast

By Craig Dalton

About this podcast   English    United States

The Gravel Ride is a cycling podcast where we discuss the people, places and products that define modern gravel cycling. We will be interviewing athletes, course designers and product designers who are influencing the sport. We will be providing information on where to ride, what to ride and how to stay stoked on gravel riding.
7 episodes · since Feb, 2018
May 19, 2018
Episode Links: Studio Velo Bike Shop Studio Velo Instagram Moots Gravel Bikes Parlee Bicycles    Automated Transcript (forgive any errors). This week on the Pod we've got Chris Reed from studio Valla bike shop in mill valley, California. We're actually recording in the shop today, so I just walked across this beautiful showroom, looked at some moots, looked at some parleys, some independent fabrication's, a lot of great bike sitting around. So Chris, thanks for having us tonight. Thanks for. Thanks for coming over. Really excited. Can you tell us a little bit about the background of Studio Velo? Sure. Uh, it's actually, it's a pretty cool story compared, I think to what you see with a lot of bike shops. It actually started as mobile bike repair, uh, about 13 years ago from one of my partners who got into it as a, he was trying to figure out how to make money while he was trying to run a wine and olive oil importing business and uh, had done a stint in Europe at a bike shop while he was taking his mba in Spain and started bringing some of that back here where he was working on relationships with olive oil and wine companies and trying to build a little bit of a mobile bike repair business as well too. So it was literally on the side of the bike path, lubing by chains handing out business cards, really building it from the ground up. So I mean this bike shop was started with a $10,000 credit card limit over the course of the last 13 years. We've really grown and evolved it from a service bike repair service business into what we are today, which is much more of a retail experience for clients as well too. So with a heavy service component, but a much different much different business model for sure. So, and this location downtown, Mill Valley is the second location that you had technically the third location. The first location was in Tam junction really behind the supermarket. So it's hard to see now. And then about a little over five years ago we moved into this location. Well this is a great spot to set the scene for everybody. We're right downtown in mill valley. So a lot of group rides me just around the corner near the depot. A perfect location and lots of places to grab food after you come shopping for bikes. Yeah. And we are. We absolutely love this location and I think it's pretty interesting. We lead a lot of trips to Europe and some great places around the world and one of the things we always love to seek out are these great little towns at the base of these mountains where you can grab a great coffee. And the reality is that's essentially what we have here. And we come back from these trips and we do some of our local rides and finish the ride back here and look out the door and we're at the base of a mountain under the redwoods and a beautiful part of the world. It's, it's, it's a pretty great spot for cycling. So yeah, I think that's actually a good pro tip for our listeners out of town to make sure to put mill valley on a, on their bucket list of places to ride out of. And I know you will get into some of the shop rides you guys do locally here, but there's plenty of trails, plenty of gravel riding right outside our door. Absolutely. So how about you Chris? What's your cycling background? My cycling background is, it's long in the sense that I've been doing as, as long as I can remember. I mean I started walking early and was on a bike pretty, pretty, pretty quick thereafter. Um, I lived in Holland for a couple of years when I was five, six years old and rode everywhere. There was well on my way before that. The town I grew up in, uh, in Massachusetts is pretty small farm town and anywhere, anytime you wanted to get anywhere you had to do it on a bike. So I was on a bike for from an early age. I'm not necessarily drawn to racing, just riding. Um, so it's, it's always been something I've loved doing. I moved out to San Francisco after college and, uh, got more into road riding at that point. I'd only really been more into mountain biking before that. It's, it's been, it's funny. I think a lot of people who start off mountain biking think they'll never get into road riding. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it, really took to that. Still Rode my mountain bike a lot. And then this whole gravel phenomenon that's really emerged in the last few years, um, I did a lot of road riding and my road bike on the dirt leading up to that and didn't really have the right equipment for it and definitely beat up a lot of road bike equipment and just really got into cycling for a love of writing, not necessarily from a racing standpoint. So, uh, I've been riding bikes for a long time, but uh, but not necessarily at the, at the highest level of competition. I think there's a lot of commonality in what you've been saying about mountain biking and road biking and appreciating both as unique disciplines in the sport and, you know, I think we share that, that gravel is its own unique discipline at that point. And the equipment that's emerged over the last couple of years is really enabling the type of adventurous writing that is. It's, it's great for the soul in my mind just to get out there in the woods and away from the traffic. Yeah, I couldn't agree with that more. I think that's, um, I think that's absolutely right. And I think as this area in particular starts to get packed with more people in cars, it's, you see more people gravitating towards riding their bikes in different areas that our main roads, we've got great infrastructure for roads as far as getting access to a phenomenal landscapes and scenery. But the reality is there's more people than maybe the roads can support. And so, uh, it's great to take advantage of the vast network of trails that we have and I think what we have here isn't necessarily the traditional gravel riding terrain, but we've got an unbelievable mix of off road terrain and, and road that you can link together to put together world class rides. Uh, it's, it's super unique. That's so true. I'm excited to get into a little gravel bike, one one-on-one one tonight because I've got a lot of listeners who have kind of pinged me on social channels just saying, hey craig, how would you define gravel riding? So as a shop owner, curious to hear when you thought the gravel biking seem really started to emerge from your brand partners that you're working with. Yeah, no, know that that's a great question. And I think it's, it's definitely the most challenging category that we work with because it's not clearly defined. I think road riding is probably the most easily defined. There's a few subcategories there. I think on the mountain bike side, a lot has changed in the last few years with geometry of bikes and and capability of bikes. But I think it's a little bit easier to classify and on the global side of things, um, I think it's really pretty interesting because there's so much that's changed so quickly. Uh, and I think that it's really benefited from a lot of the advancements in technology and materials. Um, I think manufacturers took a stab at it probably about five years ago and it was cross bikes that would maybe start to clear slightly wider tire. But I think there was a lot of people riding cross bikes, um, in, in non cross bike specific ways, meaning that it wasn't. They were using it for non race riding. And I think um, as disparate became the go goto on mountain bikes, people realize pretty quickly how inferior breaking of cantilever bridge was. And I think started putting pressure on the industry to make some changes. And I think putting disc brakes on I'm cross bikes was, was one of the first things that I think got more people excited about riding cross bikes off road. And it's funny, one of the first manufacturers that we worked with, Cathy, we actually built cross bikes with disc brakes. There were cable actuated districts, but bamboo cross bikes, uh, 10 years ago. I'm actually almost 11 years ago now, so it's been around I think longer than people really tend to think, but I don't think it was at the forefront of the industry. And I think the industry can be slow to embrace some changes. 29er for example. It took the industry a really long time to get behind that. Um, I think it took two years maybe for Fox to start making suspension forks it to. Same thing for maverick to start making wheels. So there was a push from the consumer side, but it took the industry a little bit longer to adapt to it. Six 50 be 27, five wheels started to come. Uh, I think the industry accepted that change more quickly and it happened almost overnight. Gravel riding was a little bit slower, but we're now in the point where it's changing quickly and there's a lot of changes and a lot of different areas. Um, so it's, it's, it's pretty unique right now. So if I come through the door as a customer and I'm looking at a drop bar, road bike, and a drop bar, gravel bike to the layman, they look quite similar. Maybe the, I noticed the knobby tires versus the slick tires. Sure. Well what's going on under the hood? What's the differences in the geometry or the positioning or some of the components that I really should be thinking about when looking at a gravel bike share? Yeah. No, it's a great question. I think for us, we always wanted to start with figuring out what are you going to use the bike most for because I think for a lot of people that you can use a gravel bike as a road bike and then a lot of people that really want to focus more on road riding, on gravel bikes, not going to be quite the right setup. You can get a lot of the performance that you get from a road bike, but maybe not that last 10 percent, um, which a lot of people are after as well too. So if you're looking at differences between them in terms of geometries, you'll see stuff like the head tube angle on a gravel bike will be a little bit more relaxed than, than um, a road bike. You'll, that'll give you a little bit more stability on the downhill is a little bit more clearance for running a bigger tire. So you're gonna have less pto overlap. Um, you're going to see, uh, the change stays being a little bit longer and that'll help clear the, the bigger tires in the back as well too. And I think we're seeing as the gravel market really changes and emerges changes, uh, a few different gravel offerings from different companies. One of the things that we've really seen a lot of is the, the interest in going wider and wider with tires. When we first started looking at it four or five years ago, 30 2:30 3:34 more traditional size tires were, were more acceptable. And now what we're seeing is a lot of people are wanting 36, 38, 40, even 45 mile tires in the roster, seeing a lot more offerings from tire manufacturers. So you can get a tire that really handles a lot better in the dirt and so rose role is pretty good on the road without much sacrifice. So we're seeing a little bit more interested in, in wider tires for mixed terrain use, where before we didn't have quite that same ability to explore that. Do you think those wider tires are a local phenomenon? You mentioned earlier and obviously I ride out of this area as well, that the stuff we take our gravel bikes on is they're effectively mountain bike trails to a large degree versus someone in the Midwest that might be looking at just long flattish fire roads. Yeah. Yeah. I think that's a good question. Um, and I, I think tire selection, I think anyone who's into mountain bike and I'll tell you, tire selection is, is very unique for, for each area. I mean hadn't written my mountain bike and a lot of different areas. It's funny, you'll show up with your traditional mountain bike setup in the locals and just lucky and shake their heads and it's the stuff not the right tire for here. And I think that's true in the gravel market, I think you see stuff like with dirty cancer where you have to worry about the super sharp rocks. I mean everyone's gonna flat once or twice probably on that course. And so they're specific stuff for that. Um, and I think yeah, it really depends on the rider. So here, like you said, we have more mountain bike terrain that you're writing a, a gravel bike on and I think that tends to push a lot of our clients towards exploring a slightly wider tire. It probably is a little bit of a local phenomenon, but I also think it depends on the writer and how much you want to push it as well because, you know, I know that you'll ride your gravel bike on stuff that a lot of people wouldn't want to take the gravel bike on as well too. So I think that's what makes this whole category of vice a little harder to find, to define because the bikes are getting more capable. But it really depends on what you're most in intended uses for it, for the bike. So when you look across the brands that you guys carry, so moots, IAF, parley, just to name a few. Yup. Do you see different approaches from those different manufacturers with respect to the amount of tire clearance that they're building into their bikes? Yeah, I think so. I think definitely and, and um, so moods, for example, does three different gravel bikes. They do the route they do the route rsl and the route 45, the route will clear up to about a 38 mil tire. And that was the first bike they launched the route 45 will clear up to a 45 mile tire and then the route Rsl, they just reconfigured. It clears depending on the tire rim combination, somewhere between a 40 and 42 mil tire. And I think that's, that changes happen more from pushback from people wanting to run wider tires. So that's a great example. So you've got a beautiful titanium frame manufacturer and moots. How do you decide the difference? Are there things you're giving up if you're going to the larger tire configuration? Not really. Um, I think the initial thought was that, that you were in. It's funny if you look at what happened say in the, in the road cycling world, five, six, seven years ago, everyone was running 23 mil tires at 120 psi. Then we started to see people running slightly wider rims and 25 mil tires and decreasing the tire pressure a little bit and no one really runs 20 three's anymore and everyone is probably running 25 or 20 eights and you're giving up very little. And I think we're seeing the same thing on the gravel side of stuff now as well. As the rims get wider, the tires get wider. The rubber compound improves, the tread patterns improve. You're giving up very little and you might have a slightly longer chain stays. So the bike might not handle a switchback quite as well. But it's a very minor compromised. And I think what you get in terms of comfort and capability of the bike and it's capability in terms of traction, which applies to both a climbing up steep terrain, which we have a lot of around here. Breaking on steep terrain in which we have a lot of around here and then cornering on loose stuff, which we have as well too. So I think there's very little downside going with the, the wider tire. And it's interesting because for us the trend is definitely been switching more from selling route, the traditional route to the route 45 in the RSL because the demand is for the, the wider tire. So right now I've, I've had the pleasure of writing with a number of your customers out on the trail and I've seen them on steel by accessing them on antibiotics or non carbon bikes when I'm coming in asking the question and just looking for your advice, how are you kind of helping them guide them through that selection process on the frame materials? Yeah, sure. Um, so we build everything from the frame up so there's no need for us to sell one brand over another. It's, it's, we want to start with the conversation and figure out what's, what's right for you as, as the client. Um, and I think figuring out some guys are coming in from a racing background and only one to ride carbon bikes. Some guys are coming in from the more old school background. We're all, everyone is a steel bike and some guys are intrigued by titanium bikes. So it's kind of walking you through that and it's also finding a brand that you align with. What brand are you excited about? Because I think for me, and I think you can relate to this as well to you love your bike and you're excited to ride it and that's what gets you out the door and makes you want to ride it more. And I think let's figure out what's, what, what drives you to a particular bike. It can be both in terms of capabilities in the aesthetic as well too. And I think choosing between the materials, we kind of walk you through all the differences between them. Some guys want something that's super light and you're never going to build a metal bike that's quite as light as a, as a higher end carbon bike. Some guys know that they're really rough on equipment and a metal bike then is a better choice for them. Uh, I think that the durability aspect of a titanium bike is phenomenal. Uh, I think now that the industry is kind of settling on 12 mil through axles and flat mount disc brakes, it's a little easier to find something that is going to stay more current. It's, I would never say it's future proof, but it's going to be a bike that you buy it with the intent of having for a long time and you'll be able to keep it current for, for a lot longer, uh, which is, which is a little bit more comforting because I was definitely not the case just a few years ago. So yeah, I think if you look at the evolution of the gravel bikes from four, five years ago, it's dramatically different today. I absolutely think you're right. Like you buy a bike today or within the last year, you're in the right sweet spot. You've got a high performance bike that's going to really handle anything you can throw at it. Yeah, I agree. And you know, we're seeing some, one of the challenges with the bike industry is that there are not too many things that are standardized, but seeing the industry embrace flat mount a and 12 mil through axles makes it a lot easier to really have confidence that you're getting something that's gonna stay current for a little bit longer. So yeah, I tell you, I was a little bit nervous on the coast ride this year at the notion of getting a flat or having some serious issue with my wheels because I had no chance of getting a deer axle wheel on that road ride. Yeah. Thankfully, thankfully that, that starting sort out a little bit. So um, and it's, you know, the more and more I think what people are gravitating towards her disc brakes and that's on the road and obviously on the gravel side as well too. So I think that's pushed the industry to really focus on standardizing that. The, the, the, the next coast ready go on. I think you see a lot more people that you can swap wheels with if you need to write on. So do you have any favorite bikes in the shop right now? And I got a lot of beauty sitting over there. Yeah, it's funny. Everyone knows. Asked w what's, what's your favorite bike? And my joking response is that it's, it's whatever one I'm on at the moment. For me, the most recent bike built up is the part of the zero xd. I mean, you and I have written gravel bikes at several times now and I've been on a beautiful independent fabrication, a titanium bike for, for a bit now. And um, it's, it's really nice jumping on on the part the as well too, to kind of all the stuff we were talking about earlier. It has a lot of the more modern touches that, uh, that my previous bike didn't have. And so for me that I would say that's, that that's my favorite. Uh, it's just, it's what I built that up probably two and a half weeks ago and it's what have been on just about every day. So, um, but I suspect it will make an appearance on the shops instagram feed sooner or later. So that's sort of follow that channel yet, did you notice any visceral differences between the titanium frame and the carbon frame right off the bat? I think a few things. I think it's just, it's the nature of the material, it's just going to be a little bit more responsive so there's no shortage of climbing year to test it. It does clear with some wider tires and I built this bike up to be a little bit more dirt focused where the previous bike, um, I do a lot of mixed terrain writing and that was definitely um, I wouldn't say skewed more road or more dirt. It was right down the middle and this one is a little bit more dirt focused, some, some knobby rear tires and a one by drive train. So it is a little bit more competence inspiring in the dirt. And I think also the geometry of the bike it, I'm running some wider tires and it has a more relaxed head, ankles. So going down some of these deeper, more technical stuff, it's a little bit more forgiving. So. Nice. Yeah, it's going to be fun to ride with you on that now. Absolutely. So you mentioned the one by setup. I think that's one of the big questions when someone's really seriously considering one of these bikes. Yep. Particularly if they're considering what I like to call a quiver consolidation or they're going to use it as a, as their road bike as well as their gravel bike. Yep. One bias is a commitment. Yup. So talk about that process and obviously as you're advising customers between a one by in a to buy setup, how do you go about explaining what they should be thinking about? Yeah, absolutely. I think it's, I think it's easier to digest now than it was say two or three years ago with the mountain bike industry really pushing the one by drive trains from both Shimano, instagram, uh, I think consumers are used to seeing that a little bit more and, and most likely having written it as well too. So you understand that the jumps between each gear or a little bit bigger when you're running a one by drive train. But I think for the person who's, who's using the bike for a lot of road miles and also some dirt miles, you can't get that same fine tuning of cadence that you can get with a two by that you can, uh, you can achieve that with a one by the same way you can with the two buys. So if you are going to do, we have a lot of clients, for example, who spent a lot of time commuting and doing their weekend rides, um, on, on the gravel bikes. And I'm putting on putting on some good road miles. And I think a two bicep is great for that. The two buys setups are phenomenal. If you're doing more direct focus, riding on some bumpier terrain, the advantage of a one by Dr Training and having a derailer with a clutch in it is really pretty nice on the bumpier terrain. So, um, if you came in saying, Hey Chris, you know, my goal is to build up a gravel road. I live at the base of Mount Tam. I'm doing a lot of rides on, on some bumpier training. It's 80 percent or 20 percent road than I think it's worth exploring. One by drive train. If you're doing 60 slash 40 road to dirt or 50 slash 50. I think we talked through the, the, the two by drive train as well too because like you said, if you're just throwing a different set of wheels on there and using it for a road ride and going out with your buddies and putting some good road miles on it too. Um, it's, it's, you're a lot more comfortable having a to buy setup setup. So. Gotcha. So if I'm investing in a two by drive train and a nice high end gravel Fram Yup. Am I selling my road bike on Ebay or am I keeping. What's your thought? Don't sell it until you've written, written the gravel bike on the road. I think I'm a gravel bike and fill a certain people's needs on the road bike. But if you, um, it, it's just not, it doesn't have that same razor sharp feel. And that same ultra responsiveness that a modern robot does as well too. So they're different enough that if you have room in your garage, it's not a bad thing to have two or room in the budget, but if you're, if you're trying to make room in your budget or your garage, the, the modern gravel bike and can fill both pretty good. I, I give the um, the, the futon analogy to a lot of people were a gravel bike is not the best road bike and it's not the best mountain bike, but it fills a need really well. So if you know what you're going in and looking for then then um, then I think they're phenomenal and I think it's, I like to get people out on the true gravel ride and let them feel the bike underneath them and have them come back with questions and thoughts and then help them digest that a little bit more because I think they're great. But if you go into it expecting it to fill the need of a mountain bike and a road bike, they're just so different. Um, but if your expectations on the road side of things are that you can give up a little. Just a little bit of performance then. Yeah, you can. You can easily do a lot. A lot of road riding on, on a, on a modern gravel bike, that's for sure. So a lot of people I talk to are intrigued by gravel riding by. They haven't quite made that leap of faith yet as a shop. Have you guys created events or other opportunities for people to get out on the trails and sort of have that light bulb go off? Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's, it's one of my favorite things to do. One of the things that we really put a lot of effort into over 10 years ago now, it was just really committing to building community. It's one of most challenging things you can do, but for us it's also been one of the most rewarding things. Um, it's just the relationships that we've built with clients outside of our four walls here, uh, has been, has been really pretty incredible. And I think a lot of the experiences that you can get with someone on a bike are just, there's nothing else like it and taking people out on a gravel ride, uh, is, is really pretty special. I, I took a couple of guys at this past weekend and I think for people that are looking at bikes, I was not to keep giving me analogies, but I give the, it's, it's like going to look at a puppy, a you can't go look at a puppy and that long one and you're not going to go out and ride a gravel bike and not think that you don't want one in this area. It's pretty special. And I think, um, a lot of the stuff that we've done is incorporated a lot of gravel rides into our Sunday shoprite's. We've brought in some great demo bikes as well too. And um, we do some great. Um, we do some great trips as well too. So let's see, next month in May we're going to do a trip out to steamboat and ride with the guys at moves for four days. Um, we're going to do some, some other stuff a little bit later in the summer and then we, we have, we work with a lot of our brand partners who come through with, with demo bikes as well too. So we love getting people out on bikes. That's awesome. On that moods trip, is there an opportunity to demo all those different bikes you were referencing earlier? Yeah, absolutely. I actually just got a list today from, from my rep about what we're going to have a available and then we're having some more demo bikes, have our own fruit for that trip built up as well too. So, um, yeah, it's uh, there's there, there's definitely opportunity to demo some bikes on that. So that's really awesome. Well you guys have been very generous with your time and the community and I appreciate the weekend shop rides and that's really the fundamental building block of any cycling community and uh, it takes a lot of effort and energy for you guys to always be there on a Sunday morning and putting out those blog posts. So. So props to you and all the other great bike shops out there that are doing weekend shop rides. Yeah. No thanks Greg. We, we, we love doing it. It's um, it's uh, you know, you had the occasional Sunday morning when your alarm goes off early and you wonder if it's what you really want to do, but as soon as you get out there and start chatting with people and get on your bike, it's uh, you, you never regretted it. It's unbelievably rewarding. So, um, and then in the summertime too, when, when the days are a little longer, we do some fun evening rides as well and um, you know, we're, we're constantly getting out in the mornings with our clients or in the evenings after work as well too. So it's kind of the shoot us an email or give us a call if you want to ride a bike and uh, you know, we're always there for Jonah in his hand. Right on. What's the best way to follow the shop and support you guys? Yeah, so I'm probably our instagram feed. That's something that we've been working on building. I'm building out a bit more this year with more regular posts. Um, we have a great email distribution list to, for our shop ride so people can contact me and I'm happy to add them to the list and um, and uh, come into the shop to, there's nothing better than, uh, than uh, seeing someone in person shaking their hand and, uh, and, and meeting new clients. Yeah, absolutely. And if or if someone's out of town and they wanted to join one of your, the Colorado trip with moods or wondering or European trips, is that something that's. Yeah, just jump on our website. All the imposed their contact info. Um, we also have some, if you're coming in from out of town, coming into the area and wanted to do some writing, um, we're happy to help you out and steering in the right direction for roadmap or gravel. But we also on our website have some, uh, gravel rights that you can download the route and, uh, and get started that way. Okay. Well I'll make sure to reference all those sites and links in the show notes. Um, I really appreciate the time tonight, Chris was a lot of fun. Yeah, my pleasure. I'm looking forward to looking at some bikes on the way out the door. Absolutely. Um, and yeah, thanks again. Yeah, absolutely. My pleasure. And, uh, let's ride some bikes right on.
April 16, 2018
Episode Links: Grasshopper Adventure Series Specialized Diverge Marin Museum of Bicycle talk April 26 (Fairfax, CA). Old Caz Gravel Ride Loop  Grasshopper on Instagram Grasshopper on Facebook    Automated Transcription: "Once we started doing an old cars, then it became tricky. That's kind of the defining roads of the grasshopper adventure series and I think, in some ways, for the development of the gravel bike." Miguel Crawford, Founder and Present of the Grasshopper Adventure Series That was this week's guest, Miguel Crawford, talking about the Grasshopper Adventure Series and the Old Caz route and the influence it's had on the sport. The grasshopper adventure series has been going on for 20 years, which is an amazing accomplishment by Miguel and his team. I was stoked to talk to Miguel and learn more about how the event got started 20 years ago about what kind of equipment they were riding along the way, how that equipment's evolved and what the future holds for the grasshopper adventure series. So with that, let's take it away. Miguel, thanks for joining us on the podcast this week. It's my pleasure. Thanks for having me. I always like to start off by finding a little bit about people's cycling background. So how did cycling come into your life? Well, I grew up playing on multiple team sports. I grew up playing a soccer and basketball and baseball and was a competitive athlete. I graduated high school in 88 and I'd always been interested in bikes. My drafting teacher in junior high was a bike rider When it was time to get a bike, in high school, it was 1988 and I'd always wanted to get a road bike. And my sister at the time said, hey, these guys in Santa Rosa doing this cool thing called mountain biking and said, oh, that sounds even better. And so I bought a used Stumpjumper in 1988 and the timing was perfect in terms of my personal life, looking for something challenging and exploratory and also trying to find a sport that didn't require me to be involved in a team and a pretty much it's been about bikes since then. Right on. And have you always stayed on the mountain bike side or did you pick up road riding along the way? Well that's a good question. So when I went to school, Humbolt State and it was my transportation, so I had slicks on and that I'd put them out by putting on these on. I was talking for it. I'd always wanted additional bike second by couldn't afford it and way I would move back to Sonoma county where I grew up in Sebastopol, eventually picked up a used road bikes from a friend of the folks I started riding mountain bikes, road road bikes. They weren't roadies at that time. He kind of saw people being in one camp or another. But for me it was just as fun to begin riding a road bike. So that was probably a 92 started riding road bikes. Yeah, it is interesting how we do designate ourselves in one camp or the other. I've always had equal footing, I feel like on the road and the mountain that's when my gravel so interesting to me because it's drawing from both sides of the sport. It didn't take me long to to realize that my love for cycling and in my past experience with competition, you know, well to the other, so I started competing in mountain bikes and then my group of friends, you know, out of Occidental, which is where I was living road road bikes as well, and so the roads in Virginia county though, and she may or may not have seen, I mean it, you may as well be on a mountain bike, so it's extremely challenging. It's not as if I was in UC Davis or in the flood plains and so to me it really was. It didn't seem like that different of a, of an experience, but my true love is mountain biking has, has always been, still is. It's more thrilling to be out there where there's no cars and be on the edge of the world on our little trailer. That's just what I love the most. Yeah, absolutely. That's something that drives a lot of us. Just the sort of sense of adventure and getting away from it all. So I'm excited to talk to you about the grasshopper series. Literally every single person I've had on the podcast has referenced the grasshopper adventure series as one of the events that one of the many events in the series that they love to go up and do. It's 20 years old, which is unbelievable to me. When I found out about it. When you made the announcement at old cas this year, can you tell us about the origins of the event and how it got started and what it was like back then? Yeah, for sure. Well, for one, there wasn't the Internet and there wasn't that web platform. You didn't have, you know, wix or whatever. You couldn't spend half an hour and create a webpage and have an event and basically I was as a teacher, I was sitting at my desk, so I was racing on the weekends and training and teaching and I've been a teacher for 23 years right now and so it's. It's been a good balance between my rating and putting on these events and then what I do as an educator. And so I remember the weekend, a weekend and midweek I'd be thinking about my rides. Think the epiphany for me was after driving down to pine slot, which is a beautiful area, but I think we spent six hours of driving and then a hotel and we went to go race and I got had a bad day and ended up in the or and in Fresno behind bulletproof glass and it turns out had a kidney stone and it was a crappy day and a lot of money. And then I got back to my place and Occidental, I thought, you know, I don't want to drive. I don't want to be in hotels. I don't want to spend money and I also didn't want the experience. But what happens in road races if you're not at the sharp end of the field, the whole rest of the group just rides neutral. And for me it was training and so that sort of, you know, mountain biking. So I thought, well, what if we take. We start from where we live so I don't have to drive. We invite the people who's competitive and we'll have just an agreement that there's no waiting. There's going to be no aid and no support and we'll just see how it goes. And my girlfriend, my wife at the time, my wife would write the results at the end and we'd go drink beer and eat pizza. And um, you know that that's how it started. Was there a specific route that kind of kicked it all off? Well, everything started out of Occidental, which many of them do. The very first one include willow creek, but it didn't include old, it was a Sweetwater, which we're doing this in a couple of weeks and then all the way out the river and up will a creek. So from the start it was for me as a mountain biker to look for something that was interesting and fun and had and had dirt so that, that was, that's been, that's been a part of it all along. Were they the men and women who participated back then? Were they riding mountain bikes or road bikes? What were they on? Mostly? Well, you know, it's interesting. So at that time I'd say most people on a road bike. So the folks who are, so again, this is before Internet, I tried to call people or mail something so basic, I knew some folks down in Santa Cruz, I knew, uh, uh, Rick Hunter, and then in Santa Rosa there was some folks and then curtis English I think later came from, from Napa area. So the Santa Cruz group, because of their background, we're coming up on cyclocross bikes and then up here we're all on [inaudible] and charge tales with skinny tires. But the first couple ones that included roads were on road bikes. So we're also accustomed to writing road bikes with 25 or 28 had done in many parts of the country. Uh, so that was primarily once we started doing an old cause then it became tricky and I think that's kind of been coming to defining road for a, the grasshopper adventure series. And I think in some ways for the development of, of, of the gravel bike that, that particular, that particular route. Yeah, I think you're absolutely right. I was talking to someone the other day about my experience at old cars, which I've done it twice. One was about, I'd say eight years ago on a cross bike with cantilever brakes and then again this year on a unquote gravel bike with disc brakes, 6:50 p size wheels, [inaudible] tires, and it was like night and day. I enjoyed sort of every pedal stroke of it this year. Whereas a member feeling in that first year that I was excited by the adventure, I love the river crossing all the elements of the day, but I was just getting the crap kicked out of me all day. Oh yeah, right. The gravel bikes are crazy. I mean the diverge I'm on right now and rides and descend better than my old boss off road on the road. It's got fantastic geometry and so at the time he was also around and, and it's, you know, now every, every almost everyone who's making your gravel bike, but there was some resistance. There was the idea of like you have a road bike or you have a mountain bike or do you have a cross bike? And the geometry and the angles and the very aggressive angle than some of them. And then the high bottom bracket, it wasn't, it wasn't perfect, you know, and I think what also added with the grasshopper and old cars is when you add that competitive element and people start to be concerned about what really works best, you know, if you're just cruising and you're on the same bike, it doesn't, it doesn't really matter. But since we're adding that, that [inaudible] like, you know, who's, who's the crusher for the year, you know, people would take it seriously. Um, especially, you know, Glen Fountain, Shane version in from Santa Rosa, Glen's been such a gear freak forever. Tweak it out on the details of tires and every single detail so that, that's kind of attitude as well as the tire manufacturing. I mean, that's, that's been a fantastic change and improvement for all of us. There really weren't many choices back then. Yeah, no, I think you're absolutely right. I feel like when disc brakes started to sneak into the cyclocross scene, all of a sudden people started, their eyes started opening as to what those cross bikes can do. And when the frame designers caught up a little bit and made a few tweaks for the kind of more adventurous rising writing and less cyclocross racing, all the sudden these bikes are just opening people's eyes to this gravel writing scene and in a totally new type of writing. Yeah. And it's putting us where we want it to be, which is off the road. I mean all this, you know, contend with traffic and no one, no one likes to do that. So it's given people the chance to ride roads in their backyard that they may not have written when they had to squeak by on a road bike with 25 c's and deal with floods, you know. And so I understand the mass appeal. Yeah, it's fantastic. And the comfort as well, you know, if you could run a [inaudible] on my boy, the wheels with [inaudible] wt, b's and a little while back and I think he was onset, uh, you know, on this 735 and just looking side by side. And I was like, damn, these wheels and tires just roll fantastically. So yeah, it really is coming down to the wheels and tires these days. Was there a particular point in the last 20 years where you started to see the equipment really caught up in the participation in the advanced? Just grew? Yeah. I'm trying to think of a specific Garret's done the last few years. You know, I wish we had photographs of the first eight, 10 years because everyone was the, the, the variety of bikes that would come up. It was just super entertaining and everyone just trying to make it work. I'd say the last three years pretty much everyone showing up with the gravel bike, just kind of the norm. Something happened last year that was interesting. One of the folks who've been doing the hoppers, he said, yeah, I'm buying my first mountain bike. And I looked at him and I thought what dawned on me that people that ride grovel for some people, it's been around long enough that that's the only bike they know and now they're discovering mountain-biking and they're discovering road biking. So I think that's an interesting evolution. Whereas for most of us rode mountain bikes and road bikes and we got into gravel. So, um, have you, have you considered changing any of the routes given the new types of equipment that are available today? Or is it staying pretty true to the original roots? True know. I think, you know, we'll talk about later about the branching out to the, to the Mondo event. For me, the hopper has been about Sonoma County, Virginia County and about the community of people. And so, um, it's about writing where we world and the country is a big place so he could go someplace and you could draw this perfect route, but it's, it's not where you live and it's not part of the people were there supporting your vet doesn't really make sense. And so all these are, are, are aware of where we are. So it's also been a big balancing act of making the course of safe and creative and interesting and challenging and also dealing with the fact that they're on open roads. So that's something I'll always taken very seriously. And they've morphed over time to make sure that they're all mostly right hand turns. For example, people may not have noticed that, but every time you make a left turn you're crossing opposing traffic. So almost all of them go in a counter-clockwise direction, right in a clockwise direction. Think we've nailed it. Pretty sweet spot. King Ridge, you know, for example, that one which has several sections that are now that kind of sums up, you know, the, the trickster role that I'd like to play. I think most people in this area had been writing here 15, 20 years or longer and it never done done King Ridge in that direction. I think even adventures or features of habit sometime. And so that I think that one's perfect. And then I'm looking at doing some other explorations of some areas that got caught. A couple of secrets and a can fill you in on those when plans get near. You alluded to the hopper. I'd love to hear a little bit more about that. Yeah, sure. Um, well my self, like many others who are a few justice yonder fans can lose huge amount of times. Now that we have google maps and Google Earth, and I'm, and I'm no different, so I have cited my paper Gadgeteers I have quite a collection of roots and uh, so for me, Sonoma County, Mendocino County and Humboldt County are the areas that I've really considered home since, since I was, since I was a kid. I've been looking at changing the format so that we could have a two day event, you know, and I busted possibilities of two days out of one place. So this event's going to be two days, but was camping in the middle. So instead of people driving and parking and doing their event and splitting and we're gonna all be together and my character camp ground in Fort Bragg, so we'll bring stuff out there for people. It'll be two days of about 75 miles each. And they bought, each of the days will be half gravel. So I think it's just going to be a fantastic two days. You know, when you get into Mendocino County, Humboldt County, it's not hard to find a loop, but to find something about that length, that to loop single loop is tough. I think when I was looking at doing is all one loop. We were looking like a hundred and 35 miles and 15,000 feet of climbing or something and a decreases the number of people that would be interested as well as the logistics of keeping track of people. This was going to be a good one was it gives people a chance to do roads you may see on a map, but it just wouldn't make sense. And I feel like that's ever since I've been writing whether doing mountain bike trips in Downieville or Tahoe or in Moab or crested Butte, I've always been the one to like look at the map. Like, oh my God, where can we go look at this? And for the most part people trusted me to put together things that were, that were interesting. And I still feel like I'm playing that role. Uh, even though it's become more popular for people to go out on their own hosting these events and saying, hey, check out this. I do feel like it's a big driver for the community. Just like it was back in the early mountain bike days. We all used to sign up for events just to go try new terrain and have someone map it out for us. And I think gravel riders are, are really seeking out those kind of adventures, whether it's a few hours from home or many hours from home. We all want to try new things. Absolutely. You know, and I think I'm a little. I'm a little Virginia centric where we're buying so much open space and mountains in there. You are in Moran and, and north of San Francisco and in this area. But I think about the amount of people who live east of the rockies. People want to get out of the cities or people who live in big cities. They want to get out. And uh, in those areas there are tons of gravel roads. And I think for the most part, events are happening organically where people live. And say let's, let's do this. So that's cool to see. I was always curious about your sort of thought process. Do you consider the grasshopper series races or something else? That's a good question. I've often said they're not racist, but they're harder. It's kind of gone back and forth. I really want it to be something for everyone and I think that they're unique in that you have to coordinate and Ted King and Jessica Bush and Levi, some of the top 10 dam out and then you have people who finished twice as long later. But I think one thing about cycling in these type of events is there's that personal challenge isn't as race, and this was very intentional by me when I started these is people would ride differently. When you say it's a race and people will make decisions in my opinion, that are in their best interests of the group. So I'm really careful about calling it a race. As you know, there was a point standing in a podium, but basically every Wednesday afternoon ride all around the country, people have erases the grasshopper, so they are competitive. They were always meant as competitive training events. It's gone back and forth in terms of the permitting and insurance and also the logistics of actually closing down at an event like you went to her. California. It's not, it's not possible in this area. So there's a couple of reasons why it is purposely a little bit. I'm not clear as to, as to what it is. No, I personally love, I love how it's called the adventure series and I love in my mind going out there and just having an adventure and I do think it's cool like upfront that it's local pros that are killing it, but for me the races in the middle of the pack somewhere and I'm all about just enjoying the day out there and I have to say that each of the grasshoppers I've done, it's always just been a good day out and when you get to the finish line that's even better. Yeah, I appreciate that. You know, I've had, I've had the experience, so my oldest kids are 15 and 12 and have a two year old, so there were times at least one year where literally every ride for five months was just a grasshopper. I went from grasshopper to gossip and I did them all and I had the experience of writing initially to try and win them and then writing in the top 10 and then being way in the back, so to be in this group of field. And they became, they became my peers of every single person was giving it as much as when we were in the top 10. And I was. And it was the kind of a light, a light bulb moment. And they were having that same experience as the person that was 45 minutes faster. And I thought that's beautiful, you know, um, in the sense of accomplishment and achievement. And a lot of folks don't see each other all year and they'll come out into a hopper and 20 miles into it there with someone. They're like, Hey Tony, hey, what are you doing? Because the fitness is the ultimate equalizer. And uh, you know, and I think that's one of the beauties as the events gotten larger in terms of numbers, that it's more likely that you're going to end up with similar people, whether it's an old cows or a king rage or super sweet water. Now it should. People telling good stories about that. Yeah, absolutely. And I do. I don't think that if you call it a race and many of the races we've done on mountain bikes or road bikes when you're off the back, when you're middle of the pack, you're rarely like looking over and having a laugh with someone. There's still that weird race intensity that I think part of it's being in the dirt. Part of it's driving these gravel bikes. Part of it's just these cool events. You just look over and you have a good time. You know, you're not trying to crush the guy next to you for 407th place. Exactly. And I, and I, one of the things I used to openly joke about when I started this as friends who would, they would do old cars and they wouldn't do the other. And I'm going to Visalia, I want to get my upgrade points from my [inaudible] to my four. I'm like, OK, whatever. So we coined this to profaned to her upgrade points. And uh, that rung true to a lot of people when you look at the movement of gravel and have the type of competition is like, I think it is important to, to acknowledge, uh, the, the top people and to strive for that. But I also don't believe in the minutia of all the age group categories and ability categories so that everyone gets a medal. You know, I don't think that's the experience they're all looking for. And I think that's kind of the direction that it was for a while. It may have all back into that, into some level. I don't know. There's not like an overall governing body for all these events that are, that are popping up, you know, and that, that's a good thing. So um, yeah, I think it's interesting in the gravel writing community, and we've talked about a little bit before on, on other episodes is it seems like there's a couple of different directions. The way these events are going, there's the kind of four to six hour events and then there's more of the ultra endurance events that are out there and it's going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out and chances are it won't shake out. I think there's room for all types of events for different types of adventures. I agree. And for different, for different people and for different reasons and for different periods of their life as well. For me, my demographic and almost 50 now and I still like to be fit and compete. So it'd be to show up and race local pro doesn't make sense, you know her last or second to last where I compare my times. But to be able to compete in the 40 to 49 category, I mean there's some super fit guy. He's got a hundred and 50 guys show up at old cars. So there was no podium, but that group of 100 or the top 25 people under 40 or 49 and they know who those people are and they know where they rank and so you're allowed to be competitive without that being the ultimate motivator, you know. So I think that's a, that's a beautiful thing in sport in general and I think it's important to cultivate that in, in our events and the grasshoppers and you know, that that's important to me. So is there one event that stands out as your personal favorite? Well, [inaudible] just for a little piece. So I'm not quite the blogger but on facebook, you know, it feels to me right now the Sweetwater, this one coming up and I'll, and I'll tell you why it's because it's just weird. It's like four of our biggest clients is basically a road ride, but then you throw in the middle which is gravel. So it's what I call upper and they're like, oh shit, it's mixed birthday because you can't say no and you gotta go do it. So we do a huge road ride, but then we do old guys in the middle, which means, you know, it's crazy to just ride a gravel bike because you only have that, you know, eight, 10 mile section the gravel, uh, but if you just ride your road bike that it's kinda tricky. And then the fact that we go from the river valley, we do all caps, we have the creek crossing, we climbed to the top of a Fort Ross with the Myers grade descent, which on a clear day it's gotta be one of the best defense in the world and it finishes with the Coleman Valet Con. But truly the best grasshopper for me is the one that I just wasn't really recently did. I mean it, all. Loops that are just that they're all fantastic and they're all a little bit different. And are there some memories of the last 20 years that stand out to you? Oh yeah, for sure. This year, pulling off old cast, it's successfully is a big memory. The size of things and just the frenetic energy around it. Um, you'll feel satisfied about that. I say some of the most inclement weather days stand out the most. We had a couple of those last year, I'd say probably the most striking, whether one was, I can't remember the year, but there was a year where everything was flooded and tomatoes area and we're doing Chileno volley and in that area it's interesting because um, the oftentimes check the rain, but in that area you have to check the tide tables because the creeks and highway one flood based upon high tide. And so when we rolled out towards valley for this, when we went down into freestone volley Ford road into front, into Franklin school, the [inaudible] cough was fine, but it didn't rain that much today. But the tides went up. So by the end of the day and we came through. No, that's not true. It was flood. Actually. I remember that there was a Volkswagen bus that was. So it was about the height of the middle part of your down to at the start of the day. And then at the finishing day, myself and Devin I guess, and a few others were coming through valley for. And I remember him falling over and he actually completely submerged and this was on a paved road, so we're riding through a flood and then uh, and then the sprint, which is like six of us entailed going up the freestone valley Ford Cutoff and when that floods it actually has a current. And so you re, I mean the roads size of a small county road, but you had to literally ride right in the middle because if he fell in the ditch, I mean it's eight, 10 feet deep. So that one, just because of the miraculousness of us pulling it off really, really stands out to me. I should've, I should've made notes that since, I mean 20 years of five hoppers a year. So that's a lot of. Yeah. Well, I think another, another story is one of the cold days. I'm King Ridge for one of, by, by one of my best friends in the old Lewis. It was doing pretty well. He was ahead of me actually. I rolled into Jenner to get some food. It's one of those days when it was so cold and you had to stop because we didn't have hot food or drinks there and he was pulled over at the market instead of getting like coffee and a snickers or whatever, he was buying a huge piece of smoked salmon, like all I could think about was to buy the first thing he saw and there was a guy standing there, so I think he spent eight, 10 bucks, says Sam and on the side of the road. That's symbolic of people just being completely empty and a emptying out there. Yeah, I mean it's, it's why people talk about it for three or four days after every grasshopper. Just these memories of the adventure of being out there. I think that's a good way to sum it up. Yeah. We didn't use to have any water or support for people, so that made it a little extra extra challenging. I feel fine offering Osmo and Goo and, and, and, and sponsors product in nutrition. I feel like that's still not, not, not cheating, both having cold beer for people, but the top. Nobody minds that too much. I think everybody appreciates it a lot. It's amazing. I mean 20 years. That's so awesome and I can't express enough how cool that is. I think a lot of people would love to know, do you have any tips for first time event organizers to help them kind of pull off something successfully? I'm a funny guy to us that as I don't have a business degree and totally organically I'm, I'm doing it where you live and what their core is is, is really important. Obviously from a business point of view, there's other things you need you need to look at, but I think just starting on doing a route that's fun to ride and focusing on that, you know, looking out after people just enough so that they're safe and covering your bike, but make it a little bit edgy, I think, uh, is important in this type of this type of event. Putting it on in a way that's not going to create conflict with other users in your area, whether it's hikers request or people on the road. I think that's something that we always have to be mindful of. When we looked around 100, 200, 300 cyclists out there, that seems like you guys have done a great job of embracing the small community of Occidental in a way that, as you said, 600 people can come into town and try not to disrupt things too much while still bringing economic value to the community. That's the goal of doing that. Exactly. I'm pretty much, I mean we took over the town and then hopefully they see it as, as a, as a plus. So, you know, it's not business as usual. Um, I know people love and look forward to coming to that town and I think, yeah, taking a destination that you can have a relationship with that, that is important. I'm really looking forward to doing this one again to Mendocino where it's kind of spreading out and connecting with different people. I know up in that way, giving people a chance to, again, I think one of the things it wants to do an event a few times, it's kind of a known thing and a known factor. Although there's always like, how fast can you do it? This Mendocino [inaudible], there's certain pieces when we look at them apps, but it's like you're out there when you're writing Sherwood road, you have 35 miles of dirt from the Ridge on wheels to the coast, you know, so both of both sections of that gives you this really sense of exploration and so that's important to me and the next phase is continuing to have things that have that, that unknown factor and a little bit step by step outside of the comfort zone. Do you see more events coming in to the grasshopper series? I don't know. I think just this event's going to be unique and stand on its own. I think people are. There's been a lot of interest in it. I think after the first year, the report back will be that that was a pretty amazing experience and be able to end in camp right on the ocean. It's not. People aren't quite that accountant accustomed to leaving. They're leaving their things and two day events. Yeah, I was something else. Interesting. You know, there's something in October that might be going on in the second day, wouldn't be necessarily a big ride, I think back to back days and then travels a little bit taxing. So something a little bit more social or educational, cultural on the second day and a time to unwind and just be together and the first day of big riding. But yeah, cut some ideas. Nice. Hey, but why not? Why not a week? Why not a week long? Right? Yeah, absolutely. If we can all find the time off from our families a weekend thing. Yeah. I think that's been, that's been the key of this, of the, of the nor cal community with this stuff as well. I really appreciate, you know, as people, a carve out the time and their daily lives to make time for them, for themselves, you know, to do it their love and keeps her passion gone. I think that all makes us better people with our relationships in our families and our work and really that's where it comes from for me, uh, as, as the teacher, you know, it's like giving us something because we all play bigger roles, more important roles outside of the cycling. And uh, to me it's a, if it's all about biking, it's just a little bit too narrow. I think it's a vehicle for us to be in the world and uh, the northern California cycling community, I'm just impressed with the men and women who just like do so much for each other and for the community and while at the same time finding times to get out and shred and that speaks volumes to the people here. Yeah, absolutely. I think that's pretty natural point to finish our conversation today. I think there's, I mean it sounds like there's really cool future ahead for the grasshopper adventure series and a couple of new tricks up your sleeve and obviously if anybody hasn't been out to one of the events, encourage you to get out there. They're a part of California is beautiful. Yeah, I appreciate it. And let me, let me not forget to give a plug for, uh, for, for Lake Sonoma, it's like 27 miles of just ripping on single track. It's like a flow trail and uh, the hoppers is about being able to share it on every slide, you know. So you've got your cross bike or mountain bike and your road bike. It's a good place to start out. Where's the best place to find information on the series? Our webpage is the best grasshopper adventure series a, you know, follow us on Instagram, a grasshopper adventure series, our facebook page. I tried to keep things active there as a, as a place where people gather information, but our website's got everything I need to know. I'll make sure to have everything in the show notes on that and that really appreciate you spending the time with us today. Hey, my pleasure So that was great. Talking to Miguel this week, the grasshopper adventure series has meant so much to northern California and to the gravel cycling community, I hope would be event organizers. Learned a few tips from Miguel about how to put on a great longstanding event. And how to integrate into a local community and in some late breaking news, I just learned that there Morin Museum of bicycling in Fairfax is interviewing Miguel on April 26. I'll put the link to the events in the show notes, but I want to encourage everybody to go out and see Miguel in person and see some of the great damages he's captured over the years hosting the grasshopper series. As always, thanks for listening. If you have any feedback, you can hit us on instagram at the gravel ride. Shoot me a note at Craig at the gravel ride that bike. And also don't forget to share rate and review this podcast to help us get found. Until next time, get out there and get some adventure and we'll see you soon.
March 27, 2018
Episode Links: DZ Nuthouse Gravel Camp Crusher in the Tushar Dave Zabriskie Instagram Ryan Steers Instagram The Gravel Ride Instagram Topanga Creek Outpost The Mob Shop 3T bikes  "I've been able to find things that people that have lived here their whole life, It's amazing, like I just feel like to explore, so I'm finding some roads, dirt stuff that's blown people's lunch that have lived here their whole life." Dave Zabriskie, Former Professional Road Cyclist So that was former professional road, cyclist, Dave Zabriskie, talking about some of the secret trails he's found down in the Santa Monica Mountains near Los Angeles. I've got dave and his business partner, Ryan Steers, who's a former professional mountain bike racer on the podcast, the two of them partner for a gravel camp in southern California, which sounds really cool. I was excited to talk to the guys just as they've both come from different sides of the sport, which I think is pretty typical for a lot of us as a lot of mountain bikers coming to gravel and also a lot of roadies, but this is an opportunity to talk to two guys who have done it in the professional ranks and hear what they have say about gravel. So with that, let's jump right in. All right. This week on the podcast we've got Ryan and Dave. Ryan and Dave, thanks for joining us. You're welcome. Right on. I always like to start the conversation by, by finding out how you guys came to gravel cycling. This is Dave years ago. Actually. I built the, before they had gravel bikes, I'll build a mountain bike or rigid and then I just put dropbox on it and I took that to Europe because a, I wanted to have some adventure in between the racing and the regular road trainings. It was something I've been toying with for quite a long time. And then, uh, it was pretty cool and they started a couple of people that seemed like a, it almost seemed to me like the touch around the crusher was this event that came along where you had a mix of surfaces and he was like bringing whatever bike you think of work. It kind of seemed to me that they started building bikes for events like that, which kind of turned into the gravel thing. It's been cool for me because it's something I've been doing even before gravel bikes. Yeah, I think you're right. I talk to a lot of guys who are sort of banging around on it with events like that are out here in northern California. The grasshopper series has been around for 20 years and it really wasn't until the last five years that the bikes were really suited for what that race course was offering. That's super cool. How about you Ryan? So you got a little bit different background, not on the roadside per se. Yeah, I've always been a mountain biker and I was uh, working at his shop. Was that maybe four or five years ago when the first gravel bikes really started to come out? I think it was like the salsa warbird that we were carrying and I had no idea what to think of it. I thought it was just something people in the midwest it on gravel roads and then flash forward two or three years later starting to do the Belgian waffle ride and ride my road bike a lot on the dirt and trails. We were doing basically everything on the road bikes with 28 and you know, after like five or six slots, you're just getting a little frustrated and then finally realized that there was some proper bikes coming up that could handle everything around here in Los Angeles, there's a lot of single track and trails and fire roads, so just got drawn into gravel by the ability to connect to everything. It's cool because you can go out for a ride and you know, red fire roads and trails and have what would be a pretty, a pretty boring mountain bike ride. Actually be a really fun ride on a gravel bike. Started to do some of those events to Belgian waffle ride. They've talked me into the, the crusher or a couple of years ago and yeah, I got hooked on that and the whole atmosphere that the gravel races bring was a really attractive. So it drew me in. Yeah, absolutely. Were there things you can point to on the bike that really made the difference? Yeah, the tire cleaner or being able to run [inaudible] sorry, go ahead. The tubeless technology as well as just the riding a road bike on that stuff. You'd be flattened all the time just to be able to tie everything together now like you can still on that [inaudible] but I have you can go out and pair ass on the road all day and then if you see a trailer you can hit that and feel pretty fast as well, like a. So it's just fun to tie it all together. But I'd say the tires is tires. It's probably been the biggest improvement I think is really interesting. Platform. Are you running 700 sees on there or 650b? Yeah, just stick with the 650. I thought about putting some 700. Then I kind of like the cushiness those six [inaudible] so that I don't notice too much of a loss. Yeah. How about you Ryan? What? What's, what's your equipment look like? Yeah, I'm on the uh, I'm reading the giant tcx set up with a, got a 48 on the front and the 38 and the rear, which is pretty nice around here. A little traction when it sandy, but then also roles pretty fast on the pavement. I set up a lot. And is that a 700 seat will set? It is. It's a 700. Yeah. It's um, like a, like a little more aggressive. Ryan's eight feet tall. I'm six and a half feet tall, so a hundred milliliters of expose posts. So I get, I get like an inch of travel on post. It's pretty sweet. It looks like you're on 24 inch wheels. Exactly. Yeah, right at 29 and everyone's like, is that a [inaudible]? 50 a 27 [inaudible] 700. I found myself in dance camp. I've got an OPEN with 650 bs and I tend to just leave those on there even though I have a 700 seat we'll set kicking around. It's part laziness and part in northern cal. Like the trails are fairly rough. I think it's, it's similar to what you guys experienced down there to like a fast fire roads, some single track here and there, but we have decent amount of steeps here. So I find having that v tire volumes just preventing me from flooding and makes it a really fun bike to throw around. So I got a controversial question for you. La Sucks for cycling or false. I think the whole intent is the, uh, the irony, right? Yeah, absolutely. I was telling Ryan, you know, I'm, I'm lucky enough to be married to a woman who hails from Topanga, California and still has family down there. And previously I probably would have answered yes to La sucks recycling. But after spending a decade visiting Topanga, I've just fallen in love with the riding down there. I think you guys are really blessed. Tell us a little bit about the various bits of terrain that people not familiar with the La area might not be aware even exists for gravel riding down there. One of the most famous trail that connects Santa Monica go about 70 miles north to the Santa Monica Mountains. Uh, and that's pretty fun. A lot of that is about lions carefully, but there's an unlimited number of fire roads just all through Malibu that, uh, you can link up. And then over, I live right by Chesboro and there's tons of fire roads and writing. So once you start connecting the fire roads and single truck, I mean you can rod from Santa Monica to see me to Malibu with hardly touching any pavement in between. It's pretty cool. Yeah. How about you, Dave?  I've been able to find things that people that have lived here their whole lives are like. And how did you find this and what is it like? It's amazing. Like I just like to explore our area, so I'm finding some roads and dirt stuff that blowing people's minds that have lived here their whole life. Topanga towards Malibu along the backbone trail. When I wrote it over the holidays, I was just shocked at how much open space there was, the views you were getting there and the fact that I didn't see anyone. 14,000,000 people in Los Angeles County and you run it on a weekday and you'll maybe run into one or two cyclists or a jogger is empty. Yeah. You guys are lucky to ride out of that area. I think it's really something special when I haven't seen down there, and correct me if I'm wrong, is a lot of gravel events, whether they're rides or races right in that area. Is there a reason for it is it's sort of a, you know, as Dave mentioned, private land that you end up getting on? Yeah. I'm not sure there is a few. Like I think they're just more uh, like you'd have to live here to know about. Um, I'm not sure they're trying to bring in people from all over the place. OK. So more like sort of shop based rides that are pretty big but not necessarily broadcast. Yeah. Like there's one in Ohio, the mob shop they have, they have some good events up there that are really cool and then a federal or his work has really cool events. There's one in redlands coming up but never run out of stuff to explore down here. Like it's just so gigantic. I've done the gravel mob riding. Hi. The last couple years, and I love that one and another, another area of the country where it's like spectacular, 60 mile loop or whatever it is, great trails, which combined like fun fire roads, both climbing into sense and then a shot of Tequila before that last, a single track to set. I think it was a nice touch. Our area is really focused on the road riding out here and just on the pavement, so I think we're just. We're trying to get people off that more. There's so much more to see than than the roads, which is a shame that most people don't get off of them, so we're just trying to bring people onto the dirt a little more. There's a lot out there. Yes. You guys are clearly who are big advocates for gravel cycling. What do you see are the hesitations from people, whether they're in the road camp or the mountain bike camp to try this new part of the sport out? I mean, if you're a real, real hard-core Roadie, I mean just the thought of getting your shoes [inaudible] sometimes it's scary for me. It's pretty a simple. I just don't want to deal with cars, those fire roads or they're a lot safer, so that's kind of what draws me to it as I don't have to look behind my shoulder every two seconds, but I mean, some of these guys, you just have to, uh, introduce them to it. Like I've done a few group rides where there'll be a really short, smooth section and I take the train to take them on there and they get pretty excited and then they wanted to kind of get interested like what bikes that I get, what's, how do I do this, how do I do that? It's just kind of getting somebody toes wet a little bit and then they see the light. Yeah. It seems to be a common theme with people I've talked to. It's like once they give it a try, they get over to get over that fear of getting off road. If you're, if they're on the road side, all of a sudden they realized for all the benefits you just described, that it's really the place to be. If you've got this kind of terrain in your backyard, getting lost out there too, so you're not really going to get lost, but if you take a wrong turn, you could end up, you know, down at the beach and then find yourself three hours from where you thought you were going to end up the wrong side of original line and all of a sudden you're nowhere near where you think you're going to be. Exactly. Bedside in Malibu. Yeah, I think you're right. You know when you guys were mentioning, you know the idea of getting lost and how gravel riding, there's this sort of adventure when you're getting out there. I think that's one of the things that's creating this big opportunity for events and otherwise group rides just because it's nice to have someone show you some new terrain and it really adds to your repertoire if you learn some new trails, really one bike. That ties a lot of things together. When I got the bike, I didn't think I'd write it as much as I have been. Really replaces almost everything to do jumps. I've been doing them all my gravel bike. If you'd been looking at my instagram so it can do everything. What, what did we decide on? Is that getting Rad are getting stoked? Yeah, and I mean it seems like the sort of emerging gravel cycling scene is also opening up some post professional cycling career opportunities for some of your former co-workers in the Peloton. I think that sort of visuals of adventure really makes sense for a lot of the cycling brand. So if you've got a guy who's got no reputation or history in the sport and then he's out there getting out there in the woods and testing the equipment. Uh, I just think it's sort of a natural tie in for a lot of these bike brands to want to stay affiliated with them when they get to sell on other bikes to buy company. Love it because it's, you know, not many people have and gravel bike yet. So they're excited to get people on gravel bike out and you know, most people have a mountain bike or road bike and you know, who doesn't love to get a new bikes. Exactly. Although the dirty little secret is, is as you sort of alluded to Dave, once you get one of these gravel bikes, you find out you can ride on the road and the dirt just as well, and you might start shelving your road bike. Yeah. Hey, so you guys are starting at a really exciting new project in the next couple of months. Um, with the gravel camp. Can you guys tell me about what inspired that and what it's all about? You have to commit yourself to gravel because it's, it's kind of a therapeutic. Uh, I mean it has been therapeutic for me. It's very, uh, I've always been crazy, but, uh, this has helped me from going insane type of things. So we're just inviting people to come, uh, commit themselves to our asylum, which takes a place here in the Santa Monica Mountains. And uh, hopefully if they commit themselves hard enough, they can come out, uh, you know, a little bit of sanity or maybe less. We're not quite sure what will happen yet. So it's a, it's a three day adventure, right? It's a Monday to Thursday gravel camp. Uh, we're doing all the meals at Publix for, we'll stop on a long ride, one day includes lodging, support, snack food, and we're going to show people some of the stuff that the Santa Monica mountains has to offer. It's a without the fear of getting lost or not knowing where to go and, which has been fun without a lot of funds coming in from out of town, but we've been taking around and showing them and just kind of blowing their minds with what's out here and like kind of help foster the idea of how we should really just get people out and from what we have in our backyard here because it's so amazing. And a lot of people go to Spain and do these big, uh, trips with the similar terrain and weather that we have here. And it's, you know, we're close to lax. It's the weather's nice or in southern California. So it's got all the conveniences of a big city and not that far away for every one that's easy to get to. But uh, they're, you're gonna feel miles up in the mountains. That sounds great. What are those rides going to look like? So if I'm, if I'm training and trying to get myself prepared to join the asylum down there, what am I, what do I need to get in my legs to uh, survive those three days. It's definitely not a race pace type situation. So I wouldn't say it's something everybody could do, but I'd say most everybody could do. There'll be plenty of regroup. It'd be pretty casual pace. If you want to push yourself, you're free to do that on the uphills, not the downhills. Our goal isn't to split up a group and making everyone kill themselves. It's the nature and find cool things and have good adventures and have good times. And what does that Queen Stage look like in terms of mileage and elevation gain? Malibu there that we've got set up. It's Kinda the best of everything that Malibu has. Often I'll do creek state park through a blend of some really fun page sections and that's going to be. We will leave early, but it's probably going to be 70, eighty miles and probably close to 10,000 feet of climbing with a lunch stop thrown in the middle in Malibu at some. A, a beautiful little place kind of up in the woods there. So was going to be support and regroups and everything, so it's not going to be a death march by any means, but it'll be a long day with a lot of climate within general. You've got to be. There's some 3000 feet to the top from the ocean. So just to get over there, some pretty good climbs a built in. Yeah. There's no way to avoid that coastal range if you're trying to get out of there. We got free helicopter service. Cool. For all guests. I'll guess a, you're just responsible for calling nine one one on your own and then you guys are going to go up into, uh, into Topanga. It looks like one day. Yeah. Topanga is pretty close to publish work, so it's a pretty easy job up there. But then once you get into Panga, you've got a really spectacular view. The downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica and it's a really pretty place to ride because you can see so much to the urban area below you, but there's tons of fire roads and trails up there and then like, think we're going to have to throw in a fun little coffee. Banana bread stopped. It's a Topanga Creek outposts of a little hidden gem bike shops up in Topanga that, uh, has done a lot to foster the cycling community up there. Yeah, absolutely. I actually credit Chris and his instagram feed for kind of getting me into the sport in many ways. Great job of getting people on the bikes. He's so welcoming to everyone that wants to ride and they do a Saturday morning ride for all scale levels. It's, I mean, I credit him with show me, get me into racing and showing me all the trails up there. There's a ton of hidden stuff that they're uncovering every week, which was really cool that you can have a bike shop in Topanga and do a ride every week until, you know, six, seven years later be finding new trails. It's really neat. Yeah, I think for anybody down there in that region, region or anybody visiting, hitting that Saturday ride is a real special treat. I found they've been inviting to me in any bike I've shown up on. So I've showed up on a mountain bike, have borrowed a bike, a fat bike from them. I've written a cyclocross bike on, on that Saturday ride, and across the board of the 20 or 30 riders that are out there, you're going to see almost every genre of bike represented every Saturday. And somehow I don't manage this to all work together. Anything else that our listeners to know about the gravel camp, how many people are you accepting and what are the dates for the upcoming camps? The first one we're going to keep really, really small to a handful of people ideally to probably 12 or less to keep it, to keep it around 10 or so routers. We don't get to split up and we'll have a couple other ride leaders as well surrounding them to keep the group together. But the goal is to keep it small and intimate. And you know, we did a, it's hard to keep a bunch of people together. We did a group that, I guess it was about 50 and things get a little more, uh, more spread out in hard to wrangle. So we want people to have fun and enjoy themselves but not be afraid of getting lost or missing a regroup or anything like that are getting left out in the woods through the mountain lions. And what's the website that people can check out to find out more? Yeah. The first one is uh, gonna be in April from the sixteenth to the nineteenth. It's Kinda, we sandwiched in between those and wall fluoride and Sea Otter. So if you're doing any of those events, it's kind of a fun stop in between. My legs are going to be pretty cooked on that first day from Belgium waffle run, which is also a blast, but definitely not uv. So yeah, April the first one and the website is these net house.com. You can go check it out there and he's got the details and a bunch of photos too because I think those are way more, were more valuable than writing things about the route and then people can look and see, see where they're going to be riding a big selling point. Yeah, absolutely. And I know you guys are active on instagram. Where can they follow you there? Uh, we've got the house accounts and then David got his accounts and I'm at our steers, the letter r and then s, t e r s I just did a sweep posts with some old action figure, a founder of a Kevin Costner if anyone wants to take a look there. Yeah, we've got a couple instagram accounts. You have to follow it. And one is very mysterious. That makes me, it makes no sense. Right on guys, I've appreciate you joining me on the podcast this week and uh, you know, I wish you all the best on the camps and I hope they're filled to capacity and hopefully I can come down and pedal with you guys sometime. Thanks Craig. See at the Mob Shop probably right on, So that was a blast. Talking to Dave and Ryan. I think their gravel camps are going to be really a lot of fun. The Santa Monica Mountains have tons of trails, just looping between Malibu and Topanga and Calabasas. Definitely join them for the camps. Follow them on instagram to check out some of those trails are followed them on Strava. I highly recommend checking out that part of the country and that's for us here at the gravel ride. Definitely follow us on instagram at the gravel ride. You can shoot me a note at Craig at the gravel ride that bike, or follow me on Strava. I'd love to get your feedback, ratings, etc. 
March 2, 2018
Episode links: Auburn Dirt Fondo April 28, 2018 Lost and Found Gravel Grinder Grasshopper Adventure series WTB Auburn/Placer area recommended loop Kenny, welcome to the podcast this week. I appreciate you making some time to join us. Hey, thanks craig. I appreciate what you're doing with this. Right on. Can you tell us a little bit about your background as a cyclist and where you do most of your riding these days? I was lucky enough to grow up in the South Bay, Santa Clara I started riding a mountain bikes just after high school. The technology was getting better at that point in time, so quickly moved into downhill style of riding, but back then you know, you kind of did everything. You raced cross country on Saturday and then race downhill on Sunday on the same bike. Nice. So with that background, it's interesting that you discovered gravel riding. When did that come into play for you? I originally discovered a cyclocross bikes back in those early days. We were lucky enough in that area over in Santa Cruz. They had a great little cyclocross series. It started, funny enough, I started racing my mountain bike and those in, in this series before I really got underway with my mountain biking racing. Yeah, it's, it's funny. I did a little, a few of those series back in the day as well, and I remember Santa Cruz was the only place where I felt like I needed a cross bike because the, there was really a pure scene down. There were when you were riding the mountain bike, people were like, Hey, you should get on a cross bike. It's a little bit different of a sport. That's where I started to get excited about the idea of a cross bike, but being a poor college student and trying to work part time jobs to fuel my addiction. Did you eventually get on a cantilever cyclocross bike? I did, yeah, it was five or six years after I first raced in those surf city events that I was able to. I started working in the bike industry. I worked for a titech back in the day. Their sister company was Voodoo cycles, so I was able to get one of their frames and slowly cobble it together with old road and some mountain bike parts. Yeah, it's interesting. I think a lot of us in the gravel scene started out with cyclocross bikes many years ago and at least for me, I found with a mountain bike background I was overriding the cyclocross bike and with the cantilever brakes and tubes, tires. I would flat all the time and ultimately I ended up selling off all my cyclocross gear just because I was frustrated it wasn't capable of doing the type of writing I envisioned for it. Yeah, well I tried probably like yourself. I tried to get out and explore some of my favorite smoother mountain bike terrain and mix it up with some road. But like you, you know, I experienced not only the howling brakes in inclement weather. But you'd have to bring a couple tubes for even one ride. And the tires were limited in size too. I think there were a few companies making a little bit larger sized, uh, tires, but I remember that first cross bike that I had had pretty limited clearance. You know, maybe a 35 would fit in it. So drilling into the equipment a little bit more. I know from your experience working with Debbie to be, you know, a lot about tires. Can you talk a little bit more specifically about tires for gravel riding and racing and what you recommend and what you've experienced? I think that it all starts with the bead of the tire. Um, you hear you hear mountain bikers and now road cyclists talking about tubeless compatibility and I think starting with, with the bead of the tire and how it interfaces with you, you can either be very safe or, or risk a, what we call burping or, or dislodging the tire and losing, losing air pressure starting there and getting that dialed was paramount for Wilderness Trail Bikes. You know, we learned a lot from, from the technology Is WTB offering both 650b and 700 cc? We are, we have a multitude of sizes. 650, we started off with the plus size tires, which, which are, you know, upwards of 47 millimeter bead to bead, which is pretty sizable tire, I think that works out to be about a one point eight or one point nine equivalent in, uh, in mountain bike sizing. But now we're doing a [inaudible], so a little bit smaller diameter options for the [inaudible] rider. And then we have everything from a 30 to see 700 see tire up to a 45. So, so a huge, huge amount of range and room for different, different riding conditions, you know, even even cross racing, the tubeless compatibility allows, you know, for a long time you heard tubulars were the go to for racers and, and, and I think they will always be there for, for the hardcore a cross racer, but a tubless e compatibility. Has allowed you to take some of that technology and get some of that suppleness uh, without the painstaking process of gluing on to being a, to get that, that, you know, nice cush ride or a ultimate traction for coroners to bliss. Compatibility will give you most of that at a fraction of the cost and uh, and also be equally or more say, send your tubular tire options. How has WTB addressed mixed terrain riding in its tread patterns? We've tried to come up with the same strategy that we used for mountain biking in that you have, you have tires that roll fast, you know, they typically have a low profile center center Knob, um, but, but you usually will always want a very positive engagement with, with the ground on your, on your intermediate and edge knobs. So we've, we've taken that and applied it to the, to the gravel side of things too, you know, and when, when mud is introduced or wet, wet climate, you want a little bit more with some open spaces in between. We've come up with an option that's still rolls fast on the pavement. But uh, the intermediate niche knobs have a little bit more space between them so the mud can clear and you get positive engagement with the ground. Yeah. There's certainly a lot to think about with tire selection. When you think about the types of events you may have done over the last 12 months, at least for me, I think I could have selected a different tire for each one based on the terrain. I think that's the beauty of, of gravel riding. I mean typically, um, if you've road raced or you know, have done a fondo or something or, or if you go to the other side talk about mountain biking, you very rarely look back at your equipment and what you could have done better there. It's usually, you know, the training aspect and with gravel you almost always come up with a few things that you could've done different with your equipment. Whether it's, you know, bigger, bigger, tougher tires for the rough or sections of the course or lower profile, sleeker, lighter tires for the, for the road segments or, or the smoother fire road, dirt sections. You're always kind of analyzing and going back and yeah, I always tend towards the fat or rubber just because I'm out there for an adventure. But I often look longingly at some guy with 700 c narrow tires cranking up a hill on is super lightweight bike, but at the same token, I know payback's going to be a bitch and I'm going to be ripping by him with my 650 b's on all the descents. It is one of those fascinating parts of our gravel riding and it makes it a lot of fun. And I think you sort of look over with a wink knowing that at a certain point your equipment's going to be superior to someone else's. And vice versa. I think when you're in doubt, you know, going, going a little tougher or, or larger diameter tire is, is always the best bet. But, um, it is funny how you look over at a, at a lighter weight set up and whether it be mile 70 year or up a grueling climb, you know, kind of wish that you had that. Just for that one section. Yeah. I think until the industry got the vision for more adventurous riding, the necessity to put wider tires on those bikes really wasn't there over the last five years, five, six years. I think we've seen an explosion in frame builders in larger companies building those bikes that can accommodate this type of riding. Was there a particular bike in your quiver that really kind of opened your eyes to what that ideal adventure bike would look like? Absolutely. So fast forward, probably five or six years ago, I purchased, an IBIS HAKLUGI their first model with disc brakes and quickly got tubeless ready, tubeless compatible tires in around the 40 size tipping point for me. I was able to go farther, longer with no mechanicals and superior braking. Allowed me to to go back and retrace my roots and ride some of the stuff that, that I enjoyed on a mountain bike while while doing it on the cross or gravel bike. Yeah, it's interesting. I think the type of equipment we're riding these days, it's subtly different but in really powerful performance ways and it's almost confusing to my friends who don't ride gravel on these types of bikes to understand how much terrain is opened up, whether it's just being able to ride slightly more technical terrain because of the wire, wider tires or creating these mixed terrain loops. So I'm curious, have you been an advocate in your friend group around gravel cycling and what's been the response as you started to get more excited about it? Absolutely, yeah. They uh, you know, your, your hardcore mountain bike or road friends typically will make, make fun of you, but you know, usually it's, it's getting them out on a bike that, that is equipped with the technology. We're talking about the tubeless ready tires, lower pressures on those tires. And then also a disc brakes. I think once they get on a, on a machine like that, they realized the potential that that's really. I think that's the gateway. Yeah, exactly. I think, I think until they've given it a try, as you said, an opened up sort of a big loop that wasn't possible on a pure mountain bike. That and trying out some of these new events that are cropping up I think has been huge because the community element of the gravel riding and racing community I think is just unmatched in other disciplines right now. Can you talk a little bit about how the community has come into play for you in gravel riding? I guess it was close to a decade ago, I started going out and riding the grasshopper series, which is probably one of the first adventure bike events that I was ever privy to. You know, a lot of the events you can do on a road bike or mountain bike, but usually the the gravel or cross bike would be the perfect go between where you can literally do any of their events on a, on a gravel bike and not be hindered with either the weight of a traditional mountain bike or a limited tire size and breaking of have a road bike. That's grasshopper events I think are this amazing combination of you've got a bunch of ex pro's racing at the front, but the whole day is community oriented. Afterwards, everybody's hanging out and enjoying a beer or two. A. It just makes a great day out. Yeah. You realize how cool the cycling community can be. You get people from, you know, such a, such a diverse background, not only at the pro level with, with different disciplines, but just, you know, all walks of life. Bike is, is the great medium to bring all those people together. It really, uh, you know, the, the events themselves are amazing and you to see more terrain in a day than you typically would out on a ride. Spending a little time after the event and and talking to people that really brings, I guess the element of friendship, camaraderie and the larger northern California community together. Yeah. It reminds me of the early days of mountain bike racing where people would camp at the event and everybody would hang out together. And it just was about racing and riding new terrain. I remember growing up in the mid Atlantic, I would specifically sign up to race because I wanted to see what it was like racing in Virginia Virginia and having someone lay out a course for me and knowing there was going to be a bunch of like minded cyclists around. Just made it an obvious way to spend the weekend. Good way to keep yourself healthy and, and expand your network of trails and uh, and you know, possibly meet some new friends along the way that, uh, you know, have the same, same goals and you know, possibly ride some new terrain with them along the way. Yeah. So you recently decided to put on a event of your own. What inspired this? Well, it's been something I've wanted to do for quite awhile. I now live full time in Auburn, California. I have discovered the, uh, the gravel riding is really second to none here and the in the area is, you know, rich with history not too far away from where gold was discovered in the, in the area and, or, you know, really they were developed, um, from gold miners going, going into these canyons and I'm using some of this, uh, some of these roads, fire roads and trail to show people what we have in this region. Awesome. Were you designing it with a specific type of bike in mind? Did you want it to be on the more tactical side of gravel riding more fire roads? What's, what's the mix you're shooting for? I wanted to try to, to create a mix, you know, a little bit of everything. I initially started writing this stuff when I was training for the lost and found a gravel event up in the Sierra Nevada and then just started expanding my road rides into these areas and then utilizing some of the trails that I have written for many years on my mountain bike, kind of getting a, you know, the perfect balance of painful for your upper body, you know, single track riding and then you know, being able to jump out on the road and stretch out and maybe grab, grab a quick bite to eat and then, and then back into the dirt for a, you know, a nice long bus team climb to, to experience some of the, some of the views that we have around here. Yeah. For those of you who haven't been to auburn, it's a spectacular part of northern California and I, I've sampled a little bit of the trail system that I'm really looking forward to getting up there and having you map out an epic day on the bike for us. Yeah, I think I have a good one in store for us. The event's going to be April 28th. It's the Auburn Dirt Fondo and I think I've pretty much nailed the route. I've kind of gone back and forth with a eliminating some of the busier roads and uh, and trying to make, you know, the return back to Auburn as memorable as possible, you know, and, and being void of traffic. I think only helps that. Any other tips and tricks you have for our listeners who are going to get prepared for the event? Yeah, I would say if you're usually tires are a part of your bikes. That's in question and I would say typically the bigger the better, but you can, you can run a little bit faster rolling a tire for this event depending on what the weather throws at us, you know, usually April is a beautiful here. Well, like any adventure, it wouldn't be as much fun if we knew everything that was going to be in front of us. Absolutely. A little bit of a little bit of tacky dirt and some, uh, would, would only benefit the event. I'll get the registration information into the show notes when we publish and make sure everybody knows how to get in touch with you and register for the event. Excellent. I appreciate that. So you mentioned a few other gravel events that you've done. Are there a few that stand out that you'd like to recommend to our listeners? Well, definitely the Lost and Found. They also put on Grinduro, which is a fun new event. Kind of a little different format. I really liked the lost and found because it's a hundred miles of terrain that you typically wouldn't get too. That sounds great. It's a, is it a particularly fast course, You know, every year has been a little bit different, but they're, they're kind of bringing it back to, uh, to bring the speed of the event of last year was, you know, we here in California, northern California, we had a pretty serious winter, so, so the roads took a beating. It was quite a bit tougher on, on a drop bar bike and almost made it, you know, kind of a hard tail, 29 or a fair for the fast guys. I think this year will be quite a bit faster if I remember correctly, the first year I did it for the first four hours of the race. This is a hundred mile race. For the first four hours we averaged over 20 miles an hour. I'm guessing that they'll probably get back to that. That's exciting. Yeah. I think it's interesting as course, designers think about how they want to push the limits of the equipment and endurance. There's such a balance between the type of riding, the speed of writing, the amount of vertical feet you're going to be climbing. That really makes course design and art A little bit of a rough terrain is always exciting to challenge yourself on, on a drop our bike. But if you get miles on end of rough terrain it could be, you know, fairly abusive on your upper body. So it's kind of nice to have, you know, maybe a little spattering of that. But when the speeds high and you're utilizing, you know, broken pavement, fire roads with a little single track mixed in, I think that's, that's a pretty good mix. The sport has a lot of different opportunities in it for athletes and I think it's diverging a little bit. You've got these big ultra endurance events that are more akin to the hundred Mile Mountain bike races that were popular like Leadville, 100 or 24 hour racing. And on the other side of the spectrum you've got these shorter, punchier faster races that are emerging. Do you have any thoughts on which direction you see the sport going or do you think it has room for all these types of events? You think that there's, there's enough room for all these types of events? You know, I mentioned grinder, Oh, and this is an event that's about 60 miles in length, but you're only, you have time segments within, uh, within the event. So you ended up doing about 30 or 40 minutes of racing through something like four or five different stages, so, so it allows you to go full gas if you want to through the time sections, but hang back with your friends or your wife or girlfriend or, or vice versa, them wait for you and you know, talk about the, the stages coming up, the stages prior. It kind of really, you know, builds that camaraderie. I really did enjoy the format for exactly the reasons you described. I'm curious if more companies that event producers are going to start going that route to really enforce the idea that we're a community and riding with your friends can mean riding with slower friends as well as faster friends. Yeah, I think, uh, these types of events as well as, you know, the, the event that I'm putting on, I'm just doing a, an epic ride that, you know, if you, if you want to erase it, you can or if you want to, you know, put in, put in some hard efforts on, on climbs or whatever, but then wait for your friend. Yeah. And at the end of the day at the Auburn Dirt Fonda, are we going to have a barbecue or some other type of festival atmosphere? Absolutely. We're, we're, we're going to be starting and finishing from Moonraker brewing company. We're lucky enough here to start and finish from there and pretty much jump right on. I'm right on trail. Um, and then we take off on our day and get up into the Sierra foothills and Sierra mountains. Pretty fortunate to, uh, to be able to start and finish there. We'll have a food truck and probably some live music as well. Well that sounds awesome. I appreciate all the time today talking to us, the Auburn Dirt Fondo on April 28th. Should be on everybody's bucket list for this year. Thanks again Kenny. Oh, no problem. Thanks for having me on your podcast and I appreciate your time.
Feb. 16, 2018
Episode Links: Grasshopper Grinduro  The Coast Ride  Dirty Kanza Scott Witthoff Episode 3 Recommended Ride   Scott Witthoff : 00:03 What's hard about the first 50 miles of dirty Kansas is you're in a group of 50 guys and women. You're surrounded by folks all around you and you. It's really difficult to drink. Craig Dalton: 00:22 That was this week's guest Scott Whitthoff two time, age group winner at Dirty Kanza, talking about the first 15 miles of DK200. This week we talk about West Coast versus Midwest gravel and as always we'll talk about a few more events that you should have on your riding bucket list. Announcer : 00:38 Welcome to the gravel ride. Your go to podcast about the people, places and products that defined gravel cycling. Here's your host, Craig Dalton. Craig Dalton: 00:51 Welcome to the pod. Scott, I really appreciate you making the time to come talk to us today. Yeah, it's good to be here. So I know you from just General San Francisco cycling and and mainly like that epic ride you do on Saturdays, but can you tell me a little bit about your background as a cyclist? Scott Witthoff : 01:07 So I'm born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska. In High School I had some classmates that I really looked up to. They race every Saturday and they come to class on Monday morning showing off their eighty / hundred dollar cash winnings. I was like, what is that? You know, what do you get that for? And they're a big bike racers. So I got started when I was probably 16 years old. Craig Dalton: 01:33 That's a long journey in the sport. Scott Witthoff : 01:35 Yeah. And then I slowly kind of discovered that I wasn't a great cyclist. I was just average and um, I wasn't meant to be a bike racer and uh, I was on a cross country and track team, so picked up swimming and I turned into a little triathlete. Hate to say it, but that's sort of already my early days of cycling. I was kind of a triathlete. Craig Dalton: 02:01 We won't shame you for that. So then, you know, onto the subject of gravel writing. It sounds like from talking to you earlier that you discovered riding on dirt quite early, just by nature, that terrain that was around your home. Scott Witthoff : 02:16 I felt like I lived out in the country in Lincoln, lived on a small lake in the winter months. The group of guys I would ride with, we would spend a lot of time riding gravel roads. We would just head out and ride 20 miles, maybe 30 miles straight into a headwind and then turn around and ride back. That's kind of what you do in the Midwest. You wherever the winds out of you ride in straight into that headwind. And then have a tailwind coming back. Craig Dalton: 02:44 And were you just writing your regular road bike out on those rides Scott Witthoff : 02:46 in the winter wheat. Then we'd try to ride a road bikes as much as possible. And then we slowly started riding her mountain bikes. That was more the, that fast forwarding a little bit. That was around 1987. I got my first mountain bike and I love riding on my mountain bike. Um, so that was, but up until 87I only road my road bike on the gravel also. Lincoln has really hard pack gravel so it's pretty fast and it's not too loose. And different states like Kansas, you need to be on like more of a mountain bike or a gravel bike. Craig Dalton: 03:29 Gotcha. But you've been living out in the bay area for a while and obviously like the gravel racing and riding scene has really become popular over the last, let's call it five or six years. Were there elements of the equipment that you saw evolve that really made it come back into your life in earnest? Scott Witthoff : 03:48 I feel like last weekend was the Grasshopper, a Old Caz, which you were there and we had a, like it was an absolute blast. Racing that years ago on with cantilever brakes. Um, if it's muddy or I don't know, it just feels like disc brakes have really changed the ability to run a fatter tire nowadays on these gravel bikes is wonderful. Being able to put a 40 millimeter tire on your bike is pretty wonderful. Craig Dalton: 04:17 I think it's huge. I'm excited to talk to you because you're one of the few guys I know who has experience midwest gravel riding and gravel riding here in Marin County and northern California. So I'm, I'm curious to explore that a little bit and you know, maybe one way to do that is to talk about your experience at Dirty Kanza because here I guess it's three time veteran of that event in two time age group, winner. So I think your insights are going to be really fascinating on that. Scott Witthoff : 04:45 First off, that's an amazing race. It's, it's truly a community when you go back there and I look forward to going back to see friends and and see a lot of bay area people that travel all the way to Kansas. So he seemed so out of place. When you step off a plane and going to Emporia Kansas, you're like holy cow, look at all these people from all over all over the US Craig Dalton: 05:08 What inspired you to do it for the first time three years ago? Scott Witthoff : 05:11 There were some folks, some guys that I used to ride within Lincoln, Nebraska that had been doing it. One Guy, he, he's done 10 of them. I've always wanted to go do it, but I've been so intimidated by that distance. It's hard to wrap your head around 200 miles. Once you do it, it's. It turns out it's not as hard to wrap your head around once you complete your first one Craig Dalton: 05:38 Given the type of terrain we have out here in Marin county, which is a lot of ups and downs in a sustained fashion, so you know you're climbing 800 feet or a thousand feet to translate that to more that the rolling hills in the Midwest. It is a bit of a disconnect on how you train for it. Can you talk a little bit how you train for it and how you got head around it and how that actually translated when you were on the dirt? Scott Witthoff : 06:04 I did a lot of Saturday and Sunday, big, big blocks of training and I don't like to call it training. It just. I grab a group of friends and we go out and we do big Saturday ride on pavement and then maybe Sunday followed up with another big day, maybe two really big six hour days on the bike. You need to do some training off road just to get your upper body used to all the, the abuse that it will take because it's pounding on the handlebars. Craig Dalton: 06:35 Over 200 Mile Day, it's gotta be a lot of abuse. Is a different that it's sort of smaller. Rolling Hills and then the sustained descending that we do out here. Scott Witthoff : 06:44 I feel like what's hard about the first 50 miles of dairy, Kansas is you're in a group of 50 guys and women. You're surrounded by folks all around you and you. It's really difficult to drink, to hydrate. So I think a camelback is a must. Craig Dalton: 07:04 And did you figure that out on the first go round or did it take to the second? I'm a huge sweater. I cramp pretty easily if I don't have a camel back, um, I'll be in big trouble. But the first 15 miles you're not really taking your hands off the bars a whole lot. And then once it kind of spreads out, then you can kind of, once you're kind of in your little group than you're able to eat and drink and gather yourself a little bit. Craig Dalton: 07:30 And I was surprised to learn that there was a lot of flats at Dirty Kanza. What element of the terrain creates that? The Flint hills of Kansas are those razor sharp rocks are. Scott Witthoff : 07:42 I mean you see so many flat tires. Those first 50 miles, you're also in a big group so you can't eat or you might not be taking the best line. You might have to follow somebody. And sometimes I find myself trying to drift back a little bit to give myself some space because I've learned the hardware, you know, just flooding a lot. It seems like I get a lot of flats. I've kind of had to learn the hard way. I've got to drift back a little bit and have a good side of line, you know, I can see what I'm about to run into. Craig Dalton: 08:17 What kind of equipment were you riding? Scott Witthoff : 08:19 I'm a big fan of the specialized trigger. Tubeless. It's a 38 millimeter tire. Which has good sidewall protection and does it have a knob on it? Yeah. Does it has a great file tread like perfect for cancer. I feel like everybody's making a great tread is just how good is the sidewall protection. A lot of tires out there. Just don't have a lot of good sidewall casing. Right. Craig Dalton: 08:48 It sounds like that's a good investment if you're going to go tackle Dirty Kanza. Scott Witthoff : 08:51 It's a heavy tire. It's really heavy. Um, I think it's worth having a little bit higher volume tire. Craig Dalton: 09:00 Yeah. That offers a little bit more sidewall protection. So it sounds like a couple of takeaways are. Consider camelback for hydration just so you can stay hydrated during the first 50 miles and obviously the later in the day as it adds up. Great tires with good sidewalls. Last thing you want to do is make a long day even longer with a couple of flats and then just getting out there and then putting the mileage on however you can. And in your local, the local terrain. Scott Witthoff : 09:26 I feel like I carry. I have three bladders waiting for me. Each rest stop. There's only three rest stops over the 200 miles I roll in the feed zone and I'll quickly swap out one bladder and put it in a fresh one. Craig Dalton: 09:44 Was that a neutral area that you'd like? They just transported your gear bag and you found your number and you grabbed it or did you actually have friends out there helping you? Scott Witthoff : 09:52 Everyone needs to have their own support crew or you can do a for hire crew, which I've done the last three years. Um, it's a local, it's like $75. They and it's wonderful. I've highly recommended and they're the first. You go through the timing mat and they're the first group waiting for you, like big purple shammy butter tent. So you can find your crew quickly and then they have your back laying out for you. That's amazing. They call it in and they were like, can come see, you know, Scott would off and they've got your bag waiting for you. Craig Dalton: 10:26 I guess that comes with being a 12 year old event versus you know, many of the events were riding these days are, are one or two years old. Yeah. It kind of reminds me of sort of the iron man experience where it's just a little bit more dialed. You have to get you through the end of what is inevitably going to be an epic day. I mean we're talking about what a 13 hour day, which is far beyond what most of us usually ride. Scott Witthoff : 10:51 I would gladly open a couple more rest stops along the way. I find myself stuck in between usually the second and third totally dehydrated. No water. One year I had to pull off a group that I was in right up to a farmhouse and asked for some water how to sell. Wow. That got me to the third checkpoint. Craig Dalton: 11:14 I think what's interesting about all these gravel events is there, you know, they're, they're going in multiple different directions. Like something like Dirty Kanza, which has obviously been around for a long time, is an ultra endurance race, which is different than, you know, the four hour races of the grasshopper series or gravel mob or things like that. Um, and that's what I find really interesting about the sport in general is that things things are going in multiple different directions. And you know, I, for one, as I mentioned earlier, like I love the idea that the festival atmosphere, yeah, of these events that I hope regardless of how many people come on the front, that that spirit of adventure and that sort of community persists throughout these events. Scott Witthoff : 11:56 The one, one thing I really love about Dirty Kanza, the entire town of Emporia, they'd come out for it and they have, they have all these tents and pop up food vendors and it's neat to see all the, the winners, they come back out and they cheer people on until midnight. I mean, it's a party music going and I just think that's wonderful that it's neat to see the winners that come back down and cheer every last finisher. Craig Dalton: 12:25 Those guys have put together such an incredible event and I think, you know, for those of us who may not have spent a lot of time in Kansas to be able to go and participate in an event that has such a legacy in the sport and see how it's done. Right, and see how the community comes behind it. I think it's like a great model for, you know, some of the newer vans to aspire to. Scott Witthoff : 12:48 In Europe is now taking note of what dirty Kansas has done and they're putting on races over in Europe now. Based on that, the formula that works for dirty cancer, like what is it that makes a great race. I think we're seeing that everywhere people are putting on amazing races. Craig Dalton: 13:07 Are there some other events that you've done in the past or hope to do in the future that you're excited about? Scott Witthoff : 13:13 You know, I missed, I was signed up for Rebecca's private Idaho last year. Everyone says I've never heard one negative thing about that event. Rebecca does an amazing job putting on a neat reason. I want to. I signed up for it, so for this year? Yeah. Great. Yeah, so I'm excited. Grinduro up in Quincy is another incredible event. Craig Dalton: 13:36 And what did you think about that format? So for those of you guys who don't know, with grinder row, they had four time segments, so essentially you can ride as slow or fast as you want in between those segments, but the only timing that counts is in the segments. Do you like that format? Scott Witthoff : 13:52 Yeah, I really. I liked it because you're riding, you grab a group of friends and you ride pretty chill and then it's all bets are off. He'd go for it and he tried to smash one another up sometime segment. I usually get dropped pretty much in the parking lot. I'm, I'm already off the back early on that first hill climb. But you get an opportunity later to shine maybe on a descent, I'm maybe on the flap tt or there's four different types that in the last one is the single track. Yeah. Which was a lot of fun. Craig Dalton: 14:29 It made for some interesting sort of decisions about equipment because each one of those sections of taking something different. Scott Witthoff : 14:37 Yeah. I think, I mean if I had a lot of bikes at my disposal, I would choose a hard tail on that course because that lasts. Single track looks. Those guys on mountain bikes had a blast. Craig Dalton: 14:49 Yeah, it's funny. I was riding with a mutual friend of ours, David Belden, and we came to the same conclusion like our hard tail mountain bike overall would have been a faster vehicle to cover the terrain, although we both agreed like being on gravel bikes was a fun part of the experience, so we'll we'll see next year if I go hard tail mountain biker or stick on the on the gravel Finally I wanted to talk about an event that you put on and that has a really great history. The Coast Ride while it's not a gravel event, it certainly classifies as adventure cycling. Can you tell us a little bit about the origin of the Coast Ride and really what it is for people who aren't familiar with it? Scott Witthoff : 15:34 The Coast Ride, you know, everybody asks where did it start, and I honestly feel like it's been happening for as long as I've been alive. It just everybody rides in San Francisco. The old days they wrote San Francisco to Santa Barbara to San Diego. Greg Lemond the are stories of Greg on riding with his dad down the coast and I think he called the coast ride, but there are a bunch of triathletes I want to say ron early nineties that started it. They started here in San Francisco when they road down to San Diego and that was kinda their kickoff to the year and I started joining them 15 years ago where we would all carry a backpack. That's how we got down the coast where you'd carry backpacks and some years it was raining and some years are beautiful. Then in 2005 I had wasn't able to ride it, so I drove my car. I want it to be a part of it. So I drove it, started raining and everybody said, Hey Scott, do you mind if I put my backpack in your car? I was like, yeah, absolutely. Throw it in so I carried about 20 bags and that was the end of self supported. I ruined it for everybody. So ever since 2005 now we've had sag support. We only ride to Santa Barbara. It's a three day bike ride, but each day's I'm about a 125 miles and we stay in hotels along the way. Craig Dalton: 17:05 Yeah, it was my first version. I finally got to go on it this year. I loved it that I'd written the coast before by myself or with friends and there is something liberating about just heading south and running all day long and the camaraderie and just the basic organization that that you've been able to kind of cobbled together with other people involved has been really great for the cycling community. I mean obviously I know dozens of people who every year it's on their calendar today. Speaker 2: 17:33 Yeah, it's a neat. What I love about it is it, it really brings groups of people together. You know, this is a no frills bike ride like we don't. We have pizza at the end of the day, some sag stops, but it's really. You're just responsible for getting yourself down the coast and we'll take your bags and the whole goal is just, you know, I love seeing people meet other fellow cyclists. We had a couple get engaged a couple of years ago, which is pretty wonderful that they pulled over and proposed to his wife, so that was pretty neat. Craig Dalton: 18:10 That's great. And that's. There's a website. It's thecoastride.org dot, correct. Yeah. For those who you want to check it out, definitely take a look. There's some great pictures there. Talks about the routes. I mean obviously you can go out there and do it on your own with a backpack and Scott said, but if it makes sense in your January training plan, definitely come out there and check that out because the highway one down the coast, it just, it can't be beat. It's a world class place to ride your bike ever. Scott Witthoff : 18:35 We're truly lucky where we live to get and we've had some wet years people have done. Those are scarred and they won't come back to the coast ride because it's three very long days in the saddle, but if you have good weather like we've had last few years, it's pretty special. Craig Dalton: 18:50 Yeah, absolutely. Well, Scott, I appreciate the time today. It was great to learn a little bit more about your background and, and Midwest gravel riding. I think it's very illustrative. Um, as we as listeners start to explore, like where should I go? What should I put on my bucket list to gravel riding? I think he gave us a few good options. I'll put links to all the events that you mentioned in the podcast and uh, if you're comfortable, I'll put a link to your strava profile if people want to check out where you've been riding. Yeah. And I'll also post if you could send over one of your favorite travel routes. Absolutely. I'll post that as well. Thanks for. Thanks for having me. Absolutely. Craig Dalton: 19:35 It was great to talk to Scott this week and let a little bit more about Dirty Kanza in The Coast ride and some of the other events he's participated in. I'll post notes to everything we've talked about in the show notes, and as always, if you have any questions or suggestions, follow us on instagram @thegravelride or shoot me a note at [email protected]
Feb. 16, 2018
Episode links: Nate King Instagram Officially Serious Gravel Bicycle Ride loop Above Category Bike Shop Chpt 3 RockCobbler  Tushar Crusher   Episode Transcript  Thanks for joining us on The Gravel Ride this week, Nate. I know you're busy preparing for your trip to Spain. But I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. Yeah for sure anytime you're right on. For starters can you tell us a little bit about your background as a cyclist. I think it's always interesting for our listeners to learn about you know our people come in from the road side or the mountain bike or both and how they discovered gravel riding. So I started riding bikes when I was 14 started out pretty heavily in the dirt. I grew up in Utah and Salt Lake and mountain biking was kind of the thing you did there and didn't really take it that seriously until after college where I'd raced a little bit of cross-country a little bit downhill and kind of dabbled in all facets of the sport so I'm not tired side. And then I drop out of school and encountered road racing kind of obliquely at like the age of 22 23 and became professional road cyclist and that's at least domestically. Racing with Continental teams and now I'm here in that category. Yeah it's a crazy journey actually when it when I first started following you on Instagram and seeing all the road cycling pictures you've got such a good pro road road a static that was like This guy's a a pure roadie. And so I started seeing more about the adventures you're done. Yeah you know I've always taken a weird approach towards whatever it is I'm doing weather that you know racing on the road racing on a bike. I spent a few winters rate training down in South America Columbia before it was kind of a hot thing to do. And yeah. So I don't know to yell that for writing my writing my training like when I was with pro teams on singletrack. That also kind of you know always kind of been there. I'm not what I would call a talented talented cyclist at all. But I try. It sounds like you've been riding drop bars in the dirt for a while. Yeah. You know back when I was like right when I first turned pro. I really wanted kind of my forever bike which would be something with disc brakes and you know big big tires fender mounts and you Industry about five years out. But I think we're there now. And what did you actually get on that you felt like was as close to that vision of a perfect forever bike. Oh man I don't think I've found it yet. If I'm being quite frankly as you know OPEN's UP is up there for lack. No pun intended. But I you know I have a custom titanium road racing right now that has rim brakes. Yeah I haven't found it yet. It's still out there. My unicorn bike is still out there. And are you in the 700 see wheel camp or the 650 camp when it comes to riding off road. That's a really good question. It's it's hard to say. Some days. So when we here at Above Category when we first brought in OPEN I was pretty firmly ensconced in the 700c camp. And then last summer I did this crazy ride from the Lost and Found race up in the Sierras puts on down back down here to Marin County a few kind of out of the way dirt road route. And I did it on 650b's with these huge 40 mm Compass with tires and that kind of opened my eyes to the smiling real side is just as far as the way the bike drove in with the bike handle. I've always been a really fed up with a really low bottom bracket and kind of really the feeling of being in the bike and those kind of afford that versus roaming the set and hundreds of for much bigger but I still go back and forth. I think having one set of each is the way to go right on. Right on. And was that was that we'll set the 650 be the same one you race same tires and everything that you race Lost and Found on yeah yeah. So yeah I did. You know I've found that like really really high volume slick tires you can get pretty decent traction as long as you're not in. Really loose or really muddy situations. This year the sheer size of the contact patch that the foot higher gives up the space with eroding lower pressures yeah to make up for the lack of knobs You were on fairly mixed terrain when you're doing that ride back to the Bay Area. Did you change the tire pressure from when you were racing on Lost and Found to the roads or to keep it about the same. Yeah I pump it up just a little bit between on the side of the road heavy days. But it wasn't anything bigger than like a 10 PS difference. It was pretty minimal. Yeah I didn't really have any complaints as far as the tires themselves when it came to pavement. Yeah this has been one of the really fascinating parts about the gravel riding scene for me has been the debate around wheel size and I tend to be with you. I've got a set of 650b that I ride Off-Road and 700 C on the road. But over the course of events that I've been doing I honestly could pick one or the other depending on the particular event. And I think that's part of the magic of gravel riding it's like it's it's never perfect and we talked about this a little bit before when we were talking about designing events like I think you want people to have that question when they're going into an event like this. How do I set this bike up to be right. Yep that's kind of the magic of it a little bit of the mystery. It's like you're never on the right bike and you're always on the wrong stuff at some at some point. Like I mean I think back to a good friend Burke Swindelhurst who who put on who puts on the Crusher in the Tuscher which I think the first one was like 2012. And I did that in kind of the one of the overriding themes like the pre race briefing was. No matter which bike you brought it's going to be wrong at some point during this race. That's good. So back in 2012 I bet at Crusher you had some guys on on cross bikes, mountain bikes and road bikes. Yes. So that one you have to play itself out before you know travel was really saying Yeah and even disc brakes on a drop bike. With the thing and I was racing for the competitive cyclists pro team at the time I was working for Backcountry dot com which owned Competitive and we had this one off prototype disc brake cross bike kicking around a mechanical disc brakes and like 34 millimeter tires or something kind of like that's the bike I want I want it that one and I think that was probably one of only like probably three or four out of a few hundred people there that was on disc brakes and everyone else was on cantis and there were a couple of crazy people on at least this disc road bike or drop bar bikes and there were a few other crazy people on rode bikes and but mostly with mountain bikes and now I think that's pretty heavily shifted. So yeah it really has a day events I've done recently and including the one you put together it's like everybody's on desk. There's like maybe 5 percent of the people who are riding old cross bikes or cantilevers and as I'm ripping by them on the descents I'm just remembering what it was like to descend with cantilevers and how pumped out my hand to get Yeah I mean it's I mean I was kind of started riding mountain bikes probably was kind of near the tail end of this race taking over everything but my first mountain bikes were the brake bikes and I remember the first day that I got hydraulic this great bike I'm like oh my hands they don't they don't hurt you people who can actually descend were like oh well you need a brakeless. But you know hydraulics brakes are definitely a revelation especially on a drop bar bike. So yeah that was a big big step for me and my my gravel bike pursuits I started on a mechanical disc brake bike with 700c tires and now graduating to the hydraulics and the 650b's the descending is like night and day. And I think here in the bay area we've got some really ripping descents but they can be super painful when you're not on the right gear. I remember starting out here on her recrossed bike and just I would flat all the time and I really couldn't ride anywhere near what I could do on the mountain bike. Now with the OPEN with the 650b's coming down Coastal or something like that where it's a pretty long sustained descent with a lot of ruts it's just it can be pleasurable riding riding a gravel bike downhill. Finally Yeah yeah and you know after we you know we did the event and we put that we put a post postcard survey out just like what did you do like what did you not like about the event. And there were a few pillars like I can't believe that you descend Coastal on the gravel bike well maybe your equipment choices that very moment in time you know but yeah and from my perspective that means you've done it right as a race organizer and route planner because you've made someone complain about their equipment at least once during the ride. I mean yeah it is everybody says that the whole course was perfect for whatever they were the whole time. Probably a sign that I use something else at them. So yeah It was probably a road ride at that point. Exactly. Now I haven't done too much outside of the West Coast in terms of gravel riding but I think it's interesting you know when you talk about events like Dirty Kanza and some of the stuff in the Midwest how different that riding is and I wonder if the conversation we'd be having leaning toward 650b's a little bit wider tires with lower pressure would be the same. If that was right outside her door yeah you know I've not had I've done a little bit of I guess you know mix terrain riding in the south of Athens Georgia. A few other spots down there but I've not done anything else kind of west of I guess you could take hold that are east of Colorado. So I'm not in Kanza yet. I've yet to be cajoled into suffering. But I've heard stories of the shale pointing this at all. So maybe one day I'll get myself out there but I'm not. I can't speak to that. Yeah I'm looking for it. I'm going to talk to some guys who have survived Dirty Kanza and just get their perspective guys who I know live out here on the west coast and have been out there because I think it's gets quite a bit different. You know obviously here in Marin County we've got a ton of ups and downs in our gravel riding in it. It starts to almost blend into mountain biking at times quite different from that Midwest terrain. Yeah definitely. You know here it's I mean and part of it is especially here in Marin that we don't really have come from Utah on here basically spending half my life Moab and Park City and riding singletrack and pretty technical stuff here we don't really have that. And just by nature of you know pretty much single track bikes being totally illegal on Tam that it's really easy to kind of blur those distinctions and to have people you know riding six inch Enduro bikes on what amounts to places that could take a jeep down. So it's interesting to see how that evolves here at least locally. Yeah it really is. I want to talk about the ride you put on the officialy serious gravel bike ride can you tell us a little bit about the event and what the origins were. Yeah well I mean we're has been it's been marinating for a while here. Least at Above Category. I always wanted to put on some sort of kind of mixed rain event that really showcase the what was really rad about these kinds of bikes especially locally just because like I said single track is easily accessible on bikes. And then we have the crown jewel of preserve open space so close to a pretty big population center in the country. And finally we kind of reined in some momentum to get it done and we did it kind of locally we've got the grasshopper's but there's nothing up in Sonoma is nothing really down here in Marin and I was kind of like asking why why. Why did nobody do this here. And the ability to live together so many so many gravel roads with pavement and string it all together and kind of share that with everyone was kind of what was the driving force behind that. So yeah it was an awesome event. The route was great and the turnout was just amazing to that exceed what you guys are thinking. Definitely I thought we'd maybe get like 30 or 40 people who would be like oh cool and whatever. And we got 30. So it was quite a bit more than we thought we really at least. That's awesome. Everybody was having a really good time and speaking from the mid pack section. People were just cool you know we were using our guests to navigate or getting around the different court corners and missing corners. But coming back to them and everything was great. I discovered some new terrain which was stoked on the other side of Pine Mountain. I was riding with some guys down from the south bay in San Jose who came up so I think you're right. I think there's a ton of pent up demand for events in this area and part of me wasn't surprised when I saw that pack rolling to me in Mill Valley. I was just stoked to see it because I think this gravel riding's been so much fun for me. And I think it's so good for all the reasons you mentioned about why it's good in Marin County. I just think more and more people need to discover it. I'm going to post a link to the course profile that you guys posted so that anybody visiting the area can go hit up some of those trails. Yeah sure. That's awesome. No it's not. I think that's really one of the reasons that gravel writing is so exciting. A lot of people especially here on the West Coast where a population density isn't quite too high. Other areas of the country there's not the same kind of I guess for lack of a better phrase road density so you end up doing the same route like the road cyclist especially as the training of the race or his training you end up doing the same stuff over and over and over and over and have suddenly this new plethora route and and new trails to discover new areas too. Or is kind of liberating and is kind of freeing. Which is pretty rad to me. So yeah totally agree. I mean the fact that we were able what we were doing all this great dirt riding during the event and then next thing I know we pop out at Alpine Dam and do one of the Bay Area's sort of quintessential road climbs and riding across seven sisters. It just sorta underscores what you're saying about it. We can mix together the best of the dirt and the best of the road and create something that feels entirely new compared to the road loops we've done hundreds of times. Yeah exactly. I mean like I know there's a lot of naysayers out there who are just like oh you just know that I'm humpbacked full time I think. Yeah you do. But it sucks writing a flat BB bike on the road like nobody wants to do 30 miles to pavement on a bike. I've done it it's it's hell but you could drop bars on put skinner tires on a little bit more of an aerodynamic position and suddenly you're like oh this is totally tolerable. I do this all day everyday. Exactly exactly. So I hear you're planning another gravel ride. Is there anything you can share about the event. Well yeah probably will be kind of locked in a date so far. March 24th. Saturday. I think it's the last Saturday after the last Grasshopper of the year. So it's still pretty fresh at least locally. Definitely going to have a bit more structure around it. A little The less choose your own adventure will will will have a few a few more stops a little bit more route marking. You were mentioning that you were wrong turns only those few skid marks around and of the blind turns. And yeah kind of same idea just bunch of people out there having fun. We might even time at least the first few people who come through who really want to be agro and competitive. I have full intention to chill out and ride with friends. Right on. Well that sounds awesome I meant as part of the community. I can't thank you and Above Category and the other sponsors enough for kind of putting a stake in the ground and getting out there and doing things because I think it's really it's really bringing together that San Francisco Bay Area. Gravel cyclists and a meeting a lot of new people and it's just been great. I love these type of events yeah. Yeah, I'm in the same boat otherwise I wouldn't do them.   Right one. Any other gravel events you'd recommend that our listeners check out that you've done before. You there's one coming up. I don't know if that is going to be published before then or not. But the Rock cobbler down in Bakersfield run by Sam Born is outstanding. Usually I think this year it's sometime around Valentine's Day and we'll be in town for it at all. Highly recommend everyone to go check that one out. Okay. After that. Any of the grasshopper events. They're not strictly grabble are always a good time always really good local community. A lot of fasts guys in front lot people chilling out in the middle a lot of people smoking bowls at the back. And then obviously the Grinduro events are without a doubt the most fun I've had on a bike. There have been in Scotland this year. They started that with last year and then the the one in Quincy up near Downieville at the at the end of the season is always great. And after that I would definitely recommend Crusher and the Tusher if you're willing to drive up to southern Utah for it puts on a stellar event and the local community and Beaver really gets into it. s that more towards the end of the season. Crusher it usually is late July typically when it goes on and it's I think it's probably sold out by now. If memory serves me correct. He puts up the registration in January every year the sells up quickly. But I know the transfer form is pretty active.   I'll put links to all these events in the show notes. Anybody who's interested can check him out and put them on a calendar if you can't get into crusher this year. Put on your calendar and we'll get in in 2019. Yeah definitely worth the trip and definitely we're just hanging out Beaver and hanging out with Burke for a while. He's he's he's a fun guy to know right on. I appreciate the tips on that. So switching gears I know you're off to Spain this weekend to start a new adventure professionally. Do you want to tell us a little bit about what you're going to be working on. Yes. So I'm kind of not necessarily moving on from above category but kind of have a new a new track in life. I'll be can be American brand manager for a brand called Chapter 3 which does well it's a new brand but it was pretty old roots started by former British professional cyclists David Miller and yeah we're kind of excited to hit things full force based the Girona. So we'll be there for the next two and a half weeks kind of on. I guess call initial training camp with them and rocking that from now on. So that's awesome. I can't wait to hear more about it as that unfolds and are you going to do your awesome work for them. If people are interested in following you and seeing more about your adventures what's a good place to check out what you have been doing The Instagram feed pretty good. It's mostly a mix of pictures and motorcycle pictures. @KingTheNate and then I guess I'm kind of on Strava. I don't I don't post that much there. But when I write of people I will and I've got a whole shit Pilar's out there that are pretty solid for insanity if that's your thing. So awesome. Wow I really appreciate the time Nate safe travels to Gerona and will check in with you later. Yeah for sure Craig thanks for having me.  
Feb. 16, 2018
Introduction to The Gravel Ride Podcast.   A cycling podcast where we will be discussing the people, places and products that define modern gravel cycling.     #gravelgrinding #gravelriding #cycling #bikes
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