Lost and Found Gravel Grinder
GRRR. You really do get what you put in for most things in life. I learned a hard lesson this past weekend when I did the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder for the third time, albeit this time completely unprepared physically and mentally.
As a newly retired racer and experienced coach that is focusing on growing my business, I struggle with how to just ride to have FUN. It’s not my nature. I have always been competitive and my bike racing has been a huge part of my life for many years. What does riding for Fun mean? Fun means different things to different people.
This past weekend I went to Lost and Found with a lackadaisical attitude and under-prepared with both my equipment and my fitness. I should have never signed up for the 100-mile route knowing the grueling day that was in my near future. I should have been complacent doing the 60 miles or starting at the back with the non-pros but my ego got the best of me which ultimately lead to getting a flat, major chain suck twice and a nice little gravel crash to end my day early.
The lesson I want to communicate is that event/race preparation is crucial. How you mentally set yourself up for an epic event, a criterium or a Fondo is equally as important as how your equipment works and your fitness. With the gravel grinder becoming more and more popular there are a couple things you should consider.
#1 Make sure your equipment is working perfectly when you show up to the start line. That means that your tires are properly pumped up with the perfect PSI for the course and your weight. It means your shifting is good to go and gearing is correct for the given course. The courses these events are held on are not meant for the weak at heart. Lost and Found was technically harder than it ever has been and believe me you want your equipment to do its job when you are bombing down a loose sandy gravel decent.
#2 Know the course. I didn't pre-ride this course and to be honest I didn’t care. I thought it would be “all good” once I got rolling. WRONG! I was in over my mental game that day. I am not trying to scare you but if you can’t pre-ride then study the website for gear considerations, tire suggestions, and gnarly sections. I assumed that I would do the same thing I have always done for the past 2 years and I would be good to go. I waited until the last minute to get my tires changed, I didn’t check my tire pressure before my ride and my shifting wasn’t great. Bad call. Do as I say, not as I do!
#3 Train properly for success! 100 miles is 100 miles and anyway you slice and dice it, fitness comes into play. If you have a 60-100 mile gravel grinder on your schedule this year, I can guarantee you it’s harder than riding a flattish to rolling road metric or century. The gravel terrain takes a toll on your body and you need to make your body accustomed to the beating it will take on gravel. I would suggest starting with the short grinder and then move up to the middle distance and then the long once you have put sufficient training in on your gravel bike. The off road bike is different from your road bike and technical skills are a must. If you are looking to float over dirt and rocks then practice how your bike handles different terrain. If you think falling in thick gravel doesn’t hurt, think again. After I flatted during Lost and Found, I failed to put enough tire pressure in my front tire. I knew it was low but I thought I could make it the rest stop and fill it up. WRONG, It was so low that when I tried to slow down for a wash, I lost my front tire and went down in sharp, thick gravel. Now, I sit here writing this bruised and cut up with a bad case of whiplash, not to mention a little angry at myself too for not doing the right thing.
Lastly, it’s ok to “ride for fun” or to “race” these events. What you want is the only thing that matters. Racing is fun and there’s nothing like it but also just riding for fitness, to eat/drink beer or enjoy camaraderie on the bike is just as fabulous. Set some goals for your season. Have some expectations but also know that these events don’t always go as planned. Gravel grinding is still like the Wild Wild West! It’s an adventure, it’s epic and you have to be able to take care of yourself on these rides. Most everyone is in the hurt locker at these events and counting on others to take care of you and your equipment is a bad idea. Take everything you need! Tubes, C02, pump, food and think of the rest stops with bourbon as a bonus.
Here are a couple of my favorite Gravel Grinders to add to your list of possibilities: