I haven’t had much fun with drop bars in the past decade, because in that time, the progression of technology has made riding mountain bikes so much more fun. But in the last couple years, some of that technology has trickled over to road and cyclocross bikes. Hydraulic disc brakes and tubeless tires are among the most significant improvements that make riding drop bar bikes more fun.
So when the inaugural Grinduro was announced last spring, my interest was immediately piqued. I am a huge fan of the enduro racing format where participants can get both their social and competitive desires met. And putting that format into a gravel grinder setting seemed like a no-brainer. Grinduro would be the very first event of its kind.
When longtime writer and former pro road and MTB racer Joe Parkin approached Dain Zaffke of Giro Sport Design with the idea of a Grinduro event, they immediately started scouting potential international locations. But according to Zaffke there was really only one place for the inaugural Grinduro – the Lost Sierra. Home to legendary terrain like Downieville and newer discoveries such as Mills Peak Trail in Graeagle, the Lost Sierra region of California is a hidden gem of riding for mountain, ‘cross and road bikes.
When Zaffke approached the mastermind behind the Downieville Classic and the Lost & Found Gravel Grinder – Greg Williams of the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship – about holding Grinduro in Graeagle, Williams had an even better suggestion: Quincy. Depending on who you ask, Quincy, California, is known for one of three things: nothing, logging, or the High Sierra Music Festival. However, Quincy has a fourth thing it will soon be known for — more than 50 miles of world-class singletrack courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service-Mount Hough District, which is serious about helping foster an outdoor recreation destination.
Completed only six months ago by the Stewardship, Mount Hough Trail is a masterpiece 11-mile, 3,800 vertical foot singletrack descent where speeds can reach 40 miles-an-hour (on a mountain bike, naturally). Thanks to Grinduro, “Shuttle Dropper Cross” is now a thing: when you put your dropper post-equipped cyclocross bike on the roof of a shuttle van, jump inside and get driven to the top of Mount Hough Trail. Unlike the rocky rowdiness of nearby Downieville and the Lakes Basin region, Mount Hough is smooth enough to be ridden by all skill levels — even on cyclocross bikes. As proof, the final timed segment in Grinduro was the last 3.5 miles of singletrack down Mount Hough Trail. Just make sure to carry two inner tubes and a patch kit.
After pre-riding the final segment down Hough on my Ibis Hakkalügi, I immediately questioned why I didn’t bring a lightweight rigid mountain bike. Zaffke reassured me that the other three timed Grinduro segments were far more cyclocross friendly. Segment 1 was a grueling one-mile fire road climb. Segment 2 was a ripping 6.5-mile dirt road descent with speeds approaching 50 miles-an-hour. And Segment 3 was a six-mile rolling road segment that gave a significant advantage to cyclocross bikes.