Cover image of The Gravel Ride.  A cycling podcast

The Gravel Ride. A cycling podcast

The Gravel Ride is a cycling podcast where we discuss the people, places and products that define modern gravel cycling. We will be interviewing athletes, course designers and product designers who are influencing the sport. We will be providing information on where to ride, what to ride and how to stay stoked on gravel riding.

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Ted King

A conversation with former professional cyclist and current king of gravel, Ted King. We discuss gravel riding across the country, the great community, equipment choices and the inaugural Rooted Vermont event Ted and his wife have created. Ted King Instagram Rooted Vermont Automatic Transcription. Please excuse the typos Welcome to the show. Craig. Thank you very much for having me. I appreciate your time. And I usually start out the show by asking for people's background as a cyclist, but in this case, since the con, the topic has been well covered both on your own podcast, king of the ride and in other ones. I want to start off a little later. You're later in your career and just talk about kind of your last year as a pro and as you were looking forward to ending your road cycling career, what attracted you to gravel and how did you really get into it? Oh Man. Um, so my final year racing professional was 2015 and I was at a team camp in about January of that year. Um, that was my 10th year racing professionally. And the, the idea of crept in my mind in January that man, like this isn't the be all end all and I'm having a blast. But I, I, I was 32 at the time and I wanted to step away from the sports, still loving the sport. Um, I was seeing a lot of people, my colleagues and contemporaries being, um, you know, finishing their career, not on the terms they wanted. They were injured and not getting a contract or just not racing to their potential. I'm not going to get contract. And so, um, I was happy that was a contract a year for me. I still love the sport and I just thought maybe this is the time to step away. So shared that idea with a couple of friends and family members. Um, yeah, 32 was relatively young to step away on your own accord, but uh, the timing was right. So fast forward till May and then we're racing tour California and I made the announcement right then, um, you know, race on home turf and figured that would be receptive to, especially in American audience. Um, and, and truly at this point, I didn't know what I was going to be doing moving forward. I have a degree in economics from, you know, reputable school, uh, that, that sends a lot of it's econ majors out to Wall Street. Um, but you know, 15 years removed from the world of finance, that's not the kind of thing you dip your toe into and in your early mid thirties. So, um, I didn't really, I knew cycling would be part of my life in some capacity. I was at that point beginning to coach a few people. Um, but I didn't have the relationships and doing what I'm doing now, which we can get into. It was never a part of the plan. Yeah, there's certainly wasn't, there certainly wasn't a roadmap for you. There wasn't a lot of ex professional road cyclist who had carved out the type of career you've made over the last few years. Yeah, very, very true. Um, so it took, we had this idea, I mean I worked with my agents rocker and said, you know, when we announced it, companies beginning with Cannondale and then ceram came forward and said, you know, we, this is sort of the beginning of the ambassador world saying we know we like what you present this sport and, and you know, you have a good voice and presence in the sport of cycling and sure it is a little bit young to be stepping away. Do you have an interest in sticking and staying involved? Um, and we didn't really realize what that capacity could be. It was like, are we opening a bike shop or we are we representing these brands in some other capacity? Um, so long story short, I mean even at that point, gravel isn't really on my radar. Um, I think it comes to my mind early the next year I met coincidentally south by southwest with scram dealing with, uh, one of these open the road events where you introduced customers and people to um, to new lines of products. So Strand was introduced in the one by, in hydro disc brakes. And, and you know, 2016 this is EATAPP era early tap. And, um, I met Rebecca Rush for the first time, who at that point was the queen of pain. Uh, and she says, Hey, Roddy, he made, she started this, taking this older sister, uh, put, you know, putting her elbow and my side kind of kind of relationship rowdy. You got to come over and do dirty Kansas, this crazy event. It's uh, it's pretty cool and you'll love the community. So I think that was my first formal gravel race, so to speak. Um, but I, I dip my toe in a lot of these sports. Uh, I mean a lot of these of these avenues, otherwise, like I did in your neck of the woods, the grasshoppers, which in 2016 they've been going for I think almost 20 years at that point. These mixed terrain, super fun mass start at 800 person rides. Um, so those sort of things are the doing the 200 and a 100, which is this ridiculous 200 mile ride in the entire length of Vermont from the northern Canadian border to the southern Massachusetts border. Um, which takes place entirely on one road, uh, route 100 given hence its name. Um, and just sort of dipping my toe into the, into riding my bike off road quite a bit, which at that point still, it wasn't what it is. Now. Had you done mountain biking earlier in your life? Yeah, I got into the sport. My older brother was a, uh, collegiate national champion, um, and he got me into cycling in general. Uh, I was on the competitive side getting into it in college. Um, I've obviously not, obviously I grew up riding a bike and banging around town and riding my friends' house and stuff as a kid, but through my teenage years, he just basically didn't ride a bike. Um, so I got into competitive cycling and, and immediately it was more gravitating towards mountain biking. So, uh, yeah, I mean a race mountain bikes in college and a tiny bit after that, but at a decent level, not by any means any sort of national level. Rebecca convinces you to go to this crazy race called dirty Kanza. Yeah. Um, I, I think dk at that point lived in this world that was not centric with mine. It's this a massive ride in the middle of America that it's a sort of flyover state that that mysteriously is attracting thousands upon thousands of people, whatever. I'm not terribly interested. However, given Rebecca's nudging and, and uh, I had heard of a few other former pros who are doing it and Neil surely was doing it. Um, I said, yeah, they gotta check this thing out immediately. Fell in love immediately. Got It. And understood it and, and saw this vibe that that is being alluded on. The, uh, my background, the road racing side, um, I think there's something about the math starts. There's something incredibly cool about people finishing off throughout the day. Um, so that, you know, if you're a little bit on the faster side, you can come back, finish, grab a beer and then hang out downtown commercial street and watch people in this festival atmosphere cheering and going nuts all throughout the rest of the afternoons. Um, so from there it's spawned a whole bunch of other events. I mean, I call them 30 cans, it's like the granddaddy of of gravel, but it's, it's so cool to see how many other events are coming up. Um, you know, steamboat, gravel, SBT, G RVL. Um, and probably even in 2016, there was the early subconscious part of my mind spinning that maybe this is something I want to create. Like I love the sense of community. So fast forward to the present. Um, my wife and I have our creating our first gravel event this summer called rooted Vermont. That's amazing. You know, stepping back for a second, I think, you know, at that time in which you are entering the sport, which coincides roughly with, with my, my own entering into the gravel scene, you start to dig in and you discover things like dirty cancer. And you're like, holy crap, these things have been around for quite some time. And I think a number of them, like, like the grasshopper, I had Miguel the organizer on and to celebrate his 20th year. Yeah. And uh, you know, they've been proving it all along that you can ride what at the time when they started were straight up road bikes off road and just have that joy of exploration that I think many people in the cycling world are now discovering as you just described. Yeah, exactly. It's awesome. The, the reception of the industry to it. You mean for the early years? Yeah. You take your road bike and you go off road and then you're sort of tinkering and creating these frank and bikes that are exactly designed to be the right tool for the job, but you get them to work for the, for the road or path you're working on. But then fast forward to the president and the entire industry is behind that and the bigger clearances and the gear ratios that are advantageous to go up. Ridiculous. Lee Steep hills or disc brakes, um, all of these things just make it so much more receptive, which is think is also another reason why it's booming so big. Yeah. I think for the average cyclist who's not going to get any technical support, it's the sport has evolved so much that the equipment can withstand the type of abuse that you're, you're putting onto it. Whereas, whereas before, you know, you were just running through equipment because it just wasn't suited for the terrain. Right, exactly. Yeah. And I imagine it was also really interesting and it sounds like he expressed this, that however awarding it is to be part of, you know, a thousand person ride that you actually care to see the last people finish. Yeah. I understand where my reception initially was. Uh, they were like, oh, here's this, you know, who's a roadie? Like, welcome to the pro tour of gravel. Uh, I never, I never received that, which is, is honestly heartwarming from the gravel community. Um, I mean, I think they, the, the receptionist that strong and people are always interested in talking before, during, and after. Like, what equipment am I running or how am I treating the training for this? Or how do I treat any particular event given a 10 year history in the sport and, and you know, the level of professionalism that I can bring to it. Truly, when I retired from bike racing, I mean 2015 like I stopped screaming. I still love riding my bike and I love doing coffee shop rise and doing basically taking advantage of all the things that I was missing as a, as a professional roadie. So I mean even down to group rides, sure. Group rides there are valuable to get some, some quick fitness, but I would largely skip them because my training was so rote and monotonous and, and interval heavy is that it wasn't able to dig into the social side of the sport. So yeah, it's been, it has been that community that, um, that has been so heartwarming throughout my time now in this, in this growing burgeoning, blooming world and gravel. Have you seen your sort of personal choice of equipment evolve over the last few years? I think I remember you starting out with a a Cannondale slate at one point, which is a suspended front suspension bike. Yeah, I mean it's cool to see these, these cycles and macro cycles within the sport. I mean that that bike in 2016 that was sort of early six 50 B. Um, we also conference, um, the, the inch of travel was a huge advantage in that first year of dk. I noticed it was myself and Brian Jensen who's a, he's a former pro from jelly belly, crazy strong guy. He, the two of us are duking it out at dk and I noticed that every descent that's a little bit gnarly that front suspension is like soaking up a few seconds of time. So I'm rolling away from every descent and you don't want to ride away from a guy so far from the finish. But that technology was really helpful. Um, I've segway to to 700 seat, just being a six foot two individual and figuring that bigger are going to be an advantage over the long haul. But already in this mini cycle that I'm talking about, you see six 50 be making a big resurgence and with the ever wider tires. Um, I mean bikes that can fit two inch wide tires are more that are quote unquote gravel bikes. I think you're going to see at a large number of bikes going at six, six 50 be a direction. Um, tires have been a huge, huge change. I mean, even, you know, three years ago, 2016, the, the number of options for four tires was limited. The tubeless technology wasn't Stephens a fracture where it is today. So that disc brakes, I mean, all of these things are, are so, uh, welcoming as a, as a consumer. I mean just, it just, it makes the writing so that much more fun. Or You spicing up your tire selection based on the course these days. Um, spicing it up. I'm working with a company called Renee hearse, um, formerly called compass and there they have yon. Hyde is the, uh, founder of the company and chief engineer. And he comes from the, uh, he's up in the Pacific northwest where they have, he does the huge random nay type of events. So you know, many, many, many, many hour events. Um, and he is really introduced the wider tire concept to me. So you know, I'm writing a often a 40 or 44 c with tire and he and his community are used to writing 50 or more, 50 more see width. And with that you can run lower pressures. You don't need as Nabi attire or any knob it off or for a huge amount of terrain. And so he is totally introduced this concept to me of running a slick, a wide slick. It really low pressure. Um, I did that at land run with, with huge success. I mean the rolling resistance is so low. Um, and then they also do have an absolutely killer tired with, uh, with tire called this delicate Steilacoom, um, which looks, it looks very old school nature. Um, it's just these sort of big knobs, uh, pretty symmetrically throughout the tire, but it's genius is its simplicity and that again, it has really low rolling resistance until you need to really jam and like grabbing to to the terrain below you and it has awesome grip. So I mean the, what I love about tires, how is, is I have as many whips slick as I want or this one really fast rolling grippy knobby tire. And from there you can basically ride anything. Yeah, I think that's interesting cause it's totally counter intuitive that you can take, which is effectively a wide slick and ride it almost anywhere off road. I've been on that journey myself and it's nice and been fascinated that you can do it and then it just makes mixed terrain riding all the faster. Sure. And you're, you're in mill valley, correct Morin. So we'd write I'm a dry day and tan or even, you know, super wet day. I realize that you're coming off a very damp winter. Like Tam is designed for these tires, uh, sharp rocks. But, but you know, the stuff that you do want to soak up a bit of a, the Chunder I'm underneath you. So yeah, run runner like fat 44 47 50 and you're like riding the couch down the road. It actually is a perfect segway into, one of the things that as always most interested in me about gravel is that it changes so dramatically depending on what part of the country you're in. And I think you are personally uniquely qualified to help me explore this because you've lived in Mill Valley and you've done a lot of the iconic events across the country. So if we look across the country and maybe we start in, start with, uh, I think in Vermont there's raspy pizza. We look at that. We look at land run 100. We look at dirty Kanza, we look at riding at in steamboat gravel, and then we look at coastal trail and Diaz urge in mill valley. If you're coming to go flat out on those particular races or rides, are you changing your equipment as you cross the country? Um, I think also with the go the gracious support of the industry, it allows the sport to be much more accessible to the average consumer or entry level consumer or experienced consumers. So it's a pain in the butt to change tubeless tires. It's a pain in the butt to work on, uh, you know, to, to get rid of road or rub on disc brakes. Um, you don't like to change cassettes and drive trains. So here's another comparison, you, you through these events out. I came out to California in January and rode the coast ride within Gumbo. We ride from San Francisco basically down highway one all the way to la. So we extended the day, throw in an extra hundred miles. It's basically four days, 500 miles. I wrote that entire thing on these stellar Coombs, so 44 slick tires, no problems. Fast Rolling, a little bit of gravel, but you know, 99% payments. And then I wrote the exact same bike. Sorry. My point is I want to Cannondale super x. So it's a cross bike that's so freaking efficient, yet compliant and accepting of huge tires that it can handle this, this massive fast road group pride as much as it can handle. The next week I did the first grass off for the year. Um, that one was quite a bit Chenery. Uh, it was a pretty gnarly course. There's a brand new one called low gap that Miguel put together. And so all I did was switch the wheels. Um, I had different tires on this different set of wheels, but it was the same set of zip through or threes if you're the stellar curves, it has those knobs because we had, you know, some damp, super steep, gnarly climbs to do and a sense. So I think all of the, basically it's the width, the width of attire that you can take an a bikes these days even on a road bike. Um, my, my road bike, I can fit a slightly navi 30 to see tire. You can go off road with that. Like it's, it's absurd, but it's so cool that you can pull your bike in any direction. Yes, I totally agree with your point. I guess what I'm trying to explore, just like you know, if you bought your bike in mill valley, what would you have set it up with versus if you bought your bike in Kansas? Zilch. No different. Um, maybe a slightly different gear ratio, but even that is, is sort of a moot point. I mean if you're in mill valley, you've got some long climbs but he got plenty of short steep ones in Kansas. You don't have extended climbs but they certainly have short, punchy ones. So that's a small to negligible difference. Um, tire selection. I mean I think people are looking for the optimally size tire and, and I have largely been trying to convince people that simply go wider. Um, I mean we were coming from traditional road racing where a decade plus ago, well over a decade ago it was 23 see tires and 25 seat tires and 28 seat hires and then 30 see tires. Um, cyclocross had such a big influence too. Were you also talking to comply with UCI rules? Where I think you can only have like a 33 it's ridiculous. Like my road tire is wider than what's permitted in the cyclocross race and I get you don't want to ride a motorcycle with a, you know, 60 [inaudible] with tire where you can just burn every corner in a UCI cross race. But let's make the sport fund accessible. And I think with this is a huge aspect to that fun side of cycling. Absolutely. You're preaching to the choir here. I tell everybody that the bigger, the better. The on the width as far as I'm concerned. I just haven't really, I haven't really experienced the downside to having a wider tire. Zilch. I think people, they have the hesitation that that wider is more rubber is slower and I just, I can't, I can't get behind that. I mean, uh, you know, the, the 44 c slick that are on the coaster ride, 500 miles pour days, fast moving group, it slowed me down to zero, so yup, go wide, go big. I think that's awesome. That's good information. I appreciate you dispelling some rumors for me. Right on pleasure. Well, let's talk about some of the events that you really love. I mean, the other thing, you know, I love having course designers, which now you are a course designer for the event you and your wife were putting on. What are the elements that you're trying to achieve in the course there in Vermont, and what is the, the vibe and the experience you want people to walk away with? Yeah, so we've been, you know, Laura and I are very lucky to have experienced so many events, um, and really hit, I guess, you know, there's virtually none that I come away from thinking like, oh, that was not good. So we're taking an already elevated playing field of like exceptional events and then trying to draw on each one of these. Um, and one thing that we are really trying to hit home is purely that this is going to be a Vermont Summer Party. Um, we're calling it mile mullet protocol. So, you know, business up front and party in the rear, um, meaning it will be competitive. It's going to be hard. Um, I think there are, there's a misconception in Vermont that yeah, we have some craggy hills and it's the northern Appalachian mountains, but it's nothing like, you know, folks who were coming from Mill Valley for example, where you have tam or Hamilton or Diablo or the Rockies. We don't have these extended climbs. No. But collectively over the, over the 45 or 85 mile routes, like it is, uh, a nonstop relenting unrelenting day in the saddle. Um, I went out with two friends yesterday. I'm pre-rolled a good portion of the course. Um, it is, it's absolutely spectacular when we want to showcase this state. I have a strange barn fetish wear. I just love the nostalgia of barns of all types and styles. New Barns are beautiful, old barns are beautiful. Um, so we go by dozens and dozens of bars throughout the day. Um, but then one thing that I, again, that party atmosphere, like I want people to be racing for the finish in order to hang out, in order to have the community in order to have, uh, you know, the absolutely exquisite Vermont Ipa is too great barbecue and fresh corn on the cob and just showcase what, what Vermont in the summer is all about. Are we talking about mainly sort of dirt fire roads or are you on some narrow or terrain as well? MMM, so Vermont is cool because it has literally more gravel roads than it does paved by mileage. Um, it's um, sort of making up this number now it's pro 70 or 80% or more, probably 80% gravel come August 4th. Um, it's the, it's super, well, we have a huge variety, but there are really fast rolling buffed, basically highway of gravel. Um, where, you know, a flat tire is something that's never going to happen. Um, high speeds are very easy to attain, very undulating, up and down basically nonstop. You're doing a thousand feet every 10 miles or tiny bit more. Um, and then we do go into what Vermont calls class for roads, uh, which are definitely, you know, enters a, uh, a little bit, much more. It taps into your bike dexterity. Um, it's not pure single track. It's not like you're taking your bike off and he'd just gnarly schools the jumps. But yeah, it'll, it'll challenge you in some short stints. So, um, yeah, we got, it's got the full Monte over here. How much climbing, how many vertical feet? We'll the 85 mile ride take riders over. Uh, it's looking like that thousand for every 10 miles, so 8,500 feet. Okay. Um, and then I think the longest time is 15, 20 minute range. Um, prewriting yesterday was a little bit deceptive because as the snow melts, right now we're in, in the spring mud season that Vermont is renowned for. Um, so certainly will not be the case come August, but the road is sort of this soppy soggy mud. So you're moving at a fraction of the speed that you'll be moving them in dry, buffed, out gravel. Right, right. Well that sounds awesome. I mean it's, I mean, I was excited when I heard you announced it because I assumed you were going to take everything you've learned along the, you know, dozens of events you've participated in and try to make it, uh, set the bar that high and for you and Lord, I kind of crossed over that. Yeah. Yeah. I mean we, we, we've just seen so much great community at these events. Uh, so maple syrup will be a theme. We'll have plenty of fun and surprises out on course. Yeah. We're, we're here to show people a good time. What other events are you excited about this year and your season? Um, we touched a little bit on land run 100. That was a mid March, March 16th. Uh, so that was my first time going out to race in Oklahoma and Bobby went to on his crew were put on a, an amazing event there. Um, it's, it's relatively young Bobby school because he has a connection to Kansas. He has a connection to the original 30 cans of folks. So with this greater community that is gravel cycling, the folks at Dk were very helpful and to Bobby and creating his event. So you know, there are only a handful of years in and then bringing in almost 2000 people to Stillwater, Oklahoma. I mean that's, that's incredible. Um, so I had a blast there. I'm excited to go out to one called the epic one 50, which is in Missouri and late, uh, late April, first time racing the Ozarks. So that's going to be a hoot. Um, then probably or definitely go out to Belgian waffle ride in early May, which is probably the last big set up for dirty Kanza come June one. Um, so looking to defend the title at dirty Kanza, which is going to be the most competitive year by a landslide, given the pure number of current professionals and Prorodeo teams that are showing up. So that's going to be kind of fascinating. Um, SB TGR Vl steamboat gravels on this calendar. I'm really excited about that one in steamboat Colorado. Uh, they're doing a sort of a similar thing and that, you know, it's relatively distance, 140 miles, absolutely spectacular terrain. Uh, they're on the Rockies, like steamboat in the summer is heavenly. So really looking forward to that. Um, and the first time going to international and headed to race called the rift over in Iceland in, uh, late July. Nice. So no shortage. And then, yeah, definitely very excited about rooted Vermont. I'd be remiss if I didn't say rooted vermont.com. That is August. The event is August 4th. Uh, but we're doing a whole Friday, Saturday, Sunday, you know, festival prewrite group rides. So August two through four is the full Monte. That's awesome. It sounds you've got a great season ahead of you. Yeah, it's busy. That's for darn sure. Yeah. It's going to be interesting as you've kind of trail blazed this path for professional road athletes to see who kind of comes out of the Peloton thinking, you know, maybe I will end my career a few years earlier and go actually have some fun rather than keep plugging away. Yeah, no, it's goofy. I mean, Ian Boswell is a friend and neighbor here in Vermont. Um, you know, he's crushing it. He's, he's one of America's best racers, the races for Katyusha and he was chatting in there tonight on text and he's like, hey man, you're like, Gary Fisher here likes the original revolutionary putting your, your flag in this field that is gravel, which I got a complete nutter kickout of. Um, Gary Fisher is on a totally different playing field that is far supersedes where I am as I dabble in gravel. But it was a very flattering comments nonetheless. Yeah, yeah. Well, you deserve it. I think you've done a lot of great work for the sport. Very, very kind. Thank you. It'll be fun at the end of dirty Kanza to see some of your former colleagues in the pro Peloton, you know, potentially a completed an hour after you that because of having the disasters that are inevitable in your first dk. Yeah. And to kind of see how they feel because they're going to come across the line and it's not, they're going to be, I think, rewarded for having participated. Just like everybody is the first guy and the first woman to the last guy in the last woman, they're going to come and they're going to have a beer and they're going to have some barbecue or whatever waiting for them at the end of dirty Kanza. And I suspect a lot of them might realize that their reward for completing that race may surpass, you know, coming in 100th in a one day classic over in Europe. Yeah, it's a, it's a huge dichotomy. I mean, it's a tough balance because in order to achieve your best, then you, you do go long stints of certain things like oh 100% sobriety and maybe you're not drinking at all in the first place through the season. So, you know, it's hard to finish a race and say, oh, I'm going to have this massive plate of barbecue and a beer on top of that. Like road tactics are drilled into their minds. So there's certain things that they're accustomed to. One, certainly being a car behind you, which yes, they're aware that there's not going to be a car. Were you guys enough? But you know, I hope, my sincere hope is that they don't play by road tactic rules. I hope they don't have a road captain, whether it's, you know, my former colleagues are the guys who are racing on the domestic proceeds. That gravel is a leveling playing field. So everybody's dealt a certain level of block over the course of the day. If you're going to do well, you know, you have to have luck on your side. What will bother me is if luck is thrown out the window, somebody has three flat tires, but he has a teammate next to him every single time and you can go boom, boom, boom. Here's a new wheel, here's new, we'll have new wheel. So we, this, like I said, 2019 is, is the year of teams that entering gravel. Uh, there was a little bit of team tactics at play it at, uh, Atlanta, Ron. So I can't predict the future. I'm just very optimistic that gravel continues to have the, the, the friendly, wild nature that, that it always happens. Yeah. And I think that, you know, there's an opportunity in course design to always kind of affect the ability for team tactics to really play a role. You obviously can't eliminate it entirely, especially in the long stretches of road in those Midwest events. But I was like, when race organizers throw you on a little single track, or if you really push the limits of both your technical handling skills and your equipment in such a way that that kind of creates this natural breakup of any, any packer Peloton that starts to emerge. Yes. Yeah, 100%. That's my, my optimism echoing that. So I guess we'll see. I'm sure everybody is a fan of the sport will be keenly looking at dirty Kanza and just seeing how it feels. You know, I'm, I'm with you. I'm supportive of everybody in anybody entering the sport, whether they're a former professional road athlete or not, uh, because the more the merrier. But, uh, I'm also with you that I love the independence and the camaraderie and I hope that never changes despite the sport and the events becoming more professionalized. Yup, exactly. Well, ted, I really appreciate the insight. It was great to hear from you. I, like I said, I really was excited because I feel like you have the perspective of both living in, riding out of, out of my home town and having raced across the country and across the world. So it was really great to get your insights. Pleasure. Yeah, it is a small cycling world, so, you know, I'm, I'm hopping all over the place and hope that we can cross paths out on the bike sometime soon. Yeah, absolutely. If not in Mill Valley, I'm, I'll be out in steamboat, so I'll make sure to peddle it together there. Oh, nice. Perfect. That sounds great.


14 May 2019

Rank #1

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Big Sugar Gravel Bentonville with the Dirty Kanza team

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 gravel.com 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 gravel.com, 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.


28 Oct 2019

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Hunter Allen - Peaks Coaching Group talks gravel training for your 2020 plans.

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 bible.com 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 craigatthegravelride.bike 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.


17 Dec 2019

Rank #3

Podcast cover

Peter Stetina - World Tour Pro turns to Gravel for 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 craig@thegravelride.bike 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.


7 Jan 2020

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Alison Tetrick - Gravel Athlete, adventurer and purveyor of smiles

Alison Tetrick Instagram Alison's Bike Packing trip on the Silk Road Tech Corner - Sponsored by Thesis. Thanks, Craig. Let’s talk about seven things to look for in a gravel wheelset. 1. Rims. I look for wide, tubeless, asymmetrical, and carbon. This is going to give higher volume tires a proper base of support so that when you run them at lower pressures, you’re not getting tire squirm. It also reduces the likelihood of pinch flats, improves rolling efficiency, and makes for a stronger, stiffer, more durable wheel. 2. Hubs. Hubs are often the first thing to fail on a wheel, so avoid cheap pall-based engagement systems and small bearings used to save weight and cost at the expense of durability. Instead, invest in hubs with a reputation for bombproof reliability. 3. Spokes. I like a minimum of 24, and ideally 28, lightweight wing-shaped spokes. This offers strength, stiffness, and durability while preventing spoke wind up that can accelerate fatigue and failure, all while maintaining a low weight. 4. Exposed brass nipples. Aluminum nipples split and fail while saving only a trivial amount of weight, and hidden nipples make it a nightmare to true your wheels while offering zero aero benefit. 5. Lacing patterns. I like two-cross patterns for their strength, lateral stiffness, and resistance to torsional loads, particularly when paired with an asymmetric rim. 6. Ignore aero. There are no lightbulb-shaped NACA airfoils for a reason. Unless you’re running tires of roughly identical width to your rim, you’re getting all of the side-wind buffeting with none of the aero benefit. 7. Last, great components can’t make a great wheel without proper spoke prep, strain relieving, spoke balancing, and other hidden details. Therefore, look for hand-built wheels from a brand that sweats the small stuff. So that’s my take on wheels. Now, back to Craig and this week’s guest. Main Episode: (automatic transcription please forgive any typos) Alison, welcome to the show. Thanks for having me. Alison, as a fan of the sport, I know you as a woman who is usually at the front end of the field, but regardless of where you are, you always seem to be smiling, which is awesome. Yeah, I mean, riding a bike is fun and I think, you know, if I'm not smiling and enjoying it, then why do it? So, yeah, you're right. Whether it's racing and going hard or cruising around to the bakery, I think, I think bikes make you smile. Yeah, that's a good thing for everybody to remember. I always start out the show by asking our guests to talk a little bit about their background as a cyclist, kind of how you got into it, but most importantly like what drew you to gravel cycling because you didn't start as a gravel cyclist. No, I um, I'm born and raised in California. I actually grew up at a, on a cattle ranch down in Santa Barbara County and then up in Redding. Uh, and I played tennis in college in Texas, so definitely didn't start cycling until I graduated college. And I got into running that turned into triathlon and it was my grandfather, um, who recently passed away, but at the time he was saying, Hey, I'll, you know, you should try out cycling. And I was like, old bike racing and Super Dorky, you know, like you're wearing those like rightly hued neon clothing and spandex. And I didn't really want to partake in that, but eventually I bought a bike and hop into some bike races and did quite well when I moved here to the bay area and I thought maybe I'll try this out. And I got invited to the Italian id camp with USA cycling and with Europe and race the national team. So I actually had about a nine year professional cycling career that my grandpa would still just be like, I can't believe, you know, everything I said would happen, happened. And it was awesome. And I raced all over the world and pretty much reached a point in my career where I felt um, satisfied with what I had accomplished and was finding, searching to find more inspiration and what I was doing. I'd done all the big spring classics, I'd raced for the national team, I'd won races on those continents and I'm going, okay, I, I, I have that. And also, um, I found a lot of satisfaction with that, but also I'd had some pretty bad injuries in the sport. And so coming back to recover from a traumatic brain injury, broken bones, just the mental and emotional energy that costs me. At one point I remember exactly where I was in a bike race in Belgium and going into the last corner and I break, you know, and like, I just didn't want to take the risk anymore and I thought, okay, now's the time, you know, you need to, to, to choose a different path. However, I really loved riding my bike and we talked about that at the beginning. Like it does bring a smile to my face. I think there's something so empowering about riding a bike, especially as you know, where we live here in the bay area, I think it's one of most beautiful places in the world to ride. So sense of freedom and adventure and allowing me to express myself made me want to keep in the sport, but figure out where do cry, find something inspiring and find that adventure. And um, you probably know Yuri Wall and Rebecca Rush, they keep like elbowing me thing same way like my grandpa did, hey, try, you know, try some bravo or anything. You'll really love that, you know? Right. And you'll be good at it. And, and so it was with their encouragement. I was like, alright. And I thought I'd done for dirty cans and asked my professional team at the time that they minded, you know, me doing dirty Kanza and they're going, oh, well, you know, you still better do and into California nationals and you don't get slow doing it. Yeah. Okay. I signed up and I was just completely hooked because, um, there's so many things I love about gravel racing and riding on, first of all, of course it's that sense of adventure. It's a little off the beaten path and you know, you're getting on roads you'd never seen before. Your meeting this entire community of people that just think the same way you do, which I think is awesome. And when you're racing a road race, you know, in the streets of Holland or wherever you are, it's awesome and the fans are great. But this way we all get a line up on the start line together at these gravel races. And so you're not operating on this platform. You get a calm and just ride with your friends and also do you have the day, you know, to side. It's just about having fun and finishing and I, and I like that about it a lot too. So long winded answer but there you go. What was that? What was that like lining up for your first 30 cancer when you're lining up with all the women, all the men, all the participants. At one time. Had you ever done anything like that before? Not in a race setting per se, but you know, we think about it, we do a lot of that at Gran Fondo then you know, even charity events that you do on a bike. So it's similar but not in a full blown race. Um, but I think it's, it is nerve wracking. You know, there's a lot of people, you know, you're, you have like a chasing stampede behind you when you do those large events. And I know that that often, you know, causes a little stress. But, you know, I think something, I love the all inclusiveness of it and I love everyone starting together. Um, and kind of starting and embarking on this day and, you know, I do get nervous, still are worried and then I have to just remember like I chose to do gravel racing to, you know, lower my tire pressure and lower and my like life pressure. And like we were saying like, you're not having fun. Why are you there? So make sure you're having fun and, and, and know that you just get a tears, your friends at the finish line with some beer and talk about your, your day. You know, we all have great stories after doing those events. It's such an important part of the sport. I gotta imagine tactically it must feel a little bit different lining up with both the men and the women because obviously there's opportunities to get swept up in packs that will have both men and women in it. Has it, has it changed kind of how you think about racing when you're versus when you're racing in a women's only field? Uh, yes it does. Um, and you know, tactics of gravel racing are constantly changing as some of these events are offering price versus, and you know, there's a certain amount of glory for certain events. So, you know, not only do you have to think tactically lining up with a massive group of people, but also like now we're seeing team tactics, which is interesting and not why I do it. So that's different. But, um, I think you still have to do your own race. And in a lot of these events, especially the longer ones when you're looking at these bravo racing, you know your speeds tend to be a little slower due to the, you know, higher rolling resistance and the terrain. So even a hundred mile event is going to take no longer than it would on a road bike and dirty Canva, you know, obviously much more extreme in the distance. So yes you can, you know, you utilize other people's traffic and you can get caught up in pass. But also like for those endurance events, I think an important thing that we have to remind ourselves of is you have to race your own race and that means you have to stick to your plan because everyone feels like 1 million bucks at the start, eight hours in, you know, if you need to make sure you're fueling and hydrating and taking care of yourself properly for that beginning portion, which sometimes means letting groups go by you because their exertion is higher than would be appropriate for you to do so you can finish strong. Yeah. I think that's, that's great advice for everybody listening cause we've all been there where a group comes by you and you're desperate to get into a draft, but you realize you're just going harder still than you could reasonably expect to finish the 200 mile race in [inaudible]. Yeah. And I, and I think, you know, I've had different tactics, um, approaching a race, like dirty candidate depending on where my fitness is or where my mental state was. And I know this year, um, I finished second there. Um, but it was to not panic at the start when I knew I needed to just for not only like my physical ability but also my mental energy. Like my mental state that day was like, oh, you know, you're going to something with intending do, you're going, okay, what, what can I do to, to a, make sure I'm having fun because I signed up for this, you know, like I registered myself for this event and I been, you know, thinking about this or that for six months. So here I am. So reminding myself, I find out for it, I chose to do this. No one forced me to. So I better be having fun. And then when you're, you have that dark side in the back of your head where this isn't fun, this is hard, you know, her, I don't want her to sale or what if, and this I kept kept saying, you know, race your own race, do you, do you, you know, like believe in yourself that way and just don't panic, you know, like don't worry about some of those external influences that can cause you to panic because that wastes a lot of energy and you need to stay as positive as possible, especially as longer ones. You need to talk positively to yourself and you need to, you know, kind of get through that whole emotional journey that it takes to do a long um, endurance event. Yeah, I think that's probably a great piece of advice for road cyclists who have, have only participated in road events because in gravel, certainly in the distance of dirty Kanza you're going to have dark, dark moments. And the truth is everybody is, and the question is how do you rebound from that mentally and physically? How do you kind of stockpile enough tricks in your back pocket to understand it's going to hurt, you're going to have to go deep. But what are the things you can do to bring you back into a more positive space? Yeah, and that's the thing is I came from like one of my strengths, I don't know the road cyclists with a time trial is so, I mean I, I'd worked a lot on mental focus and preparation, um, which did help me in gravel racing because you know, your equipments dial your plan dials, but now you're taking a 20 minute time trial and making it 12 hours. So that's very different. But something I used in road cycling for time trialing, I'd say we, oh, no matter, you know, everyone loses focus, you know, and now it's just how quickly you can regain focus. But you're looking at it much, you know, fast forwarded version. And so I use that same thing and grab already seen. I'm like, okay, it's really dark right now. I feel horrible, but then how I just kind of have a Rolodex of whether it's mantra songs, you know, anything that can remind me to recenter, refocus, remember why I'm there, what I wanted to accomplish. And then also like if I start taking myself too seriously, like it doesn't matter like how you do just enjoy the day or you know, like whatever it takes to get you out of that place. And then also a joy and I kind of enjoy those dark places you go because you learn really fascinating things about yourself when you're pushed to those extreme limits. And so same thing kind of absorb it. It's, it's like bike therapy, right? And so maybe even using that to get yourself out of it, I go, you know, are you moving forward and making forward progress checks? Are you taking care of yourself? Eating, drinking, talking nicely to yourself? Yes. Okay. And then you can go into this crazy therapy session where end the day the event was so cool, but you do really learn that every day. Training for that and writing like in preparing for it was also really worth it to be able to see what you're capable of. Absolutely. And I think that's what those are. Those finish lines stories that get shared, whether you're Collin Strickland doing 10 hours or you're doing 16 hours, you had those same deep dark experiences along the way that make you want to come back and do it again. Yeah, exactly. I mean maybe you asked somebody right after the event, they'll be like, oh, absolutely not. You know, I would never do this again. And then two days later you're kind of going, all right, well next year we're going to do this. So I mean it, it's fun because I think it is about the challenge and you know, succeeding and whether that's just finishing or conquering the adversity within, um, that's really important. And then it's just finding something I've been kind of watching lately with myself. It's finding goals that inspire me, like inspire me. Like it's not dirty cancer for you then that fine. Is that the local grasshopper series? Is it a grand fondo? I mean, what, what inspires you? Or maybe it's just like a bike packing trip across or something, which I did do last year. Um, so it's finding something that makes you want to ride your bike, enjoy it and finding the right people to surround yourself with and you know, doing a good thing on your bike. Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Are there things from an equipment perspective that you look at differently for dirty Kanza than you do for other shorter events? Um, you know, obviously I, I ride the same setups. We're primarily most gravel events. I'm super comfortable on it. Um, I I ride for the specialized, so I ride a like an s works diverge. Um, I have the, Oh man, if I had the new strand EatApp force worn by on it with a, uh, a 44 front changing in a 10 50 in the back. So that was a super helpful and I just did that Oregon trail, gravel grinder accept all the gears for high speeds as well as really steep pitches. So I ran that exact set of for dirty Kanza. I'll run the set up, the same set up for fast you to Oregon trail gravel grinder because I do have all those years, the bike, I run the same tires ticker 38. Um, I know there's other options. I'm just super comfortable on that and I trust the equipment. Um, but for something like Kansas and it's longer, I mean I'm carrying a lot more supplies in case all hell breaks loose. So, you know, I'm carrying two, uh, plugs. Um, camelback, of course I run a chase ass, you know, depending on the event, like how the eight stations works with the duration, like how many bottles are you carrying? Um, of course the camelbaks really helpful for that. And then, you know, how do you on those, um, full design makes this little like snack pack, top two bucks. So that's actually helpful too. So the bike definitely gets loaded down with a lot more necessities, but I think you're not worried about weight, you're worried about survival. So I, I would like to, I like to carry enough to survive and make sure I'm, you know, able to get myself out of a bind if something happens to the equipment worth, you know, care enough to carry extra nutrition to and you know, things like that. Yeah. One of the tips that Yuri Haswell gave on an earlier episode or the podcast was always packing his camelbaks in the exact same way so that he knows what's in what pocket so he doesn't have to think about it. Is that something that you do as well? Yes, I um, I have everything exactly the same and so it's really easy. And the camelback, the chase, best of Nice cause it does sit up higher so you can still have access to your pockets when you wear it. So that's nice too. So I know what pocket has what and then in the taste best as well. I know exactly where everything is and I like I said the same thing of how they keep my bikes in this, the bikes, the same setup as well just so I always knew I had like no surprises on my equipment and I'm a huge data dork and I like to be as prepared as possible. So I do, I like, I like structure there. So I agree with you. I think that's good advice. Nice. Well you've just come off of a massive month of writing between dk 200 and the Oregon trail gravel grinder when you to the five day gravel grinder event. And we did have chat on the podcast as well. So I'm really curious to get your opinion on how the event went. Was it, how was it riding five days in a row? What was the competition element the same as a one day event or was it more of a just an adventure ride? So, um, I go way back with Chad Sperry and he, I used to do a lot of those road races. He used to put on, so he's, you know, Mount Hood cycling classic and Cascade Cycling Classes. Um, so when he asked me to come out to this, of course, I said, heck yes, it sounds amazing. I'm going to feel awful after dk. Do I have to race it? He said, no, you don't. The race it, I'm like, sweet, I'm going to just ride this. And it was the most incredible adventure, um, coming from stage racing and road, like I'm used to that, which is also why I wanted to make it more of an adventure ride just because I know how hard roof like stage racing is and you're camping, so you're doing these points to the point you're camping. And I'm like, you know, I want to be, you know, sitting in the river, drinking beer with my friends after writing and not worrying about covering and going hard the next day. So there was a point he part of the race of course, where people were racing it and then there was a huge portion where it was just an amazing like bike touring adventure. And I fully embraced that for the first few days just to enjoy it. I see them taking Instagram stories and it was so beautiful. I mean, you're doing these 20 some mile climbs up to 7,800 feet through the snow and you know, it's just crystal clear blue days and it was awesome. And also really loved the setup and the prep. Like the minute you got done with the ride, you know, your tub aware of your supplies is there your tent set up for you and you know, then they have food catered in. It was really re like ran spectacularly. And I think there is uh, a good place for the competitive part of the group. But I think there's an awesome place for everything else in between, whether it's just finishing or kind of going slightly hard with your friends but still stop you the aid stations, you know, like not like racing and not enjoying the views. So I really kind of soaked that in the first few days. And then at the last day I was like, I'm going to think I'm just going to go hard today. So I raced the last day, which was at the best kind of fun, right? Like you could mix up what day you want to go hard and the next day you don't want to go hard, you just don't. And stopped at all the aid stations and you know, eat the chips and take photos. Um, but seriously phenomenal. I would put down on anybody's bucket list. It was like, you know, gravel summer camp in the cascades. Yeah. I'm really excited about that. I'm really excited about that format. I just think it's a lot of fun, particularly for the recreational athlete who might take that as their vacation week for the year to just go out and have someone like Chad lay out what they think are the best gravel roads in their area and take care of all the logistics. I mean I'm like, sign me up. Oh yeah. And I, I think that's what I was most impressed with. I mean I, I thought I was worried about it cause I know Chad always does a wonderful event, but I was just going, how is logistics spend a work? And it was seamless. You know, I mean rolled out every day at nine and you know, nine in the morning you'd finish your stuff would be there. You know, it was just really easy and you don't have to think about where to ride. And the course was marked perfectly a and you have eight stations that normally, you know, you'd have to pack a lot more water or food with you because you're out in the middle of nowhere with no town, no cell phone service. Um, and so I loved, I loved the way I did it because I got to stop and enjoy it and still go hard a couple of days so I can get maybe training in but also just like meet a ton of new people and go on roads. I never would have known connected that way. Yeah. Yeah. The funny thing is, I mean, just like a stage race, people are going to have good days and bad days. So there's sort of an ebb and flow to one. People want to go hard even if they are trying to race on the front end of the race. Yeah, exactly. And that was kind of fun too because you know you don't have to go for the overall, you can just go for one day, which I did, which was super fun. That is fun. Yeah. Yeah. It was just, yeah, different like, or he go hard on one climb, but then not pushing on descent and worry. You know about once again, as we talked about risk and things that I find important and for me, it's always that I want to be as safe as possible and I do operate at a high dose of fear, so I'm like, you know, it's really nice. Not that we have to raise this lunge, gravel, descent. It's nice to just to sit up and make sure I'm taking good lines and look at what could the view as I go down. Yeah. Yeah. So transitioning a little bit, 2019 has been a big year for women in gravel, which is super exciting. There's been a lot of promoters who've been making a concerted effort to invite more women to participate in their events. What do you think is going to help draw more women into the sport? Or are there some elements of it that you think are creating a little bit of resistance for women to try? No, I, I don't think this sport's offering any resistance for, um, more gender equality at all. If anything, it's um, really accepting. I am, you know, there's a lot of initiative. I know Christy at dirty cabs has done some huge initiatives for women at Canva rescue Tiesta which is an awesome, uh, gravel ration for Mohs. If anyone wants to go to that one, it's in the snow, but they, you know, really huge pushes as far and as well as Rebecca rest for her. Rebecca's private Idaho. Those are just three events I know that do some really big initiatives to get more women. And I think that way it starts also at the grassroots level and me, you know, it's, it's for you and I and, and everyone out there to be encouraging, like to have more people, in general, join the sport, male or female and not making it elitist and Oh, you need this equipment or you need to do this or you know, I always felt people do that in cycling sometimes as in life. Like they act like what they're doing is so tough and hard that, you know, oh well you're gonna really have to train for that or know they make it kind of this kind of serious thing. And I think that there, it's, it's like our responsibility and my responsibility as a female cyclist too, you know, encourage more participation and also leaving that open and accessible because I would never have found gravel racing as quickly or you know, in the way I did. If it wasn't for a woman like Rebecca Rush or silly meager or you know, these people that reach out to me and be like, hey, come over, come over to the dirty side and like try it out. And instead of being threatened or kg, you know, just going, what information do you need? How can I get you to this event? Like here's your tactic. This is how we can do this, this is how it works. And these women are really powerful. And for them to be accepting and open and leading by example I think is really important too. Yeah, absolutely. I mean I feel like here in the bay area we have so many ass women triathletes for example, that are these endurance machines that you know, once they get burnt out of triathlon, I think it would be a natural transition for them to get into the gravel scene because it will just key into those amazing endurance chops. Yeah, I think there's a lot of correlation between travel and triathlon that way. That is like an endurance event that ends up, you end up being by yourself, you know, sometimes. So it's definitely endurance that way and it's kind of a long sustained effort. And also I, that's what I thought. The gravel does a lot like a triathlon where people are sitting at this finish line cheering on all the finishers regardless of where you know, there's still that party at the finish that more community feel versus you know, show up to local currently. Something I liked, I liked that sense of community a lot. I think, you know what just gets intimidating as people on the terrain, you know, they think, you know, gravel is mountain biking or scary or you know, and so I like to also show my fear and vulnerability on things and say, Hey, well this is, you know, don't push yourself past your limits but try it, you know, and just see what you think or like there was some things that challenge your skill levels is great and then also being safe and you know, pushing other limits is fine too. Yeah. I think locally here in Marin county, the challenge for gravel is it does become technical pretty quickly. Particularly if you're riding out of the city or mill valley. You're hard-pressed to find just kind of a nice flowing gravel road, which can essentially seem like a road ride if you get yourself in the right mental state. I feel like here we're, we're throwing people in a little bit harder than they would normally kind of start at the beginning level of gravel, which is a bit unfortunate. I agree. I call it mountain biking down there. Yeah. I mean, I ride on the, up here in San Omani. I ride pretty much road because we don't really have gravel like where I live on. And then I remember of the week before dirty Canva, the year I won, I, I went down and did two a gravel ride with all those guys, you know, out of the Java hut or whatever down there. And I went and did a ride. And uh, I mean I got so dropped, I like walk to the part of the coastal trails. I can't, I can't do this on my bike. And then they were like, you're really bad at gravel. And like, this is mountain biking. And then the next year, the next week I want cancer. They're like, oh, I'm like, no, but cancer was gravel. That was mountain biking. So I agree. Like we throw people off the deep end. So I don't ride with those guys anymore because I'm too scared when when you're talking about your 38 millimeter tires, I'm like, Gosh Alison, I ride 50s. Yeah, that's probably why I'm pressing up the coastal strip. Yeah. I'm heading out, I'm heading out to steamboat gravel later this year and they keep telling me, oh no, ride 30 twos. And I just, I cannot get my head around it to be honest with you. Well maybe 38. I don't know. I've never written that terrain. But yeah, I mean Oregon, I will tell you, I wish I had bigger, bigger tires that Oregon. It was um, at least 42 I think I would've been happy with. That's what I was laughing. Cause I just like to run the same setup and, and gravel's not like that. There's different conditions and, and you know, gravel, not gravel for everyone. Some dirt, some sand, some, you know, lava rocks. Um, yeah, exactly. What Rock, all gravel is not equal. Totally. And I, I, that is very interesting to me about the gravel bike in general. Just the ability to really change the personality of it. I mean, if you think about how a bike feels using a 700 seat wheel and a 32 knobby tire gravel tire versus a six 50 [inaudible] by 50, it can handle way different terrain. It feels way different. And depending on what your intention is for that day or that ride or that event, you can make the bike more suitable or less suitable, frankly. Yeah, yeah. And it's, um, yeah, there's, there are a plethora of different setups you can do, you know, w depending on, you know, conditions, the gravel and also like rain and mud. I mean, if it becomes pretty equipment intensive if you care enough. And then also when we were talking about bringing more people and the sport, it's also important to say you also can just ride a bike. Yeah. Like I can sit here and geek out on all my, all my techie wonderful equipment. And then also just suggest somebody to pick up a bike on craigslist and yeah, get out on it. Trails and ride cause it's always like, it's always better to ride than not ride. Right. So, you know, it just depends what your goals are. Exactly. I've got a set of more mixed terrain tires that I've been meaning to put on because I want to ride some road and some dirt and some upcoming events and I just can't get around to it because I'm like, I just like to get on my bike and ride. And as you said, that's perfectly acceptable. The important thing is you just getting out there and you're having a smile on your face. Exactly. I mean that's why we do it. I think it's just seriously think about sensory exploration, adventure, riding your bike and enjoyed it. You know, don't take yourself too seriously. So Alison, I can't let you go without asking about your trip to Kurgestan because it's a country that I've researched and seen pictures of and it just looks so amazing. It's such a bucket list place for me to go. Can you tell me how the trip came about and but more importantly, what was your experience there? Yeah, I, um, you know, as we talked about, erased, uh, or, and writers specialize and I got an email from one of my product managers there and she said, hey, do you want to go on a trip of a lifetime? And I'm like, um, please explain. I'm very suspicious. And she goes, well, we want you to go bike pack. You didn't Kurgestan and I will admit I did Google, Kurdistan. Um, and I looked at it and I was like, Whoa, that's very inland and remote and I'd like to click on a couple images. And I was like, yes, yes I do. And they're like, cool, you leave in four days. Like, alright. And I go, what do I need? And they said, I'm free. A spork a 10. And they're like, what do you have? And I go, I've never gone camping. And so they're like, well what do you, what do you need? I'm like, everything. So I borrowed a sleeping bag, I bought everything cause I didn't have anything. Now look at me, I'm camping in Oregon. So it changed my life. Um, it was really, really, really freaking pretty. And I've written all over the world. I think it was by far the most spectacular and breathtakingly beautiful place I've ever been in. So remote, um, we basically rode point to point along the Silk Road, you know, um, started in on, uh, in Kurgastan and then finishing Catholic Sam. And we wrote through China a couple of times and protect the borders, um, for by tax on, you know, setting up my 10 each day and eating freeze dried food. I bought at Amazon, Thank Heavens for the 24 hour, you know, prime delivery before I left for that trip. Um, and we, we like it. It was like riding through every national park in the u s and like each day, like you would be on these like, Hi Grand Canyon looking red desert thing. And then you'd go through like the Swiss Alps, you would go through Yosemite. I mean, it was just, it was insane. And we spent probably at least seven days above 10,000 feet. So, uh, it was above the tree line for most of it. Um, and just these like crazy glacier streams. Um, like you've heard of wild horses, like these Mongolian horses running alongside of you and we would see no cars for days, maybe a few nomadic, um, settlements, you know, maybe like a person or two a day. And other than that we were really remote and just soaking it all in. And it was, it was quite the journey. I will tell you. That sounds amazing. Did the team put together the route for you or is this sort of a known, is it a known section of the Silk Road that would be suitable for a bike packing trip? Um, we actually worked with, um, Cirque cycling, it's s e r k cycling and he does a bike touring company out of China and he came up with a route. And so I don't think it's a popular route per, I don't think it's been done very many times, but he came up with the logistics and the route which him and his team and it was that, that really helps of course, um, you know, for safety, for a organization. From that perspective, it works really well. So we'll, you could kind of just go with somebody and know like that's what we're peddling our bikes today and you know, cause there's a lot of opportunity to get lost or you know, you need specific things to get through protective borders with China and, and, and um, so yeah, to get through safely with a correct visa that you don't really need, but you need to be able to either bribe or, you know, make sure you can get from point a to point d safely. Um, but it was stunning. I couldn't believe like every day we would just go, you know, insert swear word here. This is like Effie Narnia. Like we're like, where are we? Like it's Narnia. Like it was, it was pretty incredible. Definitely bucket list, um, option there. That's amazing. Is there, is there some place online where people can get more information about your trip and, and your experience there? Yes. Um, I did write, um, a story for cycling tips as well as there's a video on there with, you can see the images and I can send you the link so you can put it on here. If you'd like, but I think if you Google out in touch with Kurdistan cycling tips, it would come up. But there's a cool video and then you could also hit a link to certain cycling and, and see also the images because the shots that they got out there were just mind blowing. I can't even, I can't describe. That's awesome. Well I can't wait to watch that video and read more about your trip. It's just sounds amazing. Yeah. So Alison, thank you so much for the time today. I appreciate it. It was great getting your insights about the events you've been doing this year and about women's cycling in general. Um, I hope to run into you later in the year, maybe at SBT gravel. If you're heading out there. I am going to be at gravel world then actually I'd like to support them. Nice. Well that's all has been good. Yeah, the same day, which is a bummer. But yeah, it's a cool, it's really cool of that and I want to make sure we're spreading the gravel love. Yeah, absolutely. I hate when two great events fall on the same day. It just seems unfortunate given the, we could use more events, not less. I know, I know, but I think, I think it'll both be able to be amazing events. Um, and I'm, I'm bumped in to steamboat cause that looks like it's going to be incredible. So, but 30 to 32 millimeter sound sounds small, but I don't know. I've never done that. Between you and I, I can't see myself going down to 30 to 36 or 40 might be my limit. Well, awesome. Thanks Alison. Have a great weekend. You too. Thank you.


23 Jul 2019

Rank #5

Podcast cover

Stephen Fitzgerald - Rodeo Adventure Labs

Rodeo Adventure Labs Website Trail Donkey 3.0 A Slow Company Blog Post Rodeo Adventure Labs Instagram The Gravel Ride Instagram Bike Index: Free Bicycle Registration Welcome to the show today. Thanks Craig. I'm excited to be here. I'm really stoked to get into a little bit more about Rodeo Adventure Labs and the new Traildonkey because I think it's a really exciting looking bike and the company has a really interested in the background. I'm excited to get our listeners to learn a little bit more about what you guys are doing. Cool. Yeah. Look forward to giving a little bit of background and explaining what we're all about that for a little bit of context. What's your background as a cyclist? Aside from the writing around the kindergarten. I'm sorry, the, the neighborhood, you know, all the way back until I can't even remember. I started getting really into cycling and mountain biking probably in about junior high school. Uh, and when would that have been? The nineties, I guess the early nineties. And right about then I think mountain biking was sort of coming into the mainstream a lot more. It may have been a big thing before then, but I was only just now old enough to sort of do it on my own. So I had a paper route all my brothers and I did and we would deliver newspapers on our mountain bikes and then immediately spend all of the proceeds of our paper routes on our mountain bikes. And we just, you know, I started with a fully rigid giant. Oh Gosh, I can't even remember the model. It had like marbleized splatter paint and in really, really low end Shimano on it in part by part. I just started buying handlebars shifters do railers cranks wheels. I just became really obsessed with the bike, was super fun. I wanted to upgrade it. And then I wanted to get into racing. Um, we had, I lived in Washington state near Portland, Oregon. There's a series of mountain bike races on Mount Hood, uh, that were downhill races. And back then downhill was very different than the modern day version of downhill racing. It was more like ride your bike, your mountain bike, maybe even fully rigid mountain bike down a fire road as fast as you can. And it was, it was Kinda like a fitness thing and it took a little bit of guts, but it wasn't anywhere near, you know, drops skill, bigger things that you see nowadays. So yeah, I, I started racing downhill. Did, you know as a junior did some NORBA a national races when I could get my parents to drive me out there. We used to, my dad used to drive us up into the hills in the logging roads in Washington and Oregon in our van, me and my brothers and he was just drive us to the top of the mountain and we would bomb the fire roads, logging roads all the way down to the bottom, maybe pick us up and shuttle us back up to the top again. And I just love mountain biking. And then suspension, you know, caught on Meg, 10 meg 21 and then full suspension and like, you know, I got, you know, I just kept iterating with the sport. Uh, I was never really that great at it, like once, towards the end of when I was mountain bike racing, the sport started getting more moto and I realized like, I can't get big air, I can't do big drops, I'm scared, uh, and I think I throttled back a little bit and then I took a break for awhile where the job became more important. And uh, I moved to La around 2000 and is at the time I was in Hollywood it was difficult to mountain bike in la because you had to drive for a while just to even get to the mountains. Uh, so for there there was a pause and a. and then I actually saw eco challenge on TV. I don't know if you're married eco challenge. It just blew my mind that people were just just, you know, seven days in the middle of nowhere. I'm crossing, you know, islands somewhere off in the South Pacific. And I thought that looks like a really fun sport. I know I can at least ride a mountain bike pretty well. So I, I kinda got into that sport more than just mountain biking by itself and it was big in California. There were know sprint level all the way up to expedition level, um, adventure races happening quite often in that state. So that got me back into the sport and got me a Kinda a motivated to get back out on the bike and then learn how to trail run and paddle and rock climb and all the other things. Um, I did that for awhile, uh, in, in cycling was always the best discipline for me when I was out adventure racing. And then, uh, eventually I kind of realized like it's just really difficult to be good at three to five sports, uh, and I, and it was also again, difficult to get to the good mountain biking in California for me living in sort of right in the middle of Hollywood. So I actually bought a cross bike when I lived in La and I thought, well I don't want to be a roadie for sure because roadies are super lame and I'm definitely not wearing Lycra and um, but if I get a cross bike then it's not a road bike and it's still kind of cool. So I bought a cross bike, puts like tires on it and immediately started doing road road group rides with a bunch of people and realize that the sport wasn't laying. I had a lot of fun. There's a lot of comradery there and I could do it from my doorstep instead of no driving for 45 minutes or an hour, whatever it took to get across the San Fernando Valley to the Saint Gabriel's to the Santa Monica Mountains. Um, and you know, for awhile it was just me on the cross bike with slicks. And then finally I kind of upped the ante to get a real road bike. I'm in my mind was just blown and how fast they were and how efficient they were. And I just kind of shelved the mountain bike. I think logistically it just wasn't easy to do a for a long time. It just sat there and I did a little bit of still continued mountain biking in Orange County with friends, but we got really into road biking and then got into road racing and racing and I loved all of it. It was like this whole new thing to learn how to do and you definitely went fast and it was definitely like a dog fight and uh, especially headed, headed back up to Oregon and Washington and got into more. Cross racing is just such a big deal up there and so much fun and, you know, still road competitive road racing for a long time. I only really ever just kinda got up to the acat three and I, I don't think I ever really had any aspirations beyond that with life getting increasingly complex and how many kids but enjoyed competing a lot. Uh, and uh, started sort of exploring be roads and logging roads on my cross bike while I was there because I lived right at the foothills where the cascades sort of lift up and uh, never really got into it that much. It was always just a bit of a novelty if I was cross training you're training for a cycle cross that would hit some local local parks and hit the single track trails. How a lot of fun doing that. Then we moved out here to Colorado just for really a change of weather and scenery. Um, and it was just back to just road racing. Like I had my best road racing ears ever out here when we moved to Colorado in 2011 and I train harder and more disciplined than I had ever done it. And then, um, I guess things started just getting too serious in my local team, even though we were amateurs, were really structured, had like recruiting policies and in minimum race policies and started to feel a little bit too, you know, rule it too many rules for an amateur sport that was supposed to be fun. Uh, and through a series of events, um, decided to part ways with that team, uh, and that's about when Rodeo started. Uh, and about that time we were just continuing to play around on our cross bikes more and more aggressively. So that was 2014 and um, and yeah, I guess that kind of brings, brings us to the genesis of Rodeo labs. That's a great overview. It's amazing how we were living parallel lives because I came into the sport of mountain biking with a similarly paint speckled trex 7,000 model. Yes. In about 1989. And I remember my first mountain bike race, I signed up for all disciplines on that plan. So I rode observed trials, Downhill slalom and cross country because I figured that's what you do if you were attending a race weekend. Yeah, yeah. Oh Man. I remember dual slalom, which is that even a thing anymore? I don't know. I think it is. I think it is. And then it was fun. Yeah. That was a great sport. I was never good at it by the way. Yeah, me neither. Like clear. I clearly like cross country and the technical stuff was really my forte, not going super fast at all and I jumped. I like you jumped into the road racing scene. Not as much it sounds like as you did and actually later got into adventure racing scene. Oh cool. Do you have small. We were out there at the same time. Yeah. I tended to race in northern California, which was a lot of fun, but to your point it was really eye opening just to the notion of going out for an adventurous experience. Yeah, and I think that for me is what has resonated so much about the gravel scene because it became less so about beating the guy next to you and it became more about the adventure and much like those early days of mountain bike racing, you went out there to explore new terrain, so the fact that you got in a car and someone was putting on a race three hours away in a place you'd never ride it, never written before was just this great opportunity to go explore. Yeah, I, I, I feel like the adventure isn't, was probably responsible for a lot of my mindset nowadays. I just remember like we did a race in Downieville, um, before I knew that Downieville was even a thing. Um, and I just remember one night we were on this kind of like single track trail along kind of a knife edge ridge. I don't even know where it was. I'd love to go back and find it in a full moon and I'm hiking trail running, whatever it was with my team and I just thought I wish cameras, digital cameras were good enough to capture this moment, which, you know, if you cut cut to now they are. But even back then I wanted to, I was seeing all these places that adventure racing would take you that, that weren't on the normal beaten path and thinking like, how can we bring this, how can I bring this back and show people what I saw while I was out there. I just couldn't believe what's out there that you would never see if you didn't have a reason to go. So that got that. That was a formative sport and a, you know, whatever it was, three to five years of adventure racing definitely reshaped how I think. So having all those options, variances is a long way from launching here on bike company. How did read a of adventure labs come about? Uh, well. So when, when I left the team that I was racing with the road road and I guess cross racing team that I was racing it didn't really know what I wanted to do next. Like should I just join another road racing team and kind of keep doing what I was doing and I think I just realized like I had been on instagram for a year or two or three by then and I was just kinda watching how like a lot of the local team mentality was race locally. Go try and find a bank to sponsor you are a dentist office or a car, a car dealership, uh, and then put their logo on the Jersey and then try and coax your friends and family to show up and watch a race. And it seemed, it felt small. It's not bad. I get it like I loved, I loved it at the time, but when I was getting into social media I realized like we can cyclist can find each other on here and talk to each other and we can, I guess, interact and build a community here. And I think I realized like we could start our own amateur team. That's what Rodeo started out as, was just a big group of people who wanted to ride bikes together without having any rules. No recruiting policies, no race minimum snow. You have to ride a road bike or a cross bike or mountain bike. It was like anybody who wants to wear wear this Jersey anywhere you are in the world. Um, I put up a website about a, a, you know, a Wordpress template and wrote some core values and the about page just like, this is literally only going to be fun and that's enough. That's enough reason to be here is just to have fun and yes, take a ton of pictures and show other people what we're doing. And that was it. That was, that was all Rodeo was supposed to be. It was kind of like, if we could get 10, 10 of my buddies to do it than we would have enough people to get kits made a so we could all be on the same team, but there is no membership fees or even an official roster. It was just really loose knit, let's just go have fun on bikes, uh, any way that we want and there's no right or wrong way to do it. Uh, so I thought it would be small and I thought it would just be us, but I knew we could at least reach a lot of people with what we were doing because of essentially really instagram and, you know, I guess having a website and a blog, but it just, it just blew up and took over my entire life. Like people would write long emails saying they really loved what we were about. And finally somebody saw the sport the same way they did it. And why did it need to be so serious? I was really caught off guard by that because we weren't really recruiting like the guy in Belgium. Uh, but, but he wrote us and said, can I be on Rodeo? And of course I just said, sure. Like, yeah, I guess I guess to be on our team it just means you own ar kit, uh, so uh, or even if you don't and you just want to like share photos with us or write something on our website, you can be one of us to like, I don't really need to sell you a kit, but we sold a lot of kits that year for, for someone who had no real goal or plan for what we were doing and I think it was like 350 kits or some number, which blew my mind. I realized like, wow, there's this thing here. Um, and, and I came from a, like a design and branding and advertising background. And I think when I put the site up it all looked bigger and more organized and professional than it was. And I think people kind of expected it to be more than it was. So they took us seriously and like rodeos doing is really interesting. We want to be in part of it. So all of a sudden there's a bunch of people around the world wearing our kits and stoked on what we're doing and you know, we're just taking a lot of pictures and our audience is growing and we're having a lot of fun, but it started to take like 20 hours a week or 30 hours a week. I'm like, just answering emails, talking to people, going riding, taking pictures, making a video, whatever it was. Um, it was, it was too much to just be a hobby at that point. You know, after a few months I realized this is eventually going to take over my life and either this is just a really irresponsible hobby or it needs to end up going somewhere. Um, so I think I just started to think about if it's going to be more than a hobby than what is it. Um, and I had started working on the trail donkey right when rodeo launched. Uh, I just, you know, we could kind of maxed out what we could do on a cross bike. We were taking him to all the local mountain bike trails, the really technical trails that are pretty challenging I think, and we were writing all of it and doing it on cross bikes, but, but you know what, that, that 32 to three or cassette isn't, isn't really ideal for getting up a 25, 30 percent single track trail and cannot leave her brakes are not good for descending and 32 millimeter cross tires aren't, are not compliant enough, don't have enough grip. Um, all of these constraints started to crop up and I, I realized like I want to just, I want a different bike that I have. It's not very different than what I have, but it doesn't, I don't know. It doesn't exist in the way that I want it to. And, and I think maybe I could have looked around and found somebody making something like I wanted. But having just launched Rodeo and decided like I don't want to join another team. I just want to make my own. And, and I, I think I just decided like, I don't want to buy somebody else's bike if it exists. I just want to make my own. So I found a completely generic Chinese frame, pretty sure it was on Ali Baba and, and said, Mike, can you modify this frame and like add ports for a dropper posts and, and um, and, and then paint it like our kit, you know, so I mocked up the paint and then I needed a name. Uh, so I, I, I was Kinda, I thought like this needs to be self deprecating, like we need to have a sense of humor with everything that we're doing here because it's not that serious. We're talking about adults doing amateur sports in their free time. So my inspiration was just the guide donkeys that you see in the grand canyon that either carry gear or people kind of up and down those single track cliffside side trails. Uh, and you know, they're just trail donkeys and I thought that's kind of our bike. Like I get that it's not a good mountain bike or a good road bike or a good anything. It's just like this really humble little animal that gets you to the top or the bottom of the trail reliably. So I made it for me, I'm, I made one, uh, and then I told my friends that I was working on it and for other people, you know, in the inner circle wanted one. So I said, all right, hold up, we'll just make five. So we did five and then we just, we just wrote them for the 2014. We just wrote them a lot and took a lot of pictures and we were showing people everything about what we were doing. Like here's this frame we found we're going to paint it, here's how we're going to build it up. And then I was like, I'm going to take it to a mountain bike race. So I wrote, you know, a story about how that went and it was all very all on the table. Like I didn't, I wanted people to know, like the successes and the failures of what we were trying to do, which was essentially just have fun and experiment. And people started asking if they could buy them. And uh, and definitely the answer was no because I was like, I'm not starting a bike company with a generic Chinese frame and, you know, a paint job, like I just didn't want to be a sticker company. I didn't want to be at decal company that, you know, it, it just doesn't feel authentic to me. So, so I had no interest. I had a good job and a good career and I didn't. I knew that like starting a bike company was going to end in, you know, financial disaster, uh, because even the good, you know, a lot of really good cool by companies that I admire don't make it. And that to me it was just a word of caution about, you know, even if you do this you're probably going to fail. So maybe maybe don't do it, just do it because it's fun. But once you get to 20 or 30 hours a week and it's just eating your life and you're having a ton of fun, you start to think. And then people are asking, you know repeatedly if they can buy it and you're like, maybe maybe. I started a team, but maybe we accidentally made a brand and a company and I can do this for a living instead of it being a hobby. Uh, so there was this really big pivotal month or two where I sat down with sort of business type friends and said, look at what it looked, a lot of breakfasts and lunches and coffees of liquid. Look what's happened with Rodeo and here's where it is. And I either need to put the brakes on it and kind of like, not kill it, but just like, you know, get back to the fact that I'm a grown adult with a job or I need or I need to like push all the way into it and turn it into my job, uh, to justify being able to do it as much as I was spending doing it. So everybody said like, wow, it looks like you've really built something special in. You build something people are paying attention to and you don't even have anything you know you're trying to sell. And when you're starting a company, let's just say we had come out of nowhere with a bike, getting people to pay attention to the bike probably would have been a little bit difficult or a product, but we had a culture and a community and the story. And then we also had this bike over here and I think I, I think I thought I'd done the hard part actually, of creating something that people are interested in. And um, now they just want to buy it. So it seems like I have a better chance of success of this because there's already so much interest. So we decided to go for it. Um, we being my wife who gave me her support and understood that the chances of failure were really high. Uh, she just said, you know, if you don't do this, you're going to always wonder, like, if you could have done it, uh, and if you shut it down, you're always going to be kind of disappointed that you didn't take the risk to try and will probably fail. But in two or three years you can back to your career. You know, I could probably pick up the pieces and do what I was doing. So is a good time of my life to have like a career wipe out and still be able to recover. So, um, so we went, I went for it and we started developing, you know, trail down to. But I, you know, again, going back to that, like I'm not putting stickers on other people's stuff. I really want to own what we sell. So we started from scratch and redesigned the entire bike, which by the way, I didn't know anything about that process but I, I, I just networked and connected with people who did and told them the bike that I wanted to build. Um, and we've made, you know, a list of goals and specs and functionality and geometry and all the other things about this is what a trail donkey, this is what I want the trailer to be. You tell me if I can't do any of this stuff and I'll push back because. And we developed a really good rapport with a core group of designers and engineers and manufacturer and took 18 months to, you know, develop the bike. But in the meantime I kept doing my day job. Uh, that was where income came from. Rodeo was not self self supporting until probably 2017. Uh, so there was an intermediate period where you're kind of in this weird, I still do this for a living, but I'm starting a business over here. I'm trying to launch this bike in this brand. Uh, so that, that kind of took me through, takes us through the, just the basic development of the bike and turning a team just to a fun party team and do a brand. What did that, that's amazing journey just from an entrepreneurial perspective and, and I just sort of hit it at the right time where you could take inputs from social media channels and have this wonderful experience of bringing like minded individuals from around the world around this basic community that riding your bike off road and getting dirty is fun. And this is really cool story. I like that suit you. It sounds like you've come to 2017 at this point and you've taken a lot of inputs and notes about your original trail donkey and put it into trail donkey to when you ultimately had that design baked. Did you go out there and accept preorders from the community at that point or did you bring some inventory in first? No. Well, so, you know, there's no massive pile of capital behind any of this. Uh, so, you know, our first production run was 25 frame sets and I thought if we can pre sale, you know, a certain number of those, it'll pay for the whole order. Um, because I didn't have the money to pay for all of the trip. I had paid for tooling, which is absurdly expensive and all of the engineering and testing. But okay, now it's time to go into production and I don't have money sitting there. So, so, you know, I don't know how many followers we had on instagram and online at that point, but let's just say it was 5,000 people, you know, we said, all right, here's this bike that you've watched. You know, it went from not existing at all, all the way we showed them the prototypes and all of the rides that we were doing on it. And, and you know, we took it kind of all over, you know, we took it to Moab and white rim and slick rock and Belgium and Perrier Bay. And um, as just a part of our story as much as it was testing the bike out and some people knew what the bike was and they saw it a long time before it was finished. And so finally I said, all right, this is it. We're taking preorders. And then you just sit there and you wait and you're like, is anyone going to buy this bike? Because a bunch of people, as you know, online will be like, oh my goodness, got a habit that things so beautiful that things fire and then, but who's really going to open their wallet and buy a bike from a company that has no history and no, like, you know, street cred, you know, like, are we going to be around next year? Do we have a warranty? But people did, enough people did, you know, I think there were probably like 15 or 20 people that just stepped up straight out of the blue, you know, some of who I knew and some I didn't know at all and just just said, yeah, I'm in. I'm in for a two point. Oh. And then, you know, uh, it was so grassroots. I had a local shop that I worked with a elevation in Denver. They, you know, they were as much my advisors as they were people that I was hiring to build the bikes. And it was like, all right, we've got frames coming in, uh, I need to figure out a system for inventory and build sheets and parts tracking. Uh, and it was not elegant at all behind the scenes. Like I really worked hard to be careful and it's very important to me to deliver what I was promising people. But learning how, again, I didn't come from the industry. I didn't really know any of that at the very beginning. Any of how a bike gets created and then assembled, parts are accounted for. All of that had to be created on the fly as we went. So we learned as we went. But you know, the, the frame showed up. We had parts, uh, we build bikes, we delivered them. And I think the one thing I never doubted was that the bike was good because, you know, I'm not a professional writer, but I'm, I guess I'm pretty good at riding bikes and I wrote this thing for almost two years before anybody could have one. And I just trusted my instincts that, yeah, we built a good bite and if we can get these things, you know, designed, engineered, manufactured, tested, landed, built correctly when people finally get the bike, I think they're going to like it when people did. Uh, and we, you know, we sold all of the bikes that we made a and then we sold out and then we realized we should have been making more. Um, and so, you know, there was tension go on availability, you know, there's no debt involved in Rodeo. We don't have bank loans and financing, uh, we just do things, cashflow. We grow with the profits that we made on the last round or whatever. So you know, we took the profits from the first round and frames and ordered the second round of phrase and told people, yeah, you know what, it's September and you can't get your bike until December, but we've got, you know, we're going to make more. Uh, and it was just, I guess a repeating cycle and people trusting us that we were going to make them a good bike and take care of them. And you know, a lot of the earliest customers of our bikes, you know, I don't know them super well, some of them, but I would consider them all like family in a way because they, these are people that spent let's just say four to $7,000 on a bike across the country from a company which just know, again, street credit or track record and they just, I still can't believe that they couldn't touch it. They couldn't see it. He couldn't test ride it. But they trusted us. And on the flip side of that, we took care of them and built the bike. And you know, we delivered, we've always of done that. Yeah. I think that's a, that amazing. Yeah. Relationship in ECOMMERCE, it's journey I've personally experienced as well. Just the notion of like building that trust, getting customers to open their wallet and give you money and then feeling an obligation to make sure the product that you're putting out there is the very, very best that it could possibly be in and really exceeds their expectations because I imagined from there you started to see, okay, now I've got 25 of these trail donkeys scattered around the country. More riders are actually putting eyeballs on them at events and local rides that the trust factor has begun. Begun to build a little bit more. Yeah. Yeah. It's, it just, it just builds slowly over time. Uh, and, and you, it's funny how your notoriety or your, your profile grows. Um, you know, a lot of people who buy our bikes when they go out and do a ride or a gravel event or whatever it is, you know, there'll be in a group of people and someone will look over and say, oh my goodness, that's a Trail Donkey roughly animal. I'd never seen one. Do you like it? Oh my goodness, you know, there's like, you know, people that, someone, the guy next to me freaked out when he saw the trail dog. He wouldn't stop talking about it for 15 or 20 minutes. And he was like, you know, I didn't expect that. And so, uh, you know, yeah, they do. They get out there in the wild and word of mouth is, is a really big deal. Um, yeah, I'm, you know, we don't, we don't send bikes out for review, generally speaking. I think we sent one to men's journal last year, um, but other than an then we, we sent a frame to a bike rumor as well, but there isn't, you know, we don't send them to all the magazines. We don't send them to all the online sites. Uh, and so whereas our reputation, our reputation comes from the people who actually own the bikes. Um, and if they, if they don't like the bikes, people are gonna hear about it. Uh, and we're gonna hear about it. Yeah, I think it was a lot. I think it was a lot like that early nineties mountain bike period that you were describing where, you know, you bought the eastern hyper light bar and some Ringle flash, flashy ringlet hubs and you'd go out there and people are like, oh, those actually ride as good as they look. I gotTa have my purple neon hubs. Right. Everybody knows the Kooka cranks break. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. That's interesting. Yeah. Can destroy you. Absolutely. And then so, so now it sounds like trail donkey three is coming very shortly. What was that step change to the next iteration of the model? So, you know, Gosh, we launched our bike. I think people could finally get one in the latter part of. Yeah. I'm, I'm losing track of my timeline a little bit here, but I think when people could finally get one in 2016 at some point and right about that time there were a bunch of other bikes landing and I think open is notable and worth mentioning because they, I think we kind of arrived at a similar time, but they went a little bit further and sort of what they wanted out of the bike in terms of aggressive specs in terms of bigger tires and clearances and things like that. And uh, our bike wasn't built to that spectrum but we wrote it to that spectrum and I was always really stubborn. Uh, I don't think to a fault, but maybe to a fault about like, no, we can do everything we want to do on this bike the way that we built it and we're not going to chase competition and try and play the arms race of having the best features were, you know, unless the, that evolution is driven by our writing and where we're taking the bike. Um, I really do believe in like at some point we'll be ahead of the curve and in some point maybe we'll be behind the curve if the curve is whatever is trendy, but if we, if we genuinely ride the bikes super hard and take some really cool places and do read things on them, then we should decide how the bike should be designed in the buck kind of stops here with me. But then also kind of a close inner circle of other people who've had the bikes in neuron. Our test team, you know, is the bike do what we needed to do. So it, the bike was what I wanted it to be all the way through most of 2017. I was as I was happy, like we were making a good bike but I finally we went on this trip to the San Juans and a w, the San Juan mountain range in Colorado or just kinda like more brutal and more severe and steeper and everything about them is bigger than the other writing that I've done in Colorado. And I remember I was on I think 38 millimeter g ones on 700 seat wheels. But then the other guys on the ride, we're on donkeys but they were on 47, 6:55, 47. And every time we hit descent they dropped me like a rock so hard and I was getting kind of beat up, uh, on these descents in the. And then they were just letting go of the rigs and ripping down the hill. Uh, so then on day two of that trip I took one of those bikes and I wrote it and I thought, wait a minute. Like I think the bike might need to evolve because I want to come back and I want to ride this stuff. This is the most interesting writing maybe that I've ever done in my life. And, and I finally come to the point where I want more out of this bike. And when I got back from that trip, I rewrote like reprioritize, like, what do I want the trail, I don't qtp and I, I got with, you know, the engineering team. And I said, it's time to evolve. And that's when trail donkey three started, it was probably, you know, August of 2017, uh, and, you know, we, we didn't need to throw the whole bike out, we only needed to iterate the parts that needed to be, to be pushed. So priority one was we'll priority one is always durability and strength. But then priority two was we want more tire clearance out of this bike. I want to be able to run bigger tires and do more aggressive a terrain on it. And so the rear triangle, the bike needed to be completely random, re engineered and then we needed a new fork to, uh, to match those specs on the front end. So, uh, you know, I had one guy working with me at the time and he and I, you know, got down and cat and just roughed out the basic ideas and basic concepts of what the redesign would be. And then I pass these along to the, you know, the engineers and we all put our heads together and we started hammering away. At first, you know, you start with your written, your sketches and then your cad. And then you have to check everything in cad, you know, does it line up and then you, at some point you have to commit to tooling, which is always horrifying because it's so expensive, you know, like with steel you get it wrong, you can just make the next one different. But with a carbon, you know, you did, you designed the bike, but then you design the tooling. The tooling is like a, it's almost like a machine. It's got sliders and different pieces that need to interact and put pressure on your, your lay up in the correct way. Um, so you have to design that and then pay for it. And then at the very end of it, you know, you put your fabric in, you know, your carbon and your residents, your lap a bike pops out of the mold. Um, and then, then you get to find out if your ideas were good or not at the very end in a way, uh, you know, you think they are, you have, you know, you have some experience to work off of, but you don't really know until you finally get your first prototype. Uh, like is this bike going to be any good or did I make the right decisions? Or I did, I just fully missed something that I should have noticed. Uh, which by the way, I've done where you tool an entire frame and then you realize like, whoops, like we should've done this better and you either, you either stop and go back and retool and spend many thousands more dollars or you kind of just say, we can't afford to catch that one on this revision. We'll, we'll do that next time. But on trail donkey three, I don't know, I mean I'm biased, but I am pretty ecstatic with just we made the bike that we wanted to make and it does exactly what we wanted to do. I'm in it. Donkey two's good. We still have a few left and there are some people that only only really need that much bike. And um, we're still pointing people in that direction. When they get in touch with us and say, I want a three, we'll say, hey, we still have some twos. You're going to save money on to and you don't, you don't need to run at two point one and you're not 250 pounds, so your frame doesn't need to be a bit stronger so it saves some money just by normal gravel bike. But um, for the way that we're writing and the core group, the three point zero is kind of that answer to that question of where do we want to go next and what kind of writing do we want to do now. So now I really appreciate the honesty of it, your journey. It all makes sense and it's logical and you know, in many ways that journey from kind of the carbon smaller tire clearance bike to the carbon fatter tire clearance bike is something I think a lot of gravel riders go on because like you, I started on the sort of cyclocross side. So my first gravel bike was 700 see wheels and probably couldn't go more than say a 38. And what I quickly recognized with the type of writing that I wanted to do and the limits I wanted to push that moving to the open in my case and a six slash 50 b one nine tire was just opening up the things that I wanted to ride. That was gonna push me to the place I wanted to go from an adventure perspective. Yeah. I love that. You know, with a new, the newer frame, of course it can, it can let you do more if you choose to go there. I try to remind myself that most of the people who are buying a gravel bike right now are doing pretty much straight average gravel riding that gravel road gravel path, a hitting a little bit of pavement in between. Like there aren't a lot of really, really, really aggressive gravel riders in of the main customer demographic. Um, but, but if they do want to go there or they find out they're having a lot of fun on mainstream gravel and they want to push themselves a little bit harder, it's cool that, that, that option is open to them. Uh, and it's their decision I think. I think right now there's, there is a specs, armory, arms race where everybody is assuming like more is better. And I think, you know, when people talk about gravel hype and you know how hot it is right now, if, if anything is doing a disservice to the category right now, it's everybody is obsessed with bigger and bigger tires all the time. When for a lot of writing that's just a bad, bad spec decision, you should scale it back a little bit and make your bike a little bit more efficient. It doesn't need to be a monster truck all the time. So you know, yeah. I think as I've, as you've seen, there's gravel bike is a super broad category. You definitely had your kind of tore divide rigs that were essentially dropped bar mountain bikes. Yeah. Occupying a little bit of airspace in the category. And then on the other side of the spectrum you have your all rode bikes that's just slightly fatter tire available road bike essentially. And, you know, at the end of the day, I mean, it's something that I try to tease out every episode of this podcast. It's just, you're going to sit somewhere on that spectrum and it may change over time and you know, the important thing is getting out there, but everybody's, everybody's neighborhood is different, right. I'm, I'm interviewing some people from, um, New York later this month and, you know, I suspect what they're going to tell me about their gravel is it's, you know, short, steep climbs on fire roads. But, you know, it's, it's wide open. But you compare that to the San Juan Mountains. You need a totally different bike to obtain the same level of appropriate performance. Yeah. Yeah. Or at least. I mean, I would, I would say, uh, you know, the San Juans force us to change our gearing. Uh, so, you know, we ended up with a full mountain bike gearing drive train and then we got to upsize our wheels. But the platform of the bike is, is unchanged. You know, you just, when we engineer our frames and design, we know what they should be just like that's just, that's the module, that's the foundation of the House that you're building and then how you sort of decorate the rooms and that that's always going to vary from person to person. But um, you know, we were going over to crow a 10 for the Cro, 10 buck 50 race in North Carolina. We were there last year where you to go back this, that, that gravel race is like a 25 mile an hour, 150 mile, like drag race. It's mind blowing how fast it is and you know, they put, you know, 50 tooth one buys on their, on their gravel bikes with 35 millimeter slicks. And I think, wow, that is a really different bike than, than writing up. Know 30 percent grade on baby heads in the sand won. But all you really need to change between those two bikes is a, you know, your friend Shane ring and your tires. Um, and you know, that that's the component change that we made there. So as long as your basic frame module is capable of kind of either end of that spectrum, you're probably, you probably bought the right, you've got a good bite, a capable bike. Yeah. And that's where I'm at personally. I think I want my chassis to be as flexible as possible. So if I want to go bike packing on it, I've got all the appropriate islets. If I want to race it with the dropper post, I can rock or anything in between those, those endpoints. Um, yeah. It gets me super excited about owning the bike and looking at it in the garage and thinking about whatever the next adventure might be. Yeah. Yeah. I think it's, I think it's fun. You know, the, the bike kind of opens up like you get to reinterpret your local terrain. I think that that's the biggest virtue of any of these types of bikes is that I used to just go on road rides and I used to do the same route three times a week, four times a week. And now I, you know, I can write up the road at downtown Denver and then hang a left and beyond some single track for five or 10 miles and then catch a gravel road and then another street and then back onto the bike path to my house. And I just like made up a new ride and had a totally fresh experience. I think that that's, that's why I think that's where the category is growing and it's going to continue to be super healthy is because that's just fun. Uh, and when you can sell a bike and just tell people we make a fun bike and then they buy your bike and go out and have fun on it. You've, you've, you've made a promise and then you've made good on the promise. Um, you know, it's come full circle. So it's cool that adventure bikes, you know, sell and they make an honest proposition as opposed to like maybe a road racing bike where it's like, Eh, you know what? This isn't really gonna make you approach. You are a writer. Um, but an adventure bike or a gravel bike is gonna make you, you know, that writer and you're going to go out and have fun doing it. Yeah, absolutely. Well, I know I've taken up a fair amount of your time, so I want to say I appreciate what you guys are doing over there. Is there, how's the best way for customers to find out about what you guys are doing? Well, definitely our website, um, Rodeo-labs.com, uh, and that kind of has the overview and it has the long form journal entries about what we do. And then, you know, on instagram just at Rodeo labs were, were active on Instagram, we'll post two or three times a day sometimes. That's kind of the most in the moment, you know, what are we up to place to see? Okay. So those are the two avenues. Great. Well, I'll put links to those in the show notes and I definitely want to encourage everybody who's listening to go over to the website and read one of the journal entries entitled Rodeo is a slow company because I honestly think it's a manifesto for why gravel riding is so exciting for everyone who's participating in it. And I was struck by one of the things you wrote which says which that die, if correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't want to be faster. I want to be happier. Yeah. Yeah. And I think that was just an amazing sentiment and it just, it just gave me goosebumps because it really underscored why I got into gravel, why I got into podcasting, because it is, it's just the most fun I've had in a bike in a long time. Cool. Well thank you for reading it. Uh, appreciate the feedback there. No worries. Thanks again, Stephen. Thanks for the invite. Craig was great talking with you.


5 Feb 2019

Rank #6

Podcast cover

The Wave Handlebar and gravel fit with Rick Sutton and former Olympian Colby Pearce

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.


22 Oct 2019

Rank #7

Podcast cover

Selene Yeager - racer, coach and author of Gravel!

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.


26 Nov 2019

Rank #8

Podcast cover

Matt Quann - Ornot

An interview with Matt Quann, Founder ORNOT discussing gravel bike clothing, bar bags and 'the rules' Episode Links: Ornot Website Ornot Instagram 'The Rules' Automatic Transciption (please forgive any errors) Matt, welcome to the show today. Thank you. Thanks for having me. I'm excited to get into it and talk more about the Ornot clothing line and some of the other products should doing. But first, we always like to start off by learning a little bit more about you as a cyclist and what your background is. I've got both of those things, a background as a cyclist and then a separate background that isn't a cyclist. Um, I'll start out with my background as a cyclist and it begins when I was a kid and I learned how to ride a bike and I loved it and I think it was about five when I learned how to ride my bike. And after that, uh, I kind of got into bike racing at a time when it wasn't so popular. I'm kind of in the Greg Lamond era, uh, in the late eighties and I was about 13 years old and uh, I discovered a bicycling magazine. These bikes just looked so cool, you know, and it looked like you would go so fast with them. And this was kind of like in the era of, uh, right when aerobars work were invented and written curriculum on had just one, you know, the crazy tour, the aero bars. So I got a road bike. Uh, I was, I had been really into skateboarding, but I was Kinda like, if I get this road bike then I can like go all these places and get around really fast and just have this freedom. And that was kind of, that's, that's kind of what got me to where I am right now. Uh, you know, it goes a little bit because a whole lot deeper than that. But that's kind of like the catalyst for Was your passion always on the road? Well, my passion then was on the road because that's all that there was, right.  I guess there was cyclocross and I did do some cyclocross races, uh, but I did them on my mountain bike when mountain bikes. We're just kind of invented. I mean, this was in the late eighties, early nineties. Uh, so my, I began racing on the road, uh, but then when mountain bikes essentially when spds were invented for mountain bikes, um, I got a mountain bike and then I was like, well, this is a ton of fun too. Um, but Were you in California at that point or did you grow up somewhere else? Yeah, good question. Uh, no, I grew up in, in Wisconsin, in the walkie. There's quite a cycling scene there or there has been for quite a long time. Uh, I think a lot of it is due to the speed skating. It was just like a big speed skating scene. They're like Dan Jansen was from West Alice was, which is actually where I grew up, um, and a few other like really famous speed skaters and they would race bikes in the summer to kind of cross rate. Uh, so we had this big bike racing scene in Milwaukee and so I grew up racing on the road as well as race velodrome. Helps a little bit south of Milwaukee and another one in Northbrook. When was a kid? I had the opportunity to race during the summer. Uh, you know, about four days a week, which was fun. Wow. Yeah. It's not your typical high school sport, you know, uh, and especially in the. So for me, this was, I was in high school in the early nineties, uh, you know, bike racing was just not, no one else did it, you know, I had a couple other friends who were my age that raced a, but they were just friends that I met through racing. Uh, I didn't have any other friends that were just my friends that also raced bikes. Yeah. It's so different today. I know, and maybe we get into this later that you guys are a sponsor of that. The SF composite high school mountain bike racing team, but what a foreign concept back where we were in high school. Oh yeah. You know, I go out to their, uh, to their team practices sometimes sometimes and I'm just kind of blown away that they have the opportunity to, you know, show up after school and kind of practice bike racing, you know, practice riding bikes and you know, most of it is fun. They get to hang out. They do some drills, then they, you know, ride around and mess around. I mean it's, it's, it's, it's so cool that, that, uh, is a school sport these days. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. So obviously, you know, you retained your personal passion for the sport, but now you have a company that's in the sport. How did that all come about? So that came about five years ago, which is when I started or not. Um, and it began as a side project. Uh, I had been a graphic designer a forever. That was my trade and I had been freelancing for a long time designing motion graphics. I was still racing bikes. I've kind of had this on and off relationship with racing. I was racing at that time. I was racing on the road, uh, and I think I was also racing cross the team that we were sponsored by, had a rather embarrassing sponsor and I just felt so awkward wearing the clothing and it was plastered like right across the chest and right on the sides of the legs and it was just really, it was a rolling billboard and it was a rolling billboard for like a product that I wasn't that into. So I decided to make my own sort of like side projects. Uh, and the reason that I started it was sort of twofold. One of them, you know, one reason was to have clothing, but I felt comfortable in the second reason was to create a project where I could get outside and ride my bike and create content, you know, shoot photos, uh, make videos, you know, kind of give myself an excuse to get outside and uh, and do some fun stuff. That's, that's where it began. Amazing. Well, certainly from your Instagram feed, I know that the lines are always very clean and all your garments and your crew is very adventurous. In fact, probably prior to me getting super jazzed about gravel riding, I always saw your imagery and your crew getting out there and getting off road. When did the dirt start to come into play for you guys? That's a good question because I was kinda thinking about that and trying to figure out when, you know, when did I start riding on gravel or dirt? And I don't really know when it was. I mean, I mean, I can tell you for sure that five years ago when we shot the video to sort of start the project, maybe half of the video that we shot was on roads. Um, and then before that I lived in Massachusetts for a while and I ended up riding in Vermont and uh, you know, there are dirt roads all over the place in Vermont. It's just kind of a hard question for me to answer, you know, when, when did I start riding dirt? I feel like it's always kind of been there, but I feel like it's caught on and become a lot more popular and uh, and, and just more. It's just easier to do for everyone else now. Yeah, I feel like that there's certainly been some advances in equipment that we've talked about on this show. Disc brakes and tubeless that have enabled it. Yeah. I feel like adventurous road riders obviously for decades have been going on gravel and dirt roads, but the consequences had always been a little bit severe in terms of like you were likely to flat if you did 100 k off road and now with now with modern equipment you can go do those kinds of rides and spend your entire day off road and not risk the flats that we had when we were riding with tubes and have more control obviously with the disc brakes. Yeah, yeah, no, exactly. It's funny, I kind of chuckled when you say that because I have a. I'm kind of known within my circle of friends as the guy that gets flats all the time, a flat all the time. I'm an expert plug user. Uh, I get a lot of flat still. Nice. That actually dovetails nicely into your background. Dovetails nicely into this conversation I wanted to have and I've been excited to talk to a clothing manufacturer for a while because I, I do think it's interesting that sort of utility of cycling clothing from a gravel perspective and how that changes and whether as a, a niche of the sport were more aligned with sort of the rules, if you will, like the code of conduct of euro cyclists or more akin to mountain bike clothing style. So what are your thoughts on that and how is that starting to infiltrate your product design choices that or not? Well, first of all I like to talk a little bit about the rules because I am really not a fan of, of, of, of all of all the road cycling rules. And I grew up with them, you know, I've been racing on the road forever and a lot of those rules had kind of been ingrained in me and there's a couple of them that are good, you know like overlapping wheels are safety stuff. And I mean that, you know, I'm all about that, but, you know, I think there's a rule that all shorts shall be black, I mean, come on, there's just some rules that are just very kind of elitist and, and, and there for no reason, like the suffering, the suffering rule or harden harden up are, I am just so not into because bikes are fun. Uh, and that's kind of, that's been my, that's kind of how I've gone about a racing and riding my entire life. Uh, you know, like I said before, I've been racing bikes for a long time, but I've always, people have always known me as someone who never trains, uh, because I didn't like the structure of training. I like bike, I liked going out and having fun, but I didn't like the structure which is the rules. Um, and part of that might be from my skateboarding background, you know, as, as a kid, I was really into skating and you know, that was pretty counterculture, a my personality and, and, and, and just kind of like outlook. Um, so yeah, the rules are really not into the idea about, about rules. All right, so we, we, we throw the rules out, which I'm totally on board with because uh, I do think that's one of the tenants of gravel riding. It's just like get out there, have fun, explore, think less about your power meter and just think more about adventure and fun. Yeah, exactly. So, I mean I think that kind of relates to the clothing as well. Uh, you can kind of get out there and number you feel comfortable, you know, obviously there's, you know, if you're doing a big ride, a long ride, you're gonna want to, you're gonna want to make sure that you're comfortable but people aren't comfortable in different ways, you know, some people can get away with, you know, just riding in their baggy shorts and, and, and, you know, no pad. Uh, personally I'm not a, but I know some people are and for shorter rides that does work. We're big fans of just kind of getting out there and doing what feels good to, you know, what's comfortable for you. Yeah, I think the, uh, you know, it's interesting to me the adventure element of gravel riding, obviously you like in your local terrain, everybody has their loops that are, you know, not too adventurous but they are off-road, but when you go for an epic day and you're trying to link together some trail systems you may not have written before, I do think gravel attire needs to perhaps accommodate more gear or more food or just, you know, a little bit of safety factor to, uh, to cover the unknown things that, that happened to you out there on the trail. Yeah, definitely. I mean like think about if you were going on a, on a long hike, you know, I lived up in Washington state for a long time in Seattle and I used to go hiking a lot and you know, when you go hiking you take all kinds of stuff just in case, uh, and the temperature changes for sure, you know, as you go up or you drop into the valley. So I think sleigh riding a bike, uh, you know, you're covering so much more ground. Yeah, carrying a few extra things definitely makes sense when you're on a big adventure. Yeah. One of the things I've been thinking about, I feel like on my gravel bike I tend to climb a steeper gradient and put harder efforts in much like I do on the mountain bike, which leaves me at the top of the climb, particularly in the, you know, the winter months needing a bit more clothing than say if I'm out on a road rider, I'm just sort of riding at a more consistent effort level. Yeah, exactly. Well, yeah, I think of those steep hills that you're climbing and the speed at which you're going, you know, it's just, you're kind of just crawling, you're probably going as slow as you'd be going if you were walking up, you know, you're carrying the big bike with you when. Yeah, the amount of the amount of uh, work that you're doing and, and without all of the, the sort of winds to cool you down like you would on like you'd have at a road bike, you definitely get a lot more sweaty. So then, yeah, having a different layers, layers that breathe differently, a jacket to put on a for the descent or if the weather changes, couple of things that you guys do, which I find incredibly useful and I don't see as much as I would think I would see them would be one product would be the neck gaiter in terms of comfort per weight and size, neck gaiters if you live in a colder climate I think are an awesome addition to the wardrobe. Yeah, it's cozy, cozy addition. And then you guys just introduced a new jacket just recently. So you. Can you tell us a little bit about that jacket? Uh, yeah. Uh, so the jacket, we're calling it the metal shell. Um, and what's really magic about we're able to use and it's a new mover, neo shell, and we're one of the first companies to make a cyclist. Yeah. And we've had sample yardage of this fabric for almost a year now. So we've been wearing the jacket for a long time. What's really cool about the jacket is that it's extremely breathable. We kind of didn't even want to make a waterproof jacket. We were sampling with other fabrics that were more of a soft shell type fast. Didn't claim to be waterproof. But when we got this new version of the neil shell jacket, you know, we sampled with it. We wrote in it and we actually called our rep at polar tech to make sure that they sent the right fabric. We were like, are you sure that this is the waterproof one because this feels like just an amazing soft shell. Like, you know, and this was before the rain started last year. And then, uh, yeah, he was like, yeah, no, this is the new, this is the new neo shell. It's waterproof, you know, it's got this stretchy membrane that breathes and uh, and sure enough, once the rain started last year, we wrote in it and uh, you know, it keeps you dry and then it. And then, you know, if it does get wet, like, you know, a few times I was out in like this crazy hail storm and you get some water in your neck or up your sleeves, like you know, when it's just really pouring, you're going to get some water inside and the jacket dried out after it stopped raining on the way home. And um, yeah, the fabric, the fabric is really the star of that jacket. And uh, and that's Kinda why we call it the magic show. How compressible is the magic show? Yeah, the jacket, uh, it'll fit in a back into Jersey pocket in the back Jersey pocket. I'm a little bit. Might stick it out, but you can, you can get it in Jersey pocket and you can definitely get it a bag with extra, extra room. Right. And speaking of which, that's the other product I really, really love that I've been using of yours for a couple of years now. The Bar bag? Yeah, the bar bag. It's great. Uh, we developed it like, I guess probably about three years ago now. Um, and it took a while to Kinda, to Kinda get it exactly how he wanted it. Yeah. Bar back has just been great. I love it. It's been a really popular product, you know, we've had a lot of people buy it and then get in touch with us and be like, I love the bar bag. Um, and it just has kind of changed the way that, you know, we think about writing, especially, you know, if we're not doing like even for some short road rides, uh, you know, we'll keep the bar back on her bike. It's just, it just makes writing so much easier. You know, if you want to stop and grab something, you just jam it in the bag. If you want to take some extra clothes you put in the bag. Yeah. I just think it's this great gravel accessory that I remember taking a lot of flack from my, my rowdy friends showing up with it, but it provides so much utility. I just, I mean obviously we don't live in a terribly cold climate, but we do go out and riding in the with the expectation of rain. And you know, we want to get after it and the weather forecasters in the bay area are all is horrible. So just having that peace of mind to throw a rain shell in the bar or bag or some food. It just, it's been great. And I spent a lot of time with that bar bag on my bike in the winter time. Yeah, exactly. And then it also frees up your, your, your back. Um, you know, sometimes you know, you could theoretically jam all of that stuff into your Jersey pockets or under your jersey, which is, that was always my preferred method of, of carrying extra stuff. I just jam it all up underneath my jersey and you know, you can get away with that. But just having all that stuff in your back pockets as you move around isn't that comfortable. So I really like to lighten it up and put my accessories up in the air bag and, and keep my body kind of freedom move. Yeah. I think these are sort of an example of one of those things were gravel. It's its own part of the sport in many ways. And the more that our riders can sort of not associate with the way they ride on the road or the way they ride on the mountain bike, the better because I think some of these solutions just emerge. They've always been there. You just need to kind of get over yourself and try one and then you'll be like, I'll take the crap that my friends will flip it me because of this thing is awesome. And so yeah, useful. It's funny because the bar bag is to use a, to use a, probably a term from the room is so freddy, you know, it's like such a Fred, like you know, 1975, a touring thing, you know, you have a little bar bag, it's like on your bike, but it really works, you know, there's a great amount of utility to, to having a little bag strapped to your handlebars where you can just get your little snacks out of there. You can put your phone in there. Uh, you know, it's just, it's, it's, you can see it and it's right where your hands are. Yeah, I totally agree with you. I mean it's the Fred factor is what, what I've been taking flak on, but uh, again, like you can't beat the utility of it, so I'm, I'm a fan. I'm going to take the flag. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We have been for years. What's next for you guys as a brand? I mean, I know you're sort of known for a very clean, clean design and all your garments and they perform really well. What's, what's kind of next on the agenda next on the agenda for us is clothing you could wear on your bike or not. So it's a technical apparel that is casual looking, you know, and, and, and I think a lot of the pieces could be, could work out really well for both gravel and mountain. And so that's what we have been working on and are getting ready to release next year. We're pretty excited about it. Yeah, that sounds really exciting. Grappled yet to have its moment of sort of the defining wardrobe and it's interesting to see companies continue to explore what that looks like. And as you noted before, gravel is a little bit about individuality. So I think you're going to see all types, which is awesome, but it will be interesting to see if there's some sort of performance element to a little bit more casual garment that you know, makes it all click. Yeah, exactly. So that'd be there. That's Kinda, that's kind of what we're working on. We've got some, we've got some shorts and we've got a couple of different pieces for the top. Some with a Merino Merino wool blend. We've got another sort of technical fleecy top and then technical writing tee shirt. All of this stuff though is made up, is, is made using sort of like technical fabrics. But uh, in the end hopefully we'll look super techie or I know they won't look super techie because I've. Because I've seen them and you and you've helped design them first name. Lovely. Exactly, exactly. Yeah. I mean, you know, it's no secret that every thing that we make is, is, is a, is a product that we want or I want a. So these are all things that I'd like to have in my, in my wardrobe, in my closet, which is kind of a fun way to design products. Absolutely not. I mean, it sounds like that's your, that's been the orientation from day one, is that you wanted to build the company that supported the type of writing that you want to do. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. And for, for those of you listeners who haven't checked out or not, I'll definitely put a note, a link to the instagram feed and the website because these guys are out there doing it and testing it, which is evident by all the great imagery you guys have and from Orange County and elsewhere. Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Uh, yeah. Uh, I mean sometimes I feel like we don't ride enough. Um, but it, it all definitely comes from, from the, from the heart. You know, I kinda like to go for a bike ride right now. Well, now that we have a break in the weather out here, it's a good day to get out. I know, I know, tomorrow. Well thanks. Thanks so much for sharing the story with us. On the podcast is great to have you. Yeah. It was fun chatting with you. ags and 'the rules'


9 Dec 2018

Rank #9

Podcast cover

Gravel Bike 101 (2020) - A conversation with Randall from Thesis Bike focused on finding the right gravel bike for you.

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 www.CycleOregon.com 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 account@buymeacoffee.com 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.


31 Mar 2020

Rank #10

Podcast cover

Yuri Hauswald - Gravel Ambassador Extraordinaire

A conversation with gravel guru, Yuri Hauswald of Gu Energy Lab looking at nutrition for big rides and gravel bike suspension.   This week's tech corner sponsored by Thesis covers the range of suspension options for gravel bikes. Yuri Hauswald Instagram Gu Energy Labs Tech Corner sponsored by Thesis Automated transcription (please excuse the typos!) Welcome everyone to the gravel ride podcast. I'm your host Craig Dalton. This week on the podcast we've got Yuri Hauswald from Gu Energy Lab. If you followed the gravel scene at all, you've probably seen Uris name come up from time to time. Yuri is a past dirty Kanza champion and you'll find them all over the world racing his gravel bike and advocating for people to get outside in his capacity working for Gu Energy labs. Yuri's got some great tips and tricks around nutrition and hydration that really came to bear in this year's dirty Kanza as well as some great insight into suspension for gravel bikes and when we're going to see them start to have some impact in the market. But first we've got this week sponsored tech corner with Randall from thesis bike. Thanks Craig. So today we're going to talk about suspension on gravel bikes. Tech Corner with Randall from Thesis: Today, we’re going to talk about suspension on gravel bikes. A gravel bike, for me, is a bicycle that performs at a high level on everything from road with a set of road slicks to borderline cross-country riding with a set of knobby 650Bs. For gravel bike suspension, what we want is comfort and control while still maintaining the performance of the bike in all the conditions it’s going to be ridden. So, in order, the first thing I’d be looking at is my wheel tire package. What I want is a high volume tire with a supple casing, set up tubeless on a rim that’s wide enough to support that tire at low pressures without the tire squirming around. The next thing I’d be looking at is seatpost. A traditional seatpost can give you some flex, but it’s pretty limited, so from there you might look at a suspension seatpost. But really, if you’re adding that weight, you might as well add a dropper post. A dropper, again, is going to take your weight off the front wheel - which means off your hands - and put it more over the rear wheel, while at the same time giving you more distance between your butt and your saddle so that you can use your legs as suspension. That is going to make a considerable difference in the amount of shock absorption of your overall system. Next up: touch points. Cushy bar tape and a slightly cushier saddle than you might run on a pure road bike are going to take a lot of the edge off, they add a trivial amount of weight, and they’re relatively inexpensive to add. Now, at this point is where I would stop, but some people might want even more cushion. For them, I’d recommend a suspension stem. What I like about a suspension stem is that it doesn’t compromise your steerer tube or the front end of your bike, and it’s entirely non-proprietary, so you can swap it in and out of any bike. If all of these things aren’t enough, what you might be looking for is a drop bar mountain bike. This means a suspension fork up front or even a rear suspension. However, keep in mind that while that sort of bike is fantastic on the dirt, it’s going to be a bit compromised on the road because it’s going to have some slop and extra weight in the system that are going to take away that snappy feel that you’re used to a road bike with road slicks. What’s great about a gravel bike is the ability to ride at a high level on any sort of terrain, whether it be road or dirt. So my take is: start with your wheel tire package, add a dropper post, add some cushy touch points, and go have a fantastic ride. Yuri, Welcome to the show Well thanks for having me, Craig. I'm stoked to stoke to be on right on. I've always wanted to ask you this question every time I've, I've seen you, but can you describe your background as a cyclist? Like how did you get into the sport and then what ultimately drew you to the gravel part of the market? Yeah, that's, that's a good question cause I didn't, I don't have like sort of the traditional cyclists, uh, introduction into the sport. So, uh, I was a stick and ball kid growing up, you know, soccer, baseball, football and Lacrosse. And then I just, um, Lacrosse is the sport that took me to college. I played collegiate lacrosse a cow, um, and was the captain of the team and MVP and this and that. So that was like, that was my sport all through high school and college. Um, and so I had a good, like endurance engine from all the running we had to do. Uh, but I wasn't riding a bike and I actually didn't discover the bike until I went and taught at a prep school back east in Pennsylvania. This was 93, 94, 95. Uh, and some of the folks I taught with were avid mountain bikers and, um, they started taking me out on rides and I was on a borrowed gt like NASCAR in cutoff jeans and Chuck Taylor's, no joke, total hack. Uh, but I loved it. I loved the adventure of it. I love the camaraderie of it, um, that, you know, exploring new places. We're riding out in like French Creek, uh, park out there like Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, places like that. Really, really technical stuff. So I was constantly wrecking and breaking parts. Uh, my first bike actually was a specialized stump jumper and I got it because one of my students worked in a bike shop and, uh, hooked me up with a little bit of a deal as his teacher, um, on a mountain bike. And then it just went from there. Um, I, I, I truly fell in love with the sport and the community around it. And, uh, when I moved back to California in 96, uh, is when I really started getting into the racing and, and starting to work my way up through the ranks. And was that on the mountain bike primarily or did you drift into the road as well? Uh, when I first got into riding, it was only mountain bike. I didn't touch a road bike. I think I got my first road bike. I know when I got my first road bike, it was a giant. Um, and it was in 96 and my first century was the Santa Fe century because I was working. Um, I had started my master's through St John's on in literature and, uh, I was living in Santa Fe. Uh, the friend had some dudes who just opened up a bike shop and then one thing led to another. And once I finished my summer of, towards my master's, I started working in the bike shop and became full mountain biker bag, uh, and gave up on my master's and started riding bikes and then started teaching elementary school actually. Um, so yeah, that's how I got into it. And then on the mountain bike side, you started to get drawn to, to the, sort of the more endurance events. Is that right? That's true. That took us, it took a number of years that probably took seven, eight, nine years before I realize that, uh, I wasn't, you know, that good of a cross country racer. I was decent, you know, I mean, I, I worked my way up all the way to Semipro, which is a category that doesn't exist anymore. Um, but that was sort of the stepping stone between expert and pro because that was such a huge gap back in the day to go from being an expert to pro. So they had a semipro category and I made it to that category, but I, there was no way in hell I was gonna ever get out of that category because I was just packed water. Uh, and um, it was actually in 2003 that I did my first 24 hour, um, event as part of a four man team. Um, with mark, we're uh, another buddy of mine, Glen Fan, he's a shop owner up here in Santa Rosa and a gentleman named Kirk Desmond. We did the 24 hour four man national championships that were held at Laguna Seca and we did the geared category, but just as sort of our U to everybody, we did it on single speeds and we ended up winning. So we won the four man national championships in the geared category on single speeds that year. So that was my first introduction to like, you know, back to back hours of, of going hard for 24 hours. And then it wasn't until buddy dared me in 2006 to do my first, uh, 24 hours solo that I really sort of discovered that I have the ability to sort of be that diesel engine and just pedal at a relatively good pace for long periods of time. And, um, I did multiple years of Solo, uh, 24 hour racing and had some, some success with that. And that has actually what allowed me to turn pro. Uh, but you know, when I say that a lot of people think, you know, the, the endorsements and the big money checks started rolling in. Right. And I got to quit my day job. Not True at all. I was really, really nobody. Um, it was just three letters on my license that, um, meant a lot to me. Um, and I still was teaching and you know, traveling during the summers and living out of my car and following the normal circuit and racing as much as I can. But I think it was probably around 2007, 2008 that I started doing more of the eight hour, 12 hour, a hundred mile mountain bike kind of races and um, and kind of figuring out that that was more my jam than the short XC stuff. Yeah, I imagine you see a lot of parallels between the type of community that was evolving around the 24 hour scene back in those years with what's going on in gravel today. Oh, definitely. Yeah, definitely. The, the 24 hour scene was super familial and supportive and, uh, there was a tight knit group of us, uh, that we're, we're pretty close and that's one of the things that when I discovered dirty cans in 2013, that was the first year I went out there, uh, is what really attracted me to gravel was, you know, Midwestern hospitality, the grovel family. Um, the embrace of that family is warm, it's genuine, uh, and it makes you feel welcome. And, you know, it was, it was that and you know, had been obviously pushing your physical limits in, in new terrain and, and a new sort of discipline of racing that really, uh, attracted me to, to the gravel scene. And I've been, you know, an avid gravel fan ever since 2013. Yeah. It seems like some of those early events, they really set the marker from sort of alter endurance perspective of gravel and subsequently many events have kind of rolled that back to make them a little more accessible. With your 24 hour background, obviously like going into a 200 mile event wasn't completely foreign, although I'm sure it was really hard that first year in 2013. Where do you, where do you think that mix in gravel events is gonna land? Do we have room for the ultra endurance side and the shorter events? Uh, I do, you know, I mean, you see events, you know, offering up, you know, gravel events off, some offering up in, you know, multi distances to kind of appeal to a lot of different folks. Something like a Rebecca's private Idaho, which has, you know, three or four distances, the big one, which is, you know, a hundred miles. And then there's like a, I think a 25 mile, and then there's sort of a tweener distance of 60 miles. So, uh, you know, and then you saw that dirty Kanza two years ago, uh, offered, you know, the super me, uh, you know, the DKA Xcel, um, and, and also has multiple distances underneath the 200, the 100, the 50, and I think they now have a 25 a as well. So I think there's plenty of room. Um, so to offer a lot of different distances because gravel appeals to folks who are wanting to get off pavement, you know, and um, get onto this sort of the quiet back country where you don't see any cars for days kind of events. Um, so I, I think there's, there's definitely room for growth, for events to have multiple distances and that appeals to a lot of folks. Yeah, it's been interesting to me as I personally got drawn into the sport. I was an observer from the side about events like the tour divide and these sort of long distance, multi-day bike packing style races. Um, and I never actually did one of those, but I got drawn into the sport just because it was aspirational to be out there having such an adventure. And in, in my life I tend towards more of the shorter events just because I don't have the time or the physique or the commitment to kind of train up to those 1214 hour events. I really prefer the six hour long events, but I totally get your point. I think there's room for it all. And in the lifetime of a gravel cyclists, hopefully we all get the opportunity to push ourselves to something like dk 200 because I think it's just this huge monumental life milestone that you can take away from having achieved something like that. Oh, most definitely, man. I mean you, you talk about, you know, monumental like life achievements. I feel like my finish this year, while my slowest, possibly my worst finish ever, um, was the most rewarding. Um, because I got to earn the coveted gravel grail this year, which means I finished five, two hundreds of dirty cans. Uh, uh, I also struggled mightily with the heat this year and was showing signs of heat stroke at the last aid station at one 50. So, um, I was really pleased to get through this year and get that grail and, and not have to return again to do another 200 if I don't want to. Well, you were certainly not alone from all accounts. I can hear that people were struggling with that heat and it's hard enough an event as it is. You probably had an experience that was similar to sort of many of the mid packers and the tail end experience every year. Uh, possibly. Yeah. I mean, I, yeah, I passed so many people sitting under trees myself. I was under a tree at times fixing a couple of flats. Uh, so yeah, I mean the, it's funny Kansas, the weather always has a way of humbling folks and keeping you honest, whether it's, you know, the wind, whether it's the humidity, whether it's the heat, whether it's rain and mud. Um, mother nature always seems to have a, have a hand in how things shake out. Uh, out there in the Flint hills. Yeah. I imagine you got to try to control the things you can and just accept the things you can't in an event like that. Yeah. Yeah. Um, and I know how to sort of mitigate having had heat stroke a few times. I know how to, how to try to keep it at bay a little bit. So I had a, um, my pit was prepared for me when I came in at one 50 with ice and I was wearing sun sleeves, so we shoved ice bags onto my wrist cause that's one of the spots to bring your core temp down and know I saw my back and I had a frozen camelback, uh, waiting for me. And um, yeah. So they were able to sort of patch me up and push me along my way and I didn't lose too much time, you know, maybe three minutes or something like that. And that last pit, uh, but those last 50 miles were really, really difficult for me. So did you roll out of that last pit with the ice bags kind of just strapped to your body wherever they can fit? Yeah, so, uh, we put ice inside pantyhose and we tie them off so they make nice little porous ice bags that melt on you. And so we shoved two into the sleeves that I had on my arms right on my wrist. Uh, Maya camelback had a, a reservoir that had been frozen so the water would slowly melt and hopefully some of that cool heat would go through on my back then we had multiple cold towels and other ice bags shoved around my neck and down my jersey. And that was about it. A kick in the ass and get Outta here, let's, you know, knock out those last 50 miles. So that's, that's how I dealt with it. I over hydrated to be just because I knew that I needed to keep the fluids going in. Um, and I was using, um, our goos liquid rock cane drink mix because I have a hard time dealing with solids or gels in the heat. So I was going for liquid calories. Yeah, yeah. I was going to ask you about, you know, in the things that you can control, nutrition is obviously one of them and it's an area where you have a lot of expertise from goo. Can you walk us through how you approach nutrition for a 200 miler on a hot day? Yeah, totally. I'd be happy to do that. So I mean nutrition, your nutrition plan, I mean everyone's nutrition plan is going to be unique to their system. So I just want to put that disclaimer out there right now that what works for me, you know, may not work for everybody. And also, uh, since we're talking about disclaimers that, you know, I am a goo employee. I've worked for them for six years in the office and I've been at Goo athlete for 14 years. So, obviously I'm very biased, but, uh, I wouldn't be using their products if they didn't work for me. Um, so for me, uh, you know, obviously like the week leading up to an event and you want to be hydrating, sleeping well, mitigating your stress as much as possible, you know, having with meals just so you're topping up all of your glycogen stores and, uh, making sure you have those, those energy reserves ready to be tapped into you come race day, uh, with an event like 30 cans of that starts at six in the morning. I don't typically eat breakfast cause that would mean I would have to get up at like three if I wanted to eat like a proper breakfast. So I think I got up at four 30 this year and had a half of a Bagel with a little bit of avocado on it and that was it. Um, my usual cup of coffee two just to, you know, get things rolling. Uh, and then as far as nutrition goes, I only had one, um, solid bit of food that would, could be considered, you know, normal food throughout the day. Um, and I relied on our rock cane gels, which have three times the branch chain amino acids are rock cane drink, uh, our electrolyte capsules to help with, um, the humidity and all the, you know, the potassium and sodium that I was losing. Um, and then our rock cane BCA capsules, which help with mental acuity and they buffer muscle fatigue. So I sort of, um, shoot for, uh, 200 to 250 calories per hour. And that could be a combination of, you know, Gel and the rock cane drink in my bottles. Um, maybe some of our choose, which is a chewable form of Goo, but I think I only had one sleeve of those, um, throughout. So I basically for 13 hours was only using our rock tane drink, which is 250 calories per bottle. And our rock cane gels. Uh, and one bit of solid I had with that mile 68 station, I had a, um, a Hawaiian done PB and j little, you know, little square. Uh, but that was about all I could stomach solid, you know, solid food wise. Um, and then it was just tons of water trying to, you know, eat every 20 to 30 minutes. But it was hard for me to keep track of time because at mile 40, somebody wrecked me out and it snapped my Garmin off my bike and I had to put it in my pocket so I couldn't look at time, distance or the turn by turn directions. So I was, I was riding blind actually for the whole day pretty much after mile 40, trying to stay in groups. And um, actually I tasked, uh, I don't know if you know Spencer Palisson who used to work for Velonews, but we're in a group for a long time and we've written a bunch together. So I asked him to tell me every 20 minutes, like 20 minutes has gone by and blessed Spencer's hard. He'd be like 20 minutes, dude. He would just shout that out when we were in the group. So I knew I could eat or drink. You see that 20 minutes theory. And so we did that for many miles out on the prairie. So I had a couple other little little curve balls thrown at me, um, during the day that sort of threw off my regular, uh, you know, fueling strategy. But I was all, all liquid calories and Gels, um, along with some castles. Um, and then like the old, I had low middle sip of flat coke at the one 58 station, but I was afraid that it was going to upset my stomach cause I was already dry even coming into that, coming in to that aid station. So I was worried about like too much sugar or anything like that, but it tasted really good. So I just a few sips of that to see if it could like, that'll may sound like a tad. That's interesting. I don't usually think about the liquid calories, but it makes sense to kind of take a little bit in there and then supplement it or really supplement your, your, your good nutrition, um, the gels with the liquid as well each hour. Yeah. I mean liquid calories are awesome, especially in the heat because they're super easy for your body to digest and process. Um, you're not getting, you know, like cotton mouth trying to chew on, you know, some form of solid food. Uh, I find it just works really, really well. I mean, case in point. So our raw cane drink was, I think I was one of the early testers of it, probably back in like 2009 or 10. Um, but our head of r and D who's a former Olympian, MAG DBU, she won western states, the big iconic a hundred mile run in 2015 she ran for 19 hours all on rock chain drinks. So 250 calories per hour. That was her plan. It was super hot that year and that got her through. So I know. And, and, and plus, like I said before, like I've, I've been using our products for, for, for over a decade. And so my system is really used to that and, and I have a routine. Um, so for folks out there who are listening, you know, needs, they need to get, pick and choose, find what products work for them, train with it, race with it, and refine their nutrition plan for their, for what works for their system. Uh, but for me, like I said, it's a, it's our gels and our drink and some of our castles and maybe if it's not so hot bits and pieces of, of solid food, but when it was as hot as it was out in Kansas, like solid food just does not sound palatable to me. Um, and so I just stuck with in liquids and gels. Yeah. I think one of the interesting things that writers need to sort of internalize is there is a hard cap as to the amount of calories your body can absorb in an hour. Yeah. So 350. Yeah. So you're going to sort of waiting an hour and a half to binge at an age station is really going to put you in the hurt locker pretty quickly. Yeah. Because then all of your blood is going to go right to your stomach to try to process that. You've shocked your system because you've just overloaded it. So, um, I have a, have a phrase that I actually stole from my friend Rebecca Rush. I call it the sip, sip, nibble, nibble, plan, right. You're just constantly taking in little the drip drip of nutrition, right? Whether it's your fluids or your gels or whatever it is, but little bits of it, you know, every 20 minutes, um, is way better than like you said, just throwing a whole bunch down. Um, and hoping your body can process that. Yeah. Slow you down. You know what I mean? At the same time, because you know, when you throw all that, all those calories into your gut, your soul, your body's going to try to process that, which means blood's not going to your muscles, which you need to, you know, keep peddling your bike and things can spiral out of control. So I like to adhere to the sip, sip, nibble, nibble, nutrition explained. Yeah. And to remind yourself, I think one of the tips that I employed when I was doing iron man was I just had an old Timex watch and I set an alarm for every 20 minutes to say just eat and drink. Remember that no matter what. Yeah, totally. Uh, you could do that. Yeah, I do that on my Garmin sometimes, but I'm like, I've been doing this for so long, it's just like ingrained in me. I also typically shove a couple of gels right in the cuff of my shorts. So they're like, you know, right there on my quads. So I sort of see them when I'm peddling. Um, it also makes, makes the gels like more liquidy cause they get heated up on your leg and it's just that reminder that, oh yeah, I've got a gel sitting there. I better eat that now. And then you know, I reload it. So I just constantly have these gels sitting on my legs while I'm pedaling that remind me to eat. It sounds silly, but it is a good visual reminder that you need to eat. Yeah, no, I think that's a great tip. And the other thing that I saw a lot of on bikes at dirty Kanza are the Bento style boxes. For sure. Those are, those are, those are awesome. I haven't found a Bento box though. That doesn't rub my legs when I get out of the saddle sometimes, you know, I find that, um, when I get out of saddle, my legs will hit that. So I don't typically ride with the Bento box. But that's a great, that's a great tip too. You know, I wear a camel, that chase vest, which has stowage right on the front chest straps. So your food is right there on your chest too, which is a nice reminder to eat and you can segment it, you know? So like for me, I'm kind of Geeky or I have these little systems that just keep things square for me when I'm not thinking right. Like the right side of my chest is, is like all gels. The left side of my chest is like chews and maybe a bar, which I had bars in all of my chase vest, but I never touched a bar for 13 hours. Um, so there's just little things and like speaking of Geeky things, I do like aisle my rock cane bottle, which is it, which is my drink is always on the is is always on the cage. That's on my seat tube. So I don't even have to think. I know I reached down to the my seat tube cage that that is my calories waters on the down tube, you know, just little systems that I have in place that have worked for me that kind of keep things straight. Yeah. I think they're so important. I mean, I failed to be able to do simple math eight hours into an event. So just sort of having everything where it needs to be, so I don't have to think getting, getting that reminder that it's time to eat and drink and knowing exactly where to grab. It's just one of those things that you can control, you can train for that's gonna make you more effective. Yeah, exactly. And, and, and, and at the end of the day it's less thinking that you have to do because I kind of go into, I call it sort of robot mode where I turn off all my non essential functions with me and it's really like, I don't think about too much, I'm just paddling, focusing on my breathing, my eating and having, you know, my food where I know it exactly needs to be is one less thing I have to think about. I reach into this pocket, that Gel is going to come out, I reach into that pocket, you know, maybe something solids gonna come out. I grabbed that bottle. I know it has calories. Like just, yeah, it just makes it more, it's like, I dunno, simpler. Um, when like you say you're not thinking straight after eight, 10, 12, whatever hours. Yeah, absolutely. Well, transitioning a little bit, I've, I've wanted to talk to you, I saw you down at seawater and I know you had the opportunity to ride the nine or full suspension bike down there and spend some time on it here in Marin county. I'm curious to, to sure. To just get your thoughts about suspension in general and where we're going to see it. Is it going to start having an effect in the racing? Will we start seeing pro's moved to suspension simply because it's faster. You spent a lot of time on a lot of different parts, different types of equipment. What are your thoughts about suspension in the gravel ravel game? Um, well, so just a couple of disclaimers here. Just so you know, everybody's clear. I am sponsored by Laos, which is the Icelandic company that has pioneered, you know, the front suspension fork of sorts for gravel bikes. And they have, uh, they have, um, a bike also specifically designed for gravel. And yes, a niner, um, is about to release MCR, the magic carpet ride, which is a full suspension gravel bike, uh, with a fox front fork that has about 40 millimeters of Daphne and the rear is about 50. Um, so I've been a huge fan of, of the Laos front fork, um, since I got introduced to it probably about three years ago. It was a game changer, um, on many, many levels. I mean, probably the most beneficial one is that it dampens, you know, the impact that your hands, your shoulders, your upper body is taking. Um, when you're rotting, you know, for 10, 12, 13 hours over the slinky hills in, in, in Kansas. So it keeps your upper body fresher, um, less fatigue. You're also able to corner descend better because you're not getting bounced around so much in the front end. You, you can track better with, with the front fork and not four cows, about 30 to 40 millimeters of dampening. Um, the biggest thing I noticed with riding the magic carpet ride is the descending, I mean, you can, you can rip the dissents on a, on a full set suspension, gravel bike for sure. Um, and then the dampening effects too, just as an aging endurance athlete, like anything that can take the edge off the terrain, that'll allow my body to be fresher over 200 miles or whatever the distance is, you know? Yes, please. I'll take that. Uh, you know, I don't need to get, you know, smashed by a really hard stiff light bike. Um, at this point in my career. So I think you're gonna start seeing more, um, suspension bits, uh, enter into gravel. I think you're already starting to see it with some, you know, folks doing like envy doing specific gravel bars that maybe have a little bit of, I have those new g gravel bars that have a little bit of, you know, dampening in, in the way that they have done the carbon. We've, I think, uh, Louth has a similar bar, uh, the whole full suspension thing. I think nine are sort of on the front end of that. Um, we'll just have to see how well it goes. Um, I've been enjoying the magic carpet ride for sure. Uh, I noticed a huge difference like when you're trying to motor through really chunky stuff, it just, it just takes the edge off. You reminds me of when you see a Modo rider like ripping through like the woopty whoop sections and they're just like skimming across the top of all those bumps. I feel like, um, you hit a certain speed on the magic carpet ride and it does the same thing with chunky terrain. You can just really sort of blast through it at a nice high frequency and not get bounced around all over the place. And I had a few opportunities to sort of test that on some group rides and noticed a huge difference. Um, you know, for full disclosure, I've only probably put three to 400 miles on that bike. Uh, and so I'm looking forward to getting some more miles on it, um, later this summer. Yeah. It'll be interesting choice for consumers to try to figure out like, am I really, is that the bike for me or am I looking for something that's more on road and off road that can do fairly capable off road but can also, you know, be my road touring bike or whatever. True. Um, so then maybe, you know, a traditional bravo bike would just allow front fork is, is the option for them because that front fork will allow you to, you know, to get off road. Yeah. I think a lot of it will be dependent upon what people, you know, riding tendencies are on and what they're looking to do. But, uh, the magic carpet ride is awesome for just taken away a lot of the, the, the vibrations and the big hits that you take sometimes when riding on gravel roads for hundreds of miles. Yeah. It was interesting when I interviewed Louth they were talking about riding it on the roads and I couldn't help but think about some of those roads in Sonoma county were having a little bit of front suspension might be helpful for sure. Yeah, it makes a huge difference and you know, there's not a huge weight penalty. I think that what you gain in, you know, comfort and uh, speed and cornering and stuff like that outweighs any weight, this advantage that that fork might have. Interesting. Well, I know you've got a busy calendar coming up and a bunch of great gravel events. One of the ones I want to highlight now, it was on a recent episode of the gravel ride podcast was the adventure ride revival ride and Marin, Tom boss mentioned your name and said, hey, if it wasn't for Uri, we really wouldn't have been thinking about this at this year. So I'm excited. What's going on with that ride. Oh, that was so I'm blushing. That was so nice to Tom boss. Thank you, Tom. I've known Tom for a long time. That's awesome. Well, adventure arrival is a collaborative event between Moran County Bicycle Coalition and the nor cal high school league, which my wife is the EDF and both both programs have teen trail stewardship programs that they are, uh, promoting. And one of the best things about this ride is that the registration fees are going to go help support these, uh, team trail stewardship programs so that we're able to develop the next generation of stewards who are going to be maintaining, hopefully creating new trails. Particularly, you know, in a zone like Marin where, um, trail access trail creation is, um, kind of a contentious, you know, topic at times with folks. Um, and so we came together. A group of us, uh, is working closely with, uh, Matt Adams, one of the owners of Mike Spikes. They're a huge supporter of this event. We put together really rad route that is, uh, incorporates a little bit of pavements and fire road, maybe a little bit of single track, um, that highlights some really cool zones in Marin. Uh, and it's going to be based out of Fairfax. It's September 7th. Uh, we'll have great food, beer, music, uh, but people can know that like their registration dollars are going to benefit, uh, you know, things that will help you know, our future as cyclists. Uh, as people who enjoy playing in the outdoors. And, you know, it's possibly, you know, creating, you know, like kids that might go work for, you know, the park system or you know, other groups that are all about trail advocacy. So I'm really excited to be a part of this event. So goo will be one of the nutrition sponsors, but it's super fun working with passionate folks like Tom and Mike and my wife and Dana and other folks, um, to, to, to bring an event like this to life. Cause it's the first of its kind in Mirena gravel, you know, ride kind of, I wouldn't call it a race per se. Um, but yeah, it's going to be a great day. September 7th, if you haven't signed up do it people. Yeah, definitely. I'm excited about it being obviously here in mill valley and in Moran County. I'm really excited to get athletes from other parts of the bay area and hopefully other parts of the country to come in and sample what we have because I do think it's an amazing area and having covered the scene for, you know, as long as I have, I get jealous that other parts of the country have these marquee events and we've yet to kind of establish one in Marin county. Yeah, it's true. You know, it's tough. I mean, we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, but work that also sort of, um, you know, restricts what we can do too because there's so much private land and there's so many restrictions on who can use what trail and this and that. Whereas, you know, you look at somewhere like the Flint hills of Kansas and you have, you know, this grid network of thousands of miles, right, of, of empty gravel roads. You know, you look at Rebecca's private, Idaho's same sort of deal. Uh, so yeah, it is cool that we're finally able to pull something like this together, get all the right permits, the permission. That's where, you know, Tom's expertise comes in, you know, having worked for years with, with advocacy and other groups and stuff like that. So yeah. It's cool. Yeah. Hopefully we sell it out and it's an event that, um, continues to grow in, in years to come. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Tom was describing how he, I think he had to work with three different land ownership organizations to get the root knocked out this year, which I mean, for the average race promoter would probably be prohibitive to even pull it off for sure. And then, you know, and then there's certain groups that get their noses bent, you know, that were doing this or they weren't involved. And it, yeah, you know, it can be complicated, but, uh, hopefully at the end of the day people see that this is all about the kids really, um, and our future and creating stewards that we'll want to protect in and, you know, expand the growth of, of trail access here in Marin and maybe that will ripple out into other parts of, of the country too. Um, so yeah, stoke for adventure revival on September 7th. Yeah. Well thanks for all the time today. Your, I appreciate it. I appreciate your years of advocacy and participation in the gravel community. You've really been a, just sort of a good steward for the gravel brand, if you will. Oh, thanks. Yeah, I was an accidental, uh, grappled, devote t I mean really like I said, 2013 I had no idea what I was getting into when I went out until my first 30 cans have no clue whatsoever. I went out there because we were [inaudible] as a sponsor, um, to check it out and I fell in love with it. So, um, yeah, I'm proud to be part of the crew that's helping push it here in California and you know, also seeing northern California athletes like Amedee, Rockwell, like Alison Tetrick a do really well at, you know, these iconic events like dirty cans and stuff like that. Makes me really proud. Let's, let's keep, let's keep singing. It's thanks and praises. Yeah, absolutely. Well good luck and everything you've got upcoming and if I don't see you before I'll definitely see you in September at a venture or revival. Awesome. Thanks Craig. Been great chatting with you. Big thanks again to Yuri for coming on the podcast this week. Yuri has been an amazing advocate for the sport of gravel cycling and he's always been super approachable. So when you find them out there in an event, go up and give him a high five. I don't know about you, but I took away some really helpful tips from Yuri this week in terms of how to handle the nutrition for long events. The value of having a system for where you put things. So you just don't have to think and the value of having a timer to remind you to eat and drink and to know what you're going to eat and drink. I think all of these things add up and they're in the category of things you can control when preparing for a big event. So that's it for this week. Big thanks to our sponsor thesis spike for the Tech Corner, and another reminder to just hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app as we're doing a bit of planning for the upcoming year, and we'd like to know how many of you are out there listening. As always, feel free to hit me up on Instagram or Facebook or shoot me an email. craig@thegravelride.bike. We look forward to hearing from you. Until next time, here's to finding some dirt under your wheels.


9 Jul 2019

Rank #11

Podcast cover

Sam Pickman - Allied Cycle Works

A conversation with Allied Cycle Works CEO Sam Pickman diving into the Allroad and Allied's US based production operation. Episode links: Allied Cycle Work website Allied Cycles on Instagram Automagic Transcription (please excuse all errors) Sam, welcome to the show today. Thank you for having me. Yeah, I'm excited to get into it with you and learn more about allied cycles. Um, we've got some of your bikes in my local shop, studio Velo last night I was just there admiring the craftsmanship, so I'm really excited to dig in there, but I always like starting off by learning a little bit more about you as a cyclist and how riding off road on drop bars came into your life. Okay. Yeah, sure. So I, um, you know, I've been riding racing bikes ever since I was a little kid. I did my first mountain bike race I think when I was 14 or 15. And uh, I've always been in love with the machine itself, but also competition and, and just getting out there and writing these days. Don't do any more racing, but that's still love to get out. And uh, a ride. In terms of the off road, you know, I started out in the mountain bike side, um, and then when I went over to riding more road bike, I would still try to find sort of the dirt connectors. And stuff like that. I think that's a pretty pretty common thing. And um, and it was amazing how much more fun it was to ride the road bike off road. Uh, and so I just, I've always loved that idea and being able to sort of link really cool week together with a, um, a long dirt section through a true state forest or something's always been, I mean that's always just a great, great addition to a ride. That's amazing how much that opens up the ride when you'd can just accept that you can go off road with a drop hard bike. All of a sudden you can link things together that weren't possible before. I mean, it's amazing even with road tires, how capable it is. You know, obviously you gotta watch out for things, flats or whatever, but today with tubeless to everything and then you can get away with quite a bit. Yeah, I think I'm guilty of probably more gingerly riding my road bike then I need to be, because I certainly see plenty of people in Moran who will, you know, ride up one of the fire roads on our full on road bike without issue. Yeah. Oh yeah, no doubt about it. Do it all the time before gravel riding was cool. We were kind of giving crab or hiking all the time just on are just on a road bikes. So let's talk a little bit about your professional background before allied because I think it's interesting and it, it does, um, it lends some interest to your story and where you found yourself an ally. Sure. Yeah. So I graduated school mechanical engineering degree. I was a bike racer. It's time, uh, not a good enough bike racer to want to, uh, actually taken on as, as like a Gig. So I got a job at specialize working actually down in the test lab. And this was back when specialized in the suit? No, 14 years or something. Yeah, about 14 years ago. Specialized was not the specialized that we know today. They weren't quite a bit smaller and still had under that small business feel. And, and uh, you could, you could make a big impact in that company if you had some ambition. And, and coming into the test lab that was there was just loads of fun. I mean, we were, the company was growing so quickly. We were learning so much about, about carbon fiber time. We were learning so much about the role that a test lab could play in development of a bike. We were, uh, learning a ton about sort of all the tools available that acquisition and, and uh, it was just, I mean it was just so fun. And right around that time they also started sponsoring quickstep, which was just a cool journey into learning the true rigors of what a professional athlete does to or bike. Um, and, uh, through my time there I just sort of moved, you know, we'll give him tons of opportunity and, and, uh, it was able to move up the ranks. And when I left there, I was the engineering manager for research and development. So with all those tools, it's specialized. And given that they weren't manufacturing in house, what was the cycle like if you did an analysis on a road frame or a mountain bike frame and started to make some notes on it, how long before you could get a kid I knew version of that frame set to test. Yeah. So specialized know obviously messes a business now with, with loads of resources and, and loads of resources in research and development. And what they are able to do as specialized is sort of build this arsenal of tests that that proves that a bite is going to do something without actually having to ride it. So they can say with a high degree of confidence that the bike is going to do x before you even step on it, which is a really powerful tool in, in development. Um, and it also takes away a lot of the sort of the subjective feedback that you get and you're, you're working in just sort of this objective workflow all the time, uh, until you get to a point where you have a bike that you think is ridable and then obviously you tweak with rider feedback. But to answer your question, you have, um, it's complicated working with an overseas vendor or just you're working with the vendor at all. When you're not controlling the manufacturing, you're basically asking somebody else to take over what I would argue is the most complicated part of the process, which is actually getting that thing made. And, um, there's so many decisions that get made when you're manufacturing something and if you're not in control of every one of those decisions, you know, there can be some, some loss and fidelity of what your vision was and what that part initially [inaudible] your vision of that apart was initially, you know what I mean? Yes, absolutely. And so, and then the, the flip side of that, I still haven't answered your question is things take kind of a long time. So you would, uh, send off your drawings to a manufacturing facility. They would generally speaking, subcontract the tooling. So they would design the two only first of all. Then they would subcontract the tooling they get to, they would make parts, um, with, uh, you know, a combination of your suggestions for the layup and also their suggestions for our lab. And then eventual you'd end up with a part that gets tested, broken. Of course it fails because the first one always fails or, uh, or you're not trying hard enough. And uh, and then you enter this cycle of revision iteration. Um, and that cycle from when you've broken one, two, making the changes, um, to getting another one paid to getting it broken again and your tests last in dissecting is making revisions. It takes about 30 days to do that cycle when you're outsourcing a product. Um, so it's, it can be pretty long and you consider, you know, a bike that, I mean, going through six, seven revisions is not uncommon at all. And so you're talking about spending several months, uh, six, seven months just through the revision process after the tools aren't doing quizzes. Yeah, and I've got to imagine that there's some very specific demands when you're a manufacturer of that scale in terms of the timeline in which new products are released. Obviously the industry has its cycles where the dealers are expecting new models, et cetera. So I imagine that at a certain point you have to stop development of that cycle and say we need to mint the 2018 model. Even if we have ideas that we think are going to come to bear in 2019 absolutely. So like a, you know, whatever the model year is 2018 and you have to, if that product is getting close and you think you're going to make the timeline, you just have to cut it. You say, okay, we are done developing, this is as good as we're going to get it. And generally speaking you will never revisit that and change it to 2019 it'll just stay in that until that product is, is it's way out of it. The product line. Right? Yeah. I suppose that's all some of the compromise and when you're, when you're working within a large manufacturing supply chain that you have to make business decisions like that because it's product needs to ship at some point. It do it, it has to ship and it's never, it never done. You're never like satisfied at the end of the day. Okay I've done it, we're done. Yeah. Anybody who says no compromise is completely full of crap because engineering is all about compromises. That's how you, that's how you do it and you have, you have decisions to make all the time and you just hope that you're making the best decision at all times. Yeah, absolutely. I also imagine other offshoot to your experience there was having been exposed to a lot of different frame materials, cause I'm sure at the time specialized in must've been building in aluminum, steel and carbon. Yeah. Not as much steel. It was a little bit of steel but we didn't, I didn't, wasn't involved in relief and back it aluminum for sure. And carbon. Yes. The stuff that I was involved in was really predominantly carbon. And was there something, was there something about that material as an engineer that you were really drawn to and is it something that, oh yes. Is it the, is it the material you feel like is the highest performance material for bikes today? I think there's absolutely no doubt. It's like I said, nope, no material is without compromise. I think that anybody who argues that it's not the, the most high performance material is kidding themselves, but that doesn't necessarily mean that there aren't other areas that have a place. So don't, yeah, I mean for sure it's titanium. In certain scenarios it has its place, but if you look at what you can do with fitness and weight and uh, performance and strength, if you take those things all together, you cannot meet the performance of carbon fiber. You just can't. Well, I'm excited to get into that and I interrupted your professional journey. Let's finish off how you ended up at allied and then let's definitely dig into carbon fiber and what our listeners can, can sort of take away as its attributes as a frame material. Sure. So, um, I was, I had been a specialized in last time. I have no bad things to say about my journey through that company. I had just after 11 years of being there, I had never had another job. I know that we've had a job. Um, and uh, although that's not totally true, I worked in by the bike shops he had and everything. But so my first professional, um, they use my obsession degree was that specialize. So after 11 years I was just sort of, you know, looking for something different and to be totally honest with you, the cycle that we described a kind of always having to go through an Asian vendor, it had on me a little bit. I was, um, you know, when you're, there's something really amazing making the thing that you design. I think that filling that circle is, is really critical. And it's not just because making things as smart and it's because when you, when you look at our country, if you sort of strip out all of the jobs that have to do with making things, then you leave, uh, an entire class of people who without really anything to do other than work in retail or food service or whatever. And you know what, not everybody's meant to go to college. And not everybody's meant to have a, uh, you know, big professional degree or everything, anything. And if we don't have some work for those people to do, then things get kind of dicey. And I think that's the position we find ourselves in today in the u s there's, there's just something very important about sort of maintaining that balance. Um, and, and I wanted to be part of kind of bringing those jobs, bringing some jobs, having some impacts and bringing jobs back to the United States. Um, so that, that'd be at allied led me to allied. So I was um, actually had, had left, um, got contacted by a gentleman by the name of Tony Kirkland's and uh, he, he's kind of spoke to me about what ally and was trying to do and it just felt like a really natural fit and we just incredible opportunity. For those of our listeners who haven't heard of allied before, can you give us a little summary of where the business is located and why it was founded? Sure. In actually has two spots. We have a headquarter in Bentonville, Arkansas and our bikes are made in Little Rock, Arkansas and a big, how far away are those locations from one another? It's a couple hundred miles. It's, it's a few hours drive. Um, so the company was founded for a couple reasons. One, I think we live in this time and you know, talking to the guy in the studio bell, that's how you the same thing. This is a very sort of strange time in the bike industry. You know, the, the rest of the consumer market has sort of shifted to online. There is um, you know, a couple of, a few large players in the retail space for bikes. Uh, but other than that, everybody else is just sort of been sort of squeezed out and uh, and the retail market other than just the best of the best cause essentially dried up and it's created kind of a funky sort of time in the bike industry, um, where people are sort of figuring out what is, how, how are we going to sell bikes to people in the, and to be effective, you can be to dealers. Is it going to be some sort of Omni Channel? I'm saying? And uh, and what we realized when starting this was that basically every company out there was, was set up in their, in their nature to be able to sell large volumes into warehouses. Um, and it's sort of creates that kind of tension, right? Because you have to sell preseason orders to dealers in order for that business to work. Yup. Um, and fundamentally we believe that that is not the right way to do business and not a healthy way to do business. And one of the main reasons why majority of dealers have really struggled because they leveraged themselves hard in the, in the winter to be able to do these preseason orders. And then if they have a bad year or there's tough weather or whatever, you know, you know, maybe the, the manufacturer or whiffed on a, on a model and it doesn't sell well, well there they're kind of stunk. And, uh, and because of that, a lot of those smaller dealers, they struggled and eventually went out of business. So the one thing is we really wanted to flip that. We didn't want to, um, sell inventory, big inventory into businesses. We wanted to make this more of just in time where it consumer or a dealer could just call us up, say, hey, we want, you know, this and this size and this color, and we'd be able to deliver that in, in short order. Um, and then the other part was, is we really wanted to do it here. We felt like, um, really the only way to do the, just in time manufacturing was to do with here in the states. Uh, and then we also felt like there was just enough, had enough had changed since bikes had left being made in the United States. Um, that it was possible for it to happen again in terms of being competitive and the cost of good sold. And how much, how much of the manufacturing and materials are you able to bring in house in Arkansas? So we do it all. So the material we buy from a prefigure in Irvine, but you know, we're taking prepregs sheets of carbon and making the frames and forks 100%. Wow, that's amazing. We'll have to get some pictures of your factory to share some. So, uh, she has some of the listeners in the show notes. Yeah, please do. We do. We put it out there. We're not hiding. Um, you know, it's part of, part of our mission is to just be super transparent how it works. We want to show you the people that are making your bike. We want to show you where it's made and want to show you the materials it's made with. Because I mean, we've got nothing to hide. We're doing this. We're trying to do the right thing every step of the way. Going back to our earlier conversation, it must open up is just incredible possibilities for you and your team as designers to sort of tweak the frames along the way and figure out what really is the best placement of the, of the carbon fiber and the thickness of the walls and all kinds of things. Yeah, I'm getting there with it being made, I mean you just see it opens and we have a for all types of stuff. I mean, without a doubt there's huge complications to doing it yourself. I mean like if you're standing at the top of the, you know, before we got on there that you, you get done manufacturing as well and manufacturing's hard. I mean there's a lot of complexity that goes into making something. Yeah. And I think, you know, the real world is the real world. And if you've ever built anything from Ikea at home, you know, you'll strip a nut, something will happen, something one aligned correctly and you just need to make adjustments. And, and whether you're putting a, a piece of art, like an allied frame out there and Ikea a couch, there was a journey in getting it to its final incarnation. And it's not always pretty. No, no, we can, we try to make it as pretty as possible. But yeah, it's hard. It's hard work. I mean it is, it's a lot of steps and, and making bikes is a hundred percent hand labor there. There's very, very little automation that goes into making a carbon fiber bike. And so every single piece of that thing is done by hand. And it takes, you know, in terms of labor hours, it takes 35, 40 hours to make a bike from beginning to end. It's a, it's an out of work. Um, but to get to your point, I mean, as an engineer, when you're, when you're sitting there with the operators and laying up parts together, I mean it's just the light bulb goes off on solutions for issues you're having or you know, you, you, you, you'll go through and you'll make a full part and you go and break it in the test lab and a and see where it breaks. And then inevitably you go back into the manufacturing process and you can pinpoint, you're like, oh, this is exactly why this is happening here. Because you know, the way these three forms are coming together or, or you know, I've got this one area that just doesn't have sufficient thickness or you know, I need more in zero degree. You reinforcements along this. I mean, it becomes really obvious when you're just seeing it get made. Um, and then instead of making another one the same way, you just say, okay, stop. We're going to do, you know, we're going to make these adjustments. You jot down there that he changed and then you make a new version going right back to the test lab. And, and that cycle, instead of taking the 30 days that it may have taken for an outside vendor, it takes us, you know, 24 hours to do a full turn on a, on revision. It's really quick. Yeah. And then I think to add on the feedback you can get from consumers, consumers can bring to light minor things that can be improved that you can then in turn bring into your production flow immediately if it's warranted. And I think that's, it is such a amazing thing about us manufacturing is that you can constantly be improving the product and have these really tight cycles with your customers so that you're getting real world feedback. Absolutely. And we have done that a number of times. You'll see like this is the thing, right? When you buy a bike from big brand, they've been producing that bike for already a long time before it gets launched and they have a bunch of a maid. I mean they've got, you know, thousands of those bikes already produced by the time you get to buy one. Right? So if something happens in those first three months where they're getting some rider feedback, well, too bad because they've already got a thousand made and they're not going to go make adjustments. Right? It's what's done is done. Um, but for us, if something comes up, you know, we're doing just in time inventory, we don't keep inventory of our frames and so, you know, we can make an adjustment super quick. I mean they can just be done in a day and then moving forward we just, you know, a rolling revision and, and um, it just goes right into right into production. Well, I can geek out all day long on us manufacturing as you know. But I'd love to transition a little bit into one of your models, specifically the all road and just hear from you in your words about what, who is that bike design for? What, what was the intention when you guys brought that that off road capable bike to market? Sure. Well, the funny is it's always, the answer is always, it's for me, and that's the best part about design and bikes is that you get to decide things that you want to go second, uh, rather than, um, you know, I think that there are, you know, the, the, the gravel market is getting disparate sized quite a bit, right? You, you've got all these sort of little segments that bike's fall into and it's fun, right? Because like, as a, as a consumer, it might be a little bit confusing, but if you dig in and you really understand the kind of riding it you want to do, you're going to be able to find a great bike to suit your needs. And that's really fun. So, um, for, for me personally, the type of riding that I love to do is I first of all, don't like to drive to ride. So when I'm keeping my house going to go for a ride and then I want to find, you know, smooth single track and fire roads to be able to link together, you know, anywhere from 60, 40 dirt to road to, you know, just the all road is, is not best for bike, you know, going 100% to her super rocky nasty stuff. But if you can link together, you know, 50, 50 dirt road or even up to 80% direct to road, um, it's perfect for that. But you know, the thing I always like to say is like, you're, you're on the dirt road or you're on a road, I'm sorry. And you've always seemed like that little spur, a single track that goes off and you don't know what it does. A bike like the just gives the ability to just give it a shot, you know, see if you're able to do it. Um, and it just opens up that, that sort of freedom that you would not necessarily get on a road bike, that freedom of exploration. So how does it differ from the Alpha Circle House actually in geometry? It's in fit. It's extremely close. So it, and that's the thing I really like about it is um, more of a rowdy and so when I moved from a road bike to like a traditional gravel bikes, sometimes I find the geometry, the geometry takes me some time to kind of get used to right when I go back and forth between a road bike and the old road, it just, they feel so similar. You know, on the road it feels, it just feels like a road bike. Uh, so the change stays are longer by 20 mil. The front end is taller by, I think it's three or four millimeters. It's very close and uh, and that's all obviously to fit the, the larger volume tire and that the head tube size gives it a little bit slightly more relaxed fit. Then the road bike, it's a teeny, teeny amount, but it's almost imperceptible. Yeah. I mean you could set up, you could set it up essentially. Exactly. If you would set up your road race bike and I imagine those longer stays on the road translate to pretty darn stable descending bike. Absolutely. Yeah. It's a great, it's actually a great road bike. It's, so I'm this, I'm this podcast, we talk a lot about sort of tire width and the pros and cons so that the all road kind of tops out. Was it around 35 millimeter tires? Yes. Dirty 35. I mean there are, so like the tire don't even get me started at a tire, that thing because it's just so the, as a bike designer and the tire was thing just drives you crazy because what it says on your sidewall is not necessarily what you're getting. And it's a lot of times it's a lot bigger than what you think. Right? Um, especially with all the, the, the of, with standards and everything. I mean you're 35 could very easily be a 38. Uh, so we say 35 when the sidewall to be safe. Um, you know, measured if you could fit bigger than that, but, right. Yeah. It's interesting. We were, we were jokingly talking about before, you know, this would be a road plus bike as opposed to a mountain bike bike. Correct. And that's one of the interesting things. We're always trying to tease out when we're talking to different manufacturers and, and athletes about the gravel market is just an understanding of what these bikes are good for and what they're not good for. I mean, the bottom line is this, you mentioned early on road bikes, pure road bikes are capable of going off road, particularly when you add tubeless tires into the equation. So it starts to come down to what type of writing is in your backyard. Are you hitting the dirt immediately from Your House or are you riding 20 miles riding an hour to get to the trails and just touching on them at the end or the middle of the ride? Yeah, to me it's more about, to me it's more about the rocks. I mean, if you have, if you have like, you know, dirt roads and stuff, I mean 32 is tons of tire for that. I mean, we just really don't need any more than that in almost all second cross bites. I think that UCI limited sacker cross bike is what, 35 mils or 33 meals or something. That sounds about right. It's, um, it's not a big tire, you know, and those guys are doing all types of stuff with those bikes. I have found that, I think the tire volume thing is so the gravel market is still fairly nascent. People are all excited to have like real big tires and you know, now you're seeing 50 mil tires on gravel bikes, which is essentially we're talking about not by tires now really. Um, but I think it's going to come back and down. I do think that is 40 mil is a lot of tire. I mean I've been playing around with them, you know, different bikes with different tire volumes just to try to get a feel for it ourselves. And uh, I, I do think that the tire Paulien thing is, has gotten a little out of hand for people just wanting more and more. And I do think it's going to draw back to, you know, sort of 38 as being kind of like the, the sort of magic for all things gravel. Yeah, I think it depends. I mean there's clearly from talking to people, it feels like the majority of people who are getting drawn into dry gravel or coming from the road side. But at the same token when you are coming from a mountain bike experience, I think there's some value in the wider tire because it may match with your cycling lifestyle off road. So if you're coming from the the bike packing set or you know, the ultra distance riding off road riding set, you know there still may be a home. And I think it's interesting and it's certainly worth debating where that line is drawn and it's going to vary based on where you live and who you are and what's your intention is. Absolutely. Absolutely. In my intent, generally speaking is I'm trying, in the bikes that we make, generally speaking, we're making more like a performance oriented bikes. So this is for Nolan fast. Um, and for, I'm not going to say racing or anything, but it's definitely, you know, we're, we're trying to make bikes to go to go fast without a doubt. And that's one of the many things I appreciate about what you guys are doing because you are very clear in your marketing with the intention of the bike. Thank you. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. And I think bike packing is awesome. I think it's Super Fun. I would not take an old road bike. I don't know that it's the right bike. Wouldn't maybe not be the most comfortable thing in the world out there. It would not be the greatest it without the grades. So you mentioned sort of thinking that the world of gravel cycling may end up around a 38 see tire and I have to ask, since that's wider than the all road, do you have a vision for a bike or the future for allied that's going to be in that category that could accept the 38? Uh, well, Geez, that's a great question. Um, I mean we're always sort of working on new stuff. This is the lamest name. Yeah, a I, I mean the answer is for sure. Yes. I mean we're looking, we're looking down that path and, and a bike. It's a little bit more capable than the already. I think the old road is awesome. It's to me the perfect bike for most people. I think that there is sort of a level of, of off road. Yeah. The tire is not going to get you quite what you need, but for that, for most people out there, and I, and I know that they do a similar type of writing that I do, which is, you know, you're just sort of connecting with trails and dirt paths from home. Uh, it's, it's just such a great bike for that. And I do think that the all road is really a quiver killer because it is a great road bike. I mean it really sacrifices very little. Um, but you know, given that 35 mil tire volume, it's just amazing what you can get away with, especially if you have it set up to bliss. Yeah. So that's going to say, it feels like, it feels like the all road is, is likely to cannibalize your Alpha customers more so than it would any bigger, you know, bigger tire capable bike that you come up with in the future. Okay. For sure it does. I mean, if there's just no doubt that it does, we fell majority all roads people, it's just for one it's, it's, it's the higher growth segment in the industry right now. But the other thing is you should just, it just strikes a nerve with people. You know, most people you could race in all red and there's people that do on the road. I mean, they raised him, Israel fights, um, and, but most people don't and they loved the idea of having that to be able to have a second set of wheels or just be able to swap tires and be able to go do this and some different stuff. Yeah, a lot. I think that that's the great appeal for that bike. Absolutely. And a lot of it, as you sort of alluded to, it's, it's sort of your timing in the market. You've been around a number of years, people have been dreaming about getting one of these bikes. The category they're looking to get into typically a is this all road kind of category to give them just a little bit more versatility for what was formerly there road bike. So it makes a ton of sense that the all road, yeah. A lot of people run in 30 30 twos on the road slips, you know? Yes. Yeah. I buy that. The more I ride higher volume tires, the more I want them on my road wheel set. Yes, for sure. Cool. Well, I appreciate it, Sam, you're giving us an overview of of what you guys are doing over there at allied and the all roads specifically. It was really interesting and I'll put links to your website and different social media platforms and the show notes. Everybody can check it out and see if the all roads a fit for them. That's great. Appreciate it. Yeah, it's been fun chatting. Right on. Thanks Sam.


26 Mar 2019

Rank #12

Podcast cover

Burke Swindlehurst - The Crusher in the Tushar. Special Annoucement

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]


5 Dec 2019

Rank #13

Podcast cover

Pennsylvania Gravel

A conversation with Mike Kuhn and Gunner Bergey about Pennsylvania Gravel and the Unpaved and Ironcross events. Upaved Websiste Unpaved Instagram Ironcross Website Ironcross Instagram Thesis Website Thesis Instagram TECH CORNER sponsored by THESIS Thanks, Craig. In recent years, 1x drivetrains have taken over the mountain biking world. Today I’m going to argue why 1x should also be the default for most gravel riders. 1. With no front shifting, there’s less to go wrong, and less skill needed to dial things right. 2. With 1x, the user interface is vastly simplified. There’s no possibility of rubbing or cross-chaining, and you can just focus on the terrain ahead. 3. 1x drivetrains are cheaper to buy and generally cheaper to maintain. 4. In the case of some mechanical front shifters, you can modify them to activate a dropper post. This is actually super slick because it puts your dropper post at your fingertips at all times, whether you’re on the hoods or in the drops. Now there are two primary objections that I hear. First is range. This one’s actually a non-issue. You can get the same or greater range these days, with consistent jumps between gears as well. The second thing that often comes up is gear spacing. However, on dirt, the terrain is generally changing so frequently that you’re never at the same cadence for very long. Additionally, many riders, especially those of shorter stature, are running cranks that are too long for their inseam. Having a crank length that’s proportional to your inseam will allow you to spin at a wider range of cadences, which would in turn cancel out much of the perceived benefit of tight jumps. So that’s why, for most gravel riders, I recommend a 1x drivetrain. I’d love to get your feedback on this topic. In the meantime, back to Craig and this week’s guest. FULL EPISODE: Automated Transcript (please excuse the typos) Mike, Welcome to the show. Okay. Thanks for having me. It's great to be here. Yeah. I'm excited to talk about unpaved, but before we dig in, how did you get into event organizing and what attracted you to being a gravel cyclist? Uh, I, I know we don't have a whole lot of time so we'll try to keep it brief, but um, but many years ago and in Lewisburg where we based on pay from a, I went to school and I got involved in collegiate cycling at the time and we, we put on a couple of events and I put on my, my very first, uh, event production involvement was, was there, um, we did, we did road race weekend, we did a mountain bike event at Arby Winter State Park. And that over the years has blossomed into other things eventually. Uh, I was, I was part of that crew that brought an event called iron cross together, which, uh, is now 15 plus years in two years. Sort of a mixed, um, mixed surface type ride. Uh, and then the Transylvanian mountain bike epic was one that I did for almost a decade. And through those experiences in some bike racing experience too, we got to know the folks in Lewisburg and the tourism office there, the, um, Susquehanna river valley and, uh, have built a really wonderful relationship. That's why John Paved this point. For those of our listeners who don't know exactly the region you're talking about, can you describe where it is in the state of Pennsylvania? Yeah, it's pretty, it's pretty central in Pennsylvania. So, um, you're, you know, a couple of hours from Philadelphia. You're a couple of hours from Pittsburgh and north of both, both of them, um, and, and pretty central in the state. It's into what we call the ridges and valleys, uh, portion of Pennsylvania at Lewisburg itself. That's sits on the Susko Hannah River, which is one of the, uh, made perhaps the main, um, you know, uh, body of water that flows into the Chesapeake Bay. So it's a pretty big river. And then, uh, we, uh, we ride west from there. We ride West from there into, uh, towards state college, Pennsylvania. I'm at Penn State University and through the ridges and valleys of Pennsylvania. So what's your [inaudible] this is the second year of unpaved in the Susko Ohana Valley. Sounds like you've done a ton of event organizing in the mountain bike space and earlier in the road space. What drew you to this opportunity around creating a gravel event? So the gravel, I know the gravel things. So first off being in that area in college, you know, I was exploring some of these roads. Um, even back then I think that even even before we had sort of the specialized equipment that we do today though, the gravel in Pennsylvania is really welcoming to a wide range of bicycles. And so, uh, even getting out there on some, some road bikes as, as possible, um, from just south of there and Pennsylvania and have, um, and had that experience too. And then, you know, really iron cross I think was sort of the first, um, venture into this world. Uh, iron cross is a hundred kilometers. It's mostly gravel. We mix it a little bit. We didn't purposely mix in as much pavement and a little bit of single track and to that event so that we can, uh, we, we really try to make it hard to figure out exactly how to set up your bike. I mean that's really the purpose is like what, what is the, you know, how do you, how do you figure this thing out? But then within that, also as, as gravel grew, we, we started something that we called the a great gravel gathering, which was just a weekend, kind of in the same area in a little town called the Ohio. Um, that it, that, that on paved kind of reaches on its, its exploration of the Bald Eagle state forest. And, uh, and, and that once we figured out that, that a rail trail was being built because the rail trail that we use to get from Lewisburg, our starting location out to kind of the first section in the last section of the course did not exist. Um, until, and, and I'm going to get to, you know, I'm going to get the exact timeframe wrong, but I don't want to say until maybe eight years ago or so. And once we figured out that that connection was there that we could get into the volleyball state forest and have sort of this gravel connection, um, from Lewisburg out there, that's when we really, you know, went back to our friends at Susquehanna river valley and said, hey, this is gravel stuff is looking pretty cool. Um, that's probably about six years ago that we did that. And let's, let's start exploring this. What's it gonna take? And have worked through that process over a couple of years with and [inaudible] and, uh, which is our department of Conservation and natural resources in Pennsylvania. And now working with, uh, with those two entities in a whole lot of others to, to kind of bring the city together. Yeah, it's great when you can get those agencies involved because they can help open spaces that might not have otherwise been opened and really help show the athletes and the community how special those open spaces are. It's, um, you know, Pennsylvania has thousands and thousands of miles of trails and, um, kind of millions of acres of property between, you know, between the state portion and something else we call the state game lands and the gravel roads. It stretched through all of this stuff. And once you get to, I mean gravels everywhere in Pa and then especially once you get to kind of to the Louisburg area and endorse in the state, I mean, you could ride for days if not weeks, um, and on gravel. So it's really, it's pretty spectacular. First state that's as old as we are and as developed as we are, we also have this really wonderful way to escape into the back country. Yeah. Geographically speaking, as I mentioned when we were offline, Pennsylvania is so well located amongst a whole bunch of states. I, I gotta imagine you draw athletes from all over the place wanting to sample the trails you're talking about. Yeah, we just, um, W I mentioned Transylvania, you know, we, we were drawing folks from around the world to continuing to as a, as an a just kind of been reborn this year, uh, under a new director and continuing to draw writers from around the world to that event. And, uh, it's, you know, the, the trails here are technical and, and rocky and challenging in a different way than what most people are used to. And then, like I said, the gravel, just amazing how many miles of Babel roads exist. Um, w what we typically refer to in the northern tier of the state, but even, even coming down through the central part, and, uh, you can just, you can just find it everywhere. Um, it's, uh, it is geographically really well located in the u s and has some great, you know, between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, couple of pretty big airports. Harrisburg offers another, you know, travel option in, it's about an hour or 15,000 of the venue. Another good place to travel in and out of. Uh, and certainly from, you know, from a connect connectivity by a interstates man, there's all sorts of stuff. 80, 81, 76, um, which depends on what you turned by all of them. All right. Pretty close to where we are. So it's pretty easy to drive fly, uh, access land rovers there if you know, you feel like paddle and then you can probably make that work too. But yeah. Good spot to be for sure. Absolutely. So speaking to you from the west coast and just sort of having an understanding of sort of the number of athletes we have here in northern California, in southern California over the last few years, have you been doing iron cross and last year with unpaved? How is the scene on the east coast? Is it growing as quickly as we see it in the West? Yeah, good question. I have not had the pleasure of making it a trip out to your negative woods, but eh, I mean I, if it's not, if it's not growing as fast, um, holy macro must you guys be blown up and you know, and say at an insane rate. Cause it's, it's picking up really, really quickly over here. I mean, we've gone from zero to 1,002 years at on and we have, you know, our friends putting on events like keystone gravel, just selling out, you know, immediately a little lack of Waco Hondo, uh, sells out immediately. Those are, you know, relatively big events. Of course. Yeah. North of us. There's some, some great stuff happening, um, in the New England states like the Vermont overland, you know, ted King has his event coming on. Um, it's big, right? It's big and it seems like it's getting bigger. Yeah. Well that's exciting to get that report from the east guest. I didn't doubt it. There's certainly a lot of effort and a lot of great events that have been going and are cropping up. When I look at the unpaved website, and I'll certainly put this in the, in the show notes so people can get to it, it's pretty easy to be attracted to the trails when I'm an athlete thinking about coming or signed, signed up already, what do I need to think about from an equipment perspective? Yeah, good question. I feel like, you know, I end up feeling like that so personal, so much of the time, it's so much, it depends on the experience that you've, you know, that you have, that you bring with your equipment I suppose. But I'm going to think a general rule of thumb is you for the most part. Now I'm going to, there's a little caveat in here because on the really long day on the one 20, on our longest distance, we throw a wet long well draft people along. They'll draft a is, is it very sort of chunkier type experience. It's not a, it's not Pennsylvania single track, but digging in pretty decent size, embedded rocks on a, on a downhill grade. And uh, and that's kind of its own thing. And if you're headed out there, you really want to protect yourself and protect your, you know, your equipment and they lessen the chance of flats or you might, you know, a little bigger tire might be a good choice for you. But you know, the vast majority of this course, the gravel is, um, unless we happen to hit a time when decent art has just graded one of their roads and kind of kicked it up a little bit and turned it up a man really well packed, really well maintained. And I've done, I've done large portions of the course on, you know, on, on 28. Now I don't recommend that. That's not the most enjoyable way to do it, but it can be done. Um, so maybe, maybe that, does that help you figure it out? It does. And when, when you talk about Pennsylvania fat tires, what, what kind of with are you talking about for that? Yeah. People who are experienced 40 ish really want to feel it. You know, if you're 40, 45, he really, he really want, like, if you're really like, mm, that's pretty, you know, I'm maybe really out here for the cruise and enjoy it. Just want to be, just want to be safe and happy or whatnot. You know, throwing something a little wider on there is not a, is not a bad idea. If you're taking on the one 20, I don't think I would say. I would say if you're not doing the one 20, there's a little section that gets pretty Chunky, um, early on in the course. But you know, you can really, I think most people are probably going to be pretty comfortable on that 40 45 sort of choice. Yeah. Yeah. It was. I recently had Alison Tetrick on the podcast and we were sort of laughing because she tends towards, in my mind what's a narrower attire. I told her I routinely run fifty's here in Marin County and she sort of laughed and she laughed at me and said, well actually I think that's stuff that you ride down in Marin county's actually mountain biking, which is probably true. Right. So that is fun. I mean that's why and how that's all changed. Yeah. I don't, I, you know, despite having this podcast, I don't like to geek out or agonize too much over equipment choices. I am very much at, you know, ride what you got and there's going to be advantages and disadvantages. Certainly when that the group is, is hauling butt through some of this, the uh, the more paved sections, having an hour or tire and lightweight setups going to be great. But as you said long into the day, that little bit extra comfort, you really need to balance that. If you, you know, are you out there really to, to kind of win and go for it? Are you just out there to kind of have a smile on your face all day long? Yeah, right. The last, right. You protect yourself a little bit, a little little, you pay a little penalty for, for carrying a little extra weight, but you don't have to stop, you know, you don't have to stop you on problems. There's, there's joy in that too, right? Like it just makes a day that much more fun potentially. So. Yup. Yeah, exactly. So you mentioned there's multiple distances for the event this year. There are, and I'll tell you what man, we are, we are so excited and so grateful to say that we're essentially, we have, we have literally one spot laughed and our three longest distances. So we do a one 20, a 90 and a 55 as of this morning. There is one spot last, um, in across the distances and it's in the 55 90 category. We kind of combine those for the field by met. So we do have a, we do have a uh, a little shorter category. It's kind of a taste of gravel. It's a lot of rail trail, a little bit of pavement. It does, you know, it hits the rest of the rail brewing company, which is, which is pretty cool out there. And Muslim various one of our aid stations. And uh, that one's about a 30 mile, a little less than that, about 27 I guess this year. Um, yeah, I saw that on your site and actually I was really excited to see that cause I think it's so important if you've got the terrain that you can make into a very enjoyable beginner experience. It's so important for the sport because obviously you're not going to sign up for a 121 miles with some steep technical terrain if you're a road rider that's never written off road. So I appreciate the efforts of inviting, you know, all categories to kind of join the event. Yeah. And it's, you know, for us to, uh, again get this wonderful experience up there and let us Berg w with school and, and we've got these great partners, not just the, uh, since Wayne at river valley, but the Miller center as well as our start finish location downtown Lewisburg is rolling out the, you know, red carpets for riders with, with stuff going on all weekend and they're really leading the effort on that, which is really cool. And we want to, we really want to encourage the, the local community, Lewisburg, Williamsport, even Harrisburg is not that far. We would encourage that community to come out and try this and be part of this weekend. And you know, and, and, right. I mean, every, you get a taste of this, you get a taste of this fun. The people that are involved and then you're like, I just want to do more of this. And you know, hopefully we over time encourage them to try the longer distances as well. So that's definitely part of what we're thinking too. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you see, you see the events that have been around eight, 10, even longer number of years. And you've got kids who started their watching their parents who are all of a sudden now able to toe the line, which is, I mean obviously what the sport and what cycling needs. Absolutely. 100%. So when we look at the longer event, when I'm done with it, when I'm done with my one 21 miles, what are three sections that you think we're going to be talking about at the end of the day? Okay. Longwell draft, which we talked about, you go down long. Well, you're like, okay, I've had enough of that, but it's a good part of the courts, uh, and, and long, well, sort of that, that extra 30 mile loop is, is that meant that takes the 92, the one 20, uh, Dave, my coconspirator in this whole thing, day prior now calls out the difference in, um, it, you know, you feel that there's a lot of climate in Longmont wrapped in there. So, so long while that is, is, is a piece of that, I mean, there's, uh, Pine Creek, Raj, and we do roll out of town and it's relatively flat, a couple of rollers, then you hit, um, John's mountain road and John's mountain is, uh, the first climb of the day and it's one of the bigger clients of the day. I think that often sticks out in people's minds. There's a wonderful vista just over the top of it. Um, kind of have to, you know, heads up to, to catch it. But man, what a, what a wonderful spot for pictures and, you know, taking an idea if you can spare a second. But then after that, it is just this wonderful slight downhill grade for 10, 12 miles. And, um, something that we don't see a lot of in Pennsylvania actually. And that is probably my favorite part of the course. I mean, you can just grow and roll and roll and Rovell uh, on this beautiful gravel section of the course. And I really love that one. Um, and then we have some rail trail in there and then that doesn't sound very exciting, but man is that beautiful along Pans Creek. He goes through a tunnel as you come out of Pope Patti State Park. Uh, and, uh, and to me that's one of the other kind of unique features and highlights of the course as well. And then when we're all done, are you getting together for sort of a festival type atmosphere? Yeah, I'll tell you what we are, we're throwing a party all weekend long. You know, I say we, I mean, all those partners, it's, it's far more than just, uh, just unpaved that's doing that. So starting even earlier, as early as Friday evening, uh, a little fun. Graveled we're going to get on garage raveled unraveled on graveled uh, oh on Friday night with some fun town's Saturdays Expo. We've got a bunch of wonderful partners coming in salsa as they are, stands as their, uh, I think Floyd's and Ergon are coming in and it looks like, you know, a Jira will be there and a number of others. Vargo which is, uh, which, which some of our folks know, maybe not everybody would bargo make some really cool equipment for bike packing in there, right in town. They're actually based out of Lewisburg, which is a really cool connection. They're going to be, you know, part of this, we got all this stuff and then there's a bunch of local artisans. There's a wooly where and festival, which certainly appeals to me, but it's gonna appeal to my kids even more. Um, that's going on as part of this, uh, the wheeler center is working with us on daycare opportunities. So, you know, both parents want to come. Uh, maybe you can't, maybe there's not enough daycare for the full one 20, probably they may be for Alison Tetrick or somebody that fast. Maybe you can, you can blow through quickly enough, but from a mere mortals, you know, if you're going out for the 30, uh, one of the parents wants to do that and, and have the kids kind of engage in some super fun activities. That number center's got family friendly stuff going on. Uh, and then Monday even we've, you know, we have some rides happening conjunction with like at Buycott, Lewisburg, sort of local advocacy, um, folks there for, for cycling and pedestrian activities in those groups. So [inaudible] entire full weekend of fun, family friendliness, you know, Clyde peelings rep, they'll land reptile land is just up the road. That's a pretty fun stop for families while you're in town. So just tons and tons of stuff to do even in, you know, kind of small town Pennsylvania. But man, is it a beautiful spot on the Bucknell University and uh, and some good things that weekend. That's awesome, Mike. I appreciate the overview. Certainly from all accounts. Last year's event was amazing, so I'm sure this one will be even better. I hope the weather holds for you guys and you get a big turnout. It sounds like there's only maybe one slot left for some lucky, lucky person online who hears this. Go over and grab it. Say I'm Mike. Thanks again for the time. Hey, thank you very much for having us. Really appreciate it. I hope you can hope you can make it and, and you know, not this year decent. Our, we're hoping to work with us and we get this thing bigger and better. Next year or two, we're going to keep, keep a foot on the gas with it too. Right on Mike, I appreciate that. Cheers. PART 2: Gunner. I want to welcome you to this all Pennsylvania edition of the gravel ride podcast. It's great to be here. Craig, thanks for having me today. I'm really excited to help fill you in and get the listeners up to date on what's going on with iron cross. Yeah, I'm stoked to continue the conversation about Pennsylvania riding cars. As I was mentioning to Mike, I've done a bit as a mountain biker when I was living in the mid Atlantic. I love the terrain and I can see how it totally lends itself to gravel riding. I'm excited to get into a little bit to the, into the history of iron cross, but let's start off by just learning a little bit about you. How do you come to the sport of cycling? So I grew up, my dad got me into mountain biking when I was pretty young. Uh, I raced mountain bikes as a junior year and I eventually transitioned to focus on cyclocross. Um, I've raced with the national team over in Belgium. I went down to these McCray where I raced, uh, in college and was part of some teams that did pretty well national championships and uh, and just sort of grew from racing my bike to I got Lyme disease and it sort of took me off the racing side of things and that kind of opened up the door to help put on races. And I've been really enjoying being on the other side of the core state. Interesting. In Pennsylvania, is there a big cyclocross contingent? Okay. Yeah, the mid Atlantic has a pretty awesome series a, the mid Atlantic cross, they put on some really great events. They host a bunch GCI events. It was really helpful growing up as a junior to have such high quality events. Uh, you know, so close to where I grew up. And you mentioned Mike was there one of the original founders of iron cross. What was the vision? What time of year did it sit in and what was the intention to contribute to the cyclocross racing community there? So Mike definitely pushed that cross as a, when he started that race. This'll be at 17, 2019. We'll be at 17th year. So it was quite awhile ago when Mike got that off the ground and he was sort of doing something that no one else, no one else was offering. There weren't a whole sampling of gravel races back then. There were some minor cross claims to be the first one in North America and it was based off of, I believe it's called triple cross, that triple cross or triple peaks that was over in the UK. And that was sort of where he got his inspiration there and it was an old race where they would actually ride to the pills and then hike their bikes to the top and come back down and ride to the next step. So that was sort of what Mike used as says, um, idea and inspiration behind it. And it sort of grew from there. Um, it's interesting because it's, oftentimes it's with falling this year. It's on October 20th, 2019. And uh, it is in the middle of cross season and a lot of serious cross raisers have a hard time working into their schedule. You know, they're trading for short hour long efforts. So, you know, depending on how quickly you're going up, three to five hour effort on the bike doesn't really suit that sort of training. But people come out and they make adjustments to their schedule to make it because it's a, it's a pretty unique event. Yeah. It's interesting that you mentioned the three peak cyclocross race in the UK. My cousin Tim had competed in it, shout out cousin Tim Tebow Dalton. Um, and I remember seeing some of the pictures and I remember talking to them about how friggen hard that race was and seeing him struggle over those peaks carrying his cyclocross bike on his shoulder, you know, going back a decade ago or so. So it's a pretty interesting model and I think like three peaks, it's clear that iron cross is put on the calendar as a big adventure, which is, I think it's really cool and exciting for someone who maybe specializes in cyclocross to kind of go out of their comfort zone and tackle a longer event and tackle the adventurous route that you guys have laid out for people. Yeah, absolutely. I mean it's great. It's sort of pools, iron cross pools in a racers from road mountain and cross backgrounds. We've had people do it on road bikes with big tires. I wouldn't recommend it, but it is possible. Uh, and then you've got serious mountain bikers that are in the middle of their off season and then you've got serious cross racers in the middle of their, you know, racing season and they all sort of come out and they have a pretty good battle. It can neat to see a different groups that maybe don't get to race with each other the rest of the year. Um, sort of meet each other and, and meet people that maybe they do training rides with but don't, don't attend races but together cause they focus on different disciplines. Yeah. And I imagine it's fascinating as you look at the different parts of the course where they favor one bike or another, how you see athletes in that specific discipline close gaps or create gaps depending on their skill and their equipment. Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Um, you've got, you know, sometimes there'll be road racers that know that their technical skills are lacking and are a lot for a mountain bike because they think that they can overcome, uh, the larger tire with and the drag on the road, uh, to be a most, maybe go faster on some of the offer sections and then they'll be the opposite people that are used to going downhill and used to navy riding, drop par bikes on some rough terrain that are worried about having to fitness to get up or some of the hills. So if I'm lining up at the start line, can you walk the listener through what an iron cross races, like, what's, what's the terrain that they're tackling, how does it unfold? And we starting out with more technical terrain. Are we starting out on fire roads? Just give us a brief overview of the exciting sections of the course. Yeah, absolutely. We can totally walk through the course here. Uh, so we start right outside of Williamsport in south Williamsport, uh, from the South Williamsport senior center. We go a neutral rollout through south Williamsport. And one of the cool parts about iron cross that we've been able to pull together in the past few years is it's neutral. And we have a replica cannon on the side of the hill and people always say, well, how will we know when the river starts? And I tell them that, well, the race starts from the cannon goes off and not everyone thinks I'm serious. And we have a full cannon that gets loaded with a, you know, gun powder in it. It makes a loud, loud blast. There is no confusion on when the race starts. So as soon as soon as the candidate goes off, they roll through the Williamsport. What authority property? It's kind of a nice intro, some rougher double tracks, smoother double track, and that sort of just gets the blood flowing and let everyone know what they're going to be in for for the rest of the day. Um, after that, they've got a road climb and he kind of works through the tie dot and state forest. Uh, just some absolutely beautiful views. Uh, some great descents, great climbs. Um, then the, the main thing that everyone fits, stands out in everyone's mind is the hike a bike. So we've, we've got a pretty, pretty unique section of trail where it just goes up this, this rocky in bank men and, uh, there's photos of people and there's often, often times you've got three points of contact with the ground, both your feet in one of your hands because it is so steep that, uh, when you leave for not that far, your, your face is right off the rocks and everyone's carrying their bikes. Some people put it on their shoulders, some people put it on their back, some people roll it up next to them. Um, and then about halfway up that climb is the unofficial aid station called Larry's tavern. And, uh, we often have someone there from SBDC and they're in the past, they've grilled bacon, they'd grilled a deer meat, venison. They've had all sorts of stuff on the grill there. They've had a, sometimes they have some, some special drinks. They're hanging out. And last year that the, uh, the winner of the overall winner of the race actually stopped. And, uh, took a Ciroc shot and kept going on afterwards. So it's a pretty cool spot to hang out. The Syrup shop might not be that bad of an idea. I get a little sugar and yet at the end of that climb. Yeah, absolutely. And after that you've got some more dre gravel and other descent and another climb and then the course finishes with a mountain top climb. Uh, and it's a pretty brutal, it's about two miles long, really nice double track. And uh, up at the top we normally have hot coffee cookies. And, uh, then it said, then you just take your time and roll back to your car, the race at the top of the hill. You've got a nice three, two mile descent back into town. And then, uh, that's sort of it. And then what do they expect after the race back in town? Do you have some events going on afterwards for people to enjoy themselves? Absolutely. We've partnered pretty closely with, uh, um, the brick yard restaurant and the stone house restaurant there. There are two restaurants that, uh, are operating under the same management open company. So laughter in everyone's ready to bag. They get a token for free beer and a burger or pizza for after the, um, after the events and they can come down and we do award ceremony in the courtyard and there's lots of lots of hanging out and people talking about the event and whether or not they had a good time and uh, there's been some, some really cool cool nights and it ends up people hanging out for a long time and really enjoying, enjoying what sport has to offer. Awesome. I was looking at the GPX file for the, for the race. So it looks like it's, it's just shy of 60 miles and about 6,200 feet of climbing, is that right? Yup. [inaudible] and looking at the elevation, there's no break in this bad boy. It goes up and down and up and down. And I could see that, um, that last finishing climb is as big as anything else earlier in the day. Yeah. The, the last line definitely. I mean when you're done, I don't care if you're the first finish or the last minister, you are happy to be done when you come across the line. The last time's pretty tough. It's a good one. Um, and it, it's when you get to the top and have that hot coffee and cookies, everyone's usually pretty excited to be wrapped up for the day. I bet. I bet. Are All these trails open to riders other times of the year or is this any private property? Uh, most of the courses open all the year. The glands. What, what our authority, uh, grants the event access. You're allowed to go there and ride. Um, and we, and uh, there's just, there's some rules there saw posted on a side but, but you are able to ride all the course all year round. Awesome. Well I encourage everybody to go to the iron cross website because there's a video of that cannon going off. There's a course profile across the board and a lot of information about how cool this event is and about the history. Like when we were talking to Mike earlier, I think this region is just so cool for people to visit for riding. And I can see how gravel riding is just exploding in the mid Atlantic area for, for events like this, just sort of setting the stage for what that community can can do. We'd love to have the hour, um, that there's a really, really great gravel community going on in PA. Uh, and then I think that you'd have fun at anything that's going on in the state. There's some really great stuff and we'd love to have, well I appreciate you taking the mantle of continuing the history of the Iron Cross race and continuing to have it evolve as new opportunities arise. It's amazing when I think multiple people in the community dedicate themselves to putting on events and thinking about this cause it really helps. It really helps people visiting the area to know where to ride and find some great loops. And it's just amazing to have these things on the calendar year after year after year. So gunner, thanks for joining us. I know you've got a busy weekend racing ahead of you, so thanks for the time and we look forward to another great iron cross later this year. Thanks for having me, Craig.


6 Aug 2019

Rank #14

Podcast cover

Dead Swede Hundo -- Wyoming gravel with John Kirlin

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.


12 Nov 2019

Rank #15