The Grasshopper Adventure Series rides in northern California are known for giving people pause when it comes to bike choice. Last week, when Ted King completed the #megahopper, a 415-mile connection of nine ‘hoppers that included 43,000 feet of climbing, he did not hesitate when choosing his rig.
“My mandatory gravel machine,” he said, describing his Cannondale SuperSix EVO SE.
Although the #megahopper was pavement-heavy (King reckons the route was only about 12-percent gravel), King choose fat, slick Rene Herse tires to deal with all manner of tarmac. He also had an enormous gear range with SRAM Eagle. And snacks, lots of snacks.
Here, King takes us through his #megahopper bike setup.
The Megahopper requires a bike that can handle an enormous level of pounding. If anyone has ever ridden the roads out here you’ll appreciate the expression, “with pavement this bad, who needs gravel.” I mean that in the best of ways; the main thoroughfares throughout Sonoma are well manicured, while the roads that lean in the direction of exploration and adventure are these winding, decades-old paths through the woods and are really beat up. I was looking to cover the 415 miles as quickly as possible and with 43,000 of climbing, a lithe bike is a huge help. So I went with the Cannondale SuperSix EVO SE which I unofficially debuted in Unbound and have been racking up the miles ever since.
I run a Zipp cockpit and for me, the XPLR handlebars are the highlight there. They have just the slightest amount of flare that is something I didn’t think I wanted or need, but now I absolutely love. It’s not like driving a city bus like you sometimes see with enormous bars these days, just a bit more than a traditional road bar to give extra control in the drops.
Early fall in Northern California is almost guaranteed to be dry. The reservoirs and rivers I passed were either absurdly low or entirely dried up. After a typically wet winter and spring, however the ground hardens up — and rutted, pocked by cow hooves or footprints of hikers is how it’ll stay for the next nine months, hence the bumpy ride.
That’s all true with the exception of the top of Mount Tam. The playground of San Francisco, this mountain has its own funny weather pattern and the summit is so drenched in fog that it’s a slightly sloppy (and fun) mess to navigate along Bovine Ridge.
X marks the spot. This was my first real ride on the 700×48 Hatcher Pass tires and I have a hard time thinking about doing the #megahopper on anything else. Such a wide tire smoothed out the ride to the point of utter enjoyment and blissful confidence on even the roughest terrain. I opted for Endurance casing which has a bit more puncture protection. Probably not just coincidence that I didn’t have any mechanical issues on the entire route. Knobs could have been useful in just a few spots, but the wide, large-volume/low-pressure tires are something of which I’ve become a total convert since working with Rene Herse.
Mud really wasn’t an issue, but there’s loads of clearance even with these large tires. And the Zipp 303 Firecrest are my wheel of choice for the past six years. The redo they’ve undergone over the past year has only lightened them up and given me more confidence with their wider internal width. I love these hoops.
I packed as light as possible. A clean kit is a happy kit, so Velocio Luxe bibs both days. I started with Velocio’s Concept Jersey and went with a Merino Concept Jersey on day two, given the frigid cold start. The Ultralight Hooded Jacket was a huge help too at 3 a.m. in the 36-degree valleys. The added padding on the Trail Glove is helpful for all day rides and saving the nerves in my hands.
A pump, three tubes, two CO2s, a Dynaplug, loads and loads of all of UnTapped nutrition (maple syrup packets, waffles, and Mapleaid hydration), an external battery, cables for iPhone, USB-C, and USB 2. Credit card, cash, tiny bottle of chain lube, spare brake pads, ROKA Matador Airs as comfy, cozy eye protection, spare eTap batteries, spare 2032 battery, electric tape, GoPro, and Starbucks Vias.
The first half of the course is characterized by shorter, punchier climbs, so that Eagle 50-tooth cog sure got plenty of use. The second half of the ride saw lots of climbs go on for five plus miles, so especially on tired legs, I was still happy as a clam with this enormous gear range.
I opt for a SRAM Force crankset with an Ai offset to work well on the Cannondale SuperSix EVO SE frame. Paired with a 46-tooth chainring, this is the gear ratio that I’ve used the entire year as well as plenty of years prior.