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Feb 16, 2018

Episode links:

Nate King Instagram

Officially Serious Gravel Bicycle Ride loop <Strava>

Above Category Bike Shop

Chpt 3


Tushar Crusher  

Episode Transcript 

Thanks for joining us on The Gravel Ride this week, Nate. I know you're busy preparing for your trip to Spain. But I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us.

Yeah for sure anytime you're right on.

For starters can you tell us a little bit about your background as a cyclist. I think it's always interesting for our listeners to learn about you know our people come in from the road side or the mountain bike or both and how they discovered gravel riding.

So I started riding bikes when I was 14 started out pretty heavily in the dirt. I grew up in Utah and Salt Lake and mountain biking was kind of the thing you did there and didn't really take it that seriously until after college where I'd raced a little bit of cross-country a little bit downhill and kind of dabbled in all facets of the sport so I'm not tired side. And then I drop out of school and encountered road racing kind of obliquely at like the age of 22 23 and became professional road cyclist and that's at least domestically. Racing with Continental teams and now I'm here in that category.

Yeah it's a crazy journey actually when it when I first started following you on Instagram and seeing all the road cycling pictures you've got such a good pro road road a static that was like This guy's a a pure roadie. And so I started seeing more about the adventures you're done.

Yeah you know I've always taken a weird approach towards whatever it is I'm doing weather that you know racing on the road racing on a bike. I spent a few winters rate training down in South America Columbia before it was kind of a hot thing to do. And yeah. So I don't know to yell that for writing my writing my training like when I was with pro teams on singletrack. That also kind of you know always kind of been there. I'm not what I would call a talented talented cyclist at all. But I try.

It sounds like you've been riding drop bars in the dirt for a while.

Yeah. You know back when I was like right when I first turned pro. I really wanted kind of my forever bike which would be something with disc brakes and you know big big tires fender mounts and you Industry about five years out. But I think we're there now.

And what did you actually get on that you felt like was as close to that vision of a perfect forever bike.

Oh man I don't think I've found it yet. If I'm being quite frankly as you know OPEN's UP is up there for lack. No pun intended. But I you know I have a custom titanium road racing right now that has rim brakes. Yeah I haven't found it yet. It's still out there. My unicorn bike is still out there.

And are you in the 700 see wheel camp or the 650 camp when it comes to riding off road.

That's a really good question. It's it's hard to say. Some days. So when we here at Above Category when we first brought in OPEN I was pretty firmly ensconced in the 700c camp. And then last summer I did this crazy ride from the Lost and Found race up in the Sierras puts on down back down here to Marin County a few kind of out of the way dirt road route. And I did it on 650b's with these huge 40 mm Compass with tires and that kind of opened my eyes to the smiling real side is just as far as the way the bike drove in with the bike handle. I've always been a really fed up with a really low bottom bracket and kind of really the feeling of being in the bike and those kind of afford that versus roaming the set and hundreds of for much bigger but I still go back and forth. I think having one set of each is the way to go right on.

Right on. And was that was that we'll set the 650 be the same one you race same tires and everything that you race Lost and Found on

yeah yeah. So yeah I did. You know I've found that like really really high volume slick tires you can get pretty decent traction as long as you're not in. Really loose or really muddy situations. This year the sheer size of the contact patch that the foot higher gives up the space with eroding lower pressures yeah to make up for the lack of knobs

You were on fairly mixed terrain when you're doing that ride back to the Bay Area. Did you change the tire pressure from when you were racing on Lost and Found to the roads or to keep it about the same.

Yeah I pump it up just a little bit between on the side of the road heavy days. But it wasn't anything bigger than like a 10 PS difference. It was pretty minimal. Yeah I didn't really have any complaints as far as the tires themselves when it came to pavement.

Yeah this has been one of the really fascinating parts about the gravel riding scene for me has been the debate around wheel size and I tend to be with you. I've got a set of 650b that I ride Off-Road and 700 C on the road. But over the course of events that I've been doing I honestly could pick one or the other depending on the particular event. And I think that's part of the magic of gravel riding it's like it's it's never perfect and we talked about this a little bit before when we were talking about designing events like I think you want people to have that question when they're going into an event like this. How do I set this bike up to be right.

Yep that's kind of the magic of it a little bit of the mystery. It's like you're never on the right bike and you're always on the wrong stuff at some at some point. Like I mean I think back to a good friend Burke Swindelhurst who who put on who puts on the Crusher in the Tuscher which I think the first one was like 2012. And I did that in kind of the one of the overriding themes like the pre race briefing was. No matter which bike you brought it's going to be wrong at some point during this race. That's good.

So back in 2012 I bet at Crusher you had some guys on on cross bikes, mountain bikes and road bikes.

Yes. So that one you have to play itself out before you know travel was really saying Yeah and even disc brakes on a drop bike. With the thing and I was racing for the competitive cyclists pro team at the time I was working for Backcountry dot com which owned Competitive and we had this one off prototype disc brake cross bike kicking around a mechanical disc brakes and like 34 millimeter tires or something kind of like that's the bike I want I want it that one and I think that was probably one of only like probably three or four out of a few hundred people there that was on disc brakes and everyone else was on cantis and there were a couple of crazy people on at least this disc road bike or drop bar bikes and there were a few other crazy people on rode bikes and but mostly with mountain bikes and now I think that's pretty heavily shifted. So yeah

it really has a day events I've done recently and including the one you put together it's like everybody's on desk. There's like maybe 5 percent of the people who are riding old cross bikes or cantilevers and as I'm ripping by them on the descents I'm just remembering what it was like to descend with cantilevers and how pumped out my hand to get

Yeah I mean it's I mean I was kind of started riding mountain bikes probably was kind of near the tail end of this race taking over everything but my first mountain bikes were the brake bikes and I remember the first day that I got hydraulic this great bike I'm like oh my hands they don't they don't hurt you people who can actually descend were like oh well you need a brakeless. But you know hydraulics brakes are definitely a revelation especially on a drop bar bike.

So yeah that was a big big step for me and my my gravel bike pursuits I started on a mechanical disc brake bike with 700c tires and now graduating to the hydraulics and the 650b's the descending is like night and day. And I think here in the bay area we've got some really ripping descents but they can be super painful when you're not on the right gear. I remember starting out here on her recrossed bike and just I would flat all the time and I really couldn't ride anywhere near what I could do on the mountain bike. Now with the OPEN with the 650b's coming down Coastal or something like that where it's a pretty long sustained descent with a lot of ruts it's just it can be pleasurable riding riding a gravel bike downhill. Finally

Yeah yeah and you know after we you know we did the event and we put that we put a post postcard survey out just like what did you do like what did you not like about the event. And there were a few pillars like I can't believe that you descend Coastal on the gravel bike well maybe your equipment choices that very moment in time you know but yeah and from my perspective that means you've done it right as a race organizer and route planner because you've made someone complain about their equipment at least once during the ride.

I mean yeah it is everybody says that the whole course was perfect for whatever they were the whole time. Probably a sign that I use something else at them. So yeah

It was probably a road ride at that point.


Now I haven't done too much outside of the West Coast in terms of gravel riding but I think it's interesting you know when you talk about events like Dirty Kanza and some of the stuff in the Midwest how different that riding is and I wonder if the conversation we'd be having leaning toward 650b's a little bit wider tires with lower pressure would be the same.

If that was right outside her door yeah you know I've not had I've done a little bit of I guess you know mix terrain riding in the south of Athens Georgia. A few other spots down there but I've not done anything else kind of west of I guess you could take hold that are east of Colorado. So I'm not in Kanza yet. I've yet to be cajoled into suffering. But I've heard stories of the shale pointing this at all. So maybe one day I'll get myself out there but I'm not. I can't speak to that.

Yeah I'm looking for it. I'm going to talk to some guys who have survived Dirty Kanza and just get their perspective guys who I know live out here on the west coast and have been out there because I think it's gets quite a bit different. You know obviously here in Marin County we've got a ton of ups and downs in our gravel riding in it. It starts to almost blend into mountain biking at times quite different from that Midwest terrain.

Yeah definitely. You know here it's I mean and part of it is especially here in Marin that we don't really have come from Utah on here basically spending half my life Moab and Park City and riding singletrack and pretty technical stuff here we don't really have that. And just by nature of you know pretty much single track bikes being totally illegal on Tam that it's really easy to kind of blur those distinctions and to have people you know riding six inch Enduro bikes on what amounts to places that could take a jeep down. So it's interesting to see how that evolves here at least locally.

Yeah it really is. I want to talk about the ride you put on the officialy serious gravel bike ride can you tell us a little bit about the event and what the origins were.

Yeah well I mean we're has been it's been marinating for a while here. Least at Above Category. I always wanted to put on some sort of kind of mixed rain event that really showcase the what was really rad about these kinds of bikes especially locally just because like I said single track is easily accessible on bikes. And then we have the crown jewel of preserve open space so close to a pretty big population center in the country. And finally we kind of reined in some momentum to get it done and we did it kind of locally we've got the grasshopper's but there's nothing up in Sonoma is nothing really down here in Marin and I was kind of like asking why why. Why did nobody do this here. And the ability to live together so many so many gravel roads with pavement and string it all together and kind of share that with everyone was kind of what was the driving force behind that. So yeah

it was an awesome event. The route was great and the turnout was just amazing to that exceed what you guys are thinking.

Definitely I thought we'd maybe get like 30 or 40 people who would be like oh cool and whatever. And we got 30. So it was quite a bit more than we thought we really at least.

That's awesome. Everybody was having a really good time and speaking from the mid pack section. People were just cool you know we were using our guests to navigate or getting around the different court corners and missing corners. But coming back to them and everything was great. I discovered some new terrain which was stoked on the other side of Pine Mountain. I was riding with some guys down from the south bay in San Jose who came up so I think you're right. I think there's a ton of pent up demand for events in this area and part of me wasn't surprised when I saw that pack rolling to me in Mill Valley. I was just stoked to see it because I think this gravel riding's been so much fun for me. And I think it's so good for all the reasons you mentioned about why it's good in Marin County. I just think more and more people need to discover it. I'm going to post a link to the course profile that you guys posted so that anybody visiting the area can go hit up some of those trails.

Yeah sure. That's awesome. No it's not. I think that's really one of the reasons that gravel writing is so exciting. A lot of people especially here on the West Coast where a population density isn't quite too high. Other areas of the country there's not the same kind of I guess for lack of a better phrase road density so you end up doing the same route like the road cyclist especially as the training of the race or his training you end up doing the same stuff over and over and over and over and have suddenly this new plethora route and and new trails to discover new areas too. Or is kind of liberating and is kind of freeing. Which is pretty rad to me.

So yeah totally agree. I mean the fact that we were able what we were doing all this great dirt riding during the event and then next thing I know we pop out at Alpine Dam and do one of the Bay Area's sort of quintessential road climbs and riding across seven sisters. It just sorta underscores what you're saying about it. We can mix together the best of the dirt and the best of the road and create something that feels entirely new compared to the road loops we've done hundreds of times.

Yeah exactly. I mean like I know there's a lot of naysayers out there who are just like oh you just know that I'm humpbacked full time I think. Yeah you do. But it sucks writing a flat BB bike on the road like nobody wants to do 30 miles to pavement on a bike. I've done it it's it's hell but you could drop bars on put skinner tires on a little bit more of an aerodynamic position and suddenly you're like oh this is totally tolerable. I do this all day everyday.

Exactly exactly. So I hear you're planning another gravel ride. Is there anything you can share about the event.

Well yeah probably will be kind of locked in a date so far. March 24th. Saturday. I think it's the last Saturday after the last Grasshopper of the year. So it's still pretty fresh at least locally. Definitely going to have a bit more structure around it. A little The less choose your own adventure will will will have a few a few more stops a little bit more route marking. You were mentioning that you were wrong turns only those few skid marks around and of the blind turns. And yeah kind of same idea just bunch of people out there having fun. We might even time at least the first few people who come through who really want to be agro and competitive. I have full intention to chill out and ride with friends.

Right on. Well that sounds awesome I meant as part of the community. I can't thank you and Above Category and the other sponsors enough for kind of putting a stake in the ground and getting out there and doing things because I think it's really it's really bringing together that San Francisco Bay Area. Gravel cyclists and a meeting a lot of new people and it's just been great. I love these type of events yeah.

Yeah, I'm in the same boat otherwise I wouldn't do them.  

Right one. Any other gravel events you'd recommend that our listeners check out that you've done before.

You there's one coming up. I don't know if that is going to be published before then or not. But the Rock cobbler down in Bakersfield run by Sam Born is outstanding. Usually I think this year it's sometime around Valentine's Day and we'll be in town for it at all. Highly recommend everyone to go check that one out. Okay. After that. Any of the grasshopper events. They're not strictly grabble are always a good time always really good local community. A lot of fasts guys in front lot people chilling out in the middle a lot of people smoking bowls at the back. And then obviously the Grinduro events are without a doubt the most fun I've had on a bike. There have been in Scotland this year. They started that with last year and then the the one in Quincy up near Downieville at the at the end of the season is always great. And after that I would definitely recommend Crusher and the Tusher if you're willing to drive up to southern Utah for it puts on a stellar event and the local community and Beaver really gets into it.

s that more towards the end of the season.

Crusher it usually is late July typically when it goes on and it's I think it's probably sold out by now. If memory serves me correct. He puts up the registration in January every year the sells up quickly. But I know the transfer form is pretty active.  

I'll put links to all these events in the show notes. Anybody who's interested can check him out and put them on a calendar if you can't get into crusher this year. Put on your calendar and we'll get in in 2019.

Yeah definitely worth the trip and definitely we're just hanging out Beaver and hanging out with Burke for a while. He's he's he's a fun guy to know right on.

I appreciate the tips on that. So switching gears I know you're off to Spain this weekend to start a new adventure professionally. Do you want to tell us a little bit about what you're going to be working on.

Yes. So I'm kind of not necessarily moving on from above category but kind of have a new a new track in life. I'll be can be American brand manager for a brand called Chapter 3 which does well it's a new brand but it was pretty old roots started by former British professional cyclists David Miller and yeah we're kind of excited to hit things full force based the Girona. So we'll be there for the next two and a half weeks kind of on. I guess call initial training camp with them and rocking that from now on. So that's awesome.

I can't wait to hear more about it as that unfolds and are you going to do your awesome work for them. If people are interested in following you and seeing more about your adventures what's a good place to check out what you have been doing

The Instagram feed pretty good. It's mostly a mix of pictures and motorcycle pictures. @KingTheNate and then I guess I'm kind of on Strava. I don't I don't post that much there. But when I write of people I will and I've got a whole shit Pilar's out there that are pretty solid for insanity if that's your thing.

So awesome. Wow I really appreciate the time Nate safe travels to Gerona and will check in with you later.

Yeah for sure Craig thanks for having me.