Take an already epic course and add insane levels of wind and you have today’s Dirty South Gravel Ride. Normally if it’s windy like this I’d opt for a mountain bike ride, or maybe just stay indoors, but the temperature was in the 60s by mid day so that’s pretty sweet. Every year we do these gravel rides in February and every year they kick my butt. I’m usually contemplating some kind of shortcut at about 30 miles, and near the end fighting cramps. Today I was feeling weak at the end, but the cramps never came and I made almost the entire ride. Several of us skipped the final cedar lake trail section that made the ride nearly 70 miles.
So The Dirty South rides are a mixture of gravel and paved roads, probably a bit more paved than gravel. This year we had a large number of guys on mountain bikes, some with smaller tires but several guys with just regular mountain bike tires. These weren’t regular riders either, these were some hard core guys, because pushing a mountain bike with knobby tires and an upright position on a windy road ride is killer.
Most riders opted for a cyclocross bike which is really just a road bike with room for big tires, a few guys were on endurance style road bikes that could fit bigger tires, but no one was on a regular road bike. I was on my ‘cross bike and I opted for 32mm Gatorskin road tires. I aired these road tires up to 80 pounds making them very stiff. On the pavement and most of the gravel it was sweet, just like riding a road bike. On the chunky rough stuff it was harsh, very harsh. The Gatorskins have a microscopic amount of tread, but I think it may kind of help a bit.
I thought my ride was going to be cut very short. In the first mile my bike began creaking, like a massive creaking. I thought maybe a bottom bracket bearing had blown up. Turned out my crank arm was loose and about to fall off, it was an easy fix, but I should have checked it out the night before.
I just want to throw a shout out to Moe, the man with the plan. Moe planned out the route, then made changes in direction to account for the incredible wind. These changes turned what could have been an incredibly horrible section on the levee into a fun one. It’s no easy thing to be the ride leader. Early in the ride we had to make some tough decisions. There were a couple riders behind us, but after about a 15 minute wait we hadn’t seen them, these guys were unknowns but I don’t think they were anywhere close to being capable of the ride. When you see a guy on a full suspension bike with his seat about 6 inches too low there’s a good chance he’s not going to make it. Moe wanted to stay and wait for these guys, even though we had no idea if they were even coming. I hate to say it but we talked him out of it.
So long story short, another epic gravel ride in the books, no wrecks, the worst mechanicals were a few flat tires, everyone came out with at least one awesome story and everyone got their moneys worth!