Mar 27, 2018
"I've been able to find things that people that have lived here their whole life, It's amazing, like I just feel like to explore, so I'm finding some roads, dirt stuff that's blown people's lunch that have lived here their whole life." Dave Zabriskie, Former Professional Road Cyclist
So that was former professional road, cyclist, Dave Zabriskie, talking about some of the secret trails he's found down in the Santa Monica Mountains near Los Angeles. I've got dave and his business partner, Ryan Steers, who's a former professional mountain bike racer on the podcast, the two of them partner for a gravel camp in southern California, which sounds really cool. I was excited to talk to the guys just as they've both come from different sides of the sport, which I think is pretty typical for a lot of us as a lot of mountain bikers coming to gravel and also a lot of roadies, but this is an opportunity to talk to two guys who have done it in the professional ranks and hear what they have say about gravel. So with that, let's jump right in. All right. This week on the podcast we've got Ryan and Dave. Ryan and Dave, thanks for joining us. You're welcome. Right on. I always like to start the conversation by, by finding out how you guys came to gravel cycling.
This is Dave years ago. Actually. I built the, before they had gravel bikes, I'll build a mountain bike or rigid and then I just put dropbox on it and I took that to Europe because a, I wanted to have some adventure in between the racing and the regular road trainings. It was something I've been toying with for quite a long time. And then, uh, it was pretty cool and they started a couple of people that seemed like a, it almost seemed to me like the touch around the crusher was this event that came along where you had a mix of surfaces and he was like bringing whatever bike you think of work. It kind of seemed to me that they started building bikes for events like that, which kind of turned into the gravel thing. It's been cool for me because it's something I've been doing even before gravel bikes.
Yeah, I think you're right. I talk to a lot of guys who are sort of banging around on it with events like that are out here in northern California. The grasshopper series has been around for 20 years and it really wasn't until the last five years that the bikes were really suited for what that race course was offering. That's super cool. How about you Ryan? So you got a little bit different background, not on the roadside per se.
Yeah, I've always been a mountain biker and I was uh, working at his shop. Was that maybe four or five years ago when the first gravel bikes really started to come out? I think it was like the salsa warbird that we were carrying and I had no idea what to think of it. I thought it was just something people in the midwest it on gravel roads and then flash forward two or three years later starting to do the Belgian waffle ride and ride my road bike a lot on the dirt and trails. We were doing basically everything on the road bikes with 28 and you know, after like five or six slots, you're just getting a little frustrated and then finally realized that there was some proper bikes coming up that could handle everything around here in Los Angeles, there's a lot of single track and trails and fire roads, so just got drawn into gravel by the ability to connect to everything. It's cool because you can go out for a ride and you know, red fire roads and trails and have what would be a pretty, a pretty boring mountain bike ride. Actually be a really fun ride on a gravel bike. Started to do some of those events to Belgian waffle ride. They've talked me into the, the crusher or a couple of years ago and yeah, I got hooked on that and the whole atmosphere that the gravel races bring was a really attractive. So it drew me in.
Yeah, absolutely. Were there things you can point to on the bike that really made the difference?
Yeah, the tire cleaner or being able to run [inaudible] sorry, go ahead. The tubeless technology as well as just the riding a road bike on that stuff. You'd be flattened all the time just to be able to tie everything together now like you can still on that [inaudible] but I have you can go out and pair ass on the road all day and then if you see a trailer you can hit that and feel pretty fast as well, like a. So it's just fun to tie it all together. But I'd say the tires is tires. It's probably been the biggest improvement I think is really interesting. Platform.
Are you running 700 sees on there or 650b?
Yeah, just stick with the 650. I thought about putting some 700. Then I kind of like the cushiness those six [inaudible] so that I don't notice too much of a loss. Yeah.
How about you Ryan? What? What's, what's your equipment look like? Yeah, I'm on the uh, I'm reading the giant tcx set up with a, got a 48 on the front and the 38 and the rear, which is pretty nice around here. A little traction when it sandy, but then also roles pretty fast on the pavement. I set up a lot. And is that a 700 seat will set? It is. It's a 700. Yeah. It's um, like a, like a little more aggressive. Ryan's eight feet tall. I'm six and a half feet tall, so a hundred milliliters of expose posts. So I get, I get like an inch of travel on post. It's pretty sweet. It looks like you're on 24 inch wheels. Exactly. Yeah, right at 29 and everyone's like, is that a [inaudible]? 50 a 27 [inaudible] 700. I found myself in dance camp. I've got an OPEN with 650 bs and I tend to just leave those on there even though I have a 700 seat we'll set kicking around. It's part laziness and part in northern cal. Like the trails are fairly rough. I think it's, it's similar to what you guys experienced down there to like a fast fire roads, some single track here and there, but we have decent amount of steeps here. So I find having that v tire volumes just preventing me from flooding and makes it a really fun bike to throw around.
So I got a controversial question for you. La Sucks for cycling or false.
I think the whole intent is the, uh, the irony, right? Yeah, absolutely.
I was telling Ryan, you know, I'm, I'm lucky enough to be married to a woman who hails from Topanga, California and still has family down there. And previously I probably would have answered yes to La sucks recycling. But after spending a decade visiting Topanga, I've just fallen in love with the riding down there. I think you guys are really blessed.
Tell us a little bit about the various bits of terrain that people not familiar with the La area might not be aware even exists for gravel riding down there.
One of the most famous trail that connects Santa Monica go about 70 miles north to the Santa Monica Mountains. Uh, and that's pretty fun. A lot of that is about lions carefully, but there's an unlimited number of fire roads just all through Malibu that, uh, you can link up. And then over, I live right by Chesboro and there's tons of fire roads and writing. So once you start connecting the fire roads and single truck, I mean you can rod from Santa Monica to see me to Malibu with hardly touching any pavement in between. It's pretty cool.
Yeah. How about you, Dave?
I've been able to find things that people that have lived here their whole lives are like. And how did you find this and what is it like? It's amazing. Like I just like to explore our area, so I'm finding some roads and dirt stuff that blowing people's minds that have lived here their whole life. Topanga towards Malibu along the backbone trail. When I wrote it over the holidays, I was just shocked at how much open space there was, the views you were getting there and the fact that I didn't see anyone. 14,000,000 people in Los Angeles County and you run it on a weekday and you'll maybe run into one or two cyclists or a jogger is empty.
Yeah. You guys are lucky to ride out of that area. I think it's really something special when I haven't seen down there, and correct me if I'm wrong, is a lot of gravel events, whether they're rides or races right in that area. Is there a reason for it is it's sort of a, you know, as Dave mentioned, private land that you end up getting on?
Yeah. I'm not sure there is a few. Like I think they're just more uh, like you'd have to live here to know about. Um, I'm not sure they're trying to bring in people from all over the place. OK. So more like sort of shop based rides that are pretty big but not necessarily broadcast. Yeah. Like there's one in Ohio, the mob shop they have, they have some good events up there that are really cool and then a federal or his work has really cool events. There's one in redlands coming up but never run out of stuff to explore down here. Like it's just so gigantic. I've done the gravel mob riding. Hi. The last couple years, and I love that one and another, another area of the country where it's like spectacular, 60 mile loop or whatever it is, great trails, which combined like fun fire roads, both climbing into sense and then a shot of Tequila before that last, a single track to set. I think it was a nice touch. Our area is really focused on the road riding out here and just on the pavement, so I think we're just. We're trying to get people off that more. There's so much more to see than than the roads, which is a shame that most people don't get off of them, so we're just trying to bring people onto the dirt a little more. There's a lot out there.
Yes. You guys are clearly who are big advocates for gravel cycling. What do you see are the hesitations from people, whether they're in the road camp or the mountain bike camp to try this new part of the sport out?
I mean, if you're a real, real hard-core Roadie, I mean just the thought of getting your shoes [inaudible] sometimes it's scary for me. It's pretty a simple. I just don't want to deal with cars, those fire roads or they're a lot safer, so that's kind of what draws me to it as I don't have to look behind my shoulder every two seconds, but I mean, some of these guys, you just have to, uh, introduce them to it. Like I've done a few group rides where there'll be a really short, smooth section and I take the train to take them on there and they get pretty excited and then they wanted to kind of get interested like what bikes that I get, what's, how do I do this, how do I do that? It's just kind of getting somebody toes wet a little bit and then they see the light.
Yeah. It seems to be a common theme with people I've talked to. It's like once they give it a try, they get over to get over that fear of getting off road. If you're, if they're on the road side, all of a sudden they realized for all the benefits you just described, that it's really the place to be. If you've got this kind of terrain in your backyard, getting lost out there too, so you're not really going to get lost, but if you take a wrong turn, you could end up, you know, down at the beach and then find yourself three hours from where you thought you were going to end up the wrong side of original line and all of a sudden you're nowhere near where you think you're going to be. Exactly. Bedside in Malibu.
Yeah, I think you're right. You know when you guys were mentioning, you know the idea of getting lost and how gravel riding, there's this sort of adventure when you're getting out there. I think that's one of the things that's creating this big opportunity for events and otherwise group rides just because it's nice to have someone show you some new terrain and it really adds to your repertoire if you learn some new trails, really one bike. That ties a lot of things together. When I got the bike, I didn't think I'd write it as much as I have been. Really replaces almost everything to do jumps. I've been doing them all my gravel bike. If you'd been looking at my instagram so it can do everything. What, what did we decide on? Is that getting Rad are getting stoked? Yeah, and I mean it seems like the sort of emerging gravel cycling scene is also opening up some post professional cycling career opportunities for some of your former co-workers in the Peloton. I think that sort of visuals of adventure really makes sense for a lot of the cycling brand. So if you've got a guy who's got no reputation or history in the sport and then he's out there getting out there in the woods and testing the equipment. Uh, I just think it's sort of a natural tie in for a lot of these bike brands to want to stay affiliated with them when they get to sell on other bikes to buy company. Love it because it's, you know, not many people have and gravel bike yet. So they're excited to get people on gravel bike out and you know, most people have a mountain bike or road bike and you know, who doesn't love to get a new bikes.
Exactly. Although the dirty little secret is, is as you sort of alluded to Dave, once you get one of these gravel bikes, you find out you can ride on the road and the dirt just as well, and you might start shelving your road bike.
Yeah. Hey, so you guys are starting at a really exciting new project in the next couple of months. Um, with the gravel camp. Can you guys tell me about what inspired that and what it's all about?
You have to commit yourself to gravel because it's, it's kind of a therapeutic. Uh, I mean it has been therapeutic for me. It's very, uh, I've always been crazy, but, uh, this has helped me from going insane type of things. So we're just inviting people to come, uh, commit themselves to our asylum, which takes a place here in the Santa Monica Mountains. And uh, hopefully if they commit themselves hard enough, they can come out, uh, you know, a little bit of sanity or maybe less. We're not quite sure what will happen yet. So it's a, it's a three day adventure, right? It's a Monday to Thursday gravel camp. Uh, we're doing all the meals at Publix for, we'll stop on a long ride, one day includes lodging, support, snack food, and we're going to show people some of the stuff that the Santa Monica mountains has to offer. It's a without the fear of getting lost or not knowing where to go and, which has been fun without a lot of funds coming in from out of town, but we've been taking around and showing them and just kind of blowing their minds with what's out here and like kind of help foster the idea of how we should really just get people out and from what we have in our backyard here because it's so amazing. And a lot of people go to Spain and do these big, uh, trips with the similar terrain and weather that we have here. And it's, you know, we're close to lax. It's the weather's nice or in southern California. So it's got all the conveniences of a big city and not that far away for every one that's easy to get to. But uh, they're, you're gonna feel miles up in the mountains.
That sounds great. What are those rides going to look like? So if I'm, if I'm training and trying to get myself prepared to join the asylum down there, what am I, what do I need to get in my legs to uh, survive those three days.
It's definitely not a race pace type situation. So I wouldn't say it's something everybody could do, but I'd say most everybody could do. There'll be plenty of regroup. It'd be pretty casual pace. If you want to push yourself, you're free to do that on the uphills, not the downhills. Our goal isn't to split up a group and making everyone kill themselves. It's the nature and find cool things and have good adventures and have good times.
And what does that Queen Stage look like in terms of mileage and elevation gain?
Malibu there that we've got set up. It's Kinda the best of everything that Malibu has. Often I'll do creek state park through a blend of some really fun page sections and that's going to be. We will leave early, but it's probably going to be 70, eighty miles and probably close to 10,000 feet of climbing with a lunch stop thrown in the middle in Malibu at some. A, a beautiful little place kind of up in the woods there. So was going to be support and regroups and everything, so it's not going to be a death march by any means, but it'll be a long day with a lot of climate within general. You've got to be. There's some 3000 feet to the top from the ocean. So just to get over there, some pretty good climbs a built in.
Yeah. There's no way to avoid that coastal range if you're trying to get out of there.
We got free helicopter service. Cool. For all guests. I'll guess a, you're just responsible for calling nine one one on your own and then you guys are going to go up into, uh, into Topanga. It looks like one day. Yeah. Topanga is pretty close to publish work, so it's a pretty easy job up there. But then once you get into Panga, you've got a really spectacular view. The downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica and it's a really pretty place to ride because you can see so much to the urban area below you, but there's tons of fire roads and trails up there and then like, think we're going to have to throw in a fun little coffee. Banana bread stopped. It's a Topanga Creek outposts of a little hidden gem bike shops up in Topanga that, uh, has done a lot to foster the cycling community up there. Yeah, absolutely.
I actually credit Chris and his instagram feed for kind of getting me into the sport in many ways.
Great job of getting people on the bikes. He's so welcoming to everyone that wants to ride and they do a Saturday morning ride for all scale levels. It's, I mean, I credit him with show me, get me into racing and showing me all the trails up there. There's a ton of hidden stuff that they're uncovering every week, which was really cool that you can have a bike shop in Topanga and do a ride every week until, you know, six, seven years later be finding new trails. It's really neat. Yeah, I think for anybody down there in that region, region or anybody visiting, hitting that Saturday ride is a real special treat. I found they've been inviting to me in any bike I've shown up on. So I've showed up on a mountain bike, have borrowed a bike, a fat bike from them. I've written a cyclocross bike on, on that Saturday ride, and across the board of the 20 or 30 riders that are out there, you're going to see almost every genre of bike represented every Saturday. And somehow I don't manage this to all work together.
Anything else that our listeners to know about the gravel camp, how many people are you accepting and what are the dates for the upcoming camps?
The first one we're going to keep really, really small to a handful of people ideally to probably 12 or less to keep it, to keep it around 10 or so routers. We don't get to split up and we'll have a couple other ride leaders as well surrounding them to keep the group together. But the goal is to keep it small and intimate. And you know, we did a, it's hard to keep a bunch of people together. We did a group that, I guess it was about 50 and things get a little more, uh, more spread out in hard to wrangle. So we want people to have fun and enjoy themselves but not be afraid of getting lost or missing a regroup or anything like that are getting left out in the woods through the mountain lions.
And what's the website that people can check out to find out more?
Yeah. The first one is uh, gonna be in April from the sixteenth to the nineteenth. It's Kinda, we sandwiched in between those and wall fluoride and Sea Otter. So if you're doing any of those events, it's kind of a fun stop in between. My legs are going to be pretty cooked on that first day from Belgium waffle run, which is also a blast, but definitely not uv. So yeah, April the first one and the website is these net house.com. You can go check it out there and he's got the details and a bunch of photos too because I think those are way more, were more valuable than writing things about the route and then people can look and see, see where they're going to be riding a big selling point.
Yeah, absolutely. And I know you guys are active on instagram. Where can they follow you there? Uh, we've got the house accounts and then David got his accounts and I'm at our steers, the letter r and then s, t e r s I just did a sweep posts with some old action figure, a founder of a Kevin Costner if anyone wants to take a look there. Yeah, we've got a couple instagram accounts. You have to follow it. And one is very mysterious. That makes me, it makes no sense.
Right on guys, I've appreciate you joining me on the podcast this week and uh, you know, I wish you all the best on the camps and I hope they're filled to capacity and hopefully I can come down and pedal with you guys sometime.
Thanks Craig. See at the Mob Shop probably right on,
So that was a blast. Talking to Dave and Ryan. I think their gravel camps are going to be really a lot of fun. The Santa Monica Mountains have tons of trails, just looping between Malibu and Topanga and Calabasas. Definitely join them for the camps. Follow them on instagram to check out some of those trails are followed them on Strava. I highly recommend checking out that part of the country and that's for us here at the gravel ride. Definitely follow us on instagram at the gravel ride. You can shoot me a note at Craig at the gravel ride that bike, or follow me on Strava. I'd love to get your feedback, ratings, etc.