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GRINDURO HO Tips, tricks, and whiskey

There are two kinds of bike rides. Only two. There are normal, everyday rides, and then there are rides you remember. Not because of the stats, your performance, the conditions or beauty, but because they somehow etch themselves into your mind as something more or different. Grinduro falls into the latter category.

First, there’s a road trip involved. Quincy, California is in the middle of nowhere. As a native Californian I’ve been riding and racing on these roads since the late 1980’s and nothing has brought me to this area before Grinduro, which is a shame, because it’s among the more beautiful places I’ve been. Quincy is a logging town and also home of Feather River Community College, and it’s got a little more going on than say, Downieville, which becomes all but a ghost town when there’s no big event. Even if you roll into Quincy late in the evening you’ll still find a few restaurants and grocery stores open.

PRO TIP: There’s great food available at the Grinduro venue on Friday night, but the lines can be long. Worth the wait but don’t arrive starving. I imagine organizers will have even more food next year.

THE LODGING

There are hotels nearby. Last year I stayed at a basic place a mile away and enjoyed a hot shower, soft bed and some quiet, but this year I didn’t get my act together in time and opted to camp among the teeming masses…and the number of riders double from last year, up to 750.

Having tried it both ways, camp. Obviously it saves money, and though you lack some creature comforts, being so close to the scene just makes it more fun. The party atmosphere might affect those with hopes of an early bedtime but the folks at Giro provide earplugs with your registration pack.

I was told it’d be cold in the morning, and it was. Frosty cold. It’s advisable that one get up early, coffee and a breakfast burrito (free with the meal ticket found in the registration packet) and sit by the fire pits. Get to the restrooms before there’s a line.

PRO TIP: Bring your own TP. Because you never know.

THE PREP

Gear selection is a factor at Grinduro. You’ll hear a lot of riders huddled around the fires talking about the nuances of their setup. The course covers a wide range of terrain, from flat-to-rolling pavement (a timed section) to moderately rough singletrack (also timed) and lots of fireroad in between, timed and otherwise. Some riders opt for hardtail MTB’s and even a few chose full suspension bikes, but cross bikes seem to be the weapon of course for most. Flat bar CX bikes are getting popular too.

We rode one of our current production CX bikes with 700 x 40c tires and 36x28t gearing.

Tires! Run big ones. The event has been dry so far so mud clearance is a non-issue. Some chose file/semi-slick type treads but I went the other way and chose some fairly aggressive knobs in a 700 x 40 size. Tubeless is considered a must. But I didn’t get my wheels set up in time and so I just ran a ton of air pressure---55psi to be exact. It was not smooth, and I certainly lost some grip in the corners, but I got zero flats. And throughout the course, flats are a factor, tubeless or not.

Gearing is also a factor, as things go up, and up and up after the lunch stop. It’s not a timed climb, but it takes forever and is brutal enough to force many a rider to dismount and walk. First year I rode a 36 x 26t and hated my life. This year I came back with a 36 x 28t and hated my life exactly two teeth less. Smarter riders ran 32t’s in the back or more.

PRO TIP: Run a little more air and a little more gearing. It is not a cross course.

THE START AND FIRST SEGMENT

And we’re off! You’ll shiver your way for the first 10 minutes before hitting the climb. The group spreads out quickly and naturally, and within 30 minutes you’ll encounter the first timed section, and the only timed uphill of the event. Here’s where you’ll notice you are at altitude. The winners will nail the segment in just under 8 minutes and there’s a rest stop at the finish.

PRO TIP: Got fitness? Use it here. This is really the only timed part of the course where those with a lot of watts can really do some damage.

SECOND SEGMENT

After that you’ve got a while of up, down, flat, and general excellence on some great mountain fireroads. Enjoy that for a while. Eventually you’ll reach the second segment, which is this amazingly gradual downhill section with countless sweeping turns. The trail is hardback with a lot of rocks and loose stuff on top, so if you get off-the-line you lose a lot of traction (on a CX bike…probably doesn’t matter on a MTB). Speeds will be high, and there are a few sections that get pretty rough and rocky, so potential for a dreaded flat during a timed section are high here. I saw a half dozen riders on the side of the trail, pumping up flats as seconds ticked away.

I did not go fast enough here. It’s a big ring, pedaling descent with a lot of loose and fast turns, but none of them are particularly tight (despite the ‘tight turn ahead’ course signs).

Sean Co, bringing SteelWul cycling to the mix

THIRD SEGMENT

You’ll finish the second segment with another refueling stop, and then you’ll carry on down the hill with some pretty great descending. Some of it gets a little steeper and rougher than the timed segment…potential for flats is high…but since it’s not timed you can just chill. The scenery is incredible at a few points here. Stop and take some pics. I did.

Things turn to paved roads at the bottom and you’re in this beautiful valley. It’s a good time to shed some layers if you haven’t already, find some friends. The third segment is a flat-to-rolling road time trial. No surprises. Just effort.

Personally I am all for the honor system and it seems to me that this should be a self-regulated individual effort, but in Grinduro there are no rules against drafting. Given that this is a 15-minute average segment, you stand to gain or lose a lot of time.

Giant Alpecin rider and Tour de France top-10 finisher Laurens ten Dam was among the high-caliber riders at this year’s Grinduro and I heard that some 40 riders hung around to ride in a big angry paceline with LTD and co. So it’s a factor.

THE LUNCH STOP

As soon as the road time trial concludes, you’re at lunch. The food is great and everyone chills out and has a good old time, but be aware---after stuffing yourself and letting your legs get stiff, you’ll head 10 minutes down the road and make a left turn, heading up one of the longest, most menacing climbs I’ve done in a good long time. It will hurt. You will be thankful that it isn’t timed.

The first year I did Grinduro, the climb was even steeper, but this year some rain and ruts forced organizers to shift things around but it didn’t feel any easier.

PRO TIP: Don’t get too stuffed. Survive.

THE FOURTH AND FINAL STAGE

You’re tired. You just burnt all your remaining matches up a truly sadistic climb. But the end is in sight. You’ll find a rest stop and you’ll be thankful for that. Somehow you went from full and happy just after lunch to nearly cracked and it took just one 6 mile climb? How is that possible?

The final stage is all singletrack. It’s steep. Fast. Loose and twisty. It winds along the edge of the mountainside and reveals some incredible views of the valley far down below but they’ll be blurs as you focus on where your front wheel goes next, which. It’s narrow and the gap in equipment, skill and bravery becomes wildly apparent here and rider traffic can be a factor.

This section of the event is absurdly fun. It’s also rough and rocky enough that you WILL think to yourself: “Damn I should have brought my mountain bike.”

At least there’s comfort in knowing that 2016 Grinduro winner Duncan Riffle posted the fastest time in this stage, also on a cross bike, so there’s no excuse.

THE FINISH

There are showers, there is beer, there’s food, results get posted fairly quick, and then there’s some excellent music (La Luz was epic). With the hard riding behind you and no reason to get up early in the morning, there’s no reason not to cut loose and a lot of riders do. It’ll be loud but no amount of noise will keep you awake when you want to sleep after a day this big---it will for sure feel like more than the 60something miles and some 8,000 feet of climbing feels.

That’s it? For another year at least, until the rumored second Grinduro event materializes.

Good folks. Good riding. Good food. Good beer.

Don't forget to stop and take in the views.

Make new friends.

Sasquatch loves VYNL.

Frosty.

Already jonesing for next year... Until then, may your life be Grindurolicious.

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