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Gravel Metric

Gravel Metric 2015 aka Here Comes the Half Acre Train

Gravel Metric 2015 aka Here Comes the Half Acre Train

Heading into the 2015 edition of the Gravel Metric, many of us on HAC identified a target time for completing the course. This gave us solidarity and a carrot to chase. And for the first time since I started doing this event in 2012, I knew that I would have teammates with me to face the unforgiving gravel and dirt roads of Dekalb because we had a common mission.

With field sizes increasing year to year and the neutral roll-out extended, I was worried that our group would get split up. However, just a few miles in and we were all there, taking pulls and getting settled. We wound around, up and down, and got used to the Plinkoing© of our rear wheels in the gravel.

The air was cool and clean. Some earlier rain minimized the gravel dust. I thought of many things while in the saddle: a song from the radio, my Mom, my wife.

A group of four identified ourselves as wanting to finish this thing in 4-hours (shop to shop), but we picked-up three more teammates along the way. The sense of pride I felt as we moved as one far surpassed any result I could potentially snag as an amateur bike racer.

Several bits threatened to break-up our group: flat tires, bottles ejecting on washboard sections, throbbing legs, and varying skills on the off-road. But each time the waning member fought to get back on, and/or the rest of the train either encouraged or waited patiently for everyone to regroup. We made it to the mile 40ish checkpoint as a six-headed monster, with the seventh close behind.

I've learned that the Gravel Metric is just starting to heat-up once you make it to the forest maze (mile 30-34 or so). Afterwards, it's one hard punch after another as it sends b-road upon b-road in the rider's direction. Riding through these sections takes total commitment and trust in your teammates, as the person in front picks the best line possible between ruts, holes, and mud puddles. And each time we did just that, without a single crash in our group.

After the final b-road came the headwind. I looked down at my computer and saw 10mph. "Oof." That's the knockout punch and the thing that sends riders backwards. But here's where you find out what you are made of and how amazing it is to be part of such a great team. With out group mostly intact, we hacked and heaved our way through that wind. I saw the Dekalb water tower, knew that we were only a few miles out, and exploded. The final two from our group rode away and I settled into a state of dejection, one more amongst the dead on Gurler road. But then I saw them both sit-up, wait for me and we finished it together.

~Bill Guy

From Dust comes Gold

Someone had mentioned it earlier when we were getting our post ride grub on, but I I didn't pay much attention until arriving home and glancing in the mirror: a dirt mustache. I relished sweat rings on my kit...a badge of honor.

The Gravel Metric, our local darling gravel "ride", took place yesterday and is just what the name implies...a100km of (mostly) gravel. For those of you that can't do the math, that's 62 miles. 62 miles, no big whoop, right?!

Well, it is a whoop and here's why: gravel riding takes constant attention. Your mind is constantly working to pick the fastest/safest lines. The bike will float over gravel, if you let it, but it will also take you down if you jerk or over steer. As well, you typically don't carry the same momentum as pavement, so more push is needed.

The GM is notorious for some terrain mashup...from gravel to rutted out two tracks to a "starts fast then kills your soul" grassy stretch to more two track with a stream crossing...closed out with a seemingly merciful asphalt finish.  Ironic enough, that last section of smooth roads becomes "the Walking Dead". A trudge to the finish... broken spirits, beat into a mindless churn of pedals.

This years GM was quite fast and smooth, for the most part. A few teeth rattling ruts and some squirrelly gravel sections, but that was about it. Years past have been less kind with washouts, thick pasty mud, biblical rains, melt your brain heat. The heat did build up throughout the day and took its toll. Eternal gratitude to the residents that dragged out hoses and bottled waters.

A few notes about my ride: in the usual "get ahead of the fray" mindset, I tried to push somewhat hard to start. My legs and back moaned, setting off some alarms. I kept on for some miles, trying to stay with the mini packs and move up. I finally settled in with a foursome that were just right in the speed department. Soon after, my teammie, Jacob, appeared from ahead. He hooked on and declared "I'm working for you today, Groen". Knowing my back was acting up already, I was first tickled then terrified. I was stoked to have his giving wheel, but he's not a slow bloke by any means. What I later pieced together, he marked me to hold him accountable to a ride pace. He had gone gangbusters with the near front stampede. A mechanical caused him to pull over and not only was the bike adjusted, but his mentality. He decided that day was better served in push mode rather than bar room brawl.

He couldn't have been a kinder escort. Nothing but patience when I needed to stop and stretch. Relentless against the wind. Endless smiles and enthusiasm. He didn't let me slouch, but he also had an intuition about my limits. I nominate him "Sherpa of the Year"...and can't thank him enough.

The best part about these rides is the solidarity that occurs. Our rendition of "band of brothers". We all suffered together and came out the other end. We tell our tales of woe and glory at the finish. The insufferably slow grass, the windmills looking down on us with grandeur and smugness (I love wind), the incidental lemonade stand, the endless dust filling our eyes and lungs, the checkpoint high fives, the heat coming off the fields.  What a magnificent, albeit tough day.

With all that in mind, I give thanks to everyone who makes it happen and simply say... stay gold, Gravel Metric, stay gold.

--Jen Groen

Now See This: Your Invitation

<object width="400" height="225"><param name="allowfullscreen" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><param name="movie" value=";;show_title=1&amp;show_byline=1&amp;show_portrait=0&amp;color=&amp;fullscreen=1" /><embed src=";;show_title=1&amp;show_byline=1&amp;show_portrait=0&amp;color=&amp;fullscreen=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" width="400" height="225"></embed></object><p><a href="">The Gravel Metric Invitation</a> from <a href="">OC Imageworks</a> on <a href="">Vimeo</a>.</p>

Sunday, May 30.  9am at <a href="">North Central Cyclery</a> in DeKalb.

More info on our <a href="">events page</a>, or on <a href="">Facebook.</a>


Announcing the NCC/HAC Gravel Metric

Mark your calendars for Sunday, May 30, 9am.  You won't want to miss this.

<a href="">North Central Cyclery</a> and Half Acre Cycling, the partnership that brings you the DeKalb 'cross race, is collaborating on something new-- something a little more classic.  This one promises 100km of gritty gravel with the kind of hills you'll only find in the exurbs and beyond.  No frills, no licenses, no points, just you, your bike, and 62 miles of gravel, self-supported, the way it used to be.

Details are forthcoming.  <a href="">RSVP on Facebook</a> and keep your eyes here for details.