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When Miguel Crawford linked up nine Grasshopper Adventure Series routes, named it the #megahopper, and teased the 415-mile/43,000-feet-gain ride on social media, he didn’t think anyone would bite. Or rather, he thought someone might be interested in bikepacking the route over a few days. He did not think it would become a fastest known time thing.
“The idea of doing it with sleep deprivation and not getting help? No, that didn’t cross my mind,” Crawford told VeloNews. “So when Ted told me he was actually gonna do it, first of all, I knew he was serious and then it was like, ‘you’re crazy dude.'”
Ted is Ted King, and on October 6, the retired WorldTour roadie completed the #megahopper route in 27 hours and three minutes. Although he is not calling it a FKT, he treated it as such, relying on himself for all support and trying to ride at a steady clip.
“I’m calling it an OKT, an only known time,” King told VeloNews. “My goal was to set a precedent. My goal is to showcase the area, show that you can obviously do a ridiculous challenge, but more than anything set a benchmark and be excited about when people beat it and all that stuff.”
What is a ‘hopper?
The Grasshopper Adventure Series are beloved bike races in northern California, and Crawford has been hosting them for nearly 25 years. A self-professed map junkie, Crawford, who is also a high school Spanish teacher and father of three, initially put the routes together to serve as scenic and challenging training rides for mountain bike racing. NorCal being NorCal, an eclectic group of talented bike riders immediately showed up.
“It’s always been the Grasshopper Adventure Series, but I’ve always tongue-in-cheek called them training rides,” Crawford said. “Keep in mind, for 10 years there were no permits, and I didn’t charge anyone. It was under the radar. And I thought people would ride better if I didn’t call them races.”
King’s first ‘hopper memory corroborates Crawford’s story. Only, when he showed up in 2008 as a young domestic pro, Crawford had started to charge a tiny entry fee. King was pissed.
“I remember at that point I had been told ‘hey, there’s this Grasshopper training series — ‘I think that’s what it was called then,” King said “‘It costs like 20 bucks, you park somewhere, and it’s pretty cryptic.’ It was such a headscratcher: why am I paying 20 bucks to go do this training ride I could just do by myself? It was the best 20 dollars I spent all year.”
King’s 13-year love affair with the Grasshopper Adventure Series is familiar to anyone who’s ridden the highly competitive yet low-key races in northern California. The races have expanded exponentially over the past two decades, and although pros show up and list the wins on their palmares, the events still retain the feel of a backwoods bike party.
What is a #megahopper?
“I first had the idea, being a map junkie, thinking about one of the big rides around here called The Terrible Two, a classic that’s been around for 45 years,” Crawford said. “During Covid, I was working on remodeling the house, not riding at all. It was like, ‘forget this, I need to ride.’ So I did seven ‘hoppers in seven days. I invited friends and we rode some we’ve done in the past and some we don’t anymore. So looking at maps, I thought, ‘how could I link five counties? Then, it was like, ‘oh, that’s not that interesting.’ Then, it was ‘how many ‘hoppers can I link together?’ I started playing with the map. I wasn’t trying to get mileage but to connect them.”
Crawford admitted later that he was curious if anyone would look at the #megahopper route and consider doing it in one push. It was impossible to ignore the fact that Covid had inspired people to do things on their bikes that were massive and creative, like Everesting and FKTs.
But, part of what makes the Grasshopper Adventure Series Unique is that Crawford is not trying to make the routes into suffering rides like a 200-mile gravel race or put riders far away from civilization. He is not a gravel race promoter; the ‘hoppers are about making the best of his backyard.
“Usually, you think of an FKT like the White Rim or Kokopelli, it’s really remote,” he said. “But why not put together something in the area? Why not showcase your backyard? ‘Hopper style is, there’s dirt when it makes sense. It goes back to ‘where do you live and what would be a cool ride?’ And, to highlight the beauty.”
Ted King’s Only Known Time
Crawford’s uncompromising commitment to creating showcase rides laid the foundation for King’s #megahopper experience. Then, he put his own spin on it.
“I’m motivated by things that are fun and inspiring and new and different,” King said. “I’m writing my own script on this one. The Grasshoppers are the first mixed terrain event I ever did. I wanted to do it for that reason. I wanted to pay homage to my friend Miguel who created these events. Laura and I spent a ton of time out here in Healdsburg. We do work with the Mill District. There were a lot of reasons. I liked having that — I wanted to get to the end of the year and look back and say ‘what are the real standout moments,’ and I think this will definitely stand out.”
We know King has experience riding mixed terrain; over the past two years, he’s also added multi-day tours and bikepacking to his list of cycling credentials. His experience racing the ultra-distance Arkansaw High Country Race last year, as well as riding down the length of Vermont in one push helped him prepare for the #megahopper. Nevertheless, he still felt a little out of his element. In these long efforts, the question of how much to sleep is always a stressor.
“I was as nervous as ever,” he said. “I had a frame bag and handlebar bag. At the distance it was I knew I needed to sleep. If I did it one full push, there would be a diminishing rate of speed. I knew I could do 205 miles in one go. My longest ride ever across Vermont was 310 mile in one go and that crushed my soul and being. I couldn’t have pedaled another stroke.”
For the #megahopper, King used the benchmark of 205 miles to plan his departure time and where he’d stop for a few hours of sleep. This meant leaving Healdsburg around 6 a.m. so that he would arrive in Occidental after dark. There, he slept for about three hours before climbing back on the bike. True to the self-supported style of racing, he carried his own calories and used shops along the way to refuel.
During his 27 hours on the bike, King experienced high temperatures near 90 degrees and lows in the mid-30s. His bike performed beautifully. But it was likely his mood, perhaps the most important component, that kept him moving forward.
“I tried to stay very positive and by and large I was,” he said. “I got good weather. I got to experience collectively ride after ride, any one ride alone that’s a challenge. I thrive on self-set challenges so that was awesome. Any time I was getting into a dark place, being tired and hungry and lonely, whatever the thing is, it was a quick rebound to appreciate the moment, being on the bike.”