Guest Post by Martin Criminale: pre-riding the GRiT L course

Wow, this is an amazing course! So glad to have friends that were up for sharing this experience.

The GRiT is a gravel race in the Teanaway just behind Cle Elum, WA. It’s billed as an “adventure gravel ride” and in my opinion, it sure lives up to its claim. This course was designed by and the event is promoted by Off-Camber Productions who also promote the MFG Cyclocross Series and the Wednesday Night World Championships Mountain Bike Series.

There are three distances, Medium, Large, and XL. We rode the L course and although it’s just over 45 miles, this was a full day and took us almost five hours at a moderate pace with just a few short stops to take pictures and to check the route at intersections.

At 9:00 AM Greg Kauper, John Phillips, Nikos Mills and I started out on this “lollipop” course.

The hard parts of this course are the three major climbs.

  • The first one comes right out of the gate and is heading out on the stick of the lollipop and was super steep so I never had the energy to take my hands off the bars to take a picture. 🙂
  • The second one is in the first half of the loop/body of the lollipop and is not quite as steep and is a little smoother (fewer washboard) too.
  • The third climb is the return trip on the stick of the lollipop and is the most fun. Assuming you still have the energy to enjoy it of course. And assuming it’s not a really dry day would turn this climb into a giant sandbox. Greg described our conditions as “hero sand” which it really was. It had rained some in the previous days so we had awesome traction and never spun our rear wheels.

The fun parts of this course are:

  • The first descent. So good! You head down a short stretch of dirt road and then turn right into the woods. From here to the bottom it’s mostly doubletrack, singletrack, and FUN. You are also in the woods so it’s not quite as exposed as the rest of the course. At the bottom of this descent, you cross a creek which is a good source of water in case you need it. I do recommend filtering.
  • The second descent. Even better! Is that possible…?! The first part is steep but then it’s mostly gradual with lots of water bars, tiny creek crossings, eroded trails, and lush green meadows. You really need to pay attention here as some of the dips and bumps are bigger than you think so don’t let it rip.
  • The views! If the skies are clear, you can see for miles in every direction.

The dangerous parts of this course are:

  • All the water troughs. Be careful as you approach these as some only have a very narrow section of rideable trail that goes around them and some will require you to get off and walk your bike as the transition at the bottom of the trough is too sudden to ride.
  • The last descent! Be warned, this is very steep and you’ll be tempted to let go of the brakes on the straight sections but each corner invariable has some washboards and my heart rate spiked more than once when my rear tired locked up as I got air off of a bump. Also, the last part of the descent is paved so you feel like you have ultimate traction but some of the corners are sharp. Watch out.

This is truly a ride for a GoPro. Too bad I left mine at home. 🙁 Here are some of the highlights.

One of the many creeks we crossed.

One of the more aggressive “dips” in the trail.

“Now where does that trail go again…? The route says straight ahead.”

Bike porn.

Getting some water before the last climb.

Singletrack baby! It’s not just for mountain bikes anymore.

Here are all my pictures and videos.

Nutrition

Gear

  • Thesis OB1 AXS
  • Gearing – I used a 42/52 low gear and would not want to try this course with anything bigger. I run a 1x drivetrain with a 42-tooth chainring and a 10-52 cassette.
  • Tires – I ran 650x48mm Rene Herse Switchback Hill tires at 25 psi and would recommend at least 45mm tires. There were four of us, two others had 650×2.1″ tires and one had 700x38mm tires but 1) our pace was only moderate and 2) this person’s rims are wide and 3) we had perfect conditions/traction. If it’s hot and dry 38mm tires will get swallowed by the sand. Or you’ll flat. Or it will be an incredibly uncomfortable day in the saddle.
  • I only carried two large bottles but filled one before the last climb. One of us drank two big bottles and a 70oz reservoir they carried on their back. If it’s hot, bring a filter and perhaps bring a third bottle or pack.
  • I almost never take my fenders off but for this ride, I kept bending the front one when I tried to ride over logs. My front tire would clear the log but then the lower part of the fender would catch it and bend back. 🙁 I recommend not using fenders for this ride because of all the obstacles even though it’s nice to keep the mud off. Or just walk your bike over every log.
  • Garmin fenix 6 GPS watch

My personal website: https://martin.criminale.com/

Here is my Ride with GPS route.