I went in search of some different riding today. My time on a trainer, rollers, and riding pathways left me hungry for a gravel adventure. The gravel roads around Mackinaw, IL were the setting for a good day outside. Mid-ride I took a wrong turn from what I had loaded into my Garmin. Luckily, even riding off course was enough to have a good time.
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!
Ride data, ouch… Full ride data.
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.
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.
We pedaled through farm roads, country tarmac, and dirt roads. There were some nice views to take in while racing.
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.
The 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.
I’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.
After 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!
The 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.
The 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.
We crossed different obstacles including railroad tracks and a shallow creek crossing.
About 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!
This weekend a few friends and myself traveled to Streator’s Marilla Park to ride some gravel roads. We intended to ride the Dirty Mudder course, but the lack of daylight mandated cutting it a little short. We ended the day with 45 miles, most of which were on ridden on gravel.
This was my first time riding gravel. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into it, but I had high hopes of liking it as this type of riding seems to be gaining popularity. Shortly into the ride I had my first realization, it was very relaxing, almost hypnotic. There was no abundance of passing vehicles to worry about. There was no single track to dictate what path you had to take. There was no rotating pace line of crazy speed riding. There was only the gravel, the sun, vast scenery, and you pedaling.
A little further into the ride I began to gain a better understanding of the different types of gravel we were riding. There was deep gravel, almost snow like. There was big rocked gravel, small rocked gravel, smoother sections of earth with little to no gravel, and areas of mixed water gravel mush around puddles. All of those provided a different riding experience.
Nearing the third hour, I began to feel the my legs getting tired. We decided to head back with the sun setting in front of us. We all agreed that we enjoyed the experience and would be returning. Thinking about the ride today, I think the aspect of riding on the gravel that I most enjoyed was the consistent change the ride provided. The longest straight of the 45 mile day was only five miles long. The turning, the variety of gravel types, the stark difference compared to a training road ride and mountain biking, all equated to a fun new experience. I like the idea of having a new option for riding.