Editor’s note: Managing editor Chris Case is racing Grinduro on September 28. Our gravel coverage is sponsored by 3T, Mavic, Bell, and Roka. Chris will ride a 3T Exploro on Mavic’s Allroad Pro UST Disc wheels and Yksion Allroad XL tires, and will be equipped with a Bell Z20 MIPS helmet and Roka GP-1 sunglasses.
As part of our continuing coverage of gravel events, I’m headed to Quincy, California for Grinduro. What the heck is Grinduro, you ask? In short, it is just what the name suggests: a gravel road race combined with a mountain bike-style enduro. It’s one long loop of pavement and dirt, where finishing times aren’t based on your overall time, but on four timed segments (each roughly five to 10 minutes in length). With a grand-fondo-style mass start, the race typically begins at a conversational pace, since overall time doesn’t matter. Then come the timed sections: race the segments, then regroup and roll along with friends in between. If you want to be competitive, bring your well-rounded rouleur game.
The course is stout — 7,500-feet of climbing in 60 miles — but Grinduro isn’t meant to cause undue suffering. Race organizers have linked together some of their favorite roads in a quiet corner of California’s Sierra Nevada Range. The course features a mix of surfaces — smooth pavement, gravel, and hard-packed dirt — with two main climbs, one long valley, and two incredible descents. One descent includes a fast and flowy singletrack trail. The other descent trends downhill for 30 miles.
Grinduro is as much a celebration of cycling as it is a race. As such, you won’t find racers warming up in tents on trainers or the wafting smells of embrocation. Many racers camp at the local fairgrounds and food and craft beer are an essential part of the overall fun.
There is also an art and bike show featuring a curated collection of handmade bikes, an art exhibit, an independent craft fair, and a pop-up bike shop.
For 2018, the list of builders showing off their creations includes: Blue Collar; Rock Lobster x Spokesman Bicycles; Speedvagen; Southpark.mtb; W. H. Bradford Design; Calleti Bicycles; Sklar Bikes; Argonaut Cycles; and Falconer Cycles.
Finally, there’s the music. The Mattson 2 return this year with special guest Tony Alva, performing on Friday night. After the race on Saturday, the fun continues with Johnny Walker followed by the funk and soul sounds of Mojo Green. Then, things kick into high gear with legendary DJ Coop.
Bring your race face, and bring your party pants; bring your cycling shoes and your dance shoes. Grinduro is a big party in the hills of Northern California.
What you need for Grinduro
I’ve never raced Grinduro before, but I know people who have. Maybe you’ve also got a new event coming up on your calendar. My first tip to racing a new event? Ask around and pick the brains of those who know, and do some research on your own. Scan web galleries for equipment choices, read blogs for descriptions of the terrain — seek and ye shall find much of the info you need to make informed decisions. Because, even if you aren’t at Grinduro for the competition, you’ll have a much better day if you stave off mechanical issues and prevent poor gear choices.
Here are some other tips:
- The best bike: A cyclocross, gravel, or mountain bike. Regardless of the choice, the best setup will have disc brakes and fast-rolling, tubeless tires. As always, bring some extra tubes, a multi-tool, and mini-pump.
- Layers: Grinduro takes place at high elevation in the fall, so bring layers — ideally arm and leg warmers and a jacket. In the mountains, you never know when weather might roll in, and the early morning start is very cold.
- Nutrition: There are feed zones (and an excellent lunch midway through), but smart riders will bring at least two water bottles and their favorite nutrition with them throughout the day.
- Tires: For gravel races, the biggest variable is usually tire choice. After talking to friends who’ve ridden Grinduro, a good all-around tire that is fairly fast rolling but also durable enough for rougher singletrack is a great choice. I’ll be riding Mavic’s 40mm Yksion Allroad XL tires mounted up tubeless on the Allroad Pro UST Disc wheels.
- Stick with what you know: It’s never a good idea to switch gear right before a big race or new event. I’m riding the same 3T Exploro bike I’ve been using all summer, including at Crusher in the Tushar, as well as my Bell Z20 MIPS helmet and Roka GP-1 sunglasses.