We've teamed up with the co-founder of Dirty Freehub, Kevin English, to give you the expert advice on what you need to succeed at the Oregon Gravel Grinder Series events. From recommendations on tire size, what to ride, and how to take on the event if you are going to race, ride it, or touring is more your speed.
GORGE GRAVEL GRINDER
Big Grinder Ride Distance 93 mi Total Gravel 55.2 mi Total Elevation 7330 ft
Tire Recommendation: 40 mm (if wet and soft, 45 mm if bike frame allows)
Gearing: 1:1 if a strong climber, .9 if need a bit more help.
If seriously racing, on the high side want a gear that can pedal at 30+ mph.
This course is ~ 60% gravel.
FOR THE RACER
If I was racing this, I would ride my Salsa Warbird with 40 mm tires, geared at about 0.9 on the low side. Something like 31/34. For the high side, I would have a 46/11.
Tire pressures: 31 psi rear, 27 psi font. I run CushCore.
Think of this course in 3 blocks. The fast start, the crux, and the hang on.
Miles 3 to 13 you need to hang on, it will be a tough and demanding start. Uphill and gravel.
Miles 13 to 32 you should be able to stay with the group as it is mostly downhill. But the first part of the downhill is steep and on gravel, do not let yourself get too far off the back. Once you hit the pavement it is fast and furious.
Miles 32 to 58 are the crux. A series of undulating, but upwards rollers followed by a long climb that is open and exposed. If it is windy, find a group to work with. When you see the power lines you will think the climb is over, but it remains deceptively rolling. Find a group to work with!
At mile 58 you return to pavement. From here to mile 80 it rolls, but not severely. This is not the place to make a move, but it is the place to work your competition. Make it hard!
Miles 80 to 88 are gravel, if you are still in a group, this is where you need to go. Go at mile 80. There will be a couple of steep pitches where you should be able to break free. At mile 88 you are back on pavement and it will be a sprint finish.
FOR THE TOURER
If I was touring this, I would change the tires out to 45 mm, lower my gearing to .85 and not worry so much about the high-end gearing (I can always coast a bit). Tire pressures: 30 psi rear, 26 psi font. I run CushCore.
Miles 3 to 32. Be careful not to go out too hard and too fast, I would temper my effort a bit. It is easy to put out too much effort in the beginning and suffer a lot in the end.
Miles 32 to 45 I would start to identify riders that I could work with. Who is riding my same speed and style? If you don’t find somebody to work with here, it will be a long solo ride in. (Did I say long?).
Miles 46 to 53 is the climb proper. Find a gear that you work comfortably for the next 7 miles. If it is windy, find a group to work with. The more elevation you gain, the windier it will become.
Miles 54 to 84, you want a partner to work with. It is rolling and undulating. 1900 feet of gain, 2100 feet of loss. It is exposed.
Miles 85 to finish. It is mostly downhill and if needed you can grunt it in. Again, I would prefer to work with a partner, especially when you hit the pavement at mile 88.5
Check out more racing and riding advice on the other distances and Oregon Gravel Series events on the Dirty Intel page here.