Grinduro: What A Difference A Year Makes

Grinduro 2018

Just a year ago on these actual pages I was lamenting my desire to build the perfect bike for Grinduro and while standing at the lunch stop in Taylorsville, California at this years Grinduro it is clear I was not the only one.

Grinduro 2018 Fabric saddles

The biggest change at this gravel/adventure/road/everything ride/race/ramble in the Gold Country north of the San Francisco Bay Area, actually north of Chico, was the number of bicycles built specifically for conditions experienced in these them-there hills.

There were “gravel” bicycles from the big players, including Trek, Cannondale, Felt, Open, Specialized and Giant. There were custom builders also weighing in on the genre, including bicycle from Caletti, Rock Lobster, SyCip, Speedvagen, Blue Collar Bicycle and many more.

The wheelbases are long, the tires are big, and I mean really big, brakes, for the most part, are disk and rear cogs are massive.

Grinduro 2018 Blue Collar Bikes

Last year it was surprising to see someone aboard a properly and purposely built gravel bike, but this year it was more odd to find someone riding a full-suspension mountain bike or a cyclocross bike. They were there, but their herd is getting much thinner and thinner.

Grinduro 2018

And this is where the story really begins.

The procurement of a proper whip.

Since my day job includes riding Pinarellos, it only seemed wise to start there. And I was lucky enough to land a “demo” Pinarello GAN GRS Disk from the lovely crew at Pinarello USA.

Grinduro 2018 Pinarello GAN GRS Disk

After a couple of shakeout rides, I decided I was going to need to swap a couple of items in order to feel more confident in my second attempt at this ridiculous, yet rewarding, shindig.

So I ordered myself the biggest cassette Shimano will let you pair with their Ultegra 2x setup, an 11×34. This would enable me to get a 34-34 as my easiest gear. A crucial situation.

I also pulled my workhorse Zipp 302s from my F10 Disk and mounted up a new pair of Donnelly X’Plor MSO 36mm tires to the beast.

Grinduro 2018 Ted King

I then set about testing the premise this bicycle was going to make my day in the mountains as pleasant as humanly possible.

This Pinarello rips on the descents, is admirably fast and functional on the road and handled the singletrack with aplomb.

If I had my druthers, I would probably have put on even bigger rubber and more gears, but all things considered, I was superstoked.

Grinduro 2018

Fast forward to the night before Grinduro and I’m sitting in my room at the straight-from-an-80s-movie Ranchito Motel in lovely Quincy, California, sipping a beer, watching Ted stuff his jersey pockets with maple syrup and brushing my teeth at an actual sink.

If you remember correctly, my whippy fast and delightful unprepared companion from last year’s Grinduro, Ted King, and I slept in a tent at the fairgrounds and thoroughly froze our asses off. So in a moment of pure wonder, we decided to get a couple of hotel rooms, with hot running water and a lock on the door. And other than marrying my wife and moving to California, this will stand as one of the greatest decision I have ever made.

In the great battle of tent vs. motel, motel wins hands down. At least in regards to fairground camping.

Grinduro 2018

Anyway, I am pulling together my kit and essentials for the next day, while one of my riding companions in the room next door is dialing in his very own Pinarello gravel bike. He was complaining of a noise in the seatpost, so he was adding a touch of lube and double checking the seat binder bolt.

Grinduro 2018

And then I hear it.

The sound.

That gut-wrenching sound.

The sound of someone’s day going horribly wrong.

The sound of a broken seatpost bolt reverberating through the innards of a carbon fiber frame.

The sound of Grinduro heartbreak.

Grinduro 2018

Ok, so here’s the thing. I’m not really a nice guy.

But I was born in the midwest and with that comes certain obligations.

And so when push-came-to-shove, I gave up my seatpost bolt so my traveling companion, dare I say, my friend, could ride this event for the very first time.

So having cannibalized my beautiful steed, and in the process ending my chances of glory, off to bed I went.

Grinduro 2018

So instead of kitting up the next morning, I pull on some jeans and spend the next day hopscotching all over the course, cleaning rider’s filthy sunglasses, shouting support and eavesdropping on riders.

There were distinctly three categories of riders on the road.

First, those looking for glory.

Second, those claiming they were just here to enjoy themselves.

Finally, those who were just hoping to survive. With the course being 60 plus miles and almost 8,000 feet of climbing, no matter your fitness it is a legitimately difficult day in the saddle.

Grinduro 2018 Trek

As luck (and hard work) would have it my roommate, the rider formerly known as the King of Gravel, Ted King, took first place overall.

This changed our post ride party into a fest and made it a whole lot more fun: the band sounded sweeter, the beer tasted better and the pork rinds were all the more delicious.

Grinduro 2018

The one thing I think we can all count is there will be a Grinduro next, there will be more and more race specific gear and race tactics will play a bigger and bigger part in the outcome of the podium.

Grinduro 2018

And just when I think I have my “which whip?” issues all ironed out, it turns out Ted King, won Grinduro aboard Cannondale’s new mountain bike, The F-Si. I mean come on, what the what? And we’re pretty sure women’s winner, Lindsay Dwyer, was aboard her Trek mountain bike. Let the search and handwringing continue.

Grinduro 2018 winners

High Tide Raises All Bikes

I just got back from Interbike. And despite all of the hand-wringing and moaning and armchair quarterbacking, it was a delightful event. The venue was clean. Parking was plentiful. Food was quite delicious and reasonably priced. The energy level was surprisingly high. There was a nice mix of legacy brands and dreamers. And overall it made me excited to say I was at the very first Interbike held in Reno.

The thing I still can’t figure out is where were all the heavy-hitters. The big brands were once again nowhere to be found. I have had plenty of conversation with people on the inside and on the edge of the industry as to why this continues to be the case, but it is my opinion as we go into the future this will be considered short sighted by the big names.

In the “good old days” if you wanted to get media coverage for next year’s product launch, you had to be at Interbike. Anyone and everyone knew Interbike was the window to the world, it hinted at where the industry was going, and from the feel of the show you could feel the health of all things bicycle.

And then along came the internet and the ability, or at least the perceived ability, for brands to craft their own message. They didn’t need to make big advertising buys and wait for the media to show up at Interbike to get the word out on their latest wonder. They could take to social media and spread the word themselves. And so they started to abandon the bicycle media with their ad dollars and they left Interbike. They started to hold their own events. Bringing in media to their new bike launches and getting them one-on-one to control or craft a more focused narrative, at a time when they didn’t have to compete with everyone else. They could have the “news” cycle all to themselves, and so instead of relying on a journalist to tell their story, they turned to “influencers” to share on social channels.

InterBike18

The Millner-Haufen Tool Co. booth had a constant crowd who was curious about their line of drill bits and diamond-plated grinding wheels.

InterBike18

"That's mil-spec!" yelled one attendee.

InterBike18

Part work. Part fun.

InterBike18

VR at the STAC Zero booth.

InterBike18

Who's bigger?

InterBike18

Kelly Valyou of Bicycle Sport Shop in Austin competes during the semi-final of the annual mechanics challenge.

InterBike18

Still room for more.

InterBike18

The outdoor section was a nice addition and provided a breath of fresh air after spending hours on the show floor.

All of this is to say, I understand why they left Interbike. It became an expensive and dated way to get face-to-face with the people they wanted to see and the press they desired to have. They wanted a more focused time with those folk, including their dealers or would-be dealers.

Interbike Reno 2018

And it worked, for a while at least. But, in my opinion, things are changing again. And it’s time for the Big Boys to return to Interbike. Not just for themselves, but for the fans. We, the bicycle nuts, are ready to have our version of MacWorld/ComicCon/SXSW returned to us in all its glory. We want to make an annual trek to someplace like Reno and see all the bicycles, jerseys, widgets, tools, tires and trinkets all under one roof.

We want to geek about our plane tickets to Interbike and rifle through our t-shirt collection in order to see and be seen by all of the other bicycle geeks. We want to pour through the magazines and websites trying to get some small idea of what we might see at the Big Show. We want to have one destination, one weekend, one opportunity to join our cult under one roof to celebrate this thing we love.

And in order for this to happen, we need one of the big boys to strike the match, start the fire and invest in attending Interbike. They need to see through their current marketing plan, to see the ROI in attempting to returning Interbike to its former glory. They need to realize their current strategy of viral videos, influencers and single one-off media events can be enhanced by helping make Interbike like a trip to Burning Man. One weekend of bicycle worship for the benefit of all things cycling.

It’s shortsighted of the bicycle industry, especially the bigger players, to let this event wane. They should be looking a little farther down the road. Because as the social channels become bigger and more numerous – and as those channels start to reach deeper and deeper into their pockets – investing in Interbike and returning it to its former glory, will make it a place to reach their people at a grassroots level.

Bring on the high tide.

Editor’s Note: A special diamond-studded cog to Cannondale, Shimano, SRAM, PivotThule and all the other manufacturers who stuck around after everyone said the party was pretty much over. Long live Interbike.

Photography by Stephen Lam/ element.ly


A Special Bike From Pas Normal Studios

Pas Normal Studios Cannondale Supersix Evo Hi-Mod
Photo: Pas Normal Studios

It’s unfortunate that this gorgeous one-off Cannondale SuperSix Evo Hi-Mod Disc is not for sale, but you can enter a raffle to win it by showing up to any Pas Normal Studios Destination Everywhere group ride throughout Europe this year.

That’s right, all you have to do is do a group ride to own this custom-painted SuperSix EVO Hi-Mod disc in full SRAM RED eTap HRD gruppo, Zipp cockpit and wheels, and a Fabric saddle.

It’s that simple and the winner will be announced on November 1st.

You can sign up for any of the rides here: https://www.pasnormalstudios.com/destinationeverywhere/


SRAM Is Finally Making A Direct Mount Rim Brake

SRAM S-900 Direct Mount Rim Brake
Photo: SRAM

SRAM is finally making their own direct mount rim brake. Better late than never.

It is compatible with all SRAM mechanical brake levers from the top of the line Red eTap to the entry-level Apex group. The S-900 direct mount brake features an offset synchronizer screw to adjust for simultaneous engagement of the pads while pulling double duty to minimize splay force so energy goes into the caliper instead of flexing the frame/fork. All that translates to better modulation and brake power because nobody likes spongy brakes.

Weighing at a claimed 326 grams per set, the S-900 direct mount caliper is also designed with the latest trend of wider wheels/tires in mind with 28mm of clearance and it also comes stock with SwissStop FlashPro pads. It is, however, compatible only with fork and seat stay mounts.

SRAM S-900 Direct Mount Rim Brake
Photo: SRAM

The S-900 direct mount brake will be used by Team Katusha Alpecin on their Canyon bikes this season and will be available to the public in March for $125 each.

www.sram.com

SRAM S-900 Direct Mount Rim Brake
Photo: SRAM

SRAMmie Chris Zigmont loves himself some dirty adventure riding

I met Chris Zigmont a few years ago when he was running, the now defunct, Bicycle PressCamp (R.I.P.). I think it can be said that Zigmont is a bicycle geeks bicycle geek, so when I saw he was racing Grinduro I was curious to see what sort of rig he had brought to conquer the mountain. And I was not disappointed, but I’ll let him tell you all about it. If you don’t know Chris, you are in for a treat. Enjoy.

Can you tell me where you grew up: I’m a Connecticut Yankee. Born in Newtown CT, actually went to Sandy Hook Elementary (yes, that Sandy Hook) with my Brother and cousin Gerald. My Aunt taught there too. We moved to Avon in the Hartford area when I was a boy and finished growing up there.

Tell me your first recollection of riding a bicycle: My earliest memory was riding my older brother’s black Savoy at our house on Lyrical Lane in Newtown. Riding my brother’s bikes would become a theme and the spark for my cycling life.

How did you end up in the bicycle business: Strange path. We were always making Franken-bikes, rebuilding, swapping stuff. We were, we thought, getting pretty competent on bike repair. We weren’t well off, so shade-tree wrenching was a requirement After borrowing and wrecking my brother’s 1973 Fleetwing (with Campagnolo Valentino!), I needed to fix it. But it was this bike that drove my passion for riding. A few years later, I opened a neighborhood repair shop in a friend’s basement. Eventually, I rented a small business space down the road. I was 18. I failed and closed, but I learned a lot. From there I went to work at the region’s largest retailer, and I began managing one of his stores by 20. My leap to the manufacturer’s side came in 1985 when, chasing a girlfriend to California, I called Specialized Bicycle Components nearly every day for more than a month until they gave me a job in sales! The Stumpjumper was a new thing, Shimano Index shifting hadn’t launched yet. It was early days in MTB and a lot of fun.

Where are you living now and what does your current job entail: I am now in Chicago with my family, and I serve as the Global Road Brand Director for SRAM. In that role I manage the global marketing communication strategy for our road brand’s SRAM, Zipp, and Quarq. So that means everything from overseeing sports marketing, advertising, PR, social media and content, product launches, etc.

Do you believe there is such a thing as a one-quiver bicycle: There are amazing things happening right now with drop bar bikes. I’ve got three unique bikes in my garage that I feel I could successfully contest either a road race, a gravel race, or a CX race on; a 3T Exploro “aero Gravel” bike, a Canyon Ultimate road bike, and a Santa Cruz CX bike. They each offer a unique ride and approach to each of those ride/race opportunities and a little bit of compromise as well. Yet, paradoxically, bikes are also becoming more to the discipline. But I do believe rider’s can put one rig in the garage that would deliver smiles on a very broad spectrum of terrain and ride types.

I know you race cyclocross, what do you think of the new gravel bike racing trend: Love it. I’ve been doing more and more gravel and less and less road. But I do hope it stays focused on the rider’s experience. I believe its something to “do” not something to “see.” I’m generally not looking to sponsor gravel racers. But I do want to work with event promoters who are really focussed on the day’s experience.

Can you tell us about your Grinduro build and what you think you might do differently, if anything: Ha! You bet. The first thing I would do differently is ride it before arriving! But, seriously, not much different. We built out a 3T Exploro in a 650b configuration with Zipp’s new 303 tubeless ready 650b wheels. I ran SRAM Force 1, with a 42t ring and a 10-42 cassette in the back. Zipp SL Speed stem and their new carbon SL-70 Ergo bar. It was quite perfect and good enough for 8th place in the old man’s category. I ran WTB Byway tubeless tires, 650×47. Not much tread, so I was nervous. But it was actually quite good. I only ran about 27-28 psi, so the float and grip was ideal.

If you had to guess, what trends do you think we will see in the future: From where I sit, we see lots of interesting advances in cycling. Other than l’Eroica, I don’t know if we will be seeing rim brakes for too much longer. We are seeing broad acceptance of disc brakes from Triathlon to the Tour de France. So look for more discs on more types of bikes at more price levels. Certainly the trend in “any road” bikes will continue its blossom. I think the root of this is the desire to get off the paved road with cars.

Is gravel going to kill the road bike and mountain bike industry: Good question. We will see. I don’t think so though. Road is going though its own maturity as is MTB. Its changing and refining. Road participation at gran fondos is better than ever. Grassroots MTB, NICA and Regional Enduro are strong. I just see continued diversity. Ebikes will drive much of that as well. E-road bikes are coming in a big way and we’ll see couples and friends riding together that could before for example.

You’ve had a chance to ride in some pretty amazing places, can you recommend a couple for us: I’ve been very lucky to ride in some cool places, usually shoehorned in around work. The Lost Sierra from Griduro should be explored by all. But additionally, I feel I keep finding “amazing” hidden among the pedestrian. Places that folks take for granted or don’t recognize the beauty in front of them. Some of the one that come quickly to mind are the Franconia region of Germany, near Würzburg. Endless ribbons of pavement and forested gravel, vineyards and farms. Really amazing. Another fun one is on big island of Hawaii, riding down to Captain Cook/ Kealakekua Bay, where said Captain made his final miscalculation of the locals. The ride is stunning, with a wicked descent on the south side, and if you plan right with a pair of trunks and swim goggles, you can swim among the most beautiful fish and some dolphins. Finally, for me, I guess I’m missing New Hampshire and the pastoral rides I’ve had there working your way Northwest from the Seacoast, there are so many hidden gravel and asphalt gems. There are many great places yet to ride but those three are top of mind.

Tell us one thing most people probably don’t know about you: Hmmm, Id say most people don’t know that I am a cancer survivor. I’ve twice battled Lymphoma. So far I am winning. Cancer changed my life. I absolutely work to drink in life every single day. I work to live it as much as, and as hard as, I can. I’m only now working to learn on the savoring. Making the moments more valuable and felt.

Top: The morning’s opening climb at Griduro. Photo/Colin Meagher Middle: Sitting 3rd wheel in the high-powered Ted King Train on Stage 3. Photo/Colin Meagher. Bottom: Chris Zigmont at Bicycle PressCamp. Photo: Billy Michels.


Aqua Blue Sport Unveils Team’s 3T Single-Ring Disc Steed

U.S. National Champ Larry Warbasse and his team-issue 3T Strada
U.S. National Champ Larry Warbasse and his team-issue 3T Strada. Photo: Marc Gasch/Aqua Blue Sport

It was merely months ago when 3T announced their partnership with UCI Pro Continental Team Aqua Blue Sport and their plan to supply the team with the Strada, 3T’s dedicated single-chain ring, disc-brake only machine which we covered quite a bit since summer. 

We were quietly told during InterBike to be on the lookout for the team paint job and now the young Irish team just lifted the cover off their team steed.

Aqua Blue Sport 3T Strada
Photo: Marc Gasch/Aqua Blue Sport

We must admit that we are smitten with the clean blue and gold theme with the minimal logos (thank you).

Besides working with 3T, Aqua Blue also announced their partnership with SRAM where the team will be equipped with SRAM’s native Force 1 drivetrain with hydraulic HRD disc-brakes to handle the braking department. A sponsorship they’re so jazzed about that they made a video for it:

It’ll be interesting to see a team racing with only one ring and hydraulic disc brake while the rest of the peloton continues to ride with two rings and caliper brakes for the most part.

What do you think?