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May 28, 2018

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Hunt of the North Event 

Episode Transcript (Automated, please forgive any errors) 

All right folks, this is an exciting day at the gravel ride podcast. I've got a really a meeting of the minds of two west coast gravel empires here. We've got Dave Malwitz from Gravelstoke out of San Diego and yours truly, Craig Dalton from The Gravel Ride out of Marin County, California.

So Dave, thanks for joining us today.

Thanks so much for having me. Yeah, absolutely good connect. Yeah, that's fun. I mean we connected over instagram I guess originally and I think we both started our kind gonna respective gravel empires, if you will, around the same time in January this year. Yeah, I think we're taking over basically the whole west coast gravel scene basically at this point. Yeah. Let's start every, every podcast by asking Kinda how you got into the sport of gravel bed. Start with more of a mountain bike or road background.

My background really started more mountain biking, got my first mountain bike probably in college, so did mostly mountain biking. Got My first road bike when I moved to California, moved to Thousand Oaks area, which is kinda between LA and Santa Barbara, which has a really good road biking scene with the Santa Monica Mountains. So I lived there two years, had like an old Trek bike, but it was really great for just what I was doing. Then it was about, that was kind of ready for a new, a new road bike. And that was 12. Yeah, because I moved to San Diego so it was kind of more interested in like a cyclocross bike at the time, but I wasn't too keen on getting something with like a rim brake because a lot of the bikes at the time I think still had the caliber caliber caliper brakes. Pretty much it was right around then that companies were starting to make gravel bikes. Um, and I think I got that my diverge. So that was the bike ended up getting in like 2014.

Was there something about San Diego County that screamed like, Hey, I can get off road on one of these bikes.

So I was doing mountain biking and then I was with my road bike, I still had, I was commuting with a 15 mile commute. It's a little bit much to do mountain biking, but I still, you know, mainly what my interest was to trails. So I kinda liked the idea of getting a, a road bike that had capability of doing something more interesting to make my ride, you know, my commute more fun. Plus like I had no problem at the time. I remember like having a disc brake was kind of weird. Like I think some people are still like, oh that's weird, that's not cool. And even like bigger tires, like the skinnier the tire you had, the cooler you or something, you know, I'm not a a roadie by any means. The kind of what I was picking up on. But for me I just was interested in having a good time on a bike and it made total sense to me to do disc with something with bigger tires. So I ended up getting the diverge, which was the best gravel bike really at the time. A lot of the other ones were kind of weird looking, something was kind of off about them. So that's still the bike I have today.

So it sounds like just getting into that bike and making that choice was what opened up just a ton of different terrain for in a lot of different writing. Yeah. So that was,

but two or three. Yeah, three plus years ago now. Even at the time I really didn't know what it was capable of doing. I mean that's, I mean even more recent until recently is when I'm really starting to explore what these bikes can do and the types of rides you can do. Um, so what I find super interesting is the, the rides that we're doing in San Diego, North county right now, you really have to have a gravel bike, uh, to do these rides. I mean there's occasionally somebody comes out with a hardtail mountain bike. You could even do it on road bike, but really the gravel bike really hits that sweet spot where, you know, if we're doing half road or even, you know, something like 20 percent road or something, you really want to have something that can keep up on those roads sections and then, you know, have a good time on dirt.

So you got to sample a little bit of Marin County riding with me today and I was explaining how we have a lot of ups and downs here and not a lot of flat dirt roads. How does it compare to what you normally ride in the North County?

Well, first of all do. That was fun. Really Fun ride. I had no idea you guys had that much dirt. That was really nice in this area. Uh, I've done, uh, just one other ride in Marin and that was with, you know, road ride, which is a lot of fun, but it just seemed like today. I mean it was everywhere you looked. There was a different like dirt road somewhere that you could explore and there's like nobody out here, so. Yeah, this is sweet. You're lucky to have this.

Yeah, I'm glad you liked it. I mean I, I feel really blessed that we can live together a lot of contiguous dirt and not actually have to hit the road so we can stay off road plenty of times. And then when you do add the road component to it, that's when I find you can really extend out that both the duration and the riding distance and the types of terrain you can get to around here because if we, if we use some of the roads to get further north towards Fairfax and up that direction, a little bit more rugged trails that we could get on. Um, but you can literally connect them all right from my door, which was, which is a hell of a lot of fun.

Yeah. It's super nice to be able to just use the road to your advantage if you want to explore a different area.

Yeah. So finding that bike and sort of tackling that terrain and then fast forward a couple of years you decided to start gravel stoke and cover the industry and really start to provide both a resource for people investigating sport, but also creating opportunities for group rides down in San Diego. I mean that's a real service to the industry. What made you decide to kind of go that route and start bringing people together?

I've kind of been watching what's been happening with gravel obviously. I mean, you know, myself and a lot of my friends, we really enjoy those rides and a lot of what exists right now currently, as you know, there's obviously the equipment side and then there's the events. We just had the Belgian waffle ride, which isn't really technically a gravel grinder by any means. I mean it's mostly road, uh, but a fair amount of challenging dirt. Yeah. So ice kind of saw an opportunity to create something from my perspective as a consumer and someone who consumes a lot of, you know, media, whether it's blogs or podcasts like yours. Great job. By the way, really enjoying what you're doing. I basically created something that was, uh, something that I would want to go visit and be a part of a.

So fortunately, you know, I've been creating something that people are attracted to and it's resonating with people and it wasn't even really that I was targeting San Diego. In fact, my intention wasn't actually to be a local thing at all. I wanted to just kind of start capturing products and, you know, different goods, whether it's bikes or, or events that are existing out there and kind of consolidate and bring it into one platform. Uh, you know, a blog and a website where we could share what we knew about what was happening in the industry and around, around the events in one place. So that was kind of my intention and building it. And from there started started creating some local gravel rides, which it really, at the time there was nothing that existed. Uh, obviously there's the gravel events. We've got a, the BW already mentioned. And then also there's a spandex series that. And so there's some really good events, uh, around, around gravel. And then there's a fair amount of bike industry also in our area.

Yeah. I think you come from a similar orientation to me where, you know, my thought behind the gravel ride podcasts was really that I went through such an interesting journey trying to figure out what the right bike was for me, what the type of writing would be. I was always looking for new events and finding people who are capturing those events like gravel stoke, just as a destination so I can discover new things and while I'm not down in San Diego like I now have on my radar these events because of your coverage that hey, like I do a family trip down there and try to squeeze in a Belgian waffle ride or some of these other events. So I mean I appreciate that mentality. And like you, I think I've just kind of taken us from a grassroots level and from almost from outside the industry and focus on what's it like to be a writer. What kind of equipment do you need? What events will be fun to do? Because gravel to me is really less so about pure racing as in coming in first place and more about how do I get out there and do some interesting terrain, have a blast with people in the dirt and ideally have some beers and tacos afterwards.

Yeah. Yeah. And I think that's what's so great about it. I mean, it's the people that come out to, to our rides there maybe roadies, they may be mountain bikers, you know, we just did our a ride this past Sunday. I got home, you know, through I think, uh, some posts posts up on instagram and my wife was like, Hey, that, that looks really fun. She was like asking me about like gravel riding and if it's something like she could do and that's never. She's never asked her really been interested in, in writing before. But I think there's something about gravel that just kind of, and maybe it's to kind of what I'm trying to cultivate is a little bit more open and welcoming, you know, there's, there's no, we're not excluding any anybody, uh, we just, you know, it's all about just getting people on bikes. And having a good time.

Yeah, the early days of any new sector of the sport. It's always pioneers and misfits and it's a really a great moment. I mean, I recall sort of back in the earlier days of mountain biking where, you know, whenever you'd go to a race, everybody was camping, everybody was waking up groggy and I'm having slept on the ground and then you just go out and race and have fun and then enjoy a picnic afterwards. And then, you know, fast forward a decade into norbet nationals and the off road series. And it became a real serious affair. And you would see people warming up on turbo trainers and uh, you know, getting to the start line half an hour before the race began to get the pole position. And frankly for me, I started losing interest in that effort and part of it might be self fulfilling and that I wasn't coming in first place. But the other part of me, it was just like, Hey, I've always been out here just for the adventure of the ride. And I think the gravel community right now is very squarely in that place where sure there's always, anytime you get a get a group of guys and girls together, someone's going to want to win. But at the end of the day, I think the vast majority of people who show up for gravel events, even the gravel quote unquote races are much more chill and just about having a good time out there.

Yeah. Do you think that gravel will have bench eventually there will be more of race focus because right now it's kind of just these one off unique events happening, popping up all over the place and there's no, there's no formal, you know, really no formal racing. There's no teams really involved. It's, it's just, it's more of a kind of casual, fun events people are doing. Do you think it'll go more towards racing?

I do actually. And I'm using. If history can be my only guide, I think it's inevitable that part of the sport will go that way. I do think that gravel is fortunate that most of us look at it as a very broad category from, you know, whether it's including the bike packing set all the way to the racing set is a pretty wide spectrum and the beauty of the types of bikes we're buying is that they're super versatile. But I do think, you know, we've already started to see it that these gravel events are starting to attract, you know, former pros that still retained sponsors. As the events get bigger and bigger and prize money and prestige gets involved, you know, you do. You are going to start to see those trends. I do think the nature of the way these courses are typically designed will always, and I'd knock on wood on this will always lend itself to just an adventurous day out there. So while there will be racing at the front end, I think you can still line up on the starting line with, you know, seeing the pros they had of you and not really sweating it and just kind of enjoying that mid pack outing however you end up.

Yeah. If I could counter that because I, I don't know, maybe it's my own desire that it doesn't go that direction, but uh, you know, I mean I don't have a race background so you know, that's kind of maybe part of my perspective, but I think the maybe road racing and mountain biking, it's like, you know, company in the industry and by companies can very much like, you know, dial in what, what is the perfect equipment for that race. And a lot of the bikes ended up looking pretty similar. Whereas for gravel, all these events are. I mean the terrain right is, is so unique and different and everybody out there has a very different bike. I mean, for each event you would have to have almost a different bike, right? Depending on what the terrain is. I mean the Bwr we just did, the guy's winning it are on pretty much standard race bikes with maybe 25, c, 28 c at the most tires.

They're not even really gravel bikes and that's what the pros are really winning on. That's one end of it. And then you have events like grinder or what I've heard is it's, it's pretty gnarly, you know, you're almost better off with a mountain bike than something like a road bike tires. Absolutely. So the range of events out there doesn't really lend itself, I think to the industry creating like, you know, the ultimate gravel bike. I mean you see it now like there's at this Sea Otter, I saw pictures of this, you know, nine or full suspension, gravel bike, you know, to me that's kind of crazy, right? I mean you're swinging all the way to that end and then you have things that are much more, you know, conservative.

Yeah. Well I, I plant well taken about the type of equipment that's going to be ideal for every race cars. Absolutely. You could, you could spend a lot of time and spend a lot of money on a quilting and your bike specific for the terrain you're on. You know, when we were out riding I was talking about my personal choice to have 6:50 be wheels with the [inaudible] tire. And that comes because in my backyard I arrived very mountain bike. He ask terrain, but if I was out in the Midwest and doing long flowy gravel road miles, I would definitely be on a narrower tire and more likely on a $700. See, we'll set. So I guess the counter argument is it's great for the bike industry, cause a gear geeks will have plenty of things to spend money on, but uh, I guess we'll see over time which direction it goes in at the end of the day. I think there's room for all types of events. Most of the event organizers I talked to are very much a shooing the pure racing mentality and really looking to create events that are more in the grand fondo fashion where they're just fun for everybody from beginning to end. Yeah. So what's, what's next for you this year? Do you have any other events on the horizon? Yes,

I've been trying to, you know, create some maybe more, you know, unique, fun events. So I have one coming up on June third so that, that is a gravel hunt event I'm working on and that's, it's called a hunt of the north. So it's kind of a take on, you know, play on hell of the north, but uh, it's going to be a gravel haunt in north county. Okay. And Yeah, we're gonna literally hunt some gravel, so I'm gonna see how to maybe paint these pieces of gravel and then find some different locations on dirt around North County and place them in, in these locations and just put a bunch of gravel that's painted on the ground and people have to go to each location, uh, any, any, any way they choose and pick up, pick up some gravel. So, and I've, I've got a lot of pretty awesome sponsors on board that are just excited about what we're doing and getting involved.

So got pretty sweet prizes, raffle prizes from companies like Wolf Tooth to Science and Sport is supporting us on a nutrition side. A Leo is helping out with some of the promotion and artwork. A bad seat. Coffee's going to be there given out nitro cold brew. So it should be a fun event. Nice. And what's the best way for people to follow what you're doing? So yeah, our website is a gravel stoke.com and then instagram and facebook, it's at gravel stoke. So pretty easy. Okay. And so for that June third, the event? Yeah, June third. So I'm hoping this week get the registration app so I don't know when you're publishing this but it'll probably be already be up there at the time.

Great. Well I'll include a link in the show notes to that and also to your instagram and facebook and the website and uh, I appreciate you stopping by. It was great to go out and peddle hats off to you for, for those of you who don't know and I don't know how you would but for Dave road, this entire ride on a road bike and although I did try to choose some terrain that would be a little easier on him. He didn't want one hell of a job on that on one particular trail. Uh, I was really impressed that a didn't go down and be, you didn't flat. So thanks for joining us. Stop by anytime. We've got lots more miles to cover together next time you're up here.

Sweet. Yeah, I think I was gone pretty quick because I knew you were on my tail, so like that definitely is motivation to get down the mountain, so yeah, appreciate it man. Great to connect and let's do it again. Yeah, safe travels back down to San Diego. Thanks. Yeah, right on.