It’s cold, hot, and dusty. It’s steep, rocky, and gnarly.
Grinduro, as one would imagine, is the melding of gravel grind and enduro style bicycle racing, and as such, it dishes out punishments in the manner of both formats.
A 65-mile race with over 8000 feet of climbing awaits each rider. Being divided up into stages, I assumed that the non-race stages would be ‘totally chill’ and ‘not at all punishing’, but in actual fact, the race is hard as fuck. It’s cold, hot, and dusty. It’s steep, rocky, and gnarly. The stages are hard and so varied, there’s really no good bike to race it on. These are all the pieces that cement it as being one of the best things I’ve ever done on a bike. The Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is one of the most beautiful locations I’ve ever ridden, and the planning and hospitality was top notch.
The race is roughly 100 kilometres of gravel fire roads and Sierra Nevada singletrack, with 2500 metres of climbing. The race portion is limited to only four small sections of this overall distance, described as follows:
Punishing 1000m climb, which is nice to warm up (literally) on. In this part of the Sierras, there was frost on the ground each morning.
A loose gravel road descent. This portion was littered with bottles that had absconded from bottles cages by the dozen, and more competitors fixing flats on the side of the road that I cared to count.
A paved road TT section. Fully flat, and the basic reason you want a drop bar. I have to admit to wheelsucking team squid after losing the first group I was rolling with. Thank you, spray paint siblings.
A loose, sharp, exposed section of singletrack where you descend over 500 vertical metres. I sent it, in the mistaken assumption that someone would be securing footy of me for my boys, but this overzealous display of body English and gumption simply led to a flat. Tubeless tires are a must, my dudes.
In addition to the loose shale, there was also a big dust component that did not occur to me until I was covered head to toe – California had been experiencing drought conditions for most of the summer, and myself and all the other racers bore witness to this with the condition of our persons. In some sections, the dust was so deep, it was very much like riding through a puddle of mud, both in terms of grip characteristics, but also in terms of personal mess consequence.
At one point I was even heckled by Paul of Paul Components, and somehow managed to have both bottles at the bottom of the loose gravel. Fortunately, the race organisers are aware of all this, and were thoughtful enough to provide excellent race support, including water and snacks after each race stage, as well as cold beers to replenish each racer’s reserve supplies of recklessness.