2015 Gravel Metric

2015-05-24 14.19.23

Sunday I rode in The Gravel Metric, a wonderful event put on by the special folks at Axletree. Last year I had a lot of fun at the ride and was looking forward to riding again this year. The weather was in the lower 60º’s F with some sprinkles to keep the dust at bay. The gravel seemed quick, but I’m no gravel expert. Bloomington Normal, the area I live in doesn’t have any extended gravel. I rode the course in four hours and eleven minutes last year. That was too close to breaking four hours to not make a goal of it for 2015, so I did just that going into the ride.

Fast forward, I hit my goal, and rode the course in three hours and fifty-three minutes. One of the side effects of that was pain, another was no time to take out my phone and capture any photos during the ride. It’s a hard choice for me to not take any pictures at an event like this, but I had my head down pedaling this day.

I rode with the first chase group of about fifteen people behind the leaders for the first twenty or so miles. The group I was in became pretty organized for a five or ten-mile stretch and we bridged up to the lead group. Matches were burned, but now rolling with the lead group we were about thirty or forty riders. There were a handful of miles of recovery in drafts. I had worked hard, but felt good. It felt like an accomplishment to be riding with the leaders. About a mile before the grassy double track of pain the leaders started to ramp up the speed into a stiff headwind. I was a causality of the increased pace, and had to ratchet it back a notch. Watching my heart rate sit a few percent below max for miles on end half way through a four-hour ride was a bit scary.

After the grassy double track I jumped around between groups for the remainder of the day. There was some serious head wind of at least ninety-four miles per hour or so it felt from about mile about fifty-five until a few miles before the sixty-eight mile finish line. Those miles ticked by slowly and painfully. I was in my head and matches were being burned. I rode back into North Central Cyclery tired, but not quite cooked. I was happy I cracked the four-hour mark.

I can’t say enough good things about the event and the great people who make it possible. The course is challenging. I think it was harder than the sixty-two mile Barry Roubaix Killer Gravel Race I rode earlier this year. It’s hard to write that because there was about five thousand feet of climbing at the Barry Roubaix but the combination of more gravel, more exposed wind, and challenging terrain make the Gravel Metric feel like a harder ride to me. The course is filled with mostly gravel and a mixture of grass double track, farm dirt roads, a creek crossing, and a railroad you have to climb up and over. I love it. Axletree puts on great events. The registration before hand and the day of were top-notch, the merch was of good quality (Purist bottles, American Apparel shirts), great designs all around, and super cool things like the bandannas with course info printed on them. Axletree practice what they preach. Events. Advocacy. Awesome. They excel at all. The events they put on are items on my calendar that I look forward to, the advocacy is inspiring. Check out a recent contribution of helping get helmets on heads that can use them. They are awesome!

Before the ride started.

Ride data, ouch… Full ride data.
Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 10.41.20 PM

I look forward to next time I get to ride this great course!
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Today On A Bike

2015-04-04 14.00.14

Training days… I spent four hours in the saddle on my cross bike Yesterday. That time was spent on a mixture of tarmac, dirt, grass, and a touch of gravel. I’m half way or so to my intended seven or eight-hour day of pedaling in preparation for The Lumberjack. I’m looking forward to more time riding mountain bike trails now that the trail systems are all drying up.

2015-04-04 13.54.35 2015-04-04 14.26.10 2015-04-04 14.39.39 2015-04-04 15.46.55 2015-04-04 14.47.08 2015-04-04 13.56.50 2015-04-04 16.40.48 2015-04-04 16.42.06 2015-04-04 16.55.07-6

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2015 Barry Roubaix

5654256837 Photo by: Julie McGraw Photography

This weekend I raced in the Founders Brewing Barry Roubaix 62 mile gravel road race with some teammates and friends. The race takes place near Hastings, MI on gravel, tarmac, and dirt roads and has near 5,000 feet of elevation to climb, or so my Garmin says. It’s the largest gravel race I’ve ever taken part of with something like 3,500 participants. One side note, I didn’t take any pictures during the race so I looked for photos that showed the terrain, and as such I’m only in the last photo.

My family drove up on Friday, and for a few miles of the drive it looked like time was spinning backwards and winter made a reappearance.

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On race day, the weather was nice in that it was dry and the wind was low, but it was cold at around 18ºF when the first wave went off. With one minute before the whistle blew, I had no nerves which was nice. I had a plan to start at a quick but endurance pace and as the race progressed, I would start to ramp up the push. I wanted to end the race pushing hard. In the end, I think I accomplished exactly that.

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We pedaled through farm roads, country tarmac, and dirt roads. There were some nice views to take in while racing.

8716722973Photo by Snowy Mountain Photography

2322144515Photo by: Julie McGraw Photography2649338770Photo by: Julie McGraw Photography

I finished the race in 3 hours and 48 minutes. I was pretty happy. I felt good at the end. This was a silent test of fitness as I’ve got a big (for me) race planned for June of this year (Lumberjack 100 mile mountain bike race). Overall, I had a good time and the conditions were great. The cold temps were a slight worry before the race went off, but my Gore gear kept me comfortable and the roads stayed mud free largely. It probably won’t be the last time I race the Barry Roubaix.

barry roubaix heart rate data

Full Race Data

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2015 NAHBS



I’ve wanted attend the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) for a few years now. I’ve eagerly awaited the coverage every spring to see some of the finest craftsmanship in the bicycle industry. With the show taking place in Louisville Kentucky this year, we planned a long weekend to attend.

The experience was pretty neat. There were four rows of booths with eye candy in them. I spoke to some companies in person that I’ve wanted to about future projects and took some pictures. I was a little unsure of what I would be able to capture there. The bikes deserve better photos than what I was able to capture this year. To be honest, all of that falls on me. I didn’t bring any flash gear and I didn’t set up a great location. I also imagine it’s hard for big name brands to let me pull their bike out of their booth for ten minutes to shoot it knowing that my smaller blog’s reach is dwarfed by other sites/ and photographers in attendance. I get it.

For amazing coverage of the show, check out The Radavist. I met John from The Radavist on Saturday for a few moments. He was really nice and friendly. His photography and site are an inspiration.

Black Sheep Fat Bike
MJ5L3021 MJ5L3025 MJ5L3026 MJ5L3027 MJ5L3028 MJ5L3030 MJ5L3035 MJ5L3029 MJ5L3034 MJ5L3037 MJ5L3038 MJ5L3039

Rohloff Hub Internals

I’ve seen a lot of frame bags, but this stood out.

KISH Fat Bike
MJ5L3051 MJ5L3056 MJ5L3059 MJ5L3063 MJ5L3058 MJ5L3054 MJ5L3065 MJ5L3061 MJ5L3053

MOOTS Prototype Gravel Bike with unreleased ENVE fork with integrated fender and through axle Chris King R45 Hubs
MJ5L3080 MJ5L3085 MJ5L3083 MJ5L3084 MJ5L3081 MJ5L3082 MJ5L3088

Retrotec Cycles Fat Bike

Eriksen Cycles Fat Bike

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2015 Sram Red 22 Hydraulic Disc Brakeset First Impressions

MJ5L0876I really like my Specialized Crux, so to say I was bummed when Sram announced the hydraulic brake recall last winter would be an understatement. Furthermore, the recall took a serious toll on my faith and desire for Sram products. The recall was the reason I switched my road bike order this spring from being a Sram equipped bike to a Shimano equipped bike.

Sram handled the recall as well as possible from my perspective. They provided a mechanical brakeset to use while the new brakes were designed, manufactured, and tested. The 2015 Sram Red 22 hydraulic disc brakeset arrived at my local bike shop around the time Sram said it would and shortly thereafter I had my Crux back to the spec it was when it was purchased. I hope Sram took care of the local bike shops across the country with reimbursements for parts and labor.

I wanted to give the new brakeset a fair, open-minded chance. This has been a bit tough because it’s hard to shake the thought that Sram had years of development and testing for the first set which had defects and now Sram was telling me to put my faith in their new set when they designed, manufactured, and tested this set in less than six months.

The 2015 Sram Red 22 hydraulic disc brakeset appears to be a completely different brakeset. The shape of the hoods is bigger and shaped differently. I have average sized hands for an adult male and these hoods are about as big as I can feel comfortable riding with. They are not too large, but they are substantial.
MJ5L0880 MJ5L0879The modulation and lever range are greatly improved over the first generation. The first generation brake levers would touch the handlebars when squeezed with force, a real problem when you were using gloves with any bulk on or wanted to switch a gear while breaking. Now the brakes have great lever range with smooth braking and great modulation. They simply feel great.
MJ5L0896 MJ5L0895The finish on the brakeset is great and has the typical Sram style design and flash.
MJ5L0883 MJ5L0886Time will tell how well these fair. So far I am very happy with them. Cyclocross season is approaching and I’m excited to put these brakes through their paces!

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2014 Gravel Metric

2014-05-25 11.51.21The Gravel Metric took place this weekend in DeKalb, IL. If you are unfamiliar with the event, it’s a ride that takes place largely on the gravel roads around DeKalb that is roughly 100 kilometers in length, this year’s length being just over 110 kilometers or 68.5 miles. It is organized and put on by the great folks at Axletree and North Central Cyclery.

I drove up to DeKalb the day before the Gravel Metric to take advantage of the Moots demo that was scheduled as one of their titanium bikes is probably in my future.
2014-05-24 18.32.31 2014-05-24 18.32.48I’ve been looking at the Moots Frosti for a bit as an eventual replacement for my Salsa ti Mukluk. The Moots truck had the new Frosthammer which is basically a Frosti that is capable of clearing five-inch tires or running 29+ tires. It felt very agile, especially for a five-inch fat bike.
2014-05-24 19.12.37After getting my fix of Moots awesomeness, I was offered some pizza and a cold beer. I hung out for a bit and watched some people ride a Penny-Farthing and some people try to ride a Penny-Farthing. Smiles were had!
2014-05-24 18.20.33The next morning after getting ready I joined the other 360 riders at the staging area before setting off behind a police escort out-of-town.
2014-05-25 08.49.00The pace was very lax as we rode out-of-town but things quickly got crazy as we turned onto the first gravel road with the speed jumping to over 25 mph. That doesn’t seem too crazy until you factor in riding on gravel that moves under your tires and the leaders were pulling even faster.

I decided after a few miles that I didn’t belong in the first or second group and settled into a groove riding with different groups averaging between 17 mph and 22 mph depending on who was pulling. At one point I was part of a pace line of more than 30 riders that was traveling at 20 mph, pretty neat!

The ride is titled as a gravel metric and we spent the majority of the ride on gravel but it also included awesome dirt roads, double track, and pavement.
2014-05-25 11.59.26-1 2014-05-25 12.31.33 2014-05-25 10.47.23We crossed different obstacles including railroad tracks and a shallow creek crossing.
2014-05-25 12.07.19 2014-05-25 12.10.08About three and a half hours in, right around the 60 mile mark, I started to lose some steam and had to slow down. It was a little tough to fall off a bit so close to the end, but I had to listen to my body. I rolled back into North Central Cyclery with a time of 4 hours and 11 minutes.

The Axletree and North Central Cyclery folks know how to organize and run great cycling events! Everything from the simple and fast registration, great event products, organizing the police escort out-of-town, to the food and drinks organized for after the ride. It was all great! I had a bast overall and plan on going back next year with a goal of breaking the 4 hour mark with even more smiles along the way!

Garmin Data

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Today On A Bike

2014-02-22 14.05.28 2014-02-22 14.27.46I set out on a solo 50 mile ride today in preparation for the Barry-Roubaix. It was a little cold and a little longer than my legs wanted. I wanted to benchmark my fitness, revealing how much work I still have to do to prepare for the 62 mile gravel race. I also wanted to try out some changes I made to the my Crux in preparation for gravel events this spring including Surly Knard 41c 120TPI tires and a Revelate Designs Tangle Frame Bag. The bike did well today, although the cable disc brakes lack in comparison to the hydraulics that were recalled by Sram. I look forward to getting the redesigned models when Sram releases them, hopefully they will last longer than five months this time…

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