"You heading to the Grinduro?" "Grinduro-ing? See you there?" "Grinduro? Grinduro?" This was pretty much the only thing that was being talked about at the Giro booth this year during Interbike. Sure, there was more than enough new clothing, and did you see that full display of all their product arranged by color? That was pretty cool. But, it was the purple headed stepchild of Giro that would be getting all the attention. Plus, it was close enough that we could already count down the days to when we would be out in the great outdoors.
Zach and I packed our bikes and belongings and headed to Quincy, California early Friday morning. Holy shit that is a long way from nowhere. The threat of being unable to get our tents set up or even our vehicles in before dark was real. Unfounded, sure, but still very real and it helped us to push our natural limits through every twist and turn in the road. This was a theme that would continue throughout the weekend. Before you're sent into a flurry of nerves over whether or not we made it, set your mind at ease knowing that we did, with time to spare.
In what turned out to be one of the best and most hilarious ways to run a ride of this sort, the Grinduro brought back the car camping element to the equation. I say hilarious because no matter how tired you are at the end of a long day, it is impossible to escape live music from the confines of your tent. I promise, I tried.
The early start time meant that there wasn't the usual party vibe atmosphere that I would have expected. Ok, there were a few that were burning the midnight oil. Thankfully, the night before we ran into some of our crew (can I say that? That they're our crew) from Los Angeles and their car camping scenario was dialed. Right down to the furry chests, whisky and weed — could you possibly need anything more?
By the time we were finally clipped in to our bicycles and rolling, the entire ride had nearly 20 minutes on us. This is mostly my problem. I accept the fact that I'm not ready until I'm ready, I need to go over what has been stuffed into my pockets more than a few times — does anyone have extra water? — who has extra tubes? — would it kill you to have another coffee? And then I'm ready.
So, here we are; 8am, barely fueled on coffee and riding through the outskirts of Quincy with barely a shred of clothing in sight. This was the one and only moment of the day when I questioned what we were doing. Eschewing all forms of reason I left nearly every warm article of clothing that I had brought with me in the car. The temperatures had dipped in the night, to the degree that Zach awoken to a thin coating of ice on his pepto pink bicycle frame. Yet, here we were starting out on our adventure with nary an arm or leg warmer in sight. I was taking a page out of my good friend Ben Lieberson's book - "you'll warm up on the first climb."
Of course he was right, but we had a chance to warm up even before the first climb. As we crossed the final intersection that would lead us out of town and up into the wilderness, we saw Kyle and Amanda on their tandem in the middle of the road. Not even a few miles into the ride and they had already broken a pedal. Of course this was a slight cause for concern, but that melted away when one of the Giro volunteers suggested that we not only move out of the center of the road, but that we sample some of the piping hot coffee steaming from her mug. My fingers might not be functioning at this point, but you talked me into it.
Then, a guy, who just so happens to be a Santa Cruz legend named "Chava" rode by and we were off and climbing towards "Special" Numero Uno. But, before we get too far into what this ride really was (what was it?) Let's talk about some of the gear and people and other stuff surrounding the Grinduro. Things like — what bike did I take? How much food did I take? And really how many flats did we as a collective group get?
photo by Zach Rotstein
JD- Trek Boone 9 Disc with Clement 40mm MSO tires (and tubes).
ZR- Trek Crockett Canti Jammer - Pepto Pink - Clement 36mm
This was one part of the ride that was hotly contested throughout the day. There was some emphasis made in the part of the organizers that there was no real perfect bike to do this ride on. That point was made abundantly clear by the number of people who had no problems artfully wrestling their CX bikes through tricky situations. Overall was a CX bike the way to go? Certainly. But, would you (and by you I mean I) have been more comfortable on a hard tail mountain bike? Most definitely. It's the severe shaming that I worry about. My fragile soul couldn't take it.
Here's a thing though — SRAM CX1 with that crazy clutch rear derailleur. Holy shit, game changer on a course like this. Or any course that might have some bumpy sections. Which is every course, right?
Here's another thing — hydraulic brakes. I raise my hands in that sort of Italian kissing motion like "mama mia, this ravioli is exquisite" at these brakes. Zach would too, if he could. He wants hydro brakes too, who doesn't?
Tubeless — ok, ok, everyone is doing it. I'll give it a try. Just not right now. And yes we may have changed a couple flat tires out there on course. But that just helps us to get our Service Course Certification down.
"You were flying down that gravel road." - Cole "Yeah, I heard you flew off the track and almost into the trees trying to keep up." - Ty "Heck yeah! Saved it!" - Cole Photo by Zach Rotstein
The Crew - Cole, Ty, Zach, Aaron and Eric
These guys made up the basis of our riding crew. Sure there were other characters that showed up along the way. Greg Johnson laid one of the longest skids out in front of us that I have ever seen. We were fixing a flat and he came bombing out of nowhere - brakes locked, tires skidding, gravel shooting off in every direction - and of course a huge shit eating grin plastered on his face as he rumbled to a stop. Then, Greg's friend Charlie rolled up and dropped an even bigger one that resulted in more laughs and exclamations of surprise as well as a nearly unfixable flat tire that took the better part of an hour to fix, patch, goo back into submission.
Can we call Adam Craig part of our crew? Purple slippers and all? Yes, yes we can.
Adam Craig? I guess we could call him part of our crew as well. I do hesitate to call him that, one because his physical abilities place him well beyond anything our crew is capable of (except Ty) and two because I'm sure he wouldn't consider himself part of our crew. He was however, someone that we saw a lot. He would be hanging around at a stop, waiting for a rag tag band like ours to roll through, and would set off with us, probably also with the noble intention of sticking with us, but after quickly realizing that he could do better things with his time he would sprint on up the trail leaving us in a cloud of dust.
Honorable mentions: Kyle and Amanda on their Tandem. Nathan and Karany, Greg and Dane and the entire Giro crew were great. I got to finally meet Strawfoot in person, hang out with a guy named Chava and see Todd from BlackCat Bikes crushing it up the first climb. We talked to Adam Sklar who is building bikes in Bozeman, MT. He drove out...no big deal.
Oh yeah, I got to meet Emily Kachorek - EEKACHOREK!! She has been one of my favorite up and coming cyclocross racers over the last couple years. Not only does she bring a fantastic attitude to racing (and this ride too - "I don't need to go crazy on these descents, I've broken enough bones.") and just life in general. Her Squid Bikes crew had some of the best paint schemes and were the coolest dudes around. Thanks for letting me cruise with you for a bit!
And I could go on and on in this department. In fact, this was the best part of the ride. The gravel roads were amazing. So were the trees. John Prolly commented on the trees over and over at one point until he admitted that there might have been something special in that medicinal honey he kept dipping into. Yeah, the trees John, we get it. Nature IS metal.
The end of the special. Photo by Zach Rotstein
"My kid likes your bike." Photo by Zach Rotstein
"Back off Jackoff!" photo by Zach Rotstein
We made it through all the "Specials" (how come no one was calling them specials? Isn't that an Enduro thing?) The goats didn't attack our bikes, they attacked the dogs that were getting near their kid. We flatted a few times and we ate Oreo's a few times. We leapfrogged everyone along the way and in the way that inherently works, they leapfrogged us back when we were changing the aforementioned flats...and then the oasis opened up. Not the band, the watering hole.
I looked down at my shins after all this riding and they were nearly unrecognizable with the layers of dust that had built up throughout the day. I knew they were layers because the grey from the gravel had mixed with the red silt in that last special, but not well enough that they had become one. Here I was standing at the edge of a body of water that had the potential to cleanse all of that in one fell swoop, but I was considering just getting back on my bike and pedaling into that bright patch of sunlight that signified the way home.
And then Adam Craig broke me out of the daze with a whoop and a cry that went something like "Dunn, get in the fucking water you pansy." (Actually it was much ruder, but I know this is a family website and I do like Adam, so I don't want to ruin his reputation by printing his potty mouth here). That was all it took and I fumbled through my clothing, tossed it aside and leapt with the reckless abandon of a 12 year old on the first day of summer break. Which is entirely what this ride felt like. The water, having just jutted down from some mountain pass, did not feel like that at all. But, awkwardly emerging from it's depths I noticed that the dirt and grime - and passé feelings had been washed away with it.
The true test of the validity of one of these rides is the things that you can talk about on the car ride home. The simple fact that Zach and I were still excitedly telling tales of the day — to each other, who rode together the entire time — while we rolled back in to Portland after 10 hours of driving should be evidence enough that this was a success. Long live Grinduro in whatever form it takes. A sincere thank you to all at Giro, SRAM, and everyone else that made this possible!