I’m happy to report another Dirty South Ride went off without a hitch yesterday. We had 19 riders show up on a very cold morning to tackle the terrain and wind. I was happy to see that several riders had the cue sheet and were prepared to follow it so I had less worries about riders going off the front or coming off the back. One of my main goals of this ride was not leave anyone behind and I’m pretty sure no one was left behind.
Saturday the weather was a balmy 60+ degrees the wind was 5 to 10 mph and the sun was bright. Couldn’t have asked for a better day to take a bike ride. I wish I would have planned the ride for Saturday, but it could just as easily have been the other way around, besides a big part of the gravel grinder mystique is riding in bad conditions. When I was about to load my bike Sunday morning it began to snow, then sleet. I ran back in and checked the weather, it appeared to be blowing over. Temperature was 35 but wind chill was 27, high for the day was 42. 16 mph winds.
The snow blew over pretty quick and would not be a factor. I was surprised at the turnout. I had expected around ten, based on the fact that I hadn’t heard of anybody coming in from the St. Louis area or the Western Kentucky area. Turns out we had groups coming from all directions, riders from Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and of course the SMBA riders from the West.
It became apparent fairly quickly that we had a very strong group of riders on cross bikes, and 2 mountain bikes, no one showed up with a road bike, though I think that a road bike with 25s or 28s would have probably been OK for 95% of the ride. As far as I know there was only one mechanical, a flat. When planing a gravel grinder around here the challenge is finding enough gravel. Most of the roads that have people living on them have been oil and chipped, it’s hard to find a gravel road that actually goes somewhere.
I was kind of bummed out that Ozark road had been oil and chipped, I was sure that it was still gravel, this was a long hard section in the wind, with several tough rollers so I suppose it was a good thing the pavement made it a bit easier, but it cut down on the amount of gravel in the ride. I think that any lack of gravel was made up when we hit Bill Hill Hollow. On the map there is no road here, the gravel ends and becomes a technical and rocky downhill. Once at the bottom there was mud and creek crossings to make this a true Dirty South ride. One rider was particularly happy with the Hollow. Perhaps for the first time in the ride Moe’s eyes lit up as he attacked the mud bogs.
The next notable attraction was Jenny Ridge, around 100 feet of climbing in about a tenth of a mile it’s steep. So steep that it’s difficult to keep bikes from spinning out while climbing it. Until yesterday I had never climbed Jenny Ridge on a Dirty South ride, it’s always been near the end and it always has caused me to break down with cramps so bad that I couldn’t move. I felt the cramps coming yesterday but managed to make the top without cramping. For the next 5 miles I would feel my legs begin to lock up anytime I tried to push hard on the pedals, but thankfully Moe called a recovery pace and we just cruised back in.
Dirty South Harrisburg 2014 was an awesome ride, I’m fired up for the next Carbondale Edition, which will be your last chance to get in on the gravel grinding action this season. You don’t want to miss this!