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Blood, Tears, & Gear(s)

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Blood, Tears, & Gear(s)

This past weekend was the fifth edition of the Grumpy Grind in Milledgeville, IL. Go ahead look it up, it’s a tiny town about thirty minutes north west of Dixon, Ronald Regan’s hometown. Big stuff out here folks. It’s on the edge of the area in Illinois we have grown to love, The Driftless Region.

Mark Johnson is the man behind all these years of great route and good time and every year he does not disappoint. And every year it’s a cue sheet ride; no early release of the route; no gps files; just a piece of paper with some road names, mileage, and what direction to turn. Each year it starts at “the farm” and goes off in whatever direction Mark would have us.

This is my forth Grumpy Grind and one of my favorite rides of the year. Each year the weather has been very different from the previous. This year turned out to be about as perfect as you could want it. The start was in the mid-fifties with almost no wind and nary a cloud in the sky.

For some reason I was at the very front of the group when Mark sounded the horn to go and off we went. It wasn’t too much of a crazy pace off the line but it picked up by the time we first hit gravel and I slid off the pack and found a place in the chase group. I was feeling really great, surprisingly great for how tired I was after not sleeping well the night before and a two hour plus drive out.

This was pretty uneventful for a while. The chase group started to crack apart and I found myself, once again, drifting off the back. I wasn’t the least perturbed by any of this; I didn’t come out here to race; I came out to enjoy myself and test my limits while I was at it.  I found myself in good company for a while as I rode along chatting with Brandon Gobel about how we had actually met each other almost a decade ago(I’m still looking for that picture, Brandon.) We ended up hooking up with a few Heritage gentlemen and rode together to the rest stop at mile 18.

HI Kae!

I wasn’t all too keen on stopping but the group did so I figured I would too. A few minutes later Eric Alexander rolled by without a stop and I jumped on and rode with him. We were going at a good 80+ mile pace and were talking about who knows what when his shifter stopped working. We pulled over and it seemed that the mech in the shifter was on its way out and he was going to have to singlespeed it the rest of the ride. Just then a gentleman of gentlemen stopped by and began to give Eric a hand. After some fussing and blowing, yes blowing, in the shifter it started to work again.  And I quote,”SRAM is like Nintendo, you have to blow in it to make it work.”-HAHA

Again, we are back riding enjoying the hills, the scenery and the beautiful weather. The Heritage boys caught up to us again and we let them slip on by. At this point it’s about 30 miles in and Eric tells me to go ahead with them if I’m feeling up to it he doesn’t want to go hard. I declined then changed my mind, sprinted off, and latched on to that group again.

Things are going great, I feel great, the roads are good, and we are pushing off at a solid speed. We took a left turn on to Astor Rd and that’s when things got weird. The road was hard, fast and smooth and I did something I don’t normally do on gravel; I was right on the wheel of the fella in front of me when disaster struck. There was a rut in the road and I found myself on the far right end of it rubbing my tire. It was quick and I tried to save it but before I knew it I was rolling around on the ground. YARD SALE.  Bottles and gear strewn about the deserted gravel rood. I’m not sure I’ve hit the ground going that fast before but I seemed to slide a lot longer than I had expected. Thankfully I was surrounded by good riders that were able to avoid running my ass over and no one else got caught up in my mess. With rage I stood to my feet and walk my bike to the side of the road I notice the chain is off the chainring so I pedal to get it back on and realize my rear derailleur in in my wheel. With no spokes busted and everything seeming fine except for the bet hanger I grabbed it and pulled it back. At this point I was probably too mad and I pulled a bit too hard and SNAP, it came off.  DAMN IT!  This is when I notice that there are steady drops of blood coming off my arm; I look at my forearm and all I can see is read. Great.

All the while the gentleman of gentlemen is there picking up my ejected jelly beans and coming to my assistance this time. His name is Patrick McIntyre and helped me out tremendously that day. I had my third bottle out and was blasting water on the wound in my arm and scrapes on in knee to see the extent of the damage and he was on the ground next to my bike with chain breaker in hand asking me what gears I want. My mind wasn't really focusing on what ratio I should be running so I told poor Patrick I had no idea. While he is doing that he is also giving me advice on what to do with the half inch wide by eighth inch deep hole in my arm. By then Eric had caught back up and the rest of the Stay Rad crew of Bionic Bob and Kristina show up to witness the carnage. Just as I was about to wrap my glove around my arm with a tube Eric recommends I use the Ziploc bag from the cue sheet and his arm warmer. That poor arm warmer, good thing it is black.

One speed, bloody ass elbow

Just as Patrick is finishing up my singlespeed conversion Mark Johnson comes by and sees the mess of things I had caused myself. He informed me that at the check point, about 6 miles down the road, they had a truncated route that is about 10 miles back to the farm. I yell back to him, “I can’t do it, I need that mug”

GG5 coffee mug of champions

That might need a little explanation. Every year there is either a pint glass or a mug for the first 50(ish) finisher and I’ve got a collection going. I couldn’t just call it because I was riding singlespeed.

By the time the bike is back in running order and I’m packaged up as best I could the pain in the muscles starts to creep up and I take off knowing the movement of my legs will hold it at bay. With six miles to the check point I am hoping they have some gauze and tape for me and I’d be lying if I was contemplating taking the short route.

When I had arrived they were expecting me and the fine folks there were more than accommodating. They did not have a gauze but he did have a clean old towel that he let me use to clean my arm again and soak in blood. He even let me cut a corner off to put inside the arm warmer in place of the plastic bag to cover up.

The man there turned to me with the cue sheet for the short route and that’s when I decided I wanted to finish. If I were to cut it short and go to a doctor or a hospital now there is nothing they could do that they couldn’t do after I had rode another 37 miles. I topped off my bottle and ate a sandwich and started to roll out with Bob, Kristina, Eric, Kyle and Paolo.

Blood on everything

The problem with singlespeed, for me anyway, is you have to do a certain pace. After a few hills I had noticed that I had left most everyone except Paolo. We ended up riding the rest of the ride together. We do good work of swapping pulls and slowly picked up some people on the way back. Looking at the elevation diagram I noticed that the second half of the ride had much more climbing and almost seemed to just keep going up. We had picked the Union team of Meesa Maeng, Courtney Reed Tanner, Laura Alagna, and Kristine Deibler along with the lone wolf Dan Szokarski and that was our group to the finish.

I could not have picked a better gear myself. There were a few times on flats that I was spinning out to stay with the group and definitely a few times I was feeling the climbs and fight off the cramps but all in all it was just about perfect. It got me to the finish, to get my mug, to show off my battle wounds and tattered drive train. After eating some delicious food and having some beers Paolo came through once more, with a first aid kit and I gave myself a proper cleaning and put some gauze on my arm.

Both crashed, both finish, both were rad.

Ever since I bought my Warbird I had wanted to ride it singlespeed and ever since I had found the Driftless I had wanted to ride it singlespeed as well. I didn’t exactly want either of them to happen the way they did but it did but I’m not mad about it either. I’m still very much tending to the damages I did to myself that day but what a great day it was.

-JOEL

Photos: us & here

Tees: here

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Belgian Spring

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Belgian Spring

The 2017 Barry Roubaix Story.

It's hot, it's dark, and it smells real bad.  That is how I wake up in a hotel in the middle of nowhere Michigan with three other grown adults.  Hotel rooms full of cyclists always have a similar smell to dorm rooms.  As I walk to the window in the dark I'm dreading what I'm about to see, RAIN.  Lots of rain with no signs of letting up.

As I ate my hotel breakfast after a shitty nights sleep, I noticed other cyclists starting to gather for their "continental breakfast" in the hotel lobby.  I think to myself, "why do I keep signing up for this shit".  

It's been a few years since my last "Barry".  2014 was the last time I was in Hastings Michigan, a cute little town just south of Grand Rapids.  I always hear Barry come up when gravel races are mentioned.  Lets be clear, there isn't really any gravel or mud at Barry.  Rather, there is SAND, lots of sloppy sand that destroys bikes.  If you've ever done any kind of hiking, cycling, or camping in Michigan, you're familiar with all the sand everywhere.

This year it was going to rain all day, and never get to 40 degrees.  This ain't my 1st rodeo.  I've ridden in these conditions before, too often actually.  I know how to dress.  Wool.  Wool is your friend and should be your base.  Wool is some magical fabric that man can not recreate synthetically.  When wool gets wet, it stays warm.  Nothing else does that.  Then you need a decent shell.  An actual rain coat.  My weapon of choice has been the Giro Neo Rain jacket lately.  Really a garbage bag would work just as well, something that is basically plastic to keep moisture out and heat in.  Hands and feet are the tricky part.  Shoe covers of some sort were a must.  I had some crappy Specialized ones that I don't recommend, but they worked well enough.  My gloves, my wonderful Bontrager gloves that I've worn all winter saved my life.  I also recently invested in a Gore cycling cap.  Which might be the single best piece of cycling apparel I have ever purchased.  My head was warm and dry, the short bill helped keep the rain out of my face.

Sitting in the starting grid, I took a mental survey of the surrounding riders emotional vibes.  Many were jovial, make jokes and talking shit.  Others, have already lost.  Their faces long and full of dread.  This won't be a fitness test.  No, rather it was going to be test of a persons will and inner strength. 

Making love to the camera prior to the start.  Labok not ammused.

 Rain.  Hard sleeting rain started started to pelt everyone once we hit the 1st pavement section.  My only concern was my vision.  I wear glasses and at some point I had to pull over and gently put them away in my jersey pocket.  Which slowed me down quite a bit.  I had to be more careful of my lines and try to hang with someone who could guide me. perferable with a real fender.

Hard freezing rain.

Despair, fear, loneliness, are how I've been seeing people describe their day at Barry-Roubaix.  Mine could not be further from that.  Like I said, this ain't my 1st rodeo.  Mentally, I fine all day.  Happy even, jamming to songs in my head leap frogging from one quitter to the next.  While everyone was indoors playing on their power pads (Zwift) all winter, I was outside riding my bike.  I'm accustom to shitty weather, and I think that paid off.  I dropped people I had no business dropping.  I also never really pushed it as hard as I could have, for whatever reason.

Eventually the rain let up and I could put my glasses back on and turn the gas back on.  Half way through I started picking up others from Chicago.  Eventually I'd lose them in the headwind.  Yeah, headwind?  I don't remember Michigan having much wind.  WTF.  Towards the end I would end up working with the the woman who would later win the women's Single Speed category until her rear hub started to crap out and I started recognizing more local kits in the distance.  Clicking, scrapping, knocking, my poor bike pushed toward familiar roads and riders.  We were on the roads back into town, and I was on a mission to catch every Chicago rider I could.

With the motivation of seeing Chainlink, Lovestar, and Tuxedo Thunder riders in the distance, it was time to be done with all this.  By which point I could no longer feel my feet, at all.  My hands decided to start getting warm again at the end, letting me eat a little.  Slogging through those last few miles, trying to reach and pass every kit I could recognize was draining me.  The last few bits of gravel/sand were REAL soft, sucking my power like a vampire in a blood bank.  Pavement never felt so good beneath me as I rolled off that gritty spongy road.

I fought that guy behind me all damn day.  He won.

With blocks to go, this one guy caught up to, and passed me.  Who, I had been yo-yoing with all day and thought I had dropped for good a little bit ago.  Dammit.  He beat me.  I was dead.  I was done.  I cheered a few Chicago friends at the finish before I made a B-line to the car to get that floor heater on full blast.

Only in the car do I finally become unhappy.  Not cause I'm cold or didn't do the time I wanted, but the realization sets in that my bike is trashed and will probably need to be over hauled, replacing several parts.  Oh, and my car is now full of sand.  SIGH.  Its a real Charlie Brown moment in that parking lot in Michigan, that I wouldn't trade for anything else.

Until next year Barry-Roubaix.

 

Thank you SnowyMountain for letting me use some photos!!

-Schratz

 

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Kristina's Kelly

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Kristina's Kelly

So some of you have seen this bike pop up on our Instagram here and there and have reached out about it.  This is Kristina's adventure machine.  Kelly Knobby X.  Campy drive train and Ritchey components.  This is her go to for longer mixed road/gravel rides, though it has seen a cyclocross race or two. 

I won't go too into this, your bicycle people, I'll let you take a look at the pictures.  

She will be crushing this year's Midwest Rapha Prestige on this bike.

 

-STAY RAD!

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Dirty Kanza

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Dirty Kanza

A week ago I wasn't sure I was even going to go.  I had smashed my face on the ground mountain biking.  Some how I healed up pretty good and went any way, broken nose and all.

The night before I got almost no sleep.  My mind was buzzing with excitement and uneasiness.  More rain was on the way, and after my quick ride out on the gravel roads, I was not happy about that.  They were already messy as hell with little time to dry out.

Belgian tan

Belgian tan

Exploring the day before and the flat part of the course. 

Exploring the day before and the flat part of the course. 

We started in a dual pace line  and about ten miles in we hit a dirt road, or rather the "trail of tears" as I call it now.  It was totally unride-able for everyone.  It was about 3ish miles of hiking in ankle deep peanut butter.   The bike would get so clogged with mud and grass that pushing it was out of the question most of the time.  Carrying it on your back like a yoke was the most economical use of energy.  Your feet would cake up with an extra 5 pounds of mud on each foot, wearing you out before you even got warmed up on the bike.   Many bikes and riders never made it past this point.   After that the 1st leg was rough, but good.  Foggy and moist was the air.  The rocky ground was also wet and slick.   I dealt with a couple mechanical issues, bottle cages either were loose or broken, I assume from the hike a bike.  Pretty much clear sailing after that until Axletree caught up to me and we decided to ride a water crossing.

This went on for miles.  Many derailleurs died to bring us this information.

This went on for miles.  Many derailleurs died to bring us this information.

The private cattle roads were the toughest.  Cows would cross right in front of you.

The private cattle roads were the toughest.  Cows would cross right in front of you.

Bad idea.  There was a HUGE ass hole in that creek.  They fell over, and I found the deepest part.  Bars went under and I went OTB.  Fearing I re-broke my nose with the taste of iron in my mouth from the nasty water I just drank.  I totally forgot about my phone in my back pocket.  Which was in a water proof bag...that was just open enough for my headphone cord to come out.  That was enough to fill the bag and kill my phone.  Aside from some bruises, I was fine and my bike was now CLEAN.

This is where I ate shit and drank some of that water.

This is where I ate shit and drank some of that water.

I hit the 1st check point, Joel cleaned my bike and lubed the chain.  I ate, and changed into a fresh kit.  Messed around with my broken phone for a bit, and decided it wasn't worth my energy to get angry over it.   We decided that I should press on with NO PHONE.  I had Joel's number in a Ziploc back in case I needed to bail.  130 miles to go, with no tunes.  Kill me now.

After that check point, came the worst leg for me.  The first two legs were about 75/77 miles and the final was just over 40 miles in length.   I normally hit the wall around mile 80 on any century, and feel better somewhere in the 90's for no real reason.  I eat and drink plenty.  This was no different.  I was soft pedaling for a bit dealing with a chain that decided it wanted to play some dub step for me.  Skipping and making all kinds of horrible noises.  Part of me wanted my derailleur to break like so many others had that day, so I could call it a day.  I was tired and over it.  Many a dark thought entered my mind, making the ride more miserable. Then on a climb the chain finally broke, after 20+ miles of not working right.  FUCK.  Oh wait, I remembered I had a quick link in my frame bag.  Popped the broken link out, threw on the quick link in a matter of minutes, BOOM, my bike shifted like a dream.  

Not me, but the same thing.

Not me, but the same thing.

GAME ON.  I started to make up time to the second water stop.  No bullshitting, just filled my bottles and took off.  I made a hard push to the last check point in fear of not being able to make the cut off.  Hard Push is a loose term.

All of these private road were hard and full of sketchy cattle grates.

All of these private road were hard and full of sketchy cattle grates.

I made it.  I felt good.  Axletree had just rolled out.   They had lost more than half their riders to mechanicals or fitness.  The ones that were out, offered to help me out at the check point.  I ate more, put clean socks on, topped off my snacks and bottles and blasted out of there.  At this point I was so excited, I couldn't believe it was going to happen.  I felt good, bike worked good, and I was going to make the full 200!!!

I rolled with 10 guys for the 1st ten or so miles, but couldn't keep their pace 170 miles into the day.  I dialed it back and pulled out my other Garmin.  Yes, I brought two.  Knowing that my 500 battery would die soon, I pulled up the course on my 200 and threw on the back light and went on my own pace.

Not me, but you get the idea of the terrain and the climbs. 

Not me, but you get the idea of the terrain and the climbs. 

This final section was full of the roughest rollers I'd ever ridden.  Similar to the rollers at Barry-Roubiax, but made of jagged stone smashed by Thor's hammer.  Nothing like blasting down sketchy sharp rocks with just a head light in the middle of the night. 

With 5 miles left and I turned on the gas and made it to town.  Making sure Stay Rad was represented, I pull off my jacket and stuffed it in my jersey.   Full sprint and a bunny hop at the line.  IT'S OVER.  FEED ME.

200 miles.  One broken iPhone 5c.  One broken chain.  ZERO flats.   Over a dozen compliments about our caps and t-shirts. 

Time for an over haul.

Time for an over haul.

I did it.  With a broken face, and a sore neck from a crash a week ago.  Riding 200 miles in one day does weird things to your body.  Swollen bits, numb digits, and days of being sleepier than I'd ever been before.  I will never forget this experience, and thank you to all friends cheering me on, either in person, or on the play by play going down on Facebook.   Good bye Kansas.  Don't call me, I'll call you.

Photos courtesy of Chad, Joel, and AdventureMonkey

-SCHRATZ

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ILLmanzo

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ILLmanzo

Lets start off by making it clear that this is/was in no way a DIS or a put down to the legendary ALMANZO100.  Rather, this is more of a pastiche of that race.  Almanzo is a beautiful ride, with challenging climbs and decents.  It's what made us fall in love with Minnesota.  Illinois desperately needs something like that.  Illinois has the perception that its flat, windy, and boring.  Get your ass in gear and come ride with us.

We start our ride about 2 hours north west of Aurora in a part of the state known as the Driftless, an area of the state that wasn't smashed flat by that damn glacier.  The weather report for the days leading up was all over the place, 20, 80, 60% chance of thunderstorms.  The morning was clear and almost cool, but humid.  REAL humid. 

We were 10 strong for a ride we made up less than a month before hand, and about half were people I'd never really meet before.  That's pretty much a win.  We rolled out at 10:00 am, and it was pretty much GO TIME for the 1st ten or so miles, until we found the giant barrel mobile home thing on the side of the road.  We all took pictures and bullshited for a bit.  After that we more or less stayed as one crew, sure some would break of the front to stretch legs, others were riding safe to protect injured legs, but we would almost always come back together.  The humidity on top of the climbing really tested your heart and will to be out there.

Sean drank all that whisky 

Sean drank all that whisky 

Each climb presented a new challenge.  Some you could maintain your momentum from the previous decent, others you had the montra "spin to win" going over and over in your head.  Each climb also brought a reward, seemingly never ending descent.  Some you were happy you survived the loose as marbles decent to make the next climb.  Others were on pavement were you could reach 50 mph.  Your eyes would tear, from either joy, fear, or wind. 

We blasted down that for at least ten minutes.  This was taken a month ago, hence no green.

We blasted down that for at least ten minutes.  This was taken a month ago, hence no green.

All while trying to keep your eyes on the road, which was easier said than done.  With some of the most beautiful rolling green hills straight out of a story book, or at least a Jolly Green Giant add, your daily life stress evaporated and left you feeling fresh.  All the hills also had small bubbling creeks with meandering cows, lamas, and every kind of bird of prey you could imagine.

Kept missing rain...until the last 10 miles.

Kept missing rain...until the last 10 miles.

Silly vanilla cows

Silly vanilla cows

As the ride grew near to an end, some took off to make a break with 15 miles left.  Everyone was caught by the much welcomed down pour, and DOWN POUR it did.  With little visibility and no braking power for those running rim brakes we all made it safely back to the cars, eventually.

We got cleaned up and rolled out for brews & soda at a local brewery that wasn't that good and had crappy service.  It was still a DAMN GOOD DAY.  We will make this a yearly alternative to heading Spring Valley.  

THANK YOU everyone that came, and thank you for hyping it up for next year.  If you didn't go, you should have.

Ride totals: 66miles/5,800ft 

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