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Mar 2, 2018

Episode links:

Auburn Dirt Fondo April 28, 2018

Lost and Found Gravel Grinder

Grasshopper Adventure series


Auburn/Placer area recommended loop <Strava>

Kenny, welcome to the podcast this week. I appreciate you making some time to join us. Hey, thanks craig. I appreciate what you're doing with this. Right on. Can you tell us a little bit about your background as a cyclist and where you do most of your riding these days? I was lucky enough to grow up in the South Bay, Santa Clara I started riding a mountain bikes just after high school. The technology was getting better at that point in time, so quickly moved into downhill style of riding, but back then you know, you kind of did everything. You raced cross country on Saturday and then race downhill on Sunday on the same bike. Nice. So with that background, it's interesting that you discovered gravel riding. When did that come into play for you? I originally discovered a cyclocross bikes back in those early days. We were lucky enough in that area over in Santa Cruz. They had a great little cyclocross series. It started, funny enough, I started racing my mountain bike and those in, in this series before I really got underway with my mountain biking racing. Yeah, it's, it's funny. I did a little, a few of those series back in the day as well, and I remember Santa Cruz was the only place where I felt like I needed a cross bike because the, there was really a pure scene down. There were when you were riding the mountain bike, people were like, Hey, you should get on a cross bike. It's a little bit different of a sport. That's where I started to get excited about the idea of a cross bike, but being a poor college student and trying to work part time jobs to fuel my addiction. Did you eventually get on a cantilever cyclocross bike? I did, yeah, it was five or six years after I first raced in those surf city events that I was able to. I started working in the bike industry. I worked for a titech back in the day. Their sister company was Voodoo cycles, so I was able to get one of their frames and slowly cobble it together with old road and some mountain bike parts. Yeah, it's interesting. I think a lot of us in the gravel scene started out with cyclocross bikes many years ago and at least for me, I found with a mountain bike background I was overriding the cyclocross bike and with the cantilever brakes and tubes, tires. I would flat all the time and ultimately I ended up selling off all my cyclocross gear just because I was frustrated it wasn't capable of doing the type of writing I envisioned for it. Yeah, well I tried probably like yourself. I tried to get out and explore some of my favorite smoother mountain bike terrain and mix it up with some road. But like you, you know, I experienced not only the howling brakes in inclement weather. But you'd have to bring a couple tubes for even one ride. And the tires were limited in size too. I think there were a few companies making a little bit larger sized, uh, tires, but I remember that first cross bike that I had had pretty limited clearance. You know, maybe a 35 would fit in it. So drilling into the equipment a little bit more. I know from your experience working with Debbie to be, you know, a lot about tires. Can you talk a little bit more specifically about tires for gravel riding and racing and what you recommend and what you've experienced? I think that it all starts with the bead of the tire. Um, you hear you hear mountain bikers and now road cyclists talking about tubeless compatibility and I think starting with, with the bead of the tire and how it interfaces with you, you can either be very safe or, or risk a, what we call burping or, or dislodging the tire and losing, losing air pressure starting there and getting that dialed was paramount for Wilderness Trail Bikes. You know, we learned a lot from, from the technology Is WTB offering both 650b and 700 cc? We are, we have a multitude of sizes. 650, we started off with the plus size tires, which, which are, you know, upwards of 47 millimeter bead to bead, which is pretty sizable tire, I think that works out to be about a one point eight or one point nine equivalent in, uh, in mountain bike sizing. But now we're doing a [inaudible], so a little bit smaller diameter options for the [inaudible] rider. And then we have everything from a 30 to see 700 see tire up to a 45. So, so a huge, huge amount of range and room for different, different riding conditions, you know, even even cross racing, the tubeless compatibility allows, you know, for a long time you heard tubulars were the go to for racers and, and, and I think they will always be there for, for the hardcore a cross racer, but a tubless e compatibility. Has allowed you to take some of that technology and get some of that suppleness uh, without the painstaking process of gluing on to being a, to get that, that, you know, nice cush ride or a ultimate traction for coroners to bliss. Compatibility will give you most of that at a fraction of the cost and uh, and also be equally or more say, send your tubular tire options. How has WTB addressed mixed terrain riding in its tread patterns? We've tried to come up with the same strategy that we used for mountain biking in that you have, you have tires that roll fast, you know, they typically have a low profile center center Knob, um, but, but you usually will always want a very positive engagement with, with the ground on your, on your intermediate and edge knobs. So we've, we've taken that and applied it to the, to the gravel side of things too, you know, and when, when mud is introduced or wet, wet climate, you want a little bit more with some open spaces in between. We've come up with an option that's still rolls fast on the pavement. But uh, the intermediate niche knobs have a little bit more space between them so the mud can clear and you get positive engagement with the ground. Yeah. There's certainly a lot to think about with tire selection. When you think about the types of events you may have done over the last 12 months, at least for me, I think I could have selected a different tire for each one based on the terrain. I think that's the beauty of, of gravel riding. I mean typically, um, if you've road raced or you know, have done a fondo or something or, or if you go to the other side talk about mountain biking, you very rarely look back at your equipment and what you could have done better there. It's usually, you know, the training aspect and with gravel you almost always come up with a few things that you could've done different with your equipment. Whether it's, you know, bigger, bigger, tougher tires for the rough or sections of the course or lower profile, sleeker, lighter tires for the, for the road segments or, or the smoother fire road, dirt sections. You're always kind of analyzing and going back and yeah, I always tend towards the fat or rubber just because I'm out there for an adventure. But I often look longingly at some guy with 700 c narrow tires cranking up a hill on is super lightweight bike, but at the same token, I know payback's going to be a bitch and I'm going to be ripping by him with my 650 b's on all the descents. It is one of those fascinating parts of our gravel riding and it makes it a lot of fun. And I think you sort of look over with a wink knowing that at a certain point your equipment's going to be superior to someone else's. And vice versa. I think when you're in doubt, you know, going, going a little tougher or, or larger diameter tire is, is always the best bet. But, um, it is funny how you look over at a, at a lighter weight set up and whether it be mile 70 year or up a grueling climb, you know, kind of wish that you had that. Just for that one section. Yeah. I think until the industry got the vision for more adventurous riding, the necessity to put wider tires on those bikes really wasn't there over the last five years, five, six years. I think we've seen an explosion in frame builders in larger companies building those bikes that can accommodate this type of riding. Was there a particular bike in your quiver that really kind of opened your eyes to what that ideal adventure bike would look like? Absolutely. So fast forward, probably five or six years ago, I purchased, an IBIS HAKLUGI their first model with disc brakes and quickly got tubeless ready, tubeless compatible tires in around the 40 size tipping point for me. I was able to go farther, longer with no mechanicals and superior braking. Allowed me to to go back and retrace my roots and ride some of the stuff that, that I enjoyed on a mountain bike while while doing it on the cross or gravel bike. Yeah, it's interesting. I think the type of equipment we're riding these days, it's subtly different but in really powerful performance ways and it's almost confusing to my friends who don't ride gravel on these types of bikes to understand how much terrain is opened up, whether it's just being able to ride slightly more technical terrain because of the wire, wider tires or creating these mixed terrain loops. So I'm curious, have you been an advocate in your friend group around gravel cycling and what's been the response as you started to get more excited about it? Absolutely, yeah. They uh, you know, your, your hardcore mountain bike or road friends typically will make, make fun of you, but you know, usually it's, it's getting them out on a bike that, that is equipped with the technology. We're talking about the tubeless ready tires, lower pressures on those tires. And then also a disc brakes. I think once they get on a, on a machine like that, they realized the potential that that's really. I think that's the gateway. Yeah, exactly. I think, I think until they've given it a try, as you said, an opened up sort of a big loop that wasn't possible on a pure mountain bike. That and trying out some of these new events that are cropping up I think has been huge because the community element of the gravel riding and racing community I think is just unmatched in other disciplines right now. Can you talk a little bit about how the community has come into play for you in gravel riding? I guess it was close to a decade ago, I started going out and riding the grasshopper series, which is probably one of the first adventure bike events that I was ever privy to. You know, a lot of the events you can do on a road bike or mountain bike, but usually the the gravel or cross bike would be the perfect go between where you can literally do any of their events on a, on a gravel bike and not be hindered with either the weight of a traditional mountain bike or a limited tire size and breaking of have a road bike. That's grasshopper events I think are this amazing combination of you've got a bunch of ex pro's racing at the front, but the whole day is community oriented. Afterwards, everybody's hanging out and enjoying a beer or two. A. It just makes a great day out. Yeah. You realize how cool the cycling community can be. You get people from, you know, such a, such a diverse background, not only at the pro level with, with different disciplines, but just, you know, all walks of life. Bike is, is the great medium to bring all those people together. It really, uh, you know, the, the events themselves are amazing and you to see more terrain in a day than you typically would out on a ride. Spending a little time after the event and and talking to people that really brings, I guess the element of friendship, camaraderie and the larger northern California community together. Yeah. It reminds me of the early days of mountain bike racing where people would camp at the event and everybody would hang out together. And it just was about racing and riding new terrain. I remember growing up in the mid Atlantic, I would specifically sign up to race because I wanted to see what it was like racing in Virginia Virginia and having someone lay out a course for me and knowing there was going to be a bunch of like minded cyclists around. Just made it an obvious way to spend the weekend. Good way to keep yourself healthy and, and expand your network of trails and uh, and you know, possibly meet some new friends along the way that, uh, you know, have the same, same goals and you know, possibly ride some new terrain with them along the way. Yeah. So you recently decided to put on a event of your own. What inspired this? Well, it's been something I've wanted to do for quite awhile. I now live full time in Auburn, California. I have discovered the, uh, the gravel riding is really second to none here and the in the area is, you know, rich with history not too far away from where gold was discovered in the, in the area and, or, you know, really they were developed, um, from gold miners going, going into these canyons and I'm using some of this, uh, some of these roads, fire roads and trail to show people what we have in this region. Awesome. Were you designing it with a specific type of bike in mind? Did you want it to be on the more tactical side of gravel riding more fire roads? What's, what's the mix you're shooting for? I wanted to try to, to create a mix, you know, a little bit of everything. I initially started writing this stuff when I was training for the lost and found a gravel event up in the Sierra Nevada and then just started expanding my road rides into these areas and then utilizing some of the trails that I have written for many years on my mountain bike, kind of getting a, you know, the perfect balance of painful for your upper body, you know, single track riding and then you know, being able to jump out on the road and stretch out and maybe grab, grab a quick bite to eat and then, and then back into the dirt for a, you know, a nice long bus team climb to, to experience some of the, some of the views that we have around here. Yeah. For those of you who haven't been to auburn, it's a spectacular part of northern California and I, I've sampled a little bit of the trail system that I'm really looking forward to getting up there and having you map out an epic day on the bike for us. Yeah, I think I have a good one in store for us. The event's going to be April 28th. It's the Auburn Dirt Fondo and I think I've pretty much nailed the route. I've kind of gone back and forth with a eliminating some of the busier roads and uh, and trying to make, you know, the return back to Auburn as memorable as possible, you know, and, and being void of traffic. I think only helps that. Any other tips and tricks you have for our listeners who are going to get prepared for the event? Yeah, I would say if you're usually tires are a part of your bikes. That's in question and I would say typically the bigger the better, but you can, you can run a little bit faster rolling a tire for this event depending on what the weather throws at us, you know, usually April is a beautiful here. Well, like any adventure, it wouldn't be as much fun if we knew everything that was going to be in front of us. Absolutely. A little bit of a little bit of tacky dirt and some, uh, would, would only benefit the event. I'll get the registration information into the show notes when we publish and make sure everybody knows how to get in touch with you and register for the event. Excellent. I appreciate that. So you mentioned a few other gravel events that you've done. Are there a few that stand out that you'd like to recommend to our listeners? Well, definitely the Lost and Found. They also put on Grinduro, which is a fun new event. Kind of a little different format. I really liked the lost and found because it's a hundred miles of terrain that you typically wouldn't get too. That sounds great. It's a, is it a particularly fast course, You know, every year has been a little bit different, but they're, they're kind of bringing it back to, uh, to bring the speed of the event of last year was, you know, we here in California, northern California, we had a pretty serious winter, so, so the roads took a beating. It was quite a bit tougher on, on a drop bar bike and almost made it, you know, kind of a hard tail, 29 or a fair for the fast guys. I think this year will be quite a bit faster if I remember correctly, the first year I did it for the first four hours of the race. This is a hundred mile race. For the first four hours we averaged over 20 miles an hour. I'm guessing that they'll probably get back to that. That's exciting. Yeah. I think it's interesting as course, designers think about how they want to push the limits of the equipment and endurance. There's such a balance between the type of riding, the speed of writing, the amount of vertical feet you're going to be climbing. That really makes course design and art A little bit of a rough terrain is always exciting to challenge yourself on, on a drop our bike. But if you get miles on end of rough terrain it could be, you know, fairly abusive on your upper body. So it's kind of nice to have, you know, maybe a little spattering of that. But when the speeds high and you're utilizing, you know, broken pavement, fire roads with a little single track mixed in, I think that's, that's a pretty good mix. The sport has a lot of different opportunities in it for athletes and I think it's diverging a little bit. You've got these big ultra endurance events that are more akin to the hundred Mile Mountain bike races that were popular like Leadville, 100 or 24 hour racing. And on the other side of the spectrum you've got these shorter, punchier faster races that are emerging. Do you have any thoughts on which direction you see the sport going or do you think it has room for all these types of events? You think that there's, there's enough room for all these types of events? You know, I mentioned grinder, Oh, and this is an event that's about 60 miles in length, but you're only, you have time segments within, uh, within the event. So you ended up doing about 30 or 40 minutes of racing through something like four or five different stages, so, so it allows you to go full gas if you want to through the time sections, but hang back with your friends or your wife or girlfriend or, or vice versa, them wait for you and you know, talk about the, the stages coming up, the stages prior. It kind of really, you know, builds that camaraderie. I really did enjoy the format for exactly the reasons you described. I'm curious if more companies that event producers are going to start going that route to really enforce the idea that we're a community and riding with your friends can mean riding with slower friends as well as faster friends. Yeah, I think, uh, these types of events as well as, you know, the, the event that I'm putting on, I'm just doing a, an epic ride that, you know, if you, if you want to erase it, you can or if you want to, you know, put in, put in some hard efforts on, on climbs or whatever, but then wait for your friend. Yeah. And at the end of the day at the Auburn Dirt Fonda, are we going to have a barbecue or some other type of festival atmosphere? Absolutely. We're, we're, we're going to be starting and finishing from Moonraker brewing company. We're lucky enough here to start and finish from there and pretty much jump right on. I'm right on trail. Um, and then we take off on our day and get up into the Sierra foothills and Sierra mountains. Pretty fortunate to, uh, to be able to start and finish there. We'll have a food truck and probably some live music as well. Well that sounds awesome. I appreciate all the time today talking to us, the Auburn Dirt Fondo on April 28th. Should be on everybody's bucket list for this year. Thanks again Kenny. Oh, no problem. Thanks for having me on your podcast and I appreciate your time.