The MTBVT team would like to introduce you to Mark Tucker. He’s a lover of all things two-wheeled with a home base in Vermont’s idyllic Northeast Kingdom. Look for him to start regularly contributing his written work and gorgeous photos to the site soon. For now, enjoy this re-post of his 2013 Gravel Grinder recap from his personal blog Singlespeed Slogging. All words and photos, credit: Mark Tucker
I got out of bed this morning to find the ground covered in snow. Not a great start to the day when you’re planning on spending most of it on the bike. Still, I got myself moving (slowly) and found my way to Waterbury in a reasonable amount of time to register and gear up before the ride. It really was going to be a gorgeous day even though it wasn’t warm.
The logo for the Gravel Grinder strikes me as more and more funny every time I see it.
I rode this event last year and had a great time. In previous incarnations, the Gravel Grinder was run by the folks at Bike29. Since the owner has moved across the country, the Stowe Mountain Bike Club has taken over management of this event. They did a pretty good job keeping things running smoothly and proving some consistenty with last year’s ride.
We rolled out around 9am. Some people didn’t get the message and were still in the parking lot with their car trunks open. No names will be mentioned. If there was a pre-ride meeting, I missed it entirely. The wind was really brutally cold and I waffled quite a bit on what to wear and how many layers to put on. I decided to go light adding just a windbreaker and some leg warmers. It worked out well with the only drawback being that I got cold pretty quickly when we stopped moving. My nose started running (as usual) before we left and continued the entire day. Enough about the cold…
Don’t ask about the rear cog. It’s an awkward subject.
I rode the black Jabber with some less aggressive tires mounted. My 32:18 gearing was perfect for the course – it’s actually the perfect gearing for every course since it’s the only gearing I have. Dave Tremblay dusted off his single-speed for the day so we stuck together for the entire ride. Quite a few other friends showed up; it was like a mini Ludlow bike reunion with Dave R., Joe, and Russ along for the ride. Bob didn’t make it but Wil did this time. We separated out and regrouped several times during the morning, not with any coherent plan – it just worked out that way. I managed to repress my deep seated, compulsive instincts to pass anyone in front of me that I possibly can and just enjoyed the relaxed, non-competitive nature of the ride. It wasn’t easy but I think I pulled it off.
There was less booze and no Twizzlers or chocolate covered bacon this year. There were still plenty of snacks to go around. I would strongly recommend bringing back the Twizzlers for next year.
The actual route was changed quite a bit from last year’s ride. There were parts ofthe course that were a little difficult to follow if you weren’t watching closely for the markers or tire tracks. It was made up mostly of typical Vermont tertiary roads with a good deal of vertical gain thrown in early on. We had one covered bridge to ride through and a nice section of class-4 road that was half frozen and half mud. There was enough variety to keep things interesting. This year we stayed off of Route 100 entirely which was a much appreciated improvement. I still spent quite a bit of time unsure of where I was as I am often directionally challenged.
Typical horrid Vermont views such as this could be willfully ignored all along the route.
No group ride is complete without a roadside mechanical. I think Dave answered the long standing question: how many links can you break and still create a functional chain?
Who has a chain tool?
Some parts were a little hilly.
One of the really frustrating things about living in Vermont is that it’s somewhat hard to find good Mexican food. When we returned to Waterbury Frida’s served up some great burritos for lunch. Long Trail had some pint glasses and fluids to fill them with too. My camera’s battery died so I have no more pictures from the day but we had a great time hanging out, hiding from the cold wind and eating together.
Another offensive Vermont panorama.