Interview: Justin McBride

 Fireside Chat in Wisconsin north woods with Justin McBride: Bikepacker, Gravel racer, Friend. L-R Justin, Stu Garwick, Troy Edler, Mike Feller

Fireside Chat in Wisconsin north woods with Justin McBride: Bikepacker, Gravel racer, Friend. L-R Justin, Stu Garwick, Troy Edler, Mike Feller

Justin McBride, a native of Northwest Illinois, is one of FBC’s favorite riding friends.  Justin, who has been steadily making his presence felt in the world of gravel racing, joined us for a recent bikepacking trip in Wisconsin’s North woods. His easy-going nature and ability to have fun on the bike conceal a fierce competitive spirit underneath, giving us something to pry at in a chat with him around the campfire on a chilly night. What follows is a transcript of our conversation.

FBC – When did you first start cycling?

JMc – The first time was, my brother got his training wheels taken off his bike, and I wanted to be just like him so I took mine off and actually rode my bike without my parents or anyone supervising.

FBC – That is awesome! Like many people you probably got away from cycling as a teen.  What brought you back to biking as an adult?

JMc – My best friend Jake Huber got into riding bikes and I wanted to do something to get in shape so I followed his lead and started riding a little bit more. 

FBC – Did you have a bike? Did you borrow one?

Justinbpsmile.JPG

JMc – I had this crappy Two hundred fifty dollar big box sporting goods store bike. It was a 26-inch mountain bike, and next I bought Jake’s Specialized Sirrus road bike because he upgraded to a Vaya. About three years ago I was riding the Sirrus in the training rides leading up to the Gravel Metric (the gravel race created and run by NCC/Axletree in DeKalb IL). After a few tries with that I said there was no way I could ride that thing 60 miles so I upgraded to a Salsa Warbird.

 FBC – Before getting into the grave scene, what kind of riding did you do?

JMc – Gravel. it’s always been gravel. 

FBC – Even before gravel became a thing?

JMc – Yeah. I pretty much grew up riding gravel. If we wanted to go see friends we rode gravel roads. So, it didn’t intimidate me so much as it might some people. I liked how NCC back then was bringing gravel onto the scene. I didn’t see myself as a roadie. I didn’t see myself as a mountain biker, but maybe in gravel I had a fit.

 With Rapha on a recent ride in the illinois Driftless region

With Rapha on a recent ride in the illinois Driftless region

FBC – You started off in Gravel cycling, but in the more recent past it’s clear you have become more serious about it, right? Tell us about the past year. 

JMc – This past year I have gotten a little more serious about riding, and my intensity I would say has gone up. In January (2018) there is a race in Dubuque, Iowa called the Triple D. My friend Stu Garwick of FBC had signed up but couldn’t ride Triple D, so he offered up his spot to me.  I was kind of interested in it anyway and so I took his spot and went and rode it. Pretty awesome, I would say: it was the first long distance winter riding I had ever tried.

FBC –You did pretty good. You actually won the race

JMc – I did somehow. I actually don’t know how, but I pulled it off, again, with the help of Stu. The whole ride was, well, surreal. I remember the last pit-stop, and I walked in there and we’re signing in to the checkpoint and the guy who’s in front of me, we’re neck-and-neck pulling into the place. I walk in and say to Stu, “dude, my effing feet are Fa-Reezing! I couldn’t feel my hands or my toes. And Stu’s like, “Dude, you gotta GO! You gotta GO! Take off! Take Off!Take Off!”

Stu – That guy made a move on you at the checkpoint; he signed in then quietly left hoping you wouldn’t notice. He’s a time trialist, and he hadn’t been able to shake you on the easy part of the course, but now you were heading into the technical part of the course where he would be at a disadvantage. 

JMc – Right. After that it turned into single-track, and that’s where I got him. Just put on a move and kept going.

 Justin rolling at Land Run

Justin rolling at Land Run

FBC – Your next event was Land Run 100, the well-known and highly competitive gravel race in Oklahoma. Tell us about that.

JMc – Went down there with Stu, Bill Leibman and my friend Jake. I went there with high expectations to try to podium and also to see where my fitness level was leading up to Trans Iowa. My fitness was nowherenear where it needed to be. I blew up around mile 90 trying to get at least in the top 10 of single speed. Didn’t happen. So that was a disappointment, but the Land Run event is phenomenal: Those guys that put it on, the town of Stillwater, everything about it is top-notch. I’ll keep going back to that.

FBC – Moving on to Trans Iowa, did the experience at Land Run experience influence your training for TI? (Trans Iowa is a 340-mile gravel race in Iowa. It does not actually cross Iowa; it’s a loop but the 340 miles is about the width of the state.)

JMc – Very much. I started hitting the indoor more; get up in the morning and ride the rollers for 40 minutes, come home from work and ride another hour. I upped the effort outside as well, riding over a hundred miles of gravel on weekends, which was the most intense I had ridden all year.

FBC – At Trans Iowa, you got a pretty good result. Tell us about the race.

 At Trans Iowa, with pre-race jitters etched on his brow

At Trans Iowa, with pre-race jitters etched on his brow

 JMc – I signed up because of friends Allison Zmunda and Bailey Newbrey. Allison was putting posts out about how she had signed up for Trans Iowa. I, being a stupid naïve person, thought, well, if she can do it, what the hell, so can I.  I sent my postcard in on a Sunday and thought to myself if I get picked, OK, and if not then maybe next year. I got picked, and then realized shit had to get real and I started training. The ride itself, this was way beyond anything I ever thought I was capable of doing. I thought there was no way I could make it that far, that long that duration - Ever. But then as things transpired, I kept making it farther and farther into the race. I kept feeling good. Kept feeling like everything I had done leading up to it was working. I wasn’t burning myself out. The plan I took into TI was basically go 13, 14 miles an hour on average; not try to do 15, 16 but try to maintain that 13 to 14 average. With single speed it’s a little more difficult I think because you have the hills to play with, but just try to maintain. I think it was at mile 240 in Montezuma Stu Garwick found us somehow, and there was a little beacon of light. He was there with spirit and encouragement and helped a lot of people, not just me. We were averaging about 13 miles per hour at that point, but shit went downhill after that. Through the night it sucked. I called Stu to tell him I wanted to quit. (Stu says he was asleep). Had another competitor threaten to throw my phone away if I ever touched it again. So, I just kept going and rode on in. That ride was amazingly tough, awesome and then completely stupid all mixed into one giant day and a half of riding. As we were riding we were getting updates from the camera guy about where we were, and so I knew I was at least in the top 5 overall and top 3 single-speed. I finished 4thoverall and 2ndsingle-speed. 

FBC – Were you satisfied with that result?

JMc – Yes. I was pretty pumped about it.

 Getting away from race day intensity - Justin bike packing in northern Wisconsin

Getting away from race day intensity - Justin bike packing in northern Wisconsin

FBC – Guitar Ted, the founder and promoter of Trans Iowa, has announced that after 14 years this was the last time for the event – there will be no more Trans Iowa races in the future. How do you feel about that?

JMc – I think everybody’s got to move on to bigger and better things. Seems like Guitar Ted has done his deal with Trans Iowa. I can’t imagine trying to do something like that, year in and year out. Just from my limited exposure helping FBC with the Ten Thousand and Dust at Dusk, trying to put on a race of that length with a different route each year seems daunting. I think what he is doing is right. He is also talking about doing single-speed championships this coming year so I am stoked about that.

FBC – Do you regret the fact that you won’t get the chance to go back next year to claim the single-speed title at Trans Iowa?

JMc – No. I think that doing Trans for the first time and being able to finish was more than enough. And to get 2nd single-speed and 4th overall was just icing on the cake.

(FBC – Note from CX Magazine: Just finishing Trans Iowa in the allotted 34 hours is an impressive accomplishment. In 2018, only 19 of the 95 starters finished before Sunday's 2 p.m. cutoff.)

(FBC update note: The Trans Iowa race is no more, but a similar 340 mile race called Iowa Wind and Rock has been created in Winterset Iowa. Justin is signed up in the single speed category. Race date April 20 2019)

 Even when he’s not competing, he really knows how to have a good time

Even when he’s not competing, he really knows how to have a good time

FBC – I think Coast-to-Coast, the 210-mile gravel race across Michigan was the next event this Spring. How was that?

JMc – I went to Coast-to-Coast with my buddy Troy Edler who talked me into it. The terrain started out flat and fast on about the first 100 miles. But the second half turned into this phenomenal b-roads, single-track, forest roads, sandy mess. Amazing!. The second half of the whole race I couldn’t stop smiling. I went into this thing thinking I just came off Trans Iowa; I can definitely podium in this race. And I was definitely wrong. There were some fast-ass people.  And I was not geared right: too low for the fast flat part. After 50 miles I rode it just to have fun, and it was pretty awesome. Troy finished third in his age group.

FBC – Next up was Almanzo, the 100-mile “mother ship” of gravel racing in Southern Minnesota. Did you ride that to compete or just for fun?

JMc – At Almanzo I’d say I did a little bit of both. I was still feeling strong from Iowa, so I would say I was competing for the first 80 miles and then I just rode the last 20 in for fun. I did a little more Instagraming than I should, a little more picture taking, having a little more fun than pure racing.

It was a good race; it was competitive, I finished decent I would say for how I was riding. I finished right around 7 hours. Racing I try to average about 7 hours for a century, so that was good.

FBC – Following Almanzo you did the Ten Thousand race hosted by FBC and Comrade Cycles, 126 gravel miles with 10,000 feet of climbing. 

JMc – And that’s when all the wheels fell off.

FBC – The wheels came off for just about everyone. It was the first hot day of the year and temps got up in the mid 90’s.  Plus, you had a mechanical in the early going.

JMc – Yeah. Flat tire, bent rim. Struck a big rock in the middle of the road. I rode hard to the first water stop and then decided to fold up the tent where we had the choice to take the shorter 75-mile route or do the full 126. I know my way around that area well so I decided to just make my way back to town. It was really hot and I eventually called it at mile 72, just 2.5 miles from the finish. I called Troy to pick me up. I was cramping really bad, couldn’t drink water, felt like shit, couldn’t do anything on my bike at all. I knew I was in a bad spot. That was probably the toughest day I’ve experienced riding a bicycle.

FBC – It was tough for everybody. Of the 130 riders who started the day, only 8 finished the full 126 mile course. Some had to call it at the water stop 34 miles in; most did not finish what they set out to do that day.

JMc – It was hot AF. At one point I texted Stu because there were people blowing up all over the place. People were really struggling. It’s the hardest most scenic race, route, ride I’ve done all year. 

 When it comes to racing, it’s single speed for Justin

When it comes to racing, it’s single speed for Justin

FBC – After that, you passed on Gravel World Championships to do Day Across Minnesota (DAMn). What was that like?

JMc – I hated missing Gravel Worlds. I had kinda begged to get into DAMn so I felt obligated to do that, not knowing it was on the same date as Gravel Worlds. You all went out to Gravel Worlds. I do want to go and support that ride since I had met the promoters, but the dates conflicted and I went up to do DAMn. It was pretty fricken awesome. It was a great race. 240 miles. It started in Gary South Dakota and went all the way across Minnesota to end up in Hager City Wisconsin. The race is like most others with a time limit set at a 10 mile an hour average pace for, in this case, 24-hours. There are three control points you have to reach within the 10-mph pace or get pulled from the race. 

I did 23rd overall and 3rd place in single-speed. Pretty respectable. I was hoping for a win in Single speed. The guy who won single-speed was 2nd overall. He averaged 19 or 20 miles an hour, so he was spinning his brains out. The guy is an animal; he’s really good at ultra-races. I rode with the 2nd place single-speed finisher Ben Oney for a while but he is a strong single-speed endurance rider and ending up not being able to hold his wheel for long.

FBC – How do you average 20 miles an hour on a single-speed?

JMc – I have no idea. The guy just tore up the whole course. I can’t imagine averaging 20 mph on a geared effing bike.

FBC – What is the course terrain like?

JMc – The course is kind of like Coast-to-Coast in Michigan with the first half very flat. We started at 12 pm Friday night and rode thru the night and all-day Saturday and finished Saturday evening. The first half, even though it was flat, it was interesting because you were riding gravel, at night, in Minnesota, which meant sand and big rocks, and big long trains of people to navigate around. So, the first half was exciting because of that. The terrain, not so much. And the second half on the east coast of Minnesota is hilly like our driftless region with lots of big hills up and down. It was simply amazing. Every side road you looked down you wanted to turn off and keep riding and riding because it was awesome. The guy who puts it on, Trenton, is top-notch. The whole race is really well done; something I would definitely do again. But it would be a tough call between this and Gravel Worlds every year.

 Never too early to get the winter kit on and start training for spring - Justin on a cool November outing with FBC and friends

Never too early to get the winter kit on and start training for spring - Justin on a cool November outing with FBC and friends

FBC – Justin, you have had an impressive year. What are your goals for next year and beyond?

JMc – I really like the long-distance stuff, so I think anything 200 miles plus is where I’m at. DKXL (the ultra 350-mile race held in conjunction with the regular Dirty Kanza race) is on the list for next year. Land Run, as I said before, is such a great event I’ll keep going back for that . Epic 150 in Missouri is on the list. Also,  I want to do Alexander (the 380-mile companion to Almanzo in Southern Minnesota).  I would really like to do Tour Divide next year, with a target of getting it done in sub 20 days. If I can swing it with work, I would like to be there for the grand depart in 2019.

Justinbpsmile.JPG

Justin McBride

Best of luck in the coming year. Thank you for spending time with us and we all look forward to joining you on your training rides.

 

Gravel: Land Run 100

LR-heading.png

We are just back from one of the most phenomenal cycling weekends in the history of things with round wheels, the Land Run 100 in Stillwater Oklahoma. Land Run, its name a comemoration of the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889, is a 1oo mile gravel bike race. Nobody can do a better job of telling the story behind the event better than the founder himself, Bobby Wintle - click the button below:

 Four of us, Bill Leibman, Stu Garwick, Justin McBride, and Jake Huber loaded our bikes on the back of Justin's Jeep-mobile and made the 10 hour drive to ride this epic gravel race now in it's 6th year.

 Celebrating our arrival in Stillwater at the Iron Monk Brewery - Jake, Justin, and Stu

Celebrating our arrival in Stillwater at the Iron Monk Brewery - Jake, Justin, and Stu

While some of us were wondering how we were going to pull 100 miles of gravel riding out of our winter weakened legs, Jake and Justin were eyeing high finishing spots in the single-speed division; These guys are tough enough to go it without gears, and given the red-dirt hill studded terrain of the course they would have to hit it hard.  The rest of us were content to set our sights a little lower, as in let's ride hard enough to make it challenging but not so hard we whack the fun out of it.

 Hot enough to to crush it on single-speed bikes? Heck Yeah!

Hot enough to to crush it on single-speed bikes? Heck Yeah!

Along with the interesting collection of people and bike, are some of our favorite bike industry friends - not so many that it looks like a trade show, but enough to add some interest. 

 Stu and Bill's bikes lead us to their the mother ship

Stu and Bill's bikes lead us to their the mother ship

The people are what make the event, and it didn't take us long after arriving to start making connections with people we know from our own Ten Thousand Event, or our Frost Bite 40, and others who come out from Chicago to ride with us in the big gravel hills of the Driftless area between Freeport and the river. We linked up with the Chicago folks to do a recon of the course the next morning, the day before the race.

 Route recon started with a stop at a local shop for a proper Cappuchino

Route recon started with a stop at a local shop for a proper Cappuchino

After a casual start on Friday morning, we met up with the group at the coffee shop for a little shot of energy before heading out to ride about 20 miles of the route.  Allison had mapped a course that would give us a good idea of what was in store for us on Saturday once the race started.

LR-recon2.jpg

Recon group rolling out of town

The recon ride was only 20 miles but revealed a lot about what lay ahead - lots of hills and lots of gnar. More importantly, it gave us all a chance to dial in last minute equipment adjustments, find the right tire pressure, and make sure things are working well.

 Jake and Justin tweak their set-ups on the recon ride

Jake and Justin tweak their set-ups on the recon ride

Back in town after the ride we also managed to link up with John Watson of The Radavist, a leading blog site covering the gravel scene. John was there to report on the event and seek out some of the more interesting bike set-ups. He did a really nice shoot of Stu's bike.

 John Watson did a great photo shoot of Stu's new Moots

John Watson did a great photo shoot of Stu's new Moots

You can check out some other cool Land Run rides shot by John, and his own very excellent reporting on the event at theradavist.com -  The full shoot of Stu's bike is here: 

The pre-ride meeting on Friday evening, unlike many such meetings was actually full of energetic fun with a minimum of dull rules and reminders and a lot of enthusiastic music, poetry reading (yeah, right!?!), all highlighted by Bobby and Tyler rocking the old John Denver classic "Country Roads". 

 Tyler and Bobby gettin into Country Roads

Tyler and Bobby gettin into Country Roads

We were up early Saturday Morning to kit up and get to the start line for what we knew would be a tough day in the gravel. Temperatures to start were in the low 40's, headed into the 60's later in the day. With Skies a little overcast, the day turned out perfect. Our winter-hardened northern bodies would not have fared well if it got a little too hot and sunny. The crowd lining the street buzzed with nervous anticipation; everyone making those last minute checks of bike, gear, mind, body and clothing. And, of course, trying to ease themselves toward the front of the field of about 800 riders.

 Lining up for the start, high on anticipation and adrenaline

Lining up for the start, high on anticipation and adrenaline

At precisely 8:00 am, the boom of a cannon (another nod to the heritage of the Land Rush) started the slow roll out of Stillwater, the pace gradually accelerating to launch us into the gravel about a mile from town. Enveloped in a cloud of dust we hurtled down the steep hills, trying to fling ourselves over the next hill and grinding away on the longer ascents.

 It's Red, and rocky, and steep, and beautiful, and...

It's Red, and rocky, and steep, and beautiful, and...

 Just the right amount of sunshine

Just the right amount of sunshine

The ride with everything: Salsa Cycles, whose presence at Land Run was pervasive, is doing a promotion this year called "Chase the Chaise" at 5 big gravel events. I know, you all have a chaise lounge in your sitting rooms so I don't have to explain. The idea is to stop on the course and have your picture taken on the chaise to earn a patch and entry into a drawing for a $250 gift certificate to District Cycles in Stillwater.

 Justin trades a spot on the podium for a spot on the chaise - Didn't win the gift certificate either

Justin trades a spot on the podium for a spot on the chaise - Didn't win the gift certificate either

Most gravel events operate on the premise you are on your own; no support, too bad for you if you forgot water or food. Land Run is similar in its setup, but very different in its execution. At about mile 50 the route through Guthrie featured a party like street scene and the official bag drop for those who planned ahead. A couple of us hit the local Taco Bell for bean Burritos to fuel the second half of the ride. On course, The Red Dirt Jeep Club was out in force patrolling to offer help if needed. Some locals on the route had water ready at the roadside for anyone low on juice. At mile 77 a little road side oasis had water, snacks, beer and to remind us it was St. Patrick's Day, shots of Jamison.

 Half a cup of beer and a shot of Jamison ignited the rest of Bill's ride

Half a cup of beer and a shot of Jamison ignited the rest of Bill's ride

We rolled the final 25 miles into Stillwater feeling good but attacking the hills with a bit less elan, saving some energy to celebrate at the finish.

 The four celebrating after one of the best rides ever

The four celebrating after one of the best rides ever

I have been telling people this was one of the absolute best one-day cycling events in my 40+ years of cycling. The route was more than entertaining, it was like a huge amusement park for the entire 106 miles. It was more than challenging, with the the sharpness of the hills, a few boggy spots, some sand traps, gnarly gravel, some double and single track - all tough. It was more than beautiful, it was spectacular. The people were great, a lot of really good experienced riders with gravel honed bike handling skills, great attitudes; not a single fun hater in the crowd. One thing about Land Run that is impossible to miss is the extremely high level of unending energy and enthusiasm infused in the event by its founder and organizer, Bobby Wintle. It's contageous and we all caught it. What might be overlooked is the sophisticated level of organization of this event in a cycling genre that prides itself on looking un-organized. When that cannon goes off at precisely 8:00 am, you just know that a whole lot of people had to do a lot of things exactly right to make that happen. Many thanks are due Bobby, his wife Crystal, the staff at District Cycles, all the volunteers behind the scenes and out on course, the city of Stillwater, and all the local sponsors. Hope to see you all next year.

#districtbicycles  #unlearnpavement #landrun100. #visitstillwater

At FBC the owner and staff have a passion for cycling – we all ride to help you ride better. Come and see us in Freeport at 120 South Chicago in Freeport to find out how we can help you get full enjoyment out of your cycling experience.

Gravel: Events and Races

The cycling world, in spite of its tendency to honor its traditions beyond their sell-by dates, is always evolving ever more creative ways to enjoy our two-wheeled lives.  Gravel riding has actually been around for a long time, going back to the roots of two-wheeling itself when hardy cyclists flew their high-wheel penny farthing cycles down the only roads that existed back then - dirt and gravel. Pavement has tended to crowd out the gravel over the last century or so, especially around densely populated areas, making the current gravel scene somewhat rural centric. Good for us in the Northwest corner of Illinois - many well known gravel events are easily accessible to us in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan.

 The real origins of gravel cycling?

The real origins of gravel cycling?

But first, some notes on Terminology: Some will refer to a given gravel event as, just that; a "gravel event". Others will refer to the same event as a "gravel race". In some cases, the event organizers push the race aspect by having a reward system with prizes and a podium recognition for the winners in different age, gender,  or equipment categories. Great - we'll call it a race. Other events, with no such prize system we'll call an event. What you call it really depends on how you intend to ride it; some of us show up at an event, and regardless of the size of the rewards for the swift, ride with goals to meerly survive, reach the finish, have a good time along the way, and cross the line in good enough cheer to have a beer or two before heading home. Even in the absence of rewards for the winners, some love the competition and will choose to race the event.  This is the beauty of gravel events; every rider can decide what they the event to be and ride it accordingly based on what they want out of it. We all have our own ideas of what constitutes fun and are unrestrained in how we ride these events.

Part of the reason for this indeterminate nature of gravel events has to to with the grass-roots origins of the genre, which in itself is a sort of rebellion against the highly organized kit-and-carbon world of amateur road racing in America. The race fees, rule book, race officials, license requirements, course marshals, dress code (yes, it's in the rule book) all add up to making sanctioned road racing less inviting to the masses. Gravel events are free, or low cost, have very few rules if any at all, and don't care what or how you are riding.

That's as deep as we want to get into the roots of gravel events right now - more on this later.

With that as background, here follows a list of a few of the gravel events in the midwest we are familiar with, starting with those closest to home.

Frost Bite 40

FROST BITE.jpg
  • When: February 25, 2018 9:00 am

  • Where: American Legion Hall, Pecatonica IL

  • What: 40 mile self support bicycle ride taking place on gravel roads in Winnebago and Stephenson Co. It will start and end at the American Legion in Pecatonica Illinois.

  • Vibe: First gravel bash of almost-spring. "Last year we set a record for the most smiles in one day for the month of February", says ride organizer Stu Garwick. No support, but there will be a rest stop halfway with beverages and cookies. Fun for all - bail out options to shorten the course if your winter training went off the rails. No charge to ride, but the hat will be passed to support a local civic cause.

  • Sponsors: Freeport Bicycle Co. and Chainlink Cyclists Bike Club

  • Website: Freeportbicycles.com - see Events

The Ten Thousand

 Real hills, real gravel - The Ten Thousand

Real hills, real gravel - The Ten Thousand

  • When: May 27, 2018 9:00 am

  • Where: Freeport Bicycle Co 120 S Chicago, Freeport IL

  • What: A 120-ish mile bicycle adventure with roughly 10,000 ft. of elevation gain in Illinois’ Driftless region. Primarily on gravel, though there will be paved sections along the way. There will be 75 and 50 mile options. Self supported with several towns along the route for food and drink.

  • Vibe: Major event on the gravel calendar that attracts top talent from around the region - the full 120 mile route is for the serious rider looking for a real challenge. Ten Thousand feet of climbing on the 120 mile route in the most scenic part of the state will test even the best. Many enjoyed getting a taste of the big gravel world on the shorter routes last year.

  • Sponsors: Freeport Bicycle Co. and Comrade Cycles of Chicago

  • Website: Freeportbicycles.com - see Events

Brews Cruise

generations.jpg
  • When: August 12, 2018 10:00 am

  • Where: Freeport Bicycle Co 120 S Chicago, Freeport IL

  • What: Mixed terrain ride of gravel and pavement of around 50-60 miles with stops at three craft breweries: Wishful Acres, Lena Brewing, and finishing the day at Generations Brewing Co. in Freeport

  • Vibe: Save your race legs for some other day - this ride is about stopping to smell the flowers. Hops are flowers, right?

  • Sponsors: Sponsors: Freeport Bicycle Co.

  • Website: Freeportbicycles.com - see Events

Dust At Dusk

  • When: September 2, 2018 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm

  • Where: Oregon IL

  • What: Fifty or so miles of rolling gravel roads beginning an hour before sundown from Conover Square Mall in Oregon, IL. This is a FREE self-supported ride with routes provided but NO cue sheets.

  • Vibe: There will be an after party in downtown Oregon with location TBD. Grab your lights, a buddy, and your appetite for gravel!

  • Sponsors: Sponsors: Freeport Bicycle Co. and White Pelican

  • Website: Freeportbicycles.com - see Events

Dairy Roubaix

 One of the many beautiful roads of the Dairy Roubaix

One of the many beautiful roads of the Dairy Roubaix

  • When: April 21 2018

  • Where: Hugh Harper Group Camp at Wyalusing State Park in Southwest Wisconsin

  • What: The Dairy Roubaix is a one day unsupported gravel grinder starting and ending at the Hugh Harper Group Camp at Wyalusing State Park in Southwest Wisconsin. Routs of 100 miles and 50 miles. Really big hills. Running each year since 2011, this event has become a Wisconsin cycling tradition and a chance to reunite with old friends in a relaxed atmosphere. Entry is free to all, but limited to the first 500 registrants. We do accept and encourage donations to support the event and it's organization's good works. Starting 2016, this organization is Vernon Trails Org - a group of folks building single track trail networks in and around Vernon County, Wisconsin.

  • Vibe: Running each year since 2011, this event has become a Wisconsin cycling tradition and a chance to reunite with old friends in a relaxed atmosphere. Entry is free to all, but limited to the first 500 registrants. We do accept and encourage donations to support the event and it's organization's good works. Starting 2016, this organization is Vernon Trails Org - a group of folks building single track trail networks in and around Vernon County, Wisconsin.

  • Sponsors: Sponsors: Blue Dog Cycles Viroqua WI and Vernon Trails Org.

  • Website: http://dairyroubaix.weebly.com/

Almanzo 100

 Massive Almanzo 100 field rolls out of Spring Valley - quite a variety of bikes for a day in the gravel

Massive Almanzo 100 field rolls out of Spring Valley - quite a variety of bikes for a day in the gravel

  • When: Saturday may 19 2018

  • Where: Spring Valley MN

  • What: The Almanzo 100 gravel bicycle race is held annually in Spring Valley, Minnesota, where it all began. This grandfather gravel event starts and ends in downtown Spring Valley. On site check in will be open to participants on the first Friday after Mother's Day from 5pm to 9pm at the Spring Valley Community Center. The race begins at 9:00am near the Community Center on the first Saturday after Mother's Day.

  • Vibe: The Almanzo events are, and always have been, FREE TO ENTER and are produced and sustained with significant, generous contributions from the Spring Valley Tourism Committee and Penn Cycle. This event attracts a large diverse crowd. Great roads through beautiful hilly driftless geography in SE Minnesota.

  • Sponsors: Spring Valley Tourism Committee

  • Website: www.almanzo.com

Land Run 100

 At Land Run 100 the roads can fight back when they get wet

At Land Run 100 the roads can fight back when they get wet

  • When: April 17 2018

  • Where: 120 W 7th Stillwater OK

  • What: 100 miles of gnarly Oklahoma gravel. The red clay in the region presents a special challenge in wet weather.

  • Vibe: (quoted from the End Run website) "These roads have a depth of history, and a soul. They are unique, unforgiving, ever-changing, but always red. On April 22, 1889, cannon-fire signaled the beginning of the first Land Run in Stillwater, OK, the home and start/finish line of the Land Run 100. At the heart of this event are some of the most rugged and daunting, beautiful and memorable roads in the Oklahoma country. They take on a personality of their own. But they are also marked by the people who travel far and work hard to ride them. Making yourself a part of these roads makes them a part of you." Plus, the ride actually starts with a blast from a cannon.

  • Sponsors: District Cycles in Stillwater

  • Website: www.landrun100.com

Dirty Kanza

 In the Flint Hills of Kanza

In the Flint Hills of Kanza

  • When: June 2 2018 (the 2018 event is sold out - watch for info on next year's event)

  • Where: Emporia KS

  • What: DK200 is a grass-roots event, organized and managed by folks who are passionate about cycling, and done so for the primary purpose of providing life-enriching cycling experiences for our event participants. 200, 100, 50, and 25 mile routes.

  • Vibe: From a grass roots origin with 34 riders in 2006 to a massive event with 2200 riders in 2017, this is among the top gravel events in the world. Beastly tough gravel in the Flint Hills of Kansas. The gravel is flint, like in arrow heads. Tough tires a must for this ride.

  • Sponsors: Dirty Kanza Promotions

  • Website: www.dirtykanza.com

That is a quick look at some of the things happening in gravel this year here in the midwest.  if you want to learn more about evolution of gravel riding, follow this link to the to the ridinggravel.com website for an interesting read one the history of the sport:

The State Of The Gravel Scene

At FBC the owner and staff have a passion for cycling – we all ride to help you ride better. Come and see us in Freeport at 120 South Chicago in Freeport to find out how we can help you get full enjoyment out of your cycling experience.

Gravel: All-Road Bikes

 Really dirty - must be a gravel bike

Really dirty - must be a gravel bike

What is a gravel, or all-road bike anyway?

We tend to use "gravel bike" and "all-road" interchangeably to describe the bikes we ride in gravel, but find the latter a better fit, capturing the idea that a properly designed bicycle can be used on any kind of road efficiently and comfortably. Let's start by saying there are no hard and fast requirements that define what an all-road bike is or isn't. In the Venn diagram of bicycle types there is a good deal of comonality in the over lapping circles defining road bikes, cross bikes, mountain bikes and gravel bikes. As a result, it might be helpful to think about these bikes in terms of desirable characteristics rather than requirements.

 Lots of frame clearance - we could get a nice wide tire on here

Lots of frame clearance - we could get a nice wide tire on here

In the short list of things that make a good all-road worthy bike perhaps the most important is tire clearance - how wide a tire you can fit in the frame and fork. Typical road bikes, designed to be aerodynamic, will fit only very narrow tires in their sleek frames. For gravel, we want something that will hold between 34 mm and 48 mm. 

 Designed for ultimate flexibility

Designed for ultimate flexibility

Rim brakes can also be a limiting factor in how large a tire will fit. Cantilever brakes, or disc brakes tend to be common in the gravel world because they never interfere with tire width. 

 The brake caliper will limit how wide a tire will fit

The brake caliper will limit how wide a tire will fit

Frame geometry is another important consideration because of its effect on handling and rider comfort. A frame with longer wheelbase, relaxed frame angles, and lower bottom bracket height will provide both stability and a more comfortable ride. Taller head tubes provide a more upright riding position for additional comfort.

Since gravel roads will likely take you into more challenging terrain than paved roads, lower gearing than typical on road and cycle-cross bikes helps the experience. One option that has emerged recently is what's known as the "one by", or 1X, a single chainring paired with a very wide range 11 or 12 speed cassette. This arrangement can get you the same range of gears as double chainring systems, leaving out some of the smaller steps between the extremes.

 SRAM 1X system

SRAM 1X system

As with any bike genre, your choice of an all-road bike really depends on how you intend to use it. Gravel racers who compete in long endurance event generally ride drop-bar bikes with things like multiple water bottle mounts, or top tube tank bag mounts, or perhaps even some passive suspension like the Lauf fork. If bike packing, which is basic cycle-touring in the unpaved world, is the intent, you many choose a flat-bar rig with extra-wide tire clearance and rack and fender mounts. 

 These two are ready for anything - check out that roomy rear triangle

These two are ready for anything - check out that roomy rear triangle

Where do you want your all-road bike to take you?

Next time we will look at gravel events, the grass roots racing scene that has grown up in recent years.

At FBC the owner and staff have a passion for cycling – we all ride to help you ride better. Come and see us in Freeport at 120 South Chicago in Freeport to find out how we can help you get full enjoyment out of your cycling experience.