Sometimes the best adventures are the ones that are most sustainable. We do what we can with the time we have and the resources available. Put some snacks and gear in a bag and head out! Day 1 takes us from Portland to Parkdale via Lolo Pass.Read More
Having done The Oregon Stampede the last two years, I’m still struggling to make sense of the ride - not the route - the route is spectacular, and as I’ve said before I really love that part of Oregon that’s just beyond the Cascade rain curtain. I love the big sky and the rolling fields, and the views of multiple major peaks. I guess my difficulty lies in understanding why it’s not more popular these days. My first guess was timing. The last two Stampedes were run in September and temperatures were pushing 100. I asked Donnie Kolb of Velodirt for some history and insight about the Stampede and this is what he had to say…
"The first event was in September 2009. I'd just run the first Dalles Mountain 60 in April that year and 3 people showed up (including my girlfriend at the time, so really 2 people...). Up until then I'd never organized anything, never put myself out there for anything, ever, so it was completely out of character not only to do the DM60, but to have basically no one show up and not be discouraged. I still can't figure out what pushed me to do any of this, but it's been the funnest, most interesting thing I've ever been a part of. I can still remember at the 1st Stampede thinking that this was the single most amazing thing I've ever accomplished - getting a bunch of random people together, none of whom I knew, and everyone was crushed but everyone loved it. If you didn't know - I was a complete outsider from the bike world at the time, I knew literally no one in the local bike scene and basically just rode around by myself or with the g/f riding gravel anywhere I could find it - I was literally just some random schmoe who liked to ride bikes. Everyone I now know in the bike world and some of my best friends I met through VeloDirt events. It's not hyperbole to say that route changed the entire course of my life."
The route is exposed, not a lot of tree cover and the services are sparse – there are convenience stores at mile 40 and 67 on the route. So it’s a really hard ride, but nowhere near impossible. I’ve heard many folks say it’s the hardest ride they’ve ever done. Didn’t they used to cap the ride at 75 people? It could be that Velodirt used to be more involved and they drew big crowds. I look back at 2013 posts and hear about shiny spurs trophies being awarded to fastest finishers.
“After discovering the Dalles Mountain route I'd been riding all the gravel out there, checking out all the roads on both sides of the Deschutes, finding all the best roads. Because all of it was so good, I wanted to figure out how to combine it logically, which was a challenge. I finally gave in an included the Sherars Bridge area (couldn't find a non-paved way around) and the White River Wildlife area for lack of better alternatives. I remember riding the White River with Sue Marcoe and Joe Partridge and I was shocked Joe thought it'd be awesome to include it - I thought people would be pissed it was too rough. Bid kudos to Joe for calling that one right and convincing me to include it. ”
Last year I did the route for the first time as a 2-day bikepack as prep for the Oregon Outback. I then did the 1-day on event day on September 12. The same heat that had scared me away the previous year was in full effect, but I figured if I waited for perfect conditions, I’d never do it. There were only about 13 people that rode it last year. Our group of 5 went clockwise, the other group of 7 (Ruckus dudes) went counter-clockwise. We saw each other in Friend, exchanged brief high fives and kept grinding. Don’t get me wrong, the ride is challenging, but if you’ve been riding regularly you can do it! When I look back on Strava, I can see that elapsed time was over 12.5 hours and ride time was 9:23
Now that I’ve finished it twice, I still don’t know where to put it in my mind. It’s hard, but not that hard. It’s a big day of climbing and it’s mostly gravel. Whether it’s heat or headwinds, there will be some factor outside your control that makes it doubly hard, but you find a way to dig deep and get it done. There are times when I doubt the decision to do rides like this. When I’m 8 hours in, it seems like a waste of time and effort. But when you finish and you realize you’ve done something that seemed impossible before you did it, your sense of possibility increases, you know you can now do more than you originally thought. If I can do this hard thing, what else have I not considered possible that I should try? You’re a better person for having done it. You’re stronger now. You had your doubts, but you made it home before dark…maybe just.
It’s not bikepacking. It’s two nights of car camping with a day of gravel riding. It's all about comfort and enjoying yourself before and after 12 hours on your bike.
For me that means stretching out in a 2-man tent, bringing my Thermareset Luxury Map mattress and a real pillow. This year I was testing a Mountain Hardwear Ghost UL2 tent, which is light enough for bikepacking, but it seemed like a good chance to test it. It worked great. For sure on the compact side for base camp, but it will be a great choice for future trips. Easy set-up and quite comfortable.
I cook my oatmeal at home, throw it in the cooler and then just add some water and reheat at camp. Same with eggs. I hardboil them at home. Bring some salt and pepper…magic. Breakfast with minimal work on event day.
I’ll do the same with a dinner. Last time it was lentils with sausage. Personally, after that much ride time, the last thing I want to do is cook from scratch on a camp stove.
Coffee – bring the good stuff. Aero Press is my brew method of choice. Bring the moka pot, some good beans. Share it with your campsite buddies.
I know it’s totally nerdy, but I blend my recovery smoothie at home and put it in a vacuum insulated bottle. I know none of this is necessary, but it gives me peace of mind to know my nutrition is dialed. I can just worry about the work of pedaling my bike all day with no excuses.
I like to bring my bike ready to ride if I can. Once I get to camp I’m busy setting up camp, preparing food, or talking to people, so working on my bike gets neglected. Save yourself one more thing to forget and do your bike work at home before you leave. Using extra bags? Put those on at home. I just like to load my food and bottles and I’m ready to ride. Maybe I’ll allow myself one last second-guess on tire pressure. OK, now I’m ready. Wait…where did I put that beef jerky. (you get the idea)
BEER has always been an integral part of the Oregon Stampede…
I just got this MiiR growler, so I hit Breakside on Dekum on Friday and filled it with their award-winning Pilsner. I brought few (stackable) Pint Cups too…you know…one less thing to put in the landfill.
No exhaustive ride report this time. We've already done the blow-by-blow of the route. Let’s just say the first part to Dufur was hard for me. We had a good group until the schoolhouse, then I had to find my own rhythm. The headwinds were cool and strong - clouds kept blocking the sun. We did a quick bottle fill up and hot case session in Dufur. ($1.50 for a chicken strip and 3 jojos! What?) Bless Kramer's Market! A nice local fella told me about the antler collection across from Kramer’s market and how he likes to hunt for morels.
Paul LaCava was my ride buddy for the day. He was motivated to keep moving, so we pushed on. The next section (Dufur to Tygh Valley) is much easier in my opinion, so that went well. The wildlife preserve is fun and technical and we were joined by Ron and Brandon from OMTM and Kurt from 21st Ave. Bicycles. We took turns alternating taking photos and ripping descents while not crashing in baby heads and loose rock piles.
The pavement from the Wildlife Preserve and Tygh Valley is always a welcome respite from the gravel. We enjoyed easy miles and the camaraderie of the group. I marveled how well I felt in Tygh Valley, funny how much 30 degree cooler weather will help! (100 last year, 70 this year) But don’t get too cocky! We still had 52 miles to ride, including the dreaded 10-mile paved climb from Shearars Bridge. After Tygh Valley, Paul does this thing when he’s trying to break through a hard spot where he drills it, so he punched it on the climb. I’m not sure how he does it. I do this thing where I dial it back to conserve energy. We all have our strategies. We had to plop down on the side of the road at one point and eat the last of our sandwiches - well Paul finished his chicken strips and I finished my PB&J.
This is the hard part. It’s not the hardest part of the route, it's just the fact that you’re 8 hours in and you know the headwind is gonna suck, and you realize you’re not exactly flying at this point, you’re just hoping for steady progress. Mentally this is where you draw on every bit of experience you have. I’m thankful for all those shitty headwinds on training rides on Marine Drive, because now I know to get low and keep as much speed as you can. I’m thankful for all those core and upper body workouts in the gym because my low back isn’t hurting, my shoulders are holding up well. I’m super thankful for that. There is a lot of unraveling that could be happening at this late hour, but instead I’m grateful for what strength I do have, and I’m able to look at the way the wind ripples the fields of wheat/barley, I’m lifted by the swifts that glide by me with ease. I realize this is the sweetest part of the day. I’m able to find peace on the bike without hating the wind. I’m just doing my best. I think this is what they call a flow moment. I’m just witnessing the beauty and pedaling my bike. I’m a part of the landscape. Before long the odometer clicks 100 and it’s not far from Gordon Ridge. We got this! Paul doesn’t stop at the summit. He’s anxious to finish. I eat one last bit of jerky and we bomb the ridge, wondering about the three tracks that seem to go all over the road (were those guys OK?) I do my best to make straight lines in the deep gravel – to be steady at speed and make a mental picture of the soft hills that flank the Deschutes at the same time – it’s the art to enjoying these things I think. We’re multitasking in these moments taking it all in, keeping a good grip on the bars, breathing, smooth pedaling, keep speed for the roller, ok ease up, save some legs…still 14 miles to go…
We made it back to camp without too much struggle. The headwind was much worse on the Outback last year, so I count my blessings that when I pedal downhill it actually feels like a descent. Before we know it we’ve reached 206, which means 2 miles to camp! Done. Dusted. Fist bumps high fives. What a day! So glad to be done! Hey I’m not destroyed (well maybe a little) Let’s have a couple beers. We greet the rest of the crew as they trickle in. We make food, relive the day. We did great, individually, collectively…I put my feet up in my recliner, get inside my sleeping bag and fade in and out of consciousness. OK, maybe I’m more tired than I thought. Thanks again to Velodirt for creating and sharing the route, to Donnie Kolb for the Stampede story, and to 21st Ave. Bicycles for hosting, and to you that showed up and pedaled with us, and finally to you for hearing the story.
Bike/Tires - I've been ride testing a Parlee Chebacco with Clement X'Plor MSO 40c tires. (60psi rear, 50 psi front) I'm loving this bike/tire combo. Both the bike and the tires are purpose-built for rides like this and the Chebacco is extremely comfortable on long hard rides like the Stampede. Highly recommended (full review to follow in the coming months)
Drink/Food - I put a third bottle in a Revelate Mountain Feed Bag. Camera (Lumix GF1) and food went in a Revelate Gas Tank. Speaking of food, I brought my own flax bars and Krave Beef Jerky, and bought a Chicken strip and 3 jojos in Dufur and in Tygh Valley I got jojos, a banana, and a coke. I drank NBS nutrition in my bottles. (I probably went through 6 bottles) NBS is worth mentioning since it's Stacy Sims latest project - she came up with the formulas for both OSMO and Skratch! She knows hydration. I drank OSMO preload the night before and the morning of the ride. I also drank a Skratch matcha in the afternoon for a little caffeine boost.
Clothing/Helmet/Shades/Shoes - 7Mesh MK1 Bib Shorts, Rapha Lightweight Jersey, Rapha ProTeam Base Layer, Assos arm protectors, 7Mesh Resistance Jacket, Teko merino/poly socks, Giro DnD gloves, Giro Synthe MIPS helmet, Oakley Prizm Jawbreakers, Shimano XC90 shoes
Fighting the Wind - I was thankful for the aero qualities of the Synthe helmet, the wind protection and optics of the Jawbreakers, and the lightweight/packable/wind-blocking qualities of the Resistance Jacket. It all makes a difference out there!
Our friends at Rapha USA have a cool brevet ride planned next weekend. On Saturday we're riding from Portland to Pacific City, staying overnight in hotels and riding back to Portland on Sunday. 210 miles and about 10,000 feet of climbing over two days. Cynics will say “Oh Rapha is doing bikepacking” but they're not. They've always been inspired by randonneuring, and frame bags have been adopted by long distance riders like those racing the Trans Am Bike Race or the Transcontinental Race from London to Istanbul. I love both road riding and bikepacking, so with this format I can enjoy both. I'm less interested in putting a label on my riding and more interested in creative days on the bike. Honestly most of my riding is road, because I believe in riding door to door. That's the real challenge. Go ride your bike without driving your car. Take the train or bus and come home under your own power or vice versa. In the meantime, enjoy some snaps from our recon of the route below. It really is beautiful.
I'm excited about this ride because it's a cool chance to play with minimal packing, essentially credit card touring- and that's new for me! I'm shooting the ride, so my challenge will be to ride the 210 miles with camera gear and stay fresh enough to take photos of the ride. The ride goes through Carlton, OR at mile 50, so folks can have lunch there before the real climbing and remoteness begins. It's not all that remote in the bikepacking or hiking sense of being out in the wilderness for days, but there are no services until Beaver at mile 92. The ride is challenging. We did it as a recon ride last Monday and Tuesday. I think we all felt relatively fit going into the ride, but Tim decided to backcountry ski to the top of St. Helens a day or two before our ride, so he may have handicapped himself slightly. Jeffrey forgot to charge his Di2 battery, so he was stuck in one (easy) gear for the majority of the ride back to Portland. I broke a rear wheel spoke on my rear wheel as soon as we hit Cornelius, so I had fun riding a wobbler back to town. Also, our weather has been great, so any amount of rain could make the ride much harder, and as we learned anything can happen in 210 miles.
And now for the Knolling Let's take a look at what I'm bringing. First is my overnight kit, then my on-bike kit
Montbell EX Light Down Anorak
Icebreaker Merino underwear
Icebreaker Long Sleeve Anatomica shirt
Rapha Merino Leg Warmers
7Mesh Glidepath Shorts
The Athletic Socks
Chamois Butter packet (for day2)
Toiletries - toothbrush, toothpaste, sunscreen, ibuprofen, arnica tablets, contact case, earplugs
Homemade oatmeal packet
Homemade espresso+cocoa packet
OSMO protein packet (recovery for end of day 1)
Nike Free running shoes
PDW Aether Demon blinky light
2 spare spokes - 1 driveside, 1 non-driveside
Apidura saddle pack (compact)
2 Revelate Mountain feedbags
Oakley Jawbreaker Sunglasses
Giro Aeon helmet
Icebreaker Merino beanie
Rapha Pro Team Softshell gloves
Iphone 6 with Gaia for Navigation
Tool kit (ZPacks Phablet zip pouch) - spare tube, Topeak mini tool, Pedros lever, Park super patch kit
Canon 5D Mark iii with 35 and 50 mm lens
4 homemade “Flax your muscles” bars
1 Lara AltProtein Bar 1 Bear Naked Peanut Butter bar (super deal at Grocery Outlet)
1 Trail butter Expedition Espresso packet
6 Osmo Hydration packets
Haribo Gummi bears
Homemade Salmon Jerky
These are a few of our favorite things…with a focus on Portland-based companies, such as Mississippi Records, Trail Butter, The Athletic, Gerber Knives, Heart Coffee Roasters, LED Lenser (Leatherman), Rapha. All things we've used and loved this year.
Before making the 8 hour drive to Quincy, Grinduro was just soundbytes, the color purple, poster art by Geoff Mcfetridge. The event site billed it as “Gravel Road Race + Mountain Bike-Style Enduro = one long loop of pavement and dirt” When you factor in the chance to ride new dirt roads and camping and live music, well now you’ve got yourself a new-fangled-old-school mountain bike festival. DiMinno is doing the food. OK Now we’re talking. Chris Diminno is the super talented chef masterminding the food at the Chris King Gourmet Centuries. That in itself is almost enough to drive to Quincy, CA. Where exactly is Quincy? According to Plumas County website, “Quincy is the Plumas County seat, nestled against the western slope of the Sierra Nevada range and tucked at the edge of the lush American Valley. It's a cool, small town in the Sierra Nevadas with historic buildings and recreation opportunities galore.
My buddy Goo asked if I wanted to join him for the ride down. We left early Friday and we spent the day heading South in his trusty surf Toyota pickup. In Klamath Falls we made coffee in the Fred Meyer parking lot. We stopped at the general store in Adin, making our way past stuffed bear and deer to use the restroom, then at a view spot, only to realize it was a firing range, and a guy was practicing his quick-draw. We made a hasty retreat. All the gunplay was strange and timely, since Obama was visiting Roseburg on this very day.
Camping at the Quincy fairgrounds we couldn’t help but notice the low hum of trees being turned into lumber as plumes of steam rose skyward. Sierra Pacific Industries mill is located right across the street, which is the largest producer of lumber in California and the third largest nationally behind Weyerhauser and Georgia-Pacific. As you would imagine, Sierra Pacific has its critics.
However, the timber industry today is not quite what it was and Quincy lost one of its lumber mills in 2009. This story of a timber town turning to recreation and tourism reminds me a lot of Oakridge, Oregon, which now hosts Mountain Bike Oregon every year in July and August. From this article it seems the town is torn in much the same way. On one hand the town needs jobs and revenue, on the other the housing market is not endless, nor are the natural resources. So, like Oakridge, Quincy needs to reinvent itself and find new sources of revenue.
Maybe events like Grinduro can help put Quincy on the map for its natural beauty and small town charm. 400 or so people showed up to enjoy a weekend of riding bikes on dirt roads. I like that Quincy is a bit off the beaten track, maybe not an obvious destination yet. But events like Grinduro can help put a town on the map, like Downieville, with its beloved Downieville Classic and seemingly endless trails and swimming holes. You can’t mention Downieville without talking about the incredible Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship. If you haven’t heard of this hardworking crew, go have a look at their impressive list of completed projects
From Sierra Buttes, it was Greg Williams, founder of the Downieville Classic and Mike Ferrentino that brought Quincy to the table as an event location. Giro, with help from Joe Parkin came up with the event concept, but it was Sierra Buttes that did the heavy lifting when it came time to actually make the event happen. Hats off to Giro for giving the proceeds of Grinduro to Sierra Buttes.
Another cool aspect of Grinduro was the “Meet Your Maker” pavilion. If you’re not up on your NorCal custom builders scene, MYM is a collection of the finest builders. The list includes Black Cat, Blue Collar, Bruce Gordon, Caletti, Calfee, Falconer Frances, Hunter, MAP, Paragon Machine Works, Pass & Stow, Paul Components, Rebolledo, Retrotec/Inglis, Rex, Rock Lobster, Soulcraft, Sycip, and White Industries. Many of these builders had Grinduro-worthy bikes on hand, mostly cross/gravel bikes that pushed the limits of tire clearance. The folks at Giro are friends and frequent ride buddies with these builders, so it made sense to include them in the event and to give them greater visibility.
Enough preamble, What about the big day? We woke around 6:00 or 6:30, made coffee, and stumbled over for a Diminno breakfast burritos and little quiches. I was surprised to see pro riders Chris Jones and Barry Wicks. I’m always amazed how quickly time flies on event day. I suited up and made my way over for the 7:45 rider meeting. We stood in the sunshine to warm up while Dain from Giro gave us the format: 4 timed sections. He suggested we chill out and enjoy the non-timed sections, and to go hard on the timed sections.
We rolled out at 8:00, past the stacks of wet timber at Sierra Pacific Industries. Nothing prepares you for the feeling of riding in such a large group. I do so much solo riding, that a group like this feels special. For me, it’s the whole reason to do a ride like this. The group takes your mind off the cold, and it distracts you when the road deteriorates to rutted gravel - and ramps up steeper than you’d like. We rode out of town, -through the valley, past a trio of running horses.
It didn’t take long to warm up, since the first climb seemed to be an hour long. The first timed section came at about the 45 minute mark. I couldn’t be bothered with sprinting at this point. I tried slightly harder just because I felt guilty not pushing it a bit as a few people flew by, obviously redlining it, because: racing. Being a reformed racer, I felt conflicted-- like I should rise to the occasion because I’m being timed, and at the end of the day we’re going to gather around the fire and compare times. But I feel good about the efforts I’ve done this summer, and I’ve been riding plenty. My new rule as I do more longer events is pacing myself to go as hard as I can for 8 hours, which is more like an 85 percent effort, and it doesn’t allow for any massive sprint efforts. You basically find your endurance zone and stick with it.
The routes were well marked, and just like a pro race there were signs indicating “segment ends 500 meters” At the end of a segment, riders would collapse, regroup, cheer their friends as they crossed the line, grab a bar and fill up on water before they continued on. It occurred to me that Grinduro was very much a modern event, as many of us track rides and post on Strava. Every ride is an individual time trial where there are no bunch sprints, only rider against the clock. After the first segment, we pushed on with a decent tempo. The climb had mellowed this point and we had climbed sufficiently to earn good views of the surrounding peaks and the valley below. We hit an extended stretch of loose gravel and I was again thankful that I had chosen my hardtail Seven with 2.1 mountain bike tires. I’ve ridden roads like these on road bikes and cross bikes, and it can be white knuckle and miserable.
Before long we came to segment number two. People were fueling up on water and catching a breath. I was amazed at the number of volunteers on hand. I wasn’t sure what they were there to do, since riders had a timing chip on their number plates. Sure, the equipment had to be set up for timing at each stage, but I wasn’t sure what everyone was doing , aside from cheering. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good cheer before I drop into a gravel road descent. This track was standard dirt road, but there were good sized rocks embedded which meant you had to choose the right line on your cross bike if you didn’t want to flat. And OH! How they flatted on the top of this descent! There must have been three people on each side of the road fixing flats. There was even a tub filled with spare tubes and a floor pump. Again, I patted myself on the back for my bike/tire selection. I feel that if I have one strength, it’s bombing dirt road descents. Sure, there’s always someone faster, but I can put my head down and get down pretty well. So, I found my 90 percent effort, picked my lines and kept it upright. Damn! That was fun! I kept thinking during the day how perfect all the events I’ve done this year prepared me for Grinduro. Oregon Outback, Dirty Sellwood, The Stampede. Mentally, I figured if I can do 120 miles loaded, and then ride two more days after, I certainly can do 62 miles with 8500 feet of climbing. Shortly after section two ended, we arrived at the first aid station. This aid station was in full party mode complete with disco ball, sasquatch costumes, sake, and of course clouds of weed smoke. I grabbed a couple bites of PB&J, some banana, took a gulp of sake and kept on. I was happy to ride with Scott Nichol, the main man at Ibis. Scott rides all the time and was just finishing a roadtrip in Colorado and Utah. I hadn’t ridden with Scott since we visited him at his home in Santa Rosa two years ago. It was one of those rides where we talked about going out for 2.5 to 3 hours and it ended up being more like 4. Probably due to my pokey pace and lots of stopping for photo ops. Best part was gourmet food afterwards, much like today. Scott had accidentally left his seat bag open, so he was without tools. I was happy to help loan him a multi tool and a pump to keep things rolling.
Next we found ourselves at a little town and the start of the timed road section. Folks stopped and filled tires up for faster road performance. At the rider meeting I seem to remember Dain telling us it might be in our best interest to form a group for this section, since it’s usually windy. I found a group that looked pretty fast and we set off. It was a pretty sloppy paceline, and it felt slow to me, so before I took my first pull, I went wide and gave it my all trying to get away from the group, chasing the next rider down the road. I guess I imagined myself to be a real time trial specialist. I made a decent gap from the group, but wasn’t able to make it stick. I was working way harder solo than I would have been in the group, and I wasn’t really gaining anything, so before too long I quietly found my place back in the group and took some turns to try and earn my keep. Man! That headwind made it hard! As soon as we crossed the line of this timed section, lunch was waiting just under some trees off to the side of the road. I was starting to get the hang of this ride hard and then chill out style of riding. Food was welcome and we put our legs up and feasted on Lentils and kale salad and potato salad. Rumors of a wicked climb after lunch circulated, so I made sure not to eat too much and gave myself a minute to digest.
I rolled out with Junker, Nichol, Dan Cheever and a handful of others. We hung a quick left just after the quaint town of Taylorsville and we began the 6-mile climb. The Grinduro signage continued, this time it said “This climb sucks SORRY” Those that knew the route said to take it as easy as possible on this climb, since the final singletrack section was supposed to be the hardest bit. Honestly though, with sections at 12 and 13 percent grade, the only way to chill out was to walk your bike, and that makes it take forever and isn’t that much fun. My legs were feeling good, so I just shifted down to my 36 and found a rhythm. I tell myself I love climbing and when my legs feel good like this I actually do love climbing. But that much steepness and that long of a climb have a way of stealing any good vibes and just make you grateful to be done. By the time we reached the final aid station my left knee was hurting a bit and wasn’t totally looking forward to the final timed singletrack section. Scott Nichol said it might be a good idea to drop your saddle a bit for the last section, since it was essentially newly built mountain bike trail. I popped some peanut M&Ms in my mouth and pedaled on. I was torn. I had come this far and had been riding well and enjoying myself, but the climb had worn me down and my knee and back had me just riding to survive, hardly ripping the singletrack. Some folks rode hardtails with suspension forks and they were loving this section. I got passed like I was standing still by a couple of folks. It’s demoralizing when it happens, but it reminded me that I wasn’t just here to race, but to capture the experience on film. The trail kept opening up to reveal views of the valley below and it was spectacular. I felt like riding at breakneck pace was a waste after that seemingly endless climb. Maybe I wouldn’t feel that way if I was Mr. DH ripper, but since I’m pretty conservative these days, I just did my thing and kept it rubber side down. A 500 meters sign appeared and I gave it one last sprint to the line.
A quick portage over railroad tracks and it was time for post-ride beers and high fives. We did it! We finished a challenging course in pretty good time and had a blast doing it. It felt great to sit on the rocks behind the tracks, crack open a beer and toast each other. That feeling of shared accomplishment is a good one. We cheered as folks finished up, some riding in so hard that they barely stopped before coming to the tracks. Adam Craig rode a flat to the finish line and proceeded to show off his ruined Zipp wheel. Adam had tried to double up on a jump and came up short. That’s what happens when you put a rowdy enduro dude on a cross bike on a mountain bike track. There’s gonna be damage. Another rider had done the same on his carbon wheels. I started asking him what happened and I could tell he was super bummed about it, so I quickly changed the subject. Sorry dude. For the most part, everyone just had a blast and was ready to relax around camp. Just a quick road ride, full of ear-to-ear grins and we were back at the fairgrounds. Dain came in with three good skids just to stoke out the crowd. We hit the showers and went for recovery beer.
The grand finale was another excellent Diminno meal, swapping stories about the day, and Ray Barbee and Mike Watt in concert. I don’t think I had seen Mike Watt since he was flying the flannel in 1990. What a cool way to finish the day! Giro thought long and hard about what they wanted to see in this event and came up with a festival for anyone that loves riding off road that incorporated delicious food and music. I asked Dain how Grinduro was for him and he summed it up by saying “the Grinduro format really suits me. My wife was joking that the segments weren’t long enough for me to blow up as hard as usual! To me, this format really represents how my friends and I ride on the weekends. We absolutely hammer each other into the ground — on climbs and descents — but then regroup and laugh about it. It’s great to share that style of riding with nearly 400 new friends.” It really was a celebration of the creativity in the bike world and it felt good to contribute to Sierra Buttes efforts. So many people that showed up for this first event are friends of friends of Giro. I’m sure people will hear how great an event it was and it will be even bigger next year. There is already talk of taking Grinduro international next year. Since this turned out to be one of my best weekends of the year, I’m sure I’ll be back next year.
We enjoyed the ride home and split the driving into two days, camping at Skull Hollow – just down the road from Smith Rock. We hit Gray Butte for a 10 mile wakeup ride. It was more of a dirt road ride that started and ended with some fun flowy singletrack, but it was perfect.
A big thank you to the whole crew at Giro, to Chris Diminno for the excellent food, to the town of Quincy for having us, to Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship and to Goo for driving and making it a great road trip!
1. The bike
The Seven Sola SL 29er with the Enve MTB 29er fork was the perfect bike. Sketchy descents were no problem and I could haul as fast as my legs would take me. I think after we get over our obsession with cross/gravel bikes the lightweight hardtail mountain bike will be the next big thing. It’s just so much more forgiving and less sketchy.
I rode 2.1 Schwalbe Thunder Burt Tires on the rear and a Racing Ralph up front. I think it was my favorite dirt/gravel road tire combo so far. It would be an ideal combination for Oregon Outback as well.
I kept my Revelate frame bag on. Since the day started cold and I knew I’d want to stash clothing and bring my own selection of ride food, the bag made sense.
The only thing I would have done differently was to be more careful about tire pressure on the last stage. I got lazy and left my tires over-inflated. If I had run them at my normal mountain biking pressure of 23 rear 17 front it would have given me more confidence and been less harsh. Especially with the rigid fork, your tires are your suspension, so the right pressure is key.
I wore 7Mesh bib shorts, the Santini Car4 base layer. (this was a bit warm overall for the day, but I never got soaked with sweat. I’m still amazed by this piece) a Rapha Lightweight jersey, arm screens, full finger gloves, Giro Aeon helmet with a Rapha cap to keep the sun off.
I started the day in the 7Mesh Resistance jacket and Rapha merino knee warmers, but those came off 15 minutes into the first climb. I was definitely glad I had them to start.
For shoes I wore the Shimano XC90. I went for more stiffness over greater hikeability. It turned out to be a good choice. I think they give extra power on those hard climbs.
My only clothing critique is for the lightweight jersey – and some might even just call it user error. That middle zipper pocket. What’s it for? I kept leaving it open and probably lost a couple rolls of film over the course of the day. I’d much prefer a third jersey pocket to the vertical zipper, but otherwise a great versatile jersey and I love the warm red color.
Since it was just car camping, I took my Big Sky International Evolution 2P tent. I used a Thermarest Deluxe pad, which is huge and way too big to take bikepacking, but lets me sleep well the night before and after an event like this. I really makes a big difference. For a sleeping bag, I used the Montbell Down Hugger 900. It’s rated at 25 degrees and is comfortable down to 35. I never overheated and as the night got cooler, I just pulled the mummy collar up higher over my head. The unique aspect of the Down Hugger bag is the quilted stitching and elasticity that lets me wiggle without feeling restricted. (Full review to follow)
For cooking, Goo had his Coleman propane stove and I pulled out the Snowpeak Giga Power stove and used the aero press for coffee. I brought lentils and sausage leftovers and my traditional steel cut oatmeal and eggs for breakfasts.
We did it. Interbike 2015. Two days of outdoor demo and two days of indoor show. At outdoor demo we rode a Scott Spark, a Santa Cruz 5010, a Scott Genius 900, a Pivot 429 Trail, and the S-Works Camber 29. At the show, we focused on tires, walkable spd shoes, and a few tools and a little bit of clothing. Check it out…
SCOTT Spark 900 Premium
Coming in just a hair over 23 lbs., the Spark is full-on 29er cross country whip. I fantasize about needing a bike like this for an endurance race, but there were just too many personal roadblocks on this bike for me to fall in love. The first three strikes are only sort of the bikes fault. 1. no dropper - yes I get it that XC bikes are supposed to be light and minimal 2. small tires. The demo track was rocky and technical, so something slightly beefier would have helped a lot. 3. Twin Loc suspension lockout works great on long dirt road climbs, but isn't something I want to mess with on trail. I need a little more set-it-and-forget-it readiness. My fault for picking an XC demo bike. This is what I was riding 3 years ago, so we're expecting our bikes to do quite a bit more these days than just go fast on smooth terrain
Santa Cruz 5010
I'm currently riding the SOLO for my fun trail bike, so I had to check in with Santa Cruz to see how they've updated this bike since it was introduced three years ago. Geometry has been tweaked - the head tube is now 67 degrees - one degree slacker, the top tube is longer and the seattube is steeper. The rear triangle linkage is revamped as well. That's a Pike RCT3 130 fork up front and a FOX Float Factory EVOL in back. I give Santa Cruz credit for sending out demo bikes with proper fat treads like Maxxis Ardents and Minions on Enve M60 rims. The bike felt tuned up and a bit more responsive than the bike I have at home. A worth upgrade to an already rad bike. The royal blue with chlorine details is pretty too.
SCOTT Genius 900 Tuned
The Genius 900 is the kind of bike you want for Arizona Trail or Colorado Trail race. It comes in at just over 25 lbs. and is 130mm of travel front and rear. “Tuned” means that Scott has worked closely with FOX to custom tune the suspension to the bike. Unless you're riding big drops or racing enduro or downhill I can't imagine needing more bike than this. It's nimble enough for endurance races and loaded with light bags, you'd be able to go bikepacking on fairly technical courses. This bike is a solid contender for a capable all-rounder. A 5 inch 29er will take you far and you'll have fun doing it.
PIVOT 429 Trail
The Pivot 429 Trail finally hits the sweet spot! The Pivot 429 has been around for awhile now, but I feel like this version really nailed it. I've been looking for a quiver killer like this. We could pick apart the geometry and the parts to explain this bikes success, but ultimately it comes down to the fact that the bike inspires confidence and it feels fast. It feels noticeably more confident climbing than any bike I rode and made me want to find drops and technical rocks bits to test it. Some folks will roll their eyes at the boost 148 spacing on the rear hub, but Pivot says it takes care of the lack of stiffness folks complained about in the past with 29ers. The other thing I see Pivot doing is offering the ability to customize their bikes. With the 429 trail, riders can choose 120 or 130mm forks and have the ability to run 27+ wheels. I really loved this bike and can't wait to spend more time on one. The only complaints I had were the LEV dropper post always hesitated before it did it's job and I worry about the external cable routing being vulnerable to rocks. I'm not sure if anything can be done about that. Pivot says it's able to offer a more affordable bike like this, but with so many companies doing slick internal routing, it just seems unfinished. Still, that's a minor complaint and I still want to see what I can do on this bike.
S-Works Camber 29
I had heard good things about this bike. I was also anxious to ride the RS-1 fork, since it's supposed to have superior damping qualities. I guess this bike should have a nice intuitive feel, since it retails for $9800. What can I say, the bike felt great. It did feel a bit more planted and cross country in feel compared to the 5010 or the PIVOT429. I'm guessing that the 30mm wide rims and the RS-1 contributed to this stability. If you have the cash, this could be the perfect endurance XC race bike, but it does feel limited in it's all-around trail abilities. I'm pretty skeptical about the SWAT door. On one hand it would be nice to stash a mini pump and a tube in there for emergencies, on the other it seems unnecessary and I'd forget what I had in there. I applaud Specialized for making bikes like this, since they push what's possible in mountain bikes. They've come so far from The Rockhopper Comp I bought in 1988!
This past Sunday we gathered at Dirty Fingers bike shop in Hood River for the Dirty Sellwood, which was to be a sort of casual group ride, albeit a big bite of a ride around Mount Hood. OK, it was supposed to be a bit of an epic…a friendly, grassroots sufferfest. The past two years the ride had been just a shop ride from Dirty Fingers to Sellwood cycle. This year they opened the ride up to the public and capped the ride group at 100 riders. My friend JBucky heard about this ride and thought it would be good preparation for the Stampede ride the following weekend.
When Mitchell, who was organizing the ride, called me to make sure I hadn’t stumbled into this ride blind just asked. “Do you like pain?” He was joking of course, but there’s something there. We don’t ride for the sake of pain. Real pain, emotional or physical is never a reason to ride. We do it because it’s challenging and we like to do things that are difficult, to rise to the occasion and do something big - and it can be fun to do it with company. It’s not just fun to ride in a group, but we gain boldness and strength when we ride together. We’re able to go further faster and do that hard thing more easily in a group situation.
But there is a downside to this boldness – a potential pitfall. It happens when rather than plan properly (like we would when we set out to ride in the mountains for 8 or 9 hours solo) we rely on the ride organizer. We look around at our riding companions to see how they’re dressed and just decide to go with that. It’s this strange phenomenon I call “group mind.” If you’re the only one wearing a jacket and knee warmers, group mind is going to make you second guess your choice to wear a jacket and knee warmers. You think, well the locals must know what the weather is like here, so if they’re not wearing x, I don’t need to wear x.
This is where I feel like my bikepacking experience has helped me a lot. I'll maintain that I’m not an expert in much, but between training rides and road rides I have a fair amount of experience choosing my kit. For clothing, you choose what will keep you comfortable in the range of temperatures that you might encounter. My rule of thumb is that if there is any chance of rain, bring a reliable rain jacket. Temps below 50 degrees call for knee warmers that go on and stay on. I’m in the habit of wearing arm protectors (lightweight arm screens that keep the sun off). They’re actually the perfect weight for this time of year, especially with slightly cooler mornings and act as lightweight arm warmers as well. Choosing a good base layer is key too, one that will wick sweat and is thermal or not depending on the temps.
This ride started in Hood River, (elevation: 499 feet) which usually means windy and sunny in the summer. It’s September, which traditionally means a continuation of the nice warm weather we’ve been experiencing all summer, but recently there have been some storms over the Pacific that have brought some much needed rain and cooler temperatures that feel more like October and November. The high point of our ride was to be Bennett Pass (elevation 4650 feet).
For my planning, I did what I do for bikepacking and that’s to look at the forecast for each town I’m passing through. I saw 30 percent chance of rain in Government Camp, so I brought the 7Mesh Resistance jacket, which is really more of a windbreaker, but is also rain resistant. I had been looking for a jacket that was super-packable and bridged the gap between windbreakers and dedicated rain jackets. The Resistance turned out to be the one.
The difficult part about layering for cycling is that you’re working hard. If you’re doing a route with lots of climbing, you’re going to be sweating. Excess moisture is the enemy when you’re in the mountains. If you sweat too hard or get soaked from rain, the result is the same: you won’t want to linger at the summit and you’ll suffer on the descent. The risk is hypothermia and it doesn’t just happen in freezing conditions. Heat loss from your body is much faster if your clothes are wet, as when you're caught out in the rain.
Looking back on the ride data I can see that at mile 38 as we’re approaching Bennett Pass, the temperature was 61 degrees. In 5 miles and in just a half an hour, the temperature dropped to 46 degrees. That’s when things got real. Rain was coming down hard enough to soak us, so the riders that had decided to leave their jackets in the car were hating life.
The Resistance Jacket kept me dry in some pretty crazy conditions. I was extremely thankful that I still had on knee warmers, and a jacket that kept me dry. The combination of the Santini Car 4 base layer and the Rapha Pro Team jersey kept me warm enough and I never felt soaked with sweat, despite the fact that we climbed almost 7000 feet in 40 miles. This kind of situation is exactly what 7Mesh had in mind for their Resistance Jacket. I was also glad I brought my surgical gloves because they kept my hands functional.
We made it to Government Camp without too much suffering and tucked into a booth at the Huckleberry Inn for hot chocolate, bad coffee, and tea. Bernardo, our new riding buddy for the day who we met on Surveyors Ridge Road, had skipped the jacket in favor of just a gilet. He made up for preparation with resourcefulness and asked the kitchen for a trash bag and latex gloves. That was enough to get him down to Zig Zag, a warm fire, and eventually vans that would take us back to Hood River.
It was interesting for me in the group situation to see how people fared. We had been riding with Dan on the climb up to Bennett Pass. Dan is a strong rider, but he’s 115 pounds and didn’t have a jacket. I lost track of Dan on the climb, he faded off the back of our group, but later folks related stories of how they had helped to get him to Government Camp where they found him a big down jacket at a gas station and eventually a ride home.
The positive aspect of the group mind is that people rallied to help those that were suffering more and we collectively made the decision to get rides back home, rather than push through Lolo Pass in the rain. Which, for a ride in these conditions is absolutely the right call.
Some hearty souls pushed on. Bravo and kudos to them. This is a great route and someday I’ll finish it when the weather is right. I have high praise for Mitchell for leading a challenging group ride and for being wise enough to know when to call it a day.
We returned to pints of beer at Dirty Fingers and pulled pork and slaw at 10-speed and talked about what we learned and had a minute to be thankful for an epic day, even though we left it half finished. We did it together and we got home safely. We were able to appreciate the day for what it was: rad. Thanks to Sellwood Cycle and Dirty Fingers for putting on a great ride. Thanks to Rapha, Santini and 7Mesh for making clothing that kept me comfortable when the storm hit. Thanks to CJ for the ride back to Hood River.
I rode my Ira Ryan steel bike with 52-36 up front and 11-28 in back. A compact would have been slightly better, but can two teeth really make that much difference? Clothing was the biggest issue of the day. I wore Rapha ProTeam bib shorts and the Santini Car4 base layer under a Rapha Pro Team jersey. The Pro Team bib shorts are always comfortable and work in a large variety of temps. I don’t even have to think about them. The Santini base layer is new in the mix for me. It really impressed me during the Outback and felt exceptionally comfortable on cool days where I was working hard. Santini uses “Resistex Carbon fabric” and says that it’s highly wicking, breathable, and antibacterial. I wore it for 3 days straight with no stink.
Comp Cyclist site says: “Accordingly, this keeps your body temperature regulated as moisture is transferred away from your skin through the fabric's differentiated micro-hole structure. This means that you stay dry and fresh, regardless of how much sweat your body produces.” Having used this base layer for many months now, I’d have to agree. It just works. I can’t recommend it enough and it should be a great choice for fall riding and cross season too. The Rapha Pro Team is good on slightly cool days and is an obvious choice for long rides due to the stretch of the jersey and its expansive pockets. I chose the hot pink number so I’d be visible to cars on highway 35 and 26.
The other key aspect of kit for the day is what I’d call the emergency items – the things that make a difference when the weather takes a turn for the worse. The key for emergency items is that they are light and pack small, so you don’t feel burdened by bringing them. They fit easily in a jersey pocket, right next to your food.
The first essential item was the 7Mesh Resistance Jacket. This jacket is a real breakthrough! I’m extremely impressed with this jacket. I had been looking for a jacket that was somewhere between a micro-packable wind jacket and my Rapha Rain Jacket. The Rapha jacket has been my choice for most Pacific Northwest winter weather, but it gets too hot for extended climbing and in the end it lacks breathability. The 7Mesh packs up fist-sized, weights only 4 ounces and kept me dry when the weather turned to shit. It’s cut for cycling and has impressive breathability. The aesthetics are dialed as well. It’s a beautiful shade of blue and the styling is reminiscent of a bomber jacket. The jacket is considered top to bottom, from the placement of reflective tabs to the way the jacket is cut to the body. I can’t recommend this jacket enough. While many jackets claim to be waterproof and breathable, I feel that this jacket is truly both. I will bring it on long road rides and now that I’ve tested it in the rain, I’d be confident to bring it on a multi-day bikepacking trip as well. If you’re not familiar with 7Mesh, check them out. They’re former Arc’teryx folks based in Squamish BC, so they know foul weather and I’m confident they’ll keep making clothes that excel in the Pacific Northwest.
I brought a light merino Icebreaker beanie that I put on over my Rapha cap. The Rapha merino knee warmers are fantastic, since they pack up small, are warm, but also very breathable. I was surprised that they stayed warm even when wet. I wore them the whole ride and didn’t feel like I was overheating. The last emergency item was surgical gloves. Again, super lightweight, pack small and provide another layer of warmth for those icy 10 mile descents. No reason to not bring those. They go in a Ziploc with the merino beanie, so they’re dry for when I need them.
A few ideas and products that could help you on your Oregon Outback or next bikepacking trip…
1. Picky Bars - As the bars say “It's freaking science, dude.” These bars are made by (Bend, OR) pro athletes Lauren Fleshman, Jesse Thomas, and Steph Bruce. These three top athletes set out to make real food bars that work for training and racing. The science part is this: 4:1 Carb to protein ratio. 200 calories per bar. Real ingredients like dates, nuts, almond butter, rice protein. News Flash: they just introduced a new flavor called “Ah, Fudge Nuts” that has locally sourced, high quality cacao. Picky Bars are basically packaged versions of my DIY bars. Love 'em! 3 for $9 or 10 for $27.50 and you can buy right on their website.
2. Montbell Tachyon Jacket - I was looking for the most minimal and most packable windbreaker and found it in this jacket. It weighs a mere 1.6 ounces and packs down smaller than, well…a Picky Bar. I've been layering this over an Ibex 150 Woolies Crew long sleeve and it's been the perfect system for spring. As the Montbell copy says “The Ballistic Airlight nylon utilized here is a wispy 7 denier fabric capable of trapping hard earned body heat next to your skin, while shielding you from all but the strongest of winds.” $99
3. Montbell O.D. Compact Dripper 2 - Again, the most minimal coffee dripper I could find and it folds up ingeniously like a light reflector. It's not as cool an object as the Snowpeak Collapsible Dripper, but it weighs about 4.8 ounces less. No brainer. A word of caution: keep it away from open flames. I learned this the hard way. If you want it to perch atop your mug, cut a straw and loop it through the two loops. Forgot your straws? whittle some twigs. Works like a charm. $17
4. OSMO Preload Hydration - This is secret weapon stuff folks. Take it the evening before and the morning of your long, hot ride. Consider it an insurance policy against dehydration. It's all about increasing plasma volume. I'll let Stacy Sims explain it in detail, since she's the science behind this amazing product. I'm just going to drink it down every morning. They also have a formula specifically for the ladies! Highly recommended. $25 for 9.2 oz. - (20 servings per container)
5. Travel size toothpaste - Not much to say here. Toms $2 for 1 oz. tube from Fred Meyer.
6. Cut down toothbrush - This brush went from 15g to 8g ! Packed size is better too. Every gram counts
7. Paceline Kit Wash - Bring a second chamois. Wash it every evening. Love these convenient packets from our friends at Paceline Products. Designed for hand-washing technical clothing, which is exactly what I'll be doing. Light fragrance, cleans gently and rinses out easily. Bonus: Made in USA. $10 for a 10-pack
8. Paceline Chamois Butt'r - The classic. No fancy smells, just packets of the OG product that saves your ass. One packet per ride day. I love these travel size packets ! Also available in Eurostyle (think tingling sensations) and Butt'R Her' for ladies. Such a simple way to avoid saddle sores. $10 for a 10-pack.
9. Gerber Dime - Stainless steel pliers, wire cutter, a fine edge blade, spring loaded scissors, flathead screwdriver, crosshead driver, tweezers and file. All of this in an awesome little 2.2 oz. package. This is a great little keychain multitool. Someone in your group should have one. $25
10. SolRX SPF 30 lip balm - Just recently at Sea Otter I learned the hard way how uncomfortable sunburnt lips are. Get a lip balm with sun protection and use it throughout the day. Protects against windburn as well. Basic, but easy to forget.
11. SolRX SPF 35 Waterblock Sunscreen - I was looking for a water resistant sunscreen that didn't disappear as soon as I start sweating. SolRX is designed for athletes and lifeguards. In theory you're supposed to reapply every 80 minutes. I'm betting I'll be on the every 2-hour program, which is still way better than nothing. Sunburn saps your energy at the end of the day. $13 for 3 oz.
12. Asiana Airlines slippers - I saved these from my last flight to Korea. I plan on wearing pretty stiff XC shoes for riding, so I'm going to want to have something more comfortable for camp at the end of the day. These pack super small and weigh only 30g (1.1 oz)
13. Platypus 2 L “Platy Bottle” - Folds up super small and weighs only 42g (1.5oz) Taste-free and BPA-free for clean drinking. For that dreaded 80-mile section with no water. Camel up and then fill this up! Compatible with Sawyer Mini water filters. $13
14. Nitrile exam gloves - Three good reasons to bring these: They pack up to nothing, you can put these on to deal with chain issues and not have chain oil all over your hands for the rest of the day, and as a layer against cold or wet. If the weather turns and you need extra warmth, you'll be surprised how much these help. Finally, they should be in your first aid kit anyway, right? Totally essential! $9 for a box of 100 gloves.
15. Plastic spoon - While I love my fancy Snopeak ti spork (and that purple ano is cool as…) it weighs 15 grams, my fast food plastic spoon is 4 grams. I'll be leaving the spork at home on this trip. Besides, I'm doing my usual oatmeal breakfast and dehydrated chili for dinner, so a spoon is all I need.
16. Chain lube blister packs - WD-40 dry lube. Grabbed these at Sea Otter. (Ask your LBS) One per day of riding. A clean chain is a fast chain. Don't forget a small piece of t-shirt to wipe down your dirty chain and relube. It's surprising how much it helps to have a silent drivetrain.
Just some thoughts about shaving some weight, but don't forget the stuff you need! See you out there!
April 15, 2015. Only Blick could have pulled this together. The Oakley Legends Ride.
Ned Overend, Thomas “Frischi” Frischknecht, Todd Wells, Brian Lopes, and newcomer Jenny Rissveds. There were two common points that brought all of these athletes together on April 15 in Montery, CA. The first being that they’re Oakley sponsored athletes. Oakley put this ride together. The second is that they love to ride their bikes. Oakley was launching it’s new model called the “Jawbreaker” The Jawbreaker is one part revamped Eyeshade, one part oversized Jawbone - err - Racing Jacket.
We met up at Peet’s coffee. Blick loves Peets. Ned showed up first, followed by Frischi and Jenny and then Lopes and Wells. Lopes and Wells used to be friends and teammates at GT, so they got to catch up.
Overend, Frischi, and Lopes are multiple world champions. Todd Wells has won Leadville twice. It would be a pointless exercise for me to list their palmares. These guys have all been dominant in mountain bike racing since it was a thing. Overend and Frischi used to battle it out in the 90's. The crazy thing about many of these guys is that they were legends in the 90's but that they still compete today. Ned just won the first ever US Fat Bike Championship this year. Frischi stopped competing 10 years ago, but is very active with the Scott Odlo team grooming the next generation of champions. Jenny is a perfect example of that. She came along and pushed the pace. We got to see her win the Short Track race on Friday and finish 3rd in the XC race on Saturday. Frischi’s son Andri is a Swiss U23 champ and could be dominant as well. Lopes was crushing in the Dual Slalom at Sea Otter this year (He finished 10th in the end) and has a nice feature in Scott Secco's new film, “Builder”
The route was to be 17-mile Drive in Monterey. It’s a nice, scenic winding road that skirts the ocean before climbing into the trees. I expected the pace to be social, which it was, but of course a bunch of still-competitive old dudes are going to give what they’ve got and Jenny was training, so of course the throttle just kept twisting further - almost imperceptively. At some point Blick attacked on a climb, but didn’t make it stick. Hill kept going, Blick faded back. All in good fun.
The thing that struck me, and that I see looking back at their faces in the photos. (I was doing my best to keep the pace while not get killed by an oncoming car and not crashing out a group of world champs.) The thing that struck me with this bunch of guys – and one girl - was just the sheer joy of riding their bikes. This was just a sunny day with a bunch of like-minded folks who may or may not have battled it out 25 years ago. We rolled back into Monterey as a group, Wells called up a buddy to find the ‘good’ coffee in town. Nothing against Peets, Blick! I took portraits of everyone and then we just sat in the courtyard of East Village Coffee and chatted. Really no different from your neighborhood group ride on a nice sunny day, catching up with a bunch of world champs that happened to be in town for the day. OK. It was special. Very special, but somehow completely normal because we were all just doing what we do. For me it was an honor just to spend the morning with this crew and to document the proceedings. Thank you all champs, and thank you Steve and AG for pulling this together! #LiveYours
Kind of Blue
1. Osprey Manta 28 - $150
Osprey makes every variation of pack to satisfy your every possible desire in terms of how you like to organize your gear. The Manta 28 is not their lightest pack, (it comes in at 2lbs. 5 oz. while the Tempest 22 and Escapist 20 come in at 1 lb. 10 oz.) but what you gain is features and improved compartmentalization. It also has the magnetic holder for your bite valve, a more functional zippered hip belt pocket, and a mesh back panel that keeps the pack off your back, allowing for airflow between you and the pack.
Apparently the Colombian coffee is what you should be drinking right now, that is if you care about “fresh” coffee. Heart goes to great lengths to work closely with growers and source high quality beans. La Primavera comes highly recommended.
From the OSMO site: “When you exercise, you stress your body. During recovery you adapt to those stresses, getting stronger and more efficient. Osmo Acute Recovery is the result of over ten years of Dr. Stacy Sims' lab and field research with elite athletes to: Speed Recovery, Optimize Training Adaptions, Rapidly Restore Glycogen. Osmo uses only the highest quality natural ingredients like organic vanilla because putting the best in your body is the only way to get the best out of it.” I can only tell you that I've been using their recovery for a couple of years now and it works!
“Olympic medalists, Tour de France riders, and pro triathletes know hydration is critical to top performance. That's why they've replaced their sponsors' drinks with Dr. Stacy Sims’ hydration formulas for years. Osmo Active brings the benefits of Stacy's hydration science to everyone. Increase Power Output, Improve Endurance, Reduce Cramping. Osmo Active has been developed to maximize the rate of fluid absorption into the body and uses only the highest quality natural ingredients - like organic fruit.” Again, I can't explain the science…I'll leave that to Stacy, she actually did the research. I'll just keep using it, because it works!
“Trail Butter is a delicious, all-natural nut-butter, designed to provide lasting energy and nutrition to outdoor enthusiasts and home consumers alike, through the use of supplemental whole- food ingredients. Using a triple nut blend of almonds, peanuts and hazelnuts as the foundation, dried fruits, seeds, nectar and honey and oils are added to create a tasty mixture fortified only with nature’s most energy packed foods.” Made in Portland, Oregon and now available in a portable 4.5 oz. pouch. Trail butter is real food for your next adventure! Oh, and it really adds wonderful flavor to my morning oatmeal as well. I'm hooked.
While not as convenient as the pouch, the 8 oz. jar is the best deal going.
Snowpeak makes high quality titanium cookware. I've gravitated to this size since its large enough to boil the water I need for breakfast and dinner, and small enough that it won't get damaged in a seat bag. This is my go-to pot. Also the 450 cup and a Trangia stove fit perfectly inside. Highly recommended.
Some will debate single wall vs. double wall on these 450 cups. For weight savings, I'm voting for the single wall. If you don't care about carrying extra weight get the double wall. For an extra $6 you can get green, pink, or blue anodized. I'm backing the classic Ti, but that's just me.
Unless you've been hiding under a rock and ignoring all social media, you've heard of The Athletic. Jeremy and Julie have turned their Instagram success into a wildly successful business. It all started with the PDX airport carpet design sock, and now their dedicated site has at least 13 different sock designs in every possible color to match your kit. They just opened a brick and mortar storefront in NW Portland. Go pay them a visit. For winter it's all about the wool socks and black and white scheme, so I'm loving the Julie K collection which comes with 2 bidons (bottles) a casquette (cap), a pair of socks, and 3 sketchbooks. For runners they have a full line of shirts and shorts too. Those are flying off the racks. Get over there quick!
1. Orange Seal Tubeless Sealant - $13 for 8 oz. bottle
Switching from standard sealant to Orange Seal Sealant lets us focus on the trail, scenery and navigation rather than worrying about flats. The secret ingredient is what Orange Seal calls “nanites” and should plug holes up to 1/4". Next level stuff.
2. Feedback Summit Digital Scale - $50
Digital scales serve multiple functions. First, weigh your kit and decide how much weight you're willing/able to carry. Second, make your own food. Coffee snob? You better measure out that 18 grams for your aeropress. The Feedback is reliable and easy to use.
3. Heart Coffee - Colombia Buesaco - $20 for 12 oz.
Heart cares about quality beans. It costs a bit more, but you get what you pay for, and Heart is making the trips to Colombia to establish the relationships with the growers. They're buying relatively small batches and roasting them for freshness. Added bonus: you can buy directly from their website. Keep an eye on new varieties, since they change weekly, even daily.
Spot's GPS messengers are peace of mind, for both the rider heading out into the backcountry as well as your loved ones at home. If you haven't followed a race, like the AZTR or the Tour Divide. The reason you're able to follow the blue dot online is the Spot tracker. The rider is able to send “all OK” messages and your people at home can track your progress online. Super cool! And if everything goes wrong and you can't get yourself out, help is a button push away. The hardware cost is only the first investment, service is the real cost, but the Spot is essential, so just get one already.
5. Oakley Frogskins - $110
Metallic Black with Ruby Iridium. I'm pretty sure Frogskins were the first pair of shades that I just HAD to have. They were clear with metallic blue lenses. They were so rad. Still are. We're going to give Frogskins the nod for bikepacking as well, since they're lightweight, durable and give you that all important “normal person” look when you stop back in civilization and you're less likely to be called “Lance Armstrong” by the locals. I counted about 30 different frame and lens combinations on the Oakley site, so the odds are good that you can find your unique flavor.
The U.L. stands for - you guessed it - ultralight. 7.6 oz. to be exact. It's not even their lightest down jacket, but this one struck the best balance of price and features for me. For example, their Plasma 1000 comes in at 4.8 oz. but it's $269 and for that price you don't get pockets. Packability is the other benefit. Come winter, there's no reason to leave home without one of these in your pack.
One of my favorite albums. Upbeat, cosmic, grooving, inspired. I'm not even a huge jazz fan, but this is one of those that transcends genre, and one worth buying on vinyl. Luckily for you it was reissued in 2013. More importantly, go buy the people you love some vinyl. It's still sounds the best and if you love an album enough, owning it on vinyl is the ultimate - you get to enjoy the cover art at full scale and it just feels right. The more I listen to itunes or Spotify, the more I want to enjoy music the way it was intended, with soul, and a bit of imperfection. Besides a gift guide with just gear is a bit boring.
8. Rapha Rain Jacket - $285
I've been using the Rapha Rain Jacket for the last four years, maybe longer. It has kept me surprisingly dry on everything from soaking training rides to drizzly bikepacking in Alaska. Rapha has upgraded it this year with sealed seams and a hot blaze orange colorway that will keep you seen by both cars and hunters. Hi viz is not a fashion statement, it's survival. The cut is trim for cycling, but you should have no problem layering it over a base layer and wool jersey.
Welcome to Benedicto.
This site has been a long time coming. I've gotten to a point where I felt like I was hoarding valuable information and stories and didn't feel like I had a good way to share my adventures. The occasional Instagram post and a small flurry of 'likes' left me unsatisfied. I had just started shooting for Privateer–Rouleur's mountain bike magazine–right before they folded. Apparently it's a tough time for beautiful, expensive print magazines. Shame about that.
The word “adventure” seems to be on everyone's twitter and instagram feed these days, but what is real adventure? The word suggests doing something a bit challenging and it involves getting outside and pushing past your comfort zone a bit. For me this has meant getting up to speed with bikepacking and doing longer miles on my mountain bike. In Alaska we kicked it off with our first multiday backcountry trip. I can't begin to tell you how freeing it was to leave the car in the parking lot and move past all the anxieties. Massive. And why “Benedicto”? Well, if you read the poem on the “About” page of this site that about sums it up. Ed says “where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you -- beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.”
That's what I want this site to be about. A sense of wonder, going out and seeking your deepest dreams…exploring. But we don't cultivate danger or try to get lost in the woods–that's neither fun nor responsible. I'm all about learning the necessary skills and slowly, with proper preparation and a pack full of the right gear, taking bigger and bigger steps. We want to ride new trails with good folks. We want to take our time and eat good food. We want to do big miles when it makes sense. We want to explore new roads and trails and come home to tell you all about it.
So my goal is for this site to be a bit of a trail magic. I'll share what I learn out on the trail. I don't claim to be an expert at bikepacking by any means, so take all of this for what it is–one person's journal–it's just information and ideas, another source of knowledge. But I really don't want this to be all about me. The site has a section called “profiles” where I'm going out and talking to the people that have been doing things that inspire me…race promoters, men and women doing long routes, making incredible food, and asking them 11 questions and sharing the results with you. We're passionate about nutrition and food, so we'll share the art and science of what works on the bike. I guess I've done just enough long distance cycling to know that “fast and light” is the way (for me), to carry just enough gear, not for every eventuality, but I think that you can ride more trail and have more fun if you're not burdened with unnecessary weight. I also come from a bit of a racing background…having dabbled in mountain bike racing both recently and when I started in the late 80's and early 90's, and more recently cyclocross and a bit of road. I appreciate a nice bike and going fast and I do like to push myself a bit.
So, with that in mind we've teamed up with some fantastic companies. We've approached brands that make products that work for what we want to do. First in this mix is Seven Cycles, makers of fine custom titanium steeds. We've also teamed up with OSMO Nutrition for hydration and recovery. Their product is all natural and I really believe they are the next wave for hydration. Osprey Packs are undisputed leaders for lightweight packs that work for mountain biking and bikepacking, so we're happy to have them in the mix. Snowpeak is a Japanese company that has offices in Portland, OR. We're very pleased to be using their titanium cookware. Thanks for joining us and we hope you enjoy the ride.