Grinduro 2018

This ride report by Team CSP-SBI cycling ambassador Kurt Sable

So what is Grinduro? A bike race? A century? Mountain bike? Gravel grinder? Road Bike? It is all of these things plus bacon and whiskey at the rest stops and Big Foot sightings along the way, and a load of fun on two wheels. Lots of focus on your ‘ride to party ratio’.

I just participated in one of the two Grinduros in the world in my rural hometown of Quincy, California on the last Saturday of September, (the other one is in Scotland in July). It was quite amusing to hear exclamations from other cyclists as horses and deer ran along the road while we were rolling out. Many of the 1,000 or so riders come from more populated areas and I felt proud that folks were amazed at the natural environs. Not to mention, I work as a hydrologist for the Plumas National Forest and we were riding in my “office” for most of the ride.

I wore my awesome CSP/Southwest Bike Initiative kit to represent during the event and got to chat with people while grinding up a 15-mile, 3,500 ft. climb at the start.

How could I chat? This is part of the brilliance of Grinduro. Like mountain bike enduros, only segments of the ride are timed; between timed sections I could just ride and take in the pure mountain air and views at whatever pace I wanted. In mountain bike enduros the timed segments are usually the downhills. What is unique about Grinduro is that the timed segments are incredibly varied: a 1.1-mile uphill gravel road climb, a 6-mile fast descent on a gravel and dirt road, a 6-mile rolling paved time trial, and, last but not least, a 3.5-mile single track decent. All of these timed segments are peppered along a 62-mile route of mixed surfaces (dirt trails, gravel roads, paved roads) with 7,700 of total climbing. The big climbs are on dirt and gravel and quite steep in places.

Instant and common topics of conversation include: What bike? Should you use a mountain bike, a road bike, or is this event a good excuse to get a new gravel bike? What tires? How much tire pressure? And after the ride, how much dirt is on and in one’s body, and how many flats did you get? And, did you get a flat during a timed section? We definitely could have used some rain before the event – there was a lot of loose dirt and dust.

There has been a ton of great media put out there about the event. These folks provide a flashy and witty take:

https://grinduro.com/

https://www.velonews.com/2018/09/gallery/up-next-grinduro_479403

Stepping back from Grinduro, I wanted to mention the role events like these have on small rural towns.

The event is organized by Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship (SBTS), a non-profit organization based in the Northern Sierra. They have been brilliant at partnering with the Forest Service, local counties, local schools, and the State Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Commission to authorize projects and get money to build and maintain sustainable trails. They are mostly a mountain bike group, but they embrace all trail users. They organize events, run trail shuttles, have a bike shop in another rural town, Downieville, CA, and organize many trail events that attract volunteers from the pool of local and out of town trail users.

They employee a trail crew, bike shop and other staff in our rural communities, and reportedly pay a good living wage.

https://sierratrails.org/

Quincy is primarily a timber town and still has an active lumber mill.  Like much of the rural west, the population has been declining and unemployment is relatively high. There are a lot of reasons for this, but since the trails and events have come to town, there has been increased activity in downtown. Newly opened businesses include a book store, an outdoor store/bike shop, a brewery, and a new café. You often see bikes on vehicles from out-of-town parked outside these businesses or in front of our awesome food co-op, Quincy Natural Foods.

The trails and biking are certainly providing a small but real boost to our local economy and it helps locals see another use of the surrounding forest that is not extractive.

I have seen local kids out riding on the trails starting to fall in love with biking and they want to be in Grinduro someday.

Some may say “be careful what you wish for” and that we will have an influx of wealthy folks driving up our real estate costs… but I say we are far from that for now. So come on up to Quincy and lets go for a ride, or be poised by your computer when the registration opens for Grinduro and come have some bacon during a very memorable fall ride in the Lost Sierra.

Catching the spirit of the Iron Horse

“the biking circle and community is great”.  –Howard Grotts, 2018 Iron Horse Men’s Champion

Durango, Colorado is a beautiful Western town.  This year’s 47th Annual Iron Horse Bicycle Classic celebrated Durango’s cycling heritage, and expanded the fun by weaving in new cycling events including BMX for the second straight year.  The atmosphere around cycling brings out such joy in people and the character of this place in an extraordinary way.  Cycling is a technology of contact, connection.  It’s simply amazing.  The Iron Horse is so fun it’s a pity it only happens once per year.

At the Iron Horse everyone gets involved somehow.  Like many people in attendance, over the weekend I was both participant and spectator.  On Saturday I raced the classic road cycling event from Durnago to Silverton, and on Sunday I watched the BMX action up close on main street and cheered the mountain bike racers as they passed through town and the Steamworks Brewery.  The festivities excel at community engagement so well the Iron Horse is in a league of its own, much like the San Juan mountains are perhaps the most spectacular range in the lower forty-eight.  It’s an event that matches the landscape!

There’s such a diversity of events there is something for everyone.  The road ride on Saturday is the most accessible event, and it’s on one of the most beautiful courses in the county.  There are races for women and men in all different age groups and categories.  The most popular road ride is the Citizen’s Tour to Silverton.  But don’t be fooled, even though the tour is not an official race, many of the participants are trying to set a personal best or even beat the Iron Horse train that departs downtown Durango at 7:15a.m. and steams up the canyons to Silverton.  I bumped into my friend Rose from Albuquerque on Sunday in Durango, and she did the Quarter Horse ride, which is a shorter road ride with less climbing that goes to Purgatory ski area halfway between Durango and Silverton.  Over the weekend, there is the La Strada La Plata Gravel Ride, MTB (mountain bike) race, BMX, Cruiser Criterium, Kids Race, bike parade and things beyond cycling–a running event, a triathlon, a Veterans Memorial Ceremony, and lots of vendors with art, food, and cycling offerings.  It’s incredibly fun.

I had a pretty good race by my standards.  I was sitting eight overall on the road as we headed over the final pass, Molas, for the final descent into the old mining town of Silverton.  Cycling legend Ned Overend was just a few minutes in front of me, and I basically had a front row seat to see him and other stars in racing action.  What a learning experience!  As I flew cautiously down the steep grade, two riders caught and passed me, and out sprinted me in the slightly uphill drag down Silverton’s main street to the finish line.  One of the riders I knew well, Ben Sontag, a mountain bike pro for Cliff Bar.  The other I wasn’t so sure of, but man can he race and is he fast!  As soon as we crossed the line conversations began, and I met the other rider, Todd Wells, three time winner of the Leadville 100 and USA Olympian.  He just retired and said this event kept him motivated to stay in shape.  I ended up in 10th place, but hey, when Todd Wells is just in front of you, is that so bad?  I was a happy finisher, like everyone!

Over the weekend, visitors soak up the local Colorado vibes and learn more about the many things we can do with bicycles.  And residents get to pinch themselves and be reminded how lucky they are to live in such a special community.  When people come together around bicycles more great things happen.  The cool thing about Durango is that having Olympians and cycling champions living next door is not really remarkable, it is just normal.  They represent the possibilities of human expressions through the bike life.  The event itself normalizes cycling.  The bike is the way to get around town.  The mainstream planning community is starting to respond to that.

I think it’s time we start referring to active transportation modes for what they are, our most basic and primary modes.  –Michael P. Sanderson, Professional Engineer (P.E.), “Leading the way to make active transportation safe, while improving health”, ITE Journal May 2018

I’ve grown up in a world where bicycling is seen as alternative or unconventional.  Planners and engineers today are working to make walking and cycling flow more naturally, like a mountain stream.  Every street in front of every house is a bike route.  Our street system connects us to where we want to go, our schools, work places, our friends’ houses, recreational assets, our business districts, health facilities.  Making the street system accessible and welcoming bicycles is key for healthier and sustainable lifeways.  The Colorado Department of Transportation has made big strides, putting bike lanes in on the main route through town, Highway 550.  This is where the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic begins, right in front of Durango High School.  They are trying to making it convenient for people to ride a bicycle everywhere we need to go.  It’s not perfect, though.  Vallecitos Road has a typical sign as you leave town that says “bike route ends” and the wide shoulder tapers down, but that doesn’t mean people stop bicycling there.  People that live in the country want to ride their bikes to town, too, and certainly town residents love to ride their bikes to the countryside.  When we change our paradigm and view cycling as conventional, we expect bicycles everywhere.  And at the Iron Horse it is like leaping into the future.  Softly, gently, joyfully…cycling dreams will come.

The entire community supports the Iron Horse, including the outstanding independent bookstore on Main Avenue, Mariah’s Bookshop

Credits and Further Reading:
Thanks to our team, sponsors and partners for getting us to the Iron Horse for the second straight year.  Go Team CSP-SBI!  https://bikeinitiative.org/sponsors-partners/
A special thanks to Sansai Studio for most of the great photos (the better ones!) in this post.
https://sansai.photoshelter.com/index
Visit the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic to sign up for 2019 and learn more about the history!
http://www.ironhorsebicycleclassic.com

Team CSP-SBI’s Tom Sisk receives science award

Team CSP-SBI cycling ambassador Tom Sisk was honored by the Defenders of Wildlife with a science award this Fall.  Tom joined a prestigious group including Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, and Dr. Nathan Varley and Linda Thurston from Yellowstone National Park, for making “lasting and extraordinary contributions to wildlife and habitat conservation.” Tom is a pioneer in ecology, environmental management, education, outreach and leadership training.  In his remarks from the award ceremony, Tom noted healthy ecosystems depend on all people having “opportunities to experience, learn about, and value nature.”

Dr. Tom Sisk, on left, receiving the Spirit of Defenders Science Award, from the Defenders of Wildlife

One of the highlights of my year was experiencing the great outdoors with Tom and more Team CSP-SBI ambassadors at the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic this past May.  Cycling connects us with wild places and the spirit of life within ourselves. Cycling gives us opportunity to get oriented, and gain first-hand knowledge of the places where we ride.  We learn about them in detail through our senses, while connecting with the communities that conserve them.  Riding a bike with teammates and thousands of friendly people in a place as grand as the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado was incredibly energizing.  Cycling’s light footprint and positive health impact makes it a great match for safeguarding lands and habitat.  Plus sharing a bicycle ride is a great way to bring communities together and forge memories that bond people of all ages and backgrounds for a lifetime.  Cycling opens the way for community engagement, action-oriented learning, and thriving communities.  So fun!  Congratulations to Dr. Tom Sisk for the Spirit of Defenders Science Award, and wishing him lots more productive work and cycling.

Tom Sisk cycling at the Iron Horse with Wendy Palen, May 2017.  The bike heritage in Durango is special.

References / Credits:
Award photo and opening quote from the Defenders of Wildlife Blog

You can learn more on Dr. Sisk’s work at:
Landscape Conservation Initiaitive where he is director
Conservation Science Partners where is a founding board member

Learn more about Team CSP-SBI at the Iron Horse on SBI’s Blog

Cycling for kids: Strider Bikes and Specialized Foundation

What will this do to our community?  –Wendell Berry quoting the Amish in The Sun Magazine, August 2017

Imagine if we made cycling accessible for everyone, from the moment we could walk to our last steps on this earth?  Strider Bikes and the Specialized Foundation are two companies hard at work making this dream possible.  Strider Bikes makes bicycles without pedals so people simply use their natural leg motion to propel the bike forward.  Riders learn the feeling of steering and balancing while gliding at moderate speeds.  Strider bikes are also called balance bikes.  They have handbrakes for stopping.  Strider Bikes makes a range of bicycles, beginning with one designed for children who are 18 months old.   Balance bikes are fun for all ages and all abilities.  I could see these helping senior cyclists.  It is like walking on a bicycle.  But it has that cycling magic, a gliding feel, like we are walking on air.

We believe it [cycling] has positive benefits far beyond what we currently understand, and we hope that our primary scientific research will lend itself to a broader discussion around how activities, like cycling, can help with all types of health-related issues.  –Mike Sinyard, Specialized Bicycles

Specialized bicycles are world class.  You see them underneath winners of the Tour de France.  The Specialized Foundation is developing specific applications for cycling as a treatment for ADHD in kids.  Mike Sinyard, Specialized’s Founder and CEO, has dealt with ADHD his whole life, and he noticed cycling alleviates symptoms.  A few years ago he decided to partner with researchers at Stanford to study the exact mechanisms of action that are helpful.  As part of the Foundation’s mission to “advance the understanding of how cycling can help improve the social, emotional, and physical wellbeing of children”, they have a grant program for schools who can apply for assistance supporting cycling for middle school aged kids, 11-14 years old.  Every cyclist I know expounds upon the benefits cycling introduces to their lives.  With scientific studies like this one, we are just beginning to understand what is possible using cycling as medicine.

For the lucky ones, cycling is a continuous journey that blooms throughout life.  To create more opportunity for more people to discover and enjoy the incredible powers of cycling, we have to improve traffic safety.  Here at Southwest Bike Initiative, we believe if we get safety right, automatic and beneficial effects are generated in our transportation and related systems, such as healthcare (where America spends 18% of our GDP!), creative economies, biodiversity, and better connected, more livable communities.  Cycling is such an appropriate technology for so many of our trips.  It makes our bodies feel whole again, well-suited and sufficient.  A safe traffic system is structural encouragement for active transportation.  We can feel free to use our independent mobility powers.

Cycling is a technological innovation delivering profound boosts to the entire community.  Let’s use it to our fullest capabilities!  And remember, the most important reason to cycle is fun.  People take to bicycles like birds take to the air.

References and credits:

All three photos are from Strider Bikes:  https://www.striderbikes.com/learn-to-ride

Story of Specialized Foundation:  https://www.specialized.com/us/en/specialized-foundation-about-us

Outside’s story on Specialized’s work, “Road bikes not ritalin, how cycling could help kids with adhd”:
https://www.outsideonline.com/2095101/road-bikes-not-ritalin-how-cycling-could-help-kids-adhd

Health care data from the World Health Org.,: http://apps.who.int/nha/database