August 11, 2020
This week Randall and Craig take a look at the Enve Builder Round-Up and the new Enve Adventure fork featuring a geometry changing flip-chip. We later look at 1x drivetrains and how to think about the pros and cons. Support the podcast Enve Adventure Gravel Fork  Enve Builder Round-Up Specialized 1x Tarmac    
August 4, 2020
This week we speak with Dr. Allen Lim, founder of Skratch Labs about fueling up for big gravel rides. Allen's experience preparing athletes for big events such as The Tour De France has left him with a wealth of experience in how to prepare for massive days in the dirt.  Episode Sponsor: PNW Components  Support the podcast: Skratch Labs website. Automated Transcription: Please Excuse the typos. Dr. Allen Lim - Founder of Skratch Labs talks gravel nutrition Hello and welcome to another edition of the gravel ride podcast I'm your host. Craig. Dalton this week, I get to welcome on board another amazing sponsor of the podcast P. W. components. Peon. W was founded by husband and wife team Aaron and Emily up in the Pacific northwest after a long history working in the bike industry I I discovered pm w probably four years ago when I got a dropper post for one of my mountain. Are Really loved their focus on the customer. The product was well reviewed when I looked at it over the web and the delivery of the package was awesome. I just overall had a great experience. So was pretty stoked when I started to learn about their growing focus on the gravel sector. Because as you know, I've been fascinated by the growing influence of the mountain bike side of the sport to gravel whereas it's been dominated historically from a road orientation I think this outside influence from the mountain bike side is really starting to benefit consumers. So I've been using the PEON W dropper post on my gravel bike right now, I'm actually using one of their. Suspended dropper post which has been interesting and I want to give you some more feedback about that in a later episode but suffice it to say it's been really eye opening part of my writing. The second component I've been using has been there coast handlebar at forty eight millimeters. It's considerably wider than I had been using and what's been remarkable is the leverage. I can get from the outside of the bar that combined with short drop and a twenty degree flair has made me feel super dialed in the technical side of my riding. So anyway, go check out what they're doing at P. N. W. Components, Dot Com i. think as you dig in you'll. Start to see where their philosophy comes from and start to appreciate whether that'll fit into your writing. They've generously offered our listeners fifteen percent off their first order simply use the code, the gravel ride upon checkout, and that fifteen percent off will be applied to your order with thanks to pm W. Let's talk about this week's episode this week we've got Dr Alan Limb founder of scratch labs on the podcast a couple of things I. Love about Dr Lim is that he's a super straight shooter and he's the first person to tell you go cook something in your kitchen before buying something off the shelf I had the pleasure of talking to him while he. Was Actually running and coaching training camp from his car out in Colorado with some professional athletes. So as a few hiccups and fun things that happen during the conversation that I've left in for you to enjoy Allen's work with tour, de France, athletes, and ultra endurance athletes are really applicable to what we do in the gravel seen many of us are normal rides might be two to four hours, but a Lotta the events we sign up for be eight, ten, twelve hours. So how do you graduate you're feeding and nutrition and hydration strategy from the shorter rise to the longer rides with Dr Lim describes and recommends really resonated with me and I hope it does. Too, with all that said, let's dive right it. Dr Allan Lamb. Welcome to the show. Thank you very much for having me. Glad to be here I. Think it'd be interesting for my listeners to hear what you're doing at this exact moment. skills and drills I'm actually in the middle of a training camp following a group of writers who are doing some speedwork based on work on a little loop here in. Colorado we're doing a little bit of experimentation today with some hydration strategies, and after they finish this, we're gonNA give them you know argue super product that we've been playing with. We're GONNA try a little experiment do a time trial effort up big climb here, and then the workout today so. We're back in training camp mode, which is You know Kinda strange and a weird but glad to be added again, a a lot of caution being taken. It's super exciting to hear that it's super exciting to hear that kind of we're getting back in action because I know it's to look forward to the idea that racing and events are going to happen later in the year. So that's good to hear to take a step back for a second. Allen, could you tell us a little bit about scratch labs and how the company was formed and what the mission was? Yeah. So scratch lab started in two thousand twelve. It was myself a good friend Ian Macgregor who was a former pro cyclists and my old college buddy Aaron Foster and really scratch came from Kind of the work that I did on the pro cycling tour you know I worked as a sport scientists for many years in pro cycling and Developed a lot of I. Guess you know recipes ideas around nutrition doing the athletes I worked with. and. Around two thousand and ten or so I ended up on the radio shack teamed with Lance that whole thing kind of exploded and I just wanted to strike out on my own and not deal with all the bs around pro cycling anymore athletes were asking me for sports drink I used to make from and I never really thought it could do a business, but you know started making it to help them out and slowly through word of mouth, this company has grown into what it is today. We've always had a mission to help people become better that was and has always been my mission as sports I just and a coach and. When you get stressed labs, not only because we believe that drink is better from scratch. So we have these cookbooks wish your Thomas How's the you know cookbook affordable don't cable but I was starting my life over again. So you know the name really comes from the idea that no matter where you find yourself in life, it's never too late to start from scratch. Gotcha, and so that original hydration mix what was the composition of that and was it? Was it different than what you're seeing on the market at that time? Yeah you now. On the market at the time. I think that principally everybody who I knew who was an athlete was diluting their sports drinks and they're deluding deleting sports drink because the sports drinks were too sugary they were sweet their flavoring was too strong and they would often give athletes flavor fatigue and for many athletes especially long days and grand towards like the like twitter funds everyone would get gi distress and then lastly. Conventional Sports just never had enough sodium to actually replace what was being lost in sweat. So typical sports drinks might have four hundred milligrams of sodium per liter but a normal athlete you know would be losing between eight hundred, two, thousand milligrams of sodium per liter. So it wasn't like it was revolutionary we jus- diluted sports, drinks and added more salts. that was all that was needed. But I, think that most sports drink companies were trying to sell to Nas market consumers make these tastes super. Super. Syrupy. That was just. Not Tenable for most of the ethics I worked for. Do you think there was also sort of a line of delineation between the products on the market that we're focused more on on shorter events or just that that sort of instant gratification of a sweet drink versus kind of the longer toward of France level stage racing that you had spent a lot of time thinking about. Yeah most streams that were on the market were. Made for people stuck on Four, oh, five, and California. I. Do drink one, I'll be like Oh. That was I'm an athlete I'm stuck in traffic no big deal I mean, why do you want why did they sell sports rings a jazz station so I mean, come on give me a break right? Thing is kind of ridiculous. Yeah. It's interesting for me. You know the ads, a gravel cyclists as gravel events have taken on this new shape and form of being almost ultra distance in nature. I think it's really kind of forced cyclist. Nutrition a little bit more seriously because obviously there's a huge difference from your your three hour Saturday group road ride to a decay two hundred. Have you seen sort of the rise of gravel kind of create additional demand maybe additional thoughtfulness from customers. Well we certainly see a lot of gravel customers I. I think that generally speaking because they. Eat when they want to or there's a little more flexibility because the day is so long that the you know the the idea of real food that we really brought to the pro peloton really resonates with that crowd as well. Nobody wants to be. Eating. A ton of sugary. Syrupy Gel like substances, they certainly have their place and there's certainly needed at times but if you can supplement. Think. the whole entire competition becomes much more enjoyable. Right and you have less gi distress you can encourage more eating. You can get more more more salt and savory flavors back into a person's body. So I do see this moving towards real food in that world the interesting thing that. We also see you know now that we've released a superficial product, a lot of buying from that crowd without liquid fueling as well. Right.   So it's it's it's both sides of the extreme and I think that travel updates are pragmatists more than anything else yeah. Absolutely. I think there's two things I'd love to drill in on because one one thing I love is your you always make a point to mention kind of real foods and that being an option and I know you have cookbooks that can help cyclists make foods for on the go use. Can you talk about some of those things that you encourage people or cookbooks? Yeah, you know I I always tell people that sports nutrition starting your kitchen. It doesn't start with the package that you open up. Right it starts with how you're feeling during your entire week leading up to an event how much carbohydrate you're getting? Loaded etc. Are you sharing meals with good friends and allies? Are you keeping yourself both physically and emotionally? Well? Social come on food plays a role in all that as well. So you know the fact that we do so you know prepackaged products and you know sports drink and all of these products that are convenient for athletes to be able to better fuel in Hydrog It It's true also that you need to be making as much. Real food is possible if you're going to be a high-performance obsolete so i. I wanted to make sure that people understood both sides of the story. Yeah, absolutely. That's interesting. Moving onto this the new super fuel product that you guys recently released. It's a drink mix, but it's got a high caloric count. I think that can be a foreign concept for a lot of people. Could you kind of talk about that product and how you're how people were using it pre-production and how you envision now that it's in the market athletes using it? Yeah. So I always felt that if carbohydrate solution was too high, you know anything about six percent. That it had could create problems of creating gi distress. And what was you know effectively we happening is that if you've got something that is too high concentration. The Malek. Killer concentration is high and water likes to follow a a gradient from Of Low concentration of high molecular concentration. So you know for reference point blood is about two hundred and eighty, two, two, hundred, ninety, million osmose per liter. That's a way of measuring the molecular concentration of blood. So to eighty to ninety. You have a sports drink. That is higher than that. You'RE GONNA. Have a difficult time getting water into. The body if you put one hundred grams of just basic sugar into sports, you'll have a number like five hundred. Fifty five right. You'll have a number us is just way too high for water to or You the more complex carbohydrates. On the market for things like all extra, which would digest too fast and when they digested, you'd have a bunch of simple sugars. It'd be like loading up playing with a bunch of passage passenger giving birth as soon as you know, they got on the plane. So, we knew that there was an issue while. Athletes can't always eat their food in the middle of the race. It's easier to drag it because they're breathing so hard because are tactical things going on because you know they might not be able to reach in the back of their pocket and actually you know handle it so. But we also knew that we needed to make something that didn't explode there that wouldn't give them. I stress. The solution came when we found a really really complex carbohydrate that looked more similar say Muslim Pica June, which is the way carbohydrate is stored in in in muscle where you have this very, very branched very complex. Carbohydrate, it's very big. So it's got like sixty, two, seven sugar units whereas a typical motel only have five to fifteen and it's wrapped itself kind of like a like a like a we. net net it ends up slowing aside Justin and makes it Super Super Cycle. So it it feels and tastes more like water but you can end up putting a lot of calories into it and it solves the problem of being able to. Treat your fuel because this carbohydrate is more like a regular. You know say carbohydrates starch than it is a simple sugar or even also extra. Interesting. So you know in in a long gravel event how would you use this? Like if you're if you're taking bottles, you know every hour is something that someone could theoretically use every hour or is it the type of thing that every other hour every four hours you might want to get one of these in your resupply kit? It depends on how many calories you're burning right. So Calorie is still a calorie is still a gallery people get all sort of messed up when they hear that it's a high carbohydrate solution that has a lot of flexibility they think that there is some prescription that all of a sudden they can change the rules in terms of their caloric consumption, but the reality of it is this. Is that if you're trying to get three hundred calories an hour, you still need three hundred calories an hour. This is be convenient way to do that If you need to get you know four hundred calories in our you know this is a convenient way to do that but you can't separate what you're alarming are from your hydration. So maybe what you actually need is you know Four hundred calories an hour but you also need leader and a half of fluid while you know if you're drinking. Regular sports drink, which is eighty calories and you need chew those bottles and our one, hundred sixty calories and you've got your hydration and so maybe you don't need a drink half a bottle of the super field to get those extra calories and. So, there is some math to be done, but that math is always predicated upon what it is that you know you need in terms of both water and calories. It's I'll give you an example. You know when the providers ef uses throughout the year, what we see is a very different behavior when it's hot versus when it's cool. So during the classics when they're fluid needs are much lower, maybe they only need a bottle. But there. are still very high maybe they need more hundred calories an hour they might just use super fuel. The whole entire time because it's got the same amount of sodium per bought allows a regular sports drink, but it's just more locally dense. But as they got into the say that the hotter races in the summertime. Because they eat so much more. Maybe two or three bottles and our they're making up a lot of those calories volume and they only drink one super fuel bottle. You know every two or three hours or you know so they might end up only drinking too high talbot bottles over the course of. But. They might end up drinking fifteen regular bottles, right? Right. So doing that math there is there is a calorie number that the body cannot process per hour that you you. Where do those calories go or the just wasted calories in your body? Not, that your body can't use them your body, will you know your blood sugar will rise you'll you know you'll end up throwing that in the muscle or fat? You know if somebody galleries like during a dinner, you release the hormone insulin which moves those calories into fat cells and muscle cells. For Storage I think that what you're really referring to is that there's a maximal absorption rate for calories so Person can't absorb. Hundred grams of carbohydrate across their small intestine. Our right. and it depends on on your body size. Certainly, a bigger person with the bigger gut is going to be able to move more carbohydrate and but as a rule of who is really fit and who has got a really good gi tract will only move hundred grams of carbohydrate and What happens that accesses it starts to you know create a bit of a traffic jam. Trying to get more people into Disneyland, the gates can actually pull across and so you got some traffic, and if you build up too much traffic, you end up getting gi distress, and if that geologists trust is really prolonged, water can flow from the inside of your body to. Women and enough enough water then moves into the intestinal and then it comes out your butthole and that's called diarrhea. Not, good for any race day. No. But as a pro mail, you probably know that you get yourself at least one half every year to accidentally shit yourself right. Exactly, there's a reason why? Golden that. There's a reason why I've got a roll of toilet paper in my bike bag. Exactly. Everyone's seen. Everyone knows you have is. That is really interesting and I remember going back to my days as an Ironman triathlete when I really I thought about liquid calories because I was struggling to continue to eat the same things hour after hour because I'm not the fastest traffic in the world. So as interesting and actually my first go around with liquor liquid calories did not end up going well because it was early days and I think it sort of just I couldn't get my body couldn't process it in the way that it sounds like your product is designed to be processed. Well, it's not so much processing. It might have been that your body processes to fast you. I guess too fast and you went from having you know the big complex carbohydrate molecules weren't taking up much room in the gut. Blowing up like a Trojan horse all these little pieces, and here's what's interesting about this idea of Osmosis or as pressure water likes to move from a concentration of low to high right and concentration is dependent the number of molecules number of things not to the mass or the caloric density of those things. So you're talking about you know one big legos structure may would like one hundred legos. If all those connected that one big legal structure even though it's a hundred times bigger than a single lego puts the same amount of pressure on the gut. And so what you want is you want a big carbohydrate molecule that breaks apart slowly. Digest, evenly so that you never overwhelmed the gut as those little molecules break off. Quickly by the body, and so you don't build up this excess. Traffic Gentler pressure. You know at the at the gates of your of Your Gi tract or your small intestine. So. Yeah and you know a lot of the original kind of high calorie liquid carbohydrate stuff were made with. these long chain carbohydrates that weren't actually that long. They were more like as I said earlier five to fifteen lugos units as opposed to the Super, Bowl. Hydrate called clustered action or highly rent cyclic textured, which is between two seventy goes through nuts in a more complex structure that takes a little harder to break down. Yeah I. Think you know one big takeaway for one big takeaway from the listeners I think. Test and learn to figure out what your body can. What you enjoy, what you can eat you know some people can eat blocks all day long or bars all day long but other people will either get bored with it or they're all their stomach will revolt and simply won't. Enjoy it or allow it to go down. Yeah and you know use commonsense in some ways there are no rules like if you love eating little potatoes that are soaked in Parmesan cheese and olive oil Napa on assault. That sounds pretty good to me. You know if for some reason, sticker bars worked for you then go for it. Right your your own experiment everyone is different. There are some rules of thumb about how much. Fluid, salt and carbohydrate you need. So be mindful of that and crates implant experiment with them and the field and and see what seems to work best for you. And I think one of the things that's been interesting during the pandemic is with all these diy gravel challenge is being thrown out there. I've got upcoming S bt virtual gravel event in August where it's going to be a massive day and I need to figure out exactly how I'm going to resupply what I'm going to be able to bring with me where am I going to get my water from throughout the day and I think a lot of gravel athletes are kind of going through the. Same thing it was one thing to to plan for a decay two hundred where they knew there were going to be aid stations but it's another one planning your own diy gravel event in your own neck of the woods and figuring out how do I get the right things for my body at the right time during a long day out on the bike. Yeah exactly and. A lot of that just takes time and patience and the prep do off. The bike is as important as what you do on the bike. So you know getting your little food cut up and prepared you know wrapping them properly getting them in the bag is getting the coolers out you know convincing a friend or you know someone who lives with you to come out and support you that day or two you know whatever driving out on the course beforehand and leaving stash bags for yourself it all takes time and work. If you're gonNA, do it and not totally fall apart and have as enjoyable of experiences possible, right? Yeah. No I think those are good words of advice because it's IT'S It's not every day we go and bang out eighty miles off road with ten thousand feet of climbing or something like that. You gotta be. You gotta be conscious that one of the great things about going to an event they've got you've taken care of a little bit like a safety net with the aid stations and you know and doctors on course and things like that. But if you are out there on your own, it's it's important to think both about your nutrition and your hydration and obviously your equipment and and sort of Ability to repair bikes on the trail as well. Yeah Yeah Yeah exactly bring that to bring your cell phone bring those tools, bring the salt, bring the water bring the carbohydrate Don't forget the Sunscreen, right? Exactly. I also wanted to touch on recovery drinks because I know I. Know You have a product in that vein, but also know you sort of talked about how you can make them on your own. Is it important to kind of look at a recovery drank a recovery product after every ride or is that only rides of certain duration? You know I would say that it's any time that you're working really really hard. So you know even with the best riders in the world that I work with, we might only do two or three hard workout. So a week I they might be writing every day but only two or three of those really just totally take it out. And when you do a workout that really takes it out of you or you any work out at all it's really really important that you eat. After that worked out There are a lot of metabolic advantages to eating after a workout. You'll preferentially put that fuel that you just ate back into the muscle that was just working whereas if you eat most of your calories when you're at rest the. Insulin will work on both adipose cells and muscle cells so you. Fuel possible entire body in proportion to your fat and muscle mass. But when a muscle has just worked out, it's hypersensitive to the hormone insulin and so when you eat after a workout. What you eat goes back into. Restraint. Lean as an athlete, right? So you know. The outages always tried to eat after I worked out now what? You need a recovery or you don't need a recovery really depends on I think convenience. We only use recovery drinks in those situations where we know we need to get a lot of calories back in an athlete, but we don't have a bowl of chicken fried rice thing around right? We don't have a chef you know who has a meal prepared for the athletes you know I went back home for Christmas to stay with my mom and visit and. You know she's A. Eighty year old Chinese woman and I got back to my ride. She was like I. Made You some recovery food. I was like all right. This is the best ever. you know the neighbor recovery only connotes that something that you're eating after a workout to start that recovery process. It could be a drink. It could be food it could be chocolate milk it can be whatever is convenient. We make products effectively chocolate milk were a charter milk or coffee note Four to one ratio of carbohydrates. Protein keeps to work the best in terms of restoring pocketed but you know. You have a you can have a pizza if you want to. Five I've certainly been known to do that Allan. Awesome Yeah I'll tell you this much. Response I worked seventeen out of the 21-stages, the riders, a chicken Fried Rice would they got back on the team bus and the other four stages they had pizza. That sounds good. Let me ask you another question. Allen on occasion I've come home from a long gravel ride and just felt like, Hey, I hadn't hadn't eaten enough maybe when I was out there on the trail and maybe twenty minutes from home and easy pedal and I might choose to have another. Another energy bar. She am I better served kind of waiting to shift gears into a recovery mix of recovery food. Or should I eat that bar if I'm hungry? Hungry. And in fact, if you are doing a really long ride and you're coming home and you're really hungry and you got your pocket. Starts the recovery process by eating all that food during your cool down the sooner that you can eat and the more you can eat while you're exercising the more that will actually go back into restoring that muscle glycogen and so even in a bike race if athlete has been dropped and they're just winding the group or the last packing into the finish, we'll start loading up them up with food drink at that point time we won't wait until they come off the bicycles to do so okay, and is there an ideal window to get that recovery meal in once you've gotten off the bike Yeah. Probably within an hour is the most ideal scenario. eight grade I went to stop these writers for second and load them up with more fuel now that we're talking about fuel. So hang tight for a second. We'll keep keep on going you got. You Guys WanNa. Repeal it up. That was pretty good guys. Feel. Let's Let's switch bottles and just go easy. 'cause we got that effort up we hill. Was the old. If, you could put much of that bottle down between here.   and. He'll not. All you're doing is just everything you need to drink, but you're totally popped up. But we start. In fuel you just. I. Yeah. Yeah. I'm in the middle of podcast right now you guys wanted to do a cameo on you wanna say something for the world. Ellen Noble? Everybody. Every evening yeah. You could go either either super fuel or go to white state whatever I just want to guys. Off so that when you hit that climb, you don't you detonate because you got you don't because he is out of fuel. Straight. The ride for a week. Yeah. Yeah not because you balk right there's a difference between not having the energy on that last supper because you're not you're versus. Just. Because I do want some experience with this because it situations where you guys are racing and you're not gonna be able to. Actually. Take you. About that you're interrupted no worries I don't think there's a better way to underscore the importance of calories and hydration than overhearing your conversations with these athletes and just underscoring how fueling up before that last hill climb in that last repeat is going to be critical to their performance. Have because here's the deal they're going to be going so hard and not lasts forty five minutes effort that they. They won't be able to feel and if they're not feel before that effort, it won't matter they won't be able to make enough in that last effort of the day right? So, now that we're done with that, just offer it and they have about thirty minutes before they start the next one. This is the only time that they can actually stock up again. And have the fuel onboard the last effort I think it's interesting as as gravel athletes obsess over the events or the roots that they're going to be tackling to kind of think about it in that context of like, okay I need be fully topped off before this big climb or this technical descent because I'm not going to be getting anything in my body for at least half an hour because it's just not feasible even reach down and grab a water bottle. Yeah exactly. So when you your nutrition as a gravel rider, it behooves you to look at the course and maybe not even do it based upon like anything more than the logistics of what's possible and Where you're going to be the under. Yeah I think that's the if you don't think about it in that way, inevitably, you're going to get caught out and get into a situation where you haven't physically been able to consume anything for a while. That's right. That's right and I love simulating this stuff is training because it's when the point gets driven home like you can talk about it in theory but if you're not constantly reminding the athletes to do it in training the. They're from them to feel the difference then it doesn't get home. All right yeah. No, that's exactly true and I think there are a lot of really hard lessons for the average gravel athlete because these events can be so outside your norm, the distances or course profile can be so different from what you're used to. It's really important to put a lot of thought into nutrition hydration before tackling one of these things and as you said, do a little testing and learning put yourself in the hurt locker in a place where you're you can be safe and you can get home rather than trying to figure it out at SPD gravel or dirty Kanza. That's right. That's right. Exactly. Exactly. So yeah. That was actually really really appropriate right in terms of. The five wall and and and what what what what what happens. Yeah. Totally and I appreciate you making the time today to join the podcast and you just got back from another training camp in here in the middle of coaching athletes right now. You gotta try to cap was interesting. The other training camp was interesting. It was with Nike Barbara Track Club So all running right but same type issues With. Respect to fueling and. All. That sorta stuff. Yeah I think the so it is interesting in in it must be super fascinating for you as a as a sort of someone who looks at this from a scientific perspective to see how performance in other disciplines other sports kinda relates and differs from what we experience a cyclist. Yeah exactly. Exactly. Cool Man.   Cool. Well, I will put a link to scratch labs and all your products in the show notes and Again, I really appreciate the time and advice for all our listeners. Yeah. No problem anytime if you guys ever have any questions don't. Hesitate to reach out I'm easy to find the INFO at scratch labs walked I've got a great team. But for questions, they can't handle they usually come to me so we're always. Awesome have a great one allen. Good to talk to you man. Okay thanks crank enjoy. Bye. I hope you learned as much as I did in that conversation I think there was some great takeaways and it was a lot of fun having the conversation. Big. Thanks to pin W for sponsoring this week's episode and big thanks to you and everybody who's been visiting by me a coffee dot com slash the gravel, ride your contributions and support are critical to what we do at the gravel ride. As always we welcome your feedback across social media channels or hit me up directly at Craig at the gravel ride dot bike if you have ideas for future episodes or any comments about this episode until next time, here's to finding some dirt under your wheels.  
July 28, 2020
This week we drill into the value of the DIY gravel movement in the time of Covid and how excited Craig is about his SF routes for SBT VRTL. Randall dives deep into a Rene Herse blog post about what tire size rolls faster.  We conclude with a discussion about wide handlebars for gravel and the use of 3d printing technology.   Support the Podcast Register for SBT VRTL Rene Herse blog post: Why 700c wheels DON'T roll faster  
July 21, 2020
This week we speak with Caroline Dezendorf of the Easton Overland Gravel Team and the Marin County Bike Coalition. We learn of Caroline's start in the sport and her work supporting cycling in Marin County and beyond. Sponsored by Athletic Greens, the all-in-one daily drink to support better health and peak performance. Episode Links: Caroline Dezendorf Instagram  Marin County Bike Coalition Website Automated Transcription, please forgive the typos. All right, Caroline, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me, Craig. Yeah, we always like to start off by learning a little bit more of your background as a gravel cyclist. Can you talk about how you originally discovered riding off road and maybe a progression from other elements in the sport until gravel racing? Yeah. I didn't get into bikes till the end of college. My senior year of college, I needed a sport that, of like to fulfill the void of growing up, playing soccer and not really having anything. And I found triathlon and did triathlon for a year in college at UC Santa Barbara. And it was really fun at his background as a swimmer, but the only thing I really liked about it was the bike. So I started racing on the road instead, and then went immediately to grad school and walked into a shop in Eugene, Oregon. When I first got up to a university of Oregon for grad school and the guys in the shop were like, have you heard of cyclocross? And I was like, no, they're like, great. You should come out to a race tonight and borrow a bike and like try it out. And I was, so I got out there, crashed over every barrier I encountered but was immediately hooked. And so I started racing off-road and cyclocross, and then racing in the Bay for team Mike's bikes. I decided to start racing mountain bikes and really enjoyed it. And then it's just kind of like taken off from there. I think my first gravel race per se was the nog girl grind Duro. I think that was 2015. And I raised my rock lobster cyclocross bike and won it, won the pro women's category and it was kind of hooked on this like long distance gravel writing, something that I always do with my friends, but like, it was kind of fun to have this new format that, you know, normally my races are 45 minutes around a very small, you know, two mile a track for cyclocross. And so it's kinda cool now having this like adventure thing that is competitive, but more just hanging out with friends and going on a cool adventure. Yeah, it's interesting. I was talking to Amanda Naaman a few weeks back and she had mentioned she had the similar progression from triathlon to cyclocross. What do you think it is about the sport of cyclocross that kind of was attractive to you at the time? For me, it was in Oregon. The cross crusade series is so incredible. It's just like this huge series. Like you go to these events and there's a thousand, 2000 and the women's fields are 50 plus deep and just, you know, amazing talent like Beth and Orton. When I first started racing was like my idol. She was just like this, this amazing. I mean, I love Beth. She's still a really good friend, but she was just like this amazing person. And it was something that I hadn't experienced. And I think, you know, even though you're, you're doing these small circles and cross it's no two races are the same. I mean, you know, there's races. I go back to year after year after year and every year, the conditions are different. The weather's different, you know, the competition is different and it's exciting and it's challenging. And it's even though like, it's, you know, you can race with a team or race, you know, you're racing with a bunch of really strong competitors. You're really racing yourself. You're, you're challenging yourself and you know, the other people in the race really don't matter. There aren't very many, there are some cross races where you do find road tactics in play. You are in a small group and you are attacking each other, but I'll often, you know, in, in muddy races, it's just, you're fighting yourself and trying to figure out how to do it yourself. And so at the end of the day, you know, you all hug and smile and laugh and high five each other. And like most of my best friends now I've met through racing cyclocross. Awesome. And cyclocross, obviously being traditionally a winter sport, although it kicks off pretty early here in Northern California. What type of writing were you doing in the off season from cyclocross the last few years that kind of set the stage for you to kind of jump full force and the gravel racing? I mean, quite honestly it was, it was adventure riding. It was going out on long rides on my cross bikes. I really like riding my cross bikes on single track and on technical trail and kind of challenging my skills in that way. So it was going on these long adventure rides. I, I'm a total math geek. I love making routes. I love finding new routes and challenging myself with like these new places I haven't been. So a lot has been like, I really want to go out to this really remote place that I've never been before. And so let's find a gravel or a mountain bike loop that, you know, is 45 to 80 to whatever a hundred miles and let's go check it out. So a lot of that kind of writing. Yeah, that's awesome. And we'll get into your work at the Marine County bike coalition, but I have the Marin County bike map and I just geek out over it because having the gravel bike and the great roads we have around here, you can just create these amazing mixed terrain loops that I never thought was possible prior to kind of getting this type of bike and, and getting that map. Totally. Yeah. That map is amazing. Or actually I'm just updating that map with tons of new trails that have come up recently and it should be, it should be out in the next month. And I'll, they'll show a lot more of the good stuff in Marin. Yeah. I'm excited for that to go check out the Bill's trail that I read about. And a couple of the other pieces that the Marine County bike coalition has been working on. Yeah. Bill's, if you haven't had a chance to check it out is definitely a worthwhile trail. It's four miles long, but it's incredible. And it was made well re remade. It was a trail already, but re-established with mountain biking in mind, so it's really flowy. And it's through my favorite kind of ecosystem is Redwood Fern forest. And it connects so it's Alan, Samuel P. Taylor, if you haven't been out there which is really cool. So it's a California state park and it's really nice to have another mountain bike trail on the state park and it connects devil's goals, fire road to Mount Barnaby. And so the views, when you're up there are incredible. And then, I mean, connecting that with like San Jeronimo Valley and the fire roads out there, you can just put together such an amazing loop. Yeah. Interesting note about Samuel Taylor park, it's the birthplace of recreational camping in the United States? I found out, Huh? I did not know that. That's awesome. They also have bike camping there. Yeah, absolutely. So 2020 was clearly designed to be a pretty big gravel season for you. You were, you were selected to join the Eastern Overland team. Can you talk about that team and what the vision is and sort of just give us a little insight about what it's like being a member? Yeah, it was, this is such a surreal season. I was really excited to be racing with Eastern Overland. It's an amazing group of people. Matt Harlan is a team manager and he's just compiled this like amazing group amny Rockwell or who's one dirty Kansas last year at Caitlin Bernstein, who is my best friend in the entire world. And Matt Licata, who's up in Oregon and Michael Vanderham, which is a super awesome Canadian super amazing cyclocross athlete as well, Canadian national champion. And so it was just like this incredible group of people that I was excited to write race with. I've raced with Easton for a cyclocross for the last couple of years, they've been a big sponsor. And it was really nice to be able to like raise with them a little bit more have their support in this different capacity. And you know, the, the team is really unique in the fact that it brings together people with very different backgrounds and skillsets. And also we get to kind of have our own style in it. So I raced with [inaudible] on the Sparrow and the other members of the team, Matt Leanna, also races on Savella. And the other members of the team also have their own bike sponsors. And so it's kind of neat cause we get to bring our own kind of flare and style into it. And that kind of a water audience and also just represent in different capacities. So I really liked being able to have my personal relationship with Cervelo, but at the same time, like be part of this team and this kind of conglomerate that we all, you know, currently our conversation right now, cause we have nothing else better to do is how to make sourdough bread the best we can make it. I'm not a bread maker, so I'm just kind of listening in, but it's amazing the, the detail that goes into a sourdough bread making. Yeah. I think it's a super refreshing concept. I love seeing all the team members with different frames. It's just, it, I think that's sort of, to me, it's like, what's, gravel's all about right. We don't want these big pro squads coming in and dominating, but like I love that it's a squad that each member has its own personality in a way to kind of reflect the brands that they want to be riding with. Yeah. And it highlights the uniqueness of the writers. You know, I, I I'm predominantly an off road athlete. Like I dabble in road races. I did one road race this year before you know, the season got shut down, but I definitely, you know, come from a little bit more of a road background and, and like re like riding on the road. And so having the Savella, that's very much oriented as like a an endurance like fast paced, you know, Peloton kind of racing. Gravel bike is perfect for me, but that being said, it's still rips on descends and still rips on single tracks. So I ride that bike everywhere, but then, you know, Caitlin Bernstein she's on DaVinci and that bike is totally a mountain bike, like Caitlin on, on that bike. I can't keep up with, because it's, the geometry is just so much more of a mountain bike and it's, it's a very different, you know, style. So it's really cool because when we're all together, every bike and every person riding has this unique flair and unique style and it's kind of fun to see it that way. It's very different from any other team I've been on. Yeah. And I think that's, again, going back to it just being sort of indicative to the sport in general, I love that, that you need to choose the equipment for how you want to ride the bike. So if you want to be aggressive, you can go bigger tires and a slacker geometry, or if you're more comfortable on the road section, you know, and that were, you know, roadie type position. That's cool too. But at some point in any given race or ride, you're going to have a shortcoming or you're going to have a better setup than the other person. And I think it just makes it really interesting when you're out there. Totally. Yeah. Before everything got, got shut down this year, I was able to race the super sweet water grasshopper, and I raised it on my server yellow with 35 millimeter Schwabie tires. And so I definitely had a gravel set up for this very much long, you know, 60 plus mile road race, but that bike was amazing. I was, you know, up there top five women for the majority of the race and, you know, keeping up with everybody on 28 millimeter tires and on, on, you know, true road frames. And the Sparrow is just like, it's so fast. Like it climbed so well. And it was like ideal for that. And then two weeks later, you know, we, we flew out to Oklahoma for mid South gravel, right before shelter and place happened. And I threw on 33 millimeter essentially cyclocross shall be cyclocross tires. And, you know, we had this eight hour Mudfest through Oklahoma red clay and, you know, the bike on that, like handled super, super well just, you know, so it's like it's and, you know, Caitlin and I rode together and she was on her DaVinci with like 40 millimeter tires. And, you know, we're, she's, she's pushing the pace on the climbs and I'm doing my best to keep up with her. And then I, anytime we hit like a flat section, I was just like, alright, right on my wheel, let's go. We were just like, use our strengths in different ways to work together. But it, and it was kinda nice cause it could compliment each other. Well, that race was certainly a sloppy mess. Did you make that tire selection kind of knowing that it was going to be quite muddy on race day? Yeah. Yeah. Matt Lido. Who's on my team and also rides for Savallo. I, I probably bugged him every day for like two weeks going into mid South, trying to figure out the best hire selection. And ultimately we decided the narrowest hire, I could run would be better and, you know, so something that would shed really well and give me the most clearance. They, before the race gave us like Pete six to scrape the mud off our wheels. And thankfully I never actually had to use it. My demise in that race came at mile 90 when my chain dropped between my frame and my chain ring and Katelyn and I spent 45 minutes and watched the 15 girls go past us trying to get my chain and stuck. And it was just, we know, we went from sitting in like top five to sitting top 20. I was like, Katelyn, just leaving. And she's like, we've just done 90 miles together in seven and a half hours. I'm not leaving you out here on the side. And so yeah, that was, that was really the biggest bummer of that race. But it was yeah. Tire choice for that one was pretty key. I think there are a lot of people I ended up running selects for that reason. Yeah. I've heard stories from that race. It's a really interesting in terms of like what the, what, what worked and didn't work for people. At the end of the day, I don't think there was a particularly good choice to other than making sure you had at least as much clearance as possible. Yeah. That, that totally was the biggest thing was just get enough clearance and hope that you don't get bogged down and hope that you know, any chances where you're going to get that peanut butter, mud, or clay all over your bike, just run. And like, so I never even dealt with the, my tire clearance was perfect. I had, my equipment was a dial and I just got super unlucky with a drop chain that I couldn't get unstuck. Yeah. What were you, what were your plans for the rest of the season? Let's see. I, I don't know a lot. I wanted to do, I really wanted to go to raspy Tita in Vermont. I was really looking forward to the Jackson grasshopper that was supposed to happen to may. I was going to go up to Canada for a ride for water. And then, you know, Downieville, which just got canceled, lost and found. I always love racing stuff up in the Sierra Buttes. And then, you know, trying to figure out a couple more from there. I had seen Bo on my radar Oregon gravel was on my radar, a couple of, up in, in Oregon as well. So I was trying to be selective with races because I do usually have a full cyclocross season that runs from September to December and that ends up being a lot of travel and a lot of racing. But at the same time I was feeling really good at the beginning of the season and really excited to be racing. So I kept like texting Katelyn and be like, what about, should we go to the lessons? Should we go to that? And should we go to that? So my season kept expanding because I was so excited to be racing gravel with Easton. And there's just so many cool events that happen all over, all over the place. Yeah, absolutely. I think most of those events that you mentioned we've had as previous guests on the podcast and I would love to see them all. Yeah, yeah. There's some, and everyone is so unique and has its own vibe and experience. And you know, the thing I love about gravel and I think that brings me back is just the community around it. And just how amazing everybody is in the as like I said, famous cyclocross, like as competitive as everybody is like at the end of the day, you're having a drink and celebrating each other and just excited to be out there racing. And I kinda love the comradery that comes with that. Yeah. I hope everybody listens time and time again to the podcast gets that loud and clear because it's really just show up, hit the start line. You're going to have a blast, whether you're first or last. And that's the beauty of this sport. It's quite unlike. It may, maybe it's similar to cyclocross, but quite unlike other elements of the sport that people may have experienced like road racing, where if you get shelled off the back, it's a pretty miserable experience. It's just simply not the case in gravel. Totally. It's, it's totally unique. And I mean, even, you know mid South this year, like Katelyn and I are on the side of the road, we're trying to fix my bike. And everybody that came by, I was like, are you guys okay? And I'd be like, no, we're not okay. And you know, they'd be like, do you want our help? And you know, we kept having all these groups of people come and try to help us, you know, that's knowing you don't get enrolled road Pilcher. Like people aren't just like people are, are in it for themselves a little bit more than helping each other. And I just love like, and gravel that, you know, you're just out there to, to be there. You're not out there like to, when you're out there to enjoy it and to see a unique place and, and ride with, you know, hundreds of your friends. Yeah, absolutely. So you're also working with the Marin County bike coalition as communication director. Do you want to tell us a little bit more about that role? Yeah. So it's a new role for me. I came on with red County bike coalition in March, so I'm just started there, but it's been an organization that I've known very well for the last five, six years since I got into bikes, I moved into the Bay move to the Bay area. And so it's a great organization, it's they do so much good work in Marin, on the roadside, on the off-road side and on education and outreach. And it's been a really unique time to work with them because we've kind of had to change the way we're structuring to deal with the current pandemic. The most amazing thing about this time for us is there has been such an increase in the number of people, riding bikes. And so we're really trying to reach them and, and reach out to them and get them involved with us to be able to support them and give them that better infrastructure. I mean, Marin is just, it's, it's a Mecca for a cycling, the paths you know, beyond grief and Barack, he's our policy and planning director. He works on the roadside and he's worked so hard in the last four years since he came with the organization to really improve on road infrastructure and Moran and, you know, make it a more bike friendly place for everybody there. And you know, Tom boss who runs our off-road program, he's phenomenal and, you know, really, really working to get access to more trails and trail stewardship and, and engaging with so many different people in different groups of people. So you know, I coach I started at NorCal league high school league mountain bike team last year. So it's a program that's really near and dear to my heart. And Tom works really closely with North Hollywood, with Vanessa [inaudible] to get students out, doing trail stewardship and learning how to build trail and Morin. So the last trail day they had was out on the Ponti Ridge trail, which isn't open trail yet. It's a trail and Marin wood Lucas Valley area that will be opening hopefully later this year. But we had 150 kids out there from high schools, high school league working on building trail. So I'm really excited for that trail to open. Hopefully it will open under the season and you know, Bill's trail, like we already mentioned as new trail and Morin that took 14 years to finally be bike legal. I think plans were put into place in 2006 for it to finally be, to, to submit it, to change of use for us to get access to it for a cyclist. And, you know, Tom has been instrumental and, and projects like that that have really opened up more and more land for for mountain biking and Morin. Yeah. And I think it's been done in a really thoughtful way. I remember when Diaz Ridge project was announced and like it's a six or seven years to get that trail finished. And now it's just such an amazing single track for a gravel bike or a mountain bike. And it's such an important connector. And I know one of the future projects is kind of connecting the bottom of Diaz Ridge to coastal view trail, kind of a, they have Heather cutoff, which is a running trail, but cutting another trail through there. And it's just that kind of thoughtfulness that makes me super pumped to have Marine County by coalition supporting my, my desire to ride new trails. Cause it's just going to be an a, it's going to be an amazing connector and all these pieces, I think Tom and the whole crew they think about like, what does that do for your loop? All of a sudden it makes this completely, off-road starting at the golden gate bridge and going all the way, the other side of Tam completely off-road and completely legal possible. Yeah, totally. We that's called our, we have this project that's the gaps initiative. And so it's closing three of the biggest gaps of off-road or lack of access to off road from the golden gate bridge to point rays. And so that connector that you just described between Diaz Ridge which drops you down to near beach, you have to go on highway one to connect to coastal and hopefully we'll have a trail there soon. It's still on the planning phase. And we're hoping to get some more grants and money to help us work on that. And then there's another one out kind of on the backside of Mount Tam and the lakes region that's Azalea Hill and that we just got notice that the water district is going to give us access, give bike, to ask, ask, give bikes, access to a mile and a half of trail that will connect to fire roads and help start decreasing that gap a little bit more. So we're, we're making progress and Tom has been huge and in getting those things done and Moran such a unique place because we're dealing with a lot of different land managers. And it's really amazing to see the relationships built with those and how, you know, the, the progress progress that we can do. And so many different unique environments. Yeah, I think for the problems like this around the country and around the world who are listening, Marin County is an amazing place to ride a bike and there's tons of miles and miles and miles of trails and a lot of great loops that you can create. It's interesting because I think other parts of the country or world might have somehow a little bit more cachet as a destination to go ride your gravel bike. But by my likes, Marin counties should be tops on anybody's list. Oh, totally. I a hundred percent agree with that when I moved down after grad school and moved to San Rafael and Moran I think that's what hooked me. Like we would go out, you know, on these all day adventures and you'd be on road for maybe a mile and he'd be on trail for, you know, 45 miles and, you know, circumnavigating Mount Tam and have these amazing views of the golden gate bridge and, and the Pacific ocean. And it was just like, it was incredible. I mean, there's no other place like it. And you know, there were a lot of nights, like in the middle of the week that we'd be like, Hey, let's go bike camping up on Mount Tam. Cause there's these bike camping spots that no one goes to. And it's something that's really. Yeah, absolutely. You disappeared for a second. It might've been on my end, but no worries. I know also the, the Marine County bike coalition is putting on a couple of events later this year pending obviously the safety of events you've got the dirt and then adventure revival, two events, which showcase those trails we were just referring to and how good they are. Do you want to talk a little bit more about the plan dates for those events and you know, how people should be thinking about it in their calendar, giving you know, everything in the uncertain and be going on in the world? Yeah, so the dirt Fondo is one of our signature events that happens August 15th. And it's, it's a really amazing event, gravel friendly it's mountain bike friendly. I could argue that you could do a lot of it on a road bike because I've read a lot of those trails on a road bike, but not recommended. But it highlights the Marin Headlands and it highlights Mount Tam. So the Queens, the queen route, if you will is 45 miles and it starts when we're at Hedlands and climbs up to the top of Tam and back around. And it's, it's incredible. And then there's routes that are, you know, 30 miles, 20 miles, 10 miles. So it's something that, you know, the whole family could go out and do I drag my sister out there a couple years ago gave her my mountain bike and I rode my cross bike and, you know, she did 30 miles and she's written a mountain bike like four times. And I was like, yes, you're so awesome. It's something that's, and it's, it's just beautiful and everybody's out there. It's not a race, it's not a competitive event. Everybody's out there to have fun and to enjoy the trails and to just like be part of this amazing community. So we're really hoping that happens this year. We are kind of chugging along with plans for that. We're, we're paying really close attention to the gift current situation. And I think, you know, Tom and I are, are talking every day about it, you know, and trying to see what's going to be like, but it's a small event. Registrations capped at 300 people. So we're hoping if anything, this is the kind of event that will happen because it's a regional pole, it's a small event. And we're keeping our fingers crossed because the more we talked to people and the more, you know, we talk, we, we need things to look forward to. And with, everything's starting to be canceled. We're just kinda, we're hoping we don't have to, because we want that normalcy back and we want to be back with our communities. And, you know, we're, we're making contingency plans just in case and where we're strategizing, you know, how potentially, if we are allowed to have a small event, how we can kind of keep social distancing requirements met. So really, you know, taking into consideration what our County and what California says, but we want to be able to, to host it this year, it's a really special event for us. [Inaudible] Wow. And then adventure to revival the later man supports the mountain. Yeah. So adventure revival is September 12th. And that we run in combination with nor Cal league high school league. And so it's a fundraiser for both MCBC and the high school mountain bike league. So again, it's something near and dear to my heart because I coach a team. I ran a team I love I've been involved with the high school league for the last five years. And so that one's really cool. It's it's promoted as a gravel event. So it's a little more fire roadie and a little more has a little more road in it, but it also highlights, you know, some of the most amazing gravel routes around Marin. And so going out to places that are a little more off off the beaten path. Yeah, absolutely. It's, it's super creative loop that Tom created over there. I hadn't been on some of those trails kind of in I guess Sandra Autonomo and they were awesome. Like it pushed all the buttons, like you have this great, I think all single track bales, arrow, big climbs, like it was on a route that I, and, and support that event. Yeah. It's and there are trails that don't get written very much. There, it's funny cause they're really not that much farther away than everything else, but they seem a little more rugged and some really steep climbs, but it's beautiful. It's rain. We're we normally put together like training routes for, or training rides for the Fondo and the venture revival to get people out and writing some of these things beforehand in a group setting. And obviously we can't do that. So what we're doing instead is doing kind of curated DIY gravel rides. So I just put together a ride that we shared with our member base and it's on our website. We're calling it the dirt ramble, but anybody wants to check it out. And it's, it kind of highlights some of those Sandra animo Ridgeline. Why am I often forgetting the name of where, where it's going out behind the lakes but highlighting a lot of those trails that you don't get written as much and highlighting just like the unique terrain around Marin, because there's so many different ecosystems and so many different habitats and, and you can experience so much in such a Stuart ride. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, just having as a, sort of a city-based rider previously, having those roots and understanding like, Oh, maybe I'll ride the road out to Fairfax and then start hitting the trails. You all of a sudden on your gravel bike create these really interesting loops that you never thought of. Because if you, you know, that's, that's quite a long way if you're riding off-road the entire way from the city, for example. But if you bypass it cause with the efficiency of the gravel bike and just hop into the trails, like there's some great stuff up there. Yeah, totally. And it's, it's, you know, it's easily accessible from so many different locations from the city I used to my parents live in Petaluma, so I I'd ride, you know, out from Petaluma and hit the Belinas Ridge trail. And you have this amazing really hope it's a long day, but it's so worth it to come down and ride these trails. Yeah, definitely. So is your plan this season to go back to cyclocross at the end of the year again, We're, we're kind of making the joke with Eastern Overland that it's like hashtag cyclo mountain gravel season, because everything is now being pushed into one. So right now I'm just looking forward to riding the dirt Fondo and writing adventure revival in September and kind of going from there seeing what what's still happening and seeing what changes I definitely will still race cyclocross. I'm hoping maybe to start a little later this season so I can do some other gravel events as they happen in late September, early October. But, you know, I think at this point, the biggest thing that I want to focus on is connecting back with my community and having fun and racing. You know, obviously I'm competitive, obviously I want to do well on my racing, but I'm kinda like it's secondary right now. Like I miss my community, I miss my friends, I miss my competitors. I want to see them. And I also just want to have fun. And it's kind of weird because I'm still training, hoping everything happens and, you know, putting in the hours and putting in the miles and really trying to find to the engine. But I also am trying to balance that with just having a good time on the bike and seeking the ventures that are really important to me. Yeah. Well, I think that's the dream for all of us. It's just to have something back on the calendar that we all get our municipalities approving us getting together and enjoying that gravel community. Cause I think the important thing to remember for everybody listening is it's still there. If anything, there's more pent up demand and love and desire to get back together as a community, as you just said. So we'll get through this together. Yeah. I think, I think just staying hopeful right now is the biggest thing. And knowing, you know, that bikes aren't canceled, like you can get out and ride, you know, like I said MCDC is putting on our kind of own challenges. There's a lot of other challenges out there, although I'm biased towards the challenges that I'm creating. So I would, I would encourage you to check them out on our website. But you know, we can stay connected in different ways. I started twisting a little bit more to stay connected with people. But I think that's the biggest thing is staying connected, staying hopeful and hoping things work out soon. Absolutely. I think that's a good note to end on Caroline. I appreciate all the time and the insight about the events. I'll put some links out to Marin County bike coalition so people can find the events we're talking about and I wish you the best of luck and hopefully, I'll see you out there soon. All right. Thank you, Craig.  
July 14, 2020
This week Randall and Craig discuss new bikes from Ride Farr and 3T. Two dramatically different bikes on differing ends of the gravel bike spectrum. We also talk 'mullet' tire set up and the possibility of a San Francisco to Los Angeles gravel route. Support the Podcast. Ride Farr GMX 3T Exploro Race Max SF to LA Gravel Route As always, we'd love your feedback and thoughts on future topics!
July 7, 2020
Ever wonder what happens if you dent, ding or crack your fancy carbon frame? I did, so I asked the experts at Ruckus Composites. Shawn and Dan walked us through what can be done to salvage a damaged frame or component. This week's sponsor is you.   See how.   Ruckus Composite Website.  Ruckus Composite Instagram. Automated Transcription, please excuse the typos.  All right, welcome. Everybody. We're live from the gravel ride podcast. And today we've got some guests from, from Ruckus talking about carbon warfare. It's actually quite timely for me as a couple of friends that asked me about some carbon repair work they wanted to have done, and I had no idea how to approach it. So gentlemen, welcome to the show. Thanks for, thanks for having us. Can you guys start by introducing yourself? Take away. All right. Yeah. As Dan said, I'm Shawn and the owner and founder, and I started ruckus over 12 and a half years ago. Yeah. My name is Dan and I am our repair strategist and customer success person Right on Shawn. What was the impetus behind starting Ruckus? Okay. Is kind of a long rambling story of, I was 24 at the time, fresh out of engineering school and really liked bikes. And didn't really fit the traditional mold of being an engineer. I'm not an office guy per se. Um, I can't spend all my day on a computer, so I would like working with my hands a lot, really wanted to create a business where I could work with my hands, but also kind of create the ideas that were locked up in my crazy head Right on. And were you, did you start it off as sort of a one man show? Oh yeah. Robot or two. I probably had a Roomba at the time that Rubin's ever around, but I always try to keep a balance of one human and one robot at every time. There you go. That's the engineering year. Right? Exactly. So I was excited to talk to you guys about carbon bike repair, cause it is a little bit of a mystery to me, how it all works. And you know, you think about cracking a carbon frame or at least I did prior to this conversation that, you know, the thing's hosed it's, you know, I'm never going to be able to ride it again. Can you talk about the types of repairs that are possible for carbon frames? Did Dan you're good at this one? Yeah. I mean, it's, for us, it's kind of the circumstance of we can repair almost anything, but it's only really, we take it to the point where we think it's safe to do so. A lot of times, you know, things that will decline, for example, our car and bike situations where a rider will get into an accident and, you know, bikes that have four or five visible damages. Um, technically we could repair something like that, but we don't really deem it safe to do so. Um, that's like the extent of things that we won't do. Um, but for the most part, you know, we do basic tube repairs. We do dropout replacements. Uh, we can do full bottom bracket, repairs and replacements as well. Um, you know, we, we will, a lot of things that we've been seeing recently, uh, our tire rubbed damages on gravel bikes, for example, people, the combination of too wide of tires in a given condition that isn't suitable, um, front derailer mounts have been coming off. Boy, am I missing anything? Sean? There's a lot. We do. We do a, we do a lot, a lot, a lot of different types of repairs on a very regular basis. Yeah, it's pretty, very, but you know, at the same point, it's just, we see the same bike over and over or same bikes over and over and over again. So it's some days it feels a little bit not honest. And you kind of forget that. We see some of the most interesting things on the bike side. Like we already got a brand new specialized 20, 20 Shivan and it's like, I haven't even seen this bike online. It's got this kind of cool, uh, course of the camera. Cool. Like vertical cross cross fork, and you look at it and you're like, okay, bikes are getting crazy again. It looks just like that. It looks just like the Lotus track bike fork. Oh yeah, Yeah. It's that dual, that dual bladed thing. So yeah, we do. Um, it's, it's again, it's like we can, we can repair almost anything, but we choose, you know, specifically based on whether it's safe or not to do Right. What did that poor individual with the brand new Shiv do to his bike to put it in your hands Shipping damage hasn't even been built for assembly yet. And it's just getting shipped across the country. And I don't know a lot of shipping companies that are generally fine, but you know, you throw enough probability into it and you know, there may be 10%, 5% of scenarios and you're going to be on the losing end every now and then. So shipping insurance is always good. So what does that process look like on your end? So let's just say I've cracked my chain stay and maybe, you know, I see some damage, but I don't see a hole. Do I send it up to you? And do I get some sort of analysis back for me to consider if the repair is something I want to move forward with? Yeah. Where we usually start with something like this as we'll have the customer send us pictures, um, and a variety of ways, email, we, our number also gets texts as well. So it's, it's an easy way to communicate with people, but we usually start with photos. Um, on the odd chance we can actually tell, um, you know, through a photo only, um, if the bike is okay, we'll just tell the customer to monitor it. But most things start with the photo. Um, and then we take out a case and we'll bring in the bike. And if the area is in question of if it's broken or not, it goes through the ultrasound scan process. Um, and through that, we can determine, you know, empirically within a thousandth of an inch, whether the bike is actually damaged or not. Um, and then after that's all said and done, we'll communicate with the customer again, if the bike is okay, it's, you know, ready to send home at that point, if they want, uh, if they want to paint, touch up, we can do that. Or if the bike actually needs to be repaired, they'll get a confirmation of the original estimate at that point. A and then we can Begin the repair process if it's a normal tube repair, uh, at pretty much at that time. So yeah, it usually starts out with photos and a conversation of what, you know, the rider was doing at the time, what the damage looks like and kinda on top of that, like we've seen over 13,000 cases. So we were pretty good idea if someone says, Oh, I have this type of bike and this type of bike and they go, Oh yeah. Is your seat stay broke. Okay, Cool. Gotcha. So when I imagine ultrasound, I'm thinking of a doctor and a pregnant woman and that little gel, what goes on when you ultrasound a bike? I mean, that's exactly, that's exactly it. It's, it's a very, it's a it's that. So Sean has a couple of fluid that he puts over the area and our transducer is, is what, two and a half to 2.5, right? Shawn, 2.5 millimeters in diameter. No, it's four it's four. Okay. So he has a four millimeter transducer that he puts over the area and it puts a wave sound into the bike and comes back. The readout would be different from something that you would see in the hospital. Uh, it's more of a wave form than actually an image, but Shawn is able to tune the wave based on the specific layup of the bike to gain the information that he would need to determine if something would be broken. So if I had to, I say I had a really bad scratch, you know, from a rock. And I clearly went through the paint and into the carbon fiber. Is that analysis able to tell you, you know, from that wall thickness, you've gone halfway through it or three quarters of the way through it. Yeah, exactly. So kind of how that works is the ultrasound is Dan said, it kicks out a wave the way it penetrates through the carbon bounces off the backside. And it comes back to my transducer. That's kind of how we read it. And if we hit something that would be an air pocket or Boyd, or, you know, if there was less material, the screen's going to show that and we have to, you know, we have to interpolate it a little bit or interpret it quite a bit to kind of convert that squiggly wave form into, you know, a bicycle, but it's kind of the gist of it. And is there, is there some amount of carbon kind of deep scratch that is okay and livable and you'll message back to the customer, Hey, you know, you're only 15% down. It's probably safe. Yeah, definitely. I mean, it's, it kind of, every single bike is different. Every single rider is different. Every single location is different. Like, you know, it doesn't matter the material per se, but almost every bike, the wall thickness of whether it's steel or aluminum or titanium or carbon changes so much throughout a bike. You know, we have, we see some mountain bikes nowadays that are over three millimeters thick of carbon, which is insanely thick. Wow. And then we have certain seat stays that are our top tubes that are only 0.7 millimeters, which is like next to nothing. So everything's gotta be kinda comparative or you kinda look at the whole picture of like, okay. And then, you know, we don't like to think of like the rider too much. We like to think of just making sure everybody's safe. So we don't really take into account if someone's like, well, I don't really hit too big of jumps. And you're like, you know, we talked to some guys up in Bellingham or Whistler and you know, to them and I don't, I personally don't leave the ground. So anything leaving the ground is a big job. So Yeah, absolutely interesting. And so the, can the range of repair work go from, you know, that deep scratch that has affected structural integrity to a complete break in a tube? Oh yeah. The entire tube could be severed off or even missing. We've replaced entire tubes before, you know, it's a little more severe. Um, but really, you know, there's not a lot of limits and that's kinda one of the cooler things about composites as a material versus like some of the metals is, you know, your repair work is so much smaller. Um, it's more of a localized repair versus having to replace an entire tube, you know, with a metal bike, you know, you can repair any metal bike as well. Um, but it typically takes an entire to replacement. So it's surprisingly way more expensive. You know, most composite repairs are about 500 bucks or less on average, but you know, metal repairs, you're closer to a thousand. So let's, let's take a couple of the different scenarios. Let's stick one on the one hand, which is just maybe a, a piercing or a scratch that is, is definitely dangerous and needs to be repaired. What does that repair look like? How do you actually address my carbon frame with the materials you're going to use to really support it? Good question. Um, it's, as far as the repair goes, our process for let's say it, you know, some something that we've seen a number of times is a very piercing strike on, on a down tube. Uh, but Santa's mountain bike, especially recently, the way that all of the down tubes are being extruded from the bottom bracket with more of an exaggerated curve, we see a lot of damage to that area. So the process for our repair is repeatable, but not necessarily, not necessarily always similar if you know, we're doing the same steps towards every bike, but every damage is different. So it's not exactly the same process. Um, so the cost options that we provide are not tuned towards the repair. It's all on the finishing side. So basically every normal tube repair that we do, we'll give our customers a range of options from just a basic mat, black paint or a Mason or basic matte black vinyl wrap to a full paint match. And that customer is getting the same exact safe repair lifetime, but we're going to give them a different option of price depending on what they want it to look like. Because some people don't care. You know, some people are like, Hey, it's my mountain bike. I'm going to beat the crap out of it. I'll take the $500 repair rather than the full paint match. You know, that, that works fine for somebody they're getting the same fix either way. So if I've pierced my frame, um, is it sort of like you're taking some carbon material and almost bonding a bandaid of carbon over top of that, It's a little more involved than that. It's, you know, carbon composite repairs better on the aerospace industry for a long, long time. So there's already proven standards written by the American society of mechanical engineers or American society of testing and materials. And we really follow up pretty similar guidelines of repairing tubes is a little more complicated, especially tubes of insane geometry that bikes have nowadays, whether they're, you know, ovals schools, squares, or rectangles around. Um, but it all kind of starts with, you know, we evaluate that whole area and we kind of have to like map out how far the damage goes for starters. And then after we map out the damage extent, we got to kind of map out the repair extent, which is usually extents. You know, let's call it three inches and every direction around it. And what we do is we then kind of excavate or machine out all the broken fiber and we get rid of it. You know, it's not doing anything there's not really much you can do with it to kind of repurpose it. So then we kind of machine out all that area and sand it all out and get rid of it. And now we apply a brand new carbon fiber on top of it and taper it out through the entire tube to make sure the entire tube is completely strong repaired, and we're not creating any stress risers anywhere on the bike. Gotcha. And then we add one of our listeners write in and ask about, you know, the completely broke the stay. Are you basically then sort of sawing off the, you know, the completely mangled sections and adding in an entirely new tube? Uh, we could be, we do a lot of three D printing in house. We have a big, we've always had a big strap, like professional, industrial Stratasys 3d print machines. So we can pro um, or three D print and design molds and tools and inserts. And you know, and the hardest part with honestly with bikes is in maintaining the integrity of alignment. You know, if there's a slight variation at your dropout, um, your wheel's going to be crooked and with everybody's running huge tires right now, which is great. But if you then have a, like a, a little bit of a dropout misalignment and then multiply that over 13 inches of a wheel radius give or take, and that exacerbates the angle so bad that it pushes your wheels straight into your chance. So the hardest part is sometimes alignment more than anything, just making sure, you know, we're trying to align kind of thin air with certain repairs. You're like, well, I need to put this seats. I need to put a seat, stay back in the frame, but there's a huge gap in between. So how do we fill that gap? There's a lot of puzzles involved Frame alignment tools. Yeah. We probably have almost every tool you can, you end up having frame alignment tools to help in that process? Yeah. We have framed jigs. We've had a lot of custom built tools. We have, you know, end mills for milling and mitering. We have drill presses of, you know, we have almost every tool you can think of. Like, don't forget the lady, boy, the lady boy, which so we can lay it all around tools and answers. Um, repair is more about like being inventive and tool creative than anything. You're like, how are we going to hold this shape? That's not a shit, you know, like a wacky school goal type thing in alignment, or we have, we have two granite tables as well for alignment that are, I think they're done to it like 10,000, no more than that 0.000001 of an inch of alignment. So we can always plot things on there and make standoff blocks or use dial indicators. So before, before we move on from, uh, from Greg's question of being able to repair that seed stay, this is actually a, uh, the case in point of an example of where we wouldn't do Greg's repair until we performed a full inspection on this bike. Um, you know, 45 mile an hour front flip that bike didn't come to a complete stop immediately. Uh, I've I've had a crash similar to this, uh, about 10 years ago and it was really, really bad. Um, so we would basically say that this bike is going to start out at the full ultrasound inspection for the frame and fork and pending us finding damages elsewhere in the frame. Then, then we would begin to consider the other repairs on this bike because that's the beauty of ultrasound. And that's why I think we shine as an organization is we're not only fixing things that are visible, we're actually able to impuricably discern other damages in the bike. So we're not just guessing that one area is going to be okay. We're able to see every other area on the bike if it's okay or not. And you know, a lot of times we'll find in these kinds of situations, we'll find the fork to be broken, um, based on, you know, the bike tumbling or the steer tube getting, getting tweaked, um, and a lot of our customers, once they find out that the fork is broken, if it's an older bike, they'll decide not to do the repair because it's going to be very difficult to source a, you know, proprietary fork from 2013. So not only are we keeping people safe, uh, for a low costs, we're able to steer people in the direction of a new safe bike, you know, because now that they know that they're not going to be able to get these parts anymore. So that's, this is a scenario that we see all the time of there's an visual damage, but we need to take a step back and look at everything before we commit, just to make sure that everything is safe and able to work well down the road together. So yeah, that's something that we see almost, you know, I see this like two or three times a week talking to our customers. Yeah. I think I would be a bit torn up if I cracked my carbon frame and I would just be grappling with, you know, do I send it to you guys for repair? Or at what point does it make sense to upgrade? It's a tough call, but it's, you know, many of us are riding bikes that we absolutely love and would hate to sort of send out to pasture earlier than they need to, you know, in an ideal scenario, I want to ride a bike hard, love it, and then pass it on to someone else who can love it. Correct. And for me, one of the things that I always say is if you have bought your bike within the past five years, and aren't dreaming of a component of a serious component upgrade, then it makes sense to fix your bike because that's usually the thing is if you decide to replace your bike, you know, and that's been made in the past couple of years, there's going to be some chances are there's going to be some kind of proprietary element that you need to also get. So you're not just going to be in shipping repair return, shipping fee. You're going to be in that additional cost as well. So, you know, I still, my, my personal bike is a Scott addict, rim break. It's been broken two or three times. Luckily I work, but I don't, you know, I it's, it's my good weather road bike. I don't dream of a disc road bike for the summer. So it made a lot of sense to get it fixed because that bike serves that utility. So if you know, if it's a bike that you want to keep for a long time and you have components you like on it, then it's almost no question repair is usually the way to go. But if an upgrade is then your future and we can help you figure that out, Hey, then we're happy to do that too. So we talked a bit about the assessment process and the repair process, and you alluded to a couple of different options. You can just get the black carbon put on the frame, if you just kind of want that. You know, I don't care what my mountain bike looks like on the down tube kind of phenomenon. But I also saw on your site, some immaculate paint matching and repair work you've done on some beautiful bicycles. Are you guys doing that in house? Are you working with someone local to you? No, we do it all in house. The hard way, uh, growing our paint department was kind of a very hard and painstaking process because bike painting is it's socks. Um, it's super hard. Yeah, there's no shortcuts. And you know, you could go to an auto body shop, people that can paint cars, they all think they can paint bikes. And the idea of there's people that can paint flat things. There's people that paint round things. And there's two different words. And we know almost all the bike, major bike painters that are independent bike painters in the country as well. They'd say the same thing like spring a tube is so different spraying a quarter panel, a, you know, on like a card or something. And laying graphics is so hard. So we grew everything internally, painstakingly very, very painstakingly and learning how cheap paints will kind of screw you some days versus expensive paints or cheap clear codes versus expensive clear codes. And I don't think the average person knows how expensive paint or clear coat is, but some of our paints are, you know, if you're talking about like half a pint, you know, it's almost 70, 80 bucks. Uh, and our clear coats are almost $500 for a gallon. And it's like, yeah, they last a while, but they don't last that long. You're maybe talking like five to 10 full bikes, maybe, um, depending how many bronze and clear you want to shoot this. Stuff's just very expensive and the guns are expensive. You know, they're, you're in a thousand to 2000 bucks just for the gun air compressor. And Oh, I could go forever about this, but luckily we have a great painter in house. You could just freakishly max a match, everything under the sun, all the insane specialized, uh, glitter coats that are doing right now, the shimmer codes we've done all the Thermo chromic paints where they change color with different heat signature. Oh, Dan's bike actually changes with different colors. He does. Yep. Wow. All, I think I was looking at a picture of a [inaudible] on your site that was beautifully color match and had intricate pin, like a pin Stripe line through the color. It was, it was insane. And from the picture it looked brand new. Some of those coal Naga restorations are absolutely the fine are some of our painters finest work there, boy, they're not cheap. Um, but at that point, you know, and the owners even agree with us. It's like, you're doing a classic car at that point. So, you know, why would you want to do it inexpensively anyway, you want it to be proper and in its pristine condition and he has the ability to do it. Um, yeah, they're, they're, they're not cheap and they take a long time, but the end result is boy, if they look the third doing some of the photography around here, those are some of the best bikes to shoot. Cause it's an endless amount of detail that we have to do to them. So yeah, we, uh, we have quite the range of, of, uh, finishing that we're able to achieve here. Be it the most basic vinyl and, and get it out as quickly as possible to, you know, uh, hand pin striping [inaudible] but yeah, he does it all. It's pretty, it's pretty, pretty wild. Yeah. I'll put, I'll put some photos up on, on Instagram and Facebook and I'll obviously put your URL in the show notes so people can go over and it out before We go tonight, do you guys have any sort of funny or outlandish stories from the over 13,000 bikes you guys have inspected, that would be fun to share on the podcast. Poof, There's so many, we've seen stuff from a lot of pro racers, so like very household names, um, from the pro tour, even we even have one in the shop right now, those from the tour de France last year. Um, so do stuff on that level. I just saw there was a repair request from today of a guy that like ended while doing a manual at 25 miles an hour to show off is to show off in front of his 11 year old. Uh, I don't know. I mean, there's a lot of great stories are like peop bikes have gone through forest fires and boy, I dunno, what do you got damn. The one of our classic favorites is, uh, I think we tell this story every time, but it's, it's so great. Somebody dropped an industrial waffle iron on their top tube and broke it and that's all we got. And that's why it's one of my favorite stories because there's so much intrigue and mystery into the details of this story, full iron. Why, how big is it? How, how many waffles can it make? Why do you have, what were you doing? What kind of waffles did you make? Right. So that's the mystery also, where are they? Uh, that one's great. Um, some of boy, I mean, we've seen somebodies beloved house cat chew through their seat's day sounds. I mean, the stories we see you can't make up. Um, I'm also thinking of, um, on the inspection side, one of the thing, one time we, we, somebody brought in a damaged bike and it had some issues or in front of, uh, or excuse me, kind of like right behind the bottom bracket on the chain stay. And Sean did the ultrasound scan and was like, this is, I don't know about this. This is pretty bizarre. And right along the crack line, we found a piece of pre preg backing paper that wasn't mold that was molded into the laminate. Um, and Shaun's ultrasound readings were, were totally wild. He was like, I don't know what to say. I've never seen anything like this. And it was like, I forget what brand it was, but it was an older bike, like 2010 or 2009. Uh, yeah, prepregs backing paper in the laminate. And that's exactly where the damage occurred. Um, we've found tons of dirt in bikes from the factory. Those are Inside the frame, like closed off and we poured out like, I think it was like 90 grams of dirt. And we were like, okay, This bike is brand new. You're like, how did all this? And then also imagine you get the, uh, I drove my car into a parking garage. Well, daily, weekly, yeah. At least one at least once or twice a week. Every, every, every once a week. But that one, yeah, that's a full inspection. Those are always full inspections. So if you're listening and you did that, don't yeah. We know, you know, don't think it's going to be okay that you just hit your car into a house, even if it was only five miles an hour. Yeah. I just say you take like Moveable object of your house and like a 4,000 pound car and then a 20 pound bike. And you're like, alright, that's going to stop. But all that apparently. All right. Yeah. It's simple. All the time we saw, we, we have seen people doing like longer descents, uh, who have hit deer who have hit deer before. Uh, also also a full inspection, definitely full inspection. Those bikes can be pretty, I don't know, but sometimes we do the full inspection and Sean and I joke about this all the time. It's like, sometimes they're, there's nothing wrong with them and you know, it's, it's not every time we do a full inspection, the bike is completely smoked. Um, you know, oftentimes they're, they're totally okay. But at least people are able to walk away with that peace of mind. And, and now that now, now they know they have the safety to do all their favorite rides again. But yeah, we've seen so many wild things over the years. That's awesome. Well, I appreciate all the information you guys, there's a lot of fun for me to learn about carbon repair. I think one of the takeaways specifically for our listeners who are obviously the majority gravel, cyclists, is just pay attention to that tire diameter and mud damage. I have one more for you as well. Yeah. Yeah. Uh, drops chain stays. It's all the rage be careful. And how do you see that playing out with the drop stays? Cause that is a design feature in a lot of these gravel bikes. I know I was actually looking about like, I like to do a just review and analysis and thinking about drop chain stays versus res chain stays, you know, like on the Trek, uh, stash has a raised chain stay and I'm like, okay, that totally removes the chain suck issue. But with the drop chain state, it kinda like puts it more in harm's way. And I think people are trying to run a one buys system, which I love one by systems. But when you try to maximize your chain ring side, let's say you go to a 38 on a drop chain, stay on a like standard road with bike. You're playing with fire a little bit. Um, and you start to see, you know, like you're bouncing along. And even if you have a clutch or whatever, I don't think it really matters. Um, either way the chain kind of comes up a little bit on the bottom lower side of the chain ring and it just comes right into that chance today. So I would like to say like, give yourself A little more room or you may not be that. Okay. I dunno, stoked, but maybe run a slightly smaller chain ring. Like go down to six, maybe. Um, give yourself a little more room there. Just get that chain away from that drop chain state. Yeah. This comes from being a lot of these. Yeah. Next time I'm grinding some mud through my chain stays. I'm going to have a little bit of fear in my heart after talking to you guys. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. It's an easy fix. So just let us know Craig, you can just let us know, just keep pedaling if anything happened. Just peddle through it. That's my alright guys. Well, I appreciate you joining me live and I appreciate the insight for our listeners take care and we'll, we'll talk again soon. All right. Thank you so much. See you guys. Thank you. Bye bye.      
June 30, 2020
In the Dirt covers the latest news and commentary from the gravel cycling community.   This week we discuss the impending name change for DK and some of the voices we should be listening too.  Followed by a discussion about the exploding field of gravel bike bags to optimize your ride.   Each week we conclude with 'can't let it go' where Randall and Craig talk about what they can't let go of gravel cycling or otherwise.  Alexandera Houchin's thoughtful article on The Radavist.  A must-read.    
June 23, 2020
This week we speak with Geoff Duncan and Chris Moore from the Hellhole Gravel Grind stage race in South Carolina. The team has an innovative format making for a fun weekend away! Episode Sponsor: Athletic Greens, the all-in-one daily drink to support better health and peak performance. Hellhole Gravel Grind Stage Race Website Hellhole Gravel Grind Facebook page Automated transcript (please excuse all typos): Jeff and Chris, welcome to the show. Hey Craig, thanks for having us. Thanks for having us. Yeah, I'm super stoked to learn more about South Carolina gravel and some of the events you guys are putting on over the years. And let's start by talking a little bit about your history as riders and when you both discovered gravel riding, and then also what made you jump into event, organization and promotion? You want to, you want to start Chris? Yeah, sure. Say wow, let's go back all the way to college days. Back in the early nineties I raised I was, I wrote kind of ride bikes whenever I was in high school. And then in college, this is the early nineties. The mountain bike scene started getting gone and got a mountain bike and started doing some races here in South Carolina. And then continue that until I got out of college. And then from there, you know, the work and trying to find a career and everything kind of took over. And then I got back into it in the mid to mid early, mid two thousands. And just progressed from there. Raced road, raced mountain bikes dabbled as a triathlon a little bit started as a USA cycling official, worked up through that. And then we just started putting on a race about 10 years ago, a mountain bike race. Interestingly enough, the mountain bike race, one of the, one of the, one of the favorite mountain bike races I did whenever I was in college, it was called the killer three mile bike series up in Sumpter of near Sumter, South Carolina. And that went away in the mid nineties. And then so our first race that we started promoting Jeff and I was the return to killer three and it was just a single mountain bike race at the same place where we used to we're where the series used to be back in the nineties. And we started doing that in what 2009, somewhere around there 2009 was with that event. And then that grew into the the not mountain bike race, which is now, which was part of the Southern classic series. And now part of the King King Creek cup. Nice and windows. When did you start riding drop bar bikes off road? So that started in, in the what, probably 2010 or so. The cyclocross scene was kind of getting, going here in the Southeast and w we really didn't have a lot of places to train. So we would go out in the Francis Marion forest and ride the gravel roads and the bike, the, the, the hiking trails out there. And that was like I said, probably 2010, 2000, and then that morphed into this would be a great place to put on a gravel race. And this was, you know, in the beginning, kind of the beginning stages of the gravel and 2013, we decided to come up with the, the hell hole, gravel grind, stage race, and that's where it all started from there. Nice. And Jeff, how about you? Yeah, so I think I have a little bit abbreviated time on the bike compared to Chris. I didn't start riding a bike until around like 2006. And unit road was always my interest. I don't know that I ever was very good at it. But you know started out just riding a bike and then entering and doing some crits and whatnot. Think I met Chris around like 2009. I met him and his wife on a couple of group rides, or maybe, maybe it was a crit, a local crit. And we just started talking and I think we wanted something different from the team that we are on. So we just kinda created our own thing. And, you know, like Chris said at the, at the time it was a requirement. If you want to, if you want to be on a sanction team, you had to put on your own race you know, through USA cycling. So that's how the, the knock came about. And that killer three is what it was called, but we've been doing that for 10 years. And, you know, during the course of those 10 years, we've, we've done state time trials, cyclocross, state championships circuit races. And then I think, like Chris said about 2010 ish, we have a, we had a mutual friend named Patrick and he, he was training hardcore for things like trans Iowa. And, and it was still probably, you know, in the earlier days of dirty Kansas. And you know, we, we kind of took an interest in like, Hey, what, what is this all about and why, why do I always see Patrick riding in this forest it's right in our backyard? It's like Chris said, we, we hopped on cross bikes and went out there. In retrospect, that was just brutal what it does to your body on a cross bike for that distance. But yeah. And then, and then I think we always you know, we're always thinking of new and innovative ideas for events to put on. And for some reason we wanted to do a road race out there and called the tour de Frances Marion by road race scene is kinda, you know, it was kind of fallen off. So you know, we're like, Hey, let's do this gravel. And we started with hell hole gravel grind and 2013. And it was interesting to see just who showed up to that and, and just what that actually became. And it took off for us. I mean, I think the, I think when we, we launched the page within hours, it had over hundred likes and I remember texting Chris and I'm like, what, what did we just get ourselves into here? So that was pretty, it was pretty cool. Yeah. I imagine back in 2013, the spectrum of bicycles that showed up were, you know, anywhere from a mountain bike to a cross bike potentially to even a road bike. What were you guys seeing back then? I think, I think that first year, I think on the podium, I think we had all three. I think we had a road bike, a cross bike, and a mountain bike on the podium that first year. And I'll do you one better, Craig, we had a guy show up on a, a 36 inch diameter unicycle. It was, was pretty amazing. He did, he did 75 miles on that, you know, cycle. So, so when I come to ride with you guys in South Carolina, we're going to see a lot of unicycles around. No, it's, it has just, you know, just like the industry. You know, we see, we seem to still see some newbies showing up, which is great. And we encourage, you know, show up on whatever bike you feel comfortable riding out there, but you definitely can tell, you know, everybody is starting to get or ask about, you know, what kind of bike should I get? What kind of gravel bike you know, they're asking about things like tire tire, width, and, and wheels and brakes and all that kind of stuff. Yeah, absolutely. Well, let's get into it. I know you guys do three gravel events each year, but I'm super excited to talk about that the hell hole gravel grind, because it looks like, you know, at this point you've got a stage race and some really kind of unique elements to that weekend. Can you talk through what the weekend looks like and when it starts? Yeah. so, You know, kind of, kind of the whole, one of the reasons that we decided to get with the whole stage race idea was because here in the coastal area of South Carolina and it's flat and, and very flat, we, we will go out for a, I think, I think what the 75 mile one day portion of the hell hole is about 400 feet, about 400 feet of climbing. That's so incredible to me, I think about going out for a lunch ride today. And like, there's no route I can pick out of my, my house that is going to net less than a thousand feet of climbing. Oh yeah, yeah, Yeah. Sometimes our road rides on Saturday. I mean, we can go, we can go 40 and 50 miles and do you know, less than a hundred feet. So, so, so the, the, the idea was to say, okay, well, how can we, how can we take this to the next level? And do something different to try to get people, you know out here. So we, that's where the whole stage race idea came from. And Basically the, the Friday night before the race it's it's on Saturday is stage one, Sunday is stage two. And, and on Friday night, what we have is we have a six mile prologue just to get your, of, of what the gravel is like in, in in the Francis Marion forest time, trial style, little lollipop course that surprisingly a lot of people, I would say last year, what we had about 60 people come out for it. Yeah. The front, the Friday night time trial portion is optional. Because we know people can't always make it in Friday evening for the, for the whole weekend. So we make that optional and offer, you know, the participants they get, they get a time bonus compared to everybody that does not participate in that. But yeah, we, we have a good turnout people generally like it because they, they are going full gas for the, you know, the 10 K like Chris said, and it's kind of a dusk and Twilight. So you have to be despite the fact that the terrain is flat, you do have to be somewhat careful out there when you're, when you're going at speed you know, cross side, because you're going full gas. Right. So, so then, then on Saturday, it starts out with a stage one and in conjunction with stage one, we, we have the, the, the stage raise portion. We have a one day 75 mile, and then we have a one day 40, usually between 35 and 40 mile route for, you know, for, so that people can slowly progress up. And then on Sunday, it is strictly just the stage two, which would be another 75 miles. So the stage racers are looking at 150 miles over two days. The, the S the one days we're looking at 75 miles and between 30 and 40 miles, And are the two 75 mile courses, are they different routes? Well, so for the, for the first iterations of hellhole, the answer is yes. So we, we had a stage one and two completely different. And I think we did that for the first three years. But, you know, it's, it's largely just Chris and I, that are out there Mark in the course. And, and we do have a group of stalwart volunteers that come out and help us. But you know, the, the forest is 400 square miles and it's, it is remote. There's not real good cell phone reception out there. And so it does provide some logistical challenges. So after the third time, the third year, we decided that we were going to stick with the same core stage one to reverse it. And then we keep people guessing we do make a few course alterations, and those are usually around like the more technical sections you know, there's, there's bits of single track that we can tie in to connect different, different portions. So, you know, where we lack elevation and things like that to, to provide a challenge, we, we do other, we, we throw in other means to, to keep people on their feet. That sounds like fun. So on those, do you find that groups are able to stay together on parts of the course and then, then are broken up by the single track sections? Oh, for sure. Yeah. So the other reason we try to keep, keep the single track sections in there is we, we wanted to kind of keep it from being a strictly a road race. You know, we had some, some, you know, some pretty fast roadies come down and just, you know, try to try to blow apart the field. So we'd like to keep, keep the technical sections in there as well. And, you know, one of the things about all of our events you mentioned, you know, our groups able to, to, to form up and work together out there. His you know, we, we, it is a stage race and we do have the one day, the one day rides that are available for people, but our, our whole philosophy has always been that those that are out there to race are going to race and it's going to be hard for them. And those that are out there to ride are gonna go out there and ride, and it's going to be, you know, equally as hard for them relatively speaking. So it's hard for, it's hard for everyone and everyone's going to, you know, leaves feeling very challenged that, but also, you know, very rewarded. Yeah, for sure. I love that mindset of yours to kind of use the terrain to kind of break things up. And I think it's one of those things that's gonna continue to be discussed in relation to events, because as we get more roadies coming into the market, the last thing most of us want to see is massive. Palatines riding 90% of the race together. And then it coming down to a group sprint, I'm a big fan of throwing people into single track and technical terrain. I love when you sort of start to question your bike choice because you chose one thing that was great on the, you know, more fire roadie type stuff, but it, it really is failing you on the single track. Cause you should have to make those choices and think about your equipment when you come into these events. Yeah, for sure. And, you know, the, the, the, the courses, some of the roads out there, you know, it's, it's, there, there are the main roads, and then they're like the A's and B's and C roads that the force designates. So, you know, like after the events, it's always interesting to hear people talk that, Oh, I was with this guy up until hell hole B. And then, you know, he just took off and I just couldn't, I couldn't, you know, get through that section and stay with that group. It's, it's always interesting to hear those stories, cause there's certain roads that stand out and that we try to fit in the courses just because we know that that's a, that's a road that some people Excel at, but yet some people do not Excel at. And you know, that's, that's what, the little challenges we like to throw in there. Nice. You guys mentioned that you get the question That, that every promoter gets, which is like, what tire width with tire size should I be running? What are you usually recommending for people? And what do you, what would you ride yourself? Yeah, so we generally speaking, I'll, I'll talk for Chris here on this, but you know, if I'm just out there riding, riding by myself, my normal route, I'll, I'll throw on a 40 millimeter tire. And, and we are, we are sponsored by Schwabie and we liked that. And so Schwabie G ones. They they're very low profile in terms of traction. There's not a lot of technical sections out here until you hit some of the single track, but the 40 millimeter gives you some protection against the, the bumps and the ruts that you're gonna face, but enough you know, enough with good rolling, you know, minimal rolling resistance that you can build up some speed. But we have seen, we have seen people come out and against our better judgment, you know, they'll ride a 28 millimeter road tire out here. And so you know, it varies and in some of our other events, we've even had people come out on fat bikes and do relatively well. So it really just, it really just, it's a question of how, how much how much do you want to feel like you are about to get beat up? If, if you will, you know, the, the wider, you go a little bit more plush of a ride you're going to have. Yeah, that's exactly it. It's kind of funny to think about. And I've had this conversation with a number of people, just the idea that you do have to consider not only pure speed in gravel, but also comfort. And if you're, you know, if the front of the packs finishing the race in three hours, but you're a six hour person, you're probably going to need a little bit more compliance in your equipment, then the guy or girl who's upfront you know, doing it in half the time. Yeah. Right. And there's been some very good discussions recently about, you know, tire selection and tire pressure. And, and generally what I'm hearing is that, you know, narrower and higher pressures, aren't, aren't generally better. And, you know, that even might even translate onto the road. So we, we tend to go fairly, fairly low pressures, but fairly wide, they give you that, that Kush for the longer distances, it's your body will. Thank you. Yeah. And I've also been really impressed when riding, you know, like I upset my slick or, you know, just very, very small knobby tire when you increase the volume, it's actually pretty amazing. The off-road terrain you can ride comfortably and safely. I've definitely found that I, you know, I lose a little bit in high speed cornering, and certainly if I'm breaking the backend has a greater tendency to slide out. But generally speaking, like, I feel like I can get over a lot of stuff on a semi select tire when I started the sport, I would not have thought that was possible. Yeah. Yeah. So, so lately in the gravel cycling press and cycling press in general, there's been a conversation about USA cycling, getting involved in gravel, and they recently did a gravel summit in in Bentonville Arkansas to get a few of the bigger events together. I'm curious because you guys have a long history in promotion of off-road events and you, your, your mountain bike events are held under USA cycling. I'd love for you to give the listener a little bit of a sense for, you know, what's it like working with USA, cycling on the mountain bike events, and then not having to work with them at all. And the gravel events I guess I'll feel down first, but it, yeah, I guess there's two different aspects. Kind of like what you said is, is, is it working with them or is it just what comes along with working with USA cycling? So I will at least say with our mountain bike event and I mentioned this earlier is, is if we didn't have to use them, I don't know that I would, however, you know, working with them whenever I need something from them. Our, our local association is pretty good at being responsive with regard to that. Now, you know, that being said, I, I don't think we would. And I'm skin gonna speak for Chris on this too, but I don't know that we'd ever go to USA cycling for a gravel event. We don't have, I don't think we have any desire to sanction our event. We do use them for insurance purposes. But the, the, the rigmarole that goes along with USA cycling people just want to ride their bikes. And, and like I mentioned, you know, we have people that come out just to ride and they wanna see what gravel's all about. We have people that come out and want to race but there's nothing tied to it. There's no, there's no cat up points. There's no you know, no advance, you know, you're out there just to prove something to yourself and I don't need additional paperwork or additional fees. We try to keep our, our fees relatively low barrier to entry because we want people out there at our events and, and the less, we less red tape we have. I think that's the better for us. Are you, were you saying you're able to use USA cycling's insurance on the gravel events? Yeah. Yeah. Okay. And just so you know, they have a For there for, they call them grand fondos. So they allow you to, you know, there's no license required. There's no anything required, but you can submit for their insurance. And I think it's like $4 and I think it went up this year, $4 and 75 cents A a rider per day. So w you know, what we've is Currently at the, at the levels that we have in it, it's still the most economical. And without having to do any type of you know, additional licenses or anything like that, it does it Yeah. For the level that we're at right now. It is, it is the better choice. Gotcha. And then if you look at the mountain bike race compared to the gravel race, how much more expensive does it end up, you know, having a fully sanctioned race versus a, you know, just go on your own route on the gravel. I would say considerably you know, you, you know, each, each rider as they walk up to pay for their, for their race, you know, if they don't have a an annual license, they have to buy a one day license. You know, so you know, that right there is, you know, X number of dollars more that they may not be anticipating. I would say, I would say for, for our mountain bike event, you know, you can, you can bank on, if you don't have a USA cycling license, you're going to pay at a minimum 25% more just to register. And, and if you want to get an annual license, then the annual license itself is more than it costs to do our event. You know, so as an example, you know, we could have new people to the sport show up and you're like, Hey, do you have a license? Cause you have to check and they show you their driver's license. And they have no idea that no USA cycling requires you to pay this fee to have a one day license. And it does partially cover the insurance. But again, it's a, it's a barrier to entry. These people just want to experience the event and determine if that's something that they want to get into. And, and I find that any kind of barrier to entry like that it's to, it's going to turn some people off and people, some people just won't show up because of that. There's a flux, you know, on the flip side, some people come out just because of that. But I don't, I don't feel like at all, that, that, that is that there's any, I have not, I've not wanted any of our gravel events. Anyone has approached and said, when are you going to make this a sanctioned event? Yeah. And, and the thing is, is, you know, even with the insurance, through USA cycling, you know, this year from between last year and this year, I think it's went up 50 cents per rider per day, which, you know, I think it went from four 25. Now it's four 75. So, you know, it, it, it is, it is increasingly getting to the point where you know, it probably in the future, we'll start looking at other forms of insurance. Yeah, I mean, it is a nice benefit. It is a nice benefit that USA cycling is there and can provide that insurance piece. But I agree. I mean, a lot of gravel athletes may just sign up for one event a year. And even in that, even if they're signing up for a multiple, most could care less about points and upgrades and, and all that. I think that kind of motivation tends to change the racing, just given people's competitive nature, et cetera. So it's certainly an open-ended question that USA cycling is grappling with to try to see how they can add value to the community. When you know, a lot of people from the outsider thinking they're not adding any value whatsoever. Cool. Well, I appreciate the time you guys, I appreciate the events you guys are putting on. I have to say that going to Charleston and racing hellhole, it sounds like a hell of a lot of fun. Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's, you know, at the end of September, it's, it's usually warm. And unfortunately in the patent a few years, we've had to battle some close calls with hurricanes. We actually had to postpone it a what, two years ago, because of a hurricane. But yeah, it's a great place. A lot of people will usually come down and make a whole weekend of it, bring the wife and the kids and they go do the downtown Charleston thing and they hang out out in the forest and race their bike right on. Well, I'll make sure to put some information in the show notes about how to find you on the web. And I can't wait to hear about all the racing this year from you guys. Great. Thanks. We appreciate it, Craig.  
June 16, 2020
Introducing 'In the Dirt' a bi-weekly show covering the latest product drops and general musings about gravel with co-host Randall Jacobs. This week we tackled the everpresent question, What is a gravel bike?  Then we tackle the controversial subject of fully suspended gravel bikes.      This week's 'Can't let it go' were Dynaplugs and Inclusion.    
June 9, 2020
This week we talk with one of gravel's finest; professional racer and event organizer, Amanda Nauman.   Amanda is a 2x DK100 winner and runner-up in this year's Mid-South event.   In September, health conditions dependent, Amanda and team are introducing a new gravel event, Mammoth Tuff in Mammoth Lakes, CA.  Episode Links: Support the Podcast Amanda Nauman Instagram Mammoth Tuff Gravel Event  Automated transcription: Please excuse the errors Amanda, welcome to the show. Hey, nice to see you, Craig. Yes, there, we have it. So Amanda, we all start off the show by learning a little bit more about your background. How did you come to gravel cycling A long roundabout way, but I can give you the short version is basically I grew up swimming and from there I was swimming in college. I started getting sick of it and then I started doing triathlons. And from there did a few collegiate bike races enjoyed bike racing, got a job in the bike industry at felt bicycles. All my coworkers raced bikes. They kind of said, Hey, you know, you should do some of this racing stuff. It's fun. Sure enough, I was kind of good at it and that's how cyclocross and like cross country mountain biking started. And then the next thing was all the gravel events that started coming up. And I was kind of using those events as training for cross. Cause it was a good time of the year to be doing all those longer events. And then yeah, I found success in gravel events and that's, that's the shorthand version. So where you start, did you start off with a road bike? Was that your first bike when you were doing triathlons? Yes. Yeah. Good question. But yeah, so I got a road bike first and then when I started getting good at triathlon stuff, then yeah, I got a triathlon bike after that. And then did you get a mountain bike to kind of just dabble in off-road riding? I think so. I, I had always had a mountain bike, which is funny because I grew up going to mammoth during the summers. And so my dad really liked mountain biking. So my definition of mountain biking growing up was like going up a chairlift and riding down. So I remember when I was, yeah, I remember when I was in college distinctly having a conversation with somebody that was like, mountain biking is so hard and I was like, no, it's not. You just go downhill the whole time and not, not having any idea, like actually what it was all about. But yeah, my first bike, like first bike under the Christmas tree that I can remember that was actually usable, was a mountain bike and that's how I got into it. And so when I wanted to get the road bike, my dad was riding road at the time and he was like, yeah, let's do it. And so it was something that we could do together also. Neat. So it's probably, it sounds like it, those early skills kind of left you with some great bike handling relative to the overall spectrum of triathletes. Yeah. Surprisingly, it's something that I look back on and realize that, you know, my dad taking me to ride mountain bikes at a young age was he didn't know he was developing all these skills I would need later. But yeah, I was lucky to, to have that True. And as you were sort of adding disciplines to your cycling career, were you living in Southern California at the time? Yes. Yeah. So I grew up here swam here, but I went to college in the East coast, in New Jersey. And so that was like indoor swimming, you know, dealing with winter and stuff during triathlons and all that. But I applied for a job at felt bicycles cause it was an Irvine, which is like 10 minutes away from where I lived with my parents at the time and I got the job. So after the summer before my final year at Stevens, I went and did an internship there and came back and they, they said, you know, if you finish the school year, you can have a full time job after you graduate. So that was how all that happened. So basically I lived on the East coast for five years and came back home and yeah, I'm still in pretty much the same area. Nice. So the leap from triathlon to cyclocross is pretty huge. How did that happen? Is there a big cyclocross scene down in Southern California? Yeah, so the triathlon stuff I was doing pretty good at, and the funny thing is like all my coworkers in the engineering department, it felt raced cross cause it was fun. Short. The Soquel scene was pretty good and there was like a local grassroots team that was sponsored by felt at the time. So I would go and watch the races first before I ever raced them. So I would go and watch them the first event that I ever went to, to like actually spectate was cross Vegas, cause I was working in her bike at the time. And so we all just went to watch it. And that was when I realized like this cyclocross thing is amazing. Cause if you think about my first introduction to like big cyclocross events was cross Vegas and I thought all of them were going to be like that and it was nuts. But yeah, so I fell in love with just watching it from there. And then, you know, I had some friends that convinced me to do it. David actually signed me up for my first race by just like telling me to show up to this event. And then he signed me up without telling me, and I just happened to have all my bike stuff cause we were gonna ride afterwards. Yeah. So my first cross race was like him just signing me up without telling me. And as it turns out you had some running skills from your triathlon career assets. Oh, barely. That was my worst discipline. I don't know if you'd call those skills. I would just, you know, yeah. I can get off my bike and trot for a little bit again. Nice. Do you remember the first gravel event that you entered that you'd consider kind of a gravel event? Yes. It was Belgian waffle ride. I, you know, jokingly, I still consider that a road race. But that was the first style of that event that I did. Yeah. and I don't remember if it was the second or third annual. But it was still when it was at spies headquarters. Like it still felt small. I remember like Jonathan Page and Nicole Duke were in the race. And so as a cyclocross racer, I was like, Oh, this is awesome. Like these pro cross racers are here. So then at the time it wasn't anything more than what felt like, like a really long cyclocross race. Really. Okay. Yeah. And you know, one of the questions I definitely wanted to ask and it may come up in the context of our discussion about mid South is as a female athlete in these mass start races. How do you kind of navigate that? Obviously, you know, you're on the trying to be on the front end of these things, but you're mixed in with men and women. How do you, how do you kind of navigate that as a professional woman? Yeah, it's definitely something that's evolved over time. I mean, I can remember the first two years of dirty Kansas still making the front group and that was totally normal at the time. But as the, the speed of the front got faster, you know, it's way less possible for me to be able to hang at the pace that Ted King's cruising net, you know? So I think what happens in the women's race is everybody just goes and hangs on for dear life. And for a lot of people, I mean that first hour is like across race, whether you're male or female. But I think specifically on the women's side too, it's like, we're trying to get in as fast as group of possible in the beginning and try to hang on with wheels as fast as you can. And yeah, I mean, even I was writing some notes down in my mid South race and like the beginning of it, we just, we were going so hard and it was so unpleasant and it's one of those things where like, I'm going to be out here for like eight more hours after this. Yeah. I got to imagine it's tack the tactically really interesting for you to kind of figure out because yeah, maybe you don't want to be on the Ted King, Peter [inaudible] pack. So killing yourself to be in that is not going to be in your best interests, but you do want it, you, you are going to finish relatively high obviously for the overall. So finding that right group to hook on with and hoping your other women competitors aren't hooked into the same group is that is kind of a tactic I suppose, right? Yeah, for sure. And I, it's hard to, it's hard to say which one is the better tactic because you think about like, Amedee, Rockwell's start at dirty Kensal last year, she came in, you know, maybe in the top 10 to that first checkpoint and she admits to not having a good start at all and not being where she should have been. But you know, at the same time there are events where like I can say I've won or did really well because I did make the fastest possible group in the beginning. So it's a trade off and I think the distance and the length of the events plays into it, you know, there's some where you absolutely have to be as far up as you can in the beginning or else, you know, it's almost impossible to get to the front. But yeah, I think it's very event specific for sure. Do you find yourself thinking about that in training to say to yourself, like I gotta be able to go full gas, but then back it off and you know, obviously make the distance. Yeah. yeah, you cut off a little bit, but I think, you know, you were asking if it applies to training and for sure, I think there's a lot of times where you that's honestly, how I think about it is the first hour is like across race and then you're just hanging on for dear life. Some of the training rides that I've done in the past have been like showing up to our local group ride around tears called Como street. And so I I'll go do Como street on my road bike, which can be like a good two, a little over two hours. I'll get back here and get on my gravel bike and then ride for another three or four hours. And that's the best simulation I've figured out how to do where I'm going, as hard as I can to hang on to this group. And then, you know, still being able to like fuel and drink enough to be able to ride for X amount of hours after that. That makes sense. Have you had occasions where you've made sort of made the group and maybe dropped off later in the race and you found someone else rode a wave forward and ended up bridging up to you because of the work of other athletes in the race? Like they bridged to me from behind. Yeah, because they just happened to sort of get involved with a simpatico pack. Yes. Yeah, for sure. My first mid South in 2018, 2018, yeah. 2018. I made a really good group in the beginning. I got to the checkpoint, I had to pee. So I had this like whole ordeal running to a porta potty. And so when I left, I was completely by myself and I was by myself for a while. And this group of guys along with Chi Takeshita showed up behind me and I was like, God damn it. Like, you know, you're going through this thought process of like, she caught me because she's in this group and I've been by myself and this sucks. But I ended up having a conversation with the guys in the group and I was like asking them, you know, cause there were, her teammates were in the group as well. And I was like, if you are just going to pull her, like let me know now, cause I don't want to play this game. The guy was like, no, I'm going to let you guys have your own race. And so he ended up attacking so that the group would split apart. And that was what happened. Like everybody ended up stringing out and we regrouped in different places and that was where I ended up dropping her. So yeah, there've been quite a few instances where all get caught. You know, if you're in a group of like five or six and somebody solo, there's a really good chance you're going to catch them without doing more like, less effort than the person ahead of you. So it definitely becomes a strategy tactic game for sure. Do you get the sense with your fellow women competitors that, you know, people are just like, it is what it is and sometimes it's going to fall in my favor and sometimes it's going to happen against me. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, especially as these events got bigger and there are more women, there are more people period. Like there's just a lot of different variable speeds. And a lot of times like that, that just shuffles the board completely. And, and definitely, I think I'm more stressed now because in, in the early days of the gravel racing, like where you ended up in that first hour, there was a pretty good chance that was like where you were going to finish. But now with so many more people out there and a lot of different people who are similar speeds to you as well it's easier for that duck to shuffle a bit more. So yeah. It makes it more fun I think. Yeah. So I was excited to talk to you about your second place finish at mid South this year, I was watching the coverage and it was a bit of a bomber that the women didn't get as much camera time as the men did in that race. But clearly like you turned yourself inside out for that performance. So I'd love to hear just kind of how it played out. Yeah. Thanks. And it's funny cause like I then the night before, so Thursday night the night before the expo and all that I was hanging out and Ansul Dickie was there, the guy from Vermont social who does a lot of Ted King's videos, he does a lot of the, the wall wahoo stuff that's coming out now. And he was part of that group that was doing the coverage of the front of the race. And he said to me, he was like, yeah. Bobby brought us on to do the coverage at the front of this race. And I was like, Oh, that's awesome. But never, it didn't cross my mind at all to ask him like, Oh, what about the women? It just, I had assumed that it was only going to be the men's coverage and I'm kind of mad at myself now for even just thinking that way, you know, because I was just cutting myself short for one. But yeah, it was kind of a bummer that had happened that way. I know they learned their lesson and they've already addressed that. Cause people were pissed and I saw the comments afterwards and I was like, Oh God, this is, does not look good. But I know that he's gonna, you know, take care of it two fold next year for sure. But yeah, it was, it was a very difficult race and for a lot of reasons, I think the, some of it was like even emotional as much as it was physical. And everything was just stacked against us. I think from the beginning, like I felt guilty even starting the race. We were sitting in the car that morning and I'm texting people like, is there going to be a lightning delay? Cause it was thundering and lightning all around us. It just felt like everything was saying this event is not happening or it shouldn't be happening. But yeah, we got to the start line and it was crazy, you know, the usual jitters of the event and we took off. And I honestly didn't think it was going to be as hard as it was in the beginning and we it's pavement for a bit but not very long. And then there's a stretch of gravel, another stretch of pavement. And then it's pretty much gravel for a long time. And I knew that I had to stay ahead. Cause as soon as they hit that second stretch of pavement, it's they go pretty hard. Cause there's a little bit of a climb then it starts spreading out from there. But basically once we got into that pavement and then the next stretch of gravel, it was just full gas. And I was looking at my power and I went, there was like 15 minutes in that section where my normalized power was two 85, which is like a climbing repeat effort for me. Like I can normally my workouts, if I do that, it's like an eight, nine minute effort, not 15. And yeah, so like five minutes after that Hannah got away in a group that I could see, it was like, you know, you hit one little mud section wrong and all of a sudden you're like five seconds back from where you were because you come to like the screeching halt and I can just see her riding away with this group of guys. And I knew that if I wasn't going to get there, it, I knew it probably just wasn't going to happen, period. Which sucks. But that's the reality. That's the reality of it too. Sometimes unless I get in a group of guys or something happens to her, it's going to be very hard for me to close that gap and then suddenly it just that whatever group she was in just got away completely. And so I was kind of in whatever third group was hanging out behind that. And yeah, once we hit that bridge that everybody has those pictures of where people had to dismount and get across it, cause there were all those boulders. There, the other girls that had been around me at that time were no longer there. And I was kind of in no man's land knowing that I was in second cause I saw a hand and get away. And that was where I pretty much stayed for the rest of the race. Mine is going back and forth with Lauren Stevens for quite a bit of the first half actually. And then even into like miles 65 or so was when she finally, I think hit a little bit of a wall cause she had been traveling from Europe the day before. No big deal. And yeah, so yeah, she ended up fourth. I think her teammate pastor at some point in the second half and I was second. And to set the stage just to, just to set the stage a little bit more for the listener who may not have seen the weather conditions, it was absolutely dumping, raining cats and dogs before you guys started, did it continue raining through that first half of the race or when did that stop? It probably stopped about two hours in, so it wasn't too bad, but it was annoying enough for those two hours that I could tell from the condition of what we were riding through. Like I wanted it starting the race to be a six hour day. And I remember two hours in, I was riding with somebody that I know and I looked to him and I was like, I think this is going to take like seven and a half, eight hours. And it that's, that's how long it took, it sucked, but I just knew the speeds that we were going and like how muddy it actually was and how much it was slowing our, our regular average down. It was just going to be a really long day. But I, you know, I really like how that second half of the race was almost, you know, everybody kind of ended up in one place and everybody was either going super far backwards or staying kind of in that same area. Like Hannah was only three, a little over three minutes faster than me in the second half of the race. So had we been, had we left at the same time, it would probably would have been more of a race, you know, cause, you know, within three minutes you can probably see that, but because she had 10 minutes on me in that first half, you know, there was no way that I knew that she was going to be 12, 13 minutes up the road, so it makes it less of a race. But yeah, it was interesting how the conditions really just made it all even for everyone. Yeah. And what, what did you, what were you riding and any specific choices you made because you knew it was going to be a slop Fest? Yes. Good question. So the bike Niner RLT a nine RDO frame, it's just their gravel frame, but it's the new one this year that has all the extra mounting bolts and tire clearance specifically which I was very stoked about because last year with the older frame, I had less tire clearance in my tire choice last year in just the one stretch of mud that we had last year, brought my bike to a screeching halt and it was terrible. So this year I knew what kind of peanut butter mud I was dealing with. And because of that, I decided to bring an extra set of wheels with mud tires on it, the Panner racer, gravel King muds, which I've written in dry conditions before and really liked. So I know that they work well regardless of what the conditions had been. And yeah, so that was the big I guess change that I made knowing that it was going to be disgusting. Yeah. And inevitably, I mean, obviously mud did accumulate on your bike. Did you have some techniques preplanned to try to help you shed some mud? I bought Pam and I sprayed my down tube. I was considering spraying my wheels and I was sitting there at the front of the car hunched over with the Pam and David was like, do not spray your wheels. Cause if that gets on your rotors, you're not stopping. And I remember I was actually thinking to myself, like, there's this, there's going to be some point in this race where I'm not stopping anyways because I'm not going to have brake pads anymore as it doesn't matter. But yeah, I did. I bought Pam and sprayed me down too, but I don't think it made that much of a difference, but that's a little cyclocross thing there. Yeah. I'd heard a couple of stories about that kind of stuff, which is kind of interesting. And I was also, it was interesting hearing from paisan about him choosing a slick tire saying to himself, like I'm kinda kind of hosed one way or another, so I might as well choose something that's just gonna accumulate less mud. Yeah, I know. But I'm to, maybe I might be the only person to critique him on that. I don't think that was a good tire choice because it messed him up in the beginning and it ended up collecting too much. And I think had he had a little, just a little bit of knobs on it, you know, it's able to shed in a different way than like a completely smooth surface is just continuously collecting stuff sometimes. So I know, I mean it's pacing. He has the ability to ride whatever he puts on his bike honestly, and probably still do well. So he's like, Oh yeah, this is great. And I'm like, yeah, but stop telling people that, cause it's probably not great for everyone. Right. Like I honestly don't think it is. And I don't think people should be like, well, if paisan did it, I'm gonna ride this. Like and he can give me crap for that if he wants to. But I don't think it's a good all around her for everyone. Yeah. I think we're going to need a pan racer or IRC to do some studies on, on that before we take it to heart. Yes. Well, cool. I mean, I saw some of the pictures of you crossing the finish line and you just looked destroyed from that effort. How did you feel when you hit the finish line? Okay. Great relieved. I mean, it was, yeah, it's hard when you want it to be a six hour day and it ends up being an eight hour day. Like I said it's not that hasn't happened very often for me. Mutually in the events, you know, you have a plan a where everything's gonna go well, and you have a plan B when it's not in that you still plan for that. Like dirty Kanza for example, I always pack like extra clothes and, you know, brighter lights in my third checkpoint bag, knowing that something could happen, but I've never had to like dive into that Oh, crap stuff. And this event I had to, like, I knew it was going to take a long time. And so it takes a toll on you mentally. And it's one of those things where looking back, knowing that Hannah had issues with like nutrition and not getting enough calories at the end, you know, if somebody had told me that when I got to the halfway that that was going to happen, like maybe I would have dug a little bit harder, who knows, you know, it's just a lot of things that go on where it was just such a brutal day that I was like content with where I was honestly I'd hate admitting that, but it was like, I just wanted this to be over with seriously. Yeah. I mean just keeping the pedals going in those kinds of conditions is a huge accomplishment. So yeah, I don't blame you. It is interesting in these long races that notion, and I think, you know, anybody at your level obviously knows this it's it's you gotta keep going. Cause you never know what's going to happen in gravel. People could have mechanicals or as you said, they could have just had a bad nutrition moment and all of a sudden the wheels completely fall off. Yeah, yeah, no, for sure. And, and that is, I mean the same thing happens in cross. Anything can happen to the people in front of you. It's just one of those things where it's a lot more grueling, do it for an extra four hours or whatever. The one nice thing about this year's event was it's the same. It was pretty much the same course as the year before. And so I knew that they had like a secret, a wasteless thing around mile 80, which the year before I took maybe a shot of tequila or something, I don't remember what it was. I wasn't having a good race last year, so I needed to stop there. And this year I was like, I don't care if Hannah's a minute ahead of me, I need to stop and get a shot of something. So I stopped at this Oasis and the guy had like all these liquor bottles sitting out in front and these little plastic cups to pour into. And I was like, just give me a shot of something. He's like, well, what I'm like, I don't know. Just whatever. So he's like, here's some Jameson I'm like, okay, thanks. And yeah, right after that section, it's like really Sandy, even when it's wet, I don't know how it's still hard to describe sand section for about 20 or 30 minutes. And I knew like it was going to help me get through that. Nice. You heard it here guys pro tip from Amanda? Yeah. Make it fun. That's awesome. So, you know, pandemic aside, what would your year have looked like? Like what were your key events that you were targeting and what we'll talk about, like how the rest of the year is gonna play out, but what was your calendar looking like? So I would have been in Kansas last weekend for the DK camp and then I would have been at sea Otter coming up. And then I would have been spending some time in mammoth coming back for Belgian waffle ride and then pretty much getting ready for DK XL after that. And then in July I was going to go do the rift. That's probably definitely not happening. And then August I was considering going to grab a worlds for the first time, which is kind of a bummer. And then, yeah, I had a big plan actually the beginning of September to do this event called the caldera 500, which is a really small, underground backpacking thing, but it's in the Eastern Sierra and it starts and finishes and mammoth. So my whole goal this year was three 50, figure out how to ride 500 miles in the mountains and then, you know, get ready for mammoth tough and do that event for everyone. So, yeah, that was the original plan When you were, I didn't realize you were, you were doing DK XL, not just DK. Yeah. Yeah. How were you thinking, how were you thinking about that? Were you just sort of thinking, you know, you're at the point where your, your body's ready to kind of tackle some more ultra distance style stuff? No, I don't think I was physically ready for that at all. It was, it was honestly more of a mental thing when you finish five of the Kansas, you get this like grail cup thing and it's the, the thousand mile club basically. And so David and I both finished five last year and once you finished five, it's like, okay, now what, you know? And I think it was nice to have the option of the three 50 because the way that I look at going back in 2015, when I was thinking about doing dirty Kanza for the first time I wasn't concerned about winning. I honestly just wanted to finish it. And I had no idea if I could do 200 miles or not. And that was the biggest appeal to me, honestly, of going to do that because David had done it the year before, and I was like, you're nuts doing 200 miles. Like why would anybody do that? And you know, fast forward five and a half years, and it's the exact same thing I'm saying about the three 15, it's a fun place to be. I'm afraid to do something new. Cause that was the whole reason why we started doing this stuff to begin with. And I think it'll be interesting to see what happens over the next decade, if that is a natural evolution for some people or if it is the kind of distance that's a little too daunting. But the way things are looking with, you know, increased participation in that event, I think maybe it becomes the next step for people. Yeah. It is interesting to think about like, what is too much even like, you know, obviously DK 200 for the average athlete is that, you know, Dawn to evening kind of endeavor you know, much like an iron man distance triathlon. And once you start taking it fully overnight or over a couple of days, yeah, it does become this sort of rarefied area of athlete that is going to say, Hey, that sounds like a good idea. Yeah. Yeah. So that's a big commitment. And th the unique thing about it that I've heard people talk about, who've done it before is, you know, like a J Peter, very who does these ultra events and this really long distance stuff, sleep is a factor. And it's something that is a tactic in those events, but you go to a distance like 350 miles, it's doable in one swing, you take sleep out of the equation. And all of a sudden everybody's dealing with like sleep deprivation instead of strategizing naps, like they would for bike packing stuff. So it is something that makes, I think that distance unique because it's doable in 24 to 36 hours, so you can get away with not sleeping, but how does the body handle that? Yeah, I think that's the interesting thing. Like you, it's really hard to simulate that and to imagine doing many of them in any one year. So I feel like you're going to learn, you would learn a lot of tough lessons when you do it. Oh, I should have done this. Right. I could have saved myself hours if I had just made that one critical decision and it's going to be, you know, a multiyear process of learning like these guys, you know, like J Peter Barry that you mentioned have figured out, like they know where they can push the body where they need to turn it off and just take a break in order for the bigger goal of just moving forward. Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. And, you know I was talking to URI about it at DK camp last year, asking him about it and if he would ever do it again, and he said, never like, he doesn't want to touch that thing ever again. And that's so scary to me because it's like, I don't know. There's still a lot of hard things that I've done where you think like, I can do that better, or I want to try it again and try to do it better. And he's just like, I am not touching that thing again. And I'm like an emotional level. It was too much for him. That's really fascinating. So the other big thing, yeah. Obviously like for your fall this year is you, you guys actually started to plan your own event. Can you talk about how that came about and what are the details? Yeah. so it probably happened, I don't know, three years ago or so. David and I would go ride in Bishop, which is a little bit South of mammoth and there's a bike shop there called Arrowhead cycles. And these local guys just do these gravel rides out there. And we showed up to one, we did a couple cross races with them and it was so much fun. And we realized during these rides that they have like the most amazing gravel in that long Valley caldera and all the areas surrounding mammoth. And, you know, we had done dirty Kansas traveled across the country to go to all these races and here, you know, five and a half hours North of where we lived with some of the best gravel that we had ever seen. And we were torn between, do we want to keep this a secret and leave it to us only? Or, you know, as we started going to other events, we were like, no, we want to bring our friends here to do this and ride this area because it's so awesome. And yeah, that's kind of, that was the Genesis of it. It was just knowing that we had something so beautiful in what we would call her backyard. Cause we're up in mammoth so often. And we, yeah, we wanted to share it with people. So it started with doing all these adventure Ries and we were like, okay, well what kind of route could we do? And yeah, that was how it was all birthed was basically these knuckleheads that live in Bishop that know all the great roads down there. Right. That's awesome. And mammoth obviously has a story tradition in the, on the mountain bike side of the sport as being just this Epic destination for a race and all the pictures you guys have posted so far leads me to believe that gravel is just awesome out there. Yeah, yeah, it is. And it's interesting you say that because they have historically hosted those kamikaze games for a very long time and it does have a rich history of mountain biking. And 2019 was the year they canceled it. So they canceled kamikaze games, you know, just didn't have enough traction anymore for the mammoth and we're not making enough money, whatever the case may be. And we strategically picked that weekend to host mammoth tough because we, it would be nice to bring enough people back up to that area that, you know, maybe the kamikaze games could come back in the future. It would, that's like the big goal is to turn it into a nice bike festival of sorts. Again, whether that's, you know, gravel and mountain or whatever. But it's, it does have such a rich history in bike racing period. And so that was part of the reason why we wanted to go back there. And the nice thing about that weekend is it's still the, the closing weekend of the bike park. So it's the last time, you know, the chairlifts are running and you can still go ride mountain bikes if you want to. And your friends can do the gravel race if they're dumb enough to. So tell us the details. What's the actual date and what does the event look like? How long is it? What does the climbing look like? Yeah, so it's September 19th, 2020, if we're still allowed to be in mammoth at that time. Right now they're, you know, obviously trying to keep visitors away from mono County. And yeah, it is a short distance of around 41 ish miles and the long distance, I just went through the route again today it's 108 miles and it's going to be a doozy. And yeah, I would highly suggest if you're like concerned at all about the distance of doing 108 and eight miles at that elevation to start with the shorter one. Because if you're questioning it at all, I would rather have you finish the event and get a taste of what it's going to be. And that was kind of the way that we wanted to set it up anyways, to make it like a stepping stone of sorts to get into the, to be able to do 108 miles up there. But the cool thing is also a lot of the short course is most of it's actually going to use roads that aren't in the long course route as well. So it's a complete, almost a different event cause it's going to be in a different area. And yeah, so hopefully those two options are going to be good for people. The, that weekend is also the same time they do October Fest in the village. So we've partnered with them to know, you know, do food and beer and all that stuff at the end. So it's kinda nice that they have a party set up for us. Yeah. That's totally handy. And that the mammoth, the start lines at about 8,000 feet, is that correct? Yes. And that's pretty much as high as you'll get, cause you're going to go downhill from there and then back up to that elevation and you might match 8,000 at some point, but you're never going to be climbing over that. So it's not going to be anything crazy like Leadville. Okay. That's good to know. Cause I was thinking a couple thousand more feet of climbing at thousand feet. The lights are gonna turn off. Yeah, no, yeah, yeah, no, I mean, it's going to be hard though. It's one of those, like another reason why we wanted to do this event, I go and ride up there a lot because it's really great training because of the altitude. And it's, it's so funny riding up there consistently and knowing like exactly how much lower your power is than at sea level, because it's, it's so hard, but it's a lot of fun. It's pretty, it's worth it. Now. It's exciting that that type of event is now on the calendar because I think like Leadville and other sort of high elevation events, they just become this interesting thing, this interesting challenge in the community, just something different to target, right? Like I know I can ride 108 miles, but can I do it at 8,000 feet of elevation? Yeah. Yeah, for sure. And I think that's, that's one of the cool things that makes gravel so great period, is that everything about it and all these different events, there's something unique at all of them, you know? And they're like, I like to think there are, there's like the Midwest style gravel rolling Hills. And then there's also this like mountain gravel, which, you know, it's funny to call it that, but there is that separate discipline. That's completely different from a Kanza or a grovel worlds where there are sustained climbs. And that makes it a very different event than something where it's con rollers like the whole time. Some like lost. I'm glad you mentioned that because it's been something that I've tried to tease out over the last couple of years because it, when I got into gravel and I chose like a bike that maxed out at 38 C tire, actually less 36 see tires, I was like, this is just not the right bike for me, but it dawned on me like for the things I was reading about in the Midwest, it probably was a totally suitable bike. And for me, you know, I ended up in this sort of mountain style gravel here in Marin County and I won't shut up about six 50 B, 40 sevens and 50 tires. And I'd probably go even bigger if my current frame allowed it. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And, and that's, what's so cool about it. Like I said, like, that's your definition of it. You have your equipment that fits that. And there are people that, you know, are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum where like their definition of a gravel of ant is doing Belgium waffle ride every year. And that's like, you know, a road bike with 28 seat tires. So, you know, you can find anything in between. I'm always surprised when people online will totally discount something, like take the Niner, MCR, the full suspension bike, like it does have a home unequivocally I'm prepared to say that like, that is a great bike for some writer. Whereas, you know, as you said, it may be totally unsuitable for some writers out there in their native terrain. Yeah, exactly. And That's the great thing about it is that there's something for everyone and it's, you get to define what you want gravel to be. That's the great thing is like it's not road racing or crit racing where there's a pretty good definition. You know, what to expect in those events. And gravel is like, well, you can get a little bit of this and a little bit of that. And like you can pick a small event that is 200 people, or you can pick a big event that has got 5,000 like and anything in between. So I like that it's up to you to define what you want it to be. Yeah. And then the other thing is like the personality of the bike can change with just the simple change of tire. Yeah, yeah. For sure. I was just talking to somebody. Yeah, Yeah. Go ahead Amanda. Oh, so I was just talking to somebody about you know, what's the, the, the easiest thing I can do to make like a gravel ride comfortable. And I said like tubeless tires and like wider tires and that's it. And it's so true how it's something very small and minuscule, but if you take the time to figure out right tire pressures and good sealant and all that stuff, it could make a world of difference and make the ride quality completely different. And like a lot of these bikes with the same, to be quite honest and, you know, but the difference between having 60 PSI and knowing that you can get away with 23 PSI in a specific tire and make it super cushy, that's a huge difference. And it's going to be the difference between rattling your brains out and like having a nice, smooth ride Totally. And having, just getting that skill set. I think of being able to change a tubeless tire is important as gravel cyclists, because you can really maximize your enjoyment. Like I, I have some sort of semi slick tires that I put on the bikes specifically to explore further routes that are, are gonna involve more road riding. And like, I, I would not take that route with my knobby tires just because I'm like, why would I do that? But once I put a semi slick on all of a sudden, I'm like, cool, I can ride 20 miles on a road and explore some gravel that I've never seen before. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. And in that, in that same vein I started working with Rene Herse this year and on their tires and that's opened my eyes in like what's possible with a really fat wide you think is a slow tire and it ends up being super fast and awesome. And being able to like change tire pressures on a ride, you know, if you know, you're gonna have to be on the road for an hour, you know, you can pump it up a little bit and then as you get to dirt, take some out. But yeah, it's been fun. I've had the privilege of not having a tire sponsor for all the years that I've been doing gravel stuff and I've had the ability to just test whatever and ride a lot. I love there's like certain that I'll ride for certain events because I know that they have tires that fit that. And then, you know, I don't have like a deal per se with a Renee her's tires this year, but, you know, they're giving me the opportunity to test a bunch of their stuff and find out what I like in that line. And it's been fun cause I, you know, as a cyclocross nerd tire choice and pressure and all that stuff is huge in that discipline. And it's been a lot of fun to carry that over into gravel because you go from like four or five different tread options to like 400 different tread options. So yeah, yeah. Right on, well, as we close the podcast section of this conversation, is there any advice you'd give up and coming women athletes who are looking to gravel as kind of an opportunity in the cycling space? Oh yeah. That's a good question. I think the, the biggest piece of advice I have is like, don't be afraid to just try something new. I, I was lucky enough to have a lot of friends that wanted to go do these crazy adventure rides with me. And I think that that's a big barrier to entry for a lot of women is feeling uncomfortable to go do it themselves. But what I've found is that there are a lot of like really inclusive, welcoming people in the community that even if you go do one of them by yourself and you're afraid to go do it, I promise you'll make a friend when you're out there riding. And that's, I think my favorite part about doing these events is like, I'll go in it knowing six or seven people, my teammates, you know, guys that I want to ride with. And I ended up finishing the event with a bunch of other friends because, you know, stuff happens out there and you end up with people that are riding similar strength to you. And that's the best part it's like walking away at the finish and you're like, Oh, I'm going to find you on Strava. Or like, okay. Yeah, here's my Instagram. And you make new friends. And I think that's, that's the best part, but it is scary to jump in and commit to it. So that's my, my biggest thing is just try it. Yeah. I think that's great advice, Amanda. And I think that's a good place to end the podcast section. So thanks for coming on to report the record the podcast this week. And we had Amanda, we had one more, we had one more question that came over Instagram about the Michigan coast to coast. And just, I think just generally getting your feelings on that race About it, like should do it. Yes. Yeah. So I did, I've done the past two years when it including the inaugural year and that started because Matt Aker came up to me after mid South in 2018 and he was like, Hey, I'm doing this crazy 200 mile race in Michigan. And all I was thinking of was like, I dunno if I can do another 200 miles in the same year as you know, doing 200 for dirty Kanza, but they convinced me to go. And the, I knew mento Dijon was going to go and at the time he was writing for cliff and also writing for Niner. So I think we both were like, okay, let's just go do it and see what happens. And it ended up being awesome. It's this point to point race. And do you normally the like closer to the end of June? So you have like three or four weeks after dirty Kanza to get ready for it. I tell people if you don't get into dirty Kanza, you should do Michigan coast to coast because it's a good backup plan. You know, if you don't get in the lottery for decay. And it's a super fun, I like it. The, the fact that it's a point to point is a pro and a con the pro is that it's awesome to never have to see the same thing twice. And then the con is logistically it's kind of hard to plan for because you're, you gotta get your car to one end, you know, or whatever your transportation is. But there's a lot of people that will do the relay. So your, your partner does the first hundred and then, you know, you switch and somebody does the second hundred, which is pretty cool. Okay. And do they have, do they have like a bus or something that will bring you back if you have to get back to your car? Yeah. There's I think the service that they do is you, you park your car at the end and then they like take you that morning or something. I don't remember. Yeah. Yeah. But it's a lot of fun. It's definitely unique. The psycho crossers out there will enjoy it. Cause there's a ton of sand. So I know like a few people that did the event that weren't expecting that weren't very happy about it. Cause like you have to know how to ride sand and or else it sucks. Oh man. I'm, I'm all for it in events to throw different skillsets at you. Cause I think I want to see that, like I want to see the winner having good power on sort of flat, you know, the gravelly Rowley roads, but also have the technical skills to handle rock gardens and sand, sand pits, everything. Yeah. Yeah. For sure. I mean, and that's, you know, not to throw too much shade, but that was why I was really excited to see how Stetten his year was going to go. Cause he's such a roadie that like how how's he gonna, you know, bike handle at some of these events? Yeah. I mean, clearly like anybody who's spent as much time on the bike to become a pro roadie, like they're going to have the handling skills, but I did notice like, you know, you were too busy racing, but I was watching that coverage of mid South. And when, when it got gunked up on the bike and he's like, man handling his derailer, I couldn't help. But think like here's the disaster waiting to happen. Whereas, yeah. Whereas Payson's like dipping his bike and, you know, shedding the mud and very carefully shifting gears knowing that like, if they've all falls apart, it's on him. So I thought that was fascinating. And I'm kind of with you, I don't want to throw shade, but I was kinda like, yeah, like you have to have experience in the dirt and grit and mud. I want, I want you to have to have that to win these races. Yeah. Yeah. And it's, it's not so much shade as it is. Like, that's what makes this stuff interesting. Like, you know, he's all in to try and win this stuff you're like, but should you have really written through the mud like that? And you messed up your derailleur. Yeah. And like looking at BWR, it's like, you know, okay cool. Like if, if I realized that, you know, it's going to be won and lost in the dirt, but it's a different skill set than a full dirt race, you know, I think that's interesting. You do see different athletes shining there. They're not going to make them shine at some of these other gnarlier events. Yeah. Yeah. It's funny. Cause when I was talking to Renee Harris at the beginning of this year about doing the tires, you know, Ted King obviously rides those tires and I got her on the phone with him to talk about stuff and he's like, yeah, you know, I rode the 30 fives at Belgian waffle ride. And his thought process was hoping that Stefano was going to have a hard time in the dirt and that the 30 fives would be an advantage for Ted. And it's like, I love stuff like that. I love like the thinking and the thought process behind all of that. Well, that's definitely my jam. I'm just hoping it gets really, really technical if I'm ever going to get ahead of anybody. Yeah, exactly. Out of my way. All right, Amanda. Well, this was awesome. I appreciate you making the time to catch up with us. And it was, it was fun to see this and do this looking at you face to face. Yeah, yeah. For sure. You, you've got a lot of great podcasts and you know, as somebody that was trying to put on an event for the first time this year, you have a lot of great conversations with race promoters. And it's, you know, I want to say thank you for doing that because it's a different side and angle of this discipline that I don't think people talk enough about like, yeah, there's so many great events and stuff, but the work that goes into putting on an event, like you talked to Sam and you talk to the Mount lemon, you know, gravel grinder guys, like all those stories, it all comes from a love of the places that you ride. And I think that that's so cool. And it's great to see all these promoters, you know, wanting to share the great roads that they know about with everybody else. And, and that's something I think that's so unique to, to this discipline. So it's great to hear that side of the story and I, and I appreciate you taking the time to talk to those people, not just, you know, bike racers that are trying to go smash it on those roads. Yeah, yeah, no, I appreciate those kind words and absolutely. I mean, I think now more than ever, we need to be showering, love and respect on event organizers. And as we've talked about offline, like this, fall's going to be complicated in terms of there's going to be so many great events. And you know, my advice to people is just put as many on your calendar as you can possibly do and kind of spread the love around between different events. Because if we're not supporting the event, organizing community, they're not going to be around next year. No one is, this is not generally speaking of money, making venture for anybody. It's really coming out of a love of showcasing the great roads trails in their neck of the woods, as you said. So. Yeah, I think it's super important. Yeah. Yeah. So, I mean, what, what were you going to be at? Let's say we're allowed to start racing August. What was your August and September going to look like? Yes, it's a good question. So I had a little bit of a back issue over the winter, so I was kind of like personally looking towards the end of the year already. So, you know, not say the pandemic worked in my favorite cause it's been utter hell, but yeah, I wanted to do lost and found. I wanted to do Rebecca's private Idaho. I was thinking about the Oregon trail, gravel grinder, but worried, I might not have the time to spend a week up there, but I love what those guys have created up there. Yeah. Yeah. So those were the three that were on my mind. And then here in Marin County, we've got adventure revival. There's a bunch of the grasshoppers that are awesome. So like wherever they might fit into my life, I would love to kind of add those guys in because again, the community is great. They're mellow. Like the Miguel, the organizers just been, he knows how to do it. Right. And it doesn't feel overblown, but it doesn't feel under done as well. Yeah, so those are my thoughts. I still like super excited to go to Idaho. If that works out, I've got a podcast coming up with Rebecca and like she was preaching to the choir whenever she says things like, Oh, I wanted to put something more mountain biking in here. I'm like, yes, because I could, I could at least thrive in one section of the course. And I love, I love being in the mountains. And you know, when I heard about mammoth tough, I had a similar type reaction. I'm like, that's one. I definitely want to get on my longterm list because like, I just know when I'm looking around, it's going to be, it's going to just fill my soul with joy. And that's, I mean, that for me, that's what the mountains do. And those are the events that I'm generally drawn towards. Yeah. Yeah. For sure. And I know what you mean and yeah, it's kinda, I just wonder what's going to happen later this year. I know that look, were you planning on being a dirty Kanza Or no, I wasn't going to be able to make it okay. Yeah. Yeah. And that moving to September you know, I listened to the conversation with Jim and you know, all the weather and everything seems like it should be pretty similar to the conditions in June. But I, at the same time, like, I don't even know how many people are going to be comfortable traveling still at that time. And that's what makes me weary about all these events coming up. And you know, in two weeks from now, we can look back on this conversation and just laugh. Cause maybe it's not even possible at all. But I'd like to remain hopeful, you know, that some stuff keeps happening. Oh, I do want to take a minute and remind people to freaking quit riding in groups. Do you need to go on that rent? Cause it's still happening and I am. Yeah. I'm not happy about it. Every time I go out on the weekend specifically, I'm like, I know all of you don't live together. This needs to stop I'm with you as well. Yeah. Instagram is throwing up a timer that says I have one 48 left. So apparently there's a time limit on this thing. And we found it. I feel like super accomplished that we hit it. Nice. Nice. Alright cool. Well Amanda, thanks again. And we'll talk again soon. All right. Thanks. Yeah. Thanks everyone.  
June 2, 2020
The global Covid-19 crisis has lead to the cancelation or postponement of most gravel events this year.   With community health of utmost importance, race directors have and continue to have to make tough decisions about their events.  Meanwhile, professional and amateur gravel athletes alike have been forced to create new goals and objectives.  The Lyman Agency brought together a who's who of the gravel event and gravel racing community to have a friendly conversation about what is next for gravel and how we all should be looking at 2020 and beyond.  Panelists Directors-- Amy Charity, SBT Grvl; Bobby Wintle, Mid South; Burke Swindlehurst, Crusher in the Tushar; LeLan Dains, Dirty Kanza; Rebecca Rusch, RPI; Steve Matous, NICA ED (until 2:30).  Pros--  Amanda Nauman, Colin Strickland, Kaysee Armstrong, Payson McElveen, Pete Stetina, Ted King. Support the Podcast.
May 26, 2020
This week on the podcast we speak with 'The Queen of Pain' Rebecca Rusch about her gravel event, Rebecca's Private Idaho and The Be Good Foundation. Episode Links: Support the Podcast  Rebecca's Private Idaho Rebecca Rusch Instagram  Automated Transcription (please excuse the typos) Rebecca, thanks for joining the show. Oh, it's awesome to be here. I'm stoked. Thanks. As is customary. Even though you've got to have well-documented history. I'd love to just hear how you got into gravel riding specifically. It's kind of funny cause I got into gravel. I'm kicking and screaming. I was forced into it. I'm a mountain biker. For those who don't know, I'm a mountain biker, a at heart and rock climber. And had a sponsor that really wanted me to go to this race called the dirty Kanza. And that was maybe 10 years ago, nine, 10 years ago. And I didn't want to go mostly because 200 miles on a gravel road to me seemed like a death by boredom. And it was the first race that I used headphones and was kind of looking, the distance didn't scare me. It was more I, I just wasn't intrigued by riding on roads as a mountain biker. And I was really surprised when I went at how unique and interesting and how gravel roads are really, you know, kind of the combination of the cool things about mountain biking and cool things about road and really were sort of a melting pot in a way where you needed technical skills to kind of maneuver the chunky gravel and you needed some road skills to sort of stay alive at the beginning and find a wheel if you could. But really it was, it trended a lot more towards the solo mountain bike. Things that I really gravitated to. And really going to that event was the impetus for me to launch Rebecca's private Idaho. And I'd always wanted to launch an event in my hometown because it's a really special place. I wanted to support my community to some fundraising rides, but I always thought it was going to be a mountain bike stage race. And it ended up, you know, once I got intrigued by gravel and the second event I did that year was an event called Levi's grand Fonda, which is a road event. And again, a sponsor made me go. And I was pleasantly surprised at the community that they built around that with a festival and a party and all sorts of things for everybody from, from kids to elite athletes. And so the combination of those two events in one year really inspired me to take, you know, some of the best things I love about riding, which is, you know, being alone and you know, out in the wilderness and having a really kind of solo experience, but then also coming together as a group in a community at the end to really celebrate. And that really is kind of the flavor of, of what Rebecca's private Idaho is about. And so, yeah, I was, I got involved as an athlete because my job required it, but it really did sort of spawned this whole new facet of my riding in my career. That opened a lot of doors for me. There's places in my hometown I've never written. So I started exploring for a course for private Idaho. I was just like, wow, I've never been here. I've never been here in Idaho. Has a lot of dirt roads. So it's a, it's been a really fun multi-year experience for me and I never could have imagined that I, you know, what I launched was a really big event. We're going into year eight now. And I, I just did not expect even anyone would come. Or that, you know, I was on the front end of this sort of gravel explosion. I had no idea. I was just presenting what seemed cool to me and a style of writing that seemed fun for me. And little did I know it was gonna eight years later be really kind of blowing up. I'm in the cycling world. Yeah. Yeah. One of the things, and one of the reasons I was excited to talk to you today as I share a mountain bike passion and a mountain bike background, and I think sort of anecdotally, it seems like a lot of people get drawn into gravel from the roadside of the market, not necessarily the mountain bike, mountain bikers, you know, we've all written those sections and experienced those high fives. You're like, why would I ever want to go on the road or why would I ever want to ride gravel? Like mountain biking is so fun, but as you noted, there's, there's something different about the gravel bike and it's not to take anything away from our shared continued love of the mountain bike, but the idea that you can explore a little bit further than your normal mountain bike loop and you can forgive yourself. The notion like, Oh, I might just ride on a road for a little while to get somewhere. I definitely found myself getting out the Marine County map trail map and sort of just tracing out places I wanted to explore that I just never would have reached on my mountain bike. Totally. I did the same thing like I've lived here for almost 20 years and I just started looking at maps and seeing like can I connect these dots? And it was super exciting for me. And I do feel like you touched on something that's really special about gravel is that it is exploratory and it is this feeling of like what's around the next corner and can I go a little further? And you know, I've been that kind of, I've had that sort of spirit and mentality of explorations even since I was a little kid. Like I would camp in my backyard. I wanted to like see what was the next block over. And with all my sports that I've done, I've just kind of wanted to see what was over the next Hill. And cycling really has provided such a great template for that because like you said, you can just go further on a bike than you can walking, you know? And I love paddling and climbing and hiking and running, but I can see more on a bike. And so it's that childlike curiosity in me that you know, is alive and well and the bike is such a good, a great tool for that. And I think that's one of the really cool things about the gravel event community is you're seeing event organizers over the country basically take what you and I just described, that passion for their local community, that obsessing over maps and trying to figure out the best routes and then saying, I finally nailed it. Come to Vermont, come to Kansas, come to Oklahoma. These are the roads you want to ride. So you don't have to think about it. Just get over here and I'm going to take you on the best tour possible for the next hundred or 200 miles. It's so cool. And I think that is where you touch on something. You know I talked about how gravel is, is really is kind of a coming together, a meeting place a mixing pot of gravel or of road community and mountain bike community. But the spirit to me and what you just described of life, like Going to explore, offering checkoff at this cool route, this spirit to me it feels much more like it's not to dis Yeah. When, Oh this is really, Cause it's, it's in there. The road aspect of steering a meter, you know, catching that next person and getting on a wheel and not losing a wheel wheel and you're, you're so focused on staying in the draft that you're not looking at the Sioux all the time and think when roadies could be shaped sort of the dirty, gritty, you know, different nature of gravel level. And I think that's why mountain bikers like it to be true because it does feel it's dirt in, you know, it's, Oh, it's like the dirt. There are mites like something this isn't totally smooth underneath your tire. And you know, as people come in and as gravel Travel grows and grows, it's real. That's really important to me. That's roots and gravel community maintain that grittiness of grit, call it that. And that gravel doesn't become just a cookie cutter of what didn't, didn't work on the road. And I know U S USA cycling is looking at that kind of stuff and people will, you know, the community is, is kind of like what's going to happen with gravel. And I think, I think what's really cool as we have these discussions, discussions, and we're in this sort of like, we're probably in the, in the golden age of, of gravel events right now as they're growing, they're popping up people, people are loving them, but there's also the growing pains of the pains of like what is gravel, what's it going to become? Come. And there is a, there is a uniqueness in every single single event and mine's more towards my personality as a mountain biker and I'm going to try to make it as rough and technical and, and off-road as possible. Where another other event might trend more towards a road aspect. Like, like Belgian waffle ride is a good example where there's a lot more pavement and it's not to say it's not a good, a good event, but it has a very different style and personality that you then, then what my event would and, and I, I liked that they're all different. I think that's really important for him to maintain that uniqueness. Yeah. I think that's great. As as we currently have a schedule or a calendar that allows athletes to kind of go wherever they want. And there's not like this, Oh you have to do these five events in order to win some sort of calendar. Cause I think the danger there is yeah, you want to have events that have multiple different personalities. I love the idea of an event testing everybody's skillset from raw horsepower to super, super technical terrain. Yeah. Yeah. I mean that's why I launched a stage race in the way that I did the queen stage race, which Chaz, you know, stage one is all an motorized trail 50% single track. And then stage two is a five mile uphill time trial, you know, which suits a totally the road. Please love that one. I've had some of the mountain bikers beg me to get rid of that stage. You know, it's like, no, I'm not getting rid of it. And then the third stage is, you know, the, the, the long course, the baked potato around the a hundred miler that has as kind of a bit of everything. And so, so yeah, I I, you know, try to offer up something for everything and the, you know, the regular private Idaho course. So one day there's, you know, sections where, you know, the big Hill climb at the beginning. Trail Creek summit is a, you know, more than thousand foot climb and you know, that really separates everybody. And then there's a couple of small sections where if you do have a road and, and pace land mining skills, you can hop in with people and then I throw them for a loop and get people off on a really rough double track that I call LD abuelito. It was a new five mile section this year and not really split everybody up on the way back home. And some people loved it, some people hated it. But yeah, I want to offer places on the course that suit a variety of different riots writers so that you may hate me on what part of the course, but you're going to look at me on another part of the course. Yeah, I love that. Personally as an athlete, I love, I love when I hate my bike during one section saying like, Oh, I made it to off-roading on this road section. Like I feel like that's the Mark of a good course designer. Yeah. Yeah. We're gonna, we're here today really to talk about your event. Rebecca's private Idaho. Can you just kind of break it down for everybody? What are the dates? Where is it located? You talked a little bit about why you started it, but I'd love to hear it just a little bit more specifically about the event and what people can expect. Yeah, the is labor day weekend, so this year that falls on September 3rd through six and you know, the main event is on Sunday of labor day and that has everything. Now. We've grown to a 20 mile tater tot route to the, you know, 60 ish mile French fry and a hundred mile baked potato root. And those are all on the Sunday of labor day weekend. I've also expanded to include the queen stage race, which is a three day gravel stage race that takes place over four days. And really what I found is Ketchum, Idaho, sun Valley, Idaho, where I live, my hometown is where the event takes place and it is off the beaten path. It's the reason I call it Rebecca's private Idaho. Because it is quiet and, and intimate here and it's a small town and it's hard to get to. And that's why I put it on labor day weekend. One is, it's a beautiful time of the year here, but also to allow people that extra holiday to travel. Because once you get here, what I find is people don't come for one day. They come here and they want to stay a few extra days and they want to explore a little bit more. And that's why after about the fifth year of private Idaho, I launched the stage race because people have asked me, Oh, this year we're going to come, we're going to say a few more days. Where can I ride? Where can I ride next? And so I decided to just put that platter out for everybody to select from. And you know, and there's a big parade that weekend, my goal was, was not just to host a bike event, but to really show people this special place to support my community, to support bike charities and eventually my foundation that I launched. And so, and also I want my friends to stay a little longer. You know, we've all been to those bike races where you drive up in your car, you got your gear, you, you know, unload, get dressed right at the back of your car, go do the race, load up your car and go home. I didn't want that kind of experience. I wanted, you know a bigger sort of by end of the season bike celebration. And that's, that's what it has grown to become. It's, it's really cool. I really look forward to it. But I, and I do try to, the reason we've launched different distances and is to try to welcome everybody in. So the tater tot, for example, it's 20 miles. It's non-competitive and hopefully it's a stepping stone for people who've never tried gravel or you know, parents of kids who want to ride and then they step up to the French fried and they step up to the big potato. And I have a course in my head, 125 mile course that eventually I'll add when I can call the twice big potato. So, and Rebecca on that tater tot route, is that sort of dirt roads that kind of, you know, anybody who's sort Of comfortable riding a bike is likely to be able to achieve? Yeah, totally. It's about 50% payment, 50% dirt, and you get a nice little taste of this cool road called corral Creek, or you ride out and you get a view of the pioneer mountains. And it is kind of like this little little teaser to, to one show you that, Hey, riding on growls just fine. And number two to make you feel like you want to see what's over that next Hill on the pioneer mountains. Cool. Nice. And then does the French fry get into any sort of dual track or single truck, The French fries and the big potato they had out the same way. And so you know, you climb the really big Hill at the beginning up to trail Creek summit and that's the same route that the wagons came over during the or days, you know, where they were mining for or across the Hills. They come over that same Hill and much of that terrain as you had up and over that Hill. It's kind of the gateway into the copper basin, which is very remote, very few homes. It really looks the same as it did a hundred years ago and it's the same route that the giant wagons traveled over. And that's the parade that we have is our wagon days parade. So it's pretty cool. Once you leave Catchum, you know, you ride about 20 minutes on pavement then you drop cell phone coverage, then you hit the dirt and you don't get off the dirt until you return back to town. So you really do, it is kind of a gateway for me into like going back in time and you leave the technology, you, you leave it all behind and, and climb up and over trail Creek summit, that first big climb, that's the biggest climb of the route, which people are always kind of like, Oh my gosh, it's such a big climb. But what's really nice is it's pretty cold in the mornings in the mountains at that time of year. And so it does two things. It warms everybody up and it also really breaks apart the groups. And so it's nice if you're, you're nervous about riding in a big group or like me, you, you like to ride in smaller groups. The trail Creek Hill climb really does kind of separate everyone. So you end up with these nice pods of, you know, might be a 1500 person start line, but almost immediately it doesn't feel like that because the Hill kind of puts you where you know where you should be and people that are riding your speed and it instantly makes the community feel smaller. And that's the biggest climb of the day. So I was telling people once you're up and over that, you know, it's not the biggest challenge of the day, but it's definitely the biggest climb of the day that you get out of the way early. And how much, how much elevation are you gaining in that climb? I think it's about 1200 feet. So you know, you go from, you go from, you go from 58, 6,000 feet up to eight. No, it's, I have to look, I should know this number. It's, yeah, it's, it's over a thousand feet of climbing. And so a nice big time you know, I think fastest times are, you know, 35 ish minutes up at S, you know, up to twice as long as that. So, so you get warmed up right away, get nice and nice and sweaty and into the group, and then you really do drop into what feels like you're going back into time into the copper basin in that area. And both the tater tot and or sorry, both the French fry and the baked potato go up and over and do the same beginning part of the course and share a lot of the same course. Cool. And then, so you're over that Hill then what's next on the big of the baked potato? Yeah, in the copper basin. You know, then you hit some nice smooth fast road for a while where the road diesel will be enjoying that. It's a pretty well traveled road. But then we hang a right over towards wild horse. It gets chunky again. And what's cool, the summit that you've climbed over for trail Creek, you're, you're crossing the pioneer mountains. And so the view from Ketchum, you see the pioneers from, you know, from the one side, from the West, and then you cross over and you, you just get these beautiful views of this mountain range from the other side. And so you're completely on the other side of the range. It's very remote. You'll see antelope, you'll see you know, probably more wildlife and definitely more bicycles than you will cars. And it's all public land out there. There's a few ranches but mostly it's public land. And so it's, it's really a special place. And there I do, like I said, I do put people on a couple turnoffs that are nice and chunky. So WildHorse Canyon is a Canyon that both courses go up the French fry and the baked potato and that gets real chunky and you know, loose gravel and splits. The Peloton is apart again. And then that's the point where the French fry folks turn around and head home back to catch them. And the baked potato people continue on to copper basin loop road, which is, you know, your along the big lost river for a while, which is really beautiful. And then you do the copper basin loop, and that's the most remote loop. It's 23 mile loop. I think that's one of the hardest parts of the course, cause you're the first, the furthest out you have the longest stretch between rest stops. And the road is, is quite bumpy, can be quite windy. But it's also in my opinion, the most beautiful part of the course and you really are rewarded with these stunning views of the mountains. So I try to get people to look up if they can back there. And then you have the long journey home. You know, at that point when you finished copper basin, you still got 30 miles to get, to get back to catch him. And you know, there is a very predictable headwind that happens every day. You will have a headwind going home from private Idaho. It's just how it is. The slower you are, the stronger your headwind will be. So it's motivation to get yourself back up and over been over trail Creek, your last rest stop. And then one of the most beautiful distance in the world over the climb that you came up in the morning is back into Ketchum down the trail Creek you know, Hill climb and, and back to the wood river Valley. And it's pretty special. I mean I, I train on that Hill all the time cause it's really nice, awesome grade of a Hill. And I never used to see anybody like doing intervals or riding up and down that Hill. And what's cool now is I see people all the time just out there and it's, it's pretty awesome. Yeah. And for those of you haven't been to Idaho, I encourage you to go on Rebecca site, the Rebecca private Idaho site, and check out some of the images. They just look spectacular. I love it. It's pretty special. And that's the point. You know, we ride our bikes to challenge ourselves and I'm all about being competitive and pushing myself and going hard. But we also ride our bikes to be with our tribe and then to be in a beautiful place. And it really is, you know, people place and purpose, you know, those are kind of the things that, that drive me for private Idaho is the people that get to come here and be part of it and, and share this special place that I live. And then the purpose, which is, you know, as we talked about a little bit about the be good foundation and helping other people ride bikes. Yeah. Yeah. So we talked about how you can pop in, you can do just the Sunday event, but you've, you've created this whole kind of four day ride experience. So if you're signing up for the whole shebang, I know we do a rider meeting on Wednesday, but tell us about Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Yeah. So Thursdays Of course. And I will say, you know, this stage Reese at this point I'm the queen stage race. It is sold out because it's only, my permit only allows 250 people. And so it's a much smaller offering as I can expand that I will. And so for those of you who are bummed, you're not in the stage race. I do have on, on Saturday there's a ride. On Thursday we do a, a night or Friday we do a night ride. That is a we're a dark sky preserve. And we're also we have some history with Ernest Hemingway here who lived here. He wrote here and eventually took his life here. And so we do a dark sky reserve, Hemingway ride to some of his haunts, like his grave and the Hemingway Memorial and read some poetry. So even if you're not in the stage race, I do try to put in a whole bunch of rides that are open to anybody so that if you come here for a few days you have something to do with us. And there's the parade. We have two different expos. So if you're not in a stage race, don't be all bummed out and sign up earlier next year. But stage one is and they're all different with this. The goal of this stage race was to show people three very distinct, different parts of the wood river Valley. And so stage one is it the Galena, Galena lodge trails. And that is mostly single track mountain bike trails really that are rideable a hundred gravel bike. You know, and you do have to use the same bike for all three stages. You can change tires, but you know, you can't ride a mountain bike. And stage one, a TT bike on stage two, for example. And so stage one is a lot of single track, quite a bit of climbing. You're up at higher elevation. I'm about 50% single track. And then the other 50% is a non-motorized trail that is our cross country ski trail and sort of double track ish wide. But that's the Harriman trail and that goes to up and down the entire wood river Valley. And so you do a bunch of single track and then you drop onto the Harriman trail. And that's a about a 50 mile stage. And I think when you times are about three hours, but it's, it's, it's cool because you're doing like whooped dues and bermed corners and you know, roots and rocks. You know, on a mountain bike it would feel like easy single track. But on a gravel bike and it gets pretty spicy, there's a lot of flat tires. There's, there's a lot to be said. If, if you have the skill of a mountain biker you're just going to be able to avoid flats a little better, be smoother, you know, and find a better line. So it, the mountain bikers really love that stage. And I think for the gravel writers, what's cool is it really shows you where you can take your gravel bike. I have had so many people finish that stage who were like, Oh my gosh, now this opens up a whole like menu for me at home. I didn't know I could take my gravel bike on that type of riding. And that's, I really love that because it opens their mind to go explore where they live. And then stage two is I, stage two is probably my favorite stage because the race part of it is only five, four and a half miles, the uphill time trial. But the whole stage together is 50 miles because there's like a 20 mile neutral ride out to this very remote Hill called dollar summit. And then a neutral ride back. And so it's kind of the best, it's the best part because everybody's riding chill. They want to save their legs for the, their race segment, the time segment. And so for 20 miles, you're just riding and chatting with all my friends and all the pros are up there talking to each other and it's cool. Social ride with a really hard uphill time trial. And then a social ride home and there's hot Springs on the way back. You always see people who are like got into the hot Springs and they're soaking there on the way back from the ride. And so it just feels really festive. Even though you know you're going to taste blood in your mouth on the uphill part of the time trial the rest of it is super fun and exciting and, and I really love that stage. It's my favorite one. And then there's a rest day for the stage race folks and that Saturday and so that's the day of the parade. We have a big social ride. If people want to do that, that is free to anybody. We have our welcome expo that happens with, you know, vendors and you know, all that kind of good stuff. So Saturday is a pretty fun social day. And then Sunday, you know, of course is the big day with the baked potato, the French fry and the tater tot and 1500 people all lining up. And then, you know, when we finish, we have a giant expo with live music and you know, shooting potato guns and you know, there's a game we had called Gulen de coughing that is sort of like you know, sliding beers into the air and trying to catch them and pour them on your face. But yeah, I mean, people take it seriously when, you know, they're the writing of chill Creek, but the idea is to celebrate when you come back. And, and we've had we had a wedding at the finish line last year. That was pretty exciting. There's a lot of cool stuff that goes on at the end. Yeah, it sounds like an amazing weekend. In addition to the amazing writing and event that you've put together, you're also focused on raising some money for your, the be good foundation, right? Yeah, exactly. And I'm, you know, private item has always been a fundraising ride and I've always partnered with sorry, I can hear my dog bark panel here. That's Gracie. So private Idaho has always been a fundraising ride since you're number one. And my goal really was to give back to bike charities that I feel really strongly about and I wanted to do that on a local, national and global scale. And so locally we have combined, we have partnered with our wood river trails coalition, which, you know, takes care of our trails here and our local Idaho, Idaho high school cycling league. So those are our local partners nationally, people for bikes, which if you don't know, they do the hard work. With the government to maintain transportation funding for bikes and pedestrian and you know, non-motorized transportation support around, you know, the U S and then globally the world bicycle relief, which, which helps provide bikes for people in Africa to make their lives easier to get to school, get to market. And so from year number one, I've always partnered with those groups. Last year I was able to officially launch my foundation called the be good foundation and the be good mission statement, you know, it was the impetus for, it was the ride I did down the whole human trail to find the place where my dad's plane was shot down and I came back from that ride realizing I could use my bike for a bigger purpose. And so I launched the be good foundation in his name because it is how my dad signed all of the letters home from the Vietnam war that he wrote to us. And so I felt like he was giving me a message and I was able to officially launch the foundation last year. And the mission statement really is to use the bike as a catalyst for empowerment, healing evolution. And so I have kind of three main categories that I work under. One is clearing unexploded ordinance in Laos along the [inaudible] trail and the bombs that are still left there from the Vietnam war. And so every year I do a big fundraising ride over there and do a lot of work to clear those bombs. And second big mission is to provide bike access for people from Idaho to Africa. And that's where private Idaho falls in, is putting bikes in more people's hands under their legs. And, and you know, whether they're using a bike in Africa to get to school or whether a kid is using a bike to with the high school cycling league to find confidence and learn who they are or, you know, or you're riding with me, I'm in private Idaho. And so, so that's the second big mission. And then the third big mission of the be good is protecting public lands and the spaces where we want to all ride. And I honestly believe that nature is therapy for people and if we don't protect these public spaces you know, one, we don't have anywhere to ride our bikes, but I also feel like our sort of emotional health is really tied to open spaces. And so that's what the be good, excuse me. That's what the be good foundation is about. And it's so cool to see how many people come together during private Idaho and year round. Actually people are realizing that you and me and a lot of us really do need that tool. It's a simple two wheeled machine. That really does do a lot more than just make us physically strong. Yeah, absolutely. I think in this time where this year where we've all experienced personal and municipal restrictions around our time and where we can go, it's become all the more important and all the more kind of valued. When you're able to get out there and ride amongst all this turmoil in the world, you can just free yourself. Do you, as you said before, when you get over that first mountain pass and you just feel like you're in this remote area, it's so invigorating and revitalizing for your soul. Yes, it is. I know. And it's like, it's hard as that Hill is. It does. It's like an entry, you know, you work super hard physically to get up the top of trail Creek and then you're just like, okay, you know, and you get this downhill on this breath of fresh air and like no buildings, no cell phone and it is an entry into another place. And hopefully people can mimic that in their backyard, on their trainer indoors, you know, with some visualization. But I do believe we all need to get to that sort of physical and emotional place on a pretty regular basis. Yeah. And I think that's one of the things that we, going back to the first part of our conversation, the gravel bike is this great enabler. I've always been surprised, you know, even in a, you know, 15 miles North of San Francisco where I live, if I put a little bit of effort in, I can be riding completely by myself and see no one. And that is just such a gift. That's really, it is a gift. It's really special. Yeah. Well, Rebecca, thanks so much for giving us an overview of Rebecca's private Idaho. I will put a link to the website and registration and hopefully people can hustle over and still at least get a slot in the final day event. Yeah, there is space and the tater tot, the French fry and the baked potato right now. So hopefully I'm, yeah, people go in and sign up and I really look forward to hosting you and everybody else in my hometown in September. Right on. Thanks Rebecca. Absolutely be good.  
May 12, 2020
This week we speak with longtime coach, fitter, and women's cycling advocate Lorri Lee Lown about some of the roadblocks to growing participation in the sport and general tips and tricks for riding off-road. Sponsored by: Bike Index, a free, non-profit bicycle registration service and stolen bike recovery platform. Support the podcast - Buy me a coffee. Episode Links: Savvy Bike  Savvy Bike Instagram Automated Transcription, please forgive the errors. Lorri, welcome to the show. Thanks, Craig. I'm excited to be here today. Yeah, I'm looking forward to our conversation. I'm always kind of excited to talk more about the women's side of the sport and how we get more women into gravel cycling. But before we begin, I'd love to give the listener just a little bit of your background. So if you could talk about how you got into cycling and later how you discovered gravel cycling, that would be an awesome place to start. Sounds good. I started writing in the nineties, which makes me feel really old. But the reality was it was 1999 so it's not that old. And I had moved to California and I was not an athlete, but when I moved here, everybody was fit and healthy and rich and beautiful. And I was like, I might be just like them. And I got the fit part down. That was good. And the healthy part, I don't know about the rich and beautiful. I participated in the California AIDS ride. I had signed up and had nine months to train. I didn't even really have a bike. I had a 1980 something specialized hard rock that I was training on. And at the time I thought this event was for world class athletes and Olympians and I was none of those things. I was a drinking, smoking, non-athletic person. And over the course of nine months training for the event, I realized, first of all, I was pretty good at riding a bike. I had never been good at sports, but in my mind all sports and bald, bald, you had to catch and you had to throw. And I couldn't do either. But then I realized there's this whole other area of sports that I was actually pretty good at, which were at sports. So things like skiing and skating and cycling. And because I have this pretty obsessive personality, I found that I really just wanted to ride my bike and ride my bike all the time and ride my bike fast and climb mountains and that kind of thing. So I started riding. And long story short, I was given the opportunity to change careers by my then employer. This was in 2001, Charles Schwab. And when the Bailey basically imploded, I found myself with some time on my hands and a career change in sight and I decided I wanted to share my love of cycling with other people in particular women. I had found that there weren't very many women who I saw riding bikes and I knew they were out there cause I'd see a big group of dudes and there would be one woman hanging on where their tongue hanging out at the back of the group. But I didn't see them riding together in groups and I knew that that was something that women really enjoy. I have a MBA in gender relations, so I spent some time studying what motivates us and women are really motivated by community and being involved with other people supporting each other in a very different way than men are. So men will compete against each other, women will collaborate. And I couldn't find an organization like that. I wanted to become a coach and I decided to start my own, even though my coach at the time said, who would want to ride with you? You're not a pro racer. And so I started Velo girls And that was back in 2002 right. Amazing. And Vela Vela girls, was it a road club or a mountain club? Well, we started as a road club and I was pretty adamant in my mind of what I wanted to do with the organization. We were only going to ride road. I didn't want to compete with Jackie felon who at the time was running wombat, and I don't know if you know wombat, but it was probably one of the first women's mountain bike organizations and we weren't going to race. I was going to race, but I was going to race with a different club and I just felt that we needed an organization that was really founded on fitness and friendship and fun and being inclusive. And luckily I listened to members. So when members started saying, Hey, we'd like to have mountain bike rides, even though originally I was reluctant, I was like, okay, let's try this. And I did not ride dirt at all when I started, I was strictly a roadie and I never intended to read dirt. And then when we started having large groups of women who were fast, I thought, okay, I'm going to start a racing team even though I knew nothing about racing. So in our second year we had our first racing team, 40 women, 39 of whom had never raced a bike before. And I felt this social responsibility to teach them how to ride their bikes because most of them were pretty sloppy and I didn't want them out there crashing out other racers. And so I developed a curriculum to teach folks how to ride their bikes and how to raise their bikes. Amazing, amazing. And I mean, obviously you, you, you set the intention to invite any woman who wanted to throw a leg over the bike to kind of give them the tools and the community to join in, which is amazing. Absolutely. Absolutely. And we've taken on many different iterations over the years. We had a protein for awhile that raised all over the U S we continue to have a road racing team and a development program for 12 years. And I finally got tired. It's hard to keep developing and recruiting and developing and recruiting and developing and churning out racers, many who have gone on to raise on proteins and we've had national champions on. So we during those years as well, we started mountain bike racing. We really had a multi multidisciplinary team. So we had four aspects. We had road racers, mountain bike racers, cyclocross racers, and then endurance road riders. So women who just wanted to train together with some structure and participate in events together. So go do the Cinderella classic or ride a century and have continued that model. So as I slowly retired the racing aspect of the club, we've continued the riding training, recreational aspect of the club. Okay. And I know we're going to circle back to some more of those elements and details around the training and clinics and skills that you, you helped build. When did gravel cycling start to come into your life? I was thinking about that. I so I was, I started cyclocross racing in 2003, which is kind of interesting cause I had intended a road race first and it didn't happen and I was okay from a fitness point of view, but I couldn't ride on the dirt. So then I decided, okay, I better mountain bike. And I worked at a bike shop at the time, so I borrowed a mountain bike and it was a disaster. I was terrified of the dirt. I didn't understand. I had the roadie mentality of right around things, not over things. I overinflated my tires. I didn't understand suspension, including my own body suspension. And so it took a long time for me to start to feel really comfortable with the dirt. I had started road racing and then I was coaching high school mountain bike team through the shop I worked at and this was back in 2005. And the high school league was pretty new and it was a bunch of boys who were BMX riders and we had an agreement that when we went out and trained I would do anything that they did and it really up to my bar from a skill point of view. And then I continued to, I really believe in lifelong learning. That's a part of me. I've been a teacher throughout my career before I was teaching bikes and so I continued to take clinics and I continued to learn. And mountain bike clinics have been super fun for me because it really pushes my envelope and I'm pretty conservative as a, as a person, as an athlete. So being on the dirt, I'm not the shredder type who's going to go and do crazy stuff. I am very practiced and measured in my writing, which is probably my detriment, but you know, I'm 54 years old, so I want to keep the skin on my knees in general. I continue to ride and race, cross and mountain bike and I guess the gravel thing really it happened when my relationship happened. Truthfully we, so I was mostly a roadie who I often joke owned mountain bike and I started dating someone who is mostly a mountain biker and a cyclocross or who owned a road bike. Actually he didn't even own a road bike at the time. He owned a cyclocross likely he would ride on the road and somehow those two worlds converged and we started doing an awful lot of road riding but going off road as well on a road bike. So hashtag gripping center and that continued and then we'd ride our class bikes under. But as you know, a cyclocross bike is not the most awesome gravel bike in the world. There are definitely some geometrical differences and some handling differences. So I would say probably in the last five years or so, really seeing an uptick. And spending time on the dirt as well. Yeah, I think the, you know that timeline exactly coincides with this acceleration of gravel specific equipment and enabling technologies such as tubeless tires and hydraulic disc brakes. Right. It's definitely a confidence booster and having the right tool I think is super important. I know we'll talk about that a little bit with bike fit and how that plays into it, but having a gravel bike that's awesome and super fun and joy inducing has made the sport very different. So you know, riding, when I started riding road we wrote on 19 millimeter tires and eventually went to 20 ones and 2325 I, my standard now is 30 and every time I ride my bike I'm on the dirt. I just, I, I guess after so many years of writing the same roads over and over and over again, you're just looking for something new and different and challenging and intellectually challenging as well. Yeah, I think that's pretty common, particularly in the Bay area because we've got great road riding. It's such a fun community to be a part of, but every road you ride on, you start to see these dirt paths and trails and little cut throughs that you could be riding if you had a little bit wider tire and a little bit more of a spirit of adventure. I would agree. Yes. So you obviously are more fun. Yeah, I mean that's, You know, you go out and you hammer for four hours on the road bike and you go out on the gravel bike and it's an all day adventure and you bring a sandwich and you can have a handlebar bag and it's all fun and cool and, and it's a very different culture. It's Rudy's, I always joke that Rudy's, we'll have a beer at the end of the season and a mountain biker, we'll have the beer at the end of the race and cyclocross or we'll have a beer during the race. It's very, the dirt culture is very different. And I think it's interesting now that we're seeing a lot of, of road riders and road racers making that transition into the more fun events and they can still be competitive. Yup. Yeah. It's almost like gravel has given road athletes permission to have a little bit of fun. Well, and what you talked about earlier, I think, you know, on a road ride, once the separation happens in a group ride and you're off the back or in the middle or trailing or chasing, you know, it stops being as fun. But I find gravel has some similarities to the mountain bike in that, you know, once you complete a section you kind of stop and wait for that high five and you kind of laugh about how you skidded out or Bumble the particular section. And it really, it just gives people the opportunity to talk more during the rides, which tends to lead to a lot of fun. Right. And I think in racing the same is true. And you, and the other interesting aspect I think is, and road riding, a lot of it is about fitness and leanness. And especially here in Northern California where you can't go out of your driveway without a Hill. So there is huge fitness split, gender split and age split when we ride on the road versus gravel, you may find that you have somebody who really good fitness and they have no skills to descend. So yeah, they're the first up the Hill and they're the last down and, and now it makes up every time. There's that transition point and so it becomes a much more social interactive group versus the road ride, which you know, tends to be kind of stuffy and serious and we're just going to go hammer. And if you're not with the group, it's over. And that was one of the interesting challenges in road racing. I think especially years ago when the women's field was, are larger, if you weren't in the group, it was over. And if, you know, once you've done that for a number of years, why keep doing it? And with gravel and with cross and mountain bike because of the type of courses that we're riding, it allows people to still be in the game. And to ride their own ride or race their own race, which is a little different than the road racing world. Yeah, exactly. So, you know, five years ago, according your timeline, you started riding a little bit more gravel and as you started to present yourself to this large community of female athletes through Vela girls that you were doing this new segment of the sport, what were women starting to ask you about How to do it? And it seemed at the time a lot of women felt, wow, that's for other people. That's not for me. And especially because we, well, we refer to it as gravel and I think more accurately, we should probably refer to it as mixed terrain because a lot of gravel events have a hundred percent gravel or 90% gravel, but there are a lot of gravel events that have 50% gravel or 25% gravel. You go and do the grasshoppers and maybe it's 50 50 or maybe you've got an event that's you know, 80% road, but there's this one little fun dirt stretch. So it's going to challenge you as far as your equipment choice and your tire choice. And so I think for women it's the question of how do I get started and is this actually do. And what I found is if I convince people, I feel like the pied Piper many times, right? If I convince people to just come try it and make it fun, then they're going to keep doing it. But it takes, it definitely takes an evangelist to encourage people to get out there and do it. And the same was true in every aspect of the sport. When I decided to race cross, I ended up with 25 women from below girls who were racing cross with me because I made it sound fun. And I think we have some public figures that do that. You know, you look at the Ali Tetrick and Ahmedi and stormy and this whole crew of women who are so inspirational. But at the same time, when I look at them as a mere mortal, I'm like, okay, there's a separation there. And for me, I'm cool with it cause I work with these women. But for someone who's just a recreational rider and they're like, Oh, I could never do Belgium waffle ride because you know, people like Ellie Tetrick are doing it. So it's the idea that we have to get someone out, give them a positive experience. And I think promoters are starting to learn a little more about that. You know, how do we, how do we create events that are not just for the pro women and all the dudes? And that's what I always think about, right? So when we look at the longer versions of events and many of these events, when they started including the low key series like grasshopper, they had one distance, one race mass start and a late master, you know, dress up or start at 10:00 AM. And it's like, okay, well this is great. But if you have the women who are not the pros and maybe they're, you know, not even as fast as the recreational gentlemen, then they're going to be out there longer. They're going to be, you know, rest ups or are cleared out of cookies. There's no more cookies. The rest app has gone, the finish line has gone. So we have to make people feel like, okay, this is an event for you too. And I've spent a lot of time talking to promoters about that. How do we do that? How do we retain women? Well, maybe do a staggered start and make it voluntary. So if you feel that you're on the slower end but you want to do the longer routes, you're, they're going to do an official start an hour earlier for those writers. And it's not just women. I mean there's lots of dudes who are hanging out out there for hours and hours and hours offering multiple distance options. And I think that's a real key. Just like with a century, once you've done a century or a dozen or a hundred or whatever, you're like, Ugh, whatever, it's a hundred miles. I could get just as much fun out of the metric. How did the 60 and a lot of folks will opt for that? And then you'll get the other folks who are like, no, whatever event I do, I'm going to do the longest, hardest version. But from a timing and a logistics point of view, it doesn't always work. If I'm there with my male partner and he finishes two hours before me, he has to sit around and wait. That doesn't do a lot for our relationship. So so creating multiple options and it's not dumbing down the event, it's just opening up the events and my opinion, they're still hard and they're still fun and you still get that experience, but you don't feel like, wow, the event is really not for me. It's just for the fast riders. It's for everybody. Yeah. And I think, I think it's, you know, intelligent course design leads itself to having multiple different options. And I think we have been fortunate and gravel that we've had a lot of strong women in leadership positions at these top events that have made inclusion and parody a big part of their messaging, which I hope is sort of just sending that invitation out to women to say, come join us. We're, we're thinking about everyone. We're not just thinking about the hammerheads. You want to ride 200 miles And other pieces of that play into that, you know, have age group awards and sometimes we do and sometimes we don't. And sometimes that age group starts at 35 which is very interesting cause you have a lot of women who start riding a bike later. You have a lot of women from the pro level who are still racing at 35 so 35 is not necessarily a good split for masters. Maybe have a 35 and a 45 or a 35 and a 55 and so you can acknowledge the effort of the other athletes as well. Having a women's t-shirt, I know that sounds silly, but when you have an event shirt and you only offer it in what they call a unisex shirt, it's really a men's shirt. Have happily one shirt. Yeah. Maybe it costs a little more. Probably it doesn't when you're doing that volume, but have something to acknowledge that we're there too. Yeah. I imagine when you see a unisex shirt, you're, it's reading does not fit women well at all. Right. I won't take them. I'm, I'm one of those people. I'm like, yeah, I don't want them to insure. Thank you. I won't wear it. You keep it and it's too bad because sometimes I really want, sure. Well it sounds like, you know, you've sort of been through a little bit of this journey before as someone who's sort of founded a largely road oriented program and then started mountain biking and inviting women to the mountain bike side of things. Now as you're inviting women and giving them permission to join us in gravel cycling or mixed terrain cycling, what are the sort of fundamental skills that you begin to teach as you're trying to get someone comfortable with what they might encounter on a grasshopper route or something similar? Right. It's, it's not unlike road in general in that most people on the road don't know how to ride their bike. I'll be honest with you, they don't understand the physics of how to ride a bike and what makes it stay up. Right. What makes it go forward and how not to fall down. I basically teach people not to fall down. And so what are we looking at? We're looking at balance and weight distribution. Weight distribution is huge on gravel. If you don't have the right weight distribution on the bike, you're not going to get up the short sheet stuff. You're going to slide out. You won't have traction on the downhills and on the corners. And so really understanding and even the technical aspects of you take a roadie and you put them on a gravel bike and teaching them that it's okay to have 15 PSI, that your bike is going to handle better and you're going to be faster and you're not going to fall down. Because again, that roadie mentality of Oh my God, I have to pump to 110 PSI and we're starting to learn, I think in the road world we're starting to have a little better education about that all around. But, but it's interesting, a lot of shops are still teaching people things that I feel are not correct. So what do I want to teach someone I need to teach them? Like I said, balance and weight distribution, how to move around on the bike. A lot of roadies feel like, okay, this is my throne and I'm never going to move my position at all. The saddle is my seat. Versus being a balanced point. How to properly use your brakes. I think that's huge. Understanding that breaking eliminates traction and so how and why and how can I use my brace to help me and how can I not overuse my brakes? And those are all things that we do on the road as well. But I'm the dirt. You can't fake it. I think that's the biggest difference is we get away with a lot on the road until we don't, until you have that day when you crash, but on the dirt, if you make a mistake, you're going to go down. Yeah. I feel like on the, on the road there's, there was a lot of room for error. So obviously you can lean a road bike really, really deep, much deeper than, than most people would think you can. And your tires are still gonna hold so you don't get people kind of tripping that error potential. But as you, as you sort of alluded to in gravel, you know, if you brake too hard in a loose corner, your wheel is going to slide out. Right. And, and I think it's very interesting. So I, so I've been fitting bikes since 2001 and I've always had someone else fit my road bikes for me. Whenever I get one just cause I like to learn, I like to have someone who is not biased look at me and my bike and I've had a number of interesting injuries over the years that have impacted my ability to ride. And when I got my, my thesis graveled like I decided I wasn't going to have anyone fit it and I was going to go through this iterative process, which I think fits on gravel is much more iterative than road and road. We have a position that is ideal for us based on our morphology and our strengths, our fitness, our weaknesses and all of that. But on gravel, your fit really has a lot to do with how your bike handles. And so I went through a process on my own bike of dialing in the fit but then riding and tweaking and sometimes you change your fit based on the terrain even. And that's where, I mean droppers are awesome, although I think women don't need them as much as men cause our bodies are a little different and our weight distribution is different. But yeah, so looking at STEM links and rise and, and where is the ideal position that's going to be comfortable and is going to be powerful and efficient but still allow me to ride in a technical way. And that's the, I think greatest challenge is the technical aspects. You have to find the hardest part of the course and make sure that you can ride that. Yeah, that's an interesting point you're bringing up there. In terms of sort of building your equipment or your position around the most difficult or most challenging to you, part of the course. Are you sort of advising women to kind of tweak their setup to help them in the areas where they feel like they might be deficient or less skilled? I don't typically advise anybody to tweak their own setup. And the reason for that, I mean, in my case I'm a professional, so doing it was in a very educated way and I was taking notes and I was comparing times and that kind of thing. But I do encourage people to consider the terrain they're going to ride before they're fit and spend some time thinking about what's the hardest thing and be honest with your fitter. I mean a good fit is going to be a conversation that really is based on the rider and Hey, I'm riding mountain town and I feel great except I can't get up the short steep stuff. So then we have to figure out, is that a gearing issue? Is it a fitness issue? Is it a weight distribution issue? And many times it is weight distribution. Hopefully they've purchased the right bike and they have the good fitness. Right? So w where it's going to be very different. And I, I'll share a couple of examples. So I raced last year in North Carolina at the Croatan buck 50 and it was a course that the version I did was the a hundred mile version. It had 500 feet of climbing. That was it. And in many places in the country, these gravel races are pretty flat. So that was super flat, which had, which had its own unique challenge. Let me tell you, when you're pounding, the pedal was four hours of stopping flat pavement. There is no break. Your, your saddle better be really good and your Shammy better be really good. Yeah. But then you contrast that with you know, in California we have old growth. Classic was phenomenal. It's total reverse of that, right? 50 miles, 8,000 feet of climbing. Interestingly enough, the only podiums I got last year in gravel were my first race proton, but 50. I got this and then I raised old-growth classic and I got fifth. Then I was like, Oh, this is great. I bookend with two races. That couldn't be any more different, but they worked for me I guess. You know. And then I raced in Oregon where we were looking at stage racing. So you're racing day after day after day, which has its own unique challenges too. But Oregon was, I don't know how much you've spent talking to the folks about their race or did you do the risk? I did not do that, but I had Chad, Chad Sperry on talking about the event. Oh yeah, yeah It was. It was Epic. And of course I'm the kind of woman that goes in and I say, Oh yeah, I've got great fitness and I'm going to go do the longest versions of because offered a longer and a shorter, a more Epic and a less Epic. And after the first day, and I was one of the last writers to make the time cut off on the long route. I was like, what was I thinking? That was when I made the decision that, you know, the long routes maybe really are for the pro women and all the dudes and maybe I should be doing, because it was super varied. For one thing. You're in the mountains, there was tons of sand, tons of technical stuff and just a ton of climbing as well. So it was definitely a really hard event and it was a first year event and they were definitely working out some challenges with promoting and organizing and you know, how do we manage rest stops and how do we manage the timing and the location of our steps so they make sense on the course and they're at the right points. And so yeah, so back to fit for gravel, whether it's a man or a woman, we definitely have to look at our course and what is the predominant terrain we're riding here in Northern California because most people aren't traveling too much. But then if I'm looking at a different type of race, what's going to help me there from a gearing point of view, from a handling point of view. And my assumption to that would be okay, if there's something really tricky and it's a very small percentage of the course or a small percentage of the type of writing you're doing. Yeah, maybe I want address that. If it would have a detriment to how I would fit for something else. Yeah, yeah, definitely. I think a common theme we've had on the podcast and you know, we've got listeners all over the world, you really do need to have an eye towards your local terrain because as you noted, you know, being here in the Bay area, we've got a lot of steep terrain that many people in many parts of the country may call mountain biking. Whereas whereas whereas gravel in in the Southeast, you know, as you said, you did a 500 foot climbing ride over 80 or a hundred miles, which is just insane when you know, you know, in your neck of the woods down a little bit South of me, you probably can't do an hour long lunch ride without hitting, you know, 800 to a thousand feet of climbing. Correct. Correct. And it's, the technical aspects are different too. We know this from the mountain bike world. I mean, and the East coast you have roots and rocks and ruts and swaps. I mean the race I did in North Carolina had a three mile long section of swamp called Savage road. And you have to navigate through this very wet swamp, which is something we don't see here in Northern California very often. You know, we have water crossing in, it's a puddle and we're all excited about that. We're like, Ooh, mud. No, you know, and it's also unique and other things and it's like cyclocross, we have a hot dry cyclocross season versus everyone else has snow and rain and ice and mud. So it's definitely, we have to look at, there is not one size fits all. And I think that's super important in gearing as well. When we look at what the manufacturers are providing for us having all of our options, which the smaller bike builders are allowing you to do it, being able to spec out my bike in advance of purchasing it is super important. I think, and I'll use an example, I bought a cyclocross like from a big manufacturer who happens to be in Morgan Hill and I knew buying this bike that I would have to change the bar with STEM, the seat post, the saddle, the tires, the crank and the cassette and the rear trailer. So what did I buy? I bought a frame basically and I had it basically changed everything else. So that's just, it's a waste of money. It's consumerism is why we are not able to spec out our bikes and I think that's why brands like open and thesis and allied who are allowing you to pre fit, pre spec are following a model that makes a lot more sense. Yeah. Yeah. One of the things you touched on sort of brought me back to the journey I had as a mountain biker and later as a gravel rider, when you're riding off road, the first time you see a Rocky section or the first time you see a Sandy section or the first time you see a muddy section, these are all learning curves that we can't really teach you in advance. How your bike's going to feel, how it's going to move. Right? When you, when you advise people on how to ride sand the first time they do it, they may ignore you and put all their weight on the front handlebar and get stopped immediately. So I think it's important to note, and I'd be curious, since you've coached many athletes and advised many athletes, you know, how do you kind of encourage them that it's okay that we're all scared the first time we do do something. And then once you have it in your, your physical, visible, visible, and physical memory, the next time you see sand you're like, Oh, that's sand. I understand how this works. And, and it may not be the next time. And the same is true on the road. And I'll, I'll share the analogy that I use, which is everything that we do the first time is awkward and oftentimes we're resistant, especially here in Silicon Valley where everyone is so darn intelligent telling someone that they don't know how to ride a bike is a real challenge. And we all rode bikes as kids. So, of course we know, but we don't know in an intellectual sense, we just did. So now we're trying to teach people to know, know how the bike works, the physics of the bike. And so the analogy I typically use in my clinics is but everything is awkward, including things like your first kiss. But somehow you decided or society decided that it was okay that this was worth it. We're going to try again until we perfect it. And usually people just giggle it, that which is great and it breaks the ice and people realize it's okay. I don't have to be perfect. And I think an important point too, and another analogy I used, I was a keynote speaker at the first women's coaching conferences at USA cycling at the Olympic training center. And my topic was how to develop a women's program. And when I started, I really had this idea that I had to have everything perfected before I even started. I built this huge website by myself and I had created all of these resources and routes and made it look like a finished product before we had even begun. And my analogy for that was you don't have to give birth to an 18 year old. You can allow yourself as an organization. Oh good. I got to laugh to go through that process. Right. And, and I think that's super important. Allowing yourself to have, and this is a very yoga philosophy, but have a beginner's mind. I think that's super important to go into something new and be open and know that you don't have to be perfect. I'll share that. I started running five months ago and part of it was I was starting to feel burnt out on writing. And another part of it was I'm involved with an organization called the mermaid series, which is a women series of primarily running events. Although they do one triathlon and duathlon, which is how I've always been involved with them. And I felt like at 54 years old, I felt like I wasn't happy with my fitness. I wasn't happy with my weight, I felt stuck and I felt kind of bored. So I was like, wonder what would happen if I just trained to run? Because every year I do this to ask on, I never trained to run for whatever reason I intend to. And then I don't. And I go out and I have the fastest bike split of the day and pretty much the slowest run, split it a day and it's miserable. And then I can't walk for a week. And so I decided I was going to run and I bought a training plan and I have been following this training plan to the T for the last five months and now I can bust out a half marathon with like no thought. It's crazy to think, Oh, I'm going to go run 10 miles. And what's been really fun for me and stimulating is the fact that it is all new. I'm training with power, which is what we do on the bikes. And so I'm using that expertise to learn a new application of it. I'm learning all about nutrition and fueling and painting and how it's so different than the bike and then just still drawing on this, you know, 20 year aerobic base that I have, which has allowed me to be pretty okay at running just as a beginner. And I think if we could all go into cycling and gravel in particular that way and say, yeah, I've been riding a road bike for 10 years, but I'm a beginner at this and it's okay. I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to win. I don't have to even be really good at it yet. I have the, the ability to learn and to go through this process. And I think there's a lot of growth that happens when we allow ourselves to be a beginner. Yeah, there's lot, there's a lot to be said for that. And I think gravel slash adventure riding, whether it's your own route or an event that someone's put on, there's always going to be new things thrown at you. And you could, it could be the same ride, the same course, but the nature of the earth, the nature of dirt, it's going to change the nature of weather. Everything is going to be thrown at you. And I think the more you try to control it and, and sort of manage it, the less fun you're going to have because you have to accept that it's ever changing. And I love that sort of approaching it with the beginner's mind. Right. And I think that, and it's interesting, I'll use the example of Allie Tetricks since everyone knows her and I've known her since she started road racing and one year she came out and she raised cyclocross. Now she was a pro at the time racing internationally and came out and raised the seas at Kennedy point. I remember that. And I was like, why should she be racing in the siege? She, you know, and I remember the same thing when Lance came out to golden gate park Chris corner corner came out to golden gate park. You know, I'm here they are with these huge engines, pro racers and falling all over themselves. And I was like, okay, I guess it is okay. They really are a beginner. But then if you start winning everything, you can't be a beginner anymore. And I think I've watched Aly also make that transition and to get gravel the same way with this idea. This was fun and I'm going to find my niche and I may not be perfect. I may not win everything. And once in a while I'm going to win. And that's awesome. And she's built this great community around herself and build some longevity in the sport, which I think is super important. She's been a really great ambassador for a lot of women. She's very personable, she's very humble and I think a lot of women are drawn to that Definitely. And I think we're, we're sort of in a heyday of great women to model the gravel lifestyle after which is, which is awesome. I think to your point, many of the top, top female athletes, they just have this sense of irreverence, irreverence and humility in their public personas. Where they show themselves falling down. They, you know, they're just showing what we all experience when we choose a challenge like riding off road. Right. And I think the sad reality of it is women have to work harder in the sport to gain sponsorship to encourage each other. They have to, in addition to their day job and their sporting job, they have to do social media. They have, and the men don't have to do that. I mean, some of them do, some of them hustle, but women have to hustle more. And I think the smart promoters and the smart companies have learned that you know, this specific female athlete can be the sweetheart of America in this sport and we need to support her. And that's a good thing. So whether they're doing it for philanthropic reasons or for smart marketing reasons, they're doing it. And I think that's important. Yeah. I personally find it more enjoyable to kind of watch that part of the sport because the male side of the sport, you're going to start to get a faster flood of former pro road athletes jumping into the sport. And I kind of worry about what that means. But every great woman athlete that I've seen, the join the sport has been really super additive to the sort of fun elements of the community that I love so much. Oh yeah. Oh yeah, I would absolutely agree. And granted there are some men who are doing the same thing. I mean, URI and Ted King, and I mean even so Gaiman with all of his social media stuff and the cookie challenge and you know, going through the KLM. Yeah. We're learning how to use social media to endure for a longer period of time. I mean, in the past road, raters would retire and they were done and they maybe would go on to be a DS or a coach or maybe they'd leave the sport altogether. But we're transitioning. And I think that's important. It's one of the things I've always loved about the bicycle is I can ride the bike in a lot of different ways. And I have, I've toured all over the world. I piloted a tandem for the Paralympics, for the blind writer. I've raced every discipline except BMX and downhill. I have commuted. I've done all these different things and they're already on a bicycle and they're all beautiful to me. And sometimes I have one bike that hangs in the garage and collect stuff for awhile and then I come back to it and come back to that part of the sport. So it will always be there. And when folks stress about where they are with their fitness or, wow, my life is so busy right now, my kids go going to college and I can't get a manage my time. I always tell them the bike will still be there for you. Whenever you're ready, you can come back. It's an easy sport to come back to and try not to stress. It shouldn't be stress inducing. I mean racing can be stress-inducing but the rest of the sport shouldn't. Yeah, absolutely. So as we're winding down our time, if there's some women out there listening who are thinking about getting into gravel, what would you say to them? Well, I would say don't hesitate and I would find a mentor or a group mentor. You don't even have to start with a fancy expensive bike. And I'll throw some wider tires on your road bike if you can. Or hop on your mountain bike if you have it or your cross bike. And just when you see that dirt road turn down it and see where it goes, you're not going to get lost. We all have the ability to not get lost these days with smartphones and navigation and don't feel that you have to be perfect right away. I think that's super important. Like keep it fun and go exploring because I think there's nothing more like being a child and hopping on your bike and riding down the road that you don't know where it goes. Absolutely. And are there any, keeps us young and healthy for sure. And are there any resources that you'd point people to, any of your web properties that women can get information about the sport or how to approach it? Okay, that's a really good question. We have offered a number of gravel clinics in the past who've done some lectures. We've and one of the things that I'm putting together for this year is dirt skills for the roadie. Because I think what we're finding is a lot of people who are road riders, they look at the bike and they're like, Oh, it looks just like road bike. It should bride like a road bike. And what they don't realize is differences the terrain. And so if we can pick out those key skills to help a roadie like jumpstart into hopping on the dirt and not falling down and breaking things whether it's bikes or body parts. So I would say definitely look to your local bike shops. Many of them are offering group rides, especially at gravel roads right now because it's so popular and this new segment of bikes has been introduced to the market. They're trying to sell them. So they're out there, they're doing demo rides, they're offering group rides on a weekly basis, on a monthly basis. Don't feel that you don't belong. I think that's really important. We, the bike industry wants women to ride bikes and it may not feel that way, but insert yourself into this segment of the market and look for groups that are offering rides. And there's a couple of really good podcasts, including one by my friend Craig Dalton, where you can get all kinds of gravel information. Thanks for that Laurie. Well, I enjoyed the conversation it gave me, it gave me some good perspective on the women's market and kudos to you for kind of back in 2002 starting Velo girls and, and sort of given women that permission and the space to enjoy cycling, highlighting the things that make them excited to go do sports. So it's awesome. I appreciate all the work that you've done over the years and it was great talking to you and learning a bit more. Well, thank you for having me on.    
April 28, 2020
This week on the podcast we talk with Coach, Frank Overton of FasCat Coaching about gravel training and racing.   FasCat supports both elite and recreational athletics in achieving goals both big and small.   Remember #FTP. Sponsored by: Cycle Oregon Support the Podcast:  Buy me a coffee Automated Transcript, please excuse the errors. Frank, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me, Craig. Pleasure to be here. Right on. We always start off by learning a little bit more about the cycling background of our guests and how they first came to riding, drop our bikes off road. So how'd you get started? In 1995, I graduated in college and I got a job within three weeks of graduating. I came home from work the first day, five o'clock, and I sat on the couch and like ate chips and watch TV, woke up the next day, said I'm not doing that again. And I played tennis in high school and college and you know, like NCAA, all that and you need two people to play tennis. So when I got to a new town, a new job came home that second day and I didn't have anyone or know anyone to play tennis with. So I had a mountain bike that I use for commuting and I wrote it around the neighborhood and the neighborhood rods. I started to go a little bit further away, a little bit further away and it was all on pavement. And I actually was riding on the sidewalk until someone yelled at me. And then I started riding on the road and you know, 30 minutes turned into 45 turned into 60. And then I rode over to a bike shop and said, where are the trails? And cause it was a mountain bike. And lo and behold, one of the guys that I went to college with own the bike shop and he, he took me under his wing a little bit enough to like say, Hey man, you need to get a helmet and here you need to get these, these shoes. But anyway, this is in Winston Salem, North Carolina. And I started riding in the woods after work and loved it and that, that, that's how I got started. I E. The other way I got started, sorry to be long winded right off the bat is when I was 11 and 12, I would come home from school and my parents, you know, I would go out in the neighborhood and play, this is before phones and everything. I was a free range kid and I had friends from school that lived in different neighborhoods and I had a lot of friends in my neighborhood that we would all play. And I had this like, I don't know, like a Sears 10 speed bike that my parents had bought me and I started riding that to neighborhoods other than my own afterschool to go play like basketball and, and, and like, you know, pick up flag football. And my parents would always let me go wherever I wanted to on, they didn't even know how far I was going. So the bike was a lot, a lot of freedom for me to go rod to different neighborhoods to, you know, do other sports. So that slippery and love of just peddling around the neighborhood ultimately led you to racing mountain bikes and road bikes, right? I guess so. Yeah. Yeah. I mean yeah. You know, because you've done it as a kid and then you start doing it for exercise after, you know, in your adult life. I got started in mountain biking later in life. You know, I didn't do it in high school. This is before Nika and that, and I didn't do it in college. So back to the woods and Winston Salem and my friend did that bike shop, you know, it went back like the second time and he's like, Hey, you know, you should come and race with us. And you know, it's like, yeah, let's do it. And he was an expert mountain biker and I was a beginner and he said, okay, you can, you can rod with us, you can get a ride with us. And I wasn't gonna go to the race by myself cause I didn't even know where to go or what to do. But he was leaving at 8:00 AM for the like Cunningham expert race and he's like, well, you got to do this one if you go with us, cause like my race, the beginner race was like later in the day, but I wasn't cold by myself. So I kind of like just dove right in and you know, trial by fire and I was hooked. I loved it. And, you know, I kept doing it and it just kinda yeah, blew up from there. And then ultimately you raced semi-pro on the mountain bike and cat one on the road. That's right. Yeah. Fast forward, whatever, six to seven years. Raced for the Schwind homegrown grassroots team. Raced for specialized Nantucket nectars for a year. And and then the Richie grassroots Mount bike team in 2002 and I broke my hand at the Northern national and Alpine Valley. It's the same place where Stevie Ray barn's helicopter crashed. And I like, I was like pre-writing the course. I was like in the best shape of my life. I was going to use that race to get my pro upgrade. And lo and behold, you know, just stupid crash riding in the woods in a, put my hand, right on a baby head rock and just folded over the metacarpals and you know, so I couldn't race, but I mean, like really good shape. And I, I use this expression with my athletes, you know, my legs were not broken and got on the trainer and you know, this is like right around, you know, I'd always done road racing and crits, you know, for training in between the, the mountain bike races, the Northern national circuit and like the courts now bike series in, in Colorado, the cross country series. And this is also right around during the Lance wave when road racing was cool. Kind of like the way gravel is now. I mean it was the thing to do. It's like what all the mountain bikers are getting into. Cause it was just, you know, awesome. And there was a lot of opportunities. So I went to super week that year at with a broken hand because I could put my, my phone around the ski lever and I can still race. I mean I was like in really good shape. I couldn't wrap my hand around the bar, but I could, you know, pulled the right STI lever with my thumb. So I go to super weak, you know, race from two weeks in a row. Love it, come back home. And then I just drove myself out to the cascade bicycle race in Oregon. Loved it. And you know, I didn't really do that well, but I, and I can hold my own in the pro one, two field. So in 2002, the Mount bike sponsorship dried up and prior to that it was like gravy train. I mean, you know, they were giving people like me cash money and two bikes and you know, all the equipment we needed, but after nine 11 and boom. And the combination of the Lance wave there wasn't as many opportunities. I really didn't have a team for 2003, so I decided to race on the road. I mean, it's the same thing that gravel racers are doing now, just different disciplines. So I I turned to race and on the road in 2003, you know, did a, you know, a lot of the NRC counter events, Redlands and Salono, central Valley classic he LA cascade obviously super week. Oh, it was called dairy, dairy land all those races. And it was during that time. What else? Oh, in 2002 also because of boom. And nine 11, I lost my job is in biotechnology. Biotechnology was incredibly volatile back then and most of the companies that I worked for were startups. I was like employee number 12. It's the longest running company I worked at. But the market tanked and funding dried up and layoffs happened. And one thing I realized in biotech is every time you go to a new company, it takes about six months to learn new technology. And the other thing I learned was there's two types of people in biotechnology, those with their PhD and those without, and I was without, because I had chosen to ride my bike a lot more in life than to spend time in the lab, in the, in the library. And so I realized I needed to do something different. And I decided, I I was, that's when I got into coaching in 2002 I was in between biotechnology jobs. I was training full time to be a road racer, try to be a professional level road racer. And yeah, that's when I got the help of a friend. I built a website, wrote some training tips, came up with the logo and the name and yeah, that's when it all got, yeah, that's when fast cat coaching got started. And had you gotten some coaching previously in any of the sort of semi-pro and pro racing you were doing? Oh yeah, absolutely. I was coached by a fellow by the name of Dave Morris. Hi day. Shout out Dave was a exercise physiologist. He worked on project 96 for any of the old timers out there. Project 96 was the title of the project given to basically the team charged with winning gold medals at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic games. And he worked down in Colorado Springs in the human performance lavatory and he, you know, day was one of the first coaches. He's a peer of Chris Carmichael and Dean Golich from, from that air. And he had written a book, I think the name of it was like racers ready anyway, Gaye was coaching some people in, in, in 98. I, I like trained as hard as I could and I didn't really get any better at the end of that season. I was like, I gotta hire a coach and man I had to like call around. I mean this is like I called Dean Crandall who put me in touch with Dean Golis. She said he was too busy and that was back when in coaching where you had to like, you had to like be good enough to be coached for a coach to take you on. And I was like a no name but Dave was trying to make some money and he had an affordable coaching and I was coached by day for like four years and went from a sport class, Mount biker, you know, all the way up to like count one, you know, borderline professional mountain bike level. Yeah, it's interesting you hear that story a lot when people just have the raw talent and get it organized by a coach to kind of progress to that next level. So that's an interesting tale of how you came to founding fast cat. I should note, as I mentioned in the intro that you guys have been producing a really great podcast. How long has it been a couple of years on that. Oh thanks. It has been 84 episodes and may of 2018 so little over. Let's see. Hey, we're coming up on two years here. This may. That's awesome. I think you know what's, what's interesting to me is you guys put out such depth of information on your site and the, it's sort of a lot of, it's freely available, lot of great plans out there and obviously you guys offer customized coaching. A couple of the episodes that really kind of grabbed hold of me and I got a ton of questions for you about a variety of subjects, but there, there was the concept of winning in the supermarket and winning in the kitchen. That really resonated with me as someone who feels like he consistently fails in those departments. Can you talk about just a touch on, on that philosophy and where you guys are coming from with that? Absolutely. Well and when I hired Dave is my coach, you know, we did a one season 98, 99 completely didn't even pay attention to nutrition. In fact, I was losing in the grocery store. I was losing in the, in the kitchen and you know, one day in 1999, you know, Dave introduced the concept of power to weight ratio to me. And then, you know, I talked to some of my teammates and I, and I looked around and you know, it turns out power to weight ratios, one of the greatest determinants of performance in the type of racing that I was doing, which was now biking, which was a lot of climbing. And to you know, go up these Hills faster, you had to weigh less. And you know, so I started paying attention to my nutrition and, and in October of I guess that was like 2000, I started you know, eat more salads, more vegetables. You know, I still had no clue what I was doing. You know, this is 20 years ago. But I, but back then I was, you know, you're young you know, you're, you produce, you know, your endocrine system is still, you know, you know, firing away and it's really easy to lose weight as like, you know, a 28, 30 year old compared to when you're 48 or, you know, in your fifties when your Intercom system has slowed down tremendously. And so you know, I got really skinny and got really fast and that's how I upgraded up to, you know, be in a semi-pro and a cat one. And I really didn't make that much more power. I mean, I got more powerful, but really the biggest, the, you know, the huge leap that I took was from losing weight. And so that's the impetus behind winning in the kitchen. It's super important and really just comes down to a lot of guys think they can just ride more and eat less and that's what you can do in your 20s. But that is not the path to longterm sustainable success. You know, when you're a masters athlete, you in your thirties, maybe you can kind of get away from it or again, account and blend the two. But you know, for many years it was the Eddie Murks rod more eat less. But really 80% of weight loss comes from healthy food choices that emanate from the kitchen that's winning in the kitchen. And really 20% of weight loss is you know, just from riding more like, you know, rotting a ton of hours, like when you can do when you're in your 20s. So it really just comes down to eating more vegetables, eating more fruits you know, staying away from added sugar partially hydrogenated fat, saturated fat, you know, it's really simple. One of my teammates from back in the day, the Richie team, he had a term that I adopted. He said there's two types of foods. There's the go fast Khan and there's the go slow con. And I guarantee you everyone listening right now can put a label on either. And so really it's just paying attention to the go fast foods and you know, going to the grocery store, choosing those foods and you know, trying to wait in the kitchen and it's a healthy lifestyle. And I can go on and on and on about that cause we do in our podcast. Yeah. No I encourage people to go back and listen to those episodes of your podcast cause I found it interesting. I think it's pretty easy for us as kind of middle-aged athletes, masters athletes to look around and think about what we're eating and realize the percentage of go slow foods to go fast foods is highly skewed in the go slow category. And you know, you know, clearly I think we need to acknowledge that, you know, most of, most of the gravel athletes that are listening to this, I suspect are out there for the adventure. They're taxing their bodies, they're going for these big events like dirty Kanza. But at the same token, you know, they're not trying to be a skeleton, Chris Froome type athlete. It's just not important to them. It's important for them to get to the finish line. So there's, you know, there's clearly some balance there of, of enjoying life, but also, you know, making those choices that all enable you to be more efficient on the bike and have more success at these long distance events. That's right. And success at the event comes from the second part of the winning and the kitchen philosophy and approach is you got to fuel your workouts and fuel your, your long distance rides. And you know, back then I would, you know, put five you know, gels in my pocket and you know, suck those down every 30 minutes. But nowadays, you know, we'd talk about gels, blocks, bars, every 30 minutes we'd talk about making rice cakes from scratch, lads and Dr. Allen Lim. You know, we talk about you know, just eating well proportion meals before and after and, and, and all that in everyone that does these races, these long races, you know, where they can all, they probably want to lose five or 10 pounds. They may not want to get down to you know, 7% body fat. But you know, as you age, your, your body just instance, natural tendency to put on more, more fat and store fat and, and you know, you'd neglect that for a few years and then you're, you know, that's when you got the spare tire and when you do decide to choose more go fast foods and try to win in the kitchen is that's where this can come in. Cause we don't advocate like dieting and like, you know, restricting calories. We just advocate eating more, really just eating more fruits and vegetables and greens and, and, and making those go fast food choices. Yeah. And I think that's where I am as an athlete. It's really, I just would like to start making better choices. At the beginning of 2019 I became a vegetarian, which has helped. But I found that just being a vegetarian doesn't necessarily mean you, you make good food choices. So 2020s about kind of combining that with a little bit better choices. And you know, one of the things I struggle with, and I wanted to kind of get your opinion as as a coach is you know, as a, as a family man, as someone who works for a living, my time windows are off often outside of my control. So you know, I think about getting on a training program but then I think to myself, okay, in any given week or any given month, my long ride window may open up serendipitously. So it may be on the program that I'm supposed to be resting this week, but all of a sudden I have a five hour block of time because my wife has decided to take my son somewhere. How do you kind of work with athletes who are grappling with the challenges of time, opportunity versus training schedules? Well, I mean, the first thing that we try to do is teach and not tell. And that I would tell you as a contradict myself, I would teach you to just go for it. When you have that five hour window of opportunity, first of all go for it because that's what you, you know, need and want to do and then just figure out everything you know, downstream as far as the training plan goes. So it's, you're the type of athlete that would benefit from like a coaching relationship to be taught that. And, and, and a lot of, we, a lot of athletes are like, well, I'm not ready for that. And then so we have these training plans and in these training plans we obviously you have the long rod and we have a, a private athlete forum where we have figured out a way to kind of teach athletes if they do want have questions, just like for the, you know, the conundrum that you just presented. And it's like, how do I follow the plan but still, you know, adopt to these. And it's just really just asking the question. And, and in training peaks, you know, moving your workouts around is this simple left click, drag and drop and the software and you move like your longer OD to like a Friday instead of a Saturday or a Sunday instead of Saturday. And then you just, you know, you just work, work your way through the plant. We teach consistency. You know, we do have the hashtag FTF P which is follows up bleep in plan, which is a derivation of the velum Menotti rule number five and HTF view. We joke about that but we also use that as an opportunity to teach people good training habits and to be flexible with themselves. So like you may be coming from the, the angle, I've got to follow this plan just right. Maybe you're like a perfectionist, but really what you want to do is be flexible with yourself and just go for it and then, you know, kind of adjust your rest days around that opportunity. Right. The other thing I have is, you know, I often work in San Francisco four days a week and I commute in from mill Valley. So I've got this sort of hour long, not certainly not junk miles because I'm enjoying going through Sausalito and over the golden gate bridge, but it's not pure training. And then I have the opportunity to ride home in the evening. So, you know, there's the potential for me to be riding two hours in any one of those days. But to date it's just sort of been plot along, you know, not put any more effort in or less effort than just required by the terrain in front of me. Okay. So I have an athlete that lives in mill Valley and he works in San Francisco. So we worked that into his, his training plan. He's in di, I wouldn't say he's a die hard commuter, he just enjoys it. I mean, why don't we, do you want to, you know, sit in traffic across the golden gate bridge when you can rot across it. Super good weather. It's pleasurable. I mean, I've written across the golden gate bridge. It was scary as heck with the tourist oncoming and the cross winds. But other than that, it's a great view and a lovely way to maybe, you know, commute to and from work. What I would say to you, and this is the teaching moment is, and this, this is, I think we were corresponding by email about this. It's like what are you training for? Identified the demands and the requirements for performance in that event and then back that up to what you should be doing in your training and say you are training for like a dirty Kanza or any other gravel event out there. You gotta have a really good aerobic and endurance. You need to ride your bike a lot. You know, like the Omni podcast that we just recorded with her. She rides her bike a lot. Therefore that's why she is good at riding 200 miles and you don't have to ride your bike a lot on just one day. You just need to ride your bike a lot over time, six months. And so getting back to your commute, riding two hours a day, four to five times a week, totally fits in with trying to ride a lot over the course of six, six months in preparation from any gravel event. I mean during that time, at the very least you spend time in zone two, that's a robotic endurance increase your mitochondrial density. Yeah, that's the foundation of all gravel racing. And then I think there is a client and I don't know the name of it, but as you kind of head South from Sausalito and mill Valley and start to go up to the bridge, you can get in a like good eight to 10 minutes of like you can do tempo, you can do sweet spot, you do threshold, you can do like five minute work, a park Hill, you know, before you cross the bridge. Yeah, I mean, I mean you might just need to take like a 20 minute detour. But I did that. The athletes that I worked with, his name is Sean. We were, we were always coming up with these like custom workouts. Like, okay, you'll do like threshold work on the way to, on the way to work. But then rod zone two on the way home and then the next day run zone two to work. But on the way back, let's do this tempo. So it's just kind of getting creative. But I would say overall I'm staying consistent and trying to ride your bike a lot in a flexible manner is going to net new greater gains than, than you know, trying to do like a six hour ride. You know, once one day a week, consistency is King and I would just encourage you to commute as much as possible. Yeah. We've also got the luxury here. We can head into Tennessee Valley and actually ride the gravel pretty much all the way to the golden gate bridge and there's plenty of add on opportunities. So there's a number of people who do what's referred to around here as the dirty commute where we head off road, which is pretty, it's pretty incredible to kind of have that experience and then drop into the golden gate bridge and be downtown in the financial district for work an hour later. Makes me want to move to the Bay. I know you've enjoyed it out here, the riding, so it's not lost on me that we're blessed, but as are you in Boulder? I spent a number of years out there and I love it. There's so much fun. We are, we live in gray places. The other thing that I grapple with is and this kinda goes on with opportunism around my time windows is I, you know, I often get last minute opportunities to ride events, whether it's locally or you know, even traveling a little bit. So I struggle with kind of choosing an a event. And for me like the concept of a events is a, is almost irrelevant at the end of the day. I want to experience new gravel. I want to enjoy the gravel community wherever I am. So I was trying to think back as to in, in last year I think I did maybe four or five kind of 60 to a hundred mile events around the country and there wasn't much rhyme or reason to them. And, and to your earlier point, I did feel like all my commuting miles enabled me any structure whatsoever to kind of get to the finish line and enjoy those long events. But any, any further advice in that category of like someone who is opportunistically taking these, these event opportunities and isn't really focused on anyone in particular? Yeah, I have two answers for you that kind of parallel with each other. The first thing is I would encourage you to choose an M and a event and you may want to like, like we did a whole podcast on this a couple of years ago in the fall about choosing your a event and cause we were introducing the term a event B event, the event to our, to our listeners. And, you know, really, I think everyone knows what we were talking about, like in a event is your dirty cans and 200 or your lost and found or your crusher and the Tuscher BWR you know, mid South, you know, Steamboat, gravel, that, that sort of thing. Those are the races that you dream about, that when you are on a long run and you're wondering what you're doing in life, you, you fall back to remembering what you're training for. They're, they're the races that, that motivate you and they're fun and, and for years the crusher and the Tuscher was my a race and that's what motivated me prior to the crusher and the Tuscher. The big bear Norbert national was that those, the first mountain bike race of the year that kicked off the notice season. And that's what got me through the winter. You know, when I was, you know, lifting heavy in the gym, doing intervals, rod long, you know, that's your reason. I think Rebecca Rush calls that. What's your, why? You know, that that's, that that's the a race. But then for your B race is in kind of your spontaneous you know, nature. Well, yeah. You know, definitely go for him and, you know, participate. They, so I would call those your B race races. And the the other thing I would say, you may be like, well, I don't have any race or, you know, life doesn't really fit in with that. And then that's okay. You know, keep going you know, through your journey in gravel racing and one of these days of life or open up, you know, not be as busy. And you'd be like, Oh, I'm getting, this is my goal. I'm gonna go for it. And it may be like a, like, like last year I had an athlete do the dirty cans and 200, and he, he completed that. And then this year the rift in Iceland is his big, big goal. And that's what he lives in Pennsylvania. And he, you know, it's not the greatest weather, but you know, the, the idea of being his best in, in Iceland, you know, keeps him, keeps him going. And maybe that's for you and it's not something that I can tell you as your goal. It's something that you're going to just come up with one day or think about and, or decide upon. Am I answering your question? You are, and I mean it has posed some sort of questions for me and I, I'd been a bit hurt with a back problem throughout the winter, so it kind of had put my 2020 plans in question as to what I was excited about and what I really wanted to do. I, I'm, I'm thinking for me, Rebecca's private Idaho might be my, my sort of a race for the year and build the season around that. So now that you have an a race, someone like me, I mean, I can go to town. I mean, now we have a timeframe ripping, you know, that's labor day. That's where we have March, April, may, June, July, August at six months away, 24 weeks, you know, now, now from someone like me, it's like, okay, we should do this, this and this. To prepare you have the opportunity to build your base. Like we, you know, from commuting here, you don't want to neglect interval training, you know, threshold, you know, there is a 20 minute climb that starts off, Rebecca is private auto course. And after that climb, there's a big selection. It's a bunch of chunky gravel after that. So your power to weight ratios is big and important and you want to work on your threshold power to get over that climb in the best possible group and selection and time. And so, you know, being in mill Valley you have awesome 20 minute climb. So then you can structure your training going up and down Mount Tam and the Alpine dam and yeah, so then, but it also helps you peer dyes, your motivation. And we always say, you know, training for these races is kinda like a crescendo and, and piano and you know, you start off small and gradually get louder and louder and louder as you get you know, towards the Rebecca's date. Yeah. And I think that's a good schedule for me this year. Just because sort of coming off this back injury, I want to make sure I'm healthy before I'm really firing and working too hard. What I appreciated on your site in addition to all the great video and podcast content was that you did have specific training plans that people can purchase for specific events. I thought that that was really cool when someone's getting into the plan and let's say for example, they, they don't actually have power on their bike. How do, how do you begin that process of setting whatever kind of measurement or milestone you need to set at the beginning of the process? Yeah, so we get this question a lot. I do I need a power meter to follow your plan? The answer is no. All of our plans are zone based. So zone two, you can do a zone two training a by feel a rate of perceived exertion. You can do it by heart rate using a heart rate monitor and that's relatively affordable. I think you can get like a wahoo ticker for $50 and that's like the top of the line. And so hurray based training is tremendous. It's very, very good. And then of course there's the power meter and you can get a power meter for $350. I think stages has some nice affordable options there. One of their slogans is the power meter for every day. The everyday cyclist, not necessarily, you know, world tour level, but anyway, so you have zones and the training plan teaches you how to use the zones. On the second day of a lot of our training plans, we'll have you perform a very simple and extremely effective task. We call it a field test. You do it out in the field. You don't need a lab, you don't need, you know, lactate or [inaudible] and, and you can do it with zero technology, which some of our athletes do. I learned this from Alan Lamb when he was working with some of the world tour and guys. But basically you go to a Hill and you go up at as fast as you can for 20 minutes, and when the clock strikes 20 minutes, you'd like put an X down on the pavement or the client put a rock or you notice which mailbox you're next to or treat. And then you go off and you do some training. You went in the kitchen, you weigh less, you, you know, you get more powerful and you increase your numerator and decrease your denominator. Power to weight ratio is, is better. And then you go back to that same client and you go up it just as hard and then you measure how much further you got past that log or X or mailbox and you got on a previous time. And so that's like the super low tech way. And we teach athletes, you know, how to, how to do zone based training and, and really, you know, suites by very good. With power meter or heart rate zone two, you can do it. Rate of perceived exertion. VO two max threshold zone six. Really, that's just as hard as you can. You don't need a power meter or a heart monitor to do that style of training. It sure is nice to, to measure it and look at it afterwards. The analysis that, that piece, The main attraction for a power meter from me would be just kind of getting that satisfaction is seeing some numbers move. The other thing I see referenced a lot in your plans and conversations is this concept of sweet spot. What, what exactly you're referring to there. That's so sweet. Spot is a it's a zone. It's a style of training. It is a percentage of your functional threshold power, which is another fancy pocket protector term for your threshold, which is why I was just describing you find in a, in a 20 minute field test, it's technically it's 84 to 97% of your FTP and it is the place in your physiology where the stress is at a sweet spot in relation to the, the, the strain. And I think I misspoke on that. It's where the benefits of that work physiologically are in proportion with the, the physiological costs, like the, you know, like when you go do a hard hard ride, you get benefits from it, but then you're like, you know, you're tired, your muscles are sore, you know, and you can't really ride that fast for a couple of days afterwards. That's the strain and the benefit is what you happened, you know, during that hard ride. But sweet-spot training is asking athletes to not go as hard as they can and to be able to do a lot of that training for a less physiological amount of stress. And that enables them to get what we've, you know, kind of like, I guess like the slogan of sweet spot, more bang for your buck. And so it's, you get more physiological benefits than by rotting in zone two. But you, and then you benefit more than doing full-on threshold training. So that, that's what she means by training is I developed sweet-spot training in 2003 to 2005 with a group of coaches and sports scientists. People like dr Andy Coggin Hunter Allen, who I listened to your podcast, that was really good. And it, you know, just like some other coaches like John virtual, Adam Meyerson Olympic silver medalist Brian Walton was in this group and you know, this is before all this that was our empower based technology and was unknown. There was no technology or sports science behind it. And we figured it out. And one of the things that came out of that was sweet-spot training. We were using sweet-spot training to build big aerobic engines to help us go fast. We were all using our own data and developing our own training methods to validate this performance manager chart that is a big piece of the training peak software now. And yeah, so I wrote about it in 2005 on a website called Pez cycling news, introduced it to the world. And I started prescribing sweet-spot trained to all the athletes that I coached, guys like Tom Zirbel and Alison powers. Ted King did a lot of sweet spot training. I coached him back then. You know, Frank Pitt, you know, a lot, a lot, a lot of athletes and they got really fast from it. And that's kind of how I made a name for myself when I was coming up in the coaching world. Awesome. Awesome. Well, you know, for the listener, again, I encourage you to check out Frank's podcast and check out his website cause there's a ton of backstory to everything we've been talking about today. I know you've given me a lot to think about for 2020 and I think this would be a really good year for me to kind of buckle down and just try to add some structure to my gravel cycling as I kind of enter maybe my third or fourth year doing the gravel thing. So Frank, thanks so much for all the great content you're putting out and for the time today. I appreciate it. Oh, you're quite welcome. And I would say if you have any further questions, feel free to ask me. I love helping people. I mean that's kinda like our mission. That's one of the joys of being in the coaching realm as we get to help people with something that they're passionate about, just like us, which is cycling and nowadays a lot of gravel and long distance riding. So yeah. It's a dream dream come true to be able to do this for a living. Yeah, I bet. And I think it's, again, this great takeaways from this podcast, anybody listening is if you're tackling your first gravel event or maybe your first kind of ultra distance event like DK 200, I think there's a lot of these gains that can maybe be made very simply, if you can kind of step back and think about it because they are super taxing these events in a way that just kind of jumping into a local 45 minute long crit never taxes the body. That's right. I mean, crits, you can fake, but I'm a gravel race. You cannot. And being prepared for these gravel races is just so fun. And, and having, you know, six months of work culminate and having a great ride, that's, that's a rewarding experience. And, and I also know this from experience, personal experience, you know, doing a a hundred mile or challenging gravel event under-prepared. That's not fun. And we're doing this for fun. And you know, what we always say is as a fast is funner. Yeah, absolutely. Thanks again, Frank. You're welcome, Craig. Thank you again for having me on.    
April 14, 2020
This week we speak with Dean Stanton from Canada's Triple Crown of Gravel, three great events across British Columbia. Triple Crown of Gravel Instagram Triple Crown of Gravel Website This week's episode is brought to you by Cycle Oregon.  Please mention 'TGR' during any registration for a special item. Automated transcription, please forgive typos. Dean, welcome to the show. Great. Thanks. Good to be here. Yeah. Well I'm really excited to have you on the show. I know you producing three events at least up there this year in the gravel community, but first we always like to get started by learning a little bit more about your background as a cyclist and how ultimately you got into the arduous task of event production. Well it's a weird and twisted past for that. I started off mainly in triathlons in high school and became an elite professional from 87 to 99. And before I sort of quit racing, I got into coaching at about 97 and then about 2004 I thought, you know, Hey, I've done all these races and helped out and done all this. I'll put on a triathlon and I had no idea what I was doing and to be honest, it shouldn't have been putting one on but did it and sorta went through that and did a bunch of bike races or sorry, no triathlons and then some running races. And then I've always really wanted to put on a bike race and some bike races. And then, you know, at that time around 2009, 2010 the gravel and sorry the grand fondos were sort of taking off. And then when I looked at the costs of production and everything, I was just like no, this isn't gonna work. So 2013 I was looking at you know, what was going on down in the States and already, you know, dirty Kanza was on the radar and I was like, that's pretty cool. So I went down and did one in the rate race in the States on a, on a cross bike and started writing more gravel at year anyways and then said, you know what, I'm going to put on the kettle medal. And we did. And like 80 people showed up or something. It wasn't very good. And you know, in terms of numbers, but you know, it was great and everybody really enjoyed it. And I am myself ride gravel a lot cause I really enjoy not having the cars and being more in nature. It's kind of a hybrid between say road riding and mountain biking. Cause I think you need some of the mountain bike skills that helps. But it's just, you know, but it's a little bit more easier than mountain biking in some respects in terms of the descending and the assets aren't nearly as steep usually. But anyways, I really enjoy it. I, it's something I've really do more and more of. Nice. And was that first cuddle metal, was that back in 2014 then? Correct. Yeah. I'm curious, you made mention, and I, I like to have takeaways for other event organizers. You made mention that you thought the cost of production of a grand Fondo on the road was more expensive than a gravel event. Was that from some sort of practical perspective like road closures and things like that? Well I don't, I'm not sure how things work in the States, but in Canada they seem to love, you know, having everything done to the nth degree. So, you know, yeah, it's traffic management plans, police you know, traffic control people. It's, it's, it's prohibitively expensive to degree to shut any roads down and it gets very, very expensive, very fast. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me. Yeah. So that's sort of why I was like, ah, no, not doing it. Yeah. So you're there in the heart bed of mountain biking up in British Columbia. So that first event was the kettle medal. And I know at this point you've expanded to having three gravel events on the calendar, is that right? Correct. I sort of that and that's funny cause that sort of grew organically as well as that. I did kettle metal for a couple of years and then I looked on the Island and I was over there anyways. I'm think of Island, which is pretty big Island. And I just was like, I'm going to go and check out some gravel rides. And I just, I realized that there was a real old railway line there as well. And then just worked into a an event over there as well. And that's, we're going now into our fourth year for, I'm the couch and crusher, which is out of Lake Cowichan, which is, it's phenomenal. Some of the riding on the islands as I think some of the best writing in terms of gravel on NBC. I mean, unfortunately most of it seems to be on private property. But yeah, it's, it's really good writing over there And you, are you able to get permission for the event day to get on that private property? Yeah, it's just, yeah, it's just a few more steps to go through, but yeah, no, it's, it's, it's really good stuff over there. It's really, it's really nice. I mean, one of the challenges in BC, and I'm not sure you have this in California other places, is a lot of the terrain is very steep, so it's very difficult at times to find a sort of circular route on gravel. A lot of them are sort of like a roots of trees in that there's a main road and then it'll go off and branch up a super steep room and it'll be dead end. And then you get to come back down and, and get to go. So the nice thing about Vancouver Island is it's a lot less steep terrain. So there's a lot more sort of rows that all link up. Whereas other places like Squamish, it's a little bit more difficult than again, most of the roads are all built for logging and logging access. So their forest service roads. Yeah. No, I think that's common for any coastal areas. Certainly my neck of the woods. You can't, you can't go 10 miles without going a thousand feet of climbing and you've got to pick your roots wisely. Yeah. So it, you know, and I'm, I'm, I mean I've done some of the rides and I'm just amazed at how these trucks were getting up and down these Hills with logs, bro. You know, like a load of log. I'm just like, no, blows me away cause I'm like, this is so steep. Yeah. And then the third event is called what? Well, the third event we did for two years was the cow. So the golden ears, gravel Fondo, which was a bit challenging in that one of the cool areas about pit Meadows is sort of called near to the Tri-City area of lower mainland of Vancouver, greater Vancouver. And it has all these dikes in a, technically a lot of that area is underwater, like under sea level, but they have all these dikes that you kind of link up. It just, it became very difficult to train, you know, go through the permitting process on that because I had either nine or 10 jurisdictions I had to go through, you know, and then I'm doing Squamish and I have four or three. It's, it's so much easier. So, so I just kind of went, you know it's good writing and good training, but trying to put on an event on there was really challenging. And so over the last year, year and a half, I was going up to Squamish to do some gravel rides and I said, you know what, we're just gonna move it next year. And that's what we're doing right now. And the numbers are pretty strong and we're pretty excited about it, so yeah. Great. And that one's called the sea to sky, is that right? Yeah, the, the, yeah, so in the, I got that name from basically the sea to sky highway, but that's called the sea to sky corridor. It's kind of like, it's pretty steep terrain and I'm not really sure even how they made that road way back in the 50s from Vancouver to school. And we still Whistler and wish there's Whistler's like a world-class resort. It was skiing, but it's also a major mountain biking downhilling in the summer. But that road is just like, I'm trying to remember the name. There's that marathon on the Pacific coast of California that goes through the redwoods and all that stuff. And it's kind of similar to that is very steep terrain. So On the way to Whistler previous times, and actually up on some fire roads in Squamish, but I was up in a van with a full suspension bike and a full face helmet ready to go downhill. Yeah. So very different. Yeah. Yeah. I want to get into some of the details in terms of elevation and the type of terrain for the three different events. But one of the things that jumped out at me on the website was you actually have divisions for two and four person teams, which I haven't seen in a lot of gravel events. Can you talk about, you know, how that works from a practical perspective and you know, what your intention was in, in adding those event categories. Well I, I kind of really liked the team atmosphere and then I also thought it would be interesting for people to bring out other buddies and friends to do their event with them instead of just all doing it singly. So I thought it'd be really cool to sort of do a team of two or team before, you know, mixed or whatever. And then you give them a slight discount so that, you know, you're encouraging more teams and you know, we, we give out, you know, prizes to the top team, to top team of Ford and we also have a triple crown prizing for all three events. The end of the season at the end last event and I, I I just really liked the idea of it. Yeah, I mean it's funny that I sort of did that second or third year and we've been doing it ever since and yeah, I guess now that you mentioned it, I haven't seen this in a lot of other events. Yeah, I think it's, I mean I think it's a very interesting dynamic, both from a, from a race organizer perspective, obviously it encourages people very specifically to bring a buddy with them, but also from a racing perspective, having done team events in the past and myself both single day and multi day, it does add a different dynamic because you're trying to get your teammate across as fast as you can and you're going to have different skillsets. I imagine in a gravel event, you know, you may have someone who's a good roller on the flat terrain really coming to the front and dragging their teammate along, whereas you know, their teammate may have other skillsets. It does, I think, create some interesting mentality during the race, which is probably quite fun to race as a team. Yeah, I mean that's just what we're trying to encourage is just more people to come out, more people to do it as a team, you know, it's combined times. So it's like two people, it'd be the two times together and that that's so thus it, it doesn't make sense for one person to be super fast and the other person it takes longer, you know, because he has, you're adding the times together anyways for the results. So you might as well just try and like you said, both write together and cheer each other on and push each other for, you know, better finish. And you mentioned it casually that you've kind of cast the three events under this [inaudible] of the triple crown of gravel and you're actually tracking results across three events and providing, you know, accolades or awards at the end of all three events, right? Yep, that's correct. Yep. Yeah. Pretty cool. So let's get into some of the, some of the terrain in each of the three events and curious to kind of get your perspective, if you would expect given unlimited resources, if people would change bikes or tires or, or different things about the bikes between the three events or if it's, if it's similar enough that, you know, it's kinda run the same tires in each event. In terms of the terrain, it's quite different. As I said before, I mean Squamish is somewhat flat. It's got some Hills in it, but nothing major over the long course of the full Fondo, which we were in Columbia is up here. It's about a hundred kilometers also because it's an April 25th and I don't think people are hoping to do 150, 200 kilometers fairly early in the season. So I'm trying to make sure it's not too long for people. It's challenging but not over challenging. But there's definitely some climbs as you get closer to the turnaround area. And the gravel is mostly fairly hard pack. Yeah, in similar to the Island, but a kettle metal has a couple of sections where it's a bit Sandy or softer. So I would suggest going with a slightly wider tire with lower pressures for that one. Although I mean it really depends, right? I mean it depends how big you are, how much you weigh, what kind of bike you're riding. You know, it's interesting, we, we, we started tracking with our registration, what people are doing, what their bikes they're riding, what size tires they're writing. These are all questions we ask at registration and sort of attract that last year and have a lot of interesting stats on. When we first started this seven years ago, I didn't have the stats, but you know, through seeing what people were doing, the vast majority were on mountain bikes. And then there was a few on cross bikes and you know, seven years ago there wasn't even gravel bikes. So it was mostly that. And now the vast majority are 700. See bikes split between, you know, gravel and cyclocross, and then there's six 50 B gravel bikes. But they're not, there's not as many. Like I would say on our stats, over 75% are gravel or 700 see in less than 25% or six 50 [inaudible]. And then one of the other interesting things about mountain biking is we thought there'd be a lot more people in 20 Niners and there's hardly any, it's only like four and a half, 5% of the 27% that are mountain bikes, the vast majority are 26 inch or six 50 [inaudible]. And are you tracking the tire width the people are proposing they're going to ride on? Yeah. Yeah, we, we ask them, you know, is it 26 inch, six 50 [inaudible] 29 incher and then hybrid bikes, we just assume that 700 seen road bikes. So we have about 4% rode bikes to try and attempt it on that. Even though on a lot of them you're very limited on what size you can go. And then hybrid bikes, you know, you can usually get a bitF , you know, wider. Most of the people in hydro bikes and mountain bikes are usually doing the 50K or the medio size fondos in is the longer distances. Most of them were on cross bikes and ugravel bikes. And then there is some people, a few on mountain bikes. Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if your proportions of 700 C versus six 50 B being 75 25% are pretty common around the country. I find that six 50 it's a little bit out of the norm. It's certainly not the majority, majority of what I see as well. So that's, that's not too surprising over there. And the other thing is, is, you know, I've noticed that it seemed like there's a tendency for people to try to go with one buy instead of to buy. But I've, I've noticed that most of the people in our long course on gravel or on to buy instead of one by, and it seems like more six 50 [inaudible] have of one buy in most of the 700 seat or two by, but I mean it's sort of open on that. Yeah, no, I think you're probably right. I think this six 50 [inaudible] wheel set probably is attractive to someone who has experienced mountain biking. Therefore they probably have experience running one by Sarah. It kind of tracks and correlates together, I would imagine. Yeah. I mean the thing that I've noticed riding my gravel bike as opposed to my mountain bike in which is, is just that if you're on a one by, I feel like you're going to run out of gears a bit in certain places in some of our courses cause you're not going to have those tighter steps, but also the ability to go into a big chain ring and just go a bit faster and some of the downhills if that's what you want to do. But it just seems a bit limiting to me. But Yeah, it's all, it's all a personal choice here in the gravel world for sure. Yeah. So Dean, can you let us know what the dates are for each event and when registration's open. Okay. well registration is all open for all of them. As of right now, they've all been open as of early December kettle met and sorry for start off, the first one, sea to sky gravel. Fondo is on Saturday, April 25th and it's in a Squamish Valley. And the next one is the couch and crusher on June 7th on thanker Island in Lake chin. And the third one of the triple crown is the kettle medal on September 26th Penticton to Colona. You have the logistics on that one is a bit interesting in terms of all my other events that sort of same start, finish that one. To be honest, the first year or two was a bit of a logistical nightmare trying to figure out how to have a start and finish in two different locations that are, you know, 180 kilometers, a hundred kilometers apart and having to bus people in, truck people in a truck, all the bicycles and yeah, that, that, that was a bit challenging, but we've kind of got it pretty small sorted now. But yeah, that was trying to figure out, Nick people have to check in on the Friday to load their bikes into the, you know, semi trailer to, to drive it down Friday night so that we unload Saturday morning so they can start the race. Cause we didn't want to load and unload in the morning. It just is too, too much time consuming. So it's easier to just unload, get people, get on their bikes. And then we shuttle people from Penticton, this start to the people doing the media to shoot Lake. And then from shoot Lake they ride down. And that, that, I don't know if you've ever been to Penticton or Colona the interior, but it's kind of an interesting area and that you think of BC and you think of monster trees and all that kind of stuff. But it's very different. It's kind of like Napa Valley North in a way. It's, but more in different because it's got really big lakes and like huge lakes. It's got you know, very dry, warm terrain. There's orchards, there's wineries, there's this old train. So it's, it's very scenic. Very beautiful. And it's yeah, it's interesting. Yeah. Penticton is gorgeous. I have been up there for iron man many years ago and it's certainly a place where, you know, you could bring your family up for a vacation and everybody in the household going to find something to do. It's, it's great. There's, I just as you said that the lakes are amazing and the mountains have a slightly different character than other parts of BC, so I'm not surprised it's a popular event for you. Yeah, and I mean I, that was our inception, you know, first event, but I just, I feel like it's, it's just a really awesome way to tee in this season for us, for our triple crown. And you know, it's just, Oh, we get a lot of people in from Alberta because there's sort of, it gets colder there earlier than Vancouver and BC and they're sort of ending, their season is September eight, late September. So it's kind of a good sort of end to finish for us. Yeah, that's awesome. Well, I'll make sure to put a link in the show notes to the registration site and make sure people take a look at that. And I wish you the best of luck this season. I can't wait to hear more about it at the end of the year. Great. Okay. Thank you.  
April 7, 2020
Dirty Kanza 2020 has be rescheduled to September 10-13, 2020. We take a moment to catch up with founder, Jim Cummins about the new date and check in with a handful of athletes to learn how this will affect their fall schedules.  Dirty Kanza Website Support this show EMPORIA, Kans., April 7, 2020—Life Time, the nation’s premier healthy lifestyle brand which owns and produces the Garmin Dirty Kanza, today announced that the event, notably known as the “World Series of Gravel”, will be rescheduled from May 29-31 to September 10-13 in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and in an effort to provide a safe event experience for all.  
March 31, 2020
Sponsored by Cycle Oregon.  Look for multiple great events this fall. This week we take another look at Gravel Bike 101 in a conversation with Randall Jacobs from Thesis Bike with the goal of breaking down some of the considerations when purchasing a gravel bike. New way to support the pod!  Buy me a Coffee. Randall Jacobs @  Thesis Bike Automated Transcript (please forgive the typos). Good day everyone and welcome to the gravel ride podcast. I'm your host, Craig Dalton. This week's episode of the podcast is brought to you by our friends at Cycle Oregon. I introduced you to them last week talking about their exciting gravel weekend they had planted in may and wouldn't you know it. Boom pandemic. The guys up at Cycle Oregon are super bummed, but they're delaying this event until October, which is definitely the right thing to do. I know all event organizers all over the world, they're struggling with what to do and where to get some time slots. Fortunately as you guys know, Oregon is such a great place to ride in the fall. October is going to be a real neat time there in the Ti Valley and I'm looking forward to the event. So go check out and if you're interested in information, make sure to put TGR in your registration. I believe there's a team field or otherwise and note field where you can put TGR just to let them know that you heard about it first here at the gravel ride and definitely support them and all the other event organizers who are rejiggering their calendar to make sure that when it's safe to go out, when it's safe to congregate in groups. We have awesome events to go look forward to. I don't know about you guys, but this pandemic has forced me to really think about what my calendar is going to look like. A lot of great events in the first half of the year have been postponed and perhaps they'll come back later in the year, but it's definitely gonna be a fun filled fall. I'm super optimistic and looking forward to it. I know like me, everybody's struggling through this hard time, so let's just band together. Let's do what we can. Let's be kind to one another. Let's reach out to each other online. Let's keep those solo rides going so we can stay fit and you know, we'll be back. Everybody's going to be back. So keep in mind that I record these podcasts maybe a couple of months in advance, so if any of the content seems to be inappropriate like me calling for a group ride or anything like that, just keep in mind that the intros are more present, but the body of the recording is done typically a month or so in arrears, so again, forgive any gaps from that perspective. I'm super stoked on this episode it has with most episodes. I really wanted to revisit our gravel bike one Oh one episode we did early on in the podcast because I think it's just a great starting point for a new riders as well as riders who have been around for a while and are thinking about their equipment in different ways as they've learned how to ride and chosen the terrain that they fallen in love with. I've asked my friend Randall, cofounder of thesis bikes out of San Francisco to join the podcasts and he actually had me over again. This was before the, so I was over at thesis world headquarters over there in San Francisco and just enjoyed the conversation. It was a lot of fun to catch up with a buddy that I've been riding with now for for a year. Plus. The thesis bike is available at thesis' dot bike. They've got some deals going over there right now, so hop on over and check out what they're doing and said Randall and the team and note they definitely like to interact with the community. So feel free to reach out with any questions about their bike and anything that's come up in relation to this podcast and the gravel bike or one-on-one. I'm here for you as always. But I'm sure Randall would be game to answer any questions over social media or directly over email. So apologies for the long intro. Thanks again to our sponsor cycle Oregon for stepping up for this episode and a few others. We look forward to seeing you in the fall with some of your great events. And with that, let's dive right in to gravel bike one Oh one all right, Randall. Okay. Come to the show. Thank you very much. It's nice to be back. I appreciate you having me in your home and where you work a lot for thesis. It's a joy to be here. This is a global headquarters yet virtual company. Yeah, exactly. So for awhile, I know on our bike rides I've been talking to you about my desire to kind of take a step back and do another gravel bike one Oh one episode. I did one back in 2018 with the goal of, you know, if you were thinking about getting into the sport, what do you need to think about? And I realized I was in a bike shop. We kind of probably stepped head of where we should have even started because a lot of people will stumble upon this podcast and just be asking themselves the question is gravel cycling for me? So I thought it'd be great to just have a conversation about that today. Sure. And, and I think the answer to that question really depends on where you're coming from. Right? So some of us are coming, you know, I was a former mountain biker, you know, racer. I did, you know, it trained a lot on the road. So I'm already kind of a dyed in the wool cyclist. You know, this is, this is my, what I do, it's my tribe. But then you have other people who are like getting into this. Maybe this is like their first serious bike, right? They, maybe they had a bike in college, maybe they have like a, you know, a, a commuter or something like that and they see their friends having fun. And so I think in terms of like how to think about a gravel bike, well for the people who already have a stable, maybe they're thinking about this as their and as an Mplus plus one machine. And by that I mean like the optimal bikes for S for cyclist is often said to be N plus one, I need one more. I'm not an adherent to that philosophy but, but it's the idea of like having a dedicated machine for going out on these long rambling rides on a mix of road and dirt and, and so on, being able to get lost and have adventures. The other philosophy, which is kind of my, my jam is, you know, N minus one or maybe even N minus two or in minus three, if you have that stable. So think of a bike and gravel riding is like, you have a bike that can do all the things right? It's a, it's a really good say, endurance road bike. If you put some slicks on it you put some fat six 50 B's, it's a borderline mountain bike. You put a dropper and a flair bar on there. Like you're, you're, you have a better mountain bike then, you know, the people who invented mountain biking, not, not far from here. So you know, this idea of like having a machine where you can go out on a ride and on the road and be like, huh, I wonder where that trail goes. And then just dive into it and explore or somebody is, is hosting, you know, a mixed terrain ride and you just, you have the right machine for a variety of different experiences. The last one being like adventure. It was like, like travel, bike packing, touring these bikes generally have, you know, oftentimes have accommodations for, you know, you put bag systems on and things like this and you can really get out there. So I'm going to take a step back from my sister who's constantly asking me like, what the heck is this that you do? She knows mountain bikes and she knows the tour de France. And so what I've said to her is it's a, a drop handlebars bike that you can ride off road. So it kind of looks like a road bike to many people, but it's actually capable and has a lot of design features that we can get into later that allow it to go anywhere on road or off road. It can. Yeah. And there's kind of, there's a spectrum, right? You have machines that are, you know, almost like cross bikes in terms of like more limited tire clearance. And maybe the, the geo is, is a little bit more aggressive or something. And then you have others that are essentially drop our mountain bikes. Right? And so the former is not going to be as capable on dirt. The the ladder is going to be kind of a pig on the road. And it's, it the, the steering will be a bit slower and they're great for that dedicated purpose. But yeah, in terms of like being able to go out and have this wide variety of adventures, you know, you want to be kind of mindful of, of getting a machine that'll cover, cover all the bases. And I think that that's a gravel bike at its best is one that can do all the things. Yeah. And I mean I think that's an interesting part of this exploding sector of the cycling industry is that people are trying to figure out, well what's my entry point? Is it a bike that can do all these things? Or is it a bike that does one end of spectrum better than others? And you know, I often talk about road plus bikes as being sort of the basic entry part. If you have, you know, if you're on the roadie side of the market, you're like, okay, now I can run a 30 to see tire in addition to my 25 or my 28 when I'm on the road and when I'm running that 32, see, I can go on a dirt road and feel comfortable. Well, this really gets down to like, you know, let's get down to the brass tacks of like, what is, what is the difference between all these different bikes? You have like rode bikes and you have, you know, climbing road bikes and arrow road bikes and endurance road bikes. You have cross bikes and you have gravel bikes, you have a, you know, a bike packing and touring rigs and so on. And you know, there's this idea that like, every one of these is kind of purpose built for that experience. But we've had some key enabling technologies of late one of which being like tubeless tires, right? Run on wide rims. Another being, you know, dropper posts you know, the trend towards slightly flared bars and then materials like carbon fiber. Make it so that you can have a machine that's lightweight. You can have a machine that is, you know, very capable off road cause Oh the last one being disc brakes of course. You know, you can swap between wheel sets to have like a road or a dirt experience if you want to go to the extremes. And then with something like a dropper, you know, you, you're getting into mountain bike territory with our suspension because you're, you're able to shift your weight back and keep your front wheel light, let it roll and kind of sail over train and your, your butts off the back and the bikes dancing out, you know, underneath you as your legs are acting as suspension, like the capability of something like that is well into cross country territory. Yeah. Yeah. So let me, I'm going to, I'm going to step back from my sister's benefit again and say, why do we have tubeless tires? Okay. We used to have tubes and tires and we still do on plenty of bikes, but tubes required us to run higher air pressure to avoid pinch flats. Yep. And probably many other reasons that I won't drill into. And now we have just the tire with some sealant inside that we pump up and we can run lower type or higher pressure, which gives us, we can talk about what it will do off road, but at, at, at sort of a simple level, it allows us to have a more comfortably comfortable riding tire, Even better rolling resistance and similar or potentially even slightly lighter system weight. It's actually benefits all around. The, you know, there's so tubeless tires you get, one of the big risks that you have, especially as you go off road is pinch flats. So basically, you know, you hit a bump, pinches the two between the ground and the rim and you get a little sneak bike, sneak bait sort of a pattern on the tube. That goes away with tubeless. The, you know, the manufacturing tolerances available within the bike industry have improved significantly and you know, tire construction, all that stuff that makes it so that you can get the tight tolerances needed for a tubeless system. The advent of like sealants. And so on, make it so that not only do you like seal the casing properly, but if you get a little puncture, there's a good chance it's going to hold up. And so there's just, it's all benefit. Like the only downside may be road, some people will say like, Oh, like tubeless road, it's, it's a pain in the buck. It's it, you know, the industry hasn't properly settled on standards and so on. That is actually mostly a problem with narrow rims and tires. And if you run wide rims and a 28 plus road tire, your pressures are low enough where a lot of the problems associated with high pressure systems goes away. So if you're thinking tubeless, like tubeless is an essential enabling technology of these experiences go tubeless, you'll, you won't look back. And that, that's all. And when you walk into the bike shop or you're shopping online, it's not going to look any different. It's just a wheel with a tire on it. If you're in the, I'm buying my first bike or my first gravel bikes, I don't stress about that. But when someone says tubeless, two thumbs up from everybody here, it's super important to your enjoyment for a lot of different reasons. The second thing you mentioned that may be different looking than somebody's previous shopping experience with bikes are these disc brakes. And the only thing really you need to know about this brakes is they stop a hell of a lot better than caliper brakes or anything that proceeded it. And they're really a must have for going off road. Yeah. And, and of course like people often as you cited there will cite the power of a disc brake as the primary benefit, a good caliber brake and the dry has plenty of braking force. Right. but it's the, the consistency of breaking like in the wet, in the dirt and so on. You know, grinding down your rims, the rims are going to hold up. It changes rim construction as well, so you can have the lighter, stiffer, stronger and not have to dissipate heat. But then also modulation. So like the little like, especially on dirt, you know, the difference between breaking traction and not breaking traction can be a tiny amount of forest at the lever. And so being able to like trends, you know, at the end of the day, like a human on a bike is a cyborg, right? And you're trying to create this, this melding of, of human and machine such that, you know, it's an extension of, of, of the animal on, on the machine. And so like that, that modulation I think is, is actually arguably one of the greatest benefits. The last one being, and this one's quite critical for gravel, is you're no longer dependent on your rim and tie tire combo like your room and tire combo don't affect your your brake caliper clearance cause you're not squeezing at the rim, you're doing it at, at the rotor. And so you can swap wheels, you can have, you know, a road set with, with a skinny tire, skinny, slick, and you can have a big fat mountain bike tire on your other set and it's gonna grab at the same point. And so that, that is where you see like six 50 bees come in. You're not gonna find a caliber that breaks well at the rim that can fit around a 40 mil tire anyways. Like, you know, cross bikes and notoriously they squeal and so on. So that that other component of like being able to fit a variety of different wheel tire packages too is kind of another key component that I think was essential in this big shift. Right? Yup. Yeah, exactly. So when you go in the bike shop, you're going to see something drop handlebars a little bit, Navi your tire, then potentially you've seen on our bike, in your past shopping experience, you're also going to see a wide variety of frame materials. So anybody who's shopping for a bike, like every other sector of the sport, you've got steel bikes, you've got aluminum bikes, you've got titanium bikes. And you've got carbon fiber bikes and we don't need to drill into the minutia around these different materials cause that's probably another podcast. Don't want to go deep nerd on this. Don't want to go deep on it, but let's just put it out there that these, you know, in general camps, these materials are going to have different fields, different weights in different attributes. Right? Yeah. Is that, it's interesting. I actually just did a whole project researching You know, titanium and got deep in the weeds. And you know, I was at specialized when they are doing smart well with the aluminum. There's some ideas, there's some misconceptions around say aluminum being really stiff. That was the case back in the day when I'm probably going in. The weeds aren't I think of it this way if as far as a material that gives you really impressive stiffness to weight that's highly tuneable for, you know, damping and various other characteristics that you want on the bike. You just can't be carbon. Like it is just a superior material. And I know that, you know Ty and, and steel had their acolytes and I think that those bikes are beautiful. They have their merits. It's great for custom because you can just MITRE tubes and, and, and take them together pretty easily. But as far as like if you are, if you're in the kind of like three K plus range you know, a carbon frame has a lot of benefits, especially for this experience where, you know, the you, you otherwise might end well, there's like it's kinda, maybe we cut this part out because I'm kind of going into the weeds already. Yeah, no, that's okay. Randall, you know, we're, we're gonna, I think we're gonna we're going to go in the weeds and we're going to pull back, I think at a high level. Again, if you're a new athlete shopping for a bike, if this is your, your sort of first proper adventure bicycle, you're going to have some sort of basic things that you're going to get in front of. So, so here's maybe a good way to frame this. If you're on a budget, right, and you know, your budgets like 1500 bucks, if there's a $1,500 gravel bike out there, it probably is not going to have the best components because a lot of the money went into the frame and you can think while it's upgradable and so on. Well, by the time you upgrade all those components, it's like turn, you know, getting a civic and boosting it, and then you fix the suspension and you've all of a sudden spent Porsche money, but you still have a civic. But if you, if you, if you're just getting into it, you're on a budget, steel and aluminum, really hard to beat. You can find really well thought out steel and aluminum frames and chassies that will perform well and kind of get you into the sport. And some of the better aluminum ones in particular at a rather high level. Again, using like, you know, the Cannondale aluminum road bikes and the specialized you know, smart well bikes as an example of aluminum that performs like carbon but at, at the top of the heap carbon for sure. Yeah. And I know we'll get some emails and some texts about titanium, which I'm a big fan of. I love the material. It's a different ballpark and I think when you're ready for titanium, you will have gone through that thought process if it's ultimately the material that makes sense for you. Well, what it comes down to is titanium specifically. You just can't accomplish the bottom bracket stiffness with titanium that you can with carbon fiber or even aluminum. Just because of the way the, the limitations on tube shaping and you know, how much space you have to weld things at the bottom bracket, juncture and so on. So that's probably the biggest compromise that you have with titanium is that bottom bracket stiffness. But otherwise, like, yeah, they're beautiful and you can, you can have a beautiful machine with that material. The other thing that I learned personally was that, you know, it's hard to make the right choice right when you get into this sport. So I, I was riding a Niner aluminum Niner, which was my first gravel bike, which is fully capable, but it had cable actually weighted breaks and I think it could max out at about a 36 or 38 and it turned out for me, you know, how I ride, like it just wasn't matching the aggression, if you, if you will, of my, my descending that I wanted to explore with the gravel bike. And I think that's, that is, you know, one of those things that I do encourage people to really think about is what tires will your bicycle run because it can be limiting and you need to think about what your strengths are, what your concerns are as you're coming into the sport. I think our group ride this last weekend was illustrative cause I was talking to some women from the Santa Rosa area who were incredible athletes, great climbers and a lot of fun to ride with. But when we got on the hairball descents, you know, they had the narrower tires and I feel like it was holding them back a little bit. Although to their credit, they powered through every section we threw at them. Oh, they were crushing it. Yeah. but yeah, it's, I mean, there's really no reason at this point if you're buying a new bike to buy something that doesn't take six 50 B's. Like, I just think that's if you, even if you're thinking that you're going to be riding it more kind of endurance road or more, say like a, a Belgium waffle ride, people show up on, you know, 32 mil slicks. Right? Even if that's going to be more your jam, you're going to reach your point where you want to hit something a little bit gnarlier and you're going to be tire limited. And you know, I've written 700 by 40. There are people who say like 700 by forties, you know, faster or 700 season going to be faster. They're thinking about, you know, TuneIn or mountain and so on. But inevitably you have compromises with that. Well, one, it's not necessarily faster because if the train is undulating and you have lots of bumps and so on, that's all you know horizontal energy that you put in by pedaling, that's getting tr dissipated as vertical energy. Basically you're getting bounced around on the bike and so a big fat tire will address that. But then also like you, you just have so much more ability to go in. Like, you know, I wonder if I can ride that right. Big fat tire you're gonna have a much better chance of riding it and you're going to have less issues with, you know, cracking rims and things like this cause you get, you know, you're under biked on terrain that really demands a, a more capable machine. Yeah. I'm a broken record, obviously [inaudible] six 50 being wide tires, but that's my jam. I think I could be wrong, but I suspect that most bikes out there get specked with 700 seat wheels. What's your sense on that? I think it's, I think it's great to have a 700 set so that you can put your road slicks on them. And as long as the frame fits six 50 B, you'll still be able to go out and have properly rowdy fund. But don't you, don't you get the sense that most shops you see, most bikes you see in a bike shop are advertised start with 700 see as a starting a lot of them. Yeah, yeah, that's, that's just a sense. I haven't, and to your point, like you know, we've both written 700 C wheels, plenty around here and Miranda and I do spend a fair amount of time on 700 by 40 but I remember going out to SBT gravel this year and the guys at Panorai sir, were like, Oh, you should ride it like a 32 and I was like, Oh my God, I can't even imagine putting that on my gravel bike. That said, for that particular course, it would have been fine for me. But with the forties I did find as usual, I was just rolling by people on the dissents. Having the wider tire and even on the small road sections on that course, the actual paved road sections, I didn't really feel like 40 was holding me back in any way. Well, the, so, so my take on this is that, you know, the folks who are trying to like run the minimal tire on the course, you know, if we're talking racers that whole mindset is going to go the way of, you know, the 700 by 23 roadie, you know, mindset where it's like, I need a tire that feels, you know, that's as hard as possible. I'm going to, I'm going to do 700 by 23 I'm going to run into a 120 PSI and I'm gonna feel everything and that's gonna make me feel fast. And that probably means I'm actually going faster. Well, no, you're, the rolling resistance is higher. There's no aerodynamic benefit. Obviously it's, the tire shape is the same. You're literally just wasting energy and beating the hell out of your body. So I think that the gravel scene is going to migrate much more towards fat, six 50 bees. Unless you're doing like hard packed dirt fire roads you know, the fatter six 50 bees are the way to go. And you can just, you know, again, you're out on that dirt fire road. Where does that single track go that that is a wonderful part of this experience. Yeah. And I know we won't probably won't drill too far into the notion of suspension and the many ways in which that gets into a bike, but tire volume is suspension. Don't get it wrong, don't get it twisted people. Well, and it's, it's suspension that is extremely efficient, right? It's not sapping energy. And if you, you know, what's beautiful too is like, you know, let's say you're a Trailhead is an hour away. Like I ride up, you know, from San Francisco to Fairfax and do Tamar Rancho, right? And it's probably mountain bike trail. Well, I'll run a few, few PSA higher PSI higher on the way there and then drop it a little bit. And then you know, getting shredded on the single track and it's a great time, Highly tuneable suspension, one knob tuning, right, right from your tire bow. Okay. So there's, I mean there's a few things for people to think about. We're getting people stoked on gravel. We encourage you to kind of look at whatever your bike budget is, look at a bike that can run both 706 50 B wheelsets if you have the option of starting out with six 50 [inaudible], I think it gives you this one all the benefits we've just been talking about, but then a margin of safety as a newer rider and a margin of comfort that you're not going to get in 700 sea wheel sets. That, that said, you know, if you fall in love with a 700 w C wheelset bike, go for it. Like hopefully it can go at least out to a 40, as Randall said, I think the evidence is clear that tire manufacturers are going bigger and bigger even on the 700 seat size at the end of the day. But these are, you know, those are a couple things to think about around these bikes. The other big thing to think about I think is just where you live. And you know, my bias always comes through being someone who rides what are considered more mountain bikey type terrain with my bike. So my set up tens that way, but I always tried to take a step back and think, well, people in the Midwest or on the East coast, they're talking about plenty of different terrain and the mountain States, again, different terrain that's gonna play a role in what bike's gonna make sense for you? Well, I would say to a degree I think it actually has more to do with like what re wheel tire package makes the most sense for your specific terrain. But in terms of the bike itself the basic principle of like, make sure it fits six 50 B's so that you always have that ability. I, I don't, there's really no downside to that. Doesn't affect geometry. There's no negative aspect of accommodating that tire. And you know, I've written all over the country. I'm from the Boston area. And you know, if with my setup like the tires, you know, I get a byway way in the front and adventure in the rear, so like a file, a semi slick in the rear. And in a file tread up front, I'm efficient on the road on Boston. Like I would road ride to a local mountain bike group ride and it was fast on the road and then I could ride with those, those folks. And you know, I was a little bit underbite I had a great time and then I can ride back and, and you know, this really like the rolling efficiency is there with these tires in the tire construction and so on. So I still think like getting a machine that is more capable than you think you need it to be. Because you'll be bummed out when there are rides that you can't do cause your machine is just not up to it. Yeah. I've been surprised with my gravel bikes. Just the, the idea that as you said, you can roll up to a group ride on the road and hang in there in a way that you maybe wouldn't think. You're like, I've got this sort of burly machine. But the reality is it's not. These are, these are kissing cousins from the road bikes. They're not that far off. Well, let's, let's talk about the actual differences. Right? So I mean, with the advent of hydraulic disc brakes for drop our bikes, right? So the breaking, you know, breaking systems are the same. You know, the geometries you can have, there are some gravel bikes that are, you know, really long and they're and, and more biased towards stability. Some of them are even borderline drop our mountain bikes, but you can get a gravel bike that has an endurance road geo. Like there's this overlapping point between, you know, endurance road and cyclocross and, you know, shrady gravel riding. There's that sweet spot where you have a machine that depending on the tires you put on it and how you, you know, maybe maybe how aggressively you set up your handlebar, you can have different experiences. Yeah. And that's, I mean, that's the beauty of these things. I mean, we've talked online on a number of us are offline on a number of occasions just about how put the road wheel set on this. Things that are road sled, you can kit the group ride. It's all good. Put a sort of tire setup that you just described. You can ride 20 miles of pavement, go hit a mountain bike trail system and ride home, get a NABI or set up. You can get pretty extreme with these bikes, strap some bags on. All of a sudden it's this overnight rig. And I think that's, it's incredible. The versatility of these bikes. Well, It's essentially, so my, my thinking is like, you know, if we could have one bike that really does everything, that would be the ideal. I think given the current state of the art, you know, a gravel bike with two wheel sets or a road, and then like a six 50 P dirt covers everything from performance road riding to bore, you know, borderline cross country bike packing like touring and so on cyclocross. And then if you, if you're into like, hardcore trails, get a dual suspension, tread sled, like that is a different experience. These bikes are not going to be the most fun when it gets properly Chandry and you're doing, you know, 20% gradients and, and, and what have you. But honestly, I used to be a mountain biker. I don't have the time. I don't own a car. You know, I, I don't want to like load up a big machine and drive out to the trails. I want to ride the trails that I have out my door. And you know, fortunately here we have some really good ones. And the truth is like, most people have some good trails, trails near where they live. They know where to look, especially if you can connect them with all these little road sections that are still fun to ride because your, your bike is still fun on, on those roads. Yeah. I think for us, you know, in, in Marin do to kind of trail access issues, we've got to get a bunch further North before you get into some real fun mountain biking. So these types of bikes, like if you're living in San Francisco, being able to ride across the golden gate bridge efficiently, then hit the dirt and the headlines. Yeah, it's just really nice. I mean, I did that for years on a hardtail 20 Niner, which was fine, but it really wasn't scratching the mountain bike itch. You know, cause I would just wasn't getting into the technical terrain. Then all of a sudden I started riding drop bars and some of those fire road dissents are really fun because you can sort of push the limits of technology and technique to try to ride them fast as if you're on a mountain bike, but without the sort of safety net of a suspension fork. So, so should should we get on a soapbox about dropper posts? I, I'm always game to get on that soapbox. I think I occupy, my name's on it next years. Yeah. So so for the listener, so a dropper post is simply, it's a telescoping seatpost that can be actuated by a lever. It can sink down and get out of the way. So if you've, if you're a road cyclist, you've never probably experienced this to this date, you're, you sort of set up your saddle height at your ideal peddling sort of leg length and, and you're good to go with a dropper post. You've got any number of different adjustments you can make from totally slammed out of the way to your perfect peddling position. Well, and here's, you know, there's this, this is actually, I believe you know, after disc brakes and tubeless tires on wide rims, like this is an essential enabling technology. And I think that dropper posts will be pretty ubiquitous before too long on this type of bike. You add, you know, 0.7 pounds, right? You know, Ooh, the weight we need in the group in the crowd might not like that. But here's what you get. You now is set up your saddle at the optimum position for power output, right? Because you don't have to compromise it to be able to scoot your butt off the back. And then when you get your butt off the back, your, your saddle is dropped down. So you really have like a lot of travel in your legs. The bike can be dancing underneath you going up and down and side to side and using all this body English to, to navigate the terrain. And, and you know, the bike is, is doing all this stuff in your body is taking a relatively smooth line through space. And so you can think of this as like, it's suspension without the slop, right? It's not, you don't get this big lumbering beast on the road where you know, it's bobbing underneath you. But when you want it, like it's there and, and as you develop the skill around it, it just radically extends the capability of machine. Yeah. And for him. It's interesting, you know it, I think it's often occupied the space of like, Oh a more advanced or experienced athlete comes to getting a dropper posts. But the reality is it's so good for beginner riders, for even riding on the road for God's sake. It's a good, it's a good thing because when you get up on those steeps, the last, particularly with the drop bar bikes, you, you sort of, when you're steeply descending, you just feel like you're getting thrown over the handlebars cause you are, because that seat is pitching you over the bars. But with the dropper posts, the saddle sinks right out of the way. You can, you have such a large pocket underneath your under carriage to kind of maneuver the bike around. So if, if you're going over a little over a little rock or something and there's a little bit of a drop off, you just have that room. Yeah. I think, and this is actually worth diving into. So cause this, this is really where like we get into cross country territory. So essentially the dropper with the dropper, you can shift your hips back. So you kind of like exaggeratedly you know point your by your, your butt off the back of the bike saddle ends up somewhere like around your, your tummy there. You're in the drops up front, which are more accessible because your, your body's lower right and those drops give you more leverage, especially if they're flared. You're because you have more mass over the rear, you can use your rear for speed control cause you have way more braking force cause the mass is there. And then you know, your front wheel is not being asked to both steer and brake and so it can just roll. You can keep it light. Your upper body stays nice and lightened the front just kind of rolls over stuff and the bike is kinda rocking back and forth, going over rough terrain. Your legs are absorbing it. And you know, if, if you, if you come up to a rudder, you come up to like something sketchy, you're not going to pitch over the front because your center of mass is so far back and you're, you don't, you're not breaking so much with the front that just the physics of it are such that you're, you're not going to be lawn darting, you're not going to be hot, you know, high siding over the front of the bike. Worst case scenario, your rear slides, that's controllable. In fact, when you start really becoming one with the bike, that's fun. You drift it. Like that's part of the technique. Yeah. I feel like, I feel like it's exponentially enhancing the safety and performance experience. And I see it time and time again. I ride with people who have the same sort of relative skill level as I do, but I can see they're constrained by being pitched up and over whenever we hit anything technical. Well, and, and another component of this is like you mentioned on the road, this being a game changer. There's something really delightful about being in like a bullet tuck with a dropper down with six 50 B's all covered in mud and ripping past somebody peddling down on a road bike or on a narrow road bike. But another element is a mobility actually. So you have, you know, we I talked to a lot of riders cause we do like our bikes are all custom and it's like, you know, I have trouble getting on and off the bike, like a dropper post makes it easier to get on and off the bike. And you know, that that is significance. That is, that is a meaningful improvement in accessibility. I think a lot of people like w when they think about a dropper, it's like, Oh, it's either high or low. But the interesting thing is once you get used to it, it's infinite. So I, you know, I was, I was riding with, with someone who was out on a demo ride on one of your bikes the other weekend. And I was like, Oh, you did, did you drop your posts? You know, a centimeter or an inch for this little traverse we were doing. He's like, no, I didn't, didn't think about it. I was like, well, you should because look what happens. Like I can now corner with a little bit more ease because I just, I have the ability to throw the bike around. We're not, we're not in a max power peddling situation, so it's not required that I have it at that perfect height. So I might as well have that room so I can throw the bike around and make it more playful. I mean, the, the way we, that this used to be done in the past and you know, the battle days before mountain, before a dropper posts is you know, we used to drop the saddle on our mountain bikes, three quarters of an inch so that we'd have a little bit more maneuverability. Now you can just, you know, do a little micro adjust and then when you hit the flat section, you hit the road, you pop it back up and you're in pure power production mode. So absolutely. I'm going to be sharing with some listeners my age a little bit here by saying like, I actually rocked the height right back in the day, which was this spring system that attached to your your seatpost. So you could throw your quick-release, slam it down and then theoretically it would pop back up. The problem with that is it never popped back up straight. Like today's dropper posts, which your saddle is always going to remain in the exact right position for you. We live in a golden age of, of equipment. The fact that you can go out and ride like we did the other day and stuff just works and it fun on all the different terrain. Like that's magical. So, Yeah. Yeah. No, I hope, I hope our shared enthusiasm for the sport is coming through in this podcast because anybody listening like these bikes for me, they have just given me the ability to, to ride wherever and whenever I want. I still do have that full suspension sled that gets written. Rarely if I'm, you know, doing a trip to Thai or someplace where I'm going to hit some real nice mountain bike terrain, which I still completely love. But having a gravel bike in my life has just been reinvigorating for my passion and love of the sport. Yeah. Yeah. I mean this gets down to, you know, let's get philosophical for a moment. Like why do we do this? Like what, what is the purpose? We are adults, right? Spending money on this equipment so we can go out and ride in a giant circle. And you know, like what is the point of this activity? And, and for me it comes down to like connection, right? You're on, you know, on a machine, you're connecting with the machine. You're connecting with your body, right? You know that, that sinking of your, your breathing, your heart rate, your cadence, like you, you get in, you can get into a flow state, you can you know, you can focus, you connect with yourself, you connect with the environments, you connect with community. Like you, we had, you know, how many people come out the other day and they were just stoked to be there and, and to meet each other and go on and have this experience. And like there were some writers who were really strong and there are some writers who it was their first big gravel group ride. And everybody got what they wanted out of that experience. And I think that that's something that's quite powerful about this particular type of writing. And, and if we take a bigger step back, like this is, this is not just, this isn't just about cycling, this is about like a life well lived, right? For me that this is the reason why I personally and so resonant with this experience and why I care so much and why I try to share it is because there's just so much there. In terms of like you know, having an outlet for adults to play, like children to interact without all the hierarchies and all the way, all the things that we have you know, to kind of all the identities that we have off the bike. What matters on the bike is that you're on the bike and you're friendly and you know, maybe if you're strong, you get a little bit of credit. Really. Generally people don't care that much. It's about having an adventure. Yeah. But I mean, that resonates with me. I've found over the course of my life, I've got this sort of adventure bucket, and if I'm not filling it on a weekly basis, I tend to get depressed. Yeah. And you know, I found that as much as I love cycling and as many great road riding experiences that I've had, it's a smaller part of those road rides that filled my adventure bucket. But when I get off road particularly, I mean, we're so blessed here in the Bay area that we can go out of our door and we can see no one we can get on these trails. Even though there's a huge population around here, you can have days and mornings where you do a loop and you see virtually no one. I mean if you live in New York city, you can find this. It's harder, but you can find that section of park at the right time of day that, that, you know, you get your, your peace, you get your tranquility. Yeah. Same in Washington DC where I started started my cycling back there. We just had these neighborhood trails that you have to know where the next entrance was, but you could just get out there amongst, you know, the traffic was just there around the corner, but all of a sudden you found this pocket of adventure. And another thing you were talking about that I think is, is unique to gravel riding that is maybe shared with our mountain bike brother. And it's just this idea of like riding a section and then grouping up afterwards and wanting to high five people. Yeah. It's just, it's fun as a grown ass man, grown ass woman to giggle and high five your friends. Yeah. Well I think that there, the fact that this is not the norm that like day to day joy and connection is not something that we've built into our now. We're now we're getting way into the philosophical realm. But like what is the point of all of this stuff that we're doing, right? We, you know, are we our jobs, are we our families? Are we our, our, our gender or race or something or we like something greater than that. And is there more to life than I mean of course like there is the struggle and we are in a a privileged position to have the time and the resources to buy a machine like this and to be able to steal away. I would like to see those types of experiences be accessible to more people because it really is like there's, there's there's being, there's living and then there's like being alive and that's where I think that these experiences come in. Yeah, it's important to remember. Yeah. So circling back off our philosophical bandwagon, but I mean, I think we, it, this should resonate with listeners. Anybody who's written off road, I think when they really think about it, they're going to think and remember like it is really filling something inside them. So I guess going back to where we started with gravel bike one Oh one one get a gravel bike, it's going to be great for you when you're looking for a gravel bike. Obviously price points are gonna be a concern. Get into the sport where you can afford it. Go out there and ride it. We're not, we're not sitting here saying go buy expensive equipment. It's the only way to ride gravel by no means. And I think gravel of any sector of the sport has shown that. It's like welcome all comers. If you want to go out ride trails, have a good time, smile, everybody's welcome in this sport. And we've, we've covered a lot of kind of the, you know, what to look for in equipment. One other one I think it's important to, to throw out there is gearing. I'm a huge fan of one by drive trains and I'm a big fan of having way more low end than you think you need. So like a big old pie plate in the rear so that, you know, when you hit that steep pitch you're going to be able to get up or when you get in over your head and you do that 60 mile group ride and you're completely kicked and you have that last pitch to get up, you can spin up it. Yeah. So for the listener. So, And let's talk about you've, you've generally got an option of two chain rings upfront and a cassette in the back or one chain ring up front and the cassette in the back. And I grappled with this with my, my first two gravel bikes. And ultimately I originally decided on a two I set up because I was sort of swayed with this idea that Oh, on the road I wasn't gonna have the nuances and the subtleties between the gears. But after spending a couple of years in the sport, I was lusting after one buy and I'm my present thesis, I'm on a one by setup and I couldn't be happier because I don't, I don't personally miss any of those subtleties that were purported to exist. Yeah. And you want like, you know just to throw out some numbers, like a 10 42 in the rear, 1146 in the rear and you can get all the range that you get with the two by with that big old cassette people will talk about the jumps, which is what you were alluding to and yeah, the jumps are bigger. I mean, that's just math, but the fact is like a two by 11 is really like a 14 speed, right? A lot of the gears overlap. And so a one by 11 is not going to be twice as big of a jump. The second thing is that if you're fit properly to the bike with the right crank length proportional to your inseam and like you're able to spin smoothly because you're dialed to the machine you, you're going to be fine at, you know, you know, in one gear in the other in terms of changing the cadence. And then the last thing is on gravel. The terrain is changing so much that you generally be grabbing two or three gears anyways. And so you know, it actually makes that easier. But the last thing here is just, there's nothing to think about, right? If you think about like the experience that you want, the bike is not the center of the action. Like it's, it's, you want the bike to disappear. And so if you're thinking about cross chaining, you're thinking about chain drops and this other stuff this is going to get in the way of you. You, you know, flowing in the environment. Yeah. I think I was dabbling with one by demo bikes. What I found right away was that it was just quieter, you know, with the clutch rear derailer, no sh no Chainer no. A derailer up front. The chain can be tighter. Everything seemed to just be quieter and, and felt more together. Yeah. The, I mean you, there are good to buy drive trains now with clutches fortunately. And if you go electronic, it takes away some of the cross chain and you can have it auto change the front and so on. But still like don't complicate things. Like one buy is super simple. It just works. It's cheaper upfront, cheaper to maintain. It's easier to meet. Like just get a one buy. And if you, if it's not the right gearing, you change the chain ring. Like, you know, 50 bucks. You can always dial it to what you need. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Well, I think this is all good stuff. Are there any kind of key takeaways that you would leave the listener with? Thinking, thinking from the mentality of, okay, someone considering jumping in the sport, they've learned a little bit from us today. What are the things you want them to walk away with? I would say that I would, I would target this, this response to the people who are really like, they're really interested in, in not just adding gravel to their repertoire. They're already cyclists. Cause you know, those of us who are already cyclists, we're already getting you know, our group rides or are our on the mountain bike or whatever. But you know, especially for, for the newbie like this is, this is an experience that's accessible. Find people in your community who are organizing group rides, who can give you some guidance on, on now, where to ride and, and equipment choices and so on. And, you know, don't be intimidated by you know, some of the train you go on, go out and have adventures, push yourself connect with people. And you will find as I have, and I think a lot of us have had that this is really an experience that's part of a life well lived. You know, everything from, from of course the, the basics of like just being fit and, and feeling healthy, but more importantly, just mental health, right? You talk about, you know, being depressed when you don't ride. This is therapy. Like this is, this is a way of, of, of self care. So, you know, find the people who have, who've you know, learned how to get the most out of this and get their, their guidance on, on how to join because it's a very accessible style of cycling you get into. Yeah, I think those are all great. Great. Parting thoughts and I would just add sort of, don't be afraid of gravel. We're not talking about bringing you to crank works up at Whistler and send you off, sending you off a a 40 foot jump. Dirt roads have been written since the Dawn of the bicycle time and, and it's, you know, it's the simplest incarnation. You don't need anything special. You can ride a, a tiny road bike tire off road and be enjoying gravel. As we've talked about earlier as, as you sort of make the right equipment choices and you'd develop the skills you can go explore further and further. One of the things that I've personally enjoyed around here, and I sort of encouraged newer athletes is ride uphill off road and ride downhill on the road. You don't have to do it all. You can, you can sort of go where your comfort level lies and you will get some of those rewards in the Bay area. That strategy is useful because descending, even at a casual pace, you're going faster than most of the cars. And you sort of forgive yourself, needing to know a lot of the sort of technical skills to go down Hill that you'll learn over time. Well, and the thing is by simple virtue of having what we're calling a gravel bike, this marketing term of gravel bike, these all purpose machines just write it how you want to ride it. Like that is, that is exactly the point. Like you can do all the things and you know, get the bike, do some exploring, find out what your jam is and then do more of that. And you know that that's a, like, that's what's beautiful about this is you can find, you can find your, your terrain, the stuff that you enjoy and in the community around that type of writing that you can join up, which is arguably one of the, one of the best parts about this is the, the people you meet alone. Yeah. And that's, you know, I've obviously talked to a lot of event organizers on the podcast and I think almost uniformly they are looking at creating distances and you know, different categories of events so that you can do a 25 miles starter gravel event. Because these experiences as Randal alluded to in terms of the community, it just, it's great to travel to do these things because they're just fun days out. Whether you're doing the 25 mile version or the a hundred mile version, you're all going to coalesce afterwards with a little bit of dirt on your bike and your body and you're going to enjoy a shared meal and maybe a beer together. And it's just great to get out there and do, It's a th there's a term is a term that's been coined in the Bay area. I th I think it's attributable to Murphy Mac of the super pro series, but the idea of like a, a mullet ride, it's like business in the front party in the back. So like show up, you start, everyone starts together. It's a, it's a, it's a festival atmosphere. It's a party atmosphere. And if you want to go out and race, go throw down. If you just want to like go and you know, slog through, you know, 60 miles and feel that sense of accomplishment and meet people along the way, that experience is there too. And that's kind of the general vibe around this. It's not like, you know, winter take all crit racing on the weekends or something. This is like, let's go have an adventure together and enjoy each other's company. Yeah, no, that's perfect. I think those are great closing thoughts Randall, so I appreciate you having me over. I appreciate the conversation. I hope everybody listening is getting a little bit out of it and at minimum of guarantee they're getting your enthusiasm and my enthusiasm for the sport. Yeah. Hopefully if anyone is in the Bay area, I'll come join us for a ride and I'll be around the country later this year. We'd love to a ride with some of you folks. Right on. Right. So thanks again to Randall from thesis for the time and the conversation. As I mentioned in the intro, obviously calling out group rides and things like that is not something we're condoning at this point, but definitely Randall and I love to get groups of people together here in the Bay area as I'm sure many of do you do around the country, so let's keep looking forward to better times and getting together soon. In the meantime, I forgot to mention all the great feedback I got about bringing on board a sponsor and advertisers to the podcast. I really appreciated the kind words and the thumbs up you guys were giving me to say, Hey, it's okay if you want to offset some of your costs. We know you're a volunteer effectively in doing this, so thanks so much. I also did set up a buy me a coffee slash the gravel ride where you can simply buy me a cup of Joe if you like what I'm doing. So anyway guys, stay safe, stay healthy during this pandemic. As always, I appreciate your feedback. Feel free to shoot me a note at Craig at the gravel ride dock, bike, or hit me up on Facebook or Instagram until next time, here's to finding some dirt under your wheels.    
March 17, 2020
Evil Bikes, best known as an MTB company, bursts onto the gravel scene at the end of 2019 with the Chamois Hager model.  With an aggressive geometry and dropper post, the bike immediately turned heads.  We talk with Evil Bikes COO, Jason Moeschler about the design philosophy and intention  Evil Bikes Website Evil Bikes Instagram Automated transcription (please excuse the typos). Good day everyone and welcome to the gravel ride podcast. I'm your host, Craig Dalton. I needed to take a minute this week and talk to you about the podcast. I've been doing it for two years now, having produced over 50 episodes. I very much appreciated the time you dedicate to listening every month and how you've shared the podcast with friends. The community has really grown, which has been super exciting and I'm super privileged to be part of that journey. As you guys explore and continue to be passionate about gravel cycling, one of the things I've been grappling with is the cost structure of producing the podcast. You may recognize that this isn't a full time job for me, but I am incurring costs on a monthly basis. Every time I put out episodes from hosting to editing to transcription and my time in general and I've been grappling with what to do about those expenses as we sort of pass into our second year. I thought about putting some of the content behind a pay wall or putting some episodes behind a pay wall, but that really just didn't make sense. At the end of the day, I want to provide information and audio content to those of you who are interested in finding out about events, race organizers, and hearing from athletes that are participating in the sport. So I came back to the idea that I'm going to need to start offering some advertising slots into the podcast and I'll try to keep them short and I'll try to keep them up front and not interrupt the content too much, but I wanted to just get out in front of it and let you guys know that I'm just doing this really to offset the costs and to be able to invest a little bit more into the podcast, into distribution, and into all the great things that I hope we're providing to the world. So as with everything I do, I definitely want your feedback, so feel free to shoot me a note of, Hey, that you're doing the right thing or BU this is really disappointing me. I'm always open to feedback and looking forward to hearing from you guys. So with all that said, I did want to tell you about our first sponsor cycle Oregon. I've spoken about the state of Oregon a couple of times on the podcast and we've certainly had guests from that area. I love the state for riding. I've spent time on the Oregon timber trail, mountain biking at fat tire Fest and bend riding in hood river. And I think my very first gravel event was actually up in Oregon, so I was super stoked in connecting with the team up at cycle Oregon. They're a nonprofit organization that has been transforming individuals and communities through cycling. So why are they here on the gravel ride podcast? Well, it's not too big a leap to understand that cycle Oregon who's been putting on events for I think a couple of decades, they are going to be highlighting some of the amazing gravel roads around the Thai Valley. Yeah, it's Ty like titanium, but not spelled that way. They've got a great two day event, which I think is kind of a cool format. They're camping overnight. So you'll be camping with all the, all the different riders and they're organizing two back to back gravel adventure days out of that Valley. So for those of you looking for ways of spending an entire weekend doing an event rather than kind of just a one day hit at a race, this cycle, Oregon gravel events, which is coming up here in may is a great alternative. I can't tell you how cool that area looks. It's kind of nestled below a hood river and above bend in the state of Oregon. So check that out on the map and definitely go to cycle because they've got some video about the event that they're producing. You can register right there for the event and if you put the promo code T G R in your registration, the team up there as promised, a little special treat for our listeners. So go check them out. They're investing in gravel, they're investing in adventure for our community. So it's another great way to spend a weekend. This may again, that's cycle for more information. So speaking of sweet adventures, I've got a rad episode for you coming up. We were fortunate to sit down with Jason Moseler from evil bikes talking about the Shammy Hagar. This bike burst onto the scene in November last year and really sent shockwaves through a lot of the gravel press as they were taking what was seen as a radical approach to gravel frame construction and geometry. I'm not going to say too much more because I want Jason to explain the concept to you in his own words, but suffice it to say what I thought going into the conversation is not what came out of it. Jason and the team up there at eval have a real clear vision on why this approach is great for gravel cyclists and believe they've created a really amazing platform for people to go out there and explore. So with that said, let's dive right in. Jason, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. Right on. Jason, could you start by telling the listener a little bit about your background and a little bit about the company history? Yeah. personally I race mountain bikes professionally for 22 years. The whole time I race, I worked also so 11 years at a bike shop 10 years with wilderness trail bikes, a little bit of home-building sprinkled in between there and and now I've been at eval for two and a half years. Evil was founded in 2008 and really didn't start selling bikes until 2014 with the launch of the following, the 120 millimeter full suspension, 20 Niner. And at that point the whole mountain bike industry was the, the, the whole industry. The ship had turned to 27.5 inch wheels and then all of the sudden eval lands this super aggressive, super playful, long, low and flack 29 or bike in it. It just like stopped the industry in its tracks. And from that point forward, evil has, has been looked at as this, this kind of game changer of a design and geometry company. Yeah. I encourage the listener to go out and check out the website and check out some of the history of evil. Cause I do remember that time period and it was like boom, here is a bad ass mountain bike coming to market. That's kind of a little bit different and a bit different in all the right ways. So it's an exciting time For sure. And you know, the, the fact that it was a 20 Niner and the fact that it had a really never before themed geometry was one thing. But then you had evils design language in the frame, the actual industrial design and it looked like nothing anyone had ever seen before. And that that same design language has plopped forward to the bike we're going to talk about today, the Shammy Hagar gravel bike. Yeah, I think it's interesting and you know, some people may be scratching their heads, why are we talking about full suspension mountain bikes for the first few minutes of this podcast. But as we've often talked about, you know, the gravel bike market, there's a, there's a spectrum. There's, there's starting with a road bike and adding a little bit of tire clearance and we've kind of talked about that as being called the road plus category. And then there's the other end of the spectrum. And I think we, one of the things that comes up time and time again is depending on what terrain is out in your backyard, your idea of a gravel bike can be radically different. So in December, you know, just a, just a couple of months back when you guys introduced the Shammy Hagar, it was like boom. It was another one of those moments where someone was saying to the industry and to the consumers, Hey, here's a different perspective. We're thinking about a rider that's maybe coming from a different geography and has a different idea about what writing is, looks like it's not, you know, simple, pleasant gravel roads that people were riding on 28 see tires. This is a different kind of animal. So can you just talk a little bit about the Shammy Hagar at a high level and then we'll get into some of those details that make it a different performing bike. For sure. Yeah. So when the Hagar was designed, we really didn't want to exclude people from the road side. We, we didn't want to make this a mountain bike and there's some key features in the bike that every rider that likes to peddle will appreciate. The first thing is that the seat angle on, on the Shami it's at the forward edge of the UCI C2 bangle position. What that means is that your pedal position is there in relation to the bottom bracket. It's not some, you know, crazy steep mountain bike seat tube angle that, you know, the full suspensions are using to, you know, take advantage of all the kinematics and everything. It's really a, a road huddling position. When you look at the bike from the side, it looks really long and it is really long. But what we've done to accommodate for that length in the peddling position is that we've flapped a really short handlebar STEM on there. We're, we're shipping the bikes out with a 40 millimeter to 60 millimeter STEM. And so what that short STEM has done is put the rider essentially in the same pedaling position that they're used to on their road bike. So we have essentially given a road rider, if you will, the optimal peddling position, a handlebar and handlebar position that they would really appreciate so that they're not excluded. But then on the extreme side, we link them the wheel base. We dropped the top two way down. We don't sell this bike without a drop or post. So all of the sudden you have a bike that can get your center of gravity really low, allow you to get your weight back and descend really comfortably. Yeah, I think that, you know, those are some of the things, if, if you're not driving or listening to this while you're riding, check out an image of the bike because it is striking some of these things. But as you're describing it, Jason, I know you've guys have put a lot of effort into making it feel as if you're in a sort of traditional gravel bike position. Ultimately, however, the angles are going to play out quite differently in terms of how the bike's gonna perform. Particularly descending, I imagine. Exactly, exactly. When you look at the overall schematic of a Shammy Hagar versus when we look at when Eagle looks at other gravel bikes there, to us, they're all very similar. And in general, the Shammy, Hagar, the wheelbase is about a hundred millimeters longer maybe even a little bit more. And what has happened to the rider position in relation to the front rear axle? Is that in relation to the axle? The rider, sorry, the wheel axles, the rider has moved back and down a little bit, but again, like I said, that pedal position is is maintained. Now a lot of people look at the Shami and they're like, Oh man, there's no way that thing is gonna turn. It's, it's gonna feel floppy. What they don't realize is that the bike has a very custom fork, very custom actual, the crown measurement, custom offset which was developed by Dave Weigle. Day wiggle comes from the mountain bike side. People probably know about him, but if there's one person that knows how to make a bike handle good, it is Dave Weigle. And so he's got his paintbrush all over this bike. And so what you'll discover is that he's, he's adjusted this thing to where it doesn't have any steering disadvantages. It doesn't have any cornering disadvantages. In fact, you end up, you know, the faster you go cornering the, the more you realize, wow, this thing, it's, you just keep finding more potential with it. Yeah. If I'm understanding you correctly, if you're sort of shifting your body weight back a little bit because they've got the shorter STEM, how does that translate to cornering performance off road? Well so when you look at the Shami, the top tube is dropped way down and it also has the dropper posts. So if you drop that seat posts, all of the sudden that seat isn't in your way. And so you can get your weight down way down. Like nothing you've ever felt before on a regular gravel bike. And what that does is it allows you to get your center of gravity down which allows you to keep the wheels more planted on the ground. It just, it like being down and low. Is, is what allows you to get your weight low and get more traction to the tire and also not feel like you're top heavy. And like, you know, if you hit an obstacle, you're gonna buck yourself over the bars or something. So that, that sloping top tube really along with the dropper post really lets the rider get their weight down and low. And then the other part of that equation, and you've probably seen this with a lot of, with a lot of your listeners, is that most gravel writers these days, and I, and I hear this from a lot of my colleagues, they say, you know, I don't use the drops anymore. I just use the top of the hood. And that's my comfortable position. But in our opinion, the top of the hoods is a very scary place to hold on to. When you're trying to negotiate something technical, when you're going really fast, we also feel that the drops are very uncomfortable. For the same reason you get your front, your front end weight is just disproportionate when you're in your drops on a standard gravel or road set up. If your front wheel hits an obstacle, your your way wants to be thrown forward with the Shammy, you drop your seat post and all of a sudden because your body is lower, your angle of attack going into the drop bars is much better. So all of the sudden you've got this amazing position to use your drops. They actually feel good to be in the drops. Not only that, but your angle of attack towards your brake levers and your shift gears in the drops is like nothing you've ever felt on a, on a standard gravel bike. Typically it's very hard to, to strike a good balance of good hood position when you're holding to the top and good hood position. When you're in the drops and reaching for the brake lever, how's your, you can get your, your weight low on the rear of the Shammy. With the feet dropped, all of the sudden there's this whole new world of accessibility using the drop bars. Yeah, I have to say those are some really important takeaways and as listeners know, I'm a big fan of the dropper post and I can see in the design of the Shammy Hagar how you really get down low. And it's interesting that you mentioned kind of that the hoods versus drops because I was, it was riding yesterday and descending here in mill Valley and, and just thinking about how better the position was with my saddle really dropped with the dropper post, kind of my hands felt very comfortable and planted and my weight was was low. So when it got steep I didn't feel like I was getting flipped over the bars. And I think your point about, you know, a lot of riders descending on the hoods is absolutely spot on. It's crazy. And I, I see people, mostly people in my rear view mirror that I'm passing who are descending on the hoods because there's just no way you can keep the control with just really effectively your, your thumb part of your hand being the only thing that's effectively gripping and holding you onto the bike. Exactly. Exactly. And now the other thing to consider with the Shammy Hagar versus a typical gravel bike. Sure you can throw a dropper post on a typical gravel bike, but the typical gravel bikes, the triangles are bigger. A lot of the bikes out there, they're their road bikes that are trying to be gravel bikes or they're gravel bikes that are trying to be cyclocross bikes. But the common theme is that the triangle's pretty big, so you can't fit a very long dropper on there. And so the cause of that, you just can't get as low as you could get on the Shami because the frame is organically, way lower. So you can just get yourself way, way lower. And that gets you way more wheel traction. It gets you the ability to lean way further back when you are going really fast. But that dropper posts and not compact frame, that's only part of the equation. When you take a typical gravel bike and you put a dropper post on, you're still dealing with the, the how do you, how do you say it? The, the road bike style front end. What I mean by that is you typically have tow overlap. You typically have a very short amount of trail. You typically have very steep head two bangles. And so those three things combined, they still make for a really sketchy descending experience. Compare that to the Shami where you essentially have a following MB mountain bike front end on this thing to scare with. It wants to attack aggressive stuff and that's what you get with the riding position of the Shami is you, you've essentially been given, we've, we sprinkled in all the benefits of mountain bike geometry to help descending feel more comfortable and safe on, on our gravel bike. And then have you designed it around a specific wheel size? Yeah. We, so this bike holds a 700 by 50 tire. So effectively a 29 by 2.0 and that's what we spec it with. And we've had a lot of questions of, well, Hey, why, why don't you, you know, promote like a, a road plus like a six 50 by 47. And our answer is well, cause you can use a 700 by 47. It to us it's just like a mountain bike. The bigger wheel is better. And so that's kind of where we're trying to scare people. I actually worked at WTB when the road plus tires were created and what we were doing there was working with consumers and bike brands that had road bikes that had some extra width and the chains days where they could take this road plus wheelset throw it on their road bike and you know, have a bike that goes off road much better and still does on road pretty good. The height of that six 50 by 47, the tire is essentially the same as a 700 by 30 road tire. So, you know, tired of feet tube, your clearance is good. You just need that chain stay with. But again, that's, that's taking a road bike and trying to make it you know, go off road better the evil Shammy Hagar, we, we're not trying to be a road bike. We're not trying to be a cyclocross bike. We're, we're trying to be the best gravel bike possible. So do you, we talk a lot and we've talked a lot about sort of descending and cornering. How, how do things play out when we're climbing? So again the climbing position, the peddling position is exactly what a rider would want. It's, it's exactly comparable to their road bike or their current gravel bike. So feed angle saddle for AFT, all that adjustability is, is just like what the rider is used to. Same as a bar position. So measuring center of the seat posts to center, the handlebar handlebar height below the saddle height. All of, all of those measurements that riders appreciate are achievable. Say you're a very traditional road rider who when measuring from the ground you'd like your handlebars to be about seven centimeters below your saddle height when also measured from the ground, you know, like a very aggressive kind of pro road position. You can actually do that with a Shammy Hagar. You can achieve that position. But here's the awesome thing. When you start going downhill, you're not stuck in that position. You can get the seat way down and all of the sudden you've turned yourself into a rider who had like, you know, a pro road position and now all of a sudden you can go downhill with the seat post down and you're in like the most Aero position you could ever, you could ever obtain because you're so low. And you know what you see with the pro road riders as they you know, their seats are up and they, they get their weight or they get their body in front of the saddle and then they drop themselves down on the top tube. Like this super dangerous riding position. Well, imagine just slamming the seat all the way down to the seat color and you can actually keep your weight back a little bit into a safe zone. I'm pretty much positive that this bike will out descend any road bike. I have all these dreams of Peter Saigon riding this thing and you know, he already smokes people, but I can't even imagine what that guy could do on this bike. No, I hear you. I, it was funny, as you're starting your description, I was imagining like the, the Chris Froome sitting on the top tube dissent position and how that just doesn't work for gravel, but you can effectively get there if you've got a long dropper, you can just be sitting comfortably on the saddle. Totally in control and totally low. Yeah. Yeah. And I'm, I'm curious, you know, if we will, we will see these dropper posts on the, in the pro Peloton for exactly the reasons you're talking about. Now that I've been hooked on our dropper post, if I go back to Europe and I'm descending off of Alpe d'Huez or some classic climb, I would definitely want to drop her post on my bike. Totally. There are some technology that has taken time to break into the let's say those of us and I'm, and I'm one of us that appreciate lightweight. We appreciate efficiency. We appreciate you know, the ability to go from point a to point B quickly go uphill quickly. You know, disc brakes is one of those things. For cross country, mountain biking, dropper posts. I mean, they're, they're just starting to break in there. And for gravel, I think you know, bellow news just did a podcast not too long ago where they were, they were saying dropper post isn't appropriate for gravel. It's just not needed. We really hope that this bike shows people that it actually, it's not just a needed, it's, it's incredibly beneficial. Yeah. I think that's what's really exciting about people taking bold stabs at what gravel bikes should look like. Whether it's what you guys are doing or some of the forays into suspending mountain bikes. I think it's opening people's eyes that the things we're trying to do on these bikes are different and fresh perspective, whether it's coming from the mountain bike world or outside. The industry is very much warranted in this moment in time. And it's giving people a lot to think about and shaking up the establishment in a big way. For sure. And there's other, there's other stabs the devil took as well. For instance, the short STEM mountain bikers is known now for 10 years, that long STEM are not beneficial. So we didn't go halfway. We went all the way down to mountain bikes STEM. And we did that because day wiggle knows how to correct the geometry to make the bike steer correctly. So there's, there's no reason to leave STEM length on there. It's, it's silly. The other thing is we, we just, we used 160 millimeter rotors on this bike. The, the main reason being is while you've effectively got a a mountain bike geometry for going downhill, so you're going to catch yourself going faster. So you need better stopper. So one 60 rotor standard across the board. And then another thing that some people scratch their head over is that we used a 30.9 feet post diameter. The reason we did that because you use 30.9, you can get any option of feet post that the entire world of dropper posts is your oyster. If you use 27.2, your, your weight loss is minimal. And all of the sudden you're heavily, heavily restricted over, you know, your seat post choices. Another big question we've gotten is front derailer compatibility and we left that on there. We left it on the Shammy. We want the customer to have all the options. For some people this bike might need almost mountain bike Gehring. And at the same time they might want, you know, a really high gear similar to a road to a road bike. So, you know, this bike could effectively be both of those bikes in the same ride. And so we wanted to really keep things open for the rider. Yeah. I think one of the things that struck me when I first saw the design of the bike was, you know, people often were in the early days of gravel biking, we're saying, Oh, we're just going back to a 1990s hard tail mountain bike geometry. And obviously over the decades the mountain bike geometry has shifted and all the ways that you've discussed the slacker head angles, the shorter stems, and my, my first gut reaction was, Hey, maybe these guys are just cut through that journey because of the mountain bike experience and put us at our ultimate end goal. And all gravel bikes are gonna look like this in 10 years. I don't know the answer to that, but it's certainly interesting to kind of think about it in that, that framework. Yeah. You're, yeah, you really bring up a good point. This bike is not compatible with a front a front suspension fork. And there's some thought behind that. Had we made it compatible with the suspension fork, you would essentially have a hard tail mountain bike with drop bars and a suspension fork. But we weren't trying to go there. We wanted to make the lightest, most felt best ascending gravel bike we could. We're, we're not trying to make a mountain bike here. We're, we're really trying to make like a tried and true gravel bike. That, you know, is just, just that it's, it's great for riding these dirt roads. It, of course, that'll handle, you know, it'll handle single track good too. But make no mistake, it's not a mountain bike on a single track, on smooth single track. You're good. But you know, if you're riding rough stuff like ride your mountain bike for sure. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It's definitely one of those those lines that I'm sure you guys were super conscious of. It seems like you've, you've built the bike also to be ready for adventure. I noticed a lot of islets to, to Mount bags and whatnot to add. Can you talk a little bit about that angle? Yeah. We we didn't want any limitations on this thing. As far as being bike packable. So we gave it every amount that it could have. Fender mounts. Without heavy modification to the fender, you can fit 700 by 40 a tire with a fender on the bike with heavy modification of offenders in the rear. If you actually cut the fenders around the chain, stay a little bit. You can actually run the fenders with the full size 700 by 50 tire. We have employees that are using this bike as a commuter bike. Their daily driver, they've got a bike rack mounted to the back. You can, you buy an optional fee caller that allows the top brackets of the bike rack to Mount to the seat color. The bike has one, two, three, four, five, six water bottle cage mounts on a medium through extra large and five on small. And then it has, it has the ability to hold pretty much any bag that you want. So one of our ambassadors free ride legend led Brown sheet just returned from a bike packing trip in Thailand. And she's kind of our, our first test. We all have like, how heavy can you load this thing down? And as it turns out, I mean, it, it, it's as good of a bike packing bike as it is a gravel bike, you know, the, the roads really crossed there. And there was no disadvantage for us to add all of those mounts. You know, there's, there's not a huge weight penalty or anything, so it's just great. It, it makes the bike a lot more universal I think for, for the end consumer. Interesting. And I had heard on some earlier interviews you did that there was some resistance internally to bring a gravel bike from such a strong mountain bike company. Can you talk a little bit about that journey and where the rest of the team is that with the Shammy Hagar at this point? Yeah. so you know, evil really is focused on making really awesome mountain bikes. That's, that is everyone that works here, that is their passion. And so, you know, some, so much so that it doesn't seem like there's room to enter another category, but there is, there is a whole other section of our that is focused on making just the coolest bikes possible and it's not, it's not relegated to mountain bikes. And there was definitely some fear within the staff that evil might shoot ourselves in the foot for launching a gravel bike when launching a gravel bike instead of a mountain bike because, you know, people are always looking for what is the next mountain bike coming from evil. Our, our primary owner, Kevin Walsh, he's our design director. He's our branding director. You know, he was very stable footed through this whole thing and you know, never wavered. He was very confident that this was really going to be a category changing, maybe category creating bike that it, that it truly had benefits that really needed to get out there. The, the market needed this, the end user, we believe needs this bike. So now that it's launched, now that the staff has gotten to ride a lot of the tests and wheels and everything you know, the, everybody gets it and everybody is universally excited about this bike and, and excited to ride it. And a lot of what was there was the, the, the negativity was the thought of, Oh, we don't want to make a gravel bike. Those things stink. Like I, we've written those and they're, they're not good. They, they didn't get the full concept of what the evil gravel bike was going to be. And so we've really, we've changed our employees thinking of what a gravel bike is. Yeah. I'm optimistic that this is a category expanding bike. You know, I've long held the belief that, you know, a lot of the gravel market growth has been from road riders who are discovering the value of being off road, which is something as mountain bikers we've known for decades, right. That there's just joy of being away from the cars and having this sense of adventure. So you're getting a lot of road athletes who are just dipping their toe in gravel. I feel like this bike may be one of those bikes that a mountain biker could look at and say, Hey, I've been hearing about gravel. I like the idea of maybe going a little farther or doing a different style of riding. Maybe I'll dip my toe in the water and grab this new Shammy Hagar bike. And ultimately, you know, you're going to draw athletes from both sides. I've seen plenty of my road friends who ended up starting with a sort of very gentle road plus bike and now are up to, you know, 47 millimeter tires on their, on their next generation gravel bikes. So it's really fascinating to me. And, and, and I, I love the idea of bringing more people into the market and getting some mountain bikers to join us in the gravel parade. For sure. For sure. And that's what we really wanted to try to pay attention to with this bike is we weren't making it for just Mount biker and we weren't making it for just road rider. We gave road riders all of the, the handling that maybe they don't know they need. But this bike is, it's just so much safer to ride when you're off road with no negativity related to pedaling position. It's also light. So there's, it also, it also holds, you know, 700 by 40 tires, just fine. Heck, we even, we ride this bike with road tires. You can actually slap 700 by 30 like the WTB exposure tire 700 by 30 road tires on this thing. And man, it is, it is so fast it, and you've never felt a bike, so good going downhill on road corner. It's incredible. So yeah, like for me personally, I keep a second wheel set on hand with, with road tires for if I am going to go out on a road ride. And again, you've got that road position. And then for the mountain bikers they've got this super lightweight rig. You know, it's, it's, it's way lighter than, than what you can get with a mountain bike. And they've got that, that familiarity that, that feeling of home with the geometry of the bike. So yeah, basically they can get they can just go faster. You know, on the open road. They've got the benefit of the multiple hand positions on the drop bar. And then they've got their drop receipt posts, which you know, 10 years ago mountain bikers didn't think they wanted. But you know, now it's like it's uncommon to see a mountain bike without it. Yeah, exactly. Well, I appreciate the deep overview. I feel like this is one of those bikes that you want to hear from the designer. You want to hear from the company, you want to hear other riders perceptions of it. And I know you guys have done a good job of getting it out there underneath some people who can document what they're feeling and validate what you're talking about because a, it's a really interesting model. Definitely everybody's listening. Go check it out on the web, check out some of the videos to get a sense for all the things that Jason's has been describing because they've really put together a, an interesting model. So Jason, thanks again for the time. Yeah, thanks so much for having me. It was my pleasure. Okay. What a fun conversation with Jason. I love talking about the Shammy Hagar. It's such an interesting design. As someone who comes from a mountain bike background. I was kind of really drawn to a lot of the things he was talking about and I can't wait to spend a little time on the Shammy Hagar here in mill Valley dropping off Mount Tam. I think it's going to be an exceptionally fast bike for me in this neighborhood this week on can't let it go. I want to talk about my experience with the post carry company travel bag. It's one of those bags where you pull the fork off the bike in addition to the handlebars and you can get it in a really compact portable setup and here's the thing, you can travel with it on the airlines and likely avoid any airline travel fees. I used the bag maybe three times last year and not once did I get dinged for it. It kind of looks like an oversized massage table and that's my company line should anybody ask. But this post carry bag has just been a joy to avoid those $150 fees. You get on a lot of airlines, so check out their websites. I know there's some other competing bags in that genre as well. I definitely recommend it. If you're going to travel more than two to three times a year, it really makes sense financially to grab one of these bags. So that's it for this week. If you have any feedback, please shoot me a or hit me up on social media channels. Happy to hear from you. As always, ratings and reviews are appreciated. You'd be surprised how the algorithms out there on the podcasting web will share the pod and get us in front of new listeners with that. Until next time, here's to finding some dirt under your wheels.  
March 3, 2020
A discussion with Redshift Sports co-founder, Stephen Ahnert about the Shockstop gravel suspension stems and other products. Redshift Sports Instagram Redshift Sports Website Automated Transcription, Please excuse the typos.  Hello everyone and welcome to the gravel ride podcast. I'm your host Craig Dalton. This week on the podcast I've invited Stephen Ahnert from Redshift sports on to talk about the shockstop STEM and their forthcoming suspension seatpost. I've been riding the STEM for about a month now and the results have been unexpected, so I can't wait to have the conversation with Stephen about some of the design and performance principles behind the STEM. Additionally, I've been intrigued by the notion of how reducing fatigue in long rides can affect performance. If you're going to be out there for 1214 hours in event like dirty Kanza or some of the other long distance gravel events, how does making your body feel better affect your ability to ride harder and longer? I think it's really fascinating when we talk about suspension in that light and particularly a suspension STEM as it's something that you can throw on and off quite easily to adapt your bicycle to a particular ride. So with that, let's jump right in. Stephen, welcome to the show. Thanks. It's great to be here. Right on. Could we start off by talking a little bit more about your background and since we're going to be digging into your company and your product, in addition to kind of your cycling background and how you found gravel, let's talk a little bit about your professional background. Yeah, so I'm a mechanical engineer by training. And so are the two other cofounders of Redshift, Scott Poff and Eric Debrune. Eric and I actually met in college studying mechanical engineering. And we did our kind of senior thesis project together. We built a pool playing robots that would kind of move around a pool table and had pool shots. So that was pretty cool. And then Eric actually knew Scott from high school and they kind of linked up after, after college. And then Eric Scott and I co founded a small company doing mechanical engineering consulting work for other companies. So we were doing product development analysis, mechanical and electrical engineering for other companies, helping them develop products. And during that time, sort of the whole time throughout college and afterwards we'd always talked about different product ideas that we had for, you know, improving products and coming up with new products. I think it's something that a lot of people do. You know, you kind of idly talk about, Hey, wouldn't it be great if, if we could do this or that, you know, improve this thing that I have an issue with. And then in 2012, we finally kinda decided to do something about it. So I had been doing a lot of writing. And specifically I was training for some, some triathlons. I was in triathlons, a kind of on the dark side there. And then I was riding my road bike. And like a lot of people do when they get into triathlons, they, you know, see people going faster than them with arrow bars and they say, Hey, you know, I want to put arrow bars on my bike. So, you know, I knew enough about bike fit to understand that you couldn't just slap arrow bars on a bike. You also had to change your riding position. And so I ended up Frankensteining my road bike to make it a better kind of triathlon bike that, but it kinda made it a terrible road bike. So our first product which was the switch arrow system, which was these two very, very niche products or designed to let you ride a road bike in a narrow position but still keep your road bike set up. So we kinda decided, Hey, this is, this is something that I really want. You know, the other guys were on board and we developed this system. We developed a C post and the arrow bars and we decided to launch it on Kickstarter in 2013. And got enough of a response that we, you know, decided to make kind of a go at, at growing Redshift. And so gradually over the six years since then, we've grown Redshift. And then a few years ago, we finally tapered the consulting side of our business down enough that we were, you know, full time on Redshift. And so in the interim between then and now, we've introduced a couple products. The shock stops, suspension STEM was in 2015 and then the seatpost was last year and we did those again via Kickstarter, which was an awesome way for, for us as a small company to, you know raise funds and, and kind of prove our market prove that people would actually, you know, get out their credit card and buy these products that we had thought people would like but didn't really know. Yeah, it's interesting, I think for the uninitiated to think about product design and development, it takes a lot to get that first product off the production line and having that validation of a certain number of units at least gives you the sort of financial comfort to know part of the run can be paid for before it's even begun. Yeah. The finances are obviously a huge issue because a lot of people don't really realize what goes in. You know, obviously there's tooling costs, there's the production order, all of these things that are going to kind of hit up front that you have to pay for. But I think the really big thing for us was, was kind of this proof of market. You know, you can sit around and do focus groups, talk to your friends, you know, but you really never know is somebody going to you know, pony up and pay for something if you know, if, if it's a real product they're going to buy. Yeah, absolutely. So when did the, the STEM actually start shipping into market? So it started shipping at the beginning of 2016. So it's been shipping for, you know, almost almost four years at this point. During that period of time was obviously a period of time in which the gravel sector started to really emerge as a, as one of the bigger and faster growing segments of cycling. Did you start to see riders from that sector immediately gravitate over to the product or has it been a kind of a slower roll? Yeah, the, the growth of the gravel kind of area. And biking has been huge for the growth of this STEM as well. I mean it's such a natural fit. And ironically, when we first designed the product, it was designed more with a road market in mind. That's what we set out to do. But sort of during the development process, gravel was growing. It was becoming more of a more of a thing. And we, we were I think really lucky to be in the right time at the right place with the right product to be able to offer something to gravel riders that would kind of take the edge off. You know, there were other brands at the time that were kind of doing similar things, but in general they were kind of proprietary to, you know, a particular frame or particular manufacturer. So you can think about things like, you know, Trex ISIS, bead a system or the future shock on specialized. So for us it was awesome that those things also existed because it, it kind of helps cement, I think in, in writers' minds that compliance in a bike is, is something that you actually want. Because I think for so long, the bike industry has just, you know, beaten this message of like stiffer, later, faster, you know, and stiffness is kind of this, this ultimate metric that, that the, the frame is measured by when in reality, especially as you get to rougher terrain, compliance can, can not only be obviously more comfortable, but it can also help you go faster because you're just not absorbing all of this vibration. It's not a, you know, going into your body, you don't have to float your body over all of it and you saved more energy to pedal. Yeah. Yeah. No, those are good points. Let's take a step back and tell the listener exactly what this STEM is and what it does. Yeah. So the shock stop STEM is pretty straight forward and concept. It's a single pivot suspension, STEM. So a lot of your listeners might remember the old suspension stems of your of the eighties and nineties kinda like the F of Gervin flex STEM, the soft ride. So similar in spirit to those kinds of forebearers, but, but totally different in execution. So it's a single pivot, a STEM that has some internal elastomers that are swappable basically to tune the stiffness of the suspension for your body weight. And we're targeting kind of a small amount of suspension, so 10 to 20 millimeters of, of total travel depending on if you're at the, you know on the flats or out at the hoods. And it's really just designed to take the edge off of vibrations and small bumps that you encounter. You know, as you're riding on gravel and other, you know we call them road surfaces. So this isn't designed for necessarily like a mountain bike. It's not going to replace the suspension fork and we don't intend it to. So that's kind of the, the gist of, of the product. Yeah. You know, and I've, you know, as I mentioned to you offline, I've been writing it for three weeks now and I think one of the biggest compliments I can give you is that in many instances it completely diff disappears. It is a very elegant design from a aesthetic perspective. I find myself almost missing that it is a suspension STEM. But now that I've had it on my bike long enough, I've, I've actually seen other riders out on the trails with it. So very unobtrusive design and in, in many instances the, the movement is very subtle. As you mentioned. My personal experience was obviously when I was the farthest point away from the fulcrum point out on the hoods, I could feel the the most emotion and I felt that motion most kind of when I was riding on the road because my experience off-road was that there was often so much going on in terms of feedback through the bike that it was almost disappearing. The fact that I was getting additional compliance in the handlebar and the STEM part of the bike. Yeah. So again, you know, you mentioned a couple of things. Having the, having the STEM blend in aesthetically with the rest of the bike was a major design goal during the development process. We, we knew just not only from a market standpoint, but just some what we wanted on our bikes. We did not want some sort of weird contraption, you know, bolted onto the front of the bike. We wanted it to blend in to be more or less invisible and be something you wouldn't notice if you weren't looking for it. So that was a, that was a huge goal. And then, yeah, absolutely it was, it was something where this is a pretty common refrain is people will put it on their bike and then notice it for the first, you know, a few minutes of a ride or maybe the first ride and then, and essentially forget about it. And ironically enough, we've had enough number of customers contact us and say, Hey, you know, I, I, I don't think my STEM is working anymore. And what we encourage people to do is say, Hey, okay, cool. Swap the STEM out for, for, you know, your old STEM. And see what the differences and feel. And it's funny, you get used to the difference in feel very quickly and then when you go back to our rigid STEM, the differences is night and day. It's, it's a really sort of amazing experience to go back from, you know, having that compliance to go back to a rigid STEM and to feel the difference. But yeah, you're absolutely right. It's, it's not meant to, it's not meant to make the trail, you know, completely disappear under you. It's not going to do that. But what it is going to do is just take the edge off of all of those, those impacts that are normally gonna sort of jar you and you know, vibrate through your arms, through your wrists, hands and in your shoulders and neck. Yeah, it's probably important to note and add that the STEM ships with a series of elastomer bumpers and a pretty straight forward guide as to how to tune them to your particular rider weight and obviously like suspension forks and other suspension products. If you feel a desire to have a stiffer setup or a softer setup, you can make those adjustments based on your body weight guide. Yeah, exactly. So the, the SEM is designed to, to run with a little bit of sag just to make it as active as possible. But there are some people who prefer more traditional feel and so they set it up a little bit stiffer such that there's really no deflection under normal in their normal riding position. And that it would only, you know, deflect when they hit a bigger bomb or a bigger impact, something like that. So you can, you can tune it in. You know, there's quite a, quite a few levels of, of stiffness that you can choose to let you tune it in. And body weight is kind of the main guidance that we give because that's the most obvious one. But other things like writing position and the type of terrain that you're writing on are also going to have a pretty big impact on that. So if you're writing kind of a more upright position or slacker geometry on your bike, you may need a slightly softer setup just cause you're not going to have as much weight, you know, on your hands and vice versa. Yeah. And I want to go back to something you mentioned earlier for the listener to think about when you think about the total package of your bike, the frame, the rigidity and stiffness of your frame, your tire set up, all that kind of stuff. There's certainly bikes that fall in a wide variety of categories. Like I, I spent a lot of time on an open up, which was a very stiff race oriented carbon frame. In fact, moving from my road bike attract Medona to the open. I felt very little loss in performance, but it was an incredibly stiff bike off road. And you know, my solution to that was riding six 50 B 1.9 tires to get that right match of. But not all gravel bikes have that ability to go that wide in a tire. So I think it's really interesting as a solution to understand as a, as a listener and as a bike owner, as to what an option may be to add additional compliance. If, say you were stuck at a, you know, a 700 by 38 as the, as the widest tire you could go for on a, a very stiff carbon frame. Yeah. The, the comparison that we make, and obviously there are other reasons why you might choose wider tires besides just, you know, ride quality or comfort, you know, traction and handling and things like that are, may drive you in, in that direction anyway. But the comparison that we make is basically to get the same amount of compliance out of your tire that you would get out of this, the STEM, you'd have to increase your tire, you'd have to increase your tire with from like a 38 or something like that, you know, to a 50 or a 55 or something. Really, really dramatic. Because when you think about the amount of deflection that you're going to get out of a tire you know, it's literally like adding 15 to 20 millimeters to the height of your tire. So it's, it's a, it's a much bigger change than, for example, just going from a, you know, a 35 to a 45 or something like that. Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, as, as we look at events on the calendar throughout the year and some of the longer distance, more grueling events, it's pretty clear to me that as a kind of mid pack cyclist, you need to be as concerned with how your body's going to survive a long day. Like, like dirty Kanza as much as how fast you're going to go. So it's all well and good to say, I'm gonna, you know, have an incredibly stiff bike and I'm going to run narrow tires. But your bite, your body may not survive that, you know, in a, in a 10, 12, 14 hour day. Yeah. I think when you look at not only, you know, mid pack writers but, but front of pack writers and really long endurance events like that the event is as much about sort of their, their fitness and their ability to produce power as it is about their ability to kind of maintain, maintain a positive mindset during those events. And I think that goes throughout throughout the, the tiers, you know, all the way from the people who are going to win the event, you know, to the people who are gonna be right in front of the sag wagon. Your fitness is going to be a huge aspect of that. But your ability to maintain your, your mental mindset and and be positive is going to have such a huge impact on your performance. And kind of, you know, as anybody written on gravel, on rough roads for a long period of time, it just kind of builds and builds and builds. And that fatigue of just sort of dealing with all of this vibration and impacts like, you know, after you've been riding for six hours, your hands, your shoulders, you know, your rear end and everything is just, you know, if it's not, if it's not numb, it's, it's, you know, none might be the best thing that it could be at that point. You know, so it makes, it makes a huge difference, you know, in your, in your ability to enjoy the ride, have a positive mental mindset going into it. And then the other thing is that it just, it saves you energy over, over the ride. You know, you don't have to lift as much body weight off of the saddle and the, the handlebars when you're riding. And I should mention that, you know, I'm talking about lifting off the saddle. We also make a complimentary product called the chalk stop suspension. Seatpost that's just launching that, that does the same thing kind of for the rear end of the bike. So that energy savings, you know, of not having to float your body over rough terrain and instead just be able to, you know, sit down, relax, relax your upper body, relax your lower body and pedal through that, you know, the accumulated energy savings over especially along event like that are huge. So it's difficult to overstate how much that that contributes. Yeah, I think that's what's very interesting and elegant about the STEM as the solution because you may, in your, your daily rides not require that, but swapping the STEM out for an altar distance event is quite easy to do. And that's not to say that this STEM doesn't work well as a daily rider cause I've been riding it every day, both on the road and off the road. But for those people maybe who are [inaudible] and concerned about the, the, you know, modest additional weight penalty, being able to throw it on for a specific event, I think is a really viable way to see if it's a good product for you. Yeah. and like you said, you know, it's, it's an easy swap. It installs and removes exactly like a normal STEM does. So you don't have to it fits a bike, you know, pretty much the same way, the stack height on this deer tube and you know, if it's 31.8 millimeter bars. So something that's very easy to try out. And just as a, you know, a pitch a sales pitch here, if, if any writers are interested in testing it out, we offer a 30 day risk-free, you know, ride trial. So you get free shipping, free return shipping if you don't like it and you can ride it for 30 days and return it, no questions ask if it doesn't work out for you. So we're pretty confident that once they try it, they really love it. And so we want to give people the opportunity to, to test it out, see if it works for them and hopefully it does. Right on. Well, let's dig in. You mentioned that the, the product, the new forthcoming seat posts that you guys are going to be shipping, what's the sort of vision behind that product and how does it actually perform? Obviously, you know, the, the sort of concern that will jump up in the listeners mind right away is that, you know, my pedaling cadence and fluidity and sort of just that sense of being directly connected to the motion of the crank and the distance of my crank arms is going to be affected by any suspension. Can you dig in a little bit on that product? Yeah, yeah. So this was sort of a natural follow on to the shock stop STEM. We, we always knew that we wanted to make a C post, but it took us a while to figure out exactly what we wanted to do and how we wanted to improve on, you know, the products that were already on the market. The STEM was a little bit different in that, you know, at the time we launched the STEM, there were really no other bolt-ons, sort of front suspension options for, for gravel or drop bar bikes. Whereas with the C post, you know, there are things on the market like thawed, Buster body float and then a variety of sort of, you know, inexpensive telescoping suspension seatpost options that you could buy. And that's not to mention kind of what I'll call pseudo suspension C posts, things like the specialized CGR where they're relying on sort of carbon flexing or something like that to, to provide a little bit of additional compliance. So, you know, we wrote a bunch of those C posts, tested them out, like the lot of them disliked some of them and kind of crystallize exactly what we were looking for in a sea post. And, and it kinda boils down to a couple things. One, as I mentioned previously, we wanted to make sure that the, the aesthetics of the post, you know, blended in well with modern bikes. We didn't want it to be something where you're sort of like, look at the bike and all you can see is this giant contraption at the top of the, you know, the seatpost. And then we wanted the suspension travel to be meaningful. And when I say meaningful, something that is not just going to mute, you know, small vibration or buzz, but it's actually going to absorb impacts, you know, rocks, roots expansion, joints on the road, things like that, that kind of like a, a specialized CGR or just a compliant carbon post is not really going to handle. And then we basically wanted the, the travel and the response of the CBOs to be really responsive because, you know, in a situation like a gravel ride, you know, you're dealing with a lot of high frequency impacts or oscillations. So the post needed to be responsive enough to deal with that. And the direction that there were, those impacts are coming from. So we took all of that, spent a long time, you know, refining and prototyping and testing different designs and finally arrived at the design of the shock stops. He posts that, that we have now. And we believe that it provides a, you know, a super compliant responsive ride that is going to absorb all of those impacts but still blend in with the aesthetic of your bike. To answer kind of the, the second part of your question regarding how does it feel, how does it feel? Do you lose a connection to, to the bottom racket or lose your ability to smoothly generate power? I mean, I can only speak for myself and the answer for me and for the people that I know that have tested it is no that basically there's enough damping in the post that your, your pedal stroke is not going to cause bobbing. And so again, it's sort of it's going to actuate when you ride over something. And then the other thing is that the, the motion of the seatpost is unlike a telescoping post where the distance between the bottom racket and the saddle would just be decreasing linear league with travel linkage based posts like ours or you know, similar to something like a thought Buster has the advantage that the motion of this saddle is sort of back and down a little bit towards the rear wheel. And so that motion, the tra the suspension travel doesn't course correlate to such a large change in the bottom bracket to saddle distance. And at the end of the day, this is sort of a little bit difficult to explain, but it's just not something that you notice because again, you have to compare that the, you know, the bottom bracket to saddle distance is changing slightly as the, as the CBOs moves through his travel. But that's because you're riding over a bump. And normally what would happen if you rode over a bump that caused that sort of deflection is you would either bounce up off of the saddle or you would be off of the saddle to begin with. To, you know, suspend yourself as you wrote over that bump. So it's kinda funny because you know, you think of this as something that's compliance, but you can really sit down and battle through things that you might otherwise stand up and coast through. Because there's just enough travel there to, to kind of mute out all of those vibrations. Yeah. I suppose as a user of the STEM, I can visualize exactly what you're talking about, like you know, happening, But there's the feedback that you'd normally be getting from riding through that bumpy section. You're just getting it in a different way. And perhaps by being able to sit, stay seated through that experience, you retain more control and potentially a faster ability to put power back into the pedals. Yeah. And, and you notice this, you can really notice this, you know, for example, descending it's something where on a, you know, on a bike that's not equipped with a, with a dropper seat post for example. When you're descending in a lot of situations, it's much easier to control the bike if you have some weight on the saddle. But if you don't have a suspension seatpost you run the risk of hitting something and sort of getting bucked or bounced off the saddle. If you, you know, if you hit a bump that you don't notice. That's one place where I noticed it the most is where at the end of long dissents where I would often find that my legs were quite tired because I was standing up the whole way down the descent basically that, you know, I can strategically pick places where I can sit down and just, you know, ride and relax my legs. And so it's that kind of energy savings that, you know, beyond sort of the comfort aspect there. There's a real energy savings associated with, with being able to, with not having to stand up and suspend your body with your legs, you know, as much. Yeah. I, I definitely have personal experience with a dropper posts both on road and off road that mimics that experience. I really do enjoy being able to drop it a little bit and remain seated and just kind of take that as recovery time and have the additional control of having weighed on the, on the rear of the bike, like you said. Yeah. Fascinating stuff. You know, it's interesting to me, I think, you know, I've said this before on the podcast that many new or gravel cyclists are coming to the sport from a road background and there's heavily steeped traditions and mentalities around road riding, around stiffness, lack of suspension, all these biases that we're bringing to the table that this year and next year in the gravel market. I see those biases being challenged dramatically by products like this and different compliant frame designs and even suspended frames that are gonna prove themselves out as being faster, more comfortable, just generally better, more fun bicycles. And I think it's a really exciting time to be exploring that. And I think you guys are in a great spot for that exploration. Yeah, it's, it's really, it's really I think a fun time to be, you know, just in the bike industry, but, but to be a consumer, to, to be shopping for bikes because more and more you can find whatever bike you know you want to ride. And I think that's super interesting. If you're, if you're, you know, a roadie who occasionally ventures off road, you can find a great bike for that. If you're a mountain biker who wants, you know, a, a drop bar monster cross mountain bike with two and a half inch knobby tires on it, like you can find the bike for that too. But totally agree. I think that much like, you know, much like we saw in, in sort of cross country mountain biking where the, there was resistance to the adoption of, of full suspension bikes certainly at the highest racing levels in gravel. I think there's a little bit of resistance there just because people are accustomed to sort of the, the purity and, and the aesthetics of of unsuspended bikes. But it definitely seems, you know, I, I would put money on the fact that full suspension, gravel bikes are, are going to be something that are pretty common in the future as people, as people realize, you know? Yeah. They're, they're faster, they're more comfortable. They're more enjoyable to ride. So yeah, it's gonna be fascinating to see kind of where everybody drives to and what the different what the different options are for people. But I think regardless of what, regardless of what people, you know, think they're going to be able to find a bike that, that works well for them. And I think that's the thing to me that's so exciting about gravel is, yeah, maybe, maybe not serious cyclists, but you know, they're asking or they're interested in buying a bike and it's just a no brainer. Now, you know, it's like, yeah, if you're going to buy a bike, you should buy a gravel bike. You shouldn't, you shouldn't even think twice about it. Like, that's the bike that you should buy. So I think that that's, that's pretty, pretty awesome. Yeah. And mean as we've covered before. And as the, the the listener most likely knows the beauty of these gravel bikes, that they're like chameleons, right? You can have two sets of wheels, you can have a shock stop STEM, you can have a suspension seat posts and you can swap them in and out depending on what you're doing. And the net net is you end up with a bike that can take you everywhere from bike packing to cyclocross racing. And that's, it's really exciting and certainly a great value for your money as a cyclist to be able to have one bike that can sort of wear many dresses. Yeah. And as a recovering, you know, and plus one, a bike, alcoholic. I currently probably have seven bikes in my garage, so I'm trying to try and get rid of them. But you know, the idea of having one, you know, One great bike that you can really sort of do everything with is, is super attractive. Yeah, absolutely. Well, Steven, thank you so much for, for sharing your thoughts on the company and the products. And the time I've really enjoyed riding the product thus far and I'm really curious to kind of explore it as something that can help reduce fatigue and increased performance over my rides. Yeah, thanks so much Craig. Really appreciate it. It was great talking to you and hopefully we can get together for a ride sometime soon. Right on. Thanks again to Steven for joining the pod this week. Since recording, I've actually spent another couple of months on the shock stops STEM due to some back issues and I remain impressed every time I get that thing off road. I am happy to have a little bit of cush in these days where my body could use a little break. So kudos for them for an interesting design and something to consider if you're finding off road riding a little too jolting to your body in this week's can't let it go. Segment, I want to talk about lights. I've been using a night sun Lumia light and it's been shocking to me how compact this lighting system is compared to the wattage that it's putting out. It's made my night rides home commuting super comfortable and safe. I remember back in the day when you used to have to Mount a battery in your water bottle cage and how heavy and obnoxious those setups were. Whereas today you can get something that mounts simply on your handlebar plug in. Charger is all good to go and you can be completely safe out there. So as we're concluding winter, I hope everybody's invested in some good safety lighting to keep them safe and hopefully even get out there and explore off road. So that's it for this week. I appreciate all the support. If you have any feedback, shoot me a or hit me up on any of the social media platforms. As always, if you're enjoying what we do, please leave a rating or review those few minutes of efforts, really help us reach a broader audience, which is important with that. Until next time, here's to finding some dirt under your wheels.  
February 18, 2020
Tim Kremer from the Gravel Epic race series talks to us about events in Marrakesh, Slovenia, Girona and Mt. Etna. Each event capturing the local flavor and best routes designed by local gravel athletes. Gravel Epic Website. Automated Transcription, please excuse the typos: Good day everyone, and welcome to the gravel ride podcast. I'm your host Craig Dalton. This week on the podcast we've got Tim Kramer from the gravel Epic series over in Europe. Big thanks to Jason over at the gravel cyclist for making this connection for me. I first read about the gravel Epic series on the Get your passports ready and start saving those dollars because when you hear about the gravel Epic series, I think you're going to be like me and want to jump on the next plane over to Europe. Tim and his team have created four events, one in Marrakesh, Morocco, the second in Slovenia, the third in Mount Etna in Italy, and the fourth in Gerona. They've worked with local athletes in all these areas to find the best terrain, most representative of the area, and they're combining that with rich cultural experiences so you can immerse yourself in the local culture. So with all that said, let's jump right in. Tim, welcome to the shelf. Hey Greg, thanks for having me. Ever since Jason at the gravel cycle of shared your events series with me, I've been super excited to get you on the phone and learn more about it. It sounds amazing. But before we get started as is customary on the podcast, I'd love to just learn a little bit more about your background and how you got into gravel cycling. The background graph cycling is very easily explained. I don't remember exactly how many years ago it was, but I read an article on the dirty Kanza and the New York times. That was when I was sitting in my living room in Hong Kong on a weekend and I read this and I thought, bloody hell, that sounds like an event I'd like to do or so I, Mike, my calendar when registration is opened, I think it was sometime in January and I was lucky enough to get in. That was a few years ago, so it was a little bit easier than now. It's still a lottery. And we got in. So my friend of mine and I, and shortly afterwards we bought our first gravel bike. A simple cyclocross from focus. It was, I think back then and you know, started training, which in Hong Kong was pretty hard cause we have no gravel roads. So we basically just cycled on the road. And the first time ever on gravel was when we were hit the roads in Kansas. That's amazing. I mean we often explore how gravel cycling differs in different parts of the country and how unique Kansas is. But I can't imagine getting on a plane from having only written around Hong Kong on your bike to the Flint Hills of Kansas and tackling that huge event. It was a yes, very different experience. For one, eh, I had the wrong shoes. I wrote with most shoes, which was almost constant, completely wrong thing to do. So the first river crossing when I walked through my puddles couldn't clip in anymore and I still have a, the road with a stick trying to clean the pedals, I can continue cycling. But beyond, beyond that, it was an amazing experience. And we've been seeking out travel events ever since. We wrote at a year later, we did a small event in Texas and 200 miners. So it was lucky that I'm self employed and we were able to combine the business trips with revel races or other bike races. That's great. And you know, as someone who, it sounds like shares residency between Hong Kong and Spain, were you particularly in Europe I guess were you simply just not seeing the type of events that you were falling in love with in the U S anywhere on the continent? Well the Spain thing for us is relatively recent, so my family only relocated here a year ago. I still kind of go back and forth. We, we saw the races in the U S and thought it was something really exciting because gravel is slowly taking off in Europe and continental Europe and the UK. It's a little bit better known in that. Tons of races. But they are mostly local. Except for two or three races that are now over two or three years have grown a little bit more. I wouldn't say international, but more national. And when we thought about this, we thought this would be something really, that we enjoy, that our friends enjoy going to interesting places and, and taking them off the road. Not the typical grand Fondo but on the, you know, was me, we call it the sort of the, the gravitates to where the roads end, so to beautiful places. And that's what we try to do and look for locations. And first four locations we found in Marrakesh and Slovenia bled in UNG Alona and which is, you know, it was only about an hour away from, we are now in Barcelona and Mount Edna are completely different in their environment and completely different in the kind of rioting on gravel that our participants will experience. That's amazing. So let's step back for a minute. I mentioned it in the opening, but you got a gravel. Epic is listed as the first gravel series in Europe, in North Africa. What an incredibly audacious goal to put on four amazing events. What was the vision behind what you were creating and why did you look to do the four events rather than starting with just one? I'm audacious. Yes. And we're finding out my, the workload that really it is a lot more than we expected. We're not from the event or, or a sports event business. We come from very different backgrounds, but we thought that the amount of marketing needed it's much better to have it amortized over four events and also to keep us across the year and you know, more involved in not to some one event decided to start with four. We're lucky that we of course don't organize everything by ourselves. We have local partners who are based there. We'll know the region. We could not find the same gravel roads and that the people that do so in that regards were happy that we don't have to do everything. But there's still a lot of work to be done. Yeah, I can only imagine and that makes a lot of sense. Economically speaking, I know I talked to a number of race organizers. It's one thing to create a small event in your local community and keep it manageable, but the moment it becomes successful, you realize that the infrastructure and skillset of the team members required is often difficult, difficult to cobble together when you're only talking about focusing that energy on a single event each year. Yeah, and I mean we intentionally, you know, really want to get a very international group to our races. And from what we've seen now in Marrakech where registrations haven't been open for that long, we already have people from 10 or 11 nationalities coming. You know, we have from as far as Los Angeles, I'm a cyclist and then from Hong Kong, from the other side of the world we get inquiries from India. We are always surprised to where people come and how they find us because it's not really an area where we advertise. Yeah. I'm sure that's only going to grow as the registration period opens longer and longer. Certainly, you know, seeing the types of events and locations, particularly for North American writers and writers, you know, in Asia, it's a heavy decision to make a decision to attend one of these events in Europe. And obviously it takes a lot of planning to get there. Yes, it does. You know, and it's, that's what we try to combine them with a lot of touristy activities and we also offer you know, for people from the U S and want to come over for more than a week, not just the race, but you can take a three, five or eight day gravel tour in the area and then finish with a race or start after the race. That's the super exciting plan. I love that. I also like to hear that you enlisted the help of local riders who know the community and trails better to kind of craft the race courses. How did you identify the four locations in the first place? If I could only remember exactly all the discussion that went in. I mean, we looked obviously at the map at something that was interesting for us where we would want it to go. Myra cash was right on top of our list because a, it's very easily reachable and it's completely different from by where we are in terms of cultural experience and the writing as well. So that was a fairly easy choice. We originally also had looked at places in Germany and Holland. But decided then that wasn't so exciting and pick Slovenia because of the mountain bike scene that was there. A friend of ours has been riding there and highly recommended it. So we went over there for a long weekend and came back very, very impressed by the area and the three glove national park by the Julian Alps. And we're lucky enough to find a good partner. And when we went back, they already had stitched a probably 60, 70% of what now is the race cost together for us to explore. Mon Aetna, the same thing. We were looking for something that is again different in terms of writing cause we wanted to give people who want to enjoy the forum experience something very different. Every single event and riding on an active volcano is again very different than the surface is different cause it's lava rock. And the amazing part in Aetna is you can ride the beautiful forest and suddenly the forest is cut open by where the lava poured and cut down the forest and you have 500 meters or a kilometer writing to laugh Robin rocks and suddenly the forest closes again and you're, you're again in a very confined space. It's a very unique experience. Amazing. So let's go through a little bit more specifically the events and the locations and maybe gives the listener a little bit of an understanding as to the type of gravel riding experience they'll have. You touched a little bit on it just now about Mount Etna and you also mentioned how in your opinion different each experience was going to be, let's take them in order and make sure that each one gets the lip service it deserves because they all are clearly amazing locations. Well starting in Marrakesh, which is the first race in our theories and March next year, which is we start in the desert, so it's fairly flat. The gravel is very hard packed. It doesn't rain much there. There's only a few eliminated rain in the winter months. And lucky from when we start the race, it should have just finished. So we can see still the snow capped mountains and the Atlas in the background and it, we still have tons of green around. But the desert itself, eh, not much green, but you will see a lot of green as you ride along the course. But the, the gravel is very, very hard packed. It's not quite as sharp as young people know. And we talk about dirty Kansas our size. So we have never, none of us had a flat ball riding there, but it's quite a hard pack road. The climbs are very long. Not short times. The main climb out of the Agatha desert into the Atlas mountains. I forgot how many kilometers or miles, but it's, I think it's somewhere around six to 10, six miles, 10 kilometers long. And then you ride along the Ridge and you descend into valleys where again, it gets green, you see plantations right to bourbon villages. It's a very, very unique different experience as you ride along because the scenery constantly change us. And then finally you ride back through the RFA desert too. They can probably start and for many it'll be a race against the sunset trying to make it before the sunsets. If we then go to the next races and Aetna, which a completely different environment. For one it's Italy, which the food, the ambiance, the noise in the street, everything is quite different experience when we get to the race course, which starts just outside of the national park. And a small town called Milo. The initial, no, I don't have the data and dragged in front of me, but I think the first 20 kilometers we climb close to 2000 meters or 30 kilometers. So it's a constant up, up, up until you reach sort of the plateau level. And when you start riding around the area, we're not riding fully around Aetna, that's much, much too long, but our course kind of goes up to it and then goes down again, goes back up again. And it's a nice combination of off-road and on-road. The riding is a bit more technical because the rocks, the lava can be quite sharp. Eh, or in later in the season or if there wasn't a lot rain, a lot of rain. The lava is very soft. So it's definitely a course that requires much more technical skills than any of the other three courses that we have. But the amazing thing there is really to ride and you can see Monadnock in the back, which is always covered with some clouds. It always looks like it's smoking. And sometimes, and sometimes you can even hear it rumble. So it's a very nice experience. And course we have, I find very interesting because it goes through forest, which the road is much smoother. And sun, you had that lava patch where again, you really have to go on your chores and make sure you don't crash. And then after that we go to Slovenia with the race starts in blood, which is very, very well known for the church in the middle of the Lake and the cost that overlooks the leg. Very, very small town, roughly only 8,000 people. And there, the course is longer and more climate and everything else, all the other courses that we have, but the roads are Forrest routes. So it's, it's really not technical. We expect people to be much, much faster which is why the causes longer. And we have over 4,000 meters of climates. That's over 12,000 meters of climbing, over 180 kilometers, I think it was. So bring your climbing legs for that course. But again, it's not technical. The descends are not too difficult. You know that the tire choices there are very definitely, what do you need an Edna after your ride? Possibly widest tie. You can fit on your bike. With knobby tires, with Slovenia, you probably put a 35 on, I wouldn't say slicks, but really you don't need much in terms of treads. And then we finished the race. He was in Geovanna, which people know is very well known for cycling. There's tons of pro cyclists, ex pros living there. There is a ton also already off slaw, smaller. I'm grabbing races in the area. I'm always, it's longer than that. The local races, we're going up to 180 kilometers. The course is at times technical. But most of the time, you know, the climbing is nice and long and gradual and it's a beautiful area. And part of the [inaudible] North Catalonia, My gosh, the hardest thing is just deciding which one sounds the best out of those. Yeah, it's a difficult choice. You know, for me, Marrakesh was always the first choice simply because it's more exotic and it's an area that I'm really not familiar with. But I'm equally blown away by bled and by that, because again, it's completely different to the writing that I have here in Barcelona. So it's very hard to say what people expect and where they come from, what their preference is. Yeah. And I noted each of the courses, the expected medium finish median finish time is 10 hours. So it sounds like that's the goal. Yeah. Common theme across the events. And basically what we've done is we write the course. If I, it takes me about 11 hours, I think that the normal cycle should take about 10 cause we, I mean we, you know, we stopped for P, we stopped a bit more and we look at it and says, yeah, roughly 10 hours. And we expect the fast people. I'm always depending on conditions to come in at seven and a half to eight hours. And the cutoff depending on the cause where we are and what we can do with low closures will be 14, 15 hours or everybody should be able to finish the course. Yeah. And as people group up, obviously in the event the pace gets a little bit hotter and the course can get covered a little faster. Correct. Correct. For a Marrakesh we already have a couple of very, very good cyclists signed up. So we'll definitely see some action up the front, I think. Interesting. And then also a common theme, a pretty healthy chunk of climbing looks like between, you know, minimum 3,300 meters of climbing to over 4,000 in one of the [inaudible]. Yes. Yes. I think that's just driven by the destinations that we picked. The all mountain is areas. We like to be in somewhere more remote areas, which often that also leads to be in more mountainous areas. And you know, I personally like climbing. I think it makes a writing interesting if it's just on the flats and it's not for me. Yeah. Well, some of the descriptions you were providing on the courses are only possible to get this type of views and changes in terrain and changes in the ambiance of where you're riding through by having those large elevation gains. Yes, that's correct. And again, Marrakesh, you know, it's the end of winter so that the lower regions that'll be quite nice and warm. But when you get up to close to 2000, it'll be fresh. People will have to pack extra clothes. Interesting. So it'd be a real adventure. Yes. It'd be different experience from the, from the desert up into the mountains in, in terms of temperature. In terms of views and writing, it'll be completely different. And it looks like for each event correct me if I'm wrong, you've got two distances. Correct? We have what we call the exploration course. Not that it's easy by any means. But for those who are new to long distance gravel riding we wanted to offer something more manageable. We make it very easy if people feel that the training went well, they can easily change to the larger course. But of course, a hundred miles on gravel is something very different than a hundred miles on the road. And how are you thinking about the race in terms of it being a race versus a ride? [Inaudible] I think just based on the distance for 80% of the people, it'll be a ride, which is the challenging itself. We made it a race so that people more have a record of how long it took them, but not in the sense that we expect people to go out and really race one another. It's more a race against yourself, I think. And against the clock or whatever goal you've set yourself. And maybe a rate is against a friend, but I don't expect this to be a race like you would find on their own and on a road race or so. No. But do you imagine that over time, you know, writers will start to think of thinking of the events as they do a dirty cancer and SBT gravel where the professional athletes have it on their calendar because it's, it's notable to, to win. Yeah. Yeah, that'd be nice. It'd be interesting. I mean, as I said before, we have a couple of writers that, you know, when I signed up with like, okay, so they're clearly the more modern than say professional, but very, very, very good amateurs and no one did the scene who don't does, right. They, they, they will go and race this thing. But for most of us it'll be a challenging ride. That allows you to set goals. We also have a time section on every race that we call our coms. It's one long climb, but people can, if they don't want to race the whole race, but put it in over the next you know, 10 K on one climb or so and see how they fare against the best riders. So there's a little bit for everyone. Yeah, that's neat. I always appreciate this time segments just because it's, it's novel. It gives you a little bit of something to focus on during a long event. Yeah. Yeah. And especially in the climbs are hard enough. But if you know that you can see yourself, see how you did ever against everybody, I think it makes a bit of take that at least I need when I'm attempting one of these long clients. Yeah, it's interesting with all these events something is inevitably going to go wrong during your day. That's just sort of the nature of gravel and adventure riding. They're having those times segments. It's just a reminder of like, Oh, I can come back and try to tackle that the overall time as well as the segment time again in the future. Yeah, correct. I mean, you know, gravel, rough roads. The bikes are good, but things do go wrong. Yeah, absolutely. I do. I had, I had one carbon when go bust on me and Aetna, I think I must have had a rock really badly. And you know, that was the end of my ride. So that has happened. Yeah. Yeah. I do imagine, you know, as the sport continues to grow from a, from a retail perspective over in Europe, that the bike brands are gonna want their brand ambassadors to be traveling to these locations and sort of putting a flag in the ground that their equipment was a, you know, on the ground in Sylvania or, or AmeriCash. Yeah, it would be very nice. We haven't really signed up any sponsors because we're so new. We don't really have any history. But hopefully in a year from now we can approach the bike brands and they'll be interesting in working with us. I know just because it's, it's a category that is very, very interesting now in Europe, as I said, it's growing. You can see everybody, we are releasing components about it. We have even seen special Graebel shoes. Not, I am not, I haven't been able to figure out what they are, but all kinds of special Graebel equipment is coming to the market now. Yeah, absolutely. I mean that's obviously something we explore pretty extensively here on the podcast. And there's, I think just little tweaks that are starting to arrive over time where people are saying, to your point, like, you know, what is a gravel shoe? It's not, it's maybe not as soft as a mountain bike shoe, but maybe it's not as stiff as a road racing shoe and there's just sort of a blend in the middle there that that meets the kind of day you're going to have out of the bike as a gravel cyclist. Correct. I mean, you know, we're, luckily we don't push as often as maybe some more difficult mountain bike races or so or, or some bike packing events where you have to carry all that luggage up the Hill. But you know, some sexual, I mean, I know that some people will have to walk on certain seconds on all of course because it's difficult in a technically or too steep. Yeah. So you mentioned the UK being a little bit of a hotbed. Are there other pockets in Europe that you've identified where you feel there are a lot of gravel cyclists emerging? And while we can see by the Facebook groups that there are very large groups in Italy and France for example, there's a Facebook group in France that has 9,000 writers now, are they all pure gravel cyclists? Probably not. A lot of them own a gravel bike and they use it for commuting. But you know, that's what grabs the writing is if not just grab a beer in Europe is often all road riding. It's a bike that allows you to go everywhere. Some people use it for their commute instead of the normal city bike maybe that they had before instead of a cyclocross bike. Yup, absolutely. But it's certainly that big. It's coming. And he, in Spain, in our circle of friends within the last 12 months, I think 30% of our cycling group bought a gravel bike. And even also of Barcelona, we still have tons and tons of good roads that allow us to go out there. And it's very nice to explore an area that we've written through many, many times and starting to be able to turn off the road and ride 20, 30 kilometers on gravel in an area that we've not seen before. Even though we've written that area for many times, I think that's exactly it and exactly why this massive light bulb goes off the moment you get one of these bikes, it's easy to sort of sit on the sideline when you live in a place where there's amazing road riding like you and I both do. But the ability to take that left turn and hit a section of gravel just opens up this world of possibility. And all of a sudden, I know speaking from my own experience, I find myself writing just the best sections of road that I'm familiar with and then getting off road or amazing sections that'll connect pieces of, of tarmac that are otherwise and connectable in a reasonable amount of time. I fully agree. I mean, we were on a ride here in an area, a park wash, which we've written in many times on the road bike. And for the first time somebody put a rotor that was 90% gravel and I think for six hours all of us were smiling because it was such a new and great experience that we didn't expect. Yeah. I think particularly for people in the area. Yeah, and I think particularly for athletes that are coming from the road side, which is my suspicion is we're drawing a lot of athletes from that side of the sport versus the mountain bike side. As a mountain biker, we've all written those sections where you just sort of, something happens, you skid out but you survive and you get to the bottom of it and you, you want to high five, your friends did that. You don't often get that on the road, but you, you, you often and frequently get that in gravel and particularly in events that are, that are long or Epic in the terrain, you know, you're going to have mishaps and that's part of the fun. And when we all get to the finish line, it's part of the reason why the gravel community can be so tight from the first place finisher to the last place finisher because we're all going to have those experiences throughout the day. I fully agree and you know, we try to have at the end of our events, always a big party and not the normal finish a party. We're trying to put something together where people really sit together and share the stories of what happened to them during the day and then how they enjoy the ride or what they didn't enjoy. And you know, we're, we'll hopefully get lot of tons of feedback how to make it better the following year. But we really would like to people to connect to these events. And that's why said it's, it's a race, but we really, for most of us, I think it's more of a timed event and I think it's fantastic if people sit together later on and make friends. Yeah. The other thing I think that's fantastic about what you've laid out here is, you know, obviously all of these destinations are, are tourist worthy. And you know, it's not like writers should plan on popping in and out just for race day or 48 hours around the event. I know you're thinking about that and thinking about how to make a trip out of it, particularly for athletes from North America. We're not going to come over, you know, for less than a week to do something like this. So are you laying out other events around the actual race day to help riders who are coming in early explore the terrain and make the most out of their trips? Yeah, absolutely. We have for example, in Marrakesh we have a six day gravel tour, which can be easily made into three or if people want even more because there's so many relatives, we can connect them all different ways so that people can come over and explore the area before the event, if that one for three, four days or not a part of Morocco, because we have a tour that starts close to Marrakesh and you can ride just at the tip of the Sahara desert. In I'd say, you know, we, we say six days, I think people who have a little bit more stronger legs can easily do it in five days, maybe even four, if you want to push yourself. So there's tons of stuff to do around in terms of probably writing, but obviously also for the family. A Morocco, Marrakesh is a tourist destination for the a trip, no matter whether you bring the bike or not, it's especially for North Americans, such a different world to walk through the souks in Marrakesh. It's fantastic. I really enjoyed it. For me. Two days is enough, but my wife was very happy to hang around longer and buy more stuff. But it's, it's more the a trip and you can get on the car or a motorcycle and take a trip into the Berber villages and explore the life of the villages they have, which again is very different from what you see in the city. And these additional add on gravel events. Are they events that you're, you're paying to participate in? Are you, are you arranging these? Yes. I mean that paid events. I mean for some we can just, if somebody does once a day trip, we can happy to give them a GPS data around the village. But the other things, because they need to be organized. You need to have a van, we need to book the hotels. The transfer when the right finishes, cause it's not a loop. Back to Marrakesh or Casa Blanca or wherever the people want to go at the end of the ride. So yes, they are, they're paid trips. Okay. So you'll actually arrange sort of a little journey for us around the country. Yes, we are very flexible. We want people to have a good time. We know it's a long way to go and to make it worthwhile. We happy, you know, we work with local partners who then help us to put these things from simple things like a one hour camel ride around the desert to a six day bike trip on gravel bike or for some, you know, if the partner comes along when they are e-bikes as well. Amazing. Well I have to say, you know, you cannot visit [inaudible] gravel, and not be inspired and excited by the imagery that you guys have put forth in the videos around the various locations. I definitely encourage all the listeners to go check the event out. It's very inspirational to kind of look at these locations and I'm excited to have had this conversation with you, Tim, and learn more about what your goals are for the event and I wish you the best of luck. Thank you very much for having me. Hopefully can work in many of the listeners at one of our events. You know, if you have any questions, always shoot us an email. We hope to give you all the answers you need. Awesome. Thanks Tim. All right. Thanks so much Greg. Wow, big thanks to Tim. I feel like I've already packed my bag and signed up for a couple of those events. I've always wanted to ride in Morocco and heard amazing things about the terrain over there, so that one's definitely on my bucket list in this week's can't let it go. I've been thinking about dropper posts. We've talked about it a bunch of times on the podcast, but I always have fun slamming my post. It's one of those subtle things and maybe not necessarily the most obvious thing to get on a gravel bike, but give one a try. I think you'll like it. And if you're orientating your spec around fun, I can't recommend dropper posts enough. Thanks for spending a little time with us this week. As always, a welcome your feedback via social media channels or If you have a moment, please share this episode with some of your friends. We'd love to get more listeners and ratings and reviews are always deeply appreciated. So until next time, here's to finding some dirt under your wheel.    
February 4, 2020
This week we speak with @cyclingtips, Chief Gravel Correspondent / Man in a Van / Gravel racer, Marshall Opel about his 2019 gravel tour and take-aways from the numerous great gravel events he attended over the year. Cycling Tips Website Cycling Tips Instagram Automated Transcription, please excuse the typos. Good day everyone, and welcome to the gravel ride podcast. I'm your host Craig Dalton. This week on the pod we've got Marshall Opal, he's the chief gravel correspondent for cycling tips and last summer he went on a journey all around the United States racing gravel races out of a van. He was affectionately known as the man in the van. What's awesome about Marshall's experience last year was that not only did he get to experience all these phenomenal races that we'll get into in the podcast, but because he was camping out in his van, he really got a sense of the community in these events, which is something I think we all look at when choosing gravel events. We want to go somewhere that the racing is going to be fun, the terrain's going to be awesome, but the community's there. That's really the big draw. That's why it's so worth traveling outside your comfort zone and outside your local area to get into one of these races. Because the community, it's just fun to hang out and meet people. And what better way to do it then spending your time in the van and driving between races and just taking advantage of everything the local community has to offer. Marshall's a talented racer in his own right. So he got to experience some of the front end excitement in the race, but also that deep level of community across the country. So I was super stoked to meet Marshall down in Bentonville at the end of the year at the big sugar gravel reveal and talk to him about his opinions on where gravel's going, where it's been, how do we keep it fun and awesome. So I really looked forward to recording this interview with Marshall and I hope you enjoy it. So with that, let's dive right in. And Marshall, welcome to the show. Craig. Thanks for having me. I am stoked to talk about the endless summer of gravel you had in 2019. But before we get started, let's explain to the listener a little bit about your background and how you came to riding bikes off road. I grew up in Montana, so a lot of our riding is off road in the first place. But yeah, we used to have a, a road race called the Rocky mountain route Bay and that had a gravel section on a circuit. And I remember it being, you know, Oh, it's a off road race. I'm gonna put 20 fives on. And so it was very much riding road bikes on, on dirt and gravel. And it's only been pretty recently that I have gotten in this, the new wave gravel. I would say I did Belgium Walsall rod in 2016 and I did the way for that year and that was, I would say that was when I really started to see the, the new gravel movement. And you'd spent a couple of pretty intense Years in as a junior and later as an older, a rider racing on the road. Right? Yeah. I was determined to be a European professional road cyclist from the time I was like 12. I was like, Oh, this is definitely going to happen. And I'm, I chase that pretty hard. Dropped out of college and lived in a campground in Brittany France and raced for a French team and spent some time with the U S you train three national team and you know, looking back it was cool that I chased, chased the dream to that level, but I also, it was, it was an opportunity where I kind of realized that I needed to make adjustments for for myself that that wasn't going to be for me to be a full time pro cyclist. And I never really left the bike world though. I became a bike tour guide and then I got a job at Rafa. And now I'm sort of in the cycling journalism world and so bikes have never left. But the racing is, has evolved quite a bit. That makes sense. And the equipment has as well. So your, your role at at cycling tips puts you basically on the road, I would say beyond the summertime. It looks like you started out in April last year when all the way through October on this this gravel journey where you were living in a van part of the time and traveling around to some of the country's biggest and most diverse gravel events just to name a few Belgian waffle ride, dirty Kanza, the moots ranch rally crusher in the Tuscher, Steamboat gravel grinder row. You were really all over the place. And one of the things we're always exploring in this podcast is just sort of the, the regional nature of the feel of riding on gravel. And I thought when I met you, who better to co kind of comment about that than someone who's been across all these events all across the country this year? Yeah. You know, I did gravel events in small event in Northern California. I was riding gravel out in Northern Vermont and the Midwest dirty Kansas. So I definitely got a good perspective on the state of gravel in the U S in 2019 and yeah, stoked to share some thoughts. So when you were traveling, were you, were you modifying your equipment based on what was in front of you in any given course? I think that's one of the fun things about gravel is that there is like a, a conversation about what's the best equipment for, for an event. And I don't think you necessarily have that in traditional road cycling. But yeah, it was fun. I worked with Donnelley tires. It was fun to always be wondering what tire to use and I didn't really have to do too much with, I wrote a, a Niner gravel bike and you know, it was, it was a great bike all year. And so the only real adjustment I was making was my tires. Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, there is a, obviously a plethora of equipment choices out there and I always want to be the first to say, ride what you got. It's going to work in most of these events and then it's fine tuning from there. I think if you're in the front end of this sphere, you have to sort of think about, you know, do I want to go a narrower, faster tire? But usually for most people it's stick with what you got, get some nice, comfortable to you, rubber on there and just hit it. That's, so I definitely, it took me this season to learn, you know, like I said, when I was first road racing, when I was seriously road racing, I was on 21 tubulars like pinner little tires and I brought a lot of that sort of road mentality into gravel. Like, you know what, I was riding 32 [inaudible] at Steamboat gravel, which was nuts. I, you know, it took me the year though to realize every time I went with a bigger tire, I never once regretted it. And I think for anyone listening for almost everyone in gravel events, I just so wholeheartedly recommend, bigger is better when it comes to tires. I think there's probably a limit there, but if you're trying to optimize for gravel event and thinking about going with a smaller tire, I just, I don't see that being a smart choice for almost beyond the, like you said, the very pointy end of a race. Even those guys. Ted King was, was never on smaller than I think 36. And so yeah, those, Ted had mentioned that in my conversation with him as well. He's like, I've never regretted going fatter on the tires and it, I mean, it makes sense. I think there's, there probably is an edge to that as you said. I mean, if you're racing a salsa cutthroat 29 to four, you're probably a little bit got a bigger weapon than you needed for Steamboat gravel for example. But stick in that, you know, the 700 by 40 category and you're pretty good, you're still still fast. But you know, if you're a middle of the pack rider, you can still plow through plenty of stuff comfortably. Exactly. I think between 35 and 42 is sort of the sweet spot. Yeah. Yeah. And then depending on where you live, I mean, I, I'm a broken record on my six 50 B 40 sevens here in Marin County, but that's just what I have in front of me. Well, that's sort of my next step is I just I was in a revolve wheel launch this fall and it was actually the first time that I rode six fifties on gravel. And so I'm a new to that world and I liked I was on I think a 46 or 48. And yeah, it was great. And like, so every time I've stepped up to a little bigger tire, I'm like, Nope, this is even better. So I think next year I might be messing around with six 50 and even bigger tires. Yeah, you think about it, you and I, you and I met up in Bentonville this year pre-writing, the big sugar gravel course, and I brought 700 by forties with me thinking, Oh, this is going to be sort of more Midwest ms Midwestern style, rolling Hills and gravel and I won't need something big. And I left thinking that when I come back in 2020 probably ride six 50 B just so I just don't have to think about it on those chunky Rocky gravel roads they have in Arkansas. I've heard people say that six 50 B, we'll soon, it's in a couple of years it'll be this standard for gravel. So I think that's interesting to note where we are now and I'm in a couple of years. It might even be just that. That's, that's the norm. Yeah. And hopefully that'll push course design a little bit as well. So shifting to that, you know, as you sort of traveled across the country that you've obviously participated in a wide variety of events from, you know, like a Belgian waffle ride, which really demands a big road skillset to stay at that front of that race with a majority from a mileage perspective being on road, obviously the off road portion often dictates who's going to win or lose. You've got that, you've got crusher in the Tuscher, which is very road off-road, mixed terrain. And then you've got something like Kanza and I dunno, maybe Steamboat gravel, which is majority dirt. How do you think about those different courses and what were your experiences, you know, sort of in the front end of those races? Well, I don't know that I was always in the front end. I was in, I was lucky enough to be up there sometimes. I like the mixture of road off road. It feels so cool to get on pavement after you've been on a big section of, of gnarly gravel. It's like, you know, tarmacs never felt so good. And so that's a fun experience. But you know, something that I questioned with that is just these gravel events all of them that I've done have been on open roads. And when you get big groups of riders on open paved roads I just worry about that. Especially when there's a competitive nature to the, the ride. So I would prefer that these events stay as rural as possible and away from as many cars as possible. So usually that means majority dirt. And so I, I think the, as the sport evolves, I think it will just stay more and more gravel. Did you see, you know, on the events that had a mix of road and, but a mix literally mixed into the mileage. So my understanding of Belgian waffle ride is it's a lot of road up front and then the bigger off-road sections. But I'm curious like how the tactics evolve when you hit road sections in the middle of the course, if people tend to group up and that becomes a big differentiator between you're either in a pack or you're not in a pack. Yeah, I mean at a ride like Belgian waffle, if you're alone and you hit the road, if there's a group within sight you know, that's, you have to make an important decision there to either buckle down and try to close that gap. Or what I actually recommend is taking a break, you know, get off your bike and take a pee, grab some food and get in the next group. I think people, you know, these rides are so long. I think you'd be, I'd be surprised if you regretted that decision. And that's what I did a lot this year. If I was, even if I was in a group that, that I was, it was too hard for me. There were a lot of times where I'd, I'd eat food, take a stretch. And then, you know, in traditional road racing, when you get dropped from the group you're in, your sort of, your only goal is to get back in that group. But in gravel it's like you, there's just another, you just hop right in this next group and it's a whole new group of people to chat with. And I was one of my favorite aspects of gravel. So I'm remembering a moment of great regret and grind Duro where a riding buddy of mine was futsing with something right before the road section and a big group rode by us and we clearly didn't leave in time to join it. And he's like, no, no, no, let's chase. And I agreed and it was a horrible mistake and we just chased the entire road section where, and then when we stopped at the lunch stop, we realized there was a group of 40 that came in about a minute later that we could have [inaudible]. Yeah, totally. Yeah. It's I think that's one of the most interesting aspects of gravel. I think it shouldn't be overlooked that, you know, I spent a lot of time as a road racer getting dropped. I think a lot of road racers experience that and you, you're dropped from the group and it's like your day is over and that's just not the case in gravel. And you, you had these really nice chance to reset and rejoin a group and I think that's the best. Yeah. And I think you can even generalize that point even further for the listener who maybe hasn't signed, ever signed up for a gravel event. You literally can start with the top pros that are racing this sport and all your friends and lots of people you've never met and you toe the line with them and you're going to drop back. It's going to separate it, but it's rare you're ever riding by yourself and you always will have an adventure in these well-designed events and it's going to be a great day out. And you don't really, I find personally like I have no concept of where I am in the race. I just have a concept that I'm enjoying myself. Well that's because where you are, the race is pretty irrelevant. The relevant thought is yeah, how am I doing? How am I, have I been eating? Am I looking around? Am I enjoying this? Am I chatting with people? Like you could, that's totally you. You hit it spot on that there is no single narrative of the race. I mean, people will talk about the winners, but with an all day experience, it's so individual. There just, there isn't a a need to compare yourself versus a group that's an hour in front of you or three hours behind you or whatever. You're just all out there on the bike. Yeah, and I think there's a, there's an interesting parallel for me too. My experience is mountain biking where you know, you go to a place like bend, Oregon and you, you ride there awesome trail systems and you finish a section and you just want a high five and hug the person next to you even if you don't know him. And gravel has those elements. And you know, that's one of the things that I, I hope course designers always keep in mind. I don't want it to be just as a straight up a contest of who has the most horsepower. We want skill to be involved and we want the writers to push themselves out of their comfort zone. So for some it may be, you know, riding a, a steep paved or sorry. Yeah, you know, off road fire, road climb, that may be, it's a pure test of skill. But for others that may be a Rocky single track section that they, they've never experienced anything like on a drop bar bike. Yeah, clear the line. It was fun at grind dura this year, you know, the, the final climb was just a beast and people were off walking. But then if you were able to ride it, everyone was cheering you on. And I love that. It's like we're all just out here playing bikes and I'm celebrating the effort From your, your 2019 calendar. Are there a couple events that really stood out as being awesome and can't miss? I would spit. A lot of people have asked me that question and I keep going back to the Oregon trail gravel stage race outside of bend. That was a five day point-to-point race and I would really I'm excited to see more events of that style where you're out for multiple days. Something changes within the individual. And I think within the group when you're a few days into it's like, it's the feeling that you have at the end of a gravel ride where people are high five in and smiles and hugs and laughter, but then you just get to do it again the next day and it just, it grew and, and by the end it felt like there's like a little family and I didn't want to say goodbye to people. It was so fun. So that was definitely a major highlight. And I think I'm surprised that there aren't more events already like that. I thought, I thought you might say that. And we did interview Chad Sperry earlier on about the Oregon trail gravel grinder before the event had actually happened. And I hear ya. I have done a couple you know, week long mountain bike stage races where they were moving tents every night and there's a sense of community and really this sense of adventure that's unlocked in a way that a single day race can't touch. Absolutely. Yeah. If there's something special about it, it's the same feeling you'd get if you do a river trip or those multi-day, you sort of feel almost like, I think it may be taps into something primal for us. And we're like these nomadic creatures moving along. It's just a very it's a fun way to spend a few days with, with other great people. I highly recommend it for anyone considering their calendar of 2020 for a stage race. Absolutely. And I mean similar, I'd similarly recommend just the concept of bike packing, whether it's going hotel to hotel or carrying your own stuff. Just the idea of pointing your bike in a direction and going is so good for the soul. Yup. Yeah. And this is like this bike packing. Totally. There's something special too about, you know, having your, just your stuff for the day and your bike. It's really nice to ride without gear. Your bike just handles so much better. You, you F you can climb better. And so the, the experience is just, it's such a delight. I guess. It's a treat to not have to carry all your stuff and just makes the riding that much more special. Yeah, exactly. And then you get a course like the Oregon trail gravel grinder that is taking you into real wilderness. You get so much deeper in than you ever could have in a one day race obviously. And you get this just this massive adventure all under the guise of racing your gravel bike With a bunch of other people. And that's the real, you know, anyone can go out and ride the Oregon trail route for free whenever they want and they should. That's, people should be doing these events with friends on non-event day. But I think something that's so special is the people that you end up meeting at these events is really what makes it, you do it because everyone else is there. Yeah. And you, there's this unique thing where you might show up with your friends to start a race like that, but at the end of the day, the, each terrain and your individual ability levels are going to dictate where you sit. And it's this great opportunity that you find other people at your exact talent level that you just sort of randomly run into every day and they become your riding buddies even though you'd never met them before. It's such a cool thing when I guess the combination of when you find someone that you ride with well and then you also find out that you can jam conversationally. It's, that's one of the best things. It's like there's something magic there. It's it's very special, no doubt about it. So you've been involved in the gravel scene for a number of years, both as an athlete and a journalist. The last few years we've seen a lot of professional road athletes start to either dip their toe or embrace fully these quote unquote alternative calendars. What do you think about the influence of these new pros, perhaps big name pros from the roadside of sport jumping in? Is it, is it a risk of changing gravel? Is it a, is it a net positive? Actually, it's great. I think no one at the New York city marathon is bummed that the fastest runners in the world are up front. Trying to break world records. And I think that that atmosphere at big running marathons is it helpful for it? It's just like these are the best athletes in the world doing their, their craft at a level that's, that's truly remarkable and I think that it serves to inspire the rest of the field. So I, I'm full favor of having pros at these gravel events. So, you know, obviously there's such great mass participation numbers emerging with gravel and you have these events that are selling out lickety split. I wonder how the sponsorship model is going to change because I think it would be a shame to sort of imagine the team in iOS of gravel coming in with a massive war chest of money and hiring, you know, literally the, you know, the best 10 athletes and gravel and sort of dominating the scene. What do you think, how do you think the sort of sponsorship dollars are gonna flow and what would be a sustainable model for gravel to kind of envision? Well I hope That that doesn't happen. And if it does almost sort of feel like we've been down that road with other aspects of cycling that have grown and then receded. I think gravel is just fundamentally a different game. And I think success in large tr in like a, on a macro level for, for gravel comes from focusing on the everyday rider. The person that invests in a gravel bike and goes out with their buddies and does some rides, maybe does a backpacking trip, enters an, I think that's the focus. And if we start seeing gravel teams and tactics, and I mean, maybe that will happen, but I don't think that to me is nearly as interesting as, you know, when we saw, what was it, 16,000 people trying to sign up for big sugar. That's, that's where we're, that's the interesting part of gravel these days. Yeah, I think, you know, it's interesting as someone who sort of tries to put it two or three big events on the calendar, for me that means it keeps me honest in my training and you know, I have to stay focused to stay fit and healthy to get to the start line. Yeah, it's, it's, it's great for the industry because it gets me out on my bike. It's not like, you know, I had a year of doing crits for example. I didn't really think too much about it. I could just show up to a crit and do it and my sort of weekly fitness was, was fine. But with these gravel events, you really just need to put your equipment through the tests, through your body, through the test, and that leads to more purchasing decisions. You're going to go through tires, maybe you're going to think about things differently in terms of your equipment set up. So it does have all these positive elements for the bike industry as a whole. Sure. And there's been so much great innovation in the bike industry around the gravel world. And I think that's only gonna continue. And so it's fun as a consumer. I think the bike industry loves it. It's yeah, I wonder, I guess how far can we innovate at the end of the day? These are just, it's a bike going across a, a rough road. I guess the next big question with the bike industry is E bikes in these gravel events. Yeah. And I, I, I want to say I've witnessed one or two sort of sitting in there that that could be a warm hole that we may or may not want to go down. Yeah. Well it's a, it's a wormhole for the future cause I think it's not going to go away. It's e-bikes are, you know, they're not, they're everywhere in Europe. They're coming to the U S they're coming to gravel line and you're going to see an E an E category in each. I think each main frame that these big manufacturers are going to have a, they're going to have a regular, what do people call them? Analog bikes and an e-bike version of, of every bike they make. Yeah, I suspect you're right. And I, you know, I'm certainly one that I don't begrudge people who need help to get out there and experience the wilderness to get the help they need. Hm. Yeah. I will stay away from the rabbit hole. Yeah. I wonder if there's other, other sort of mass participation models that the industry needs to be looking towards. Like marathoning you mentioned earlier to kind of see the, of How we can continue to grow and have it so that, you know, of the 16,000 people that were trying to register for that race and how do we actually get more of them to safely participate in these races so they can have the experiences? Yeah. Well, I think part of it is celebrating the effort and you know, gravel is these, these events are long and difficult and there's nothing like having that beer at the end of a, of a long, hard day on the bike. There's something so rewarding about it. And I think to try to think that gravel is just for fun and just it's like you have to continue to, I guess celebrate that it's difficult and that, you know, running a marathon is difficult and that's why people are there. And instead of, I guess making that seems to Epic, it's like you can just embrace that, Hey, this is gonna be physically challenging and and yeah, I signed up for it and here I am. And that's just accepting that that's part of the experience. And it's actually part of what makes it feel so rewarding at the end. Yeah, absolutely. And that's something that all event organizers need to kind of be conscious of. You know, you, you want to embrace someone who wants to ride a short route. But I do think, you know, the marquee level events should all all be long enough that it's a day long test of your fortitude and adventure and strength. It's really interesting actually. Yeah. As these, you know, a lot of these bigger events have a 30 or a 50 mile, which I'm not here to say that we shouldn't be trying to get as many new people in the sport, and maybe that means doing, you know, a shorter event, but you don't see that at a marathon. Yeah, that's a big marathon. They don't have the little or aK category, or at least I don't think they do. Yeah, that's a good point. I hadn't thought about that. You do see it in the ultra marathon scene where you might have, you know, a 10 K at 20 K and a 50K and a hundred K on the same course. Yes. Umut it is, it is interesting to think about. I, I think someone mentioned to me, like, for them it was great because their partner could come and show up and do an event that met their ability level and it meant they could come on that trip versus being excluded from a trip. You know, one thing that I think is important, so here's, here's my take. These shorter distance events are rad. Umnd they're important in getting new people in the door. I don't think that they should have awards and podiums and metals and that just shouldn't. To me, this is again, my opinion. Umhat's not the focus. I don't even think that should be the focus in the, in the, in the long events. But especially getting people interested. I just, I dunno, I th I think it, it leads us down a road. We've already traveled in the road racing sphere mountain bike racing just traditional racing and focusing on podiums and results in awards, I think isn't how we stoke this fire the best going forward. Yeah, I'm certainly hoping we do not evolve to having short track gravel racing. Some might call that cyclocross, right? That is, that is actually just another word for cyclocross. But I could see, you know, what if they had a, a fun night race before the event that was on a, on a short, you know, like there, there could be a, you know, gravel's gonna continue a format. It doesn't have gravel, doesn't have to be this hundred, 150, 200 mile all day. Schlog it's gonna evolve and there's going to be little niche events and all sorts of different styles. So I think we'll see that actually coming from going forward. It'll be interesting. I remember sort of racing mountain bikes back, back at Mount snow and they had sort of even random community driven events during the Norman national weekend where they, they, they even had a naked parking lot. Correct. Yeah. I, yeah, I think those, those style of riots are fun and just keeping them low key, keeping it about connection, celebrating the bike, just there it is. It's, it's fun first with those and then you can have sort of the all day suffer fast where the fun is in just accomplishing this, this big, this big goal and you know, overcoming the day. But I think those less Epic events matter as well. Yeah. I think Jeremiah Bishop said something that I think is t-shirt worthy, which is keep gravel weird. Yeah, totally. That's something worthwhile. So you're, you're actually, you've got another big year ahead of you in 2020. What are your plans and what are you most excited to do? You know, it's funny, I going into 20, 20, I was thinking I would really like to do more low key small events. Last year I was at kind of all these main events. And I, it looks now there's just, there's so many big successful, well-run events that I can't not go to them and it art, it almost just filled up my whole calendar. So I think, I think maybe if and when this endless gravel is no longer endless, I'll look forward to doing some smaller, more local events. But yeah, I'll be at sort of all the main gravel events of the season. Starting off. Yeah. Yeah. Are you looking to sort of follow a similar path where you're, you're spending a lot of time in the van Between events? I'll be out in the van and it's actually, I'm really looking forward to being, I missed the van already and yeah, I'm looking forward to being back Back out there. Fun. Well, hopefully you'll have to find some smaller events in between point a and point B that you can hit to kind of break up the drive and fill your quotient. [inaudible] Yeah. And I really think that's where you find that weirdos of gravel is that small events and sort of off beaten places. That's where there's the soul of gravel is still very much intact and you don't see, you know, big sponsor expos and fancy finish line presentations. It's just a bunch of people out riding bikes and maybe drink a beer afterwards. So are you saying, Can I have a finish line without a pump up banner and big flags? Yeah, I think so. Yeah. Well, right on Marshall. Thanks. I appreciate spending the time talking to me and I, you know, I appreciate your perspective on gravel in the future and am looking forward to following your journey across the States this summer. Yeah. Craig, thank you. And thanks for what you're doing. I think it's important to keep these conversations about gravel going and I think answering questions, helping people. I think all of us that are in the gravel community right now that are fired up and stoked and have gravel bikes and gear, it's our duty to spread this to people that might be, that are on the verge of, of interest and to say, Hey, this could be for you. Invite people out for a ride, invite people to sign up for an event. This is how we grow the sport. And I think it, it's, it's everyone that's already in it that already understands how cool it is. I'm saying, Hey, this is, this is for more people to do it. So I'm excited to keep doing that. I think you're doing that and to all the listeners out there I hope that it's the same. So let's stoke the fire Right on. I think that's a great takeaway. Thanks, Marshall. Yeah, great. Thank you. Thanks again to Marshall for joining the pod this week. What an awesome journey he had in 2019. And what an exciting year he's got planned in 2020. Definitely check out his musings, his writings. He's a great writer and it's got great contacts in the sport, so I encourage you to follow him on social media channels and check out his work over at cycling tips in this week's can't let it go. I wanted to talk a little bit about good rain gear. It's been a wet winter here in Northern California and I was really fortunate to have invested in some great rain gear. In many ways this goes hand in hand with a previous, can't let it go about gravel bags because when she have a bag on your bike you can just shove rain gear in and have it there. In case of an emergency. I've been riding in some Gore gear, which has been phenomenal. I can't believe how compressible these jackets are. You can get it into a pocket or into one of these small bags pretty easily and they double up nicely as an extra layer coming off the mountain. So what I've found is I've just been leaving it in my frame bag and anytime I get to the top of a climb, I'm just pulling on that jacket, whether it's raining or shining. Just keeping that extra warm thin, which has been awesome. But in the rain, you know, these shake dry jackets have been phenomenal in that you literally can stay dry in a downpour, which has been amazing and super useful, at least in my commuting lifestyle. So whether it's this year or next year, definitely put that on your list of gear that you want to get. I can't recommend having a nice lightweight rain jacket in your arsenal of gravel gear. As always, I appreciate you listening. If you're wondering what you can do to help support the podcast rating and reviews are incredibly helpful in discovery. It doesn't take much time and five-star reviews really go a long way in spreading the word. So I'd love it if you could take a moment and do that for me this week. As always, I welcome your feedback. Hit me up on social media channels or directly Until next time, here's to finding some dirt under your wheels.
January 24, 2020
The Salsa Cutthroat has been THE gravel bike for the bikepacking set. If you look at the sport on a spectrum from 'road +' to 'bikepacking', the 2020 model is squarely on the 'bikepacking' side of the spectrum. In this episode, we hear from Salsa engineer and product manager's, Peter Hall and Joe Meiser about everything that went into the Cutthroat. Salsa Website Salsa Instagram    Automated transcription (please excuses the errors). Good day everyone and welcome to the gravel ride podcast. I'm your host Craig Dalton. This week on the podcast I've got two guests from salsa cycles and QBP talking about the 2020 salsa cutthroat. We've got Peter Hall and Joe Meiser from the team that have been intimately involved in the design and manufacturing of the salsa cutthroat. It's a really interesting bike for this podcast as we've sort of tended towards middle of the road gravel bikes. In terms of tire width, we've touched on some gravel plus, excuse me, some road plus bikes, but we've never really danced on the other end of this category, which is where the salsa cutthroat clearly occupies with 29 inch wheels, 2.4 tire inch tire capabilities. It's a pretty massive departure from sort of the more road oriented gravel bikes. So I was really excited to talk to them about this bike and the intention behind the design. It was really heavily influenced by the 2,700 mile tore divide route and those ultra distance events that we've talked about a little bit on this podcast. So with that, let's jump right in. Gentlemen, welcome to the show. Thank you. Thank you for having us. Absolutely. It's always a good place for us to get started. To learn a little bit more about your backgrounds as cyclist and since we're going to be talking about a very specific product, maybe you guys can also talk about what your roles are over there at salsa professionally. Sure. Yeah. So I'm Pete hall. I'm one of the design engineers here at salsa. Ah, I, I think the best way to describe what kind of cyclists dimes I'm at. At my core, I'm a mountain biker. Certainly don't discriminate against the like gravel or pavement and absolutely love them. Love both, especially gravel. But you know, I think single track will for me always be the best. I don't know how many years I've been in the bike industry now have, I've never held drop outside the bike industry. I know that like shops [inaudible] Yeah. So my name is Joe Meiser. I'm the senior product manager here at salsa cycles. I was a lead product manager on the new 20, 20 cutthroat. You know, I've been at QBP for 15 years. I've held roles as an industrial designer. I've led product development across our brands and I've led product in salsa full time for the last four years. I came into the brand at the time when the first Cutthroat was being launched and had the opportunity to work on the second generation, which has been pretty cool. My background as a cyclist is pretty wide ranging. Like P I would say I'm a mountain biker with a drop bar problem and I think that's probably reflected in a lot of our drop bar bikes. I started racing gravel in two and seven. The first gravel race I ever did was the trans Iowa and it sorta quickly Korean from there. You know, the vernacular here is gravel roads and rural roads. And so I was racing events like Ragnar rock 100 in Redwing in the Driftless region in Minnesota. I was racing the on Monzo in 2008 and about that time and decided that I would go out and do the tour divide and we as a brand team had kind of started to see this niche of gravel and started designing bikes, kind of led that direction with big tire fit, just breaks, so on. And so I actually raised the tour divide in 2009 and was able to do that on the Fargo, which was really the predecessor to the cutthroat. And and then got to be part of the team when we launched the first gen cutthroat and now this one. That's awesome. That's awesome. I'm actually really excited to talk to you guys because as I mentioned offline, I think on this podcast, you know, we've certainly covered road plus bikes and then bikes that are sort of in the sort of sweet spot of gravel of 700 by 40 or six four, six 50 by 47. And the cutthroat and salsa as a brand has always kind of occupied this more extreme and pending towards bike packing and ultra distance events. And you're really the first company that we've had on board to talk about that. When we think about the design of the cutthroat, can you go through some of those key elements that make it sort of more closely related potentially to a mountain bike than a road bike? Yeah, sure. I think the really the biggest place to start there is it actually uses mountain bike tires. You know, it fits up to a 29 by two four inch tire designed around a hundred mil suspension fork as well. The geometry is definitely more influenced on the 2020 cutthroat from mountain bikes. Slacker head tube angles, a little bit to deeper seat tubes. You know, we slacked this one out to 69 degrees for more of that stability of for mountain biking. When you're careening down a single track or you know, if two are divided, you've got a lot of gravel roads, nasty gravel roads, two tracks, mountain passes, that kind of stuff. So the stability is really prized there. I think part where this thing of the cutthroat is influenced by more of the roadside then would be obviously the drop bars. But the big one I would say would be the drive train we put on this. It's a boost mountain bike spacing, but we worked with a race facing Easton to put chain rings on it so you can get road gravel chain rings like a 46 thirties, what we spec it with. So you have a two by road your drive train. I'm on a mountain bike platform, so you can really get a really wide range of daring for the really wide range of experiences of the cutthroat can do. Interesting. And how, you know, you sort of referenced the kind of tore divide type writing that has really kind of infused the design philosophy or this bike. What are the elements of that particular ride that kind of demand this type of bike versus kind of a narrow retired gravel bike? You know, for us, this goes back to the original Fargo and designing that bike. You know, when, when I started to plan for the tour divide one of the things that I really recognized was that the biggest issue that writers were having was hand and wrist issues and they're almost all riding XC mountain bikes at the time with flat bars. Some riders had started to put arrow bars on for different positioning, some comfort and maybe a little bit of an Aero advantage. And I looked at that event and I looked at the information that was out at the time in 2005, six, seven, just as blogs were starting to kind of bow out. And I thought, you know, this is really ultimately just the longest gravel race in the world and the road that it's on while it's billed as a mountain bike route. It's rural gravel roads and it's stuff that we're riding these bikes on today. And so we as a team built that Fargo around a dirt drop, right experience. I mean, in a sense influencer, I would say absolutely influenced by, you know, bikes like some of the Cunninghams from, you know, the early nineties and late eighties. I've got pictures of, of Cunningham's on my, still on my board at my desk from that time frame. And so we looked at it, we said give riders multiple hand positions, give them option to be more comfortable and give them that choice. And that's where Fargo came from. And that's ultimately where cut throat comes from, is looking at that experience and designing for that experience. Then on the tour divide route, are you getting into technical single track that sort of puts it a drop bar bike rider in a more challenging position than a straight bar. You know, there, there are I think roughly 30 to 40 miles of single track on that route. Coming off the backside of the pass after you come out of Breckenridge, there's an option. And then as you get down into a silver city, New Mexico and you're in the healing mountains North of there, there's a section of the continental divide trail that's open to bikes. It's used and you know, it is technical, single track. But if you look at the overall mileage, you know, roughly 30 to 40 miles of 2,750 miles is single track. And so the bike is fully capable of riding single track and there are a few die hard there dropped single track riders that they use it that way. But really it's about riding those rockier rougher mountain passes where you know, you're just sending through rocks that are, you know, the size of softballs and basketballs and that sort of situation versus you know, the really buff single or a buff gravel that we experienced and gravel races on rural farm roads. Yeah, I've got to imagine also the volume of the tires that you selected for this model play an important role when you're adding a lot of weight in terms of bags and gear you're needing for a multi day event. Ultimately that's the case. You know, you're riding those big roads and you might be able to get away with less tire, but less tire means, you know, less load support. It leans a little bit less comfort. It means you got to pay a little bit more attention to tire pressures. You know, you may be more prone to flat on high-speed descents when you're coming across a water guard or a cattle guard at the descent bottom until most people just tend to trend towards the 2.1 2.2 on that tour divides specific experience. Yeah, I was getting that feedback. A colleague of mine who actually see it shares the same bike as I do was riding the trans Northern California on six 50 B by 47 and he said to me, you know, nothing I encountered challenged that tire width but the weight on the bike had me laying around with air pressure so much that when it was comfortable I was bottoming out and flatting and if I was pumping it up too hard, it was just super uncomfortable. So it left me thinking like the bike I have, but is by no means really what I'd want for something like the tour divide for exactly the reasons you just described. I think that's fair to say Is speaking of handling, you know, you obviously guys have spent a lot of times thinking about the types of loads and even built features in to help the port bags and different caring configurations that you might have in some of these long distance events. And you talk about some of those elements of the frame and fork design. Yeah, of course. I think we, you know, we've, we consider probably your best place to carry most of your gear is in the frame bag. It's down low, it's secure. It's in line with the center plan of the bike. It's really stable there. You obviously have your seat bag for a lot of stuff, but most of your weight really should be kept down low for handling and stability. So on the 2020 cutthroat, they actually increased the front triangle space and designed a new bag that has a little thumbscrews that mounted onto them. So there's a whole bunch of [inaudible] rib nuts on the inside of that front triangle. So it's, it's a really clean frame bag integration on not a bunch of Velcro straps to wear at your paint and that kind of stuff. And then on the fork, on both sides of the fork, we have three pack mounts that can take a water bottle or something like or anything. KJ HD and bag she can carry up to, I believe it's eight pounds per side in the anything cage. The handling was it's better to put extra weight, let small extra weight on your fork really helps to slow down the steering. And the mechanical trail we designed the bike around really plays nicely with that extra weight on your handlebars from a say like in anything cradle and then the anything cage having things on your fork. Okay. So your thought about sort of slowing down the steering by the fact that, you know, it's likely there might be some weight put on there. Yeah. Interesting. And I think I read that the bike is also suspension adjusted so you can put a suspension fork on there as well if that's your jam. Yeah, it certainly is. Yeah. We can fit up to like a 29 inch, 29 inch wield a hundred mil travel fork. You know, we see that you lose a mounting point, but you gain a lot of comfort for particularly rough, particularly rugged routes then. Yeah. Did you find Joe on your own tour divide experience that that comfort was a challenge? Were you on a rigid fork? I assume? I, I, when I wrote I was on a field bike and you know, the steel bike really did help damp vibration on the route. And I think that's, you know, something we really saw an opportunity to do with the first gen cutthroat. We added that class five feature into the back end of our frame. So we have that technology in all of our carbon, all road bikes, and that's really building an inherent damping into the frame as well as tuning the layup of each frame to handle vibration coming the road and really isolate the rider. You know, and that's not uncommon with, you know, after market accessories now and seed posts and stems and that sort of thing. As well as what other brands are doing. And we did that on a new bike as well with with its fork, we added a feature similar to class five where we added some for AFT flex to that frame and engineered that fork to compliment the frame while you're riding it. Now from my perspective, I really like a suspension fork on the cutthroat. I, my current cutthroat bill, my favorite build now is a RockShox RS one on the front of it and a dropper post on that bike. And it's a lot of fun to ride that way and I hope to see more gravel bikes kind of come in to the ability to handle a suspension and suspension product for gravel in a lot of ways I would say for, you know, shorter events. I had the opportunity to go do grander O Japan as a launch of that. That set up was amazing. It was super fun to ride that course in Japan on the cutthroat for events like the tour divide. I wouldn't say I'd throw it out, but I would certainly do a lot more evaluation to make sure that my fork was going to hold up to that distance. So it's, you know, it's a weight factor, but it's also a performance, you know, is that forking I need service. Am I going to have bushing issues or seal issues during the event? And there are some recorded examples of time during the tour divide where forks have needed to be rebuilt in Steamboat or silver city before hitting the finish line because of seal issues and heat buildup and that sort of thing. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, I gotta imagine with the extra weight on the front of your bike, the suspension is taking a little bit more abuse than it might do under your average body weight size. Certainly that, and I think the higher speeds and the smaller vibration that suspension forks see during that type of activity versus off-road mountain biking where we, we tend to have higher impact Is speaking of, of, of tuning the carbon. Since you're, you've got a bike that's potentially used in its home environment with just the rider weight, but you've also clearly built a bike that's going to carry load around it. Are you, are you having to kind of up the stiffness of it thinking that, you know, an average 170 pound rider on a 56 centimeter frame is actually going to be 200 pounds with the additional weight they may be carrying? We do a little bit the rider gear is a percentage wise, quite as quite a small amount compared to the actual rider weight. So we do tune the stiffness of the bike to be a little stiffer than like say if this was designed specifically to be an unloaded like a single long day, kind of like a Warbird. This is definitely stiffer and pedaling and torsion in the handling for the front end. But honestly about the same, we tuned the VRS to be about the same. The chain stays and and fork flexibility to be pretty close because they undergo relatively similar loads. The weight is generally further forward in the frame and not really affecting say how the seat stays or flexing. If we had one to two specifically designed weight to be used on a rear pannier that something that's designed to, to bolt around that rear end, then we would definitely need to consider that more. But honestly the, the, the Rider-Waite makes such a larger difference than the gear you're carrying unless you're carrying like led spoons or something. Yeah, I imagine so. It's interesting to me, you know, as the sport on the racing side of the sport, you've obviously got a spectrum of events from the, you know, the ultra distance stuff like tour divide and, and multi-day events, you know, across the Midwest and, and Iowa and different places. But you also have things like dirty Kanza with the DK 200 and I can't help but think, you know, for the average rider having a little bit of suspension via the bigger tires or even pure suspension on the bike starts to yield a lot of, a lot of benefits. You have the tradeoff of the weight, but you know, being able to stay comfortable all day long I think is going to help a lot of average writers get across those big finish lines. Absolutely. I mean, we've Talked about this a lot as the tour divide bike, right? So we're talking about a bike that salsa designed for an event that annually roughly 150 riders start For some perspective. And that's, you know, that's something that we chose to do as a brand because we thought it was important, but that product wouldn't be around if only 150 riders annually purchased it. But you certainly see it as the primary bicycle at the start of the tour divide. Annually. We very quickly found that riders in gravel events, particularly dirty Kanza did want a bike like the cutthroat and we saw it quickly spill over into those spaces. You talked earlier about the big sugar gravel event that the founders of dirty Kanza and lifetime are starting in Arkansas. Well, Jim commons, a good friend of ours, someone who we've been involved with for a number of years with dirty Kanza, he rides a cutthroat in the gravel in Kansas and that Surface down there, that base chert rock that they have, how rough those roads are. When you get out onto the open range, he really appreciates the big volume tires. And he talks about how he's been on group rides with other riders in Emporia and they're on graveling and having to hold that, that line of the two track, and he'll ride up on the Ridge between the two track because he's got two on tires and a bike that's really incredibly stable. So it's much more capable in that environment. And then the other part is the fit of it. It's a much more upright bike naturally because of the longer the axle, the crown on the fork, because it is suspension corrected. Your front ends a little bit higher. And so writers who want to be a little bit more upright have that comfort level writers that want those bigger tires for the rough roads, Creek crossings want that. And so we quickly realized that the bike was seeing that secondary use case. And that was part of our intentionality with this. This current agenda has just launched to the market, particularly around the drive train, the P hall talked to earlier. I've worked at booths at dirty Kanza for a number of years during the expo. And I can pretty much tell you that on the hour I'm going to have a cutthroat rider come by from a version one cut throat and say, how do I get more gears on this? Can I put to buy on this? How do I make this bike more capable of gravel? And that's where that partnership with race, face Easton comes in to play it for salsa and new drive train options like GRX from Shimano. Make it much easier for us to design this bike with big volume tires, 29 inch wheels, and to buy a drive train. And I think that's pretty fantastic that we're able to get all that to work together to create a really awesome experience. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, if I can add on that, I [inaudible] Personally, I used my Warbird at dirty Kanza this year, but the year I picked A cutthroat from Michigan's coast to coast gravel race purely because of the comfort of the bike. And then Michigan is just the Sandy place. So those larger volume tires help you float through it. Whereas in Kansas, you're floating through gravel and chunky gravel. In Michigan, you're floating through just the sand. The cutthroat while you, you get more comfort out of it, comfort often equals speed for a lot of people. Especially if you maybe aren't at the pointy end of the race. Trying to win being more comfortable over a 10, 14 plus hour a day makes a big, big difference. Yeah, absolutely. Could you describe the Warbird a little bit for us? So Warbird is salsa is gravel race bike. A Warbird was the first gravel race bike to exist in the industry. We started that product from around, I think we had to nail it down. I think we'd say we launched the first one right around 2014. It seems like forever ago for us, but it's actually, it's not that long ago. And it's now on its fourth generation. We launched that last year in 2019 and you'll see a lot of the same features shared between control and Warbird. And so you'll see a bike that's designed for up to a 700 by 45 tire or six 50 by 47, but you'll see that the shorter axle, the crown, you'll see to see that lower stack, that ability to get into that more, you know, road or gravel race position. Okay. So at a, at a simple level, like we're talking different wheel size and different tire with capabilities up to the cutthroat being sort of maxing out at one 89 by 2.4. Correct? That's absolutely correct, yes. Yeah. Got ya. I, you know, I think it's interesting in the conversations I have and just anecdotally with the writers I interact with, you know, there's loads of gravel athletes who are coming from the road side. They're, the jump to the cutthroat just seems absolutely massive to them when they're just thinking, Oh, I'm riding a road bike off road. But I do think, and I have seen over the last or years or so that people are embracing more and more mountain bike style bikes and mountain bike technologies on the gravel scene because they're, they're just seeing, they can simply go faster and be more comfortable. Absolutely. I think you guys are ahead of the curve there actually, And appreciate that. You know, I'm not, I'll take a second to, you know, we recognize that you talked about road racers road riders coming off of a more traditional road bike where it's, it's quick, it's snappy, it's death. For salsa, we see an opportunity to really meet riders with how they're coming into the sport and make a product for them wherever they may be at. So, you know, cut. One of the jokes for us in the cutthroat is it's the mountain bikers gravel bike, right? It's not a big leap for someone who's been riding mountain bikes to go, well, this, sure. Big fat tires. Why wouldn't I want to do that? Warbirds really kind of that more dead center gravel race bike you know, there's a lot of competition in that space over the last several years with other brands coming into gravel. And then on the other end of the spectrum, we have our war road, which is our endurance road bike. But even as a road bike, it's fits up to a 700 by 35 or six 50 by 47. And that bike, if you look at it in the purest form and the geometry and tire fit and handling switch pretty closely into the endurance road space, but with some additional capability to haul gear, hallowed do an occasional gravel race that's not incredibly aggressive. And so if you have that rider that is coming off the road and they're like, man, all these gravel bikes are really kind of slow and they're really long and I want something snappy, or that war road is kind of that choice for them. And so we have three performance carbon gravel bike for riders across the board. Yeah, I think that's super important to note. And I, I'm a, I'm a big fan of a gravel bike and a couple of different sets of wheels and riding that on the road. So I love one, it sounds like in your, in your, in your suite it would probably be the, the Warbird where it would fit my fancy super off-road capable, but slap of a select set of road wheels on there and you're not really feeling like you're missing a beat. Yeah, I would tend to agree with that. It's that you know, best all around her ultimately for a rider who's gonna have their gravel bike. Yeah. And in talking to you guys, I mean listeners know here in Marin County, I feel like I'm squarely in in mountain bike territory in terms of what I consider a gravel riding and I like something aggressive with a big volume tire. I feel like I'm probably a pretty good cut throat customer and maybe even as I think Joe was mentioning, a suspended cut throat would be a hell of a lot of fun here in Marin County. I think that's the case. You know, maybe in a lot of places where, and Marines, this kind of place where you have a lot of of back roads. But then you have like those single track cut throughs and that sort of thing. And I think that's one of the things that make cut, makes cutthroat fun as you can, you know, pop along the Creek for us or pop along the river and ride some single track pop back out, you know, hit the pavement, hit a alley, cut through whatever the case might be. And in a variety of situations. Have a good time. Yeah. Joseph is driving his commute home right there, pretty much. I love it. I love it. Well, yeah, I know it's an exciting time to be in the industry and an exciting time to be a consumer. I think one of the drivers for me starting this podcast was really my personal journey to figuring out what bike is right for me and every day I don't think I'm actually getting any closer to it because there's just so many. And the key is to just find a bike that has the level of versatility that you're looking for and figure out the right wheelhouse you're in. So if you're, you know, a big off-road rider, rabbit cutthroat, it'll still work fine on the road, but it's not going to be the fastest thing on your group ride. If being the fastest on your group rides your jam, then it sounds like the Warbird road and get some knobbies to take you on, on gentle off-road trails. Might be the way to go For sure. I think that's a good understanding. Yeah. Well I appreciate the time you guys, I know it's a Friday afternoon and it sounds like Joe's got an enviable commute on the way home, so I don't want to keep you any, any longer. Anything else you want to reveal about 2020 for salsa and where you see this market going? That's a big question. I certainly have a crystal ball of where I think the market is going. You know, I think to echo your statement, there's a myriad of awesome options available to riders out there. And you know, for salsa we wanna like I said, meet that rider where they're at and how they're coming into gravel because there are a huge number of riders still coming into gravel as a discipline and as a, as a sport. I think we'll see a lot more technical advance advancements along the way here without giving too much away. Like I said, I think suspension is going to be interesting and see if we see, you know, forks like the Fox really kind of take off and come into the sport and influence it more so full suspension, gravel bikes, you know, we're starting to see little things like that. There's that intersection of mountain and road going on that's interesting and exciting and it's fun for us to be a part of it as well. Definitely. I think it's interesting to see as what will happen in the next couple of years in the gravel scene as American domestic road racing. The traditional road racing, you know, starts to die out unfortunately. And more and more of that, that group goes to gravel to see how that changes gravel. Look cause I think it's mostly been a lot of influence from mountain bike so far. But it'll be interesting to see how gravel evolves in the next couple of years. You know, world tour pros, retiring to win DK. Yeah, I definitely agree with you on that. I think it's going to be fascinating to see how gravel race organizers are able to keep it dirty, if you will. Meaning keep it weird, keep it fun. I think evidence has shown that a great world tour pro cannot just know the line and expect to win any one of these races. The terrain dictates a lot of how they're going to be successful or whether their traditional road tactics will have any advantages whatsoever. I also think it's going to be interesting as the prize purses and the sponsorship dollars continue to increase in gravel. Will we see some of road pros adopt some of this suspension technology or other things that we've already seen the light bulbs come on about because it's purely gonna make them go faster. To your point about Bentonville, you know there's only certain number of lines that you can go down comfortably on some of those roads and being able to peek out and slam through some river beds and bigger sized rocks. It could be an advantage in some of these races that have those technical elements in the terrain. Yeah, definitely. As a gentleman, I really appreciate the time. I love learning more about the cut throat. It's a a category of bike that's always intrigued me and I'm a huge fan of the tour divide so I appreciate you guys supporting those athletes and giving that perspective in addition to the other elements of the sport that you guys have been focused on. Well thank you. We appreciate your time as well and the ability to kind of share our story and our product. Big thanks to Peter and Joe for joining the podcast this week. It was fun for me geeking out around the tour divide and this type of bike. I don't know about you guys, but every June I am a. Dot watcher. I love watching the tour divide. I love looking at all the rigs, and it was interesting talking to them about the different kind of performance requirements of riding a bike that distance. I have to say, you walk away from a conversation like that. Really thinking about the fun factor of riding these drop our bikes and the cutthroat with those large tires would likely be a hell of a lot of fun, particularly here in Marin County and quite versatile. When you think about the type of off-road adventures you can do with it, fully loaded kind of expedition style out there in the woods. So that's it for this week's podcast. As always, I welcome your feedback. You can hit me or on Instagram or Facebook. As always, it's a big help if you can rate or review and definitely share this podcast with friends. Helping with discovery is one of our biggest challenges here at the gravel ride. Until next time, here's defining some dirt under your wheels.
January 21, 2020
The Salsa Cutthroat has been THE gravel bike for the bikepacking set. If you look at the sport on a spectrum from 'road +' to 'bikepacking', the 2020 model is squarely on the 'bikepacking' side of the spectrum. In this episode, we hear from Salsa engineer and product manager's, Peter Hall and Joe Meiser about everything that went into the Cutthroat. Salsa Website Salsa Instagram    Automated transcription (please excuses the errors). Good day everyone and welcome to the gravel ride podcast. I'm your host Craig Dalton. This week on the podcast I've got two guests from salsa cycles and QBP talking about the 2020 salsa cutthroat. We've got Peter Hall and Joe Meiser from the team that have been intimately involved in the design and manufacturing of the salsa cutthroat. It's a really interesting bike for this podcast as we've sort of tended towards middle of the road gravel bikes. In terms of tire width, we've touched on some gravel plus, excuse me, some road plus bikes, but we've never really danced on the other end of this category, which is where the salsa cutthroat clearly occupies with 29 inch wheels, 2.4 tire inch tire capabilities. It's a pretty massive departure from sort of the more road oriented gravel bikes. So I was really excited to talk to them about this bike and the intention behind the design. It was really heavily influenced by the 2,700 mile tore divide route and those ultra distance events that we've talked about a little bit on this podcast. So with that, let's jump right in. Gentlemen, welcome to the show. Thank you. Thank you for having us. Absolutely. It's always a good place for us to get started. To learn a little bit more about your backgrounds as cyclist and since we're going to be talking about a very specific product, maybe you guys can also talk about what your roles are over there at salsa professionally. Sure. Yeah. So I'm Pete hall. I'm one of the design engineers here at salsa. Ah, I, I think the best way to describe what kind of cyclists dimes I'm at. At my core, I'm a mountain biker. Certainly don't discriminate against the like gravel or pavement and absolutely love them. Love both, especially gravel. But you know, I think single track will for me always be the best. I don't know how many years I've been in the bike industry now have, I've never held drop outside the bike industry. I know that like shops [inaudible] Yeah. So my name is Joe Meiser. I'm the senior product manager here at salsa cycles. I was a lead product manager on the new 20, 20 cutthroat. You know, I've been at QBP for 15 years. I've held roles as an industrial designer. I've led product development across our brands and I've led product in salsa full time for the last four years. I came into the brand at the time when the first Cutthroat was being launched and had the opportunity to work on the second generation, which has been pretty cool. My background as a cyclist is pretty wide ranging. Like P I would say I'm a mountain biker with a drop bar problem and I think that's probably reflected in a lot of our drop bar bikes. I started racing gravel in two and seven. The first gravel race I ever did was the trans Iowa and it sorta quickly Korean from there. You know, the vernacular here is gravel roads and rural roads. And so I was racing events like Ragnar rock 100 in Redwing in the Driftless region in Minnesota. I was racing the on Monzo in 2008 and about that time and decided that I would go out and do the tour divide and we as a brand team had kind of started to see this niche of gravel and started designing bikes, kind of led that direction with big tire fit, just breaks, so on. And so I actually raised the tour divide in 2009 and was able to do that on the Fargo, which was really the predecessor to the cutthroat. And and then got to be part of the team when we launched the first gen cutthroat and now this one. That's awesome. That's awesome. I'm actually really excited to talk to you guys because as I mentioned offline, I think on this podcast, you know, we've certainly covered road plus bikes and then bikes that are sort of in the sort of sweet spot of gravel of 700 by 40 or six four, six 50 by 47. And the cutthroat and salsa as a brand has always kind of occupied this more extreme and pending towards bike packing and ultra distance events. And you're really the first company that we've had on board to talk about that. When we think about the design of the cutthroat, can you go through some of those key elements that make it sort of more closely related potentially to a mountain bike than a road bike? Yeah, sure. I think the really the biggest place to start there is it actually uses mountain bike tires. You know, it fits up to a 29 by two four inch tire designed around a hundred mil suspension fork as well. The geometry is definitely more influenced on the 2020 cutthroat from mountain bikes. Slacker head tube angles, a little bit to deeper seat tubes. You know, we slacked this one out to 69 degrees for more of that stability of for mountain biking. When you're careening down a single track or you know, if two are divided, you've got a lot of gravel roads, nasty gravel roads, two tracks, mountain passes, that kind of stuff. So the stability is really prized there. I think part where this thing of the cutthroat is influenced by more of the roadside then would be obviously the drop bars. But the big one I would say would be the drive train we put on this. It's a boost mountain bike spacing, but we worked with a race facing Easton to put chain rings on it so you can get road gravel chain rings like a 46 thirties, what we spec it with. So you have a two by road your drive train. I'm on a mountain bike platform, so you can really get a really wide range of daring for the really wide range of experiences of the cutthroat can do. Interesting. And how, you know, you sort of referenced the kind of tore divide type writing that has really kind of infused the design philosophy or this bike. What are the elements of that particular ride that kind of demand this type of bike versus kind of a narrow retired gravel bike? You know, for us, this goes back to the original Fargo and designing that bike. You know, when, when I started to plan for the tour divide one of the things that I really recognized was that the biggest issue that writers were having was hand and wrist issues and they're almost all riding XC mountain bikes at the time with flat bars. Some riders had started to put arrow bars on for different positioning, some comfort and maybe a little bit of an Aero advantage. And I looked at that event and I looked at the information that was out at the time in 2005, six, seven, just as blogs were starting to kind of bow out. And I thought, you know, this is really ultimately just the longest gravel race in the world and the road that it's on while it's billed as a mountain bike route. It's rural gravel roads and it's stuff that we're riding these bikes on today. And so we as a team built that Fargo around a dirt drop, right experience. I mean, in a sense influencer, I would say absolutely influenced by, you know, bikes like some of the Cunninghams from, you know, the early nineties and late eighties. I've got pictures of, of Cunningham's on my, still on my board at my desk from that time frame. And so we looked at it, we said give riders multiple hand positions, give them option to be more comfortable and give them that choice. And that's where Fargo came from. And that's ultimately where cut throat comes from, is looking at that experience and designing for that experience. Then on the tour divide route, are you getting into technical single track that sort of puts it a drop bar bike rider in a more challenging position than a straight bar. You know, there, there are I think roughly 30 to 40 miles of single track on that route. Coming off the backside of the pass after you come out of Breckenridge, there's an option. And then as you get down into a silver city, New Mexico and you're in the healing mountains North of there, there's a section of the continental divide trail that's open to bikes. It's used and you know, it is technical, single track. But if you look at the overall mileage, you know, roughly 30 to 40 miles of 2,750 miles is single track. And so the bike is fully capable of riding single track and there are a few die hard there dropped single track riders that they use it that way. But really it's about riding those rockier rougher mountain passes where you know, you're just sending through rocks that are, you know, the size of softballs and basketballs and that sort of situation versus you know, the really buff single or a buff gravel that we experienced and gravel races on rural farm roads. Yeah, I've got to imagine also the volume of the tires that you selected for this model play an important role when you're adding a lot of weight in terms of bags and gear you're needing for a multi day event. Ultimately that's the case. You know, you're riding those big roads and you might be able to get away with less tire, but less tire means, you know, less load support. It leans a little bit less comfort. It means you got to pay a little bit more attention to tire pressures. You know, you may be more prone to flat on high-speed descents when you're coming across a water guard or a cattle guard at the descent bottom until most people just tend to trend towards the 2.1 2.2 on that tour divides specific experience. Yeah, I was getting that feedback. A colleague of mine who actually see it shares the same bike as I do was riding the trans Northern California on six 50 B by 47 and he said to me, you know, nothing I encountered challenged that tire width but the weight on the bike had me laying around with air pressure so much that when it was comfortable I was bottoming out and flatting and if I was pumping it up too hard, it was just super uncomfortable. So it left me thinking like the bike I have, but is by no means really what I'd want for something like the tour divide for exactly the reasons you just described. I think that's fair to say Is speaking of handling, you know, you obviously guys have spent a lot of times thinking about the types of loads and even built features in to help the port bags and different caring configurations that you might have in some of these long distance events. And you talk about some of those elements of the frame and fork design. Yeah, of course. I think we, you know, we've, we consider probably your best place to carry most of your gear is in the frame bag. It's down low, it's secure. It's in line with the center plan of the bike. It's really stable there. You obviously have your seat bag for a lot of stuff, but most of your weight really should be kept down low for handling and stability. So on the 2020 cutthroat, they actually increased the front triangle space and designed a new bag that has a little thumbscrews that mounted onto them. So there's a whole bunch of [inaudible] rib nuts on the inside of that front triangle. So it's, it's a really clean frame bag integration on not a bunch of Velcro straps to wear at your paint and that kind of stuff. And then on the fork, on both sides of the fork, we have three pack mounts that can take a water bottle or something like or anything. KJ HD and bag she can carry up to, I believe it's eight pounds per side in the anything cage. The handling was it's better to put extra weight, let small extra weight on your fork really helps to slow down the steering. And the mechanical trail we designed the bike around really plays nicely with that extra weight on your handlebars from a say like in anything cradle and then the anything cage having things on your fork. Okay. So your thought about sort of slowing down the steering by the fact that, you know, it's likely there might be some weight put on there. Yeah. Interesting. And I think I read that the bike is also suspension adjusted so you can put a suspension fork on there as well if that's your jam. Yeah, it certainly is. Yeah. We can fit up to like a 29 inch, 29 inch wield a hundred mil travel fork. You know, we see that you lose a mounting point, but you gain a lot of comfort for particularly rough, particularly rugged routes then. Yeah. Did you find Joe on your own tour divide experience that that comfort was a challenge? Were you on a rigid fork? I assume? I, I, when I wrote I was on a field bike and you know, the steel bike really did help damp vibration on the route. And I think that's, you know, something we really saw an opportunity to do with the first gen cutthroat. We added that class five feature into the back end of our frame. So we have that technology in all of our carbon, all road bikes, and that's really building an inherent damping into the frame as well as tuning the layup of each frame to handle vibration coming the road and really isolate the rider. You know, and that's not uncommon with, you know, after market accessories now and seed posts and stems and that sort of thing. As well as what other brands are doing. And we did that on a new bike as well with with its fork, we added a feature similar to class five where we added some for AFT flex to that frame and engineered that fork to compliment the frame while you're riding it. Now from my perspective, I really like a suspension fork on the cutthroat. I, my current cutthroat bill, my favorite build now is a RockShox RS one on the front of it and a dropper post on that bike. And it's a lot of fun to ride that way and I hope to see more gravel bikes kind of come in to the ability to handle a suspension and suspension product for gravel in a lot of ways I would say for, you know, shorter events. I had the opportunity to go do grander O Japan as a launch of that. That set up was amazing. It was super fun to ride that course in Japan on the cutthroat for events like the tour divide. I wouldn't say I'd throw it out, but I would certainly do a lot more evaluation to make sure that my fork was going to hold up to that distance. So it's, you know, it's a weight factor, but it's also a performance, you know, is that forking I need service. Am I going to have bushing issues or seal issues during the event? And there are some recorded examples of time during the tour divide where forks have needed to be rebuilt in Steamboat or silver city before hitting the finish line because of seal issues and heat buildup and that sort of thing. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, I gotta imagine with the extra weight on the front of your bike, the suspension is taking a little bit more abuse than it might do under your average body weight size. Certainly that, and I think the higher speeds and the smaller vibration that suspension forks see during that type of activity versus off-road mountain biking where we, we tend to have higher impact Is speaking of, of, of tuning the carbon. Since you're, you've got a bike that's potentially used in its home environment with just the rider weight, but you've also clearly built a bike that's going to carry load around it. Are you, are you having to kind of up the stiffness of it thinking that, you know, an average 170 pound rider on a 56 centimeter frame is actually going to be 200 pounds with the additional weight they may be carrying? We do a little bit the rider gear is a percentage wise, quite as quite a small amount compared to the actual rider weight. So we do tune the stiffness of the bike to be a little stiffer than like say if this was designed specifically to be an unloaded like a single long day, kind of like a Warbird. This is definitely stiffer and pedaling and torsion in the handling for the front end. But honestly about the same, we tuned the VRS to be about the same. The chain stays and and fork flexibility to be pretty close because they undergo relatively similar loads. The weight is generally further forward in the frame and not really affecting say how the seat stays or flexing. If we had one to two specifically designed weight to be used on a rear pannier that something that's designed to, to bolt around that rear end, then we would definitely need to consider that more. But honestly the, the, the Rider-Waite makes such a larger difference than the gear you're carrying unless you're carrying like led spoons or something. Yeah, I imagine so. It's interesting to me, you know, as the sport on the racing side of the sport, you've obviously got a spectrum of events from the, you know, the ultra distance stuff like tour divide and, and multi-day events, you know, across the Midwest and, and Iowa and different places. But you also have things like dirty Kanza with the DK 200 and I can't help but think, you know, for the average rider having a little bit of suspension via the bigger tires or even pure suspension on the bike starts to yield a lot of, a lot of benefits. You have the tradeoff of the weight, but you know, being able to stay comfortable all day long I think is going to help a lot of average writers get across those big finish lines. Absolutely. I mean, we've Talked about this a lot as the tour divide bike, right? So we're talking about a bike that salsa designed for an event that annually roughly 150 riders start For some perspective. And that's, you know, that's something that we chose to do as a brand because we thought it was important, but that product wouldn't be around if only 150 riders annually purchased it. But you certainly see it as the primary bicycle at the start of the tour divide. Annually. We very quickly found that riders in gravel events, particularly dirty Kanza did want a bike like the cutthroat and we saw it quickly spill over into those spaces. You talked earlier about the big sugar gravel event that the founders of dirty Kanza and lifetime are starting in Arkansas. Well, Jim commons, a good friend of ours, someone who we've been involved with for a number of years with dirty Kanza, he rides a cutthroat in the gravel in Kansas and that Surface down there, that base chert rock that they have, how rough those roads are. When you get out onto the open range, he really appreciates the big volume tires. And he talks about how he's been on group rides with other riders in Emporia and they're on graveling and having to hold that, that line of the two track, and he'll ride up on the Ridge between the two track because he's got two on tires and a bike that's really incredibly stable. So it's much more capable in that environment. And then the other part is the fit of it. It's a much more upright bike naturally because of the longer the axle, the crown on the fork, because it is suspension corrected. Your front ends a little bit higher. And so writers who want to be a little bit more upright have that comfort level writers that want those bigger tires for the rough roads, Creek crossings want that. And so we quickly realized that the bike was seeing that secondary use case. And that was part of our intentionality with this. This current agenda has just launched to the market, particularly around the drive train, the P hall talked to earlier. I've worked at booths at dirty Kanza for a number of years during the expo. And I can pretty much tell you that on the hour I'm going to have a cutthroat rider come by from a version one cut throat and say, how do I get more gears on this? Can I put to buy on this? How do I make this bike more capable of gravel? And that's where that partnership with race, face Easton comes in to play it for salsa and new drive train options like GRX from Shimano. Make it much easier for us to design this bike with big volume tires, 29 inch wheels, and to buy a drive train. And I think that's pretty fantastic that we're able to get all that to work together to create a really awesome experience. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, if I can add on that, I [inaudible] Personally, I used my Warbird at dirty Kanza this year, but the year I picked A cutthroat from Michigan's coast to coast gravel race purely because of the comfort of the bike. And then Michigan is just the Sandy place. So those larger volume tires help you float through it. Whereas in Kansas, you're floating through gravel and chunky gravel. In Michigan, you're floating through just the sand. The cutthroat while you, you get more comfort out of it, comfort often equals speed for a lot of people. Especially if you maybe aren't at the pointy end of the race. Trying to win being more comfortable over a 10, 14 plus hour a day makes a big, big difference. Yeah, absolutely. Could you describe the Warbird a little bit for us? So Warbird is salsa is gravel race bike. A Warbird was the first gravel race bike to exist in the industry. We started that product from around, I think we had to nail it down. I think we'd say we launched the first one right around 2014. It seems like forever ago for us, but it's actually, it's not that long ago. And it's now on its fourth generation. We launched that last year in 2019 and you'll see a lot of the same features shared between control and Warbird. And so you'll see a bike that's designed for up to a 700 by 45 tire or six 50 by 47, but you'll see that the shorter axle, the crown, you'll see to see that lower stack, that ability to get into that more, you know, road or gravel race position. Okay. So at a, at a simple level, like we're talking different wheel size and different tire with capabilities up to the cutthroat being sort of maxing out at one 89 by 2.4. Correct? That's absolutely correct, yes. Yeah. Got ya. I, you know, I think it's interesting in the conversations I have and just anecdotally with the writers I interact with, you know, there's loads of gravel athletes who are coming from the road side. They're, the jump to the cutthroat just seems absolutely massive to them when they're just thinking, Oh, I'm riding a road bike off road. But I do think, and I have seen over the last or years or so that people are embracing more and more mountain bike style bikes and mountain bike technologies on the gravel scene because they're, they're just seeing, they can simply go faster and be more comfortable. Absolutely. I think you guys are ahead of the curve there actually, And appreciate that. You know, I'm not, I'll take a second to, you know, we recognize that you talked about road racers road riders coming off of a more traditional road bike where it's, it's quick, it's snappy, it's death. For salsa, we see an opportunity to really meet riders with how they're coming into the sport and make a product for them wherever they may be at. So, you know, cut. One of the jokes for us in the cutthroat is it's the mountain bikers gravel bike, right? It's not a big leap for someone who's been riding mountain bikes to go, well, this, sure. Big fat tires. Why wouldn't I want to do that? Warbirds really kind of that more dead center gravel race bike you know, there's a lot of competition in that space over the last several years with other brands coming into gravel. And then on the other end of the spectrum, we have our war road, which is our endurance road bike. But even as a road bike, it's fits up to a 700 by 35 or six 50 by 47. And that bike, if you look at it in the purest form and the geometry and tire fit and handling switch pretty closely into the endurance road space, but with some additional capability to haul gear, hallowed do an occasional gravel race that's not incredibly aggressive. And so if you have that rider that is coming off the road and they're like, man, all these gravel bikes are really kind of slow and they're really long and I want something snappy, or that war road is kind of that choice for them. And so we have three performance carbon gravel bike for riders across the board. Yeah, I think that's super important to note. And I, I'm a, I'm a big fan of a gravel bike and a couple of different sets of wheels and riding that on the road. So I love one, it sounds like in your, in your, in your suite it would probably be the, the Warbird where it would fit my fancy super off-road capable, but slap of a select set of road wheels on there and you're not really feeling like you're missing a beat. Yeah, I would tend to agree with that. It's that you know, best all around her ultimately for a rider who's gonna have their gravel bike. Yeah. And in talking to you guys, I mean listeners know here in Marin County, I feel like I'm squarely in in mountain bike territory in terms of what I consider a gravel riding and I like something aggressive with a big volume tire. I feel like I'm probably a pretty good cut throat customer and maybe even as I think Joe was mentioning, a suspended cut throat would be a hell of a lot of fun here in Marin County. I think that's the case. You know, maybe in a lot of places where, and Marines, this kind of place where you have a lot of of back roads. But then you have like those single track cut throughs and that sort of thing. And I think that's one of the things that make cut, makes cutthroat fun as you can, you know, pop along the Creek for us or pop along the river and ride some single track pop back out, you know, hit the pavement, hit a alley, cut through whatever the case might be. And in a variety of situations. Have a good time. Yeah. Joseph is driving his commute home right there, pretty much. I love it. I love it. Well, yeah, I know it's an exciting time to be in the industry and an exciting time to be a consumer. I think one of the drivers for me starting this podcast was really my personal journey to figuring out what bike is right for me and every day I don't think I'm actually getting any closer to it because there's just so many. And the key is to just find a bike that has the level of versatility that you're looking for and figure out the right wheelhouse you're in. So if you're, you know, a big off-road rider, rabbit cutthroat, it'll still work fine on the road, but it's not going to be the fastest thing on your group ride. If being the fastest on your group rides your jam, then it sounds like the Warbird road and get some knobbies to take you on, on gentle off-road trails. Might be the way to go For sure. I think that's a good understanding. Yeah. Well I appreciate the time you guys, I know it's a Friday afternoon and it sounds like Joe's got an enviable commute on the way home, so I don't want to keep you any, any longer. Anything else you want to reveal about 2020 for salsa and where you see this market going? That's a big question. I certainly have a crystal ball of where I think the market is going. You know, I think to echo your statement, there's a myriad of awesome options available to riders out there. And you know, for salsa we wanna like I said, meet that rider where they're at and how they're coming into gravel because there are a huge number of riders still coming into gravel as a discipline and as a, as a sport. I think we'll see a lot more technical advance advancements along the way here without giving too much away. Like I said, I think suspension is going to be interesting and see if we see, you know, forks like the Fox really kind of take off and come into the sport and influence it more so full suspension, gravel bikes, you know, we're starting to see little things like that. There's that intersection of mountain and road going on that's interesting and exciting and it's fun for us to be a part of it as well. Definitely. I think it's interesting to see as what will happen in the next couple of years in the gravel scene as American domestic road racing. The traditional road racing, you know, starts to die out unfortunately. And more and more of that, that group goes to gravel to see how that changes gravel. Look cause I think it's mostly been a lot of influence from mountain bike so far. But it'll be interesting to see how gravel evolves in the next couple of years. You know, world tour pros, retiring to win DK. Yeah, I definitely agree with you on that. I think it's going to be fascinating to see how gravel race organizers are able to keep it dirty, if you will. Meaning keep it weird, keep it fun. I think evidence has shown that a great world tour pro cannot just know the line and expect to win any one of these races. The terrain dictates a lot of how they're going to be successful or whether their traditional road tactics will have any advantages whatsoever. I also think it's going to be interesting as the prize purses and the sponsorship dollars continue to increase in gravel. Will we see some of road pros adopt some of this suspension technology or other things that we've already seen the light bulbs come on about because it's purely gonna make them go faster. To your point about Bentonville, you know there's only certain number of lines that you can go down comfortably on some of those roads and being able to peek out and slam through some river beds and bigger sized rocks. It could be an advantage in some of these races that have those technical elements in the terrain. Yeah, definitely. As a gentleman, I really appreciate the time. I love learning more about the cut throat. It's a a category of bike that's always intrigued me and I'm a huge fan of the tour divide so I appreciate you guys supporting those athletes and giving that perspective in addition to the other elements of the sport that you guys have been focused on. Well thank you. We appreciate your time as well and the ability to kind of share our story and our product. Big thanks to Peter and Joe for joining the podcast this week. It was fun for me geeking out around the tour divide and this type of bike. I don't know about you guys, but every June I am a. Dot watcher. I love watching the tour divide. I love looking at all the rigs, and it was interesting talking to them about the different kind of performance requirements of riding a bike that distance. I have to say, you walk away from a conversation like that. Really thinking about the fun factor of riding these drop our bikes and the cutthroat with those large tires would likely be a hell of a lot of fun, particularly here in Marin County and quite versatile. When you think about the type of off-road adventures you can do with it, fully loaded kind of expedition style out there in the woods. So that's it for this week's podcast. As always, I welcome your feedback. You can hit me or on Instagram or Facebook. As always, it's a big help if you can rate or review and definitely share this podcast with friends. Helping with discovery is one of our biggest challenges here at the gravel ride. Until next time, here's defining some dirt under your wheels.
January 7, 2020
Former World Tour Pro, Peter Stetina joins the podcast this week to discuss his decision to leave the World Tour to race gravel in 2020. Peter Stetina Instagram Automated Transcript (please excuse all typos) Greetings everybody and welcome to the gravel ride podcast. I'm your host Craig Dalton. This week on the podcast we've got professional cyclists, Peter Stetina. If you're a fan of professional road cycling, you'll probably recognize Peter's name from his time in the pro Peloton, most recently with the Trek SegraFreddo team, and if you follow the gravel cycling scene closely in November of last year, Peter dropped. What dare I say is a bit of a bombshell. He decided to forego a future in the European Peloton, which was available to him and take a crack at being a gravel privateer. Peter's contract in 2019 allowed him to dabble in a few gravel events and his impact was immediately felt at the front end of the race, having one Belgian raw full ride come second at dirty Kanza and put in a pretty stellar performance in the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. It was great to learn a little bit more about pizza process and making this decision. What is 2020 calendar is looking like and how he plans on modifying his training as a gravel athlete versus his time in the pro Peloton. With that, let's jump right in. Pete, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. Well, I usually start off by asking my guests to talk a little bit about your background. I think you've been in the press enough lately that I'll do a little summary in the show notes that people can look into. But suffice it to say your announcement in November of 2019 sent shockwaves through the gravel community when you decided to not continue pursuing your prayer road career over in Europe, which was definitely an option for you and sort of embrace this alternative calendar. Let's start by talking about 2019. Obviously you put your foot in the water and gravel racing and winning BWR and racing and DK and getting second there. What was going through your mind in 2019 as you were doing double duty and what led to the decision for what you're going to be doing in 2020? Yeah. You know, it was, um, it, it started even back in my mind at the end of, uh, 2018 last year. Um, I had had some health problems. I was actually suffering with, um, Epstein BARR virus, which is the precursor to mono all season. And it was undiagnosed and the, the road results weren't clicking, my body wasn't firing. And I was, I was struggling to get the, the contract renewal and you know, I've been doing this a decade. I felt like I had a place in, in the world tour, but it was, you know, just things weren't clicking. And I was second guessing myself and my body and the longevity in the sport. And, um, I kind of saw these races, you know, starting to gain traction. And, you know, I, I started thinking, you know, I wanna I want to experience these. And, um, and then, you know, Trek came back to me and they said like, yeah, you had a good to season, you represent the USA at the world's, like you had some good Italian classics, like, let's jam again. You, you know, we trust you. And so I, you know, I was gonna I was able to sign on again with Trek, but I kind of said, you know, Hey, like some of these events are big in the U S and they make sense and I want to try him. And this is actually totally independent to what the guys over at ETF were doing. I had no idea they were planning this even though Alex houses one of my best buds. Um, you know, he's one of my groomsmen in my wedding. He didn't tell me that was going down. And, uh, um, so it was kinda funny how I, I went to Trek and I said, Hey, I want to do these. And the road team, you know, it's, it's Italian run more or less over in Europe. Uh, they went to Trek marketing in Wisconsin and they just were like, Hey, you know, Pete is kind of putting his foot down. Like he's, he's really adamant about doing this. And Trek Wisconsin said, hell yeah, that makes sense. Like, these races are legit here. Um, and that same week, funnily, funny enough, um, ETF announced their alternative program so it looked like it was, you know, kinda together, but it definitely wasn't at all. Um, it was just circumstance. And, um, and so then, yeah, this year I basically, I, I raced a full world tour calendar. I think I had 82 race days in the world tour plus, um, a handful of alternative events, which was, uh, the Belgian waffle ride, the dirty Kanza Leadville 100 plus. Um, just a couple of local events. A couple of grasshoppers as you guys in North Cal know, and also some bike monkey events like fish rock. Was that difficult with your, sort of, the team management over in Italy to make space for you in the calendar to come back and do that many events? Um, yeah. You know, they, we had it in the contract and they, they had to let me do them. Um, and they supported it 100%. You know, Trek was great about it. Um, it was definitely, it was hard to mentally convince the European management that this makes sense to do because it's just, it's, it's a very unique U S scene right now and Europe world tour road racing is still fine and healthy. You don't have races like the Torah, California folding and all that. So it's, they didn't, they didn't quite understand it, but at the same time they heard, they knew from Trek and I saw that there was this movement going on and they said, yeah, why not? Um, you know, there, I was protected by having it in my contract. You know, cause we did run into a couple issues, uh, later in the year. For example, suddenly a couple guys got sick and crashed and they wanted me at tour Roman D but I already had Belgian waffle ride in my contract. And I kinda, you know, it was like, no guys, like I'm here in California at Belgian waffle ride before California. Like I can't come back to Europe again for the Roman Dee. And they fully respected that and let me race and I think they were happy when I want it, but at the same time they were kind of like, well, Stan is not doing his duty at the world tour too. Right. It's not, not exactly putting points in the team's coffers. Well, you know, it was just, it was a, it was a line to touch him to toe, but at the end of the day, like they really supported it. I mean they gave me the custom bikes for dirty Kanza and all the equipment I needed and I then they admitted they saw the marketing boost come out of these alternative races was, it was huge. Yeah. It's quite, it's quite disproportionate, I think to the actual success or failure of your efforts. Yeah. Yeah. So, um, no, it was, it was great. It was a great season and I got to kind of, you know, just tow the waters a little bit, a bit of a soft entry to see if this gravel thing really made sense and if there was this possibility there and then, you know, towards after Leadville and well are dirty cans, I started thinking, you know, like this is phenomenal. Like this scene in the outreach and during Torah California people would be yelling at me on the climbs about Belgian waffle winner. You know, it was actually, it surprised me how excited people were on that. And then, um, I did an interview for Eurosport about riding gravel cause they're like, what the heck is this? Why is a road pro playing around in the dirt? And, and so it started to gain traction and dirty Kanza I, it just expanded on that. And then led Villa was again and it, it was, I, I just, I realized this is where I really enjoy racing. Like I said this in a print interview, but I had more butterflies in my stomach before dirty Kanza than I did before the, you know, the start of the Welter. And that said something to me deep down and, and my wife was able to point it out. Um, and uh, and so eventually I had to make the decision, you know, where, where I want to go. And you know, that was, that was a hard decision. It was, you know, the tried and true path that I've done for a decade. And, you know, there's a setup, uh, there's, there's, um, guarantees in it and there's a stability in it, um, as stable as cycling can be, I guess. But you know, there's, there's a pipeline. Great. So you've put in, you know, you're putting your solid season on off road with these marquee events in 2019. You've been thinking about it for awhile. As you just kind of mentioned the economic decision, much like any professional, you've kind of got trade-offs, you've got security versus the unknown. You've got a big maybe infrastructure that you're involved in at the pro tour level versus making decision to essentially create your own small infrastructure to go out and pursue these things you're excited about. So I think all the listeners can kind of grapple and understand what you must have been thinking at that point. And it's a huge leap of faith to kind of come in and, um, take the private tier approach. What was that like, kind of creating a program that would meet your sort of family economic needs as well as your passion to pursue the types of events you wanted to go after? Yeah, that, you know, that was, that was the big question Mark in my mind is, you know, is this going to be viable? I mean, I, this is where I will be happiest racing my bike. But you know, world tour pays well and it's, it's, it's a job as well as a passion. And you know, I have a family, I have two mortgages with Santa Rosa and Tahoe. Um, you know, and I have to make ends meet and, and I also, you know, to, to do myself and my sponsors, right. And to be able to fully focus and give my all as a bike racer and a brand ambassador and an athlete, it's, you know, I didn't want to be working in a cafe on the side. Like I really, you know, could I make this financially viable? Um, and I kinda had to test the waters again a little bit. You know, I, I kinda, I softly reached out to a few companies and I got, you know, some, some big commitments early from guys that, you know, they have a, um, a reputation in the cycling industry. And I think once you have a few names on board that was able to validate my decision to others. Um, and, uh, you know, I'm lucky enough to say now that I will be able to, uh, make this thing happen. Like I'll, I'll be able to pay my mortgage and race my bike still. But eventually, you know, all my life is in California and my family and my happiness and my friends. So, you know, I, I didn't want to continue to live in Europe for the next decade. Um, so if anything, and if I can keep racing grapple for longer cause I still love racing, I'm 32, I'm at the prime of my career physically. Like maybe it will be the right move in the long run. Um, but uh, I mean yeah, it was, it was a very calculated move and it's um, it's going to be a lot more sweat equity. It's a lot more of the hustle. It's, but it's also a lot more validating. You know, I'm able to work with sponsors that I have direct relationships with. I can text the president of the company and, and give feedback and, and you know, promote brands that I actually truly care about and believe in instead of, you know, the, the old pro model of, you know, here's a sponsor that we signed. Now you have to tweet about them. Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I think what was really interesting about your announcement was just, you know, clearly you could have continued on over in Europe and you made this decision, which I think is, uh, in a very unique moment in time and gravel where you can come and do that. Obviously we've had big name X pros who have retired and then joined the gravel cycling scene. But you made a very conscious effort to say, I'm not retiring, I'm, there's continuity in my professional cycling life. I'm just switching disciplines and creating my own program, which I think is going to be something that a lot of other athletes that may be in a similar position to you in the pro Peloton will start looking at you and thinking about that since, jeez, Peter was able to do this successfully and now instead of being on the road racing, you know, 90 days a year, he does, you know, 15 great events and he gets to spend a ton more time with his family. Yeah. You know, well, it's going to be a lot more than 15 events, I'll tell you that. But, um, no, it's true. And it was, it was very strategic and the messaging had to be right. You know, I, I can, I could see the Twitter trolls already lining up, you know, saying, Oh, Stenton is over the Hill. He's just the lengthening the career. But that wasn't the case. You know, I had the backup of having a great 2019 season my age, my last world tour race, I was 15th GC in China and, you know, got a ton of points for, for Trek Sager Fredo like, I mean, if you look at the stats, I'm not over the Hill and [inaudible], but it was just about showing that like, I mean, I'm still competitive as hell and I want to race my bike. This isn't a retirement tour. And, and I had that one chance with that Velo news article to really set the tone. And, and luckily enough, I did that and I, I gotta say my 2 cents. Um, and, uh, then it's, I mean, that the outpouring was, it was really validating. You know, it was, I think it was probably at least 98% positive. There were very, very few Twitter trolls. And I think of the few that I saw, I was like, someone would just chime in and being like, have you ever dreamed of being your own boss, man, and following your dream? Like kind of just shut them up. So, um, no, it was, yeah, it's great. And, and I gravel's inclusive and I hope this is a blueprint for other guys. You know, I don't want to be the only guy doing it this way, you know, I think there's, there's room for more guys. I mean the, the, the fan base and the industry is behind this and gravel's legit and, and I hope and I think there's a lot of eyes on me next year and to see if this is a worthwhile effort. Um, and, and if so, I think you may see more guys jumping this way. Um, and, and to those guys, I can just say, hell yeah, come join. Like there's, there's more room around the campfire, so. Yeah, absolutely. So what is your 2020 calendar look like? Have you, have you scoped it out specifically yet? Yeah, I know. I'm still finalizing things on, on here and there, but it's, uh, it's, it's all encompassing. It's, um, and it's going to be all the biggest gravel races, especially state side, which is where gravel's big right now. Um, I'm gonna start out early season with just some, some local stuff. The grasshoppers in Norco, the bike monkey, fish, rock. Um, and then, uh, my first national caliber race is going to be the land run 100 in March. Um, you're going to see me at Belgian waffle ride, dirty Kanza, the lead boat challenge, both Steamboat and Leadville. Um, grind, Duro, grind, Duro UK, Iceland, wrist. So I'll have some, uh, European trips. Um, even going to see me in Japan. I got some Japanese sponsors that are stoked and I guess, uh, gravel and cycling's, you know, it's, it's big over there. Um, and uh, I'm gonna even do a, there's a, a gravel stage race called the Oregon trail that I, uh, will be fully in. And I mean that's right up my alley cause that's, it's a full on stage race, which is my bread and butter. That's, that's all I've done for the last decade. And now it's, it's a gravel stage race, which is rad. Um, and uh, yeah, it's, uh, it's all the big dogs. Exciting. And how, how are you going to personally define your success in 2020? What does a a good year look like for you? Um, you know, it's, there's more that's, that's a very loaded question. I mean, yeah, there's gotta be race and winds and there's gotta be podiums and those are Uber important at the end of the day for, for your persona, for your sponsors to show you're not on a retirement tour, you know, you gotta I've talked the talk, now I have to walk the walk. Like I got to start getting these big rides in. And um, but also, you know, the, the idea of being a whole encompassing athlete and something that I, I started to say earlier is just to, you know, a a more gratifying experience, you know, and, and just having this direct relationship with sponsors and hoping that they see the value that I can represent them well and be a voice for them. I mean, a big part of what I'll do is, is uh, R and D and, and some content creation. You know, I'm not mr YouTube channel or anything, like I'm still just focused on riding my bike fast, but, you know, just, just representing my, my partners in, in a a wholesome light and you know, and showing that this is, you know, I'm not just some wa robot who cares about winning races, but you know, it's about kicking back and having a beer with everyone and the community of gravel, which is what sold me in this whole movement in the first place. Um, and uh, yeah, just to, just a very gratifying love of two wheels across all aspects. Right. On, you mentioned this a little bit in your, your enthusiasm around the Oregon trail, gravel grinder, a stage race, but are there particular types of courses that you feel well suited to, uh, go climbing? You know, I'm, I've made my, my career as a pure climber. So, um, you know, the more vert there is, the better. The harder courses. I was always better. Even in world tour races in, in the attrition races, the ones that are just on all day. I, I don't, I don't break. That's my actual, that's my strongest suit in cycling, so. Okay. Yeah. Well that was certainly evident in your performance that at DK this year. Yup. So I imagine that your, your training's going to take a slightly different form at the least through the winter and into the year. Can you talk about how you're going to modify what you're doing from what you may have done in the past for your road training? Uh, yeah. You know, I, I've actually had got this question a lot and, and my answer's always the same. It's like, I mean, we should talk again at the end of the year. I, it says it's, it's a step into the unknown. I mean this year I had good success in gravel, basically moonlighting in these races and off of residual world tore fitness, which is the best fitness you can get. Um, you know, now I'm going to have to train a lot more. I'm not going to be stage racing anymore. I'm not going to be pushed to that limit in races the same. Um, however, you know, it's, I'll be able to train more specifically for the requirements. I'm guessing it's going to be a lot less day after day blocks. Um, a lot more long, long rides. I mean all these gravel races are between six to 10 hours more or less. Um, whereas world war training is more like four or five hours day after day after day. You know, I'm thinking I'll maybe do one or two days, but like big long Epic adventures and then recover a bit more. Um, I'm also guessing I have to put on a bit of upper body weight, you know, for more power, raw power and torque. And how are you on the technical stuff off road? I can hold my own. I mean, uh, you know, I grew up racing a mountain bike in Colorado. Um, I always got loose in, in dirt corners playing around out there and I'm not the best bike handler, but I'm better than your average roadie I would say. I mean, I won VWR on a road bike on 28th, so I was able to pick my way through those sections quick enough. Yeah, that's certainly says something. So I know you're pulling together your kind of own private tier program. What are the companies that are going to be supporting you in sponsoring you in that effort and what equipment are you really excited to get on this year? Um, yeah, you know, it's, it's cool. Well, it's, it's, it's about finding companies that align with you and your values as a person and you really have to think more about, it's, it's such a different mindset than just I pedal bike fast, I go fast, like, and I focus on going winning races, you know, which was the world tour. It's, it's who, who is Peter Stena as an, as an athlete and a, and a representative. And you know, for me that was long energy, sustainable, uh, breaking away from the mold. And you know, there's a bunch of like little key words that you could make sound real pretty. But you know, that was, that was the gist of it. You know, I'm not a flashy rock star by any means. And so you start like looking at different companies and how they promote themselves. And, and you know, a big one that kind of instigated this whole thing was cliff bar and you know, Gary Erickson is a personal friend of mine and, and hit the whole story of cliff bar and how he, you know, walked away from a sure thing to follow his dream. Um, you know, get, he, he 100% was behind this from the beginning, you know, and that's, that's, you know, so cliff bar will be a big part of my thing. Um, Canyon bicycles, um, they're like myself, multi-disciplined. You can, they have Uber competitive road, gravel, mountain bike frames, um, always kind of cutting edge on technology. Um, real progressive mindset. Um, Sporkful clothing. I mean, that's one of my oldest relationships in the sport and they are quite technologically advanced and they're their family. Um, Ooh, who else? IRC tire. They're going to be a fun one. Um, and tire selection is so important in, in gravel, maybe the most important. I mean, if you flat, that's, yeah. Your fish a dead fish in the water. Um, and, uh, there's, uh, yeah, there's a Oh, and a Shimano. That's a big one. Um, they're, uh, they're the best. Yeah, it's Shimano and Shimano family. You know, I'll be, um, tip to tail Shimano. So I'm talking not only the group sets, but also the, uh, the pro, uh, bars and saddles. Um, the saddlebags, the, and the Shimano shoes, uh, sunglasses and helmet, which is laser sport that Shimano owns. So I can really, um, highlight the entire Shimano family range. Um, and I'm keeping it under 10 sponsors. You know, I don't want my, my race Jersey looking like a, uh, like a 10 K running event tee shirt. You know, I want it to look professional and clean and, and fast and sexy and, you know, so I'm, I'm trying to focus on, on less than 10 sponsors where I can really support them and, and give them my all to, to make sure it's a two way street. Um, and I'm now talking with, uh, there's a couple more to be announced and I'm talking with a couple of non-endemic guys to, to really, you know, cause gravel's a lifestyle. Yeah. That's awesome. It certainly sounds like from equipment perspective, you're going to have everything you need in your quiver to tackle things ranging from, you know, Leadville to BWR which is [inaudible]. The cool thing about gravel is it's every race is a different setup. I mean there's always a different tire gearing combo so you can really highlight an entire range and, and, and everyone's curious, you know, what, what are a, what are the best guys running and to, cause they are these the, the age groupers doing these, like they're nervous about finishing this thing. I mean, how are you going to complete dirty cancer without getting a million flats, you know, what are you going to run pressure wise, tire tread wise, all of it gearing wise. Um, and you know, so I can really, you know, speak to that. And, and also it's the, there's always a different, yeah, there's always a different combination. It's, it's really fun on the tech side. Yeah, that was really one of the Genesis behind me starting this podcast was just my exploration of what was going to be the right gravel bike for me. And inevitably the first one I set up was not right at all when I actually got it out on the terrain in my backyard here. It really kind of evolved over time and having these conversations with athletes, product designers and event organizers has just helped crystallize how fun and interesting and how much information the average athlete needs to know and learn about gravel in order to figure out how to get the right setup. Yeah, exactly. So yeah, it will be interesting to kind of revisit this conversation at the end of the year to see how you reflect on your choices around training, the types of racing you did. So I'm excited to have had this conversation early in the year and get you on board. I wish you a ton of luck this season. We'll definitely run into each other and some of their upcoming rides in North Cal before you set off on your your world tour. Thank you. I appreciate that. Right on. All right. Thanks Pete. Big thanks to Pete for joining the show this week and best of luck to him in the 2020 season. I can't wait to see how this all pans out with all these new talented athletes coming to the front end of these races. Before we go this week, I wanted to introduce a little bit of a new segment. I'm calling it can't let it go and what I can't let go of this week. Our bags for gravel bikes throughout the winter I've been using my or not handlebar bag, a frame bag from revelation and I can't underscore the utility these bags in the winter months. It's been great just having an extra layer when I get to the top of Mount Tam particularly rain gear, just being able to put it in there just in case is making me a lot happier. It's funny. As a road cyclist, I'd never would have dawned on me to put a lot of bags on my bike. I would always in fact avoid it and my friends around the area will constantly make fun of me if I show up to a road ride with my gravel bags on them. But I have to say it's well worth the flack you're going to take when you pull out that extra set of gloves or a jacket for a big descent. It just makes sense. So I encourage you to give them a try. There's a lot of bags and a lot of options out there, but like I said, I've been pretty happy with both sizes of the or not bar bag and I'm also a big fan of the revel. Eight bags better known for their bike packing gear, but super awesome when you need extra carrying capacity. So with that, I wish you a happy new year. As a reminder, if you have any feedback, feel free to shoot me a or leave a comment on one of our social media platform channels. As always, we appreciate ratings and reviews. It really helps with our discovery and feel free to share this episode with friends that ride until next time. Here's to finding some dirt under wheels.    
December 31, 2019
Thank you from Craig at the Gravel Ride Podcast. Best of luck in your 2020 season.
December 17, 2019
This week we tackle training plans, gravel camps and the oldest gravel in America with Hunter Allen, founder of Peaks Coaching Group. Peaks Coaching website  Peaks Coaching Instagram  Automated Transcript, please excuse any typos:   Good day everyone and welcome to the gravel ride podcast. I'm your host Craig Dalton as we're in the middle of winter 2019 2020 I thought it'd be a good opportunity to talk to a coach, so this week I've invited Hunter Allen from peak coaching group onto the podcast. Hunter's got a background in professional road cycling as well as experience coaching thousands of athletes. At this point, we wanted to dig into some of the different elements when preparing for gravel events. Looking at your 2020 calendar, I was curious not only to explore structure and power workouts, but also the notion of grit and overcoming adversity because I think you simply can't Excel in gravel cycling if you're not prepared to have a left hook thrown at you at any point during the event, whether it's loose gravel, technical terrain or anything's going to take you out of your zone. You've got to be both physiologically prepared for these type of events, but also psychologically prepared to attack whatever's thrown at you. It was a great conversation with Hunter. He's based out in Bedford, Virginia, and is also producing a gravel camp in 2020. So let's jump right in with Hunter Hunter, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me on For sure. As is customary on the gravel ride podcast. Let's start by learning a little bit more about how you came to gravel cycling. And maybe just for the listeners perspective a little bit more about your background as a cyclist in general. All right, excellent. Yeah, so I mean, I live here in a really beautiful place in Virginia with lots of beautiful mountains and small roads and you know, it's we've got all these incredible paved roads, but then we've got these amazing gravel roads too, which you know, just for years, ever since you know, I've been riding on the road, just kinda did, right. I mean, it was just, they were little connectors between other paved roads and such. And then all of a sudden, like gravel riding thing became a thing and it's like, wait, Oh wow, I can get a bike that's more specific to this and actually seek out these roads now and go have a lot of fun. So that was, that's kind of this the way that I discovered him. And did it start to take over more of your interests and mileage? You know, it's probably evened like a, I still love the speed of pavement and in our little country roads that we have here. And but it's probably even now, I mean for me, I can jump off a jump out both, you know, my office where my house and jump on a gravel road within two or three miles of, of either place. So it's kinda like, well, what's the mood? What am I, what am I in the mood for? To be honest. We're really fortunate that way. Yeah, you're lucky to have that option. And people should look at where Bedford, Virginia is just to get a sense of the type of roads and terrain that a Hunter's got in his backyard. Yeah, absolutely. You know, just a little of my background, you know, I came from a, I started racing BMX when I was a kid, so race, BMX all the way till I was 18, so have lots of that kind of a, you know, jumps and you know, background from, from thrashing on a BMX bike and then a race mountain bikes in college and rode bikes in college and was fortunate enough to get a pro contract in the middle nineties with the navigators team and raise for them for a few years. And, and I had a lot of fun and after that started the whole coaching thing. So it was a, it's been quite an evolution, but at the same time it's a, you know, cycling is the thread that has woven itself throughout all of my life, which I'm very fortunate and thankful for. So in your coaching career, obviously with a professional road background, I imagine your earliest clients probably came from a road background or had intention of writing and performing well on the road. Did you start also training mountain bike athletes back in those early days? Yeah, for sure. I mean, and actually my very first client ever in 1995 while I was still a pro and not on navigators, was a mountain bike or a local guy. And Chad Davis is his name and he came to me and said, Hey, you know, I really want to be a pro cyclist, a pro mountain biker, what do I, you know, would you take me under your wing and teach me and coach me? And I was like, yeah, sure, I'll do my best. And so I started coaching him and training him and, and you know, he went from like male sport all the way to, you know, basically pro in a couple of years. So, and then he started telling all of his buddies and everything. And so it was like, Oh, wow. You know I actually might have a future in the coaching world, Right. On and back then, given the sort of tools that were available to you, was it more about structuring workouts and intervals and less so about technology? I imagine? Yeah, for sure. I mean, and that was back in the day of the fax machine of course. And you know, it's like okay, type out a workout and then fax it to him because nobody had email. Then of course so that was, that was the way it was and, and you know, and then, then there was no such thing as workout libraries where you created, you know, libraries of different workouts that you can reuse and stuff. It was, it was okay, well I'll just type it all out here in a word document and keep building it from this. So it was very labor intensive and at the same time, very, very personal because it was like, Oh, wow, if I'm going to write a training plan, this is going to, I'm going to sit down here and take, you know, a couple of hours to make this thing happen. So thankfully we have some tools now that make it a lot less labor intensive. Yeah. How has that evolved Over the last decade? Say, how are you working with athletes today? Obviously the power of email and the internet and a lot of great programs and software that's available is making, sharing whatever a lot easier. Right. Well, I mean, that's been, I mean, I've been very fortunate in that I was one of the founders of training peak software. I, myself and a guy named Kevin Williams created cycling peak software, which is the desktop analysis software to analyze power data. And then we merged that company with a company that Joe Friel, Dirk Friel and a Gary Fisher founded called training after Joe Friel, the cyclists training Bible. So training Bible and cycling peaks became training peaks. And I was one of the, one of the founders there and one of the owners for many, many years. And that was a lot of fun and had had a hand in developing a lot of the tools that allowed us to, to create calendars and drag and drop features and here's different collections of workouts that we called, you know, a library where, okay, well here's all my anaerobic capacity workouts, or here are all my FTP workouts and and then build on top of that. So and then of course all of the power training stuff that came along with that training, stress score, FTP, performance manager charts, you know, so, so all of those, those, you know, cutting edge pieces you know, I've had a little hand in some of them. I've had a little tiny pinky finger in some of them. And it's been fun. I've been really very blessed. And how do you find that as translated to your relationships with your athletes and what you're able to kind of work with them to achieve? You know, it's been really interesting. It's a great question. Actually. Nobody's ever asked me that question. So bonus points for you. That's always fun to get a question you ever gotten for the, so one of the ways that it's changed is before there was a lot of, a lot of my coaching time, right? Because when you hire a coach, you're essentially hiring their time as a coach. You only have two things to sell, right? You only got two things to sell if your knowledge and you have the access to your knowledge and that's it. Like that's all I have to sell. And so a lot of that time that I spent was spent writing the training plan instead of you know, doing the analysis of what happened afterwards and then also really spending time showing the athlete what their data means. And then thirdly, really getting to how they feel. Right? Because before, you know, when we had all these, before we had all these tools, it was, didn't really have a way to understand the data, right? There was no quantitative way to see if one was the athlete doing what I asked them to do to, they were responding. And so you spent a lot of time writing this plan and then you talk on the phone and you hope that through conversation you got out of them what you needed to adjust the plan for the next one. And now it's like, well, I got all this data. And so I know exactly what they did. I know exactly how they responded. I know if they're fatigued or not. And so I can show the athlete that data and I can show them, okay, here's where you are. You know, and sometimes you got to convince people to take a rest. Sometimes you've got to convince people to train harder. And, and sometimes you got to convince people like, okay, you just need to maintain right now. But the other thing that I would say that's been interesting is because you have that data, like that's a known, right? That's a known, the unknown is, again, kind of back to what we did a long time ago. How do you feel? So those are the things that you know, that conversation is always there, right? That conversation is always there and now I have a chance to spend a little more time in that conversation and get better feedback from the athlete about how they're feeling or their muscles sore, how are they sleeping? And we've got some other tools that help us too. But you know, it's been a change across all of these different spectrums. So to speak. Yeah, it's interesting. I, in my cycling career went through a period where when HeartWare rate was the sort of big metric, we were always looking out before power meters that I got really burnt out on the data and felt like the joy of writing was getting sucked away from me and I wasn't a competitive athlete at that point. So I realized, you know, for me, backing away and riding for the joy of riding was going to get me out more and help me enjoy it. But everything I've read and friends who are riding power meters, it's clear that those data points are useful in many ways. And I like how you're describing that. You also have to layer on that how you feel. And I think any good coach athlete relationship, there's going to be some give and take. And it'd be, I'd be curious to know, you know, I imagine you train athletes from young ones who are coming up and really aspiring to be professional athletes to older masters athletes who are just looking to get the best out of their own personal performance. I imagine in that latter category, you've got people who may come in with certain, you know expressed expectations about what they're going to be able to achieve, but the data, their life and what they're mimicking back to you and your conversation really shows that, Hey, we gotta dial this program back and we need to fit into what you can achieve in your life. Yes, yes, I agree. And, and that's not always easy, but that's probably the one of the key parts of creating the right plan for the right person. Because one, you've got to match up three different things. One, you've got to figure out what the athlete's good at, right? What are your natural strengths and weaknesses and what are those strengths and weaknesses that are developed? You've been riding for a long time. Then you really develop those strengths and weaknesses, you know, and, and we know, okay, you are a sprinter or your phenotype is a time trial list, climber, stage racer or endurance person. And then we've got to take what we know about you, so your unique physiology and then match that up with your goals. So once we say, okay, well, you know, what are your roles? Well, male, my goal is to do the, the DK 200 next year. Okay, well does that actually fit with what you can do? And well this year your longest ride was 60 miles. And why was it 60 miles? Well, because you have this stressful job that you worked 50 hours a week, you got three kids, you know, you travel on planes and you know, the maximum you can train per week is seven hours. And that's like a really good week. And so all of a sudden it's like, ah, you know, I don't really think that even though you have the, the phenotype or the strengths and weaknesses to actually achieve this goal realistically in your life, you're not going to be able to achieve this unless something changes. Right. Unless we, we, we completely re re rejigger your, your life. And so we try, I'm always trying to match up those three things and say, okay, goals have to equal, we have to be realistic. You know, they have to equal what you can actually do in your life. Yeah. Yeah. I think it's a fool's errand to try to say you can train 15 hours a week when realistically you're going to max out at seven. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So with the rise of gravel, was there a moment in time you started seeing gravel specific athletes come to you for training advice? You know, I think that, I mean, that's just started, I would say in the last year. So that's been something that's just happened in the last year. I mean, we've had people come to us and talk about all this, you know, and, and say, Hey, what do we need to do? What, is there something specific we need to make happen? Is there anything that goes from that perspective? All of those things are, are really the new wave of, of gravel riding. And then also thinking about it from a physiology perspective. Is there something different physiologically we need to do? Yeah, I'm curious to explore that in a bit. As I was, I've been thinking about coaching. It's, you know, it's winter time around the country here in North America and looking at 20, 20, it's a great to be thinking about your 2020 calendar. And for me, oftentimes, you know, the, I might put one big aspirational event on the calendar, unlike maybe a period of time when I was mountain bike racing or the brief period of time I was road racing where you're looking to race, you know, 30 times a year we gravel, you know, it may only be these tent pole events that you end up participating in. So I gotta imagine that the journey to get there, like to a DK 200 or, or one of these other big events is, is quite a monumental feat in many ways. Yeah, no, I, I completely agree. I think that's a, and that is a big event and that I think that a lot of these goals are you know, you just have to be realistic and make sure this is a reachable thing, right? This is something that I can do. And, and you know, it is I love gravel riding, not because there are these big APIC events. I think that's, that's the, those are aspirational events. And I like your idea of having one big goal and I call them you know, my big hairy goal for the year, right? My big hairy goal has to you know, have four components. One, it has to be travel, right? Cause I like traveling and I have to be going somewhere, right? Cause this, you know, I've got a time commitment involved. It has to be money, right? I have to outlay some money and I'm like, Oh crap, I'm going to spend a bunch of money on this. And then it has to be an event that's hard enough for me that I can't just, you know, do it right. I can't just like, Oh well my current fitness will be fine and I can do it. Just kind of maintaining, right. I have to train hard for it and I can train out of my norm and do something more. And then the fourth thing, you know, it has to be something that, that truly motivates me. You know, like, wow, I really want to see this part of the world, or man, I so want to go and do this dry Bianchi and Italy and be in Italy and see the pros do it and ride on that road and eat Italian food. You know? And just like, you know, that has to be something that's, that's, that's like a really exciting and motivating for me. So if I can accomplish that and my big hairy goal with those four things, then that's my one for the year. Then I have to break them down into four into three other quarterly goals that are also have start to have all of those four components but need to have two or three of those components that are also inspirational for me to keep me motivated to get to the fourth one, if that makes sense. Absolutely. Yeah, spot on. That's sort of my mentality to a T I need something that encourages me to get off the couch, right a little bit longer than maybe it's easy to fit in my schedule and have enough of a fear factor of failure that I'm going to get out there and put the time in and for sure I love travel as well. I think that's one of the things we explore on this podcast a lot is just how many great events in different parts of the country there are and how unique those experiences can be and how embracing the cycling and particularly the gravel community in those destinations can be. And if you put one of those on your calendar, you're rarely going to be disappointed. Yeah, totally agree. Totally agree. That's great. So let's talk about some of the things. I mean, you know, as a coach of a road cyclist, you've probably got these very fundamental things based on power that you can explore with a rider. And if it's a hilly course, you can figure out how they're going to perform. But gravel has a, has a tendency to throw left hooks at you all the time. And you know, whether it's your wheels spinning out on a steep climb because the gravel's too thick or it's too, it's technical and you're going a lot slower and you've got a really balanced power with skill. How have you evolved your discussion with the athletes to really make sure they're prepared to Excel? Yeah. no, great question. So I think that the, there's a couple of things. One, you always have to consider. I mean, number one you know, the, the principles of exercise physiology are the same, right? There's nothing that's changed internally in the body. Whether I'm coaching you as a mountain biker, a triathlete, a road cyclist, or a gravel rider, those principles are all going to apply. And so that's important to always keep that in mind. Now the second thing that you have to keep in mind is the evolution of this. And we learn this when we first started training with the power meters is how you create power is different. Okay? So remember, you know, power is just how fast you peddle your RPM multiplied by how hard you pedal. Okay? So I can produce a thousand Watts and my 53, 12 at 40 RPM pushing our really big gear that really slow or I can produce a thousand Watts in my, you know, 32, 28 pedaling really, really fast, but really easily on the pedals. Not a lot of force on the pedals. So how you create power is really important and gravel racing. Cause like you said, right? If you're creating too much force on the pedals, you're just going to spin out, right? And if you're pedaling too quickly, then that may not actually be able to get you where you need to go in a efficient manner or that may cause you to also spin out. So there is this balance that occurs in gravel cycling that we see a touch of in mountain biking. We see a touch, not so much in road biking, we don't really see it in, in a, in triathlon. We also see it in cyclocross racing. So it has this blend of, okay, I'm on this bicycle that's a very fast bicycle. It's made to go fast. Now I'm on a lessen ideal surface for that fast bicycle, even though I've got these nice cushy knobby tires that, that are, that are helped me in there. But I also need to find that place of balance more than I normally think about balance. Where on the seat should I be aligned and keep my center of gravity? How does your hand position make a difference in terms of just cornering or steering, right? Cause the difference between cornering is that's where the bike angles and goes around and turns steering is where you steer it like you're steering your car. And then you also have to consider you know, will, will, how, what are the demands of that actual event because and, and this is kind of somewhat a retrospective look, right? Sometimes you just have to go and do the event and then you look back at the data and you see, Oh wow, in order to do that climb, I had to do X. I had to have this certain power at this certain cadence. So I did that climb and it didn't spin out or whatever. And then all of a sudden you're like, Oh, well I need to train that. Right? I need to be there. I need to train in what we call the, the, in the quadrant analysis plot. What different quadrant of power and cadence relationship, those long winded, sorry. Yeah, no worries. No worries. I mean it's, you know, it's, it must be fascinating to kind of look at the science and physiology within your athletes, but I also got to imagine that the psychology and the grit of the athlete comes into play in these events in a, in a rather unique way. Yup. Yup, Yup, yup. Absolutely. Absolutely. And and I think that that's where when we analyze the data from it, it is very interesting because there are a couple things that jump out and how that's different from road and mountain biking. Number one, the, the power that you produce is lower, right? You, you're, you're just, you know, if your FTP is 300 Watts on the road and you can crack out 300 while it's going up, your favorite climber on the, in a time trial or whatever you're not going to be able to do that on a gravel road. Because traction is a factor. You know, turns, rots, rocks, all these things are a factor. So the power that produce on a gravel road is going to be lower. And you know, it could be anywhere from 20 to 30 Watts. Lower is what I've been seeing. So that changes a little bit of how you think about the training, right? That you need to do for it. Like if I'm going to go and I'm going to ride on a gravel road and I'm going to do tr, I'm going to train, I'll just go and ride. I'm going to go do some intervals and go fast and work on everything, you know, not only just cornering, but I want to get some FTP and arose out of that. I'm not going to strive to try and not hit 300 Watts because I, that's impossible. But if I can do two 70 to 80 and get to that same place, then I know that I'm training my FTP and doing my best that I can, I can do in the given situation. So that's, that's another way that it kind of changes a little bit. Yeah. I noticed that you've introduced a gravel camp and I'm curious to learn more about that camp, but also curious if, you know, if you're just coaching a, an athlete remotely, I gotta imagine you're seeing them on the gravel and seeing their skillset is gotta be super illuminating in your ability to really customize a program for them? Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. You know, and I think that that's you know, it's not easy. You know, it's, it's one of these things that you have to learn the athlete, right? And, and then, I mean, everybody is different, right? I mean, and everybody responds differently, so it's not like I have a magic wand and be, you know, Oh, I've seen this a hundred times. I know exactly what it is. Well, sometimes maybe it is, but that's just experience, right? That's just from coaching thousands of athletes. Then it appears that you have some magic wand and it's like, well, not really. This is just the experience of doing it over, over and over and knowing what you're looking at. Just like when you walk in the doctor's office, the guy can, you know, you give him the symptoms, he's like, Hey, you got this right. Well how do you know that? Well, I'm saying it a hundred times, you know, I know exactly what it is. So I, I think that's where for me to, to, to capture that person, like all of the pictures, all the pieces of the puzzle and that takes time. Like, you know, I mean for me it, it takes a season to really get an athlete dialed in and then that second season is like, man, we are killing it. You know, now we are really humming. So that's, I think that's pretty normal. Yeah. As we were talking about offline, gravel means so such a different thing to athletes depending on where you are. And with this notion of traveling to a destination to experience a big gravel event, it could be dramatically different than your home gravel. And that's where sort of the raw just off road skill set and your bag of tricks come into play. I see it time and time again, as, as road athletes kind of go off road, men and women who can way have way more power than I do on a climb just simply fall apart when there's obstacles in the way. And imagine like over your conversations with athletes over the years, you start to develop that understanding of like, okay, got it. You're, you're, you're going to be great at altitude, at an event like Steamboat gravel. But if we throw you in respite suits up in Vermont where they're throwing everything with the kitchen sink at you, you may have some troubles and that's probably good to know as you evolve. And those events that they pick for the subsequent year are in different parts of the country. Yeah. You know, and, and that's great. That brings up a great point, right? One of the key principles in in, in coaching and in training an athlete for any event is to define the demands of the event, right? So we define the demands of the event first. And, and if you have an event, right, that is you know, got all kinds of really crazy gravel roads that go from big, thick gravel to, to, you know, almost flat pavement, you know, super smooth going 27 miles an hour kind of stuff with rocks and roots and, and like you said, everything, and then in the, in the kitchen sink, then you need to seek that out and training, right? I mean, don't think that you're going to get good at that stuff by riding the smoothest, easiest, fun gravel in town and then show up at a race that's going to have all these other factors in there. You've got to seek that out. You've got to go find that that gravel, that terrain and figure out those demands so then you can train for them. I mean, it seems kind of crazy, you know, to think w that somebody wouldn't even think about that, but we don't do it so much within the sport of cycling. But you know, if he put it in another analogy and say, okay, well Hey, you know, I'm going to go train volleyball and I'm going to crush that gravel race. It's like, well, no, you're not training the demands of the event. You're going to get really good at volleyball, but not good at gravel bike racing or riding or doing an event or whatever. So it's the same thing where, and I think that's, to me, one of the, you know, Craig, one of the greatest things about cycling is that we have this amazing diversity within the sport. You know, it's just like, wow, this is really cool. I'm learning something new. Yeah, no, I'm excited. As event organizers explore the different possibilities of the terrain in their necks of the woods, and I'm excited that courses evolve naturally based on the terrain in their locale. And I think you're going to start to see from a professional side of the sport that you're, some are going to be, some athletes are going to be good at one thing and others are going to be good at another. I personally love the events that make, make, force you to have a wide skillset because I think it keeps gravel interesting. I don't like the notion that, you know, professional roadies can come over and, and not be challenged by the terrain. And fortunately most of the quote unquote monuments of gravel, I think have enough curve balls in them that just because you're super fit and can push a big gear is far from a conclusion that you're going to win any of these events. Yeah, no, I, I think that's great. I, I agree 100% as well. And I think that's where you know, it does make it a unique discipline in and of itself. And I think that's what that again, continues to make it fun, exciting and and, and refresh your energy for it. Right? I mean, it's just like, wow, this is great. I mean when riding bicycles for 40 plus years and all of a sudden it's like, man, you know, I haven't been this excited about getting a new bike as I was getting about my, my gravel bike as I have been in 10 years. I mean I've gotten some pretty cool bikes in the last 10 years. But man, Oh man, I wa I had been really, really, I was really excited. I was like, man, this is awesome. I got this whole new group sad, I got this whole new bike, this is gonna open up all these great new places for me to ride. And I kinda like examine that a little self examination. Like wow, you know, I haven't been as excited in a really long time about a new bike cause I have about this gravel bike. So pretty cool. Yeah, absolutely. I feel like it just sort of, the light bulb goes off the moment you have a proper gravel bike. And as you were saying earlier, the idea that you can ride some of your favorite roads, but take that detour onto a dirt road. It really just makes your home area new again. And that's, that's brilliant for anybody who needs extra motivation and kind of get out there and enjoy the sport. Yeah, no, I totally agree. Now I have a question for you. Because I've been looking at all these things and, and thinking about handlebars, what do you think about all these different handlebars? Do you think we need specific gravel handlebars or can road handlebars work or we do need more like mustache bars? What's your, what's your opinion? That's a great question. And actually just recently on the podcast, we had the guys from the wave handlebar on the podcast. I saw that. Yeah. I didn't, haven't listened to it yet, but I saw that and I was like, huh, interesting. And, and I think what it, That conversation in earlier conversations with them, with the notion that, you know, why hasn't the bar evolved more? And I understand that there was different things that were more gating for gravel to explode than the handlebar. But at this point we are starting to see, you know, across the board from wheels to saddles to everything kind of customized for the demands of the sport. So to specifically answer your question, you know, I have been a fan of the flared out bar. I find that when I'm descending in the drops, it gives me more security. I feel more comfortable that I can go faster and faster with it. I think it stands to reason that as we are riding on the hoods and on the tops of the bar that different shapes are going to come to bear and provide benefit when you're getting jostled around. And I remember back when pros were modifying their bikes for a Perry Renee by double wrapping the bars. It's little tweaks like that that can save your body from a fatigue level. I'm beginning to believe that in these long events that you've got to consider that. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. All right. All right. Excellent. That's excellent. I appreciate you throwing a question back at me and that's fine. Well, you know, I've been, you know, I'm on my bike right now. I just have normal road handlebars, you know, and, and I've been contemplating mail making a change and just, you know, it was kinda thinking about, well, what, what is, what's, what's the best one out there to make a change for? And you know, would it, would it make a big difference? You know, so yeah. Yeah. I remember seeing a, you know, the guys from envy and, and talking to Dave Zabriskie who obviously spent a career on the road and learning about his love for the flared bar. And that left me thinking, gosh, if, if he's been holding onto the handlebars on the road as long as he has, and he's a fan of the flared bar, there's something there for sure. Your point. That's a good point. Yeah. Well, Hunter, this was a great and timely conversation. Again, as people are going into the winter here in North America, I think these are all super things to think about. I'll put a link to your coaching services and the gravel camp and a link to Bedford, Virginia in the notes because I think it's cool for people to look at that. And look at Appalachia as just a different cool place that they should put on their, their agenda to go hit. Absolutely. You know, and we're, we're advertising our gravel campus, rotting the oldest gravel in America. You know, so you will be on some of the original gravel roads that were put down here in the 16 hundreds. Now, I don't know if the gravel is going to be flat, the roads will have been around since the 16 hundreds. Or maybe even earlier when you know, when, when this wonderful country of ours was created. So a incredible history here from, from you know, just all the settlers cause everybody, you know, when they came across from England, they settled here in Virginia predominantly. And and so we've got some pretty cool roads that we're going to be on a gravel camp. Yeah, it's a fascinating state. A lot of fun. As I mentioned earlier, I've done some mountain biking in Virginia. I went to school in Washington, D C so I definitely recommend it for people who haven't been to that part of the East. There's great riding and I've, I've no doubt in your neck of the woods. It's Epic gravel. Cool. Awesome, man. Can't wait. Thanks so much for having me on your podcast. Yeah, thank you. Big thanks to Hunter for spending some time with us this week. I hope you walked away with a little bit of knowledge that you can put into your body and your mind for 2020 as you approach whatever the big event, the big hairy event on your calendar tends to be. As always, I welcome your feedback. You can hit me at or on our social media channels, particularly Instagram at the gravel ride underscore podcast. As always, we welcome ratings and reviews and feedback. It really helps us grow the podcast. So if you have a minute, click through on your phone to your favorite podcast app and drop us a rating. We'd love to see it. Until next time, here's to finding some dirt under your wheels.  
December 5, 2019
Crusher in the Tushar founder, Burke Swindlehurst talks about his 10 year journey around this unique Utah event. We talk about his journey and reveal his new partnership with Life Time and what it means for the future of the event. Crusher website  Crusher Instagram Automated Transcription. Craig: 00:00 Burke, welcome to the show. Burke: 00:01 Hey, thanks, Craig. Craig: 00:02 As is customary, always like to start off by learning a little bit more about you as an athlete. Obviously you had a professional road career, but when did you start riding drop bar bikes off-road? Burke: 00:17 I would say probably the first time that I really delved into it was in 1996. I was preparing for the Tour of the Gila and I wanted to get some really big climbs in at high altitudes, and at the time I was living up in Logan, Utah. The training up in Logan is actually phenomenal, but they just didn't have those like massive clients that I knew I was going to be facing at Gila. And so I decided to take a trip with my buddy and we actually just packed credit cards and a change of clothes and just started riding from Logan to ... The ultimate destination being Beaver, Utah, which is where I grew up, and knowing that we were going to be climbing some big mountains on the way and also taking in some gravel roads. Burke: 01:03 But it's funny because, I mean, that essentially was where the Crusher was born because our final day, we rode up out of the Paiute Valley, which is on the backside of what is the Crusher course now and we actually rode up what is now called the Col de Crush, the big, defining climb of the race. That's when things started to click in my mind about how cool and how much fun it is to basically ride a road bike on gravel. Primarily, you know, not just the experience of what it takes to actually ride a road bike on gravel, the skills and all that stuff, but mostly the places that it takes you. It's off the beaten path and that really spoke to me. Craig: 01:51 Yeah. I think there's something amazing about when you put together your first mixed terrain ride, about the sense of adventure you felt. You may end up from point A to point B in a radically different fashion than you ever did on the road. Burke: 02:06 Yeah. And nine times out of 10, there's going to be some sort of calamity in there too. And that's part of the fun is you get a flat tire or you go off course, whatever it happens to be. Like you said, there's a sense of adventure involved that arises from taking those roads less traveled. Craig: 02:27 Yeah. I got to imagine that that's been a big driver for the industry as individual athletes discover those things about the types of riding they can do and the thrill you have at the end of it all. Burke: 02:38 Yeah. Craig: 02:40 In 2010 I guess, it was you and your wife founded the race known as Crusher in the Tushar. Can you talk about why you started the race and what the original vision was? Burke: 02:52 2010 was the end of the final year of my professional cycling career, and I was 37 years old. Honestly, I'd been thinking about retiring from cycling for a while just because physically it was just becoming a tall ask by that age. But I found a way to extend it and started to actually have a lot of fun with it. But I knew by the middle of the 2010 season, I'm like, "This is it. I can only hit the ground so many times, and I'm not getting up the same way that I used to." It was one of those, "Oh, shit," moments. It's like, what's next? At the time I'd been working with the Tour of Utah and I'd been volunteering with them for probably five years up to that point. I think I started in 2005 with them, and had been doing course design and I was like the athlete and team liaison. Burke: 03:51 It eventually evolved to the point where the race director asked if I would like to come on and be the assistant director for 2011. I'm like, "Yeah, that sounds awesome. Here we go." How perfect is that? You get to transition from being a bike racer straight into something that you know, and a world that you've occupied; just you're kind of on the other side of the barriers to a certain extent. And so, that was the plan. As things evolved, in the off season, my last race was the Tour of Utah. That was my last finish line up there at Snowbird. Crossed the finish line and it's like, "All right, I guess I'm the assistant director now." So, start working on that. Burke: 04:35 As we started traveling down that path, there was talk like, "Hey, we want to take Tour of Utah to the next level. That would be a UCI event." And we started going down that path and we realized pretty quickly that, "Well, we're going to need to ..." It's all about scaling up and bringing in the resources it takes to be able to do that sort of thing. And I realized, "Well, I don't have a whole lot of experience in that arena." Putting on an NRC event was certainly something that I'd gotten a feel for over the years working with them, but doing the UCI thing was a whole nother level, and it started to become pretty apparent to me that there were going to need to be some other people brought in that had a lot more experience than I did. Burke: 05:21 Eventually, we were able to get medalists to come on board and I just started thinking, "Well, this isn't really panning out for me in terms of what I had envisioned for working with the event." I was super happy for the Tour of Utah because when I was racing in it and doing that, that was always my ultimate vision for the race was for it to be a UCI event. And so, it was with a little bit of sadness that I realized, "Hey, I'm going to have to step away from this and make room for people that have a lot more experience in this than I do." That's when I started going back to that bike ride in 1996 when I was thinking, "Man, how cool would it be to have a bike race that was free of constraints from the terrain or the surface or even a sanctioning to a certain extent?" And the Crusher just started to rapidly evolve. I mean, I'm talking in the course of a week, I went from having it be this idea that had been just floating around in my mind to, "All right, I'm hitting the throttle and doing this." Craig: 06:25 That's an amazing story. I hadn't heard that part of your background before. To have the knowledge that your own personal limitations at the time may have not been the appropriate resource for the Tour of Utah is pretty amazing, actually, that you understood that and you sent them on their way and you turned it into something new with the Crusher in the Tushar. Burke: 06:47 Yeah. I mean, I guess now that you put it like that, for me, it felt ... I don't know, I guess one of my greatest strengths and weaknesses is the fact that I never want to let anybody down. I felt like I was going to be putting myself in a position to let people down. And that really scared me because when I sign up for something, I'm all in and I want to be there start to finish. I realized pretty quickly that I had a lot to learn and I just didn't want to put myself in that position. I never want to let anybody down. That's something that to this day still drives pretty much every decision I make in my personal and professional life. Craig: 07:28 With the original Crusher course, has it changed over the years or has it remained the same every year? Burke: 07:35 We've had the same course for each of our nine edition so far. 2011 was the first year and it's been the same course. Funny enough, though, I actually had a different course in mind when I originally started working on it. The course would have been 85 miles long and had 12 and a half thousand feet of climbing, which at the time having come off my professional career, I thought, "Yeah, that's awesome. That's going to be a hard race and it's going to take in all this cool terrain and it's going to be the most challenging thing ever." But in retrospect, that might've been a little bit too much and as luck would have it, in the winter of 2010 into the spring of 2011, we had a record-breaking snow year. Two weeks out from the event, I realized there's still five feet of snow on that course, and I had ... I mean, that was my first real test. The first big hurdle is straight out of the blocks, right? It's like, "Oh, you're two weeks away from this event and you're having to come up with a new course." Burke: 08:45 Luckily there was another route that I had ridden in training many times. It was like I had my mind as a backup course in a worst case scenario, and suddenly the worst case scenario is happening. So I was able to implement that course. And as it turns out, I think the course that we now have and has been the course for every edition of the event is a fantastic course. It's more than challenging enough. When people heard that I had to cancel the original course, as we've come to call it, there were a lot of people that were super bummed. And then after the year's first race, they came up to me and said, "Oh, I'm so glad. I'm so glad you had to cancel that course. This is hard enough. Trust me." Craig: 09:28 I want to take the listener back and I'm asking everyone to think about the bikes you had in your garage in 2011, because I think this is really fascinating, and Crusher in the Tushar has come up in a number of conversations on the podcast before with Nate King, with Neil Shirley, and they always sort of remarked to me about the sheer diversity of bikes that showed up in those early years. Can you talk about that? I mean, obviously the equipment was nowhere near evolved to what it has today. Burke: 09:56 Right. Yeah, I think that first year we had ... I would say it was a pretty even split between people on mountain bikes, whether that's rigid mountain bikes or full suspension mountain bikes, and cyclocross bikes. And then the cool thing was there were quite a few what I called Frankenbikes back then, which is where people were taking, say, a 29-inch mountain bike, putting drop bars on it and just tweaking the gearing and doing all that stuff. And that was something that I really enjoy doing myself. I mean, I'd had so many Frankenbikes over the years trying to find this perfect bike for mixed surface riding that that's one of those things that really floated my boat from the geeking outside of things, trying to figure out the perfect bike to tackle any surface. And so, there were quite a few people on those bikes. And then of course now, we actually have a gravel segment and those kind of conundrums are not nearly what they used to be, but we do still get quite a few people that show up to the race on mountain bikes. And I do still see people with their Frankenbikes too. So, it's kind of neat. Craig: 11:09 Well, let's talk through the course. If someone listening is thinking about doing Crusher next year, what elements of the course dictate that more road-style bike or a full-on mountain bike might be warranted? Burke: 11:24 I always get this question from people like, "What bike should I ride?" Especially years ago when it wasn't quite as apparent or seemingly apparent as it is now. But I always tell them, "Ride the bike you're most comfortable on. If you're a mountain biker, you're going to feel comfortable on a mountain bike, on flat bars and maybe narrow up your tires or whatever. And if you come from a road background, you're probably going to be a lot more comfortable on a modern gravel bike." You know, I think it really does all just come down to what you're most comfortable on. And of course a lot of people are now adopting gravel bikes and adding those to their growing quiver of bikes. I've got three myself. PART 1 OF 3 ENDS [00:12:04] Burke: 12:03 The growing quiver of bikes. I've got three myself and of course in addition to mountain bikes and fat bikes and road bikes, although honestly I don't ride the road bike that much anymore, the gravel bikes replaced that for me, but- Craig: 12:15 There's something definitely to be said for riding a bike you're comfortable on, particularly on an event that's going to take you all day. As a more amateur athlete, you really got to be concerned with just overall body fatigue and comfort and safety. Burke: 12:28 Yeah and I think a lot of times if I had to pinpoint a couple of things that are critical to success at Crusher, tires of course and gearing. I mean, those are probably the two most critical components. Everything else is a distant second and third, but having tires that are going to stand up to the course and provide comfort and stability and of course having the gearing to tackle some of those climbs and it's funny when people look at the course profile, it really doesn't look that intimidating on paper. I don't know how many times I've heard people say that, "Oh, this is so much harder than it looked like on the website," and you get up the cold to crush. It's not the steepest or the longest climb in the world, but it's not far off either and it's all travel and when you've got 45, 50 miles in the legs and you've already got 5,000 feet of climbing and you hit that thing, it takes on a whole new dimension. Craig: 13:32 Yeah. I think what's stark in the course profile is you've just got these two big climbs and that's it. That's the day. Burke: 13:40 Yeah. I always say it's up hill both ways. Craig: 13:43 And then unlike some of the more 100% gravel events, this event is more mixed, right? In terms of pavement versus gravel. Burke: 13:52 Yeah. I mean, you hop on and off pavement and gravel throughout the event, which is, for me, one of the fun parts about the event. I always enjoy that. I've done a lot of events that are just strictly gravel and of course I've done my share of road racing, but to be able to intersperse the two, you're suddenly going from thinking about keeping it upright, coming down a washboard gravel descent to all of a sudden you're in a super tuck on a road portion and then you're having to think about group riding dynamics to make sure that you're in a group on a flat, windy section. Then suddenly you're back on the gravel again. Craig: 14:29 Yeah. I got to imagine the rollout on the road becomes quite spirited. Burke: 14:33 You know, it's funny because from year to year, I think the very first year when nobody knew what they were signing up for, it was extremely spirited. I mean, people were just going for it and now that the reputation of the race precedes it, there are definitely people that still like to get after it right from the gun, but I think the words gotten out like, "Hey, this race is one on the backside of the course and if you're smart, you're going to save some matches for that." Craig: 15:02 We talked a little bit offline about how I think about course design and event production almost as an entrepreneurial journey. What does it take on the day of the event and leading up to the event? I got to imagine as the race has grown, it's taken an enormous amount of your time and energy and effort to just produce this thing every year. Burke: 15:21 Yeah, it does and I should say, fortunately I had no idea what I was getting myself into because if I'd been able to look into a crystal ball and seeing the amount of time, energy and work that goes into it, I may have looked at something else to do, which I'm glad I didn't. I really love this. It's just become my child, but yeah, it is an enormous amount of energy, work and passion goes into it. So much so that it's not uncommon for me like when I raced professionally, my race weight was 146 pounds every year. When I step on the scale the day after the crusher's over and it's not uncommon for me to see 134 to 135 pounds because I basically don't eat or sleep. Burke: 16:06 I just get so stressed out that it's like my wife comes home from work and she's like, "What have you eaten today?" And I'll look over at her and be like, "Uh, okay." So, it's definitely been exhausting and honestly it does get tougher over the years too. I started when I was in my 30s and now I'm on the wrong side of 40 and it definitely... It's a whole different animal 10 years on because the workload hasn't reduced, but I'm 10 years older. Craig: 16:42 Yeah and in many ways I imagine the expectations are even higher each year as riders come back to the event. Burke: 16:48 They are and those expectations I place on myself too. Every year the event sells out a little quicker and people are like, "That's so cool," and me, I'm thinking again, it's like I don't want to let anybody down. The quicker it sells out, the more expectations I feel. So, every year I just feel like a little bit more pressure to perform and make sure that everybody has a good time, whether it's the racers, the volunteers, all my friends and family that pitch in to help out. Just I feel this responsibility to all of them to make sure that the events and me personally, that I live up to their expectations. Craig: 17:26 From talking to a bunch of athletes who have participated in the event, you've delivered year after year, the course, the experience, it's one of those events that it sells out fast because it's fun. It's great. People want to go back and do it time and time again. So, I mean that's a huge accomplishment to you and your team. Burke: 17:45 Well, thank you. Craig: 17:45 We're here today for two reasons. One, I've always wanted to talk to you about the event and learn the ins and outs, but two, this year and the end of after last season, it sounds like you came to a crossroads about what the future of the event was going to look like. Can you talk about where your head was at and where we're going? Burke: 18:04 Yeah. Actually I was thinking about this today, reflecting on it and trying to figure out when that moment was and I want to say in 20... It was 2017, was a year that we experienced a lot of just crazy weather. It was the first year when there was literally a 60 degree temperature swing out on the course. There were parts of the course that were people's garments said they were registering over 107 degrees and then those same people that were dealing with heat exhaustion, they get up to the 10,000 foot mark near the finish line and suddenly there's hail and rain and even some people said snow, I didn't see the snow myself, but I've heard people swear it was snowing on them and I was a total wreck at the finish line because I've got my people, the search and rescue on their computers saying, "Hey, we've got lightning strikes hitting all around here," and we're talking about our contingency plans for keeping everybody safe. Burke: 19:07 That day was just such an emotional roller coaster for me and the funny thing was is that I was so worried that people were going to be critical of something that I have no control over. Obviously the weather and I'm getting people coming across the line and I'm expecting them to wanting to just get up and get out of town and they're like, "That was the most epic one ever." I mean, they were super excited and I was like, "Awesome," and it's funny because I have to take myself and put myself back in the position of an athlete and how I would've felt and I probably would've had the exact same reaction after putting myself through that. Just the sense of accomplishment, but from a personal level, I remember we cleaned up the course and it's about 7:00 PM and I'm finally getting off the mountain and we're due to... I'm supposed to meet up with all of my crew for dinner in Beaver and I literally drive to the restaurant when I see everybody's cars there and I see my crews in there, there's riders in there and I'm just like, "I can't do this right now." Burke: 20:12 I'm just so emotionally and physically tapped out, I couldn't do it and I remember getting the car, I drove 15 miles west of Beaver to, there's a cool reservoir out there I like to fish on sometimes and I went out to this reservoir and I sat down and watched the sun go down and I cried for, I don't know how long, it was just this catharsis and I didn't know why I was crying. I just knew that I was at my emotional limit and I remember thinking, "Okay, year 10. You can make it to year 10. Get 10 years in, you can do this," and suddenly my focus was on year 10 and then I couldn't imagine going past year 10 and even getting to that was like, "You can do it, just make year 10," and so, it's been this thing where last year I started having a conversation with some colleagues and opening up to them and saying, "Hey, 2020 is probably going to be it," and everybody's like, "Why?" Burke: 21:15 And I'm like, "I can't keep doing it," and I'm also not the person to go out like you and I were discussing offline, building up a big crew with employees and again, all those expectations are just too much for me to get my head around and so, I was discussing this with my colleague and he's like, "Well, hey, have you ever considered selling your event?" And I'm like, "No, I haven't," and we started that discussion. Craig: 21:47 Thank you for being so honest about the journey because I think the listener, the athlete and other event organizers really need to know that that's truth. That's what really happens. I know you put so much energy in creating this event and it snowballed into this amazing thing on the calendar every year that riders look forward to and I can only imagine you felt a tremendous sense of responsibility to create this thing every year in Utah that athletes can return to like summer camp. Burke: 22:20 Yeah, totally. Craig: 22:21 So, you're there, you want the event to have a future, but you're just unsure that you can't do it in the same infrastructure. So, where are we at today? What is the future for Crusher look like? Burke: 22:34 Well, like I said, I had these discussions and I've leaned so hard on friends and family over the years and I knew that there's a limit to how much they can put in too. I have my best friend, his name's Jason Binem, he's been my right hand man for years and years and we had this discussion in the car last year and I said, "Hey, what's it going to take for you to slow down if we want to keep doing this?" I'm like, "Basically, what's it going to take for me to know that you're still going to be here and helping me every year?" And he's recently had his first child and he looked at me, he's like, "Man, you can't put a price on me being away from my daughter for a week," and I thought, "That's true." Burke: 23:21 I mean, I totally get it and I totally respect it and so, that got me going down the road of thinking about, "Okay, what would it look like to hand the reins over to somebody else?" And again, going back to this colleague, he said, "I can put you in touch with some people," and so, I started tentatively dipping my toe into talking to some other organizations that had expressed interest in becoming involved in partnering with Crusher. One of those people that he suggested I reach out to was Chemo Seymour at Lifetime Fitness and so, I got on a phone call with Chemo in May and we just started talking about what that might look like. PART 2 OF 3 ENDS [00:24:04] Burke: 24:03 Kind of just started talking about what that might look like, and I certainly wasn't ready to just say, "All right, let's do this thing." Like I said, this is the closest thing to a child I'm probably ever going to have, and the thought of handing that over to somebody is daunting. But through the course of this process, I realize it's kind of almost like a graduation. It's like raising a child and then it hits 18, and it's like, "All right, it's time to go to college. It's time to scale up and grow up, and I'm going to open the door and let somebody else have a hand in your growth." And that's been interesting for sure. Craig: 24:44 Today, you're essentially announcing a new partnership with Lifetime Fitness. Burke: 24:50 That's correct. Yeah. I'm super excited about it. Kimo, we talked off and on for a couple months and then he came out to Crusher, and Jim Cummings, I'd actually been speaking with him a bit too. Even prior to all of this, I've reached out to Jim in the past, Jim at Dirty Kanza. And we've talked about just kind of things over the years regarding gravel and the evolution and growth of it, and also I kind of see him as like a... He's a great sounding board, and so when I've run up against some problems, he's kind of one of the people that I'll call and say, "Hey, I've got this going on. What's your opinion?" Anyway, yeah, Jim was supposed to come out. Unfortunately he wasn't able to make it, but Kimo came out, and I had Kimo hop in the car with me and we spent the day together at Crusher, and kind of got to know each other a little better person-to-person. Burke: 25:47 And he said, "Hey, why don't you come out to Leadville? Come out and see how we do things, and we can kind of go from there." And he's like, "If you want to, you can ride it." I'm like, "Oh, I'm going to ride it." I've always wanted to ride Leadville, and so now I've got this opportunity to go out and kind of see how Lifetime does things at their events and also participate in the event. For me, that was a game changer. Actually getting out to Leadville and seeing how they do things, and also just seeing how much of the authenticity that remains from the founders, Ken and Merilee. They're there. They're still front and center, and realizing that that's kind of how Lifetime wants to do things. They want to maintain and keep in place the founders of the events, and make sure that authenticity and kind of what made the event what it was in the first place is never diminished or taken away. Craig: 26:48 Yeah. I think that's really special, and I've seen it too with all the sort of race organizers that I've met that have been involved in the Lifetime family. They're able to sort of supercharge their vision, and in many ways ensure a future for their original vision that isn't as all-encompassing in their personal lives as you just described. Burke: 27:11 Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I mean, it was really cool. The other great thing about Leadville... I went there. I was determined not to drink the Koolaid, so to speak. I'm like, "I've got my skeptics glasses on, and I'm going to pick apart everything that I don't like about how they do things," and that's just naturally how I am. I kind of operate off worst case scenario. And so I got there determined to kind of find things not to like, and after... Well, first off, I met Bahram Akradi. He is the founder of Lifetime Fitness. I met him at Leadville and realized, "Oh hey, this guy, he's here. This'll be his 10th Leadville." He's not just a businessman, and he didn't just start Lifetime Fitness. This guy is a bike rider, a legit bike rider. He's going after his big buckle, which they give for people that have finished 10 years. Burke: 28:14 And then of course I find out the next day Kimo's lined up, and I find that Kimo actually holds the record for most number of consecutive finishes under eight hours, I believe. And so I soon came to realize these aren't just businessmen. These are people that have a true passion for the sport and for these events, and for me that was a game changer once I realized that these people get it. They live and breathe this. And then kind of the final... The thing that clinched it for me was the next day they have the big awards in Leadville afterwards, where everybody gets their buckles and all that kind of cool stuff. And Bahram got up and gave a speech, and I can't tell you exactly what he said. All I remember is that I just remember thinking this guy is like the real deal. He's a genuine human who's out trying to do good things for people. I don't know. It's really hard to explain. Burke: 29:17 I'm sure anybody that was there and actually heard the speech would know exactly what I'm talking about, but I came away convinced The Crusher is going to be in good hands with these people. And of course one of their conditions was, " Hey, we're not interested in The Crusher unless you're going to be around." And for me that was very important to hear, because I'm definitely not to the point where I'm just going to hand the keys and walk away. This thing is still my baby and I love it. If that was an expectation on anybody's part, that was going to be a deal breaker for me, and so to hear that was quite the opposite was good. Craig: 29:55 Really exciting to have a partner who can kind of eliminate the things about running the race that you didn't like, and allow you to focus on the things that you do like. Burke: 30:04 Yeah, yeah. That's going to be huge. I've always wanted to have a big expo and all that kind of stuff, but I also realize, "Hey, an expo is an event in and of itself." I've got enough on my plate, let alone trying to get this other event off the ground. And so now there's going to be people there that are going to be like, "The expo's your thing. Cool." You know? And honestly, I'm just really looking forward to having enough taken off my plate that when I do get to be around the race and people come up and talk to me, that I can look them in the eye and really listen to what they're saying, and share their excitement instead of thinking about all the other things that are on my mind like, "Oh, did we get enough zip ties? Oh, I wonder if those signs migrated overnight." Burke: 30:52 There's just all those little things that add up in your mind that, for me, made it so that I wasn't able to be completely present in the moment with those people. And that's something that I've always really wanted to do is just be able to enjoy some of the fun atmosphere that I've helped to create, actually be a part of that and enjoy it instead of be a total nervous wreck. And who knows? I mean, it's probably just my nature. I'll probably be a nervous wreck no matter what, even if it comes down to the day 25 years from now when I'm just going there and shaking hands. But I think this is a step in the right direction towards sustainability for not only for the event, but for me personally. Craig: 31:32 For 2020, Burke, when's the event and when does registration open? Burke: 31:39 The event, we've always put it on the second Saturday in July, and so this year that falls on July 11. And we haven't announced the registration date yet, because this has kind of been evolving and I wanted to make sure that all of our I's were dotted and T's are crossed before we announced the registration. We'll be coming forward with that here pretty quickly. Craig: 32:01 We're going to retain the same course in the same sort of experience as years past? Burke: 32:06 The experience is not going to change. The course, that's still up in the air. If there are any changes to the course, it's going to be, I assure you, they're going to be for the better and it's still going to be The Crusher no matter what. The [cul de crush 00:08:22] is always going to be there, but if there are ways that we can enhance the overall experience, not just for the writers but for the spectators... I mean, that's one thing I've always struggled with over the years was wanting to make sure that the people who accompany the riders to the race are also having a good time, so we're looking at ways to maybe improve that experience for everybody across the board, and that may include changing up the course a little bit. I don't know. Burke: 32:51 But the cool thing is, is now that I do have people like the Lifetime crew here to help out, I can start thinking about that sort of stuff instead of just kind of being stuck in Groundhog Day mode because I don't have the bandwidth to really think about much else. For me, this feels like kind of unclipping my wings a bit and being able to get back to dreaming about doing some cool things, and kind of seeing the event evolve as gravel is evolving itself. Craig: 33:22 That's super exciting. I mean, to imagine to have additional resources to kind of continue the vision forward and continue to explore that area of Utah, which for somebody who hasn't been there, it is a gorgeous area. I've been through Beaver a few times, and I can only imagine how much fun it is to ride those mountains around there. Burke: 33:43 Yeah. Well, you need to come out and experience it yourself. Craig: 33:44 Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. After looking at that course profile, I realize I'm going to have to climb a bunch of hills to get prepared. Burke: 33:50 Yes. Craig: 33:52 Thank you so much for the time today. I think it's been super enlightening for me and for the listener, and for any other person who started an event, is in the midstream of doing a multi-year event, just to kind of think about the journey that you take. And you know, I say it time and time again when we talk to event directors. I have so much admiration for you for just taking the ball and running with it, and creating an event that is now part of a lot of people's summers. Hats off to you for everything you've done and what you're continuing to do with Crusher, and congratulations on what the future holds. Burke: 34:29 Oh, thank you, man. I really appreciate that, Craig. That means a lot. PART 3 OF 3 ENDS [00:34:32]  
November 26, 2019
This week we speak with experienced gravel athlete, journalist, podcaster and author, Selene Yeager who recently published the quintessential guide to gravel.  It is appropriately named, Gravel!  The book is a must-read for anyone trying to navigate the world of gravel equipment and events.  Selene Yeager Website Selene Instagram Automated transcription (please excuse the typos) Selene, welcome to the podcast. Thank you for having me. Absolutely. I'm stoked to talk about your latest book, Gravel!. I am very happy to talk about it too. These things are always I, I will confess that I always have a lot of anxiety before. One of the, one of my books goes out into the world. It's just, it's just kind of in my DNA. I'm that I'm that kind of personality, but you invest, you know, a lot. I invest a lot of myself into it anyway, so I'm always so happy when people receive it. The way I had hoped they would. Yeah, I mean, it's clear there's a ton of research went into it and all your personal experience. It really is a soup to nuts guide that can benefit a rookie athlete as well as an expert athlete because there's just so much in here and it's, one of the things I always have really loved about gravel is there's just a lot to unpack. There's a lot to unpack about the bikes, the courses, and how they're different in different parts of the country. Let's set the stage a little bit for the listener and just talk about how you got into gravel riding. I know you've got a rich background in both mountain biking and road biking, but where did gravel start to come into play for you? Well, it's funny, it's like a, I imagine it's like a lot of people. I live in a fairly rural area, so, you know, we, we were riding a lot of, you know, we didn't actually call them gravel roads necessarily. They're just unpaved roads, you know, the dirt roads. So we would ride a lot of dirt and gravel just naturally on our rides. And then I really liked it. Like I thought it was just kind of adventurous and fun and those roads always went by pretty places, you know, cause I really off the beaten path. But it wasn't, you know, the fun is always a bit limited by flat tires, you know, by your caliper or your brake calipers when with rim brakes sort of packing up. So didn't do it as much as I probably wanted to, but then I got involved in on the East coast here, there's a series a by crew, messy sport, but like hell of hundred in and it's all based off the spring classics, right? So they have us a certain amount of gravel sectors that you ride. And you know, we just did it on a road bikes. I had a Trek Medan with 23 is, you know, and I just would pump up to a hundred and pray to get through the day. But it was, but I really liked it. So when gravel per se came along, I was like, whatever. I mean honestly, I was just like, yes, sure. Whatever. A new segment. And it honestly is, I talk about in the intro to the book, it wasn't until I did a Jodie cancer for the first time that I was like, Oh huh, gravel is a different thing. You know, like, this is my Medona would not make it 12 yards and on this gravel. So I really started to understand what it was all about when I did that. And then I did a ton of events and you know, I've always felt like the iron cross is too, but I did those across bikes. It was a little different. So that was just sort of a natural evolution into it. And then as it grew, I, and the came along, this is one of the things where I think that the bikes actually knocked down the door. Like once they put a disc brakes on road bikes and the game just changed, you know? And I, and I feel like that's a huge part of what we're, what we're seeing. And it's so much more fun. I mean, I do all the same events here that I did a decade ago, but I'm having so much more fun doing them cause I'm not worried about my tires. I'm, I have tons of clearance. It's just the bike is better. I'm not pinballing all over the road. Yeah. So that's my experience with it. Yeah, exactly. I think you're right in that, you know, the bikes really just there was this step change with disc brakes and tubeless tires that enabled you to go out and not flat on your cross bike all the time. Well, it's just, I mean really it's not that fun, right? Like it's, it's when you sit in there all day fixing flats, it's just the, your fun is a little limited. So when you went out to your first DK and then you returned home, did you find that your eyes were open to a different style or duration of riding in your home territory after seeing what they were doing in Kansas? What do you mean exactly by that? We started, were we riding further exploring further? It seems like in the Midwest and Kansas, there's a lot of athletes that just have a Explorer mentality, which is, it's a little bit of a shift when you're maybe used to doing the same road or mountain loops. Yeah, yeah. No, no, I totally get what you're saying. And you know, I'll qualify that by saying, you know, as a, as a woman riding alone, I would not do a lot of that myself for obvious reasons that are unfortunate but real. But I do have some friends who I ride with frequently who are, and I'll have always been, even before quote unquote, again, gravel took off. They've always been like that. They will, they're the kind of guys that would like be riding along and see a dirt road and be like, huh, I wonder where that goes. Where, honestly, my mentality was not always that. So I did glean, I embraced that a whole lot more and just the whole idea of just getting lost and exploring with them and you know, like, okay, this day might be four hours, it might be six hours, we're not really sure. But yeah, I mean to answer that question, I, I did really get into that and, and, and enjoyed it much more than I probably did previously. That sounds like you and I are similar. I mean, I used to sort of, I'd know the loop I was going to do was four or five hours, I'd go do it and come back and could do the same thing every weekend. Just enjoying the comradery of being out on the road. But with the gravel bike now I find myself throwing a bar bag on or something that can carry a little bit extra gear. So if I do take that detour, it's not a big deal. Yep. And I find myself, you know, what it's really done too, is you know, even for lunch rides, my lunch rides have gotten more adventurous, which is really fun. So I can take my gravel bike and I can be like, okay, what do I feel like doing today? And I can do it on some tame. We don't have a lot of teams single track, but I have enough that's not crazy crazy that I can take my gravel bike on it. So it just opens up that too. Right. I can lay like, okay, I'm going to take this same bike and I'm going to do a little bit of myself mountain single track and then I'm going to go down to the Parkway, which is like cinder trails and then I'm going to take the road over to this other park and it you can do it all on the same bike and I have infinite possibilities and it's, I really enjoy that. Definitely. And I also think there's a little bit of the, when you're riding with friends and you ride a particularly technical section on a gravel bike, it's similar to mountain biking where you just kind of want to stop and high five each other for surviving or having fun. Which I always thought it was missing from the road side of my cycling career. Yeah, no, I could see that. And it is, it does feel much More like play. Yeah. And I think that that is part of that, you know, gravel state of mind that you start talking about in the book. Yeah, totally. So what motivated you to write the book in the first place? What motivated me honestly, was a couple of exchanges that I had with people on, on gravel, at Graebel events and, and on the road I one in particular, I was at an event called Keystone gravel, which is more of a grind, Duro kind of event. It's in central Pennsylvania and it's got like eight different segments. Some of them are ridiculous climbs and some of them are ridiculous, like single track to sense, you know, stuff that you would definitely be more at home on a mountain bike with you know, and I was that back at the end of the day and we were all hanging out and having a beer. And sky came up to me who I know quite well and he said, so is that gravel? You know, cause he had heard all about gravel and he had done unpaved, which is another event here, which is 100% different from that. It's all, some of the unpaved roads of that event are better than the tarmac. Right. So there was this real giant disconnect between his expectations and what he, what he got. And he just didn't have fun. I mean he just, he wasn't, he was over his head. That wasn't, it just wasn't his, it was his riding expectation or ability. And I was like, wow. And then I went out to Rebecca's private Idaho to do a stage race. You know, I've done the her main event and then she has that stage race and she had 16 miles a single track on that first day. And a woman came up to me and she was like, that wasn't so fun for me. Like she's like, I don't know how to ride that. And I just thought there's like kind of a need here to just talk about like as we talked about gravel that it's just not one thing. You know, it's, it's a lot of things and it can look a lot of different ways and the bikes are very much reflecting that you have everything from, you know, a diverge like a, a more road bike to, you know, that specialized that specialized, the salsa cutthroat, which is a slacked out almost a drop our mountain bike. You know, like you can see that there's, the category is broad and I just felt like there was probably a need and a and a want at this point to to make things a little more clear for people to, especially if they're just getting into it. Yeah, you're definitely speaking my language. I think that's of the motivations for this podcast was just that recognition about how different the sport can be for different people when they see the words gravel cycling. Right. Totally. Yeah, and I, you know, you on your podcast, the pace line, you've mentioned Neil Shirley's grading system, which I think is interesting, although it's almost difficult to say that one grade covers a lot of these courses beginning to end. I would agree with that. I had a, I wrestled with that a lot and there's still like, I look at that book still and that's my one regret. There's a couple, I'm like, ah, I don't think that's the right category. I don't know how much I wrestled with that back and forth because I added categories because this was actually a little bit old and it was very West coast centric because he's California. So you know, when I talked to him I'm like, I'd like to use this and I'd like to adapt it. He was like, go for it. So I added like East coast events and other events that have cropped up in the meantime, but it was, it was very difficult and you know, those events are also going to change. So it's real important to read your course descriptions. Always cause it, it might be different from one year to the next. Even honestly, I saw the team at SPT gravel added four miles of what they're calling double track and single track. Totally. And I'm like, well that blows my rating out of the, you know, it is what it is. Yeah. It's interesting when you talk to athletes like Jeremiah Bishop or paisan, you know, those guys who come from a super strong mountain bike background, they'll often lament the kind of more dirt roadie type courses, which potentially could favor people with a road background more and never really exploit their weaknesses in the technical single track. I think that's okay though. And I talk about that in the book. I do believe that there is room for everybody, right? Like if you're not comfortable on a mountain bike and single track and all that, I believe that there should be events for you and if the, if you are, I believe there should be events for you to, you know, and, and there are events as you mentioned, that cover all those ends of the spectrum, you know, like give a little bit of taste for everybody's strength. But yeah, I mean it's horses for courses. I think that that's true in gravel too. Yeah. It'll be interesting to see as the quote unquote monuments of gravel start to emerge, these big iconic races that, you know, make or break a professional athletes calendar, I suppose. And imagine that they're, they're going to take all shapes and flavors, right? You're going to have some that are just the sheer horsepower race and other ones that are going to require technical skills to be on the pointy end of the spear. Well, and I think you know, you and I was just at that Bentonville event. And I think, and for people who don't know, it's, we're talking about, it's a big sugar, which was the, it's lifetime's new gravel event in Bentonville, Arkansas area and in to them they were all kind of gleeful that this event will not favor road tactics. And you can, I'm sure you agree that Vivette will not favor tactics that then is going to be very much a test of self. It's punchy. It's difficult. It's not, there's not a lot of drafting or any of that kind of stuff that can go on. So yeah, I, I, it's going to be interesting to watch because they all, they all are different. And as, as people do bring the road to gravel, I think you're going to see more gravel events just either cater to that or be like, mm, let's change that up. Yeah, it seems like, I mean to me it seems like you've got the longer distance events, which become sort of a battle of attrition and [inaudible] and nutrition, maybe a good point. And then you've got ones that are going to have technical elements to it that are gonna, you know, make or break your ride your day. Yeah, totally. I would agree with that. It'll be interesting to see how it evolves and I think one of the, we're just starting, Don't you think? Like we are. I think it's, it's going to be, we're just starting to watch this evolution. This whiz wave is still [inaudible] Christine. Yeah. And I think there's, there's very much an art to course design to kind of pull the various levers and obviously you're going to be, you're going to go with what you have access to. So in Kansas it's going to be one thing, and Utah, it's going to be another, in Bentonville, it's going to be another. And, and that's the beauty of it. I personally love putting something on the calendar for next year in an area that I've never been before, to just see what they can throw at me. Well and everything is different. I mean, that's what I, I, that's why I love when people come out to unpaved, which is, you know, the event that my husband cope produces is that it's 100% different from, you know, anything that even you would encounter in the mountain States or in the Midwest. So the dirt is different. Yeah, the trees are different like that. Like the, everything about it is different. So it's really cool to, to go, like you're saying, to go to places because it's not just the, the course, but it's literally the dirt that you're riding on. You know, land run is 100% different from crusher and the Tuscher, which is different from any of the grasshoppers. So it's just like, it's cool. It's a good way to experience a place. Yeah, absolutely. It's really cool. One of the things you touch on and you're very much an expert in is nutrition. And I think for gravel events, what may not, what may sort of get lost in signing up for an event. So you sign up for a 50 mile event and your framework is around the room, you know, it's, it's going to be longer, it's going to be harder on your body. So how should athletes be looking at nutrition differently for these types of events? I think that that's, I love that you put 50 miles out there cause that's a, that's a great it's a great distance because people, especially if they're coming from the road, not so much if they're coming from the mountain, but if you're from the road you're like, okay, whatever. Right? Like 50 miles, I can do 50 miles. But 50 miles could take you five hours. Like it could take you a long time. Depending on the terrain, depending on gravel is so different because I think that was one of my really, really big eye opening things when I went out to Kansas is like, I don't think I've ever coasted. And this whole 13 hours I've been out here and I did it was maybe for 15 seconds. You're just working so much harder. And even, even in the best of conditions, you're still working just a little bit harder because of the surface. It's there, there's more rolling resistance. Your tires are bigger, it's generally harder going and that adds up. You know that that really does that up to how much energy you're expanding. You're using more of your muscles, you're using more upper body and it's often harder to eat. It's a so you can get into a hole really quickly without realizing that you're getting in a hole. So I, I, I try to encourage people to make their food as accessible as possible. I'm a big fan of the little top two bento boxes because reaching into your pockets is harder than you think it's going to be. I, I've, I have done this myself. I'm like, ah, I don't, I did it for Steamboat gravel. I'm like, I don't think I need that thing. And I was so, so many times I kicked myself all day long. I'm like, why didn't you just put that on your bike? It would've made your food so much easier to get. You know, but you also, it's visual then too. You can think about it. You can look at your computer and be like, Oh, it's, you know, a half hour in, it's an hour in, I should eat something. And it's right there. But you have to make it more of a conscious effort to stay on top of it because if you don't, you can get in a hole much, much easier than you could on the road, for sure. Yeah. Yeah. You're right. It's funny, I, I hesitate to admit this on air, but I learned those lessons doing iron man triathlons. Oh yeah, me too. I've been there. Yeah. All right. So we're both secret former triathletes at this point. And yeah, you learn, you know, I remember talking to a coach and I was talking about my hydration strategy and how I'd go for a 70 mile ride and drink two water bottles and he was just like, that is not enough at all. And in triathlon maybe it is for your training ride, but it's going to kill you at your race. Yeah, right, exactly. And that's, you have to practice that stuff. Yeah. Yeah. Because you've got to, it's not about in triathlon, it's not about just finishing the bike. You're going to exactly one as well. And I think there's some parallels there with, with gravel in that you just need to keep yourself topped up. Cause if you get behind the eight ball, you ain't coming back totally. And you really do really do need to practice it. I preach that so, so much. One of the things that I am really glad that I did before Kanza is I did a real dress rehearsal, shakedown ride, where I put everything on my bike the way I planned it. Because it's so easy when you, if you're going to do a super, super, super long training ride, a lot of people will just plan stores and stuff, right. But they're not carrying it the same way that they're going to be carrying it at the event. And it's really important that you do that because, and find the train that matches it as best you can. So I like took my gravel bike on some really chunky, no Whitner maintenance Rocky road. And my bottle's objected immediately and my bag was like going sideways. I was like, okay, all right, this is not going to work. You know? It's just good to like not discover that On race day. Yeah. Even I think Yuri Haswell had mentioned it when he was on the podcast. Even the idea of putting the same things in the same location. Yes. On your bags or body, wherever you're going to store the stuff. So, you know, you don't have to think about it at all. Yeah. Especially with something like Kanza that's, that's more important than you think. Cause you lose the ability to reason and think and remember. Yeah. It's so true. I call it, for me, I call it getting stuck on stupid where I can't, I just cannot, I cannot make a simple decision about my nutrition or hydration at that point in the day. Yup. Yup. Which brings me to another point, which I think was interesting that you dedicated a chapter to it, which was the notion of grit. Yup. I actually almost, I originally, the working title for the whole book was grit, but they they wanted it to be a little more clear. But yeah, I always call it the book itself. Grit. Yeah. Can you, can you dive into that chapter a little bit and talk about why people need to think about grit when it comes to gravel cycling? I'm sure because it is, I think and again, a lot of this is drawn from my own personal experience as well as, you know, athletes I've worked with and people that I've, I know is that often that we have this mental picture, something like I did that coast to coast race across Michigan a couple of years ago and you know, my mental picture of it was like, Oh, I'm just going to ride my bike across Michigan on the sand roads and it's going to be wonderful. And you know, I like, I don't know that this is why I keep doing things because I have a memory of a goldfish, but you know, but then 165 miles into it, it was not sunshine and roses, right. I went into the tunnel, the dark place that you go into and I think it's really important to train that part because when all things are equal and you've done your work and you're prepared and you have your nutrition, you can do it. It's your brain that's going to shut you down. It's your little central governor in your head that is going to be like, no, not today. Or yes, you can get through this. And I, it's important enough. I mean, you could write a whole book about it and people have, but I thought that especially gravel where it is hard, you know, I mean I think that's one of the things that people get so caught up in like, Oh the fun because it's fun, but a lot of times it's type two fun, you know, where you're out, you're kind of suffering for a while and you know, almost all these events throw some sort of pretty challenging stuff at you. Like, well, you're just in this interminable, false flat into a headwind for really long time and it ceases to be kind of real fun. Right. And then, then there's has to be something else that's going to get you through. And that's great. Yeah. I think, you know, even if I think back at what I would deem a relatively nontechnical course of SBT gravel, there were a couple of sand sand sections. And when you're feeling a little bit fatigued and you keep coming off because you're, you know, not handling the sand correctly, it feels like you're making no forward progress or you're never going to get to the end and you know, you still have 30 40 miles to go. You do go into that dark place and it's a question of how do you come out of it? How do you remind yourself that it's just temporary? Yeah, and that's why in the book I talk about it being a tunnel and not a cave because I've always thought like everyone talks about the pain cave and the cave implies that you're going into a dark place where bears are asleep, right? Like it's just not, it does. There's no end to that. And if you think of it more like a tunnel, then there's light on the other side. You just have to Find it. That's a great way of thinking about it. And I think gravel maybe more so than the road and maybe less so than mountain biking really lends itself to that. Because if you're doing it right, you're going to hit a section where you just have a shit eating grin on your face and you're having the time of your life and that can come just moments after being stuck in that sand and feeling like the world is going to end And vice versa. You know? I mean, I remember in Michigan I was like, literally, I'm like, woo, this is fun. And then not 30 minutes later I'm like, Oh, I'm dying. This is terrible. I mean, it can, it can happen like the flick of a switch, you know? And you have to just learn how to talk to yourself, learn how to take care of yourself and you can totally get it. Yeah. There's a lot of life lessons there as well, I think. Oh, I agree. Yeah. Transcends bicycling. I love that about gravel in that, you know, you'd go out with friends or in a race and everybody's going to have those moments and you can kind of just share and revel in pushing through them. Yup. Yeah, I mean that's, those are all the stories that you gather as you're out there. The, the book concludes with some really great information about cross training and ultimately actually a training plan for, for DK 200. Let's talk a little bit as we're approaching the end of the year, what should we be encouraging the listeners to do with their bodies other than cycling Strength train? I can say it enough. I mean if you look at the Kate Courtney's and the Peter Saigon's and you know, Taylor Finney before he retired, like pretty much everybody right now. Cyclists now know even at the highest level, that strength training is a really important compliment for our sport. It it builds, it not only like gives you more Watts because it builds efficiency and power and strength. And if you lift heavy, it's not for hypertrophy. It's for strength and power, you know, so you're not going to look like a bodybuilder. But it just also takes, it makes you more injury proof, which is important, you know, and it lets you push that bigger gear that you need to push on gravel cause you need to push bigger gears on gravel to make progress. It helps support your whole core. You know, core is overused, but you use a lot of your core muscles to support yourself on choppy terrain. You know, your traps won't get, sorry, your shoulders won't get sorry. Your triceps won't get sore. It's, I, I cannot, I've been preaching strength training for a long, long time and I'm so happy that cyclists are finally catching onto it. But definitely this time of year is the perfect time to give yourself a break off the bike. You need to give yourself a break off the bike so you can Like come back to it fresh and you know, with these muscles that you've been taking care of and other ways and you're more balanced. Yeah. I've, when you mentioned Kate Courtney's name, it reminded me of like her Instagram feed right now is filled with her strength training as much as it as it is riding a bike. Did you see her Jo like single, her single hopping up that flight of steps? Was that her? I think it was, I just, I, I, I follow a few people and I hope, I hope I'm not talking about someone else's amazing feat, but somebody like was doing a lot of these great plyometrics and one of it was like single hopping up this long By the stairs. I'm like, that is amazing. Yeah. And I think it's, you know, it's important for the listeners, and maybe even, I'm preaching to myself when I say this, that we're not professional cyclists. We're all normal human beings in the aging process. And getting into the gym is just something we all need to do for our own health. Not only cycling performance. Oh, 100% true. I mean you're, you, I mean all of, all of the, all of the metabolic things that happen over time, you know, you tend to naturally lose some muscle, naturally become more predisposed to put on fat, you know, body composition changes, bone density, all of that stuff. Strength training is, is the solution to stemming it for sure. And in, in the book, I noticed a lot of exercises around strength that look like they can be done in the home. Was that intentional or are you sort of an advocate of getting, getting actually underneath some heavy weights? I'm a huge advocate of getting underneath some heavy ways. Absolutely. So I'm a realist and I also believe that you can do an awful lot at home. So, you know, you can, I'm, I don't go to the gym really more than twice a week, maybe three times. But I do lots of maintenance work at, in the house and it's amazing what some pushups, air squats, you know, that kind of stuff can do. It's, it's, it works very well and it leaves you with very little excuse because you know, you can do them pretty much anywhere. And on those gym days at home, are you, are you riding as well on those days or those sure. Dedicated athletics for the day. I usually ride too. I, you know, I ride not just for riding but for, because I love riding for mental health and for being outside, you know, which, which the gym doesn't necessarily do. So it is, it can be a little bit of a juggling act. You know, if I'm doing a heavy strength training day, sometimes I like to compliment it right after and just spin it out on my bike. You know, like that's, that's a nice way. I like to remind my, it sounds kind of strange to talk about this, but I like to remind my muscles why I'm doing what I'm doing and sometimes I feel like that's a great way to do it. I ride to the gym and I do my thing and I go for a short spin afterwards. And I'm still doing some interval work for sure over the winter time just to stay, just to keep that little bit of top end. And the, the book concludes with this DK 200 training plan and I was excited to see that as someone who often on contemplates going to Cannes and myself to do that event. I listened to your cohost from the pace line, Patrick, talk about his journey to cancer this past year, which I don't know if it put me more in wanting to do it or less than willing to do it. Reasonable. When you, when you were putting together that a training plan, is that an off the couch training plan or is it assuming someone has a decent amount of fitness underneath them to begin with? It's and recreational rider, which I kind of define as somebody who rides regularly and has for a few years. And by regularly, I mean, you know, two to three, maybe four days a week, you know, the long ride on the weekend, you should definitely be able to put in a couple hours on your bike easily, comfortably. So not straight off the couch per se, but also not, you don't need to have a, a pro card or a license, you know, you don't need to wind up for any other events. And I very, very purposely made it manageable and I purposely also made it harder than some other plans that I've seen because because the do not finish rate is so high there. And I think it's because people don't take themselves quite as far as sometimes as they really need to. You know, being on your bike for five or six hours is one thing. Once you push over eight hours, it's a whole different animal. And if you've never been there, you just, you, you don't know how you're going to, your stomach's going to respond to food. You don't know all that stuff that happens, how, you know, if you're going to get hot spots on your feet, like a lot of that stuff doesn't materialize until you cross that really long endurance time. So I, I, you know, if I felt it really important that you don't need to do a ton of those rides, but I felt like it was super important to take people into that territory. How many of those did you have in the program where you were going? Pretty deep and long. [inaudible] Not More than maybe two, three. I mean, not really. I tried to keep it reasonable. So you still have a life, you know, I don't believe that this needs to be your whole life, but I do believe like, I'm like training for a marathon. Right? Like you people recreationally, training for marathon, don't do a ton of 20 plus mile rides or runs. Some don't do any. And I don't believe that either. I, when I trained for marathons, I'm like, you have to go into that 20. You have to just psychologically because if you've never, that's a quarter of your race. If you've never been there, it's scary. That's the worst part. You know, so I, I really didn't feel like the same. I treated like a lot like marathon training in that way. Yeah. And I remember, I remember getting coached and having a particularly difficult long, long workout and my coach just reminding me like, you got through it. That's in the bank. No one has to take that away from you. And when you're having a hard time at the event, just remember that you've banked everything. You've been on this program, you can do this. It makes a huge difference. I interviewed Chrissie Wellington one time and pro world-class triathlete for people who don't know. And she wants said some workouts are stars and some workouts are stone, but they're both rock and you build with them. And that has, that has been in my head for a long time. That's awesome. And that's, those are probably good words to conclude with. You've created a really great guide to gravel cycling soup to nuts. As I said, I think for anybody this is a good read, an interesting read it for, for those who've been around the sport for a while it explores things like drop reposts suspension, different types of things you, you may be considering as you've been around the sport longer. And if you're a beginning athlete, it just sort of brings you right from what you should expect across the board list some amazing events across the country that you might look to put on your 2020 calendar. So Celine, thanks so much for the time and I encourage everybody to go out and order this book. Thanks, Craig. It's been great.
November 12, 2019
A conversation with John Kirlin from Wyoming's The Dead Swede Hundo gravel cycling event. The Dead Swede Website The Dead Swede Instagram Automated Transcript (please excuse the typos). John, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. Awesome. I'm excited to learn about the dead Swede hundo. It definitely, I think captures my imagination as the most clever race name I've heard of in recent memory. But first let's start off by telling us where you're located and how you got into creating the event in the first place. Great. So yeah, located in, shared in Wyoming and kinda started looking around that, just the terrain. There are not a lot of folks that live in Wyoming. There are about half a million people in the entire state, but we're the 10th largest land mass in the United States. So we've got a lot of great terrain and a lot of big mountains and a lot of great gravel. And so riding gravel is just kind of an obvious choice for us out here. I moved to Sheridan from Casper, Wyoming and started just looking over the maps and just kinda seeing what roads were available, ride and started going into a local bike shop sharing bicycle company and chatting with who's now my business partner in the race. Jordan with Duke and looking at, you know, what the gravel scene lawns out here who's riding what, what's, what's big, what's Epic, how can I, what's a a hundred mile a loop that I could maybe sync up and everything started pointing towards the big horn mountains and cause we, we had the beauty of the big horn mountains that are just right in our backyard. And so it just started looking at potential ways we could loop up a a hundred mile loop and started looking on the map and everything drew me to kind of this grow that's kind of famous around here called red grade road. And it's just basically an old Jeep road almost that just goes straight up the mountain. You climb about three, 4,000 feet in a matter of seven miles. So it, it gets up and going, but we just started thinking, well maybe I'll put together a ride, maybe a group ride. And then I said, well, if I'm going to just formalize this thing and make it a real thing, how about we just put on an event and see if we can get some people more than just a handful of locals. The cheaper we can get some other people from around the state and the region to come out. And we at first year anticipated about 50 riders. We had about 150 show up for our first event and we just had our third year this year in June and that 580 riders show up. That's great. When you, when you moved to Sheridan, John, were you already writing a drop bar gravel bike or did you come from a mountain bike or road background? Yeah, I was riding a drop bar, gravel bike or cyclocross bike really. I'd actually yet to switch to a real specific gravel geometry. I'm currently on a, you know, a five year old specialized crops. Then just kind of retrofitted it. And I came from ride racing side cross and I raised mountain bikes and rode in college and I actually grew up as a cross country skier. And so that's where my real racing background came from. Great. And then you, you had mentioned, and I'm sure in people's imagination, the state of Wyoming, it just sort of screams that it probably has a lot of gravel roads. And you alluded to that. For those of us who haven't been to Wyoming, or at least in my case I've been through, but I haven't peddled in Wyoming at all. You know, what, what, what is the terrain and what are the roads like? I mean we have just all sorts of different regions over here. Anything from kind of where we're at on the Eastern side of the state is more high grassland. And so like Sheridan for example, is kind of rolling Hills with ranches and farm land and the kind of the open grassy lands. And then we've bought up to the big horn mountains. And so then we get into more like 9,000 vertical feet and mountain roads to track single track and rough feel, us forest service type riding. And then the opposite side, the Western side of the mountain is kinda high desert basin that is very similar to like the Fruita and grand junction area and Moab area. And so there's Wyoming really has a whole lot of different regions and it's kind of fun. So it sounds like there's a combination of, of roads, dirt roads, which would be automobile accessible to S to stuff that cars couldn't get over and it's just for off road bikes and, and offered vehicles presumably. Yes. Access to that terrain. How did that kind of shape what type of event you wanted to put together? Yeah, so I, I just looked at, as we were talking more and more about an event, we wanted to do something that would start and finish in town versus just somewhere out in the boonies. My wife actually helped me realize the value in that. She says, you know, it's, it's great for the racer out there, but what about the spouse that not raising, what are they going to do? And so we, we kinda cater to that and the families. And so having it start and finish in town and providing them with where to lodge, what are the fun things to do in town while you're significant others out suffering for 10 hours. So at the time I was working at one of the breweries, black dude brewing company in town. And so we partnered with them saying, well, let's just start and finish at the brewery. What's better than finishing arrived in finishing at a brewery? And that worked great for the first two years. But as this last year, we grew in size, the, the street out in front of the brewery was just not adequate for what our raisers wanted and sides. And after riding for, you know, 10 hours in the sun, then trying to stand around on hot black pavement, we've decided to move it to our city park in town, which was just, you know, half a mile away from the brewery. Okay. Yeah, I think it's, you know, it's one of those great opportunities that is unique to gravel that you can start in town and it's easy enough with these bicycles to, you know, cover five or 10 miles to get out of town and get into the wilderness. And then all of a sudden, as your wife astutely noted, and as the event has progressed over the last couple of years, you end up with this great economic opportunity for the community, a great opportunity to showcase the small town or if their city that you live in. And I think you see that time and time again with gravel races around the country, that they're really just creating these great weekend events that even the towns, folk who aren't interested in cycling can appreciate that. It just brings some, some energy and economic vitalization to the community over the weekend. Absolutely. I mean, that's a big part of it. And even just myself as a writer, I anymore more, I like to just go, well, there's a new place and they've gotten any bet and I plan my vacation and my, my weekend around that event. Like, yeah, we'll go hang out with some friends, meet some new people and do some riding, check out the country and its place that we normally wouldn't probably see if we were just driving through. Yeah, that's right. Know you said something, something I loved over email. To me that said, I love throwing challenges at riders, giving them a glimmer of hope with some recovery sections and then throwing more at them again. Can you tell us how that plays out over the long course for the, for the dead Swede? Absolutely. So some people might say I'm a bit of a masochist and I'm climbing that, but I also love to descend and when mapping out the course, I really looked at where are going to be a good challenges and if I've got a really big long climb, what's my recovery all look like afterwards and where can I really capitalize on getting recovery? And so as riders go out the course, they'll get few miles of pavement, then they start the, hit the gravel and do some rolling Hills and break up into their groups. And then they hit this, the base of the mountains and they climb and climb and climb and climb up just this steep road. And a lot of people end up walking it because you're going about three miles an hour climbing this thing. There's sections of it that are of, you know, 16 to 22 degree angle our percent. But in the middle of one of these climbs, we had a little section of single track. And so I thought, you know, that'd be a fun way to break it up. So they're still gonna get the elevation but get a little bit more distance, aunts and single track. And so they do about a mile seeing the track in the middle of this climb and kind of mentally it's a reprieve there before they then hit the steep grades of the red grade road. And then once you get up on top, that's where the, the views really open up and you can see into what's cloud peak wilderness and these 13,000 foot peaks with snow on top of them still as you ride through the forest. And we've got some punchy rolly Hills in there, but then do some loops and get some descents. And then I, okay, it feels fun. And then I'll throw just a big gut punch of a, a hike, a bike section in the middle after crossing the stream. And we kinda have a sign that I always like to put out on the course. Kind of to poke fun at my riders, give them a little bit of sarcasm. But the sign I say, can we still be friends? [Inaudible] Then I'll put it in various, I'll put in a different section each year. Just cause it is one of those where you think you're done climbing and then you realize it's a, it's a false summit and you turn and you got another thousand vertical feet to go and it just kind of deflates your balloon right there. Yeah. And so I, I asked them, can we still be friends? And, and I'll always have writers that come in that after the finish they're like, well, I saw that sign and I really wanted to punch you. My answer was no at the moment. Yes, absolutely. But yeah, I really like to strategically place our, our Clines and technical sections if it's going to be super rough and technical, then afterwards put it, you know, section and on just buff gravel or even a little section of pavement in there if the course allows it. And as the course remained consistent over the three years or have you made changes? Every year for the long course has been different because of the timing of our race. It snow conditions are a big factor. We had the first, the actual inception of the course was supposed to be a 100 mile loop and that then rolled through the, the entire forest and came back down. But as we got closer and closer, I realized we're not going to be able to get through this section as snow. It goes up too high and there's about a five mile section that doesn't get plowed or maintained and that would've just been a five miles off hike a bike through postholing snow. And I just didn't want to put our riders through that, Which is funny as a coastal person because your events in June, the idea to think that you're, you know, you're going to be tapped out because of the snow line in June is pretty funny from my perspective. Yeah. Because yeah, we're, we're up high in the high elevation mountains. So there it's, it's funny, last year we had a late, we had a late and wet spring and snow fall and so we had to do a reroute of our course last year. We weren't even able to go all the way up top and we actually ended up doing kind of two loops of our lower course last year, which made for some really fast times. But yeah, just the snow is, is a factor for us. Yeah. I got to imagine it makes the stream crossings a little chilly as well. Absolutely. And so we don't have many of them, but there where you do cross, it's, you're, you're going through glacier melt. I like what you've described with the course because I think it's, for me, when a course becomes just a battle of attrition along fire roads, it becomes less interesting. And I think less apropos for where I want to see gravel go. I, you know, I want cyclists always to be challenged across the full range of disciplines. They're not only Watson horsepower, but handling skills you name it. I think that that makes a great event that it sounds like you've pieced together a day that depending on the conditions, not depending on the conditions, it's always going to be a day that the rider remembers. Absolutely. That's what I like with cycling is just going out and getting a little bit of everything. And I come from just, you know, not just a road background or not just a mountain background or gravel background, but I really kind of want to do them all in one ride. And so that's kind of the idea behind this course is to bring people that come from multiple backgrounds and they're going to feel comfortable and confident in sections and they're going to feel, you know, vulnerable and uncomfortable in other sections. But that's the best part of the cycling is that when you get into that vulnerability stage and it only makes you a better rider when you get through it. Yeah. And I think that it makes it really interesting when you're riding with others and you see their skillsets versus yours in different areas. And it gives you an opportunity if you're more technically inclined to kind of catch up on those single tracks sections a while the, you know, the people with the great engines are climbing away from you on the fire roads. Absolutely. I mean we definitely see that in our results. We have people that they just, they know they're not a climber and so they hang out for a little while in the back. But then what we do is after that climb, they do Wally pop up top and then they come back and descend all that road. And so some of these good climbers that unite not be a great descenders or they might blow up, they might not have the legs to get through the rest of the course because they spent it on the climb. Yeah, yeah. Have you seen other events start to crop up in your region? Yeah, we have. It's been, so there was for a little while, we kind of pieced together this Wyoming gravels series and there's a erasing Casper that we always kind of hit. And that's in the central part of the state. It's the rattlesnake rally and they've got 120 mile as their long course and then like a 60 mile in a 30 mile as well. Here's a ride out of Lander, the WYO one 31, which hits a big section of gravel and that's a, that's a lot more self supported of a ride and, but they've got a big 131 mile course one over in Gillette right next to the black Hills. And then the black Hills has a big following the folks that do the Dakota Fibo, which is a big mountain bike race over there and Spearfish Perry Jua is the ratio organizer over there. He puts on the gold rush and it's a 200 miles through big group. And so it's starting to pop up all over the region. And we actually reached out to some folks on the other side of the mountain and did our inaugural or we call the bad medicine ride this September and partnered with some people over there and kind of the same thing, one of those mixed bag rides where you're, you're gonna climb a lot and it's like the long course is a, a 96 mile loop with 10,000, 200 vertical feet in elevation. And the probably the best bike for that would be like the salsa cut throat or you know, something with a big dual inch drop bar, mountain bike almost just because of some of the, the technicality up top. But then there's also a 17 mile paved descent through this Canyon. So one of those rides where no one bike is the best. But yeah, there's, it's, it's been interesting watching the gravel, seeing rural out here because it's just, it is a great way to get off the pavement and when we don't have roads that are paved all that well anyways, and a lot of vehicle traffic going 70 miles an hour next year, it's not that fun. But, and so a lot of people I know are selling the road bikes and just kinda the gravel bike or they just picked up their first $500 entry level hard tail and looking for something to ride. And so they're not a technical writer, so is a huge appeal to them. Yeah, no, it's, I mean, as you've described Wyoming and at my own personal experience there, I mean you've got, I think you've got a great training ground for all levels of gravel. Like you said, you can have a basic bike with 30 to see tires and ride miles and miles and miles of just gravel roads that undulate for, for long distances. And then you can start layering in some of the double track and ultimately the single track and then combine these crazy adventures like you were talking to the other side of the mountain. It really does sound like an ideal area for gravel riding. Absolutely. We love it over here and all of our rides we put on are just, they're meant to be super encouraging. I, I joke about the masochism but I also I like to make sure that we have support out there and so that anyone can really come out and feel safe and comfortable with it and just kind of take some of that, that level of risk and the unknown out of there. So like all of our rides will like, between the dead suite as well as the bad medicine, we'll put an aid station approximately every 10 miles that'll have food, nutrition, minimal bikes support like at pump and some patch kit if someone runs it, just to allow that little bit level of comfort for these people that they just bought their first bike and they're, they're looking for something to do and they're loving it. And signing up for 120 miles. Self-Supported just doesn't sound that fun to them yet. And you've, you've you've done three different routes at this point, right? For the different distances? Yeah. It's for the, for the dead sweet. For the, the a hundred miler. We've done three different routes and we have what we plan on being our, our standard route. But it has to, if weather's on our side, we'll continue that standard group. Otherwise we did come up with a, a good alternative to lap course down-low. Great. And then I can't let you go without understanding. Where did the dead Swede name come from? So it's funny, there's a campground not bond off of what was originally going to be the, the main loop called the dead sweet camp ground. And so when I moved to the area and I saw it on a map, I was like, what is this all about? And there's, there's three grave sites right there at this campground and it used to be up on top of the big horns. They had a big logging operation and logging camps and this tie flume. And so they would send these railroad ties down a, you know, a 30 mile handbill water slide down the mountain into town for the railroad and kind of legend Hagit is this for men. And a couple of other guys are doing some mining for and gold panning and silver and just trying to find some minerals and get rich. And apparently maybe they found it and between the three of them they got a quarrel and guilt each other over this. And so yeah, this kind of that, that true Western mystery of the high mountain panhandler. Yeah. Fascinating story. Well, John, thanks for telling us a little bit more about the event and sharing about the region over there in Wyoming. The event is in June of 2020, is that right? Correct. And June six of 2020 it falls same day as dirty Kanza and that is one of those things that we couldn't get around just cause of all the other events in our region. But you know, if you don't get into dirty Kanza come see us at our event. Yeah, it sounds good. I will put a the link to the dead sweet Hondo website in the show notes and post about it on social media so people can start thinking about it for their 2020 calendar. Absolutely. Right on. Well, thanks John. I appreciate the time. Yeah, thanks for having me.
October 28, 2019
A conversation with Kristi Mohn (marketing manager) and Lelan Dains (Events Manager) from the Dirty Kanza team introducing Big Sugar Gravel in Bentonville, AR.   Registration opens November 15th, 2019. Big Sugar Gravel Website Big Sugar Gravel Instagram  Craig : 00:00 Welcome everyone to this week's Gravel Ride podcast. We are podcasting today from a basement in Bentonville, Arkansas. And I've actually got a couple of guests on the podcast today, who I'm going to ask to introduce themselves because it's a little bit of a surprise. And we'll talk about why we're here in a few minutes. Kristi: 00:18 Oh, ladies first? Craig : 00:20 Of course, always. Kristi: 00:21 I'm Kristi Mohn. I'm with the Lifetime and Dirty Kanza. What do you want to know about me? I'm from Emporia Kansas, home of Dirty Kanza. Craig : 00:30 And you've been working on Dirty Kanza since the beginning, right? Kristi: 00:33 Yeah, pretty much. I officially joined Jim and Joel at the time after the 2009 event. So Dirty Kanza started in 2006. Was the first race. Craig : 00:45 And was Emporia your hometown? Kristi: 00:46 Yeah, Emporia is my hometown. Craig : 00:48 Were you a cyclist? Kristi: 00:50 Yeah, I was a cyclist. I'd mostly been a runner, but had been graduating or transitioning to cycling more, so was a cyclist. Craig : 00:59 And when we were talking offline, you told me you saw it as just this big opportunity for a rural community, to have an event that everybody could get behind. Kristi: 01:09 Yeah, that it really that's kind of what it was. Is after the first year, I thought this event could be something really cool. You could take your kids to the checkpoints. We had two young kids at the time, twins that were, I think they were four or five when it started. And just really looking for a way to be a family and participate in an event like that. Because Tim would go to mountain bike races and it wasn't as conducive to having kids at mountain bike races. And the gravel scene really allowed that. Craig : 01:39 What kind of friction did you experience with the town? Did everybody say, "Oh, this sounds like a great idea"? Or they- Kristi: 01:44 Well, no, they thought it was crazy. You want to do what? And I'm like, "We're going to have this bike race downtown Emporia and have 200 people. Or people ride 200 miles on gravel in one day. And they're just like, "Nobody's going to come and do that." And it turned out not to be the case, luckily. Craig : 02:04 Did it take a while for people to start coming? Kristi: 02:06 To start coming to the event? Craig : 02:08 Yeah. Kristi: 02:08 I mean, we'd gotten to where it was at least regionally, it was fairly known. When we moved it downtown, we really wanted people to come and celebrate the cyclists finishing that distance. And so the finish line party and our finish line atmosphere, which our local Main Street helps us with that finish line party, you'll have 10 to 12,000 people down there to greet riders coming in, after riding 200 miles. And I think it really celebrates the average, everyday athlete. And I love that about it. And Emporians love watching these people cross the finish line. Craig : 02:43 Yeah. It's so amazing from a community perspective to just bring that kind of weekend traffic into a town. And have people recognize that, as someone who's not a cyclist, there's some hassles involved. But the benefit to the community is so huge. It sounds like everybody just runs with it at this point. Kristi: 03:02 Well, it's referred to as our Christmas, our downtown merchants called. It's their Christmas weekend is Dirty Kanza week, because people are there, and it's an exciting time. And people are spending money and making cash registers ring. It's an economic boom for Emporia, Kansas for sure. Craig : 03:21 Yeah, no doubt. Lelan, I want to invite you into the conversation. Can you talk about your role? Lelan: 03:25 Yeah. My name is Lelan Danes. I'm the race director for Dirty Kanza now. I'm a native Emporian as well, despite my repeated attempts to get away, I felt pulled back at various times. And for the last and what I think was final time, I think I'm stuck in Emporia for the better, for the remainder of my days. I came back about seven years ago, left Carmichael Training Systems to join Jim and Kristy and Tim on this Dirty Kanza venture. Lelan: 03:53 At that time DK was at a point where it was a jump on board or abandoned ship. Meaning that they had all been operating this in their spare time, in their free hours, on evenings and weekends. And it was at a stage where it needed full time help. And so Jim and I made that commitment. We left our careers, and came back to make that happen. Lelan: 04:16 And that was another one of those crucial turning points in DK. It had already moved downtown, the year or two prior. And it was gaining steam, and it needed full time attention. And so I was really fortunate to be able to come back home. It's kind of one of those coming of age deals where when you're 18 and graduating high school, you can think of nothing but getting out of there. And then as I matured a little bit, realized how wonderful Emporia was, and that there was an opportunity in my hometown to do what I love doing, which was bikes. It was just a no brainer. Craig : 04:49 So you came in and it sounds like around the time where it started to be, if you don't register for DK, the moment the registration goes up, you're not getting in. Kristi: 04:58 Yeah, I mean we were getting to our registration was filling very quickly. Yeah. Craig : 05:02 And opening up new course distances, I'm sure, made it even more popular to try to get in. Kristi: 05:08 Yeah, and we added the 25 mile mount distance fairly early on. And then added a 50. And then eventually, I think we added the 50 at the same time we moved. The 100 had been a relay at one point, so it was 200 miles but by two people. And then we eventually turned that into just its own 100 mile distance. Craig : 05:29 Can we talk a little bit about the course? Kristi: 05:31 The Dirty Kanza course? Craig : 05:32 Yeah. Lelan: 05:34 Yeah, of course. Well, for those that haven't been to DK, they've probably likely heard the stories of the flats. And the way I like to tell people is DK is not one knockout punch. It's death by a thousand cuts. And that comes from a variety of things. I'm not literally just talking about the Flint rock that will cut your tires. I'm talking about the literal thousand hills, the endless wind, the exposure to the sun. You just feel like nick after nick after nick, this thing's beating you up. And the gravel itself is amongst the roughest and toughest in the country. Lelan: 06:09 And that's one of those things that maybe we had an idea how special it was, but maybe didn't fully understand what we had in the Flint Hills. But it's just one of those rare landscapes that it has remained untouched because it's so rugged. There's one thing you can do on that land, and that's graze cattle. You can't farm it, you can't plow it. You can't do anything because it is rock. And it's sharp, sharp rock. So that's what that course is like, and it's pretty relentless. Craig : 06:37 I haven't been on it myself, so when you're riding it, is the type of rock that is shifting the wheel around underneath your body? Lelan: 06:45 Yeah, you're going to get a variety. And depending on the time and the situation, if the graders come through or not, you might have a stretch where there's some pretty clear double track, and you're humming along and it feels pretty smooth and fast. But those sections are far and few between. The vast majority of what you're going to get on, is what you'd described. It's not a solid rock base. It's not a solid surface. It's shifting rock, and its fist size. We're not talking crushed limestone gravel. We're certainly not talking pea gravel that you find on a bike path. We're talking fist size chunks of rock that they didn't bother to take the time to break down. They just dumped it on the road and said, here you go. Kristi: 07:23 And the rock was used to make arrowheads and... Lelan: 07:26 Axes. Kristi: 07:27 Axes, and so it serves that purpose on your tires. And [inaudible 00:07:31], sidewall protection are key. Craig : 07:35 Yeah, I can imagine some of the pack riding that happens. There's obviously the benefit of riding in the pack, but the detriment of not seeing your line. Lelan: 07:43 Well this is a conversation that with the World Tour pros that came, people asked me repeatedly, this was talked about publicly on forums and such. It was, what is this gravels just to become road racing? Well, that can't happen at Dirty Kanza. It physically can't because you can't actual on across the road in a crosswind. You can't follow a wheel sometimes. It's more like mountain biking in a sense that you have to ride your own line, you have to ride your own race. And you're not going to get a huge benefit from the draft, because you can't physically stay where you want to stay or choose where you want to be, based on where the wind's coming and so. Lelan: 08:20 And we saw that. What did we see at 2019 DK? Non world pro, World Tour pro Collins Strickland rode away at mile 100 basically, and solo the rest of the way, because no one behind him could organize, or had the strength to even bring him back in. Craig : 08:36 Yeah. Now I love that about the race because I'm definitely one that I think Jeremiah Bishop said it best to me. He said, let's keep gravel weird. And regardless of what the terrain looks like, I do want those parts of it to require a full bag of tricks. Kristi: 08:57 Well and that, your comment there is interesting to me because a lot of times we hear that, I think of gravel as being super inclusive. And I stand by that. And people say, "They're going to ruin gravel." I'm like, "They're not going to ruin gravel because we're not going to let them." Gravel is just that. And it's about what we want to make it. And I think the one thing that's special about Dirty Kanza in my mind is that we celebrate every person that comes across that finish line. We stay out there until 3:00 AM. And so yeah, it's exciting when a pro crushes it in under 10 hours. But we shake Collins Strickland's hand, and move him through the line, and are waiting there for the next person because it's just about celebrating those people, those journeyman athletes that are stepping up and trying something outside of their comfort zone. Craig : 09:47 Yeah. It gives me goosebumps to think about it. I love, it's arguably harder for someone to do it in 15 hours than it is- Kristi: 09:55 Yes, 100%. Craig : 09:56 And probably they're digging deeper, they're certainly doing it for longer. And it's a huge accomplishment for those athletes who just suck it up and get through that day. Kristi: 10:05 And we do not lose sight of that in our event. Any critic that wants to say that about us, they're just wrong. Craig : 10:15 Yeah. Kristi: 10:17 We're passionate about what we're doing for people and changing their lives, so. Craig : 10:21 Yeah, well I think the reports of the event always say that exact same thing. It's celebrating no matter where you're finishing, and finishing is the big deal. Kristi: 10:31 Yeah. Craig : 10:32 One last question on DK. How did the 200 miles come about originally? It's a heck of a distance. Lelan: 10:38 Well, Jim Cummins who isn't joining us here on this, he's one of the original two co-founders of the event. They got the idea by actually going to other gravel events, that were much longer. And Jim will tell you, as he's told us many times, that they settled on 200 because they didn't want to go any further than that. Lelan: 11:01 They thought that it was far enough. They knew 100 wasn't enough. They wanted a challenge, a very hard challenge. But one that most people could grasp is achievable. And 200 seem to be the right number. Craig : 11:12 Yeah. Yeah it's fascinating to me because I think on the West coast we don't see events of those distances. And I think it's probably because you end up with elevation gains that happen more quickly. So you're doing 1000 feet per 10 miles. So it's just not really feasible to have people out doing 200 mile events. So I sort of look in awe and reverence to the athletes that crossed the DK 200 finish lines. Kristi: 11:38 It's an incredible finish line to cross. Craig : 11:40 Yeah. So we're in Bentonville, Arkansas, and not in Emporia. Lelan: 11:45 We are not. Craig : 11:46 And you guys just announced something very special that I think my listeners are going to be keen to hear about. So you guys can Roshambo for who gets to talk about it first. Let's talk about why we're in Bentonville. Kristi: 11:59 Oh, you want to go? Lelan: 12:00 Yeah of course. Well it has been a long time conversation for Jim Christy and myself around the DK office. We knew that there was gravel beyond the Flint Hills. Even as gravel has gone into its probably adolescents, is that where we're at? Kristi: 12:17 Probably. Lelan: 12:18 Yeah, reaching maturity in adulthood yeah. But there's events popping up everywhere, and they're popping up in iconic locations. And there are events who have been going in decades strong. And have fantastic events. But we've still known all along that there are other locations that are ripe for a gravel event, and for a number of reasons. There's great people all across the United States. There's a great geography. And Bentonville is one of those places. Most people are probably recognizing it as a mountain bike Mecca, a cycling destination for single track trail. There's over a hundred miles of single track, all accessible from downtown Bentonville. There's great roads to ride. There'll be hosting the Cyclo-cross World Championships coming up in a few years. But no one was talking about gravel in the NWA, Northwest Arkansas. Lelan: 13:07 And Kristi and I had been in this area before. We have friends down here, not name you Ross. And just came up that gravel needs to happen here. And through our trips, we agreed. And as we scouted this stuff out and spent more time in this community, we were feeling at home. And so all the things were in place to say, let's go forward and let's create an event. And that's what we've got. Craig : 13:31 All right. So what is the event? And when is it? Kristi: 13:36 It's a new event called the Big Sugar. And we've got two distances. The Big Sugar, which is about 107 miles. And then we have the Little Sugar, which is about 50 miles. And there's some significant elevation and lots of hills and hollows, highs and hollows, right? That's what they call them. So we're really excited. It goes through some absolutely beautiful scenery, some amazing roads. We're really excited about the time of year, because the leaves will be in full color, change mode. And it's just a beautiful course. Kristi: 14:09 So, I think we've put together what I think is just a five-star course. So we're really excited about that. Craig : 14:17 Now coming from your wealth of experience in Emporia, what were you looking for as far as the terrain goes here in Bentonville? Kristi: 14:27 I think we wanted it to be challenging but achievable. We wanted some climbing. We wanted some rough roads. Dirty Kanza-ish, so to speak. But also really celebrating the personality of the community is also important when you're putting together a good course. And I think we've nailed it with this course. Craig : 14:48 So I touched on a few gravel roads today, and I'll do a bunch more tomorrow. In fact on the course. In your opinion, what are the roads like? I know what my sense was of the 20 odd miles I rode today. Lelan: 15:03 Well, listen, guys, gals at home listeners, if you have not been to Bentonville and rid some of these gravel roads, it is far more akin to mountain biking than it is even gravel riding in Kansas and around Emporia in the Flint Hills. These are proper climbs. This is not a death by a thousand cuts like DK is. A DK, a typical hill will be a quarter mile, short but punchy. And just one after another. Lelan: 15:31 But at Kanza you've got your periods of flat stretches where you can recover and lock it in a gear and go. You don't have that here. For one, the surface is just about as gnarly as at DK. Kristi and I were just talking, it's firmly category three gravel. If you're familiar with Neil Shirley's scale, which means it's pretty rough. It's big rock. It's gravel, it's proper gravel. And the climbs are big. They are anywhere from one to two and a half miles in length, and that means you get a corresponding descent to follow. Lelan: 16:01 And I think this course, of any of the gravel events I've been on, this could be an equalizer for the more mountain bike crowd that does the gravel. And we were talking about that inclusivity. It's one of the amazing things about gravel is you've got roadies, you've got mountain bikers, you've got triathletes. You've got people who have only gotten into the sport of cycling through gravel, and they're only gravel riders. And they're all coming together out there. And there's different courses all across the United States that have their different flavors. Some are a little bit hard pack and faster. This Bentonville course is definitely a little bit chunkier up and down and gnarly. Craig : 16:39 Yeah, I was surprised, even the 20 miles I rode today. It really was a lot chunkier than I thought it was. My listeners know, I'm typically riding 650 B's, 47, 50 millimeter tires, but I specifically grabbed a 700 C wheel set thinking, I'm coming to a more mellow place, where we were just going to be rolling on dirt roads. And that was not the case whatsoever. Lelan: 17:04 No. Craig : 17:04 So how much climbing does it add up to in the 170 miles? Lelan: 17:07 Well that's always debatable, isn't it? Depending on what program you use and what device you're using. But I think firmly... Well, I don't think we've mentioned the distance. It's right about 108 miles in length for the Big Sugar distance. Right around 50 for our Little Sugar, half distance. And in that Big Sugar distance, it just over 100 miles, you're going to approach 10,000 feet elevation, anywhere from nine to 10,000 feet, depending on the device a person is using. Craig : 17:32 You're going to feel it. Lelan: 17:33 You're going to feel that. That's a lot for a hondo. You're going to be hard pressed to find that elevation, especially throughout the South or Midwest in 100 miles. Craig : 17:42 Do you have a sense of what a pro would ride that distance in, and the range that you might be expecting for athletes? Lelan: 17:50 Well, we had some folks riding this past weekend, and Ted King, Paisan, McElveen, Ali Tetrick were out here. Uri Haswall of course. And I know Payson and Ted were jabbing each other, making claims of six and a half. But it's going to be tough, and it's going to be interesting to see in an actual race setting how fast the front of the pack goes. And what those back in the packers are going to complete it in. Craig : 18:20 Yeah, I think it's going to be, tire choice and wheel choice is going to be important. Kristi: 18:26 Oh yeah. Craig : 18:26 And how hard you're going to be willing to take those descents, given what's going to be in front of you. Lelan: 18:30 Well, and I'll tell everyone this. This will not be the easiest hondo that you do. It's simply won't. This'll be one of the more challenging 100 mile distance on gravel. Kristi: 18:37 Well we even talked about that with the 50. We like to have those tier steps to get into the event, but at the same time, this 50 is going to be a tougher 50. It's not going to be a cake walk. Craig : 18:51 Yeah, it doesn't seem like anything around here would be a cake walk. So that's exciting. So the date was October when? Kristi: 19:00 October 24th, 2020. Craig : 19:02 Okay. And registration? Kristi: 19:04 Yeah. Registration, November 15. Craig : 19:05 Okay. November 15th everyone. This is opening up. And is there a hard cap on the number of riders that course can allow at the time? Lelan: 19:13 Yep. We're aiming for 750 to start. Craig : 19:16 Okay. Lelan: 19:17 For the first year. Looking forward to welcoming that many people to town. Kristi: 19:22 What's our website? Big sugar yeah. Craig : 19:24 Okay. Kristi: 19:25 Yeah. Craig : 19:26 And DK allows how many athletes at this point? Lelan: 19:29 Well in 2020, we're looking to register 3,000 riders, across six different distances. And of course that ranges from the 350 mile XL, down to 200, 100, 50, 25, and then our high school distance. And the DK has just grown and grown. And so when we talk about it, most people recognize the 200, which is the feature distance. But we have all those different places for people to have their journey and their adventure. And Big Sugar will be the same. This is called Big Sugar, but you'll have the Little Sugar that you can participate in. And then there'll also be a 20 mile introductory level, more of a familial ride, a beginner ride type of opportunity. So you'll still be able to get out of town on gravel. That's another great thing about Bentonville, is a mile and a half to two miles, and you're out on gravel. Bentonville is not this big metropolis. It's still has a small town vibe, a small town feel. And it's very easy to get around. Craig : 20:25 Yeah. I think that's going to be the fun thing for families and kids to come in and support the athletes. Husbands supporting wives who are out there riding and vice versa. And you've got this beautiful community that I'm seeing for the first time this weekend. And it's a great little town. Kristi: 20:40 It's great, isn't it? It's a cool little town. Craig : 20:41 Yeah. And I've been hearing about the mountain biking progressively over the last few years, but it's no surprise looking at a topographic map that there'll be a gravel ride- Kristi: 20:50 That's why we picked the weekend we picked. It's out-a-bike weekend. Craig : 20:54 Oh it is? Okay. Kristi: 20:54 In Bentonville. And we're synergizing with them a bit. So you can come down for a weekend and buy a demo pass for the out-a-bike, and test out their awesome trails that are here. And then hop on your bike and do a gravel race, and then come back and check out some more trails on Sunday. So it's a full weekend of cycling. And then to top that off, the activities that are here for families in Bentonville alone are great. So it really lends itself to it being a family affair weekend. Craig : 21:28 Yeah. I mean that must be comforting to you guys to know that there's a town infrastructure to accommodate all these people coming in. Kristi: 21:35 Yeah, it's great. Craig : 21:36 Yeah. And do they have similarly sized events that go on in the community already? Kristi: 21:43 To this event? Craig : 21:43 In Bentonville? Yeah. Lelan: 21:44 Yeah. Oz Epic just took place a couple of weeks ago. And that was in its third or fourth running here in Bentonville. They've been out a few years. And I want to say that's around 750 mountain bikers on single track. And so we're starting out at 750, but gravel has the ability to grow a little bit larger in numbers just because of the road is wider. You can get more people out there. Single strap is a little tougher in that respect. Lelan: 22:07 But Bentonville is no stranger to events. And I mentioned at the top of the podcast, they'll be hosting those Cyclo-cross World Championships in a few years. There's an event related to cycling probably every other weekend in this community? Yeah, whether it be just a group ride or an organization pulling people together. People for Bikes just had a big summit down here about a month ago or so. So there was always some type of activity related to cycling. And I think you're really going to see that increase. Craig : 22:39 How were you thinking about the event differently? So Bentonville, different town, different terrain. Are you trying to create something that obviously has the same kernels as DK, but its own unique channel? Kristi: 22:53 Well, I think that's part of the reason why we A, chose Bentonville, and B, are partnering or teaming up a little bit out-a-bike on that, from that perspective. Is that we think it's going to lend really to the flavor of the community. We're also really, I'm really excited about our race directors that we've got coming onboard. We've got Ned Ross who's a hall of fame mountain biker. And really stoked that he's joining us. And then we have Gaby Adams, which formerly Gabby Shelton, is a DK 200 single-speed champion. She's just a badass on the bike, and it's so fun to have a female, another female joining as a race director. Kristi: 23:34 And she's really worked the course hard. Lelan and I- Lelan: 23:38 This is her course. Kristi: 23:39 Yeah, it's her course. Like Lelan and I came down and had given her some tips and some ideas of what we were looking for, and had scouted some roads and taken her with us. And then she put together the route. And it's awesome. To me, being an advocate for women in cycling, I'm really proud that we've got Gaby on our team. Craig : 24:01 Yeah. And is it typically on county dirt and gravel roads? Or are we going into back country trails at all with the event? Lelan: 24:11 No, they're all public access county roads. Although you might be questioning that at times based on the low maintenance [crosstalk 00:24:19] some of them. But so similar to DK in that sense, it's all public roads. There'll be slightly more pavement here, only out of necessity, than what you'd probably find in DK. But to be honest, I think you'll be relieved to have a mile of recovery every now and again. And again, it's 80, it's probably 90% gravel. Kristi: 24:42 Oh yeah. Lelan: 24:43 It's only a handful of miles that you'll be on pavement. And that's only to connect you to the next sweet ribbon of gravel. Craig : 24:49 Yeah. And like you said, I do think it will be this welcome reprieve for people's bodies, to just soft pedal on some pavement for a few minutes. Kristi: 24:56 Yep, 100%. Craig : 24:58 Amazing. Well it's super exciting. It must be thrilling for you both to finally realize this part of the vision that you had at DK, to explore a new community and start something again. And I'm really excited for you guys to take that journey from inception to creating yet another great event on the calendar. Kristi: 25:17 Well and I think that definitely has, like Lelan said, that's been a goal of ours. And then the acquisition of Lifetime, or Dirty Kanza being acquired by Lifetime, was really, that's been what's given us the ability to do this. And that to me is one of the things that's the most exciting about this, is that they're trusting what Dirty Kanza has done, and letting us lead this charge into some additional events. Craig : 25:47 Yeah. Do you imagine that each event will stay in its own lane? Or is there a possibility that they might be linked together in some type of series in the future? Lelan: 25:57 That's a great question. I'm glad you asked, because we haven't really touched on this. Our big picture vision is, as I talked about earlier, there's a lot of great places for gravels still in the US. And we certainly want to create a little family of events. And we are staying completely away from words like series and qualifiers, because that's not what this is. That's not what these events are. So they are a grouping, a family of like-minded events. It's still the DK team leading this and directing it. Working with amazing people who share our vision, and passion for celebrating all these individual achievements. Lelan: 26:36 But there will be a connection, and there will be opportunities at these events. So at Big Sugar for example, any finisher who completes the course within the time cutoff, their allotment of time, if they so desire, they can drop a ticket into a bucket, and we will have some DK entry opportunities. But it is not a, how fast can you go and get on a podium and get an entry, not to receive that golden ticket. It is every finisher is qualified, and has an opportunity. If DK has something they want to try and want an extra helping hand beyond the lottery, because the demand is so high there, there will be opportunities like that. Craig: 27:12 Yeah. Amazing. Kristi: 27:14 Yeah, I think it'll be really cool. Craig: 27:15 Anything else you guys would like to add about the event or the community? Kristi: 27:18 Just make sure you go to Big Sugar, and get signed up, so that you are in the know for when we dropped... When the registration opens. Craig: 27:27 Okay. Lelan: 27:27 This is an open registration, which is how DK used to be. Of course, DK is now a lottery. And I just want to reiterate what Kristi just said is, 750 maybe it sounds like a lot of people, but that's going to go fast. And we want you here. We want you to be on it, and be a part of it. So if this sounds like something that gets your goat, then get signed up and come join us. Craig : 27:49 Yeah, I think, everybody put it on your calendar. So I'll put it in the show notes, so everybody has the link. Kristi: 27:54 Awesome. Craig : 27:54 Getting prepared. We'll get this out quickly. I want to share the news to everybody. And I'll give my feelings on social media about Bentonville, which has been great so far. So you guys, it's really been a pleasure talking to you guys. I've wanted to talk to the DK team for a long time, ever since I started this thing 18 months ago. So yeah, thank you. And thanks for everything you're doing for the sport. Kristi: 28:16 Yeah, thanks for coming. Lelan: 28:18 [crosstalk 00:28:18] take you to Bentonville to catch us. Craig : 28:21 Right on. Thanks guys. Kristi: 28:22 Thank you.
October 22, 2019
A conversation with bike industry veteran Rick Sutton and former Olympian Colby Pearce about fit for gravel cyclists and The Wave Handlebar. The Wave Website  The Wave Instagram  Colby Pearce Website  Colby Pearce Instagram Automated Transcription (please excuse the typos). Rick, Colby, welcome to the show. Thanks for having us. Yeah, thank you, Rick. I always like to start off guys by learning a little bit more about your background as a cyclist. Just contextualizing how you came to riding on gravel. And then I'm super excited to get into the wave handlebar and discussing sort of the innovation you're bringing to a part of the market that doesn't really see a lot of innovation. Okay. This is Rick. Craig and I go back, Oh gosh, quite a few years, maybe double digits. We bumped into each other riding in the San Francisco peninsula. How did I get into gravel writing? What's my background? Well it, it, it hearkens way back to the fact that I advanced to become a professional motocross, sir. And as I got slower at that, I determined that I better become more physically fit. As I was aging. Somebody suggested I buy a bicycle and before you knew it, I was riding and racing mountain bikes as well as motocross bikes in the, in the mid to late eighties. That transition into my career transition from a marketing background into an event promoter, I cofounded the sea Otter classic. Brianne, the Northern national series may have run the very first mountain bike and Duro called Rocktober Fest in 1997 and served on the UCI mountain bike commission and assorted other things over the years. And always rode my road bike with 20 threes on it up in Skeggs point and charisma Canyon and Alpine road and whatnot, and destroyed a few road bikes riding off road. And when gravel bikes came along, while, ah, I was, I was happy as one could imagine to have more tire volume and relaxed geometry. Okay. You were a rider waiting for a product. Yeah, I certainly was. So then, you know, how did the, the wave handlebar come about and take a step back for the listener who may not have even heard of the wave yet. Talk about what were the sort of pressures that the company was feeling that they thought there was an opportunity to innovate in the handlebar space? Well, all credit goes to Don chef, the inventor. You know, I was brought on in the last three years to refine the product and, and created a business around the product. But let's, let's take a moment to cheer Don chef. And he was an elite runner and he is also in the medical industry and he started riding bikes as most elite runners do due to injury. And he just felt that a flat top bar was and uncomfortable especially in climbing situations. And you know, it sounds too simple or too good to be true, but he just began to ride uphill primarily with his wrists and hands at the angles that you now see with our production wave for in essence, resting lightly on the top of a flat bar for floating in air. And he says, wow, this is a more comfortable place to be. This goes back about 10 years. And the first iterations were very heavy aluminum that were fabricated and an automotive machine shop. And that there's been lots of, that's happened over the years. I got involved in 2016 and we launched with a very, very well thought out carbon handlebar in April of this year. Can you help us visualize a little bit about how it sweeps and battens and some of the other features that I read about? I, I certainly can. And I think when, when Colby brings some comments and he'll, he'll talk about the science behind it. I'll just talk about what it looks like. So think about how drop bars have traditionally been designed. And a lot of this is due to the fact that there was an, until recently, recently being the a hundred or more year history of cycling until recently we had a Quill STEM that did not have a detachable base plate. So everything was a common diameter and it was a very simplistic drop bar design because it had to be able to worm its way through a coil stand that did not have a faceplate on it. What we've done with the advent of a faceplate is some other manufacturers have done with aerodynamic shapes. We as, as you visualize a handlebar and you start in the center of the handlebar at the STEM Mount and then you go ahead and fix in space the handle bar drop all of the dimensions where it floats in space on a traditional top bar. We keep that more or less in the same place as well because people like Colby and other fitters have put the writer in a position that optimizes the location of the drops in the location of the great codes and brake levers relative to the center point of the STEM. Now, well between the drops in the STEM, we actually rise slightly up and forward for the first 10% of that distance. And the reason we go forward is because then it takes a gentle bend downward and rearward towards to the drops and to meet with a very nice transitional curve into the drops. And again, Colby, you'll talk about the science of why, but what this does, and for your listeners, if they just told their hands out in front of them as if they're holding onto a the top of a, of a flat top bar and then just rotate your thumbs up slightly at about 15 to 20 degrees, you'll naturally feel your elbows falling against your side, the stress, the tension you feel in your shoulders, your hands subsides immediately. So in essence, all we've done is take what was a stick that got you to your drops and actually taking for the first time. We're the only company that's taken full advantage of the available space between the STEM and the drops to optimize ergonomics. That's a really great description, Rick and I, as you were doing that, I was positioning my hand and my thumb and the way you described and it's really noticeable how the elbow drops and how it feels slightly more comfortable probably in a way as cyclists, given the bars that we've been on historically we never even thought was possible, which is fascinating. So Colby, I definitely want to get you into the conversation. And your background as a cyclist is very rich and your accolades are long. So I appreciate your perspective on this. You spent your career racing on the track and the road. I'm curious for our listeners, how did you define, how did you discover gravel and when did it start to become part of your repertoire? Well I had my, my greatest successes were on the track really. But I've been racing mountain bikes and, and cross since the beginning. I'm, I'm pretty much just signed up as a full bike dorks since the age of 15. Started mowing lawns to buy bikes and went to my first cross race, I don't know, maybe a year later. And did my first mountain bike race on a bike with really narrow bars and no fork. Cause I thought I was gonna crush everybody on the climbs. And, and then of course I fell off on every descent. So that was a good learning curve. But you know, gravel just like I live in Boulder, Colorado, so on the front range here, just like in most places in the U S and in the world, the roads have gotten more crowded so people started sort of migrating to more off road riding and we're blessed with a really good network of gravel roads here. So over the last, I would say probably 20 years, I started riding progressively and more dirt on my road bike and then you know, in and out of racing cyclocross over those years riding my cross bike in the winter cause it's just such a good winter tool here because you can ride, you know, the position's a little more conservative relative to my road bike position. And of course your, your speed is lower. So on days where it's borderline rideable in terms of temperature, when you've got less air speed then you can stay warmer for a little longer. So it offers those advantages. And then also riding around on roads. Sometimes we have icy roads here in the front range and many times the sun will come out and blast the, the asphalt and things melt pretty quickly. But we'll have a week or two here and there where it's, it's pretty icy. And then when you've, when you've got 33 or 35 millimeter wide tires, you've got a safety margin. So it's a good shoulder season or in between your bike to ride. So gravel, you know, in the winter and in the spring has been very useful for us. It's gotta let a utility here, but then in the summer it affords the chance to climb. And you know, for those of you who've never been to the front range, like literally we, we look East and we've got, you can see to Kansas as pancake flat, you turn around and you're at the foot of the Rockies. So I can climb 3000 feet right out of my back door. So we go, I just go get lost in the Rockies and I end up on Jeep roads and dirt roads and lights, single track or sometimes not so light single track. And all those adventures are just perfect for a gravel bike because then I, you know, if I have to ride a Canyon for 20 miles on the payment, it's not, I'm not lugging around a full suspension, cross country bike. And then it just makes the technical aspects of the Explorer scout mode a lot more challenging and fun. So that's kinda my, my playground. Yeah, that makes sense. From my time in Boulder, I could see how a gravel bike would be perfect for there. I always remember appreciating the flat, the fact that you could go East and it could be flat on those days when, you know you didn't have the legs to climb. And then obviously if you head up into the mountains and the canyons, you've got climbing for days. Yup. That's, that's it. So after you hung up your, your professional racing hat, you transitioned still in the sport to be coming a coach and a fitter, which I think is really relevant to this conversation. Can you talk about your work these days? Yeah. So I'm a I'm a category one USCC coach which they're, it's parallel to their racing systems. So that's the highest level you can have. And I've been coaching since about 2005 formally. And then I trained with Steve hog in Sydney, Australia as a bike fitter. I was down there for almost a month. I just lived in Sydney and trained with him and that was a really eye opening and educational experience. Steve's a brilliant out of the box thinker. He, he used constantly looking for new ways to solve problems in new ways to think about things. So he's, he's very unconventional by a lot of fitter standards and I think that's what makes him brilliant and, and a, a really amazing problem solver. And his program was, was pass, fail, like there are fitters who have gone to train with him. And after a week or so, Steve said, look, I don't think this is working out. So I was, you know, honored and also humbled to train with him and make it through his program. And that's been great. So now I, I work as a full time coach and a full time fitter. And I've also got a side project where I'm making track frames that's called 50.1 racing. And between all that and my studies with Paul Chek, I'm also on the Czech Academy currently, which is two more years of basically school to learn about Paul check's methods. He's a strength and conditioning and holistic lifestyle coach for those people who aren't familiar with him. I've got a pretty full plate. But I, I just always want to keep learning and growing my own envelope of knowledge or my own level of understanding so that I can pass that onto my clients in different forums. So. Awesome. Awesome. When it, when it comes to sort of the emergence of gravel over the last, say five years, where the industry has really caught up with what a lot of writers have been doing are ready, have you seen approaching Ryder fit differently than you did prior to this sort of new wave of equipment and new style of riding emerging? I wouldn't say that the base philosophy has changed, which is always simply that from my perspective, at any rate, which this is not how all fitters approach things, but my, my sort of baseline philosophy is that you have to match. On the one hand you have the physiology of the rider. And on the other hand you have the demands of the event the rider is training for or conditioning for and gravel and cyclocross. There's obviously a lot of overlap, not 100% but crosses the sport that I've race myself and fit riders in for a number of years now. And, and so we, I've got the, that baseline understanding of how to fit a brighter for a sec cross event, of course, gravel now, especially with the expansion of much longer gravel duration, gravel races, you know, stuff like well you've got tweener events kind of like Belgium waffle ride, and then you've of course, you've got Kansas, kind of the, the big go to event. In terms of the, the endurance gravel scene or ultra gravel scene, you can even call it almost that changes things slightly. But really the demands of those events are very similar. So not, not in terms of the date philosophy. In terms of some smaller innovations. We've had things obviously like the wave bar and we've had some made some smaller progress. Like for example, the new Shimano GRX Grupo came out and there have been small but noticeable improvements in their ergonomics of their levers in their lever positioning that have been advantageous. But yeah, not dramatically Putting riders in a, if someone comes to you and said, Kansas, my jam, I'm looking for a 200 mile race. Are you putting riders, tell me about the sort of how you might adjust the position versus someone who's racing on the road. Shorter events. Yeah, so, well, I mean, as a general statement across position's going to be slightly less aggressive. So that means a little bit less bar drop, potentially a little bit less cockpit reach close to the same saddle offset from the bottom bracket would be my take on it. And there are a bunch of reasons behind that that I'm happy to get into if you want, but it gets a bit technical. But that depends a little bit on how aggressive the writer's road position is because again, we're always balancing the physiology of the writer or the capabilities of the writer versus the demands of their events. So someone who's got good or excellent flexibility, someone who hinges well at the hip and can ride with an extended spine has good breathing mechanics, good core stability, you can put them in an aggressive road position most of the time. Again, it depends a little bit on their physiology. That's not always the case because sometimes you have a writer who, for example, is very short and stocky not necessarily overweight, but just a stocky build with a barrel chest and that type of rider, you won't be able to get them as aggressive in their road position because when simply put, when you hinge them at the hip, they're gonna start hitting themselves in the chest with their own knees, especially if they've got big bulky thighs or muscly size. You can offset that by shorter crinkle length. But point being is that someone who has a very aggressive road position when we put them on a cross bike, we would, we would reduce their cockpit length normally and we would probably reduce their bars, sell the bar drop just a bit. That'd be a typical starting point. We would also normally, I would typically recommend that people consider sizing up one width in handlebar size. And there are several reasons for that that I'm happy to get into too. Which pertains specifically to the differences between handling on road and gravel. Is that something you would like to hear about? Definitely liked to hear about that because that was my sort of gut reaction when I moved onto gravel was actually bumping out the, the width of the bar. And I think that came from my experience on the mountain bike where we just went wider and wider and it seemed to get better and better. I'm also, I'm in Marine County right now and our gravel scene here are not the sort of long flowy gravel roads. It's, it's you know, double track. It's up and down. There's a lot of fast descending off road, which definitely has created my bike in a way that would be way different than I would have if I was in Kansas for example. Right, right. So thinking about the difference between road and mountain handling or or we'll say road and off-road, it's kinda the difference between MotoGP and motorcross. Right. And Rick can comment had been on this too, but the basics are that in motocross or in cyclocross or mountain biking, we all set up bikes handling wise for a front wheel bias, meaning we have far more weight on the front wheel. And the reason for that is pretty simple. If you're riding, let's say you're riding your cross or or hardtail 29 or down a Jeep road, that's pretty fast, so we're going 25 miles an hour. So if you lose your rear wheel, meaning the rear wheel traction breaks loose. If you're a good handler, most of the time that's not a problem. But if your front wheel breaks loose, there's a higher probability that you're going to have problems staying upright. Now a really good handler can handle the both, but for the bell curve, the rear wheel breaking freeze, okay, the front wheel breaking free, not so happy. Now compare that to a road dissent where you're going 45 miles an hour Gianna's sweeping turn. If you're on your road bike at that speed, it doesn't matter if your rear wheel breaks fee or your front wheel breaks free. Either way, you're pretty much screwed. So there's a big difference in how we handle those bikes off road versus road, and some of that has to do with suspension forks, but not always in a cross bike or gravel situation. It's those rules still pretty much remain the same. The other big difference between road and off road handling is a very high percentage of your road cornering is done by leaning the bike. So very little turning of the bars. Really you're initiating a corner, a corner by leaning and that's because most roads cornering is happening at a higher speed and medium or high speed. Even during a a downhill switch back, you're still carrying speed of 12 1418 miles an hour. So whereas on a mountain bike you have much lower speed corners. In a cyclocross race, you've got corners where you're perhaps doing, sorry, I'll switch our relevant units six kilometers an hour, eight kilometers an hour, so that means you're going to be doing more turning and a combination of turning and leaning and so whenever you want more turning ability, that wider bar gives you simply put a wider lever arm to Le to put more leverage over the front wheel and lean and turn the wheel with less effort. The other part about mountain bike handling in particular is most crashes are at least start or happen because the wheel pretty much flicks out of control from the rider's hands. That can be over a rock art and it can be over a big drop. It could be over a muddy stretch or maybe a wet root. And when the wheel turns too abruptly, too Fastly relative to your own inertia, that's when you to be blunt, go ass over tea kettle, right? So a simple way to offset that is to make change the length of two lever arms. One you make the STEM length shorter and to you make the bar with wider. And there is a relationship between those. So what I'm saying is if you make the bar with wider given to a relative to a baseline, frequently you want to make the STEM link shorter at the same time, some of that can be offset. Why is that? That's when we think about a traditional bar. Think about a traditional mountain bike bar being a T-shaped, meaning a zero zero degree sweep coming back, right? Which there are bars that exist like that. But almost no one uses them. So as you take your hand, if you were to put your hands next to this STEM on the center of that bar and give, and then that gives you a a given reach from the saddle. Now if you move your hands all the way to the outside of that bar, pretend it's really wide, say 800 millimeters wide or 80 centimeters. If that bar is straight with zero sweep, you've increased your reach, not only because you've made your hands wider, but because the bar is getting farther away from you, I. E. it's not on the circumference of a circle. And the center of the circle would be the center point of the circle would be in the middle of your shoulder. So your diameter or your radius really is getting longer. So we offset that, that increase in reach by making a bar with sweep. And really what we've discovered is on road bikes, road, traditional road bars have zero sweep. So even though you're not that far from this STEM, as your hands get further up from this STEM, there's no sweep there. And that's one of the problems with it. And that's why mountain bike bars have developed some sweep. Although I would argue even the trip, typical cross country bar that has eight or nine degrees of sweep is not enough. And to get to the point of the design of the wave bar and why bars should have some sweep as Rick was describing if you stand up and simply put your hands at your sides with we'll say neutral posture, right? So neutral posture would mean the shoulders are slightly externally rotated in the sockets, which means simply put, your shoulders are down and back now and your hands at your size right by your hip. If you take your hand and put it out in front of you, raising the shoulder and the elbow, and now look at the position of your hand without changing anything. And you'll notice that the first knuckle or the pointer finger knuckle is higher in space than the fourth knuckle and that, and you'll also notice that the fifth knuckle is further away from your body. Then the fourth knuckle is both of those factors are what make a traditional bar that comes straight out from the STEM, kind of not ergonomic and we want the shoulders in there most powerful and stable position. We want a slight external rotation to the shoulders. That's what gives us a good ergonomic position, allows us to pull on the bars gently with the lats and also gives us the best chance for shoulder stability and the best breathing mechanics. Interesting. And that was a really great overview and I think a lot of my listeners are gonna appreciate that coming from the road and just sort of understanding how these subtle changes make a big difference when you get into the technical stuff that we get into on our gravel bikes. So yeah, talking further about the handlebar, and I know it's a product that you've spent a lot of time on, sort of how does that translate all these things? Is it just addressing all those minor issues where you can derive benefit from this, a better breathing position and more optimal kind of position to handle unexpected jolts to your front end? Yeah. It's also about even on a more basic level than that, it's about relaxation of the central nervous system. I mean, think about cycling as what is cycling, especially bike racing. Something like Kansas, Kansas, it's a massive load to the nervous system system in a sympathetic state, right? It's a giant sympathetic stressor. It's just, it's a bike race. It's really long and it's really hard. So there's a lot of, a lot of people have looked at the science behind how that impacts the body and all the different levels. And fundamentally that's a giant load on the nervous system. So we want to, we want to set up the bike in a way that's gonna minimize the unnecessary load on the nervous system. And this is something Paul Chek talks about extensively in his strength and conditioning classes. And specifically when you're doing strength training in the gym, think about an a pull down or a pull up, either one. And you can have three types of grip, three orientations of grip in these types of exercises you want. You can have a prone grip. This is the same grip, we would use more grabbing the tops on a bike. A prone grip means that when you go to the pull up bar, your Palm is facing away from the body, right? A reverse grip would be you flip your hands around one 80 so that your palms are facing towards the body, right? And your pinkies are facing towards the midline. Your Psalms are out and a neutral grip. The third option would be as though you are grabbing the bike with Barrons, so the thumb is facing away from the body and the and the pinkies oriented towards your elbow. That makes sense. So 90 degrees to the first two, and there aren't many gyms that have a pull up bar system like that, but you can find them. And Paul's teachings are that the most challenging grip neurologically is the prone grip. That's the one that challenges the nervous system the most. The second most challenging is the reverse grip and the third is the neutral grip. So what are we doing when we ride a bike all the time with a prone grip, especially when we have no sweep or slope to the grip and it's a straight bar situation. We're channel, we're giving this the nurse system a minor challenge all day. Now it's not that you can't ride your bike like that. You can, but clearly someone who signs up for Canada and pays, I don't know, however much it is, $300 for the entry and drives to Kansas and transport or it all year. You're there to race your bike. You want to do as well as you can. You don't want to just ride your bike, you want to optimize things. So this is where this plays in, you know, 180 miles into the ride. You go down a little gully, things get a rowdy you almost fly your hands almost fly off the hoods, then you've got it yet another climb. You know, the, I've never done Kanza, but up here there's just endless rollers basically. So you're on your 99th roller of the day. That's going to be 45 seconds long. And you go to the tops and things get rowdy and your hands don't fly off the bar or you're able to just put a little more effort into the pedals or breathing instead of stacking up the demands throughout the system because the nervous system is very fundamental. When the body has high chance in the nervous system, it's going to cascade up the up the priority on until things get sideways. Yeah. I think that you see a lot of companies starting to address that notion that combating fatigue in any way possible for these log long events is an important component to success. Mm. Well you know, Rick and I were talking about this yesterday. This is a really interesting thing about cycling. I mean cycling is such a beautiful sport and it's got such a long sort of dogmatic and iconic history in so many ways and there's so many things about bikes that have just been done a certain way forever. I mean look how long it took us to get over or actual standards, you know, and, and you know, not to go down the rabbit hole of how the bike industry can agree on anything. But I think we can agree through axles are an improvement over quick releases in many ways. Right. And disc brakes are clearly an improvement over rim brakes. I mean the technology is inarguably superior. Yeah, there are pros and cons to both, but come on. So one of those, this is, this is something Rick and I were talking about yesterday is that an interesting kind of carry over from a lot of cycling is this sort of very old school Sean Kelly perspective on things, which is, you know, starting December 1st or January 1st depending on what climate we were in. And when you're racing season began, you got back on the bike after your break and you just started to endure and what you endured was all kinds of pain and discomfort and this pain and discomfort was to an end, which was to make you tough. Now, the old school model didn't separate certain types of pain and discomfort, meaning at the end of a hundred mile ride or your first hundred mile ride of the season, which was maybe, you know, whatever, January 1st first or something, your legs hurt because you pedaled on her miles and your lungs hurt because you were on the bike all day, but also your neck hurt and your balls were numb, or your lady parts and your hands and shoulders were numb and your feet hurt and your knees hurt a little bit. Right? And this is because there were no foot beds. Shoes were leather, and you got a new pair at the begin of the year and you broke them in over several thousand kilometers. Were you breaking in the shoe or your foot? Well, nobody really knew the difference. You just did it. And you know, if you sit on a fence post or a screwdriver long enough, essentially it won't feel that bad, right? But does that, does that mean we should be sitting on a screwdriver wall? Of course not. Like so now we've learned, right? We figured out, we've made the huge advances in bite fitting and we've got saddles with channels and cutouts in the proper curve that actually match the shape of the bony issue. I'm not go against it and don't support all your torso weight on your soft tissue, your parent, IAM doesn't matter if you're a guy or a gal. We should not be carrying the weight of our torso on our soft tissue. Right? And we're starting to figure out making little changes and things like the ergonomics of birth, big levers, and making big changes in things like the shapes of the bars we're using so that we actually match the ergonomic demands of the human body instead of simply having a carry over. Like Rick said, you know, handlebars, the function of handlebar shape was basically like, well, let's make something someone can grab onto and not fall off of, but also let's do it within the parameters of a to bender. And that can get through a Quill STEM and bars have largely remained unchanged from that basic formula for decades and decades and decades. And we finally looked at it and gone, you know, this doesn't really make that much sense. We can do a lot better than this. What, what, how would we design apart today? Now knowing what we know about the human body. And one more point, sorry if I'm rambling here, but there are a lot of carryovers from really old school bike fitting that are just absolute mechanical and anatomical disasters. And now fitters are starting to figure that out because everything's becoming sort of a a Kobe beef sushi roll, so to speak. We're getting, and we're taking bits and pieces from different industries and starting to integrate them. I mean I've actually heard bike fitters coach, we want your knees to be as close to the top to you as possible. And if you squat in a gym like that, any trainer who knows what they're doing, even remotely will immediately run up to you and say, do you want to have knee surgeries? Stop school fighting like that. So there are a lot of, there are a lot of ancillary benefits. We're beginning to integrate from other modalities of exercise strength and conditioning that we're taking into the world of cycling and are paying off in terms of superior anatomical positioning. Yeah, yeah. Now I think it's interesting and I'd gone back to your point about sort of the, the Sean Kelly approach to cycling and cycle training. I think gravel has, has just begun over the last maybe 18 months to kind of break free a little bit of, it's sort of road history and it's really exciting and creating these opportunities for new products like the wave. Rick, maybe you can talk to some of the sort of the market friction that you see from a sales perspective and just getting people to try something new. And what are some of the approaches you're taking to kind of free people's minds to think about their, their, their components differently? Well, it's, it certainly is a challenge, but I would say that you know, the, the advantages to the gravel rider using the wave are no different than the advantages to the road rider. But when you, when you, the reason I think we were finding earlier adoption and adoption, it's not easy. We're still crossing the chasm of acceptability. But gravel writers are less fashion conscious and there's, there's this desire and the road community, the look, the asked at the coffee shop and, and our bar doesn't look fast, were in fact it is much faster than a flat top, you know, wing shaped bar. Why? Because it the shape of the top actually reduces the rider's frontal mass versus what a flat top are. So although handlebar to handlebar and a glass showcase, our bar doesn't look as aerodynamic, it puts the body in a more aerodynamic position now that when you go to the gravel guys and gals, they just want to get through the day, have a good time, and not have a sore elbow or hand so they can hoist a beer at the end of the ride. So if the, if I, if I talk to a gravel rider that I know, I simply say, you ride this far, you're happier, you're more comfortable and it's easier to drink a beer after the ride. And that seems to be the sales technique that works best in gravel. I also talk about the thumb notch on the drops and how that provides an added level of security because you can just lock into the bar and a very familiar place as you move around on the bike and prepare for technical descents washboards things of that nature. We also, because everybody's to a certain degree of weight weaning, we talk about the exceedingly lightweight of our handlebar of 42 is under 200 grams. And we also talk about the rigorous of testing we've put the bar through to make sure that the writer understands that [inaudible] our mechanical engineers, our testing protocols, our manufacturing protocols are equal to the best bars in the market. You know, that we're not just coming at this as a shade tree mechanics, you know, build in bars in our basement. Those are all things that help bring the rider to a point where they're comfortable trying the bar. And I think mostly you know, whether it's to a bike shop and we do protect manufacturing suggested retail prices or to our website to buy direct we offer free shipping and a 100% money back guarantee within 45 days of purchase. If you just don't like the bar, of course there's a longterm gigger guarantee. If you have any other structural issues with the bar, but try it doesn't cost you any shipping to get it, put it on your bike. And I will say with the with the hundreds of bars we've shipped out, we've not ever had one bar return. So for your listeners, between Colby science and category and the fact that we've never had a bar returned, I think that's pretty much speaks for itself. Yeah, it says a lot. Reckon I think you've done your best to what you can do to eliminate the friction. And I think judging from the site and the testimonials about the bar and listening to Colby speak, people just need to give it a try. It's something that's interesting. It's going to add, it's going to add to your enjoyment of gravel and people need to shake free of the old stereotypes of what the bike needs to look like at the coffee shop and really start moving towards things that are gonna increase their enjoyment of the ride across the board. So gentlemen, I appreciate the comments, Colby. This was really great to hear the science behind fit and some of the philosophies behind how a change in position in gravel really can add to your performance. That was really insightful. I appreciate that. And Rick and Rick, as always, I appreciate talking to you and getting your long insight into the, the history of the sport and and the future really with this new great product. Thanks, Greg has been great. Hi, Colby by Colby. Thank you, Craig for the opportunity to be on the podcast. I'll look forward to, to when it comes out. I'll be sure not blessed all my channels. So, right it.  
October 8, 2019
A conversation with John McCarrell, founder of the upcoming Mt. Lemmon Gravel Grinder in Tucson, Arizona.   This event will test riders' equipment choice, skills and climbing legs as they tackle the backside of the formidable Mt. Lemmon.  Episode Links: Mt. Lemmon Gravel Grinder Website Mt. Lemmon Gravel Grinder Instagram Automated Transcription (please forgive the errors): John, welcome to the show. Well, thanks. It's a pleasure to be here. As is the tradition. I'd like to start off by asking a little bit just about your background as a cyclist, how you got into the sport and how you eventually found yourself in the gravel sector. Well yeah, so I moved to Tucson in 2002 and started working at, , , right after college and started working at a destination resort here and my folks were living here as they retired and, , got my first taste of mountain biking actually. So that was my intro into cycling, was mountain biking here in the Tucson area with so much great terrain here. So I, I progressed, , into actually becoming a mountain bike guide. So I have a outdoor adventure, cross functional hospitality background at the resorts, , where I started my eight year career basically, and outdoor adventure. So mountain biking was the first part of that. , and then, , through, , friends got onto the road side was very, always was interested on the road side. , as a kid growing up, , riding my bike around our neighborhood and so on and loved the speed and the freedom. So, , but the problem I had was I didn't have a road bike. And so through some friends, great friends actually, , I inherited a road bike and, , did my first El tour to Tucson, , about a month later and I was hooked on the road side as well. So I was bouncing back and forth between, , mountain biking, , somewhat professionally as a guide and also a on my own, but, , also loved the road bike as well. So a lot of, a lot of folks around here in Tucson go back and forth because there's a lot of great roads and great mountain bike trail. So that was, that was through, , through that time period of the early to mid two thousands for me. , and then, , sort of moved away for a couple of years from Tucson, came back, , married and looking to grow a family and, and got back into both of those things. And, , and then just sort of, , fell into the gravel side of things I suppose because, , you know, also I just love riding my bike on dirt roads. So I was just doing that with my mountain bike. , and then as things evolved in the gravel world, , you know, I now was able to get a gravel bike and , and start hitting some of the, , terrain around Arizona. Yeah. It seems pretty natural. As someone who's got a, a knowledge of Tucson through my family down there, I've seen so many dirt roads, , and obviously the mountain biking's great down there. So I can imagine kind of the combination of a drop bar bike that enables you to go off road and combine some of the great road riding there just opened up a whole new type of riding for you and types of destinations that you might head out to on the bike. Yeah, absolutely. And, and you know, some folks who are familiar with Tucson over the years. We're also, we have a lot of great writing, but we also have a lot of horrible roads getting better, much, much better than the recent, , last two or three years. But a lot of rough chip steel and, and, , in monsoon season always brings the gravel and the sand, you know, onto the road surfaces. So I think some, some of the pure roadies felt like they were doing gravel already. , and so going wider, Tyler, you know, for that reason, and then going to bliss for that reason and then saying, Hey, I can, I can now take this thing down my gravel driveway. You know, a lot of folks here still have gravel driveways and such. And then, and then of course, just the freedom of, I can pretty much take this bike anywhere. , and then, you know, as you mentioned, things evolve in the tire. The tires now have knobbies and there's more clearance and , you see a lot more, , certainly a lot more gravel bikes around the Tucson area on all surfaces because of that reason. So it's pretty fantastic. Yeah. And the handful of times I've done the El torta Tucson perimeter ride, there's that river crossing, which inevitably caused flat tires back in the day for people running, you know, 23 see tubed road tires. Yeah, absolutely. So a couple of those crossings and that's what makes that event, , , pretty famous for that reason is, , some folks, , can, can certainly handle a bike in that terrain and get through it and others have to hike a bike, those sections. But, , yeah, absolutely. Right. That's so true. That's so true. So we've got you on today to talk about an event you created the Mount lemon gravel grinder. How did that come to be originally? What was the first year that you ran it? So, , the first year we ran, it was in, , 2016. So, , we're in our fourth year this year, so we've had three years under our belt. , really interesting story. How that came about, came to be. , I actually, , nets, , Susan Frank and her husband, , who produced the old Pueblo grand Prix, which was, , produced in 2011 through 2014 and that was a downtown criterium race, , in downtown Tucson. And at the time was, , sort of getting out of helping some friends of mine, , put on, , or trying to put on the Mount Lemmon grand Fondo, which is a cycling event up the famous Catalina highway on Mount linen. Most people refer to that as Mount lemon highway, but check the technical name for that is Catalina highway, , in the Santa Catalina mountains, Mount lemon being the summit of that. So we were looking at, , putting on the Matlin and grand Fondo on the heels of the Matlin and marathon, which was an uphill marathon and they had just completed their fourth and final year of that event. So, , anyway, I was on the peripheral of that, helping some friends out. , , became a stay at home dad. So I had some time, I wasn't, you know, working full time and, and they decided that wasn't something they wanted to do and they had full time jobs and they were fam, young families and so on. So they, we stopped pursuing the Mount lemon Gran Fondo. But when I had met Susan, it had been two years post old Pueblo grand Prix and she was thinking about bringing that back and possibly tying in the mountain and grand Fondo. And so we sorta headed in this direction for a little while, , almost the year. And we were really in the early stages of exploring those two events and how they could work together and so on. , and, , oddly enough, I guess, or more, I guess it's not oddly, I would say probably more natural for me with my background. As I mentioned before, an outdoor adventure, , at the resort I was working at, I already have this unique relationship with the forest service, , on Mount linen, , with permitting, with putting on events, , with, , logistics, with organizing, , volunteers and a staff of people. I kind of already had this background that I didn't really know I had that could apply to, , you know, special events. And that's when that opened up for me. I really, , embraced it. So when I was just, , discussing this idea with the community of Summerhaven, which is the community on the top of Mount lemon. So folks who ride Catalina highway love to go to the cookie cabin or go to, , the ski area up there. And, and so I talked to the community up there and they said, why don't you do something on the backside, , with the marathon event on the front side, on the paved road at the time that it was not a very well received experience by that community and a lot of other challenges there. And so I said, okay, well that's not what we're looking to do, but you know, that sounds nice. And , but that kept coming up over and over. , and the mountain and grand Fondo idea B, , continued to become more and more difficult to try to produce. And so, , I also am very familiar with Oracle, again through my guiding experience of guiding hikes on the Arizona trail through through the Oracle community there and some and some mountain biking. But I had also attended a, a mountain bike event back there put on by Epic ride called the soul ride. And they had produced a 100 mile mountain bike event in that area. And the last event there was an Oh five. So, you know, the community was sort of used to that. , there've been some changes there as well. And, , you know, long story short, more and more we were getting pulled towards the Oracle community and towards putting on an event on gravel, , and not on a page. And so, , it just became the direction we ended up going in. , and, , the pieces sort of started coming together rather quickly and within a three month period, , we partnered with Arizona zip line adventures. We partnered with the Arizona trail association and we put on the first mountain, , gravel grinder in 2016 in about 90 days. And have you retained the same course over the years? So [inaudible] for the most part, yeah. So we've gone through just like any event, , you know, especially putting on that quickly, , we certainly went through some growing pains, but for the most part, the course has remained the same. So the course is concentrated on a 40 mile loop. Okay. So it, it starts on an outlet and highway, which, , that's why I mentioned the Catalina Highland mountain and highway. It actually starts on Kat mountain and highway, , also known as the Oracle control road, which I can talk about here in a minute. , but it takes the, the control road up the backside of Mount linen. And so on the first year, , you know, we wanted to be conservative with the chorus. We wanted to be conservative with, , you know, the, the riders and volunteers and everyone who was coming together to produce a quality event. And we wanted to be conservative. So we decided let's concentrate on this 40 mile loop. And then the control road continues all the way up to smer Haven to the mountain and fires in there. We actually decided to just do, , an out and back, , another three miles to a reasonable turnaround point and come back down and then complete the 40 mile loops. So the first year we had two distances, we had the 40 mile and the 50 mile. , and we had 112 riders the year. So we were, we were really happy with that. , we had a solid medical team with a lot of, , event experience, , a communications team again with a lot of back country of inexperience, , really, really solid stuff, learned a lot, , learned a lot about, , just, you know, all, all the production in general. , learned a lot of things, got great feedback from the community and from the writers who absolutely loved the event and wanted to see it grow and improve. So we got a lot of constructive feedback, which is really important. , and I have to remind myself as a participant, you really take those surveys to really communicate with the organizers to, to help them if we don't communicate and hold those things in both, both constructive and both things, we absolutely love. , you know, we could possibly lose those events. So, , so yeah, that was our first year. , yeah, it's interesting when I look at the course profile on your website, it's Spartan interesting having that out in back section. And I can see, obviously, you know, it changes the physical demands of the loop quite dramatically from the 40 mile event, which is sort of touches that climb up to the smer Haven to the 60 mile loop that if I'm looking correctly, it's about a 3000 foot climb they're encountering on that out and back to get all the way up to smer Haven. Yeah, no, you're app, you're definitely, , correct on that. So, , we, I've never done the Leadville 100. , it's actually happening tomorrow. , but there is a solid Tucson contingent of riders that have done, done the lead though 100 and a couple of them have referred. They've compared the two of the, the climb up Columbine and the climb up the backside in terms of the, the width of the trail, if you will. , it is an out and back. The, the, the elevation gain as you mentioned, 3000 feet. , one of the differences is that we're not above 10,000 feet. So the start of the event in Oracle's at 4,500, , for those that don't know Tucson proper is at 25 or 2,700. So it is a nice gain in elevation in the fall just to get a little bit higher. , and then from there, , as you saw the profile, it undulates up and down. And then when you get to the first aid station, which is where the 40 miles turns to complete the loop, , that is around 5,000 feet. So it undulates, you know, from 4,500 up and down, up and down to 5,000. And then you start your descent from there and then you go up to the 50 mile turn around, which is , exactly a thousand feet of in three and a half mile, and then you do the, the next 2000 feet of climbing in the next five miles after that. , so yeah, not only, not only is it the climbing that you have to contend with, but then you've got to descend all that back down. So, yeah. It's funny you mentioned Leadville 100. Cause I was thinking the same thing I've done Leadville and I was thinking that did remind me of that where you just have this massive climb you get up and it is very interesting and fun to see the athletes who are head of you coming down the other way and hopefully you're ahead of someone and you're seeing them come up. I remember from my personal experience at Leadville, love him or hate him. Lance Armstrong was racing that year and it was really fun seeing him bombed down as I was climbing up that big climb. Yeah. And that's something that, , the writers who are doing, , especially, , especially in the 60 mile where, you know, that's, they've mentioned that, , you know, even the, you know, Kyle Trudeau is a professional rider from Tucson. He rides for CZ, , racing, , on a mountain bike team. And he's in, he's in Colorado this this weekend, or he's been there for the last month. You know, he's my go to guy for, , just feedback, , rider experience. , he's also spoke here in Tucson about riding the backside, really sharing a lot of knowledge about the course, about his, his setup, , things, things of that nature. And, and just talking to him about, , you know, he's a really good descender, , with just good all around rider, but he's a really good to send her and just how every now and again, somebody who kind of creeps over the, the virtual yellow line, if you will. And you know, , constantly reminding folks who, who aren't used to that format that, Hey, this is an Outback and your lane is over here. You know, whether, whether you like the line that you're on at the moment, you kind of need to take that line. And, , but yeah, and then in the other hand, , so, you know, on the front end of the things, yeah, definitely. , you know, last year, , you know, pile was not the first one to the top. So he was able to sort of gauge his effort and where he was at by writers coming down and, and so, and the other writers as well, really, you know, when they start to see other writers coming down and they look at their garden and I'm like, Oh wow, I've got two and a half miles still to climb and they're already on their way down. It's , you know, but it breaks up the suffering a little bit. Right? You can kind of see like, Hey, I, I'm going to get that joy here, you know, when I hit the turn around. So. Yeah, exactly. So let's talk a little bit more about the terrain specifically. I think you very succinctly answered the question on the website as to what bike I should bring with the answer. Yes, pretty much saying any, any bike you bring is probably okay. Obviously within a range. And as with any gravel event, I think you've, you've, you point out the fact that probably gonna love your bike in some sections. And Hayden and others depending on which end of the gravel spectrum you chose. But let's drill into this. The type of terrain we're on, obviously like on the flatter lands, my, my imagination and my experience in that area would be, Hey, these are just nice dirt roads. Maybe with some stutter bps on them, but fairly easy riding. But I can imagine as you get up the mountain it starts to change. So talk, talk a little bit about the terrain that one's going to experience and what types of bikes you've written on that terrain and what you might recommend. Yeah not women itself is, is a very unique notion in this in this region. , Mount lemon is considered a sky Island. We have several islands in this region. One of the neat things about the sky islands is that, , , you can experience the five different ecosystems as you move up the mountain and elevation. So, you know, we're in the Sonoran desert, so we have, you know, the desert floor and then as you move up, you get into the swirls and then into the scrub Oaks. And then you get into, , the junipers and then Ponderosa Pines all the way up into some Aspen groves on that lemon. And so you pass through all of these, whether you're driving up the mountain, you're riding your bike on the front side or the backside. So, , it's really neat in that sense. And not when it is not really a or the Santa Catalina, this not really a huge, like a range like the Rockies. It's, it's really this Island all sort of, you know, you can circumnavigate it, , around the base. So, , pretty neat as far as that terrain goes. the wa like the floor of the font, if you will, that you're going to see and the views that you're going to experience on the back side is the Galleo's and the San Pedro river Valley. , and so you again, starting at 4,500 feet, you sort of RSI desert grasslands and then you move up into elevation and , it get to experience all, all of those, all five of those ecosystems. So that's really neat. , the, the Oracle control road. So that road actually is almost a hundred years old. So it was established in 1920, , and it was the first access to the top of Mount linen actually. So, , Catalina highway wasn't established. This is the case side on the front. It wasn't established for another 30 years or so after that. , so in the mid 1950s, so, , again, it was established in 1920. This is the, what they call the Oracle control road. And so from the community of watercolor to the community at Summerhaven, the ranchers and the miners actually petition the forest service, the U S government to put in a row so they could have easier access. And so the road that we're on is, is that very road and it is very, , it's not maintained consistently. So actually this past, I would say may in June before the monsoons hit, the forest service was maintaining it for the first time in 14 years. So it's actually in much better shape now than it has been in the previous melon and gravel grinders events in the past three events. So, , but it is a forest service, , road. The reason why they called it a control road is because it is very windy and it's very narrow in certain places, and there's only enough room for one car to travel up or down the road at a time. There's no room for passing. So the control road was controlling the time of day that they would allow traffic up the mountain and then allow traffic down the mountain. So that's where the word control road comes into. And, and folks just refer to it as the control road, , , these days. So when they say the control road, that's what they're speaking about. So, , it, it goes back and forth between, , rough and smooth sections. , there is a lot of, , granite, , rock where the, , the bed of the road, , is almost like cobblestones in certain places. , and so it can be very rough in that sense. , there's a lot of, , loose rock, loose gravel, , especially because it's up and down. Like you mentioned the course profile. It's, , it's, I would consider it a technical road. , you know, it's when folks ask about, you know, do I need a mountain bike? Is there a single track? You know, there's, there's no single track, but, but if you're not a good bike handler or you're just getting, , you haven't eroded the course or anything, I highly recommend a hardtail 20 Niner, , is perfect, , running that tubeless. , and that will really help you on, on the fastest sense. And also give you some good climbing gears because it is, , just undulating. But all of these are rough sections that I'm mentioning. I say all of, , there are some rough directions. They're not miles and miles loft. Actually, you know, they may be a hundred yards at the LA at the furthest, most of them are just shorter sections, but there's also a smooth sections in between that maybe are only a mile or less in between in certain places. So the console road is, is, , there's the control road, which is the main climb up the back side. There's the haul road, which I'll talk about. And then there's the paved section of the course, which all comes towards the end. So you get this mix of all three and they sort of come in a sequential order, , which is, which is interesting. So you know, it's kind of flat loads the ride when you're going up and down the control road, whether you decide to do the 40, 50 or 60, , you know, it's sort of all that decision making, sort of speak as all on the controller. And then you as you go further up the mountain on the control row, there's about three major sections that are, , very Rocky. Like again, the, the rock bed, if I'm saying that correctly, the actual road itself is just solid rock. , and the forest service has been on that to grind that back down to to grade a, if you will. So, , it's more palatable now by a passenger car even where before it was always four wheel drive. But, , but I am always impressed with the folks that, , are, you know, taking full rigid bikes on their drop bar road, bike season. , but just a single speed, you know, all kinds of bikes just to challenge themselves against the terrain. You know, not, not out there to, to podi or anything like that, but just to see like, Hey, I can get this done under my own tower on this rig. , and the, one of the biggest topics of conversation here locally is, is not so much where you're going to do gravel or your cross bike or your mountain bike, but what modifications are you doing to the bike that you have or what are you building? And that's always been neat to hear people talk about that. You know, , gear ratios, tires, , you know, clearance suspension, not suspension, full rigid. , it's, it's truly is the gamut. , and it requires, you know, the easy answer for me is to say, you know, when in doubt you can do a hard sell 29, or if you're not sure. And you know, cause I definitely want people to have a great experience and they're gonna show up site on scene. But those who have ventured out there time and time again, the neat thing about it is they're pre-writing on different setups every time. It's not just taking your, your road bike and your pre-writing different parts of a road. Right. And it's the same bike. Like it's your pre-writing to view the course, not to, you know, change anything about your bike. But people are pre-writing because they're also wanting to know if they should change something about their ride and as you mentioned, where do I want my suffering to be here, here, here or here or here, you know, which would I rather tolerate and then I'll modify. Yeah. I think that's, that's the constant interesting conundr about all these events and I think it's one of those things that makes it interesting to go back to events year after year as you kind of tweak your set off, set up as you use sort of assing you're not in that location. You don't have the luxury of going and climbing mountain lemon at your leisure and testing different things. Going back and changing things up. I think someone I was speaking to articulated it in the following way in terms of the tire width is you're getting, if you're expecting it to be a very long day for yourself as an athlete, then having wider tires or if you think it's going to be challenging, having the wire tires on your setup will just give you more comfort. And the, the sort of downside of maybe not having the, the fastest setup for the road section or smoother section is far outweighed by the upside of when you're bombing down Mount lemon, you're comfortable, you feel safe and secure and you're having a good time. So it's certainly not unique to the Mount lemon gravel grinder. This conundrum of what's the best set up. And I think the best advice always is a, just get out there and do it. Don't over analyze things. It's, these events really are about having fun and you'll learn a lot along the way. And then second, optimize around what's gonna make you the most comfortable and make sure you're going to have a fun, safe outing. Yeah, absolutely. Just, you know, think about being happy, you know yeah, absolutely. And w what's evolved, , over the three years, , is the, you know, we're growing. So we had 112 writers. The first year we had a 188 riders the second year and we had 300 riders last year. , and more and more gravel bikes started coming, you know, into the event than previous, previous it was more mountain bikes. , again, most people have mountain bikes in the Tucson area to go off road. So that's mostly what we were seeing. And then last year was a lot more noticeable, , where the gravel bikes were coming in, , even more so. , and most of those gravel bikes are either doing the 40 or the 50. , and there's, , more mountain bikes doing the 60, as I mentioned with the climbing and the descending. But the on the racing side, if you're, if you're listening and you're on the racing side, , there was a lot of racing going on in the 40 and the 50, and those who are, who are wanting to go on podi spots, , we're doing that on gravel bikes and, , and just couldn't believe that 40 miles of gravel, right. Most people are thinking, you know, a hundred miles or 150 miles, but the 40 miles of this course, they just couldn't believe how, , how punishing it was. I guess because of the, there's nothing flat about it. You know, you're either going up or you're going down. And so there's some significant, , there was a rough stuff as I mentioned on the dirt side, there's some really fast, you know, 35 plus mile gravel, the sense which can be very nerve racking and white knuckle. So you gotta be a good handle on that. , but also the page climb, we have a, I call it the S and this web road, , Webb road is a six and a half mile paved climb. That's just relentless that a, at about a 6% grade that comes towards the end of all this. So you get off this rougher stuff, you get off the gravel a little bit, and then you're on a basically a smooth road and all of a sudden your body goes into shock. Like its not used to. It's used to kind of bouncing around a little bit and then your body is just on this absolute smoothness. , and then you just gotta tap out this tempo to get up this climb, , at the end. And so your body just goes through some different changes there throughout the course. , and some advice I'll, I'll, I give folks, the way our course is set up is if you're thinking about the 40 mile loop, the first 20 miles is, is, is the dirt in the last 20 miles is, is hard packed, , gravel, dirt road. But, , about 13 miles of that is pavement, including this climb. So the advice I gave, , , I get of actually anybody is, you know, what, you know, set up your tires, what have you, for comfort, all that on the, on the, on the dirt stuff. But we have an aid station, right as the dirt transitions to that pavement. And a lot of people, , had pre loaded CO2 cartridges, , one, you know, one for each tire plus their backup. So they added more CO2. And I said, you're going to need water bottles anyway, grab something to eat, but just air up your tires as hard as you can and just ride that road because you've got that Cline. , and people just absolutely love that advice and had, , a great experience, you know, in that transition there, , coming up that climb. So. Right. That makes some sense. So at the end of the day, are, are people hanging out afterwards? Are you doing a kind of party at the, at the finish line for folks? Yeah, absolutely. So, , you know, amongst some of the changes that we've experienced, we've also, we're also, , changing venues. So, so the first two years that we had the event at Arizona zip line adventures, and last year, , we outgrew that space actually. , and we were shuttling people, , from a satellite parking location. So we moved to the Y YMCA, , a mile and a half, , away from the zip line, , so still on Mount Limon highway and, , and really grew into that space, , nicely. , and, , unfortunately though, , we had a nice little after party, but unfortunately the [inaudible] is a dry campus. And so, , they hadn't, , lifted their deed restriction to allow us to, you know, have a nice frosty beverage. , but we were, we were growing and so I knew, geez, I don't know how long we're going to be able to stay here at this. Then you, , and, and the YMC was certainly well received because there was no shuttling or, you know, it really, , achieved what we needed it to achieve. , but in the last three years of this three, sea ranch, , became, , under new ownership and became completely revamped and they revamped it to become a special event venue. And so it's this beautiful place. And they started talking to us about a year ago about, Hey, you know, consider bringing the grinder, you know, basically back up the road, past the zip line, a half a mile, the other way it's still on, on the highway, , to the three ranch. And so, , it's, we're really excited about it this year. And, , we, , Barrio brewing company is the beer sponsor. We've got a huge beer garden over two and a half acres. , we're, we're still solidifying several bike manufacturers that are going to be coming in and doing demos, , on. We're kicking this event off on Friday this year. , we have plenty of room for camping, but right near pepper sauce, camp ground as well. , we're literally within walking distance. A two minute walk. Next door is a RV park with full hookups. , and then the zip line is a half mile and they have camping. So it's, it's becoming a weekend long event. , and the after party this year, , we're , having a live concert, so from three to seven, we've got two local bands from Oracle that are going to be playing on the main stage. , we'll have, , food vendors, coffee vendors, , just, , it'll, it'll be the largest event, , so far that we've done. , the community is really excited, , to come out and be a part of the event. We already got some great volunteer organizations coming in. , as I mentioned, local bane and, , local food vendors, , local arts and crafts, which is going to be a nice flavor, , in terms of just industry folks. We're going to have some local folks there as well. , and so it's going to be a nice community feel and we're really excited about it. Great. Well, it sounds like a great event, John. I appreciate you spending the time giving us an overview of it. I hope to make it, if not this year, in future years. Yeah. Thank you. Thanks for having me. And, , yeah. I hope you hope you can make it out.    
September 24, 2019
This week we speak with Jon Cariveau from Moots while touring their factory in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. We explore the benefits of titanium, the value of in-house manufacturing and the evolution of the brand. Moots Website Moots Instagram Tech Corner sponsor Thesis website  Tech Corner sponsored by Thesis. A bottom bracket, or BB, should allow your cranks to spin smoothly and silently under the intense stresses of pedalling for a long time. Unfortunately, the pursuit of weight and cost savings has led to a proliferation of flawed and often proprietary designs that can bind, creak, or even damage your frame. So what are the hallmarks of a reliable BB? Look for large, premium cartridge bearings with hardened stainless steel races and weathertight seals. Check that they’re spaced as widely apart as possible to distribute the load. Make sure they’re pressed into metal cups that are themselves separate from the frame for serviceability but then part of a rigid and tightly-toleranced metal assembly for proper alignment and support. And finally, check that it’s built to common open standards so that it’s easy to source parts or upgrade. There are only three bottom bracket standards that come close to meeting these criteria: First there’s BSA, a legacy standard optimized for metal frames and 24mm spindles. Under this standard, each bearing is pressed into a metal cup that is then threaded into the frame itself. Next there’s T47, which is essentially BSA updated to work with modern 30mm spindles. Finally there’s BB386EVO. This is my go-to because it is a common and open standard, it utilizes large bearings pushed widely apart for stiffness and durability, it doesn’t require metal to be bonded into carbon frames in a way that invites galvanic corrosion, and it is compatible with the widest range of crank options available. Note that not all bottom brackets using this standard are created equal. To prevent binding and creaking, bearings must be pressed directly into a one or two piece metal shell, and in the latter case the two cups must thread together to create a properly aligned and supportive assembly. So the next time you buy a bike, take a moment to make sure it includes a bottom bracket that will spin in silence for years to come. And with that, back to Craig and this week’s guest. Moots Interview -- automatic transcription (please excuse the typos). All right, everyone. I'm actually in steamboat springs this week. I'm talking to John from Moots and I just got a tour of the Moots factory, which was absolutely fascinating. I love seeing how everything was built from the raw tube set across the board. So John, first off, thanks for that tour. Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for coming on, uh, being here with us. So just, I always like to give a little bit of context about you as an athlete to get your perspective. So how did you sort of arrive at gravel? What's your background as a cyclist? I know you've been in this sport a long time. Yeah, I think, um, you know, my, my background is mainly coming from a cyclocross, the my, I mean, as a kid I was a BMX rat and racer through college on the mountain bikes and then a road bike. And then, you know, around here in steamboat, uh, I just got really into cyclocross and was competitive and traveling and doing quite a bit of that. And you know, you don't go out and train on a cyclocross course. You go out and you ride some miles. And this bike that could take a bigger tire than a road bike all of a sudden became really useful, um, to explore these roads that are around here. And, uh, that's, that's kind of how me, myself personally got into it. Um, and uh, you know, I s I was not the first person in the valley to have a cyclocross bike, but kinda one of the first, and I found myself loaning that bike out to friends that wanted to check it out and they were like, Oh man, this is incredible. I can turn off this paved road and I can go down this junkie dirt field Rockfield road and explore and have a good time and get away from the traffic. Nice. Well we'll definitely get into some of the roads around here cause we're out here for steamboat gravel on it. I understand we've got a lot of great miles ahead of us, but for those of the listeners who haven't heard of Moots, can you tell us a little bit about the history of Moots? We're located here in steamboat springs. We always have been here. We were founded in this town in 1981 and the first 10 years of our business we built out of steel. And that was the material of the time. And in 1991, we had a pivotal moment with the company based on our why BB soft tail that we had been building that out of steel. And it was prestige to mean at the time and the fatigue resistance of steel is not nearly what titanium is. So when we made the switch, the YGB was kind of the driver, uh, with the fatigue, resistance and longevity that titanium offered. And we made that switch in 91 and haven't deviated from that path since it's our material of choice and it's what we're, uh, experts at. And if we tried another material, it would only be us kind of faking it. So that's, that's kind of our take on it. It's for us, it's the material that rides so nicely under the rider. It can be customized, it can be tuned to a heavier or lighter rider. And the durability is just kind of second to none out there. Yeah. I imagine as gravel started to pick up titanium as a material is a pretty natural choice given the sort of suppleness that can be built into the frame when you're going off road on stutter bumps and what have you. Yeah. You know, people always ask us, you know, why, why would I ride a tie bike? And um, many of them have been on steel bikes over the years. And I think the best analogy is a tie bike rides a lot like a really nicely made steel bike and ride quality smoothness, but it has this, um, a little bit more backbone to it, so to speak. And it's lighter, it doesn't corrode and it doesn't fatigue like steel will over time. You know, when you get a tie bike on day number one, it will ride the same in year number three. So it really, the ride quality doesn't degrade over time like other materials can. Right. And then for someone who's considering a carbon bike in the market, how do you talk about the differences in feel from boots, titanium frame versus a, you know, a nice carbon frame in the market? Yeah, it's, you know, we, we get that question a lot too. And it's a, it's a great comparison and, and you know, carbon is definitely the, the material of choice out there in, in most of the cycling world. But we, uh, we always talk about our bikes and what we can offer as a ride quality, um, compared to carbon and [inaudible], you know, carbon, um, when it first came out, you know, people wanted to step as possible and now they've really kind of backed down from that a little bit. And actually they're doing a really good job of providing different layups and different tube diameters that really affect the ride quality. And so, you know, it just really depends on what the, the rider is looking for. I think there's somebody that, um, gravitates towards titanium because it Kinda has this, a bit of soulfulness to it in some ways where it's like, man, I feel connected to the ground, but I'm not feeling every little jarring crack in the, in the road or, or stutter bump on the gravel road. So I think it's, um, yeah, I don't know. We're, we're never going to build our moods bikes as light as you could get a carbon bike. That's always kinda like the first thing is how light is it. And, uh, we will never have fake that. If you build a titanium bike that is large light as a carbon bike, it's going to ride horribly and it's, it just gets too light. It's not stiff enough. And so we, we don't lead with that. We lead with, it's a, a ride quality that you just can't find elsewhere. And you know, weight is third or fourth on the list for us. Really. Yeah. And as you said, I mean, when you buy a tie frame, you expect that the ride quality is going to remain the same for years and it's just simply not going to degrade. Yeah. And it's, you know, it's a lot of people come at it like, Oh man, this is going to be my last bike, my lifetime bike. And, and that's, and, and titanium's a great material for that. But as you know, the, you know, standards change and, you know, through axles come along and different fittings come along. And, and we, we really try to evolve with the good standards that do evolve out in the industry. Um, for a good purpose. You know, through axles. Um, it's the perfect made up with disc brakes. You get no rotor rub, you get no flex between the frame and the wheel. And so that was a good one for sure. Yeah, it has a positive outcome on the ride quality of the bike for sure. When you lean on a, on a through axle bike, it goes where you put it. You know, on the older quick release bikes, there's a little wiggle room in there. Yeah. Speaking of evolution, obviously this sport of gravel kind of was birthed out of opportunity and desire. So opportunity was dyspraxia, tubeless, tires, all these things that made it. So if you wrote a drop bar bike with narrow tires off road, you weren't flatting all the time and opportunity obviously like as traffic becomes more and more of a problem, people just want to get off road for that adventure. In my mind, you know, Moots having such a long history, obviously I was familiar with you on the road and on the mountain and I started to see what I categorize it as adventure bikes come out. I started to see people doing the tour divide on Moots bikes, moods designed bikes, which was really interesting. But then I started to see you guys move into the sweet spot of the great quote unquote gravel market at this point. What was the first model that was sort of that pure gravel bike that you, you made? Yeah, it's a great question. So the first model we made, we actually took one of our older cross bikes and it was called the Cyclo ax. And the first year that we really moved towards like a true gravel geometry of lower bottom bracket, little longer chain stays in the cross bike, more tire clearance and maybe a little more relaxed angles. Um, we changed the geometry, but we didn't change the name. And in hindsight we were, we've all, all of us have said to each other like, what were we thinking? Um, we didn't rename it and people always kept thinking it was the Cyclo x, uh, cyclocross bike. And so that was actually put out as a product. Um, gosh, it was probably about 2013 maybe something like that over six years ago. And it was an instant hit. And what, what kind of drove that was our own riding around steamboat, like everybody up Moots rides in some form or another. And we started using cross bikes as that and then we were like, you know, we can tweak this to be better for the purpose. And we had several shops ordering our cross bikes as customs and tweaking the geometry themselves to lower bottom brackets, the longer chain stays. And there was one in one shop in particular. Um, in Northern Illinois, uh, that Toby DePaul, a very good friend of ours was involved with and he kept ordering this bike with this same geometry. And we're like, what are you doing? He's like, it's for these big heavy gravel roads out here. And they called it the minute tar in their shop. It was like their own name for one of our bikes and a Toby's super nice guys. He's really involved in the industry and development of tires now and things like that. But that was the start of it. And, um, the following year, you know, we finally, uh, realize, hey, we need to change the name of this. And, uh, that's where the route name, uh, came in and the, the, the history of their route. R O u t t is actually the county that we live in, uh, here in steamboat. It's called Routt County, Colorado. And we thought it was a clever play on words, you know, hey, I'm going to go out and do a route or this route or that route. And we were like, yeah, that should be our gravel bike name. And so that first bike went from cyclo acts the first year with the gravel geometry and then it was renamed the second year to the route. Okay. Yeah. And then the line has expanded from there at this point. Yeah, it, it really has. And, and you know, as the evolution of great bike components like really started happening, um, tires got better, rims got better. And so the need to expand our, our tire sizes, uh, accessibility was there. So, uh, shortly after that, um, we developed the route 45 and that is named, there's a couple of reasons. His name, route 45 is, there's a county road out here called Cow Creek. And on the map it's actually county road 45 and it is in the steamboat gravel race this year. It's got some of the bigger, chunkier stuff in the county. And so with that we expanded the tire clearance to a 45 millimeter on that bike. And we also, we had to bump the chain, stays out to a 45 centimeter chain stay for the clearance. Yeah. And one of the things we were talking about offline, which I think is interesting as it comes up often on the podcast, is just the notion of 700 c versus six 50 and a lot of bike brands are offering the ability to run both. But you guys have have said sort of, unless it's custom, we're squarely in the 700 c route. Um, can you talk a little bit about that decision and that sort of ramifications on design and performance that you see? Yeah, and you know, I think, um, for Moots we really, when we talk to our customers, our dealers out there as well, it's really about the best ride quality we can give them. And when it comes down to bike frame switching in between 700 c and six 50 B on the same bike frame, it, it can be done. But in some ways you're, you're kind of, uh, settling for like maybe not the best performance with each one of those setups. It's kind of the middle ground. Um, and with titanium we run into a pretty big issue of manipulating the curves of the chain stays to accommodate that tire size. So we, we really feel, you know, when we come out with our, our line, which now includes the route RSL, which is the racier gravel bike, the route 45 and then the route y BB, we really design from the onset around 700. See it's optimized to perform best with that wheel set and that's anywhere from a 35 millimeter to a 45 millimeter tire. And for us, when you go to the six 50 [inaudible], um, it drops our bottom bracket height too much and we're really afraid that we're going to give a customer out there a ride experience that is not optimal. They're going to be hitting cranks on trail debris and rocks and stuff like that because the bottom bracket changes, the height is different. Um, and so we haven't got there yet. Um, we'll see what the future holds for us. I'm not, not saying that we have one in the works or anything, but we definitely understand the need for the six 50. That's, it's really a very regional in, in a lot of places, you know, where it's steep trails and, and we've kind of migrated back to riding our mountain bike trails, um, on drop bar bikes now and gravel bikes. So there is that, um, you know, the coastal California stuff where it's really steep and rocky and, and it's the old school mountain bike trails. Um, we, we definitely understand the need for that. And then the, on the outer end of your lineup, you do have the Baxter, which would you describe it as a drop bar? Mountain bike? Yeah, exactly. It's, you know, drop bar mountain bike or monster cross. But it really, that bike is specifically made, um, you know, for 2.1 to 2.2 tires, um, in a 29 format. And geometry is adept adjusted for drop bar reach versus a flat bar reach. And that's, that's our, you know, our super adventure, you know, ha, super heavy gravel, light trail, even heavy trail. And then loaded, uh, bike packing on drop bars for sure. And then if you run a narrower tire on that bike, what are the shortcomings like if you, if you chose that as the model of choice for you, but you wrote it on the road as well, where, where are you seeing the shortcomings? Well, it's, it's kind of a, a Mutt of a bike. So it's primarily basically designed around a mountain bike drive, train. And so if you were to put real small tires on it and go out and hit the road, you would pretty soon find out that your gearing was not where you wanted to be. And that's, you know, again, you've got to kind of got to straddle the fence a little bit of trying to, um, you know, design a bike that we see that as primarily being written on single track and double track and stuff like that. And you're going to suffer a little bit on a smooth paved section to get to the next dirt. Yeah, it's interesting. I think that's been sort of a challenge as, as a consumer in the gravel market. And really the reason I started podcasting was I went on this journey of soul searching as to what bike did I really need for the type of riding that was going to give me the most pleasure. And I optimized around that and you know, it wasn't optimized around the road side of things, but I'll still ride that bike on the road. So I think it's, it's something that consumers have to contend with. You know, you have to make that, that choice at some point. Yeah. There's always a little bit of sacrifice, like unless it's a very specific area, um, there's going to be some, some, uh, sacrifice of a how it's not going to perform the best right in this setting, but for 80% of my riding it is, and then you kind of suffer through the 20% a little bit here and there. Yeah. Yeah. Talking about sort of choices consumers have to make, there seems to be a growing trend towards looking at adding more and more suppleness to these gravel bikes. And it was exciting to see at sea otter this year, the release of your YTB based gravel bike. You mentioned earlier that the technology obviously was created many years ago on the mountain bike and was responsible for a lot of Moots growth during that time period. Can you talk about the why BB specifically and maybe distill some of that, that concern someone might have about a non pivot point suspension on gravel bikes. Like I said earlier, the y BB made it with the titanium material. So you've got this material that has a fatigue resistance that um, with our, uh, testing that we've, we've sent our products off too and had them cycle tested. They just very rarely if ever fail. And so basically what we're relying on is the flex of the chain stay true to provide travel at the axle. And with the new, the route y BB gravel bike, we are, we're mapping out just a little over 20 millimeters of travel at the axle. And so we use that modest a, a piece that conceals a steel spring. And on the last summer core, very simple set up. There's no air. There's no, uh, compressed air or compressed oil to leak. It's greased, has a wiper seal on it, just like your, a suspension fork does it serviceable by the consumer, very easy. Um, and it's only really needed to be serviced every two to three years. And so what that provides us is this ability to take the edge off of all the little tiny frequency hits that are out there on the gravel road. So washboard, potholes, bigger rocks, things like that. And it allows the, the rider of the bike to stay seated in the saddle instead of having to lift their weight out and activate their thigh muscles or their back muscles. And you can kinda stay seated and pedal right through a lot of stuff. And in the end, you know, like on a a hundred mile day that like on a tomorrow for the, the gravel race, you're going to feel fresher. Um, you're not going to be taking it in the lower back all day long. And, uh, yeah, it's, it's kinda where we see things going. Um, and it's, it's been with us, like we were talking earlier since the late eighties in a steel mountain bike and then on into our, our regular mountain bikes. So we really know our tech, that technology and um, it's, it's pretty simple stuff. Do you tune it based on the rider weight? Yes, as the frame. Uh, as that model goes up through the sizes, um, it's stiffened up towards the bigger bikes and then it's softened up towards the smaller bikes and it all kind of operates on kind of an average rider weight for the given size. And if we, if we get a customer that's maybe on the light side for 56, say, uh, we can soften it up a little bit. If they're on the heavy side for 56, we can add a little bit of stiffness to it. Um, but really it's, you're not trying to control a ton of travel, so there's a very limited amount of tuning that can actually be felt or, or notice. But there is a little bit. So if you're, if you're a consumer kind of thinking about that model, or is it typically going to be someone who's writing primarily off road and not using that as a, as a road bike? Um, we get, we have, um, but heavy on the off road use for sure. Um, you can still put a, a set of, uh, you know, slick 35 millimeter tires in that bike and go and enjoy a, a paved road ride. And it's interesting about the Y BBI. People get on it and they ride it for a couple of weeks when they, when they buy it and they're like, yeah, I, I kinda understand it. I kind of feel it. Um, and then you say, okay, we'll put that bike away in the garage and then get back on your old bike and go for a ride. And then they come back and they go, oh, now I get it. Yeah. I think that's probably the best thing if they can only just kind of feel it. Yeah. And then they'll start to learn, like the fatigue factor is minimized by having that kind of design element. Yep, absolutely. Yeah, it's, it is, it's, you know, short distances, long distance. It's just a great feeling bike. And, um, many years ago we used to build, um, our road bike with a y BB unit in it, kind of like a Perry ru bay style bike. And there weren't many of those out there in the world, but those that have them absolutely swear by them, even on the pavement all day long. Yeah. Um, with Frost heaves and, you know, the state of most paved roads that we have around our or is not very good. Yeah, absolutely. I jokingly say that in Sonoma there's a big series called the grasshopper series, and I find that Rhodes to be more dangerous than the trails we're on. Right, exactly. Uh, yeah. Well, it's, I mean, it's, I think it's really fascinating, as I said before, that there's the notion of suspension coming to gravel bikes and how it's gonna fit into people's lives and, um, it's going to be really interesting, I think over the next couple of years just to see where, you know, where it ends up falling. Is everybody attracted to that or is there a little bit of resistance and I mean that's the beauty of gravel to each their own right. Get the bike that works for you. Yeah, I think there, there is a definitely a writer that is like, that is absolutely what I'm looking for. And then there's some that'll stick with the, you know, the RSL or the route 45 in the hard tail. Um, that, you know, they'll get their suspension from high volume tires and low pressures and um, but I think, you know, as we kind of see people riding for many years during their lifetime, you know, they want to continue riding into their, you know, golden years, so to speak. It's definitely going to be a factor of a, this is more comfortable. I can ride longer and I'm not as stiff afterwards. Yeah. Since we're out here for SBT gravel and you're a local, I'd love to get your take on the course as I'm sure it's inspired many of the models we've just talked about. Yeah. It is a, it's so awesome. It's, you know, we host our own little event here in June every year, which is called the ranch rally. And it uses, uh, uh, some of the same courses and areas there'll be on tomorrow. But, um, yeah, it's uh, my take on it is, uh, [inaudible] I think the fast people are going to go through this course pretty fast. It's going to be, um, it's, it'll be a fast pace. Is it conducive to riding in groups? Um, there most of the course, yeah, the roads are fairly wide and we have, um, our, uh, road and bridge, which is county road maintenance around here. They do a treatment to the roads called MAG chloride. And so in June, after the rains hopefully stop in the spring, they grade them and then they seal them with this mag chloride that makes them, in some cases almost like pavement. Um, but in August, right now you get to the point where the roads are starting to fall apart a bit. Uh, the dirt roads and the gravel. So we'll see. I think it's going to be conducive to a pack racing. So there'll be really important. On some of the longer, more dirt road versus gravel road sections to be with somebody or a group of people yeah. To conserve some energy in and get a little free ride here and there. But uh, it's gonna be tough. It's, uh, you know, I look at this course and it's kind of our three most favorite gravel loops tied into one big day. Okay. And that's exciting because the folks that are racing it, you're gonna get an unbelievable tour of Routt county. Um, and you're going to probably want to come back and do some more writing. And for the, as, for the climbing, or is it mostly on sort of those same type of roads that the big climbs occur on? Or do we get a little bit on some quieter trails? Um, there's no real trail out there, but the, the climbs that you're going to be hitting, in my opinion, the, the steeper one will be up around steamboat lake. Uh, it goes up around the back and that's dirt and there's, there's a few switchbacks in there. It's kind of gets to that point where it's that steep and then, you know, it's mainly five, six, maybe 7% Colorado grade where they can't really build the roads too steep around here. Even the gravel roads because they still have to use them during the winter. And if they're built super steep, that presents a problem with our amount of snow that we get. Yeah. And around here, but now I think it's going to be amazing. You're going to get views of north route up around the lake and then as you head south on the south end of the course, you're gonna get some views of the flat top mountains that are, you're going to get lost in your own head. It's going to be very scenic. Nice. Or sure. I, for one athlete, we'll probably need to get [inaudible] lost a little bit to that. Forget about how much of my lungs are pounding and my legs are pounding. Yeah, yeah. The altitude. It'll be okay. Interesting. It's, I think probably one of the grom longest gravel races at altitude. Um, that's around. Yeah. You know, we're base base elevation. A Steamboat's about 6,700 feet and I think you'll get close to almost 9,000 feet out on the course. Yeah, I think you're right about, I hadn't thought about that. But you know, if you think about as a professional athlete that the types of races they're racing is, there's a lot of sea level staff up there out in the calendar. Yeah. I mean we, we were out at the DK and June and uh, that's, that's down to sea level for us. It felt like we were absolutely drinking oxygen, um, up here. That'll be a challenge. You know, the, the longer day and the vertical climbed coupled with the altitude, it'll be, it'll be a tough day. Nice. For sure. Well, thank you so much again for the tour. It was great to kind of look around moods I've, I've known about the brand for decades and decades and all this admired what you do and looking at the detail work that you've been able to achieve with the etching and the organization and bringing everything pretty much in house in Colorado. You can tell the output is so much in your control and the brand and the quality is so elevated that I encourage everybody to kind of look at the [inaudible] website, check out the imagery, find a local dealer to take a test drive on one of these bikes. I've done a little bit of time on a moot to myself and it was a pleasure. So John, thanks for having us look forward to seeing you out on the course tomorrow. Yeah, probably from behind at some point. Well, thanks for coming in. Uh, yeah. Anytime you're in steamboat, come and look us up.
September 10, 2019
Conversations with Sam Ames, producer of SoCal's RockCobbler and El Gravelero and Tim Farrar, producer of Canada's Paris to Ancaster. Rockcobbler Website Paris to Ancaster Website Thesis Website  Tech Corner sponsored by Thesis: Today we’re going to talk about one of the most fundamental yet overlooked aspects of getting the perfect bike: fit.  Put simply, a bike that’s fit to your unique body and biomechanics will reduce risk of injury, improve comfort, power, and efficiency, and ultimately make you a faster, happier rider. Here are the components to focus on:   First, frame. Everyone starts with frame size, but unfortunately many get it wrong and few go any further.  Second, crank. Getting the length right will enable a smoother pedal stroke throughout a wider range of cadences. I’m 5’11” and perform best on 170mm cranks. My cofounder Alice is 5’2” and needs 155s to get a similarly dialed fit. Few companies offer cranks this short, so if you’re a smaller rider or have flexibility issues, pay special attention here.   Third, handlebar. You want the width at the tops to be roughly equal to that of your shoulders, and for gravel I recommend some degree of flare for increased control in the drops.   Forth, stem length. This determines where your handlebar can be positioned in space, which in turn affects effective reach, hip angle, mass distribution, handling, and aerodynamics.    Of course, the right parts are just a starting point. To truly become one with your machine, you need to calibrate it to your body. This is why I always recommend working with a professional fitter. Whether you’re dealing with pain or discomfort, or looking for a performance edge, a professional fit as the single best bang-for-buck investment you can make in your cycling.   And with that, back to Craig and this week’s guest. Automated Transcript (forgive the typos): Sam Ames -- Rockcobbler + El Gravelero Sam, welcome to the show. Well, thanks for having me. Yeah, I'm excited to talk to Sam. I always like to start off by learning a little bit more about you and what your background is as a cyclist and then how you came to event promotion. Yeah, happy to share. , I got into road cycling during the summer of 1985, early 85. Uh, actually I picked it back 1984. , I had seen a, uh, bike race on TV, which at the time was Paris Roubaix. Uh, and in those days we were getting to the John Tesh tour to files coverages and those sorts of things. So I just kinda got inspired sitting there watching very rubric and people sort of, you know, riding through the mud and, and you know, gnarly conditions. And so I'd worked all summer pulling a great boxes onto a truck. It's called there being a swamper here in the central valley as I was making a whopping $5 an hour. And I felt rich. So I immediately went to the bike shop and, uh, bought my first motor, a road bike for $235, and, uh, started riding in sneakers and just, uh, loved the sport. So stayed after it and stayed on it. , did a little bit of racing in Europe when I was younger, uh, raised at the cat one level for a while, , and then really gravitated towards, , rotting into dirt more. So cyclocross became a big love for me and I had some good success, , on the cross, serve it as, as an elite for a little while, uh, way back in the day and then pick the sport back up after a hiatus, , with jobs and kids and their parents and life and a little bit of masters and using in and around southern California and other parts of California and really loved cross. So that sort of was the precursor to what everybody knows as gravel now. And, uh, that was something that I kind of felt like I've been doing forever and ever. , so yeah, there's the sports just been, uh, a huge, huge part of my life. And from there we, , we really got into, uh, I had a business partner for a few years, uh, well for many years. We started in 2010 and we started sandbar and promotions. , and I dabbled in a few races here in Kern county, in Bakersfield for awhile, but then we started the promotion company and really wanted to, to share some of the venues that we had. We've pretty good with the course and pretty good area to do some cyclocross races and mountain bike races. So we did that for quite a while. And, , I think some of the emphasis was shifting that the stars are lining up differently and we really, , what having some of the successes Bakersville kind of in a funny location geographically, we're part of southern California, but we're really not and it's just sort of stuck in the middle. So it was difficult for us to get decent attendance. And, uh, so we kind of started slowly putting a few events on the show and, uh, and then we, uh, when we got into the cobbler and all the stuff we're doing now, so there's a, there's the brief history. And when did the cobbler, the first Rockcobbler event come to be? So the rock cobbler was created out of say, or, you know, what was your inspiration or what were you seeing? And it was, it was two falls and it was actually quite specific. We had gone, I had been riding, you know, rode bikes in the dirt and all screwed and glued to a few already bikes, you know, that I eventually broke several of those. And those were kind of the hot cycle cross bike back in that early 90, late eighties. , I was, you know, doing a ton of what I would call gravel or adventure riding. And so I never really thought much of it. I was really maybe one of only a handful of people that was doing that besides traditional mountain biking. And, uh, so we , went one year down to event that we had heard about, which was the Belgian waffle ride and a, of course mark, everybody has Michael Marks now. And I did not know Michael. I knew of him and he had actually come to bigger scope for one of our cross races. So we went to, I think it was either the second or third VWR and wasn't a ton of people compared to what they're doing now. It started at spy headquarters. It was maybe 150 people. And when I heard more about it and kind of knew what the course was and there was going to be dirt sections on a road bike, I was like, oh, this is, this is going to be gray. So we have an awesome cha on. Often times we'd defended Michael and shared some, some fun stories with him and kind of hit it off. So the next year we came back and we kept talking about VWR and talking about all local trails and stuff we wanted to do. And so we just started pitching around names and this was in maybe November and a buddy of mine, we were, I know exactly where we're geographically, he's like, what about rock toddler? We, I'll stop and look at each other and that's the name that's going to stick. So this will be our seventh year. , so we started with uh, the , the cobbler in 2012, I guess 2013. So, , yeah, it's just something that we, we kind of wanted to put our own spin on and , that's how I, that's kind of literally how it was born. So I went back and toasted beers and they were like, nobody's going to come to this. We'll have, you know, 15 people and sharing them. After we got a phone call from Neil Shirley and he said, hey, I heard about your ride. I think I'd really like to come, you know, doing some stuff that road bike action and that, that was really a failure on the hat for us from day one. He, he was a big fan and he hadn't even been here. And I could just tell by talking to him that I thought we really would enjoy the route and what we did. And uh, and he did. And the, you know, the successes, it's sort of grown very organically and, and very naturally since then. And what was your intent with the original route? How far is it, what's the elevation gain and how has it evolved over the last seven years? So the terrain that we have, if you, if you really kind of define, , gravel, I think, , dirty Kansas, some of the Midwest events and things that have been going on, you know, longer than astro or at least an equal amount of time. There's really kind of true traditional, , gravel starts on gravel, finishes on gravel, whether it's got a lot of elevation and it's flat, I think it doesn't necessarily matter. So the cobbler very similar to, to BWR and it's concept is not really a gravel ride or I mean you, we, we kind of say it's sort of a mixed bag of multi surface. , so we, we looked at it and we said, well, we don't really have the, the, you know, the, the true ingredients or the gravel race. So we're going to take the best of what we call our, our backyard special, the or out. We'd have some private property that we were very fortunate to get early on orchards and vineyards and in various components. So we looked at the distances and we sort of settled on anywhere from 80 to a hundred. , and then the elevation would, we'd just kind of evolve, you know, we tried to find, you know, stupid trail that people didn't necessarily want to do that were too steep. And of course that led into our every year legendary, you know, Hika bikes that people can't believe, I'm gonna make them hike, uh, offend. Uh, so we're kinda known for that. So that was sort of the distance and then maybe five to 7,000 feet of climbing in total. So we try to really do a little bit of everything, single track, double track, gravel, road, asphalt, , you know, any, anything that we can find. And then we changed the route every year. There, there were a few staple features, , a couple of canyons and goalies that we always try to use, , certain sections just because of how the route has to go. , generally stay the same. And then from there we just try to find new stuff and then add that into the mix. And, and obviously we're well known for keeping the, the Shenanigan meter high as well. So yeah, that's kind of our m o we, we, we, the little team of guys that I worked with on and we say, you know, we're not changing every year and doing stuff that other people aren't doing. We got to really look at it. So we just, we try to be different and they're very, , they're very Bakersfield where, yeah, that's awesome. I think, you know, it's interesting, there's, there's something to be said for going back to the same course every year as an athlete. But for me it's super exciting. The prospect of going to an event that I know is well put together who spices up the course. So we have different things to think about every year. Yeah, that's, you know, that was really a big element for me. And sometimes I think a lot, you know, male, female, doesn't matter. Friends and cyclists and people that are very, , very passionate, very energetic, very excited that to want to share, you know, we, we'd love, we're get so happy to bring people to Bakersfield or even for local people to kind of have that like, oh gosh, I wonder what they're going to do next. And I wonder if we're going to ride through his house again. Hey, I wonder if we're going to ride through a church. I wonder if we're going to do that trail. I mean, that for us really is the reward gets turned into a tiny little business and, and we're grateful for the support. But that's really the fun element for us is how can we keep tweaking it? And you know, after, after a couple of beers, everybody starts getting excited and they're like, hey, let's, let's hang bags taken off of sticks. And I'm like, no, no, somebody's already done that. Let's, uh, let's put a water slide and nobody's done a water slide. We just, we just have so much fun trying to prove with respect to events that really don't change. And the first one that comes to mind, which is actually my favorite gravel event, is the, uh, texture crusher. So a Burke swindlehurst came to getting concerns with Neil and he's come to a couple of cobblers and, and I really hit it off with him as well. And, you know, he's got a route that's very traditional every year and he sells it out and in like lightning speed. And I've been three times and every time I go, I just love it, you know, so maybe it's enough time as tab. It's got enough features for me that I really love how it all sort of comes together. So, you know, I think people dig the changes and that's sort of our emo. But the big part is, you know, we, we are all cyclists and we caught out. We have a mom culture that's, you know, quality events by writers, for writers. That's part of my San Blind, uh, you know, slogan. And, uh, and that's really true. Put on a great event, keeping me and have fun with it. So as with the diversity of terrain that you put people through, what kind of advice are you giving people? As far as the type of equipment and tires they should be riding? So because it does have elements that can be a little bit more dramatic, we've had a lot of people with great success on a mountain bike and by and large most people are bringing a gravel or cross style bike with 38 up to 42 millimeter tires. I mean we've, we've had a few people attempt and actually succeed with doing the a cop, a lot of road bike. , very difficult with some of the rocky sections and things that we have. So you know, I think like other events that are similar to ours that you, that have the multi-surface elements, you get a pretty wide variety. But if we were to align all the machines that, you know on the morning of rock harbor, we recommend to them, you know, minimum of 34 millimeter definitely, you know, file tread are more aggressive and uh, and that's sort of, you know what, we're after, you know, 34 by 36 I'm daring for, for somebody that needs a maybe a little bit lower, you can go lower. It's always safer. So we're still kind of recommending that sort of gravel bike adventure setup. And usually when we're testing the course and we're trying to find the features, you know, you've got that varying degree of ability. But somebody will do on a mountain bike, I might be crazy enough to try out a road bike, but then there's somebody else who's going to be walking down, you know, a trail or whatnot. So we try to have fun without being too nutso. , but then you have another nature and you can't do anything about her. So sometimes things can get a little treacherous. So now, long story short, gravel, gravel bike was a slightly bigger tire and wheel veering we think is a great setup. It going back to shenanigans, I'm not exactly sure how riders are going to understand how to plan for riding through a house on their gravel bike. Yeah. Yeah. So the short story of that evolution was obviously what I previously discussed. We wanted to try to find, you know, you need crazy stuff. , so the riser, the house thing had come to me many years ago before we even did it the first time and I couldn't figure it out. Number one, whose house we were gonna use. Although we did use my house last year and it, it's sort of [inaudible], it's hard to have to turn people around and go down the street. He came in and whatnot. But we, we made it go. So the first year we did it, two years ago, I have a buddy who actually worked with and he lives not too far away just around the corner and you have a, a dirt field entrance to his backyard. Just luckily enough. And then a good street ran out in the front. So we got the talk and I think we're getting ready to remodel. And his wife is just, she's such a game where she's kind of one of the guys and so we were drinking wine and sitting around and he says, I check you out. Let's do it. And we didn't really expect that response. So we worked pretty hard on how are we going to get across this road. It's recently busy. , and sort of hide the house. We didn't want anybody to see it or they got there and it, it really couldn't have gone better. Like they dropped in off this little trail with a bunch of tall grass that they couldn't see and it was like right into the fence and people were just, you know, his whole family and friends are over there. People were just going nuts. And some of the early, some of the video's still floating around. You can, you can see the look on people's places. I mean, they're riding through a gate, they're going around a cooler and going through a sliding glass door and you know, out the front. I mean, it was just, it was just so ridiculous, , that it was just so good. So we accomplished the first year of riding through a house with a cobbler. And last year, you know, we all sort of look at each other and said, well, nobody's going to envision that. We're going to do this twice. Like we didn't breathe a word about it. People would ask, they can, I don't know what we're going to do that again. And I said, no, there's no way we're going to do a house fly if we can't do it. While, while the meantime, we were secretly plotting of whose house are we going to do and how are we going to do it? So we ended up putting it all together and doing the best we could to make the route sort of script work. And it worked out just fine. And, uh, you know, it really did cost me a trip to the beach and a trip to the beauty salon. For my wife. She was like, I am out of here. She wasn't quite the game or that my buddy Randy's wife is and about writing through it, write it in that chesty and fantastic. We had red carpets, , that a local rental place had used. We'd had a lot of rain and they'd had supplied into a wedding. So he called me because he saw my need or the event was coming up and said, hey, I got all this red carpet that were thrown in the trash because it's ruined. And I said, I will take every bit we can. So we cut up the red carpet and I think it's still the, the, the photo on my Facebook page with a caption that says, you know, why stop now? So we rolled out the red carpet and that went over as a big hit and rolled everybody down my front lawn. So you know where we go from there on, you know, a other thing I do, it's tough to call. We, we won't beach balls at 'em. We've, uh, had dark girl, Langley done some fun stuff and we do have a pretty good list of shenanigans so we'll, we'll certainly come up with something. So 2020. Yeah, I have to say I have seen some of those videos and some of the images from riding through the house and it is just, it's, it's so funny to watch some of the expressions and everybody's having such a good time. I'll definitely put a link to some of those that I can find in the show notes for this event because I do think, you know, these shenanigans as you were saying earlier, such that they go viral and it makes people enthusiastic too. You know, I'm in northern California, maybe a four hour, five hour drive down to Baker's field, but it's like it's on my list of things to do because I want to go see what kind of shenanigans you're going to throw out next. Yeah, no, the fun part is bigger. So at that time of year, you know, we always do bigger self help stuff. I founded my entire life and I have lived here my entire life. People asked if I'm from Bakersfield, I'm like, I wasn't born here. I was actually born overseas and I, my parents were both in the military, but my mom was on Bakersfield. And so yeah, I've lived here my entire life. So instead of [inaudible] things get quite green and usually the, the dirt is he wrote there and we just had amazing weather every year. Last year was the first year we had rains. And in some ways I'm really glad we did because it, it wreaked a little bit of havoc was , some course marking. I learned a couple of valuable lessons. We had a few people go the wrong way, but the funny part is not all, but almost all of those writers turned around and went back. So they had already done this gnarly hike, a bike, and it was money. They ended up going back and finishing, you know, the whole course. And, and that's to kind of talk about shenanigans or people smiling and having fun. The rider base of what cobbler brains or a BWR brains. And, and we, we don't call the cobbler race. I mean it's definitely much more of an organized ride and you know, people can make it as competitive as they want, but having fun is just paramount. And for us, we've, you know, want to call it gravel on surface or adventure rides or whatever. That's really the name of the game. We, we get a large audience of people that, some of them I've known for some time in the cycling community that things very competitive and still are. But there's just a, I think there's really a desire for, for people that want to just go and have a great experience, you know, they want to have good party, they want to have a hard ride, they want to feel challenged. But you know, sending a number on and trying to be everybody. A ritual for use is really not that, not the name of the game for us. So we just, we really, really want to treat him like a customer. I think that leans into everything that's great. A great bow, gravel, that kind of intention. Like there's plenty of opportunity to go fast and push yourself and try to be the first one across the line. But it's also about enjoying the day, making new friends, having a true adventure. , two rock cobbler was in February, so we missed it this year. But you've got a second event that is going through a name change. So can you tell us about how Grapes of Wrath has evolved to El Gravel Arrow he'll grab aware of. So yes, we had, uh, one of our good supporters and riding buddies, , and family friends, uh, his family operated in those at a table grade company and kind of just out in Kern county, but just outside of Baker. So for a long time, like 80 or 85 years. And unfortunately they, they ended up kind of closing up shop and some family wanted to do something else, so it sort of went away. But we had an event called Grapes arap and it was another route that was probably more BWR. Like it didn't ha it doesn't have all the cobbler elements pretty straightforward on, on the gravel road. You know, there's no single track, there's not a lot of, you know, technical dirt descending was very, very straightforward, but it was an amazing route. Uh, so unfortunately when there great business, , folded, we lost the venue, we had a kind of a big dirt field in the vineyards and had these really big reservoirs. We'd go swim in the reservoir. So it's just kind of like a camping weekend of some deer riding and some road riding and a ton of eating and drinking and campers and cause it was awesome and it was slowly starting to gain some traction. This last year, , Ryan steers came. We've had several other writers of note that are known that just like, man, here's a little nother little kid in gym that these guys as they're doing, so it's spaced out enough that it works. So we needed to retool the event with a new venue, which we have fortunate enough to go back to some private property that we use for the cobbler, which is real Bravo ranch here towards the mouth of the canyon that goes up to Lake Isabella. So we'll be positioning the venue and the food and our festivities and things that Real Bravo and we've retooled the route. And in that process we came up with grab Alara, which is actually a trademark name that belongs to another cycling buddy. We just happen to love the name. I said, man, if there was anything that ever worked for, you know, the free spirit of adventure riding, it's these guys that called themselves the gravel Leros. And uh, so my buddy Alex, yeah, let's, you know, let's, , you can use it like near the name and we wrote out on a cocktail Napkin and, and here we are. So it's a shorter route. We've taken some of the climbing out, but we really think it's just another great combination of a little bit of everything. And this year we will have the opportunity to do quite a bit of dirt descending. So there's a very long road. It's actually almost a 34 mile climb. If you go from the bottom and it just runs this entire ridge of some of the southern Sierras and it's called furniturea. So we're going to do the course clockwise instead of counterclockwise so it will still get all the farmland and oil fields and some of the funding preachers there. And then we've got a pretty gnarly three mile section of climbing, , averages 16% in 1500 feet in less than, less than like a mile and a half, two miles I think. So it's pretty, pretty nasty. But then you get this really cool sort of mentally challenging, physically challenging focus, challenging descent on a pretty chopping, uh, sections of ranch area. And then now we'll drop people right back into the end of the ranch where the venue is. So I think it's just going to work wonderfully. We've got a ton of traction already. People are excited and I'm so we're, we're very, very much looking forward to bringing that one into the fold and, and evolving it. That's awesome. Well, I'm excited to see more about that later in the year in October. And I wanted to thank you, Sam, for joining us on the show today and thank you, especially for putting on such great events. , it's really important to the gravel community that we have events that are professionally produced and are stable and kick up these amazing experiences so that people want to keep coming back and keep talking about why having an adventure style bike or a gravel bike is so important and such a great opportunity. So thanks for making the time, Sam. I can't wait to hear about the events later in the year. Well, thank you for having me. And, uh, we, you are welcome to out at our house anytime. So don't, don't be a stranger. Come, come down and play with us and we can experience it all firsthand. Cheers. Tim Farrar -- Paris to Ancaster Tim, welcome to the show. Well, it's great to be here. I'm excited to learn about Paris to Ancaster. I've read a little bit about it. I've seen some pictures and for anybody listening, go online and check out pictures from this event because it seems like you have everything from tarmac to double track to fire roads, to county roads to a single track, a heap of mud. It looks like a hell of a lot of fun. And then to learn that 2020 is going to be the 27th edition of this race. I was pretty staggered and excited to have you on board. So Tim let, let's start off with just learning a little bit about your background as a cyclist and what got you to the point 27 years ago to organize this crazy event. Well, my cycling background goes even deeper than they started cursing cast or I started a bike racing as a road racer when I was 13, 14. And got progressively more involved. A actually hit category one status on the road when I was uh, in my twenties. But more recently, I've just been, uh, a masters, masters Roadie and even more recently just a bike rider rode for a ride. So that's where I, uh, but when I came into organizing, I was a recently, uh, recently I graduated college student with a couple of buddies and that's where Paris and gastro started. So it wasn't commonplace obviously for people that are putting on gravel events that the pure term as we think about it today wasn't even invented at that point. What made you decide to put an off road event that wasn't a mountain bike event at that time? Well, at the time we had a, uh, same two buddies, uh, and the, I in college had a business doing, uh, photo timing and results for bicycle road races, you know, like, uh, stage races and stuff. And that grew out of our first event, which was a criteria in which grew to a road race, which could, was stage race. And we had some pretty, uh, big international years in the early or the mid eighties, late eighties. And, uh, we were looking for an event to basically get our season started. In nearly early spring. We had lots of work between May and October, but we didn't have much in the spring. So we, uh, basically put on a Perry Roo Bay tribute event as a closet mountain bike race. And I believe you shared with me that you had 266 participants that year. What were they writing? What were they into interested in doing? Well, the, the kind of interesting thing I think about race is that the, uh, they were the people, men, women, the one we're on cross bikes right away. And that was partially deliberate because I was pretty well tuned into the local, uh, road racing scene. So anybody that, uh, thought they needed a mountain bike, we sort of told them it was really more of a cyclocross race. And, uh, as it turned out, the guys, the men and women that won the first year were, you know, oh, actually one of them is from, uh, uh, northern California, Mark Halati. Uh, your listeners might know him in the, uh, group from the group ride community in north, in North San Francisco area. That's where he lives now. But he had a career as a division three pro, um, around the time that he won the race. And the first woman, the one was Krissy Retton who, uh, went on to represent Canada at the Olympics. I think it was Sydney, I'm not sure which year off offhand. So the, the thing about our sanctioning body at the time was they had all these mountain bike races starting up in the, uh, early and mid nineties. And there were all kinds of crazy things, you know, like, uh, you know, bike stage races that had a hill climb, a, uh, a descent competition across country and trials stage. So they had no idea how to officiate all of this, uh, all this of, but they did have a category for a, a mountain bike citizen race. And according to the rules of mountain biking at the time, it only had to be like 60% on, uh, unpaved surfaces. So that's what we called it. But we told everybody it was a cyclocross race. And, uh, most of the, you know, a good portion of the distance was on, you know, Polish dirt roads. So it was fast, like a road race and that's how it took off. And has that course changed over the years? Well, quite, uh, quite a bit. Uh, but we do have one guy who's written every edition, so he's probably a better authority on it. Uh, but two of the, two of the largest sections of our race are on rail trails and they have been for the entirety of the event. But one of those rail trails in the first years was, you know, they just taken the rails up. It hadn't been regraded or you know, uh, a chip, uh, filing, you know, the, to pack it down. It was, you know, rough rail bed with the railway ties still in place. So it was more of a hike and bike section in some, uh, some areas. But, uh, other than that, there's been a few, um, a few roads that were gravel that have now been paved. And, uh, we've recruited more and more private landowners to let us daily on their property for, uh, a couple of hours on a Sunday morning in April. Nice. So if I'm an athlete, considering it for 20, 20, walk me through the length of the event, the amount of climbing and what type of terrain I should be looking at. Well, the [inaudible] of the race is basically, it's a two hour winning time from their back. It could be, you know, anything from, uh, well a couple of seconds to a couple of hours covering all the, uh, uh, all the age groups. But we started off in waves and the basic principle is the fastest guys go first. So people have qualified well from previous years, get into the elite wave, invited pros and stuff, get into the elite wave, and then the other wave is fill up, um, as after registration opens. So we think it's pretty egalitarian in that mean two hours. So if you're in the neighborhood of two hours, two and a half hours of your regular ride, the ride is within reach. Uh, as for the, uh, the elevation, there's really not a ton of climbing, but the climbing that there is this kind of rolling hills, uh, you start off on one or Riverside rail trail for 10 kilometers, that's, you know, virtually flat. Then there's some punchy little, a little climbs, but nothing, uh, sustain into the seven or eight minute range. You know, they're, uh, they're short. But at the finish line, you finish at the top of the gravel road that's got, well, it, they seemed like 25% pitches. They may, they may not be too, might as well be a lots of people walk, let's put it that way. The final pitch, and it's, so over the years, how have you seen the equipment evolve from, you know, the winners to the participants? What are people riding? You said, you mentioned the sort of started with a, a cyclocross sort of skew and imagine that's where the bikes were at that time, but over the years, what have you seen show up at the start line? Well, we've seen almost everything show up and, uh, but the, the bulk of the top 100, even since year one has been cyclocross oriented. And I don't differentiate in recent years between cyclocross oriented and gravel oriented cause it's, but, and you know, but right from the very first year the men's and women's women's winters were on cyclocross bikes ever steel with canteens. But you know, the pilots were good. Um, but in the meantime, we've also had, uh, mountain bikers with, you know, 26 year olds size wheels, uh, paired right down to one inch slicks on and, uh, they would be well in the mix. And one a few years, uh, we had a guy who went two years in a row, uh, first on a cyclocross bike with candies. And then next year on the, one of the, uh, newer, uh, 20 niners years. Never seen that before. And then, uh, recently it's been guy gravel bikes and cyclocross bikes. But we also had a year where a guy won on road bike. And, um, of course he later that season he was world junior time trial champion. So you had a little bit of an engine and some good luck. Well, it certainly, it looks like you've created a interesting event. Uh, again, like looking at the pictures online and some of the videos people have shot over the years. It just looks like it. It's a great way to start your season in that part of the country and kind of push your limits across a bunch of different types of terrain. It looks like the event has grown quite substantially. Is there a rider cap next year? Yes there is, but it's a, uh, uh, it by distance cap. So we do have a limit in the 70, uh, nominally 70 kilometer race and nominally 40 kilometer race. But the, we also have a 20 kilometer family ride, which we're nowhere near approaching a limit on. So, uh, yeah, there is a, uh, there is a limit, but the, uh, um, registration opens in November. Typically when we get all our stuff together, um, and, uh, it doesn't sell out right away, that's for sure. Okay. And where can people find out more information about the event and if they wanted to register, where should they go? Well, a, our website does lead you to a, uh, uh, address. It's a pair of thank Um, a lot of the questions that website will know likely most likely be somewhat out of date. That's why if this is been broadcast in real time, uh, but generally where the last weekend in April and a lot of the FAQ is, or no answered there. But uh, we'd certainly like to talk to anybody about the race it's been, you know, yeah. Well, well yeah, hats off for, for completing 26 additions of the race so far and it continues to go on and on and on. So I'm excited. I appreciate it. On behalf of the community, always appreciate talking to event organizers because it's a lot of hard work. I know you've got a, a big volunteer base team that puts a lot of effort in every year and it's not inconsequential. Keeping the website up and doing all the logistics and making sure everybody's safe and having fun. So Tim, on behalf of the community, thanks for putting on the event. For everybody out there. Definitely do a Google search for some videos and images. There's lots that I found out there. It looks like a hell of a lot of fun if you can find yourself in that part of the country. Um, during the spring season, said, Tim, thanks for joining us. Hey, that was cool.