The Velo ORANGE Weblog: GRUSK

by Connor

        About two months in the past, my fiancée and I took a street journey down from DC to Seneca Rocks to camp for a weekend. West Virginia, for these of you who have not been, is totally attractive, and is undoubtedly probably the most (if not probably the most) stunning states on the east coast. I feel all of it comes right down to how undeveloped and untouched many of the state is – no sprawling cityscapes, no mile vast highways, and no McDonald’s each 2 miles. Fairly actually, the state is so coated in rolling hills and mountain ranges, it could by no means have the ability to be developed almost as a lot because it’s extra suburbanized East-coast neighbors like Virginia and Maryland. 

        On this journey, we ended up taking a detour from Seneca Rocks to hike off the summit of Spruce Knob, the best level in West Virginia, and the tallest mountain for tons of of miles round. Upon our return to the lot, I seen a son and his father completely struggling on their street bikes up the final stretch of the climb to the height, and I assumed to myself “that appears like no enjoyable, I am undecided I might ever come down right here to do this.”

…lower to this weekend.

        I signed up for the GRUSK (Gravel Race Up Spruce Knob) on a whim a couple of month in the past, proper earlier than registration closed. I wasn’t certain concerning the course profile, however I knew I wished to do the usual 82-mile occasion and I knew I wished to race within the single-speed class. I arrived in Circleville very late within the night time on Friday, and crawled my method up the rocky mountain street as much as the Spruce Knob Mountain Middle, a privately-owned outside studying and tenting space. 

        One factor to notice when you plan on racing this occasion – convey a truck. Or an SUV. Or something however a Volkswagen Golf. The roads up the mountain have been on no account paved and I scraped the underside of my automobile a number of instances on the best way up. The tenting/parking areas have been mowed fields, and as I slowly rolled alongside the rows of automobiles already parked for the night time. I bottomed out my automobile on a rut and acquired it caught on a hump within the discipline. I then spent the subsequent 10 minutes or so waking the complete campground late at night time attempting to get un-stuck, burning up my clutch, and finally breaking free after somewhat assist from an aggravated neighbor. I acquired my tent arrange, and hoped the subsequent morning can be much less bleak. What i woke to far exceeded my expectations;

        The rolling foothills of West Virginia greeted me with a cool breeze and honest skies, telling me that I might, in actual fact, have an incredible day in any case. I managed to maneuver my automobile to a much less treacherous a part of the sphere nearer to the beginning space, and brewed up some espresso despatched our method from our mates at Ruby Roasters out in Wisconsin. The brand new pattern of instant-coffee steeping sachets appears somewhat gimmicky, however it beats the hell out of coping with the mess of a French press or the like. To not point out it makes a rattling fantastic cup of espresso.

        One factor that actually stands out about this occasion is how well-supported it was, and the way concerned the race organizers and volunteers have been within the proceedings from begin to end. The venue was a pleasant little tucked away hangout on a close-by part of the property, and acted as a great gathering place for race begins. It was an incredible spot for people to convene with fellow riders as they crossed the end line and made a beeline for the beer line. Individuals have been hanging out, chatting, recalling race tales from days of yore, and coming again to cheer on finishers crossing that line.

        Lastly, 10am rolled round, and after a moderated rolling begin out of the campground, the race was on. A comparatively double file line took a tough flip proper and exploded into an all-out dash down the primary descent. Bottles getting jostled free flew to the aspect of the street, the sounds of punctured tubeless tires whirring within the distance and shouts throughout. The course profile actually appears quite tame on paper: 

And that 2000ft climb to the summit appears to be like pretty prolonged and intimidating, however the hardest elements have been truly the quick, steep, punchy climbs. My 42-18 gear ratio was method too tall, and I spun out on the downhill sections in any case, so I possible might’ve run a 40-20, or a 36-17. That flat part within the center was nice and I used to be hauling for many of it, however as quickly as I hit these shorter punches up, I acquired to the purpose the place I nearly could not bodily flip the gear over. Hindsight’s 20/20, I suppose.


        Jammed in between these few difficult areas, nonetheless, have been dozens of miles of rolling hills, quick and free gravel descents, farm roads and shady forest service roads. There actually wasn’t a mile on this race that wasn’t surrounded by a sprawling nature-scape. If you happen to did not lookup now and again, you’d miss the fantastic thing about all of it. This was solely compounded by the nice perspective shared by everybody out within the discipline. Feedback of disbelief and assist for one of many 5 single speeders out on the course have been plentiful, and my VO-spec’d-out Nature Boy was the focal point at each relaxation cease and the miles in between. I can actually say this race had the “happiest” general perspective amongst its members of any biking occasion I’ve ever been to. There was nonetheless a aggressive air about it, however everybody wished everybody else to do their perfect and end. I get the sense that this will likely have been because of the variety of separate fields accessible at registration. Fairly than only a “males’s open” and a “girls’s open,” there have been in all probability half a dozen classes every, and some different odds and ends like single-speed courses. Extra alternatives for podiums, extra enjoyable to share, extra like to go round. 

        One downside of not having the summit be the finale of the race is when you get your self to the highest, you actually haven’t got time to understand the views. I imply, you do, however you are in a race and also you simply watched the particular person one place forward of you fly again down the mountain within the different route as you completed your climb, and you’ll’t waste time for a photo-op. Logistically, I perceive it is clearly not a great place to complete a race, however you’ll be able to’t assist however really feel somewhat robbed of the chance to understand the unimaginable views of the encompassing mountains and valleys. 

        After completely dogging myself to get to the height, maybe the largest problem of the day laid earlier than me; staying awake for the 8-mile descent off the summit to the ultimate climb into the end. The ultimate punch within the intestine is the final 2 miles as much as the campground, adopted by a bumpy, rocky, rutted out taped off track to the end line. The meals was nonetheless heat and the beer was chilly, what extra can I say? I completed fifth within the single pace class out of 5, which implies I concurrently podiumed and completed DFL. Nonetheless, the congratulations and assist from strangers have been plentiful, and it simply appeared like everybody was there to rejoice finishers irrespective of the place they placed- an environment any bike occasion organizer might attempt to realize, and one Travis did a hell of a job establishing. 

Gear Spherical Up:

        After having Sunday to get better and evaluate notes concerning the race as an entire and my bike, I had a couple of issues to notice that I discovered mentionable.

        Daija Cycleworks Far Bar (and Splash Tape!)

This handlebar was completely the star of the present for me. Using single-speed typically requires extra leverage throughout climbs and accelerations while you’re standing up, to supply a wider grip and serving to to counter stability up steeper sections. Moreover, the flat area on the underside of the shallow drop supplied a spectacular quantity of management at excessive speeds on free terrain. To not point out the quite a few different hand positions the bar gives, one thing I got here to understand on a 6+ hour experience.
The Splash tape supplied a supple, cushioned grip that did not sop up moisture from my arms and gloves, and stayed grippy all day. It is available in different colours however…why would not you get Splash?

Velo Orange Zeste Cantilever Brakes

Providing greater than sufficient stopping energy and about as a lot modulation as you can count on out of a set of cantilever brakes, the Zeste brakes paired with the Dia Compe straddle hanger carried out flawlessly all through the day, nearly being too stop-y at instances. I might advocate them for any cantilever bike, and I am going to completely be operating these within the coming ‘cross season.

        Velo Orange Touring Saddle (and pictured lengthy setback seatpost)

As I discussed in my final put up about commuting on this bike, I have been using our VO Touring saddle to and from work, a pair days per week for the final month. I hadn’t but had an opportunity to experience it for for much longer than an hour at a time, so I used to be uncertain about how my rear finish would really feel after half a day of getting jostled round on this factor. It supplied loads of cushion and was very forgiving within the bumpier sections, whereas not being too vast or feeling like a “conventional” touring saddle. I might put this on any considered one of my bikes. To not point out simply how fairly that lengthy setback put up is- when you’re contemplating one, I promise you will not remorse it.

Velo Orange Retro Bottle Cage

I am going to say that the retro cage was the one factor to trigger me any hassle throughout this experience. On the very begin, I did hit one or two minor-moderate bumps within the street by chance and the bottle in my seat tube cage promptly shot out of there like a rocket. This did not occur for the remainder of the race, however I did need to run again and seize my bottle, costing me valuable seconds. I favored how easy and stylish the tab-less variations appeared, which is why I selected them, however I maybe might have benefited from operating the variations with retainer tabs– simply one thing to think about when you’re taking a look at cages and should hit roads lower than good. The moderniste cages would even have been a sensible choice.

The Sum-Up

        This yr’s GRUSK was in all probability my favourite organized biking occasion I have been to in a couple of years, second solely possibly to a handful of ‘cross races. The venue was clear, unfold out, quiet and spacious. There have been amenities in every quadrant of the tenting areas, and dorm/yurt choices have been accessible when you wished to spring for that. As there was no mobile protection on the mountain, the lodge on the property supplied wifi, and folk have been greater than keen to reply questions and get you in the precise route. The race organizers, officers, and volunteers did an incredible job internet hosting and supporting the occasion (these have been a number of the greatest run support stations I’ve ever seen), and the course was spectacular. My solely criticism was that within the 4 days previous to the race, Travis despatched out 6 emails with about as a lot data as you can presumably want concerning the logistics of the occasion, however he failed to say how tough the street up and down was, and the way poorly marked the tenting areas have been. I am certain it is regular down there to come across gravel roads each day, however I met individuals who traveled in from throughout, and I used to be not alone in my shock at how tough the entry was to the venue. So! All I am going to say is, take an SUV, do not take your Golf. Mine is at the moment within the store after busting an oil leak from a type of rocks I ran over on the best way out. 

        I am going to possible be going again subsequent yr (with both a special ratio or a geared bike), and I might advocate it to anybody in search of a reasonably tough problem. Gravel racing is beginning to choose up extra recognition yearly, and it is encouraging to see this sort of pleasant and good-natured setting be the muse for an additional department of biking.


Journalist specialized in online marketing as Social Media Manager. I help professionals and companies to become more Internet and online reputation, which allows to give life to the Social Media Strategies defined for the Company, and thus immortalize brands, products and services. I have participated as an exhibitor in various forums nationally and internationally, I am the author of several articles in digital magazines and Blogs.

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