Course notes for gravel events around Atlanta, GA
Dry Course Notes:
Assault on Mt. Currahee
Cross bike is definite advantage due to paved descent at the start and the 10 minute paved climb at the end. Overall course is compact and smooth. Some washboarding, some chunky loose gravel but overall not much advantage to having suspension. There’s a short singletrack section with some sand and a creek crossing but right after is a steep hill that seems to wipe out any advantage gained from these two sections.
Mountain bike has a huge advantage if you can handle the descents. Lots of climbing on smooth dirt sometimes studded with smooth boulders embedded in the surface. A few sections with loose gravel. Descents are generally gravel/dirt and sometimes loose and sometimes with significant washboarding. Best strategy seems to be to coast the descents (again COAST THE DESCENTS) and rest to attack on the last rolling section back to the winery.
Shake ‘n’ Brake
Mountain bike has a moderate advantage depending on road surface. Rolling course seems to have consistent deep chunky gravel. But also some dirt and a singletrack section long enough to gain real time with an MTB. Moderately long paved section comes so late in the course that cross bikes generally cannot gain back.
A few sections of rough dirt and very chunky gravel. No clear advantage to either style of bike as there are long smooth sections and moderate paved sections. Most likely significant time could be gained back on the last long paved section. Small turnout and not a real competitive event in 2016.
Red Clay Ramble
Cross bike with 35mm-40mm tires. MTB is at a severe disadvantage as there are no real descents and the gravel/dirt is very smooth with small aggregate. Paved sections are moderate and there are few deep/chunky gravel sections. I’ve done MTB & Cross and the MTB was not very fun.
Sac o’ Suds
Cross bike has mild advantage. Rolling course with smooth gravel & dirt but some deep/chunky sections. Moderate singletrack/powerline dirt section but it’s unclear if an MTB can gain any time here as it comes before a moderate paved section.
Standard Deluxe Dirt Road (Metric) Century
Cross bike has an advantage. Rolling course with smooth dirt & gravel and moderate paved sections. Very little large/deep/chunky gravel. A few dogs and bring a turn by turn GPS.
Wet Course Notes:
Assault on Mt Currahee
Lots of mud, sections of dirt become soft and narrower tires tend to sink. Recommend something with wider spaced knobs. Climb up Currahee is very slippery when wet as it turns to mud and is spilt 30% to climbing and 70% to descending. Would also expect to run slightly lower gearing if available. 46/34 11-34 would be a good choice.
Mud, slippery rocks and some sections of soft road. Also large potholes filled with water. Same as above, recommend a more mud-focused tire. Long descents and mud/dirt may tax brake pads on disc brakes so either run fresh or bring spares. I’ve seen more than one person trying to walk to the SAG after destroying their pads. Dirt on body/bike is more sandy clay. 22/34 low gear is nice to have – lots of walkers with cross bikes.
Shake ‘n’ Brake
Moderately long sections of road become soft and become similar to riding quicksand with 40mm and smaller tires. Recommend wider tires with moderately aggressive knobs. Some mud, can get very slippery. Dirt on body bike is silty clay and exfoliates quite nicely. Every year I’ve given up and walked a bit, even when I had a 22/34 low gear. Mentally this has been my toughest course because I’ve always ended up so isolated for so long. Dirt on bike/body is silty and exfoliates very nicely.
Sac o’ Suds 50
Singletrack section is very slippery due to leaves, overall course is not too affected by wet weather but there are a few sections with large deep potholes that will fill with water. I’d use the same bike as in the dry and plan to lose time on the singletrack that can be made up on the paved section immediately after.