BadVentures Vol. VI
Guest BadVenturer: Dillon Osleger
Boiling water poured with a steady hand into an aeropress full of freshly ground BadSea Coffee, I sat in the grass shorn in fleece pants and a hoodie, observing autumnal colors making up the backdrop of an environment spattered with colorful tents and even more colorful lycra clad humans. Perhaps by coincidence, Grinduro takes place at the time of the year when leaves change color, temperatures drop, and cyclists shift from race mode to reflection and relaxation. This timing allows those present to leave their hubris and fear at the large brown and yellow sign stating “Now Entering Plumas National Forest” and enter the area known fondly as “The Lost Sierra” with the intention to ride their bicycle out of pure love for the feeling, reminiscent of childhood memories oft lost in the vortex of competition.
A menagerie of custom bicycles, car camping set-ups, and outfits sets a scene where one feels comfortable sitting down at one of the many campfire circles surrounded by strangers only to feel like close friends minutes later. A bond only feasible through a potent mix of wilderness, shared love of bicycles, coffee, and BEvERages lulls one into a sense of comfort almost strong enough to forget about the ride they have willingly registered for the next morning…
A hair over 100 kilometers long sprinkled with 2,500 meters of elevation gain over forest service roads, pristine tarmac, and rough single-track this event makes you earn your morning-err-mid-day-err after race beverage! A unique format, familiar to those who often ride wide knobby tires, Grinduro borrows from the Enduro discipline in which only several portions of the course, known as stages, are raced for times that are summed for one's overall placing. This format allows for a communal atmosphere for much of the race, encouraging people to stop at aid stations for their fuel of choice (The menu includes: fried pickles, traditional Clif product, beer, electrolytes, fruit, bacon, trailmix, and more), talk, appreciate the spectacular surroundings, and enjoy the suffering up long climbs.
Traditionally in racing, those in front of you are winning, yet while sitting in the woods having a catered lunch at Grinduro, no one has any idea how anyone else did on any of the previous stages, turning the conversation to stories of near crashes, actual crashes, and burning legs rather than quantitative analysis of times, watts, and rankings.
Along the meandering route the folks at Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship and Giro have set out for Grinduro, these stages include a steep dirt road hill climb, a winding forest service road descent, an 8-mile road time trial, and a singletrack descent where full suspension doesn’t feel out of place.
Back to where this story began, a warm coffee in hand, I sauntered through the camp area, ready to begin this day of suffering, laughing, and exploring with a few hundred friends. Breakfast was provided in the form of burritos (as it always should be) and cozy clothes were switched for lycra. Coasting to the mass start-line I shouldered up with two close friends and laughed at our contrasting bike choices. My size XL gravel bike shod in 45c WTB tires and 2x11 gearing dwarfed Emily’s Trek Topfuel mountain bike she rides for the Orange-Seal Offroad team, and stood dichotomously from Myles’ 1990-something Specialized Stumpjumper covered in stickers and sporting a SRAM XO 7 speed dh drivetrain. Oh how this race allows for people to be themselves, ride what and how they love, and find the joy in bicycles that is so often lost by the end of race season.
As this was my first race back from a shoulder injury I didn’t have high expectations for a hill climb, but threw down in the spirit of friendly competition for a top-15 pro time. Grouping back up with Emily and Myles, we rolled down fire road until they dropped me on their mountain bikes and I caught back up on the climb up Mt. Grizzly to the next stage. Coming from a mountain bike racing background, I cant say stage two didn’t suit me even if I was on my gravel bike, coming through again with a top 15 time. By this point, we were all giddy enough to get face-painted whiskers and kitty noses and eat grilled pickles with WTB’s Mark Weir. Across a few more rolling hills, farms and ranches started to speckle the landscape hinting at upcoming civilization and the pavement making up stage 3. The three of us waited for a few more folks to arrive so we could tackle the stage in a paceline strategy. Fifteen minutes later I finished off the stage with five other ragged souls as the only surviving remnants of our original group. Myles rolled in to the post stage 3 lunch stop filling me in on the painful stage that I had since erased from memory. “ Once we hit the start line the group began rubber-banding and I found myself on the back spinning an unholy cadence, watching the line splinter and you roll away. I time-trialed my way to a surviving group I could hold and brought it in” he recounted as Emily and myself laughed between bites of banana date bread and pasta.
winks from cycling pros including Ted King, too much food, and an agreement to save enough energy to dance at the concert post race. Several miles down the road from lunch, a sharp left turn onto dirt leads to 45 minutes of climbing up 800 meters over 8 kilometers to the last aid station and stage 4. As I rolled into said last aid station I noticed my braking power was lower than usual, resulting in an inspection that confirmed one of my front brake pads had fallen out and I was without a front brake for the last stage down rough singletrack on my suspension-less gravel bike. I knew I was in a proverbial home when my response to this dilemma was with shrugged shoulders and the words “guess we’ll keep it tight but loose” was received with several laughs and high fives.
14 minutes later I finished stage 4 as my rear brake had burned out about halfway down the stage. I had a tale or two to share regarding near death experiences with trees, creek beds, and passing fellow racers without any stopping capabilities, but quickly refocused to getting down to the post-stage swimming hole found before the race’s finish. Significant geologic processes took place at this swimming hole as dusty, dirty racers washed off in the river, adding sedimentation that traditionally takes hundreds of years to occur (this is an exaggerated joke, don’t worry USFS). Beers in hand and a little cleaner, cyclists mingled on the sandy shore and on floaties in the river regaling each other with tales of glory, disaster, and laughter. Emily provided a gentle reminder to Myles and myself that we had been in our chamois for around six hours and it was time for a change and food.
There is still dinner provided, a custom bicycle craftsmen showcase, more beer, awards, and a funky concert to be enjoyed! I won’t delve on my post-race antics here, but rather encourage you to make a fresh cup of BadSea Coffee and begin making plans to join all of us next year in the Lost Sierra to play bicycles and love life with a few other quality humans and canines.