What is it about a mixed-terrain event, AKA a “gravel ride”, that makes them the fastest growing segment of cycling?
And furthermore, what kind of equipment and fitness is necessary to have the best experience possible at these notoriously epic rides?
To answer these questions and address the curiosity many Athletes have about gravel-riding, we have put together a special edition of the BWC Newsletter that features the Grapes of Wrath & Raisin Ride in an ‘event profile’ of sorts.
There was no shortage of beautiful scenery, and friends to share it with, at the Grapes of Wrath & Raisin Ride. Photo Credit: Dillon Clapp, Leyzne, Engineered-Design.
The Basics: What Was The Wrath & Raisin All About?
Most gravel events feature epic routes with plenty of grandeur that make them a hefty challenge for all. Even the most experienced bike riders will have a ‘gut check’ moment at a gravel ride.
As you would guess, the SamBarn Promotions Grapes of Wrath & Raisin Ride in Bakersfield was no exception to the aforementioned ‘grandeur’.
With two ride distances featuring more dirt and gravel than pavement, plus a freakishly-long 35-mile dirt road climb that hallmarked the 135-mile ‘Wrath’ route, the event met all the criteria for an epic day on the bike.
What’s more, the event featured free camping and was fully catered (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) by SamBarn Promotions and the Gear Grinder Grill crew to ensure all riders could simply focus on riding their bikes and enjoy the event to the maximum.
A great meal amongst the finishers and their families was had courtesy of the Gear Grinder Grill. Photo Credit: Dillon Clapp, Lezyne- Engineered Design.
Community: It’s The People That Make These Events Memorable
Without question, both rides were hard! Even the Raisin ride took finishers upward of five-hours to complete the 78-mile route, but what made this a memorable weekend of riding was the riders and families that attended!
As one would guess, there was no shortage of excited, and slightly nervous, bike riders on the pre-dawn starting-line, Saturday morning.
But what Sam and the event crew knew was that when those riders returned to the start/finish area, and serenity of the grape vineyard campground that served as event headquarters, there would be plenty of ride stories to share!
However, what was not forecasted was how the riders would finish.
Despite the significant challenges each rider had faced along the route, nearly all finished in small groups, arm-in-arm, supporting each other all the way to the line.
The camaraderie developed on the road was palpable and the friendships forged on this epic day of riding were only strengthened once the post-ride party started!
The 35-mile dirt-road climb on the Grapes of Wrath route was beyond epic, it was absolutely ruthless! Photo Credit: Dillon Clapp, Lezyne- Engineered Design.
Equipment Choice: How To Wrath, Raisin, & Gravel Appropriately
The first question folks often ask when deciding to tackle their first gravel-ride is: Do I need something gravel specific, as in a new bike?
Short Answer: No!
However, don’t let us stop you from getting a new bike! We are certain you won’t regret purchasing a gravel specific steed.
All kidding aside, although a dedicated gravel bike with wide tubeless tires (35c or bigger) and disc brakes makes for a smoother day on the technical sections of an event like the Grapes of Wrath, it is not absolutely necessary.
At this years Wrath, there were nearly as many road bikes with 28-30c tires as there were dedicated gravel set-ups.
Sure, tackling a 135-mile ride of mixed-terrain madness will be easier on wider tires and with the benefit of disc brakes, but with some patience and a little off-road experience, a road bike with fat tires will absolutely get you to the finish.
Beyond equipment, the most critical element to have a successful day at an epic gravel ride like the Grapes of Wrath is grit.
Although specific training can take you a long way, everyone will encounter adversity on the gravel roads, the promoter designed it that way…
But with stalwart determination and the commitment to overcome, you are certain to complete this epic day in the saddle!
The sign may read "Pavement Ends", but that's where an epic ride starts! Photo Credit: Dillon Clapp, Lezyne- Engineered Design.
If you have ever been interested in attending a gravel-ride or curious why so many cyclists are taking their road bikes off-road, we highly recommend you consider attending an event like the Grapes of Wrath & Raisin Ride.
Rides like this are on the rise, and for good reason, as they inspire us to get outside our comfort zone and regular routine to show us what we are capable of.
We leave you with a quote from Sam Ames, the event promotor of the Grapes of Wrath, at the start of Saturday’s event:
“When I think of the Dust Bowl Migration that marked this area in the early 1930’s, those folks were HARD SOULS. Today I hope you can glimpse into your own HARD SOUL on our favorite gravel roads!”
Want more Gravel-Ride fun? Check out the event that started it all. The Rock Cobbler, here.
In closing, BWC would like to give a special "shout-out" and thank you to our friends at Lezyne- Engineered Design for a full weekend of support and incredible photos. Check out Lezyne and there line of incredible products, here.
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, And Have Fun!
Brian & Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching