You know those days in January, when the freezing fog is hanging out, for days? Coffee helps, just a little (ok, maybe, a lot). You can escape up to the top of your favorite local coastal (or cascade) mountain to find it sunny and 65 degrees. It’s a special kind of winter doldrum, one not completely unique to living in Oregon’s beautiful Willamette Valley, but during the month of January, it is the most common kind of day.
It was around this time last January that someone sent me a note about this silly gravel race, The Crusher in the Tushar; where nothing is easy (ok, probably just, mostly, umm, breathing the air). This coming Saturday, 600 people will toe the line in Beaver, Utah. This mostly gravel-road “race” starts at about ~6,000 foot elevation of Beaver, Utah, and finishes up at some location that doesn’t really matter, aside from it’s elevation at 10,344 feet. The event boasts 10,000+ feet of climbing in only 69 miles. So, of course I email a good friend, Rusty Dodge, from Bellingham, Washington. He’s a true hard-man. Since I moved back to Oregon in 2011, he and I have been pretty good at meeting up for some kind of rad bike adventure at least once per year. His almost immediate response was, “Let’s do it!”. It’s a huge pain in the butt to get to middle-of-nowhere, Utah, but I figure if I don’t get a haircut for the whole year I can save some pennies and make it happen. Done. Big Hair Summer 2014! I reply to Rusty with my registration confirmation email.
The bike choice is part of the fun in preparing for this race. One of the unique things about this race is how steep and long the climbs are. The grades call for mountain bike: gearing but the roads are still “roads”, albeit, gravel ones. Some people race mountain bikes, some on cyclocross bikes with a variety of tires. On the event website they have some advice about bike choice, “Welcome to the Crusher! The only race in the world that let’s you choose your weapon with only one guarantee… at some point you’ll be very, very wrong!”
The bike decision for me was easy! Gravel road riding is one of my favorite ways to ride a bicycle (aside from mountain biking, DUH and/or HELLO!). This Kona Major Jake and I have ridden some serious single-track together, and, of course, plenty of gravel and paved roads. The bike’s beauty is in the simplicity. It’s not fancy, it’s designed to function among the best. Period. And it does. Decision: Cyclocross bike!
Highlights of the bike that could be seen as Crusher-related:
Easy gear of 39×36 (thanks Sram x9 mountain bike derailleur!)
32c Panaracer Pasela tires (been through some seriously rowdy riding on these bad boy tires)
Challenge latex tubes (3x less likely to pinch flat)
ESI bar wrap (so expensive but worth every penny)
Stainless King Cages! (because dropping bottles is unacceptable when there’s no reason to!)
Honorable Mention: 10+ year old Chris King hubset. (Honestly, they still function like new!)