The Chainlink

By Eric Alexander

This will be my fourth time riding in this event. If you would like more information, visit their website, . In a way, it is the kick off to my season of events I will do this year. With it being so early in the season it usually is a tough ride. Regardless of how many miles you have on the trainer in the winter, the first real test is outside with real hills and wind. 


I decided to head up the night before to hang out at the farm that is the start of the race and camp. I just completed putting together a cold weather camping set up, and with it dropping into the thirties at night gave me the perfect opportunity to test it out. I arrived and set up there were three others that had the same plan. The set up I used worked great - I was not cold and got a good nights rest. I will go into detail about my set up in a future article now that I have it figured out and bike packing season is upon us.

I chose to ride my go-to bike, the TwinSix Standard Rando. In the past, on these type of self-supported rides, in most cases I've overpacked with gear for fear of getting stranded. Recently, I've been rethinking my set up to be more streamlined and lighter to help with climbing. I loaded up the bike with 2 Revalate stem bags one for food and one to store clothes in as I warmed up during the ride. The rest of the on-bike-supplies consist of a frame pump, 2 tubes, and a multitool. I used three 24-ounce bottles, two with water and one with Carborocket powder.



The start is the same every year - five minutes before nine in the morning everyone heads to the corner of the farm for a few words from Mark and the "go" horn sounds.  My main riding partner, Kelly was not feeling great so she decided to stay home this year.  With Kelly not there, my ride plan resorted back to the way I did this type of ride before she gained interest. I try to go as hard as I can at the start until I start dropping off and then settle into my own pace and find someone to ride with.  I settled in with a friend, Joel about ten miles in. I was getting warm and tried to pull off a arm warmer but failed to place it in the bag and had to stop and pick it up. As I stopped, Joel thought I was the third guy in the group and continued on. After that happened, I tried to hop in with a group of three riders to work back up but to no avail. Around mile eighteen there was a rest stop and I was able to catch up to Joel. Shortly after the rest stop, I started to experience problems with my shifter we stopped, looked at it, hit it a few times, and tried to blow out any debris that may have been stuck in it and it started to work again.  As we peddled on, I was quickly realizing the fast pace at the start took a toll on my legs. I’m not one to be afraid to let others know if I need to slow and never expect others to slow so.  I let Joel know I was going to back it down a notch and if he wanted he should jump on with the group that just passed us.  He said he was going to pace back with me but that only lasted till that group was about out of sight then he decided to go ahead and ride with them before it was too late.  Now being solo, I settled in, was starting to get comfortable and set my pace knowing I had about 50 miles to go. Shortly after Joel splits, I turn a corner and notice his bike flipped over and two people helping him fix the bike. I guess what had happen was that while following a rider in the group he didn't see a rut in the road and caught the edge of his tire and crashed.  He was pretty banged up and so was the bike. It had broken derailleur hanger so they were shortening the chain and making it into a single speed. He would go on with one gear and complete the event with my arm warmer on to stop the bleeding. Shortly after Joel’s crash we reached the official checkpoint and a number of us regrouped. After a short break to fill bottles and eat some gummy bears, I left with a group of about five other riders. We were going along at a good pace but the shifter problem had returned and this time there was no roadside fix. I was able to shift into a middle gear on the cassette so that I could still climb but it limited my speed on flat ground and on descents. Soon after this happen I fell off the groups pace and was solo again. Knowing it was going to take me a bit longer to finish, I was ok with the pace and the gear I was in because shit happens and it’s not like I’m “racing” so my goal was to finish without having any more issues with my bike. With about 10 miles to go I was able to catch up to Bob and Kristina from The Stay Rad Adventure Team and ride the rest of the distance in their company. 

The end of the ride is really the reason you go to do the Grumpy Grind. Tables full of food a bucket full of Coors Light and picnic tables full of great people to share stories with. You also receive a mug if you are one of the first 50 finishers.

About the author:
Eric Alexander is The Chainlink's gravel and adventure contributor. We first encountered Eric a few years back on the final stretch of a particularly windy, cold, and rainy gravel ride called the Dirty Mudd'r. Since then, he's proven time and time again, when the going gets tough and you're deep into a difficult day in the saddle, he's definitely someone you want pedaling by your side. Eric participates/competes in various endurance riding events as a member of Team Twin Six.

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