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How I'm Preparing for the Mammoth Gravel Classic

First, let me say that even though I've owned a Trek Cross Rip for more than two years, gravel was not my friend.Clement's  X-Plor MSO 700 X 40cc and headed out in search of some gravel.

 Nearly all of my riding was either for transportation or long distance touring and so I rode with narrow tires choosing the most direct route on pavement.  Then two weeks ago knowing that I'd want to join others in the Mammoth Gravel Classic, I put on some

Even before I got to the gravel, I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the Clements on just regular pavement.  I expected them to be terribly sluggish, but with the design of closely spaced chevrons in the center ridge, the rolling resistance was not that much greater than a quality road tire. But wow, when I finally hit the gravel, it was as if I had discovered an entirely new sport! What fun! What control! And how nice to be on a road where I didn't have to concern myself with cars flying by at 70 mph! Since then I can't seem to stay away from gravel and even joined a group for a 94 mile overnight gravel ride.

So of course I'm excited about the Mammoth Gravel Classic on Saturday (tomorrow!).  And like everyone else who visits this website, I want to make sure I have the best experience possible, which means preparing for the conditions and having the right gear.  Here is what I am going to make sure I have:

BIKE/TIRES

I'll be using my Cross Rip for the 70 mile route, but any bike that is equipped with 40 cc tires or wider should be able to perform adequately through the sand and gravel in the barrons.  For those planning on doing the 35 mile tour, no special bike or tires are necessary. However, this time of the year the crushed limestone surface is still a bit soft and even under the best conditions something in the 32 cm or wider range will perform better than narrower tires. BEST for 70 or 100 mile route: Gravel bike (Boone, Cross Rip, Lorax); SUITABLE: Any light weight mountain bike (hardtail better than suspension) or fitness bike (e.g.,FX 3); LESS DESIRABLE: Fatbike.  NOT RECOMMENDED: Any bike with tires less than 40 cc (unless you are doing the 35 mile option)

RAIN GEAR
Yes we have the O2 raingear -- an assortment of sizes! 
The forecast keeps changing but right now it looks like there will be some rain later in the day. You'll want to have the right clothing to stay dry and comfortable. As we like to say, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad equipment.  Wednesday night when I headed home from work it was raining pretty hard and I must admit that at first I was a little grumpy and a little cold but after only a few miles I was warm and happy and stayed that way all the way home for the next 15 miles. The fact that I had both a rain coat and rain pants made a big difference.  The nice thing about  rain gear today is it is extremely lightweight and breathable but still keeps you dry!

I like the Bontrager rain jackets as they will get you through even the heaviest rains.  For rain pants I have been very impressed with the Minneapolis based company O2 product.  They also make a jacket we sell but I haven't tried that yet.  But the pants are quite affordable and unlike most rain pants I've tried, they did not leave me drenched in sweat! The microfiber truly is breathable and yet, no water gets through! A pair of bike shorts under the rain pants is the perfect combination for our spring rains.

For the same reason, I like using just a simple merino wool base layer with a rain jacket. Even if the wool gets a little wet from sweat from an uphill climb, it won't result in a nasty chill later in the day when you are working less hard or speeding down a hill. A regular cycling jersey under the rain jacket should also work okay for the warmer temps that are predicted for Saturday.

Keeping shoes and socks dry can be a bigger problem for longer rides.  The cheapest solution is to not worry so much about the shoes, and just keep socks dry by using bread bags as liners between the socks and shoes. But you can also buy waterproof socks (although we don't sell them) or special coverings for your shoes.

In any case, having an extra pair of dry socks (again, wool is best for summer and winter) makes sense as well as a dry shirt packed away.  Which brings us to the next discussion item...

BAGS FOR CARRYING SUPPLIES

For overnight trips I have always relied on a rack and panniers or even a trailer.  But for a day ride, less is more, and clearly the best method to carry what you need is a handy frame bag. Frame bags come in many sizes to fit all sizes of bikes and allow easy access to snacks, phone, wallet, and yes, even those dry socks we talked about. Seat bags are another nice option.  What we don't recommend are back packs. Let your bike support the extra weight, not your body!

PHONE HOLDERS/ CUE SHEETS

If you rely on your phone for GPS or any mapping software, you will definitely want a way to safely secure it to your bike, as well as a water proof cover for it.  Speaking of water proof covers.... what about those cue sheets you may need to rely on?  Rain and even sweat can ruin your copy in quick order.  To prevent it from becoming a soggy mess, consider finding a place to laminate the cue sheet in advance of Saturday or if that's not an easy option, bring along a zip lock bag.  (We do have 200 cue sheets printed for the ride -- but just on regular paper).

WATER / FOOD

As we have been clear from day one, the Mammoth Gravel Classic is not a race, it's not even an event! Hence, there are no aid stations that you can rely on.  Bring your own water and snacks!

That being said, we do have our favorite places to stop and refuel and socialize.  Below are some of my personal favorites:

Grantsburg Mo Joe (for the 100 mile only)

Great coffee and homemade bakery goods; need I say more? Formerly known as the Wake-up Call Cafe at 675 State Road 70 next to the gas station.  36.1 miles from beginning.

Cafe Wren (for all routes)

Always the most popular stopping point, Cafe Wren caters to bicyclists and other outdoor silent sport enthusiast with organic coffee, amazing homemade soups and sandwiches, and delicious baked goods. The place was completely packed last year.  Mile 85.8 for the 100 milers; Mile  47 for the 70ers and Mile 17 for the 35 milers.

Natural Alternative Food Coop (all routes) 241 S. Main Street

Also in Luck, the food coop is a good excuse to see downtown Luck! If you are looking for things like bananas, gourmet chocolate bars, bulk nuts and all kinds of beverages (kombucha, coconut water and even a six pack or bottle of wine) the coop has it! And no, you don't need to be a member to shop. A very friendly and progressive place to get what you need without delays!

And once  you are back in St. Croix Falls, well there are many good choices to relax and have a beer or some good food to eat. Check out the Mammoth Gravel Classic website for more details!

One last word:  Please remember that parking on main street is best left to short term patrons. SO PLEASE DO NOT PARK ON MAIN STREET!  Lots of places around town, and of course with a bike, you can be flexible!  See you bright and early!!!





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