Weekend of Mayhem Fried Clay and BeltGrind

Fried Clay 200k starts with a quick conversation with my allofitp friend Craig D before I get nervous and take off to join the front group. We ride along at a fast but manageable pace. The dusty dirt roads wind us in and out of the early morning sunshine. It’s cool but warming fast. I stop to take off my pullover and catch back up to our little peloton. We roll along with around 20 riders.


Minimal conversation, excess nervous energy. Who’s ridden a 135 mile gravel race before?

Each hill puts a few more dents in another set of legs. Slowly we shed riders as the miles pass. 20 to 14 to 11 to 7 to 6 as we roll into the Peidmont NWR. We’ve all judged each other so there’s no sharing work. We move along in the little pack at the whims of the climbs and descents. Sometimes a rider or two goes off the front but as we slow for turns the pack keeps coming together. There’s a rider far off in the distance and the first time he turns and sees us he stomps on the pedals and expands his lead inch by inch until he disappears again. Creek crossings keep us together still.


Smoke drifts through the trees as we roar down loose grey descents. A change from the happy ochre of the earlier roads, not as steep, not as secluded. Easy to get lost here.

The group fights with itself on some of the shorter steeper climbs and we lose one rider and a couple voices request a nature break but the stronger riders stare ahead, stone-faced and not interested.

We pedal on, easy and manageable. Closing gaps and pushing my legs like it’s a 3 hour race. I feel great and am setting myself up to fail later. I can’t stop. I’m racing and I love it.

Shortly we come to Juliette, as does a train. The tension breaks as we have no choice but to wait. We pee, we oil our chains and I laugh at what the odds are that the lead rider off the front would get caught on one side as we are on the other.


A few minutes and the train is gone. We head into Juliette, get our pics and get out of town. The sun is now up and it’s getting warm. I’m eating and drinking and pedaling and it’s going well.

Soon we hit the first water stop at a church, water is off so we press on. Someone calls or texts or maybe just thinks about letting the organizer know about the lack of water. We are 5 now, oh well.

One rigid mountain bike, one dropbar mountain bike, three cross bikes. Nervous chatter about the horse trail from us three cross bikes. Stoicism from the mountain bikes. They came to win and they’ll go 1 and 2 for the day. It’s obvious we’re not in the same league. I’m wearing shorts and t-shirt for god’s sake.

Fast descent into the trail, slow for a couple horses and then full speed over roots and ruts. It’s not bad, like a mild version of the Sope upper loop. I watch everyone else bobble here and there as I clean everything and feel good. My silly monstercross rides have prepared me. Survive Sope on 38mm tires and you’ll be ok most anywhere else.

We stay together for the first half. Flying at the speed of light along low visibility rutted but dry trail. More horses then pedal to the metal. Hop over trees, jump down a steep rooted drop, creek crossing, water rank with the smell of livestock.

My upper body is taking a beating but we are moving so fast and smooth I can ignore it. I’m not drinking and barely eating and I know I’m sinking but staying on is better than trying to navigate and pick lines alone. Shortly the mountain bikes drop us as we two cross bikes drop the other one. Flouro yellow camelbak is not seen again. I ride with Monty for the rest of the horse trail. There’s sand and more horses and a slippery rock crossing and a river crossing that was supposed to be raging but with a week of no rain is barely a puddle.

I’ve enjoyed enough of the horse trail much sooner than we actually exit onto more gravel. We climb and climb and climb. I see stars and am seriously dehydrated. It ends up taking me almost 4 hours to recover from this point. Mountain bike 2 finds us on the climb, says he got lost – more to explain himself to himself than be social to us and then he and Monty ride away. I wave bye and pedal squares to the church.

I get there a few minutes after them and a hose is hooked up, we teamwork water and then they ride off. I say it was nice riding with you I’m not strong enough and good luck. The next 20 miles take 20 years. I pedal and I whinge and I wonder why I do this to myself. My arms are dead, my heart is dead and my brain is a raisin. The sun is so high and hot and every descent has crusher run at the bottom and every climb is twice as long and I hate everything I wish I had stayed home. I ate new gels and my stomach is acidic and my head hurts.

After an eternity where I peek at my mileage, rage at how much longer it is to the camp, then decide to wait an hour before looking again, wait the “hour” look and rage again as I’ve only gone five miles in what felt like hours and hours.

I hit the camp and the euphoria curtain comes down. Monty is shirtless and sitting down, he’s done. No more today. I’m in third place. Typical aid station motivation – “They just left you can catch up” I laugh so hard my face hurts. I’m not catching anyone, seeing Monty quit has given me the fortitude to continue on enough to finish. I also have to keep my word to James and give him a ride. If I cut the ride short now I’ll have a wonderful time sitting around for 6-7 hours feeling like a failure. So eat some gummies, have a coke, oil my chain and then back out.

Guy in blue on an mountain bike comes up, doesn’t say much after getting his pic and takes off. He’s riding strong but I catch up. Typical of the day he doesn’t want to talk or draft or rotate. That’s fine it’s a long ride and people are nervous. Eventually he just rides off. Maybe he doesn’t like my face.

Now I’m alone again. Dusty roads, little wind, sun so high and so hot. I’m drinking and eating and it’s ok. I’m lonely like always after 7 hours so I put in my headphone and listen to Chris Delia make jokes and laugh about bullshit. I pedal and eat and look at the sky and the county. It’s nice.

Sometimes I stop and walk up a hill. I stop to pee, bright florescent yellow but what can you do. I’m too far behind on hydration to do anything other than suffer and catch up slowly. Too much water too fast is worse than the alternative. My lips are chapped from the dust and the salt and the pollen and the sun. I stop and put on some chapstick. Is there any greater luxury than having a framebag full of all the things I could need? I love you Revelate Tangle Medium Black.

So I keep going. Wander around the last church looking for water until I see the pump house, my addled mind takes a few moments to connect no water flow + light switch + electrical pump = duh. Flip the switch and ice cold water. It’s so wonderful. I feel much better for a bit. Rusty from GravelCyclist passes me and then we ride together just long enough to exchange pleasantries. I say he won some race we both did, he says ya then I say usually I ride with JOM or K-Dogg and he laughs and says ya and then I say good luck and bye and he rides off looking strong.

I get passed by another rider somewhere in there as well. Soon enough I recognize the roads, I’ve been here for Red Clay Ramble four times. Now I’m close to home and the sun is low in the sky. I’m not pedaling strong, but stronger than I was. Last turn and then I roll to the end. Imagining the different finishes I’ve had at the Ramble. Sometimes solo, sometimes sprinting. This is different, I’m not sure if it’s better but fuck it’s harder for sure.

Get my pic with the time on my GPS and then Craig D and Gike a guy named Mike I met at an alleycat appear. Craig D cut out feeling like shit and I guess Gike did too. We laugh and complain and feel good about being done.

I slowly roll the few hundred yards to camp and talk a bit with K-Dogg from GravelCyclist. He quit too, course was too hard after horse camp which was no fun so they came back. I totally relate. Probably if I hadn’t had to keep my word to James it would have been easier to quit.

I’m so happy to be done I bask in the endorphins and do everything slowly.


10 minutes to put my bike in the van. 10 minutes to change. Just sit for a few minutes. Look around for some more. After an hour or so I leave to go get a Big Mac. Get something for James as well. Oddly enough the McDonald’s has a functional shake machine and I am in heaven. Pickle at the gas station and I am restored. Drive back to the camp in the setting sun, it’s nice.

I watch James’ progress on Instagram and he’s riding strong. Stand by the sign waiting for riders as the sun sets, look at the stars, sit on the ground. It doesn’t matter time is free when you don’t have to pedal anymore. Before too long James is back at the van. Happy to be done. He wastes no time, bike in the back, Chicken sandwhich in his mouth we’re back on the road to Atlanta in no time. Talk about the ride and all sorts of stuff on the way back. Nice to have company.

I drop James, make it home and try to get ready for the BeltGrind.


Sleep is a battle but it comes fast once I commit. I wake up, eat a bit, get my bike set up a bit and then have a nap. Wake up again and slowly realize I never registered for the race. Check my email, check the website, check my blog, check my email again oh shit whoops I forgot to register. Send of a desperate message to the organizer Wyatt, then a text to James to see if he knows anyone dropping out I can buy a ticket from then I whirl into my van and drive down.


The parking lot is packed. Tents, giant off-road redbull thing blasting music, a million cyclists, costumes and all sorts of fun stuff. I spot Wyatt instantly and I guess he saw my message and gets me set up to register right away. I am intensely thankful and think fuck I really need to volunteer or do something other than just race for once.

So I pay and then go sit in my van for bit as I’m an hour early for my usual time. Have a coffee and enjoy the breeze. Walk a bit and drink a ton of water. Nervous about my food, water intake and energy. Yesterday was hard but I rode a very low intensity for such a large portion I think I’ll be ok today. Thinking Top 5 should be doable. The announcement for the announcement starts and I change to my shorts and t-shirt, put on my hat and helmet and ride up. Everyone is standing around in helmets so it’s fine but kinda silly. Helmet becomes a hat when not riding a bike I think.

I talk to Kelly and Craig D and Angel and Opie and Jacob Cronan who were 1st and 3rd last year. There’s a lot of people. A lot of people.

The announcements happen, birth year determines direction, even for me so I pull same as last year. Racers line up here so we do. Nervous banter, nervous laughter.


Hey don’t ride so fast you know there’s two laps right. Haha I laugh; I’m going to kill myself and see what happens.

We jostle and joke and fidget and then there’s the drumroll and maybe the siren or was that yesterday and then it’s sprinting down the beltline and tunnel vision. I’m set for the hole shot, lose it to Fuji singlespeed who I learn later is named Kenny then get it back right away. I fly into the first dirt section hard, this is my max I’ve got nothing left but the first few miles can make or break the race. I lean, move forward back side-to-side as I wind through around and over the ruts and broken ground connected by flat smooth sections. I’m killing myself and it works perfectly. I come out on the westside beltline with just one rider. Jeff Hopkins, former national champion track racer Jeff Hopkins who’s also an outstanding gravel rider. Well hell this’ll be fun.

So we blast down the beltline, slow for a family here, smile and wave at a kid there it goes pretty well and reasonably pro-social. Hole shot again into the tunnel level and then we wind around. Coming into the apartments I lose the third hole shot to a kid on a BMX bike but he clears the tech section so it’s fine. Now Jeff and I blast along the railroad ballast. He’s crushing me on his cross bike fuck this MTB is great but he’s so fast.

Mud section is next, I think he pedals the whole thing, I bobble once but manage to get my pics taken upright and pedaling so that’s nice. Soon first checkpoint is here. I drop my can, get a punch and we’re off.


Jeff doesn’t have a route so it’s follow me and it’s off down the sidewalk at full speed. Can’t cross Northside against the light so up the sidewalk and then over. I yell preparation instructions to Jeff as we get the green and cross Maritta and then down the path through Georgia Tech up to Atlantaic Station over 17th street get the green for Spring but have to bobble on Peachtree then up to Ansley Park then down the hill and second checkpoint.

Playful assault and battery by dinosaurs as we fuck around jumping from leaves to leaves and crawling through hay. Get my stamp some whiskey and it’s blast down the smooth gravel to the eastside beltline. Shit there’s the leaders coming the other direction. Are we halfway? Fuck I think they’re moving fast and there’s four or five in a group. Jeff and I hit the eastside and fly down the sidepath. Few pedestrians slow here and there cross the bridge and keep going down the side trail. It’s anti-social rude riding but that’s ok it’s just for today.

Soon we hit third checkpoint and do the pony ride and get my punch. Jeff crushes me in the sand but soon we’re riding well on the gravel. It’s bumpy and large washboard but we are moving. He picks excellent lines and sees things I don’t usually see. I learn a lot he’s smart rider. Next checkpoint is just a punch. Say hi to Sarah Humphreys awkward just like last year and then ginger ale shot blok and off we go. I’m eating and drinking well and we just fly over the dirt and rocks and sand and bridges and pass the couple hundred riders coming the other way.

Soon we’re back at the start. No one here, few seconds to be confused then Jeff says ok that was fun and I was only doing one lap. I laugh outside cry inside and then the whiskey hits and I’m off. I fly up the dirt. If you ride your bike hard enough you can time each pedal stroke to the terrain and just float over everything. I am right at the edge of death as I see the chase group. 2-3 spread apart a few hundred feet. Shit I think I’m only a few minutes out. Later I learn I was 10 from my chasers and 5 from the leader going the other direction. Stomp the pedals and just fly heart singing.

So I go, stamp 2 at checkpoint 4, stamp 2 at checkpoint 3 pedal pedal pedal drink eat drink show my teeth and keep going.

Back on the beltline and more sidetrail. Lots of riders coming the other way, lots with their heads down but I flow around, someone calls my name here and then later on as well. I think it’s Jacob from the Chattanooga trip and then Eddie from the SundaytoMonday rides. Shit I don’t know the tunnel vision and race high are so intense.

Hit the green light at Monroe again twice lucky unbelievable and back on the gravel. More head down dipshits but I make it to checkpoint 2 again, get my stamp stamp lady is handsy in a weird fun way and then I’m off. Slow walk up the hill and then try to conserve on the pavement. See Austin the leader for counter-clockwise and feel the pressure. Through Ansley again, hit the green at Peachtree then Spring goddamn luck just coming all over today. I know my choose your own adventure route is the best. So I dial back just a bit here and rest, pedaling hard but eat drink drink go. Slow walk up the Georgia Tech path then over Marietta down Northside and back to checkpoint 1. Tomato is as flirty as possible in the five seconds we interact which throws me for a loop but gives me a nice awkward booster out of there.

Fly by casuals at the mud section, get myself covered in mud again. Walk the rocks, run the rocks and then back onto the ballast. I see a big group ahead and downshift to pass before the tunnel level. Works great I get the hole shot ahead and then it’s pedal pedal pedal and I’m on the westside beltline again. I have my last bit of liquid and I’m right on the ragged edge of blowing up. This has been so hard but so fast and so intense I haven’t been able to pay much attention other than surviving. I’ve suffered so much and I’m so close.

I pedal as hard as I can into the wind down the pavement, soon I’m at the short dirt section, corner corner pedal jump weight back for dips and then fly out on the beltline. There’s the finish sprint sprint sprint holy shit I won. I stop show my belt and then sit down on the grass.

It feels like seconds before the 2nd place rider Austin comes in. Turns out it was 11 minutes that disappeared. I sit without moving for almost twenty minutes but it feels like only a couple. Third place comes in and we laugh and compare stories and notes and laugh and fuck it feels good to be done. Other riders trickle in. Opie comes up he dropped his chain right at the first offroad section and did one loop and was done. Other guys dropped after other shit happened. Jacob comes in somewhere top 10. Kenny somewhere too.

As more people finish and they talk to their friends I sit by myself for the first time. Jesus Christ 11 minutes to second place that’s crazy. Could have dialed it back just a bit I guess. I feel ridiculous. I’ll never be fit like this again, 200k of gravel the day before and then this today. Good thing Shey Linder didn’t show.


Then it’s say hi to other people I know and getting congratulations and I look for Kelly and Craig D but they’ve went on already. I wonder around in a daze and wait for prizes. Try to get food but I’m not really hungry. Then it’s prizes and laughing and that’s it. Go home and sit around in a daze until I finally pass out at 1am only to wake right back up the beating of my heart in my ears at 5am. Winning a race like this is intense in ways other events just aren’t. Definition of over-stimulation. Same thing happened 7 years ago when I won the Peachtree Bash. It’s almost too much. I’ll spend the rest of the day in a daze, wide-eyed and happy, snoozing here and there. Exhausted but mind still ready to ride at a million miles an hour.




Geometry Primer

Tight cornering and turning is based much more around trail, handlebar width and individual rider skill than wheelbase, IME/O.

I think this is partially due to mis-attribution due to a lack of understanding how small changes in the first two variables have more outsize effects on the feel of a bike much more so than wheelbase. Especially during high speed and aggressive movement of the bike/rider. Something like ~7mm of trail and corresponding ~2-3mm of flop can have a very large effect on how a bike feels as it begins to lean over. Conversely, when riding blind I’ve found most riders have a hard time differentiating less than 20-40mm of wheelbase change, especially if it’s balanced on both the front and rear end.

Looking at the bikes that finish DK is interesting but most people do not understand geometry well enough to have had it be a defining factor in what bike they choose to purchase/ride in comparison to all the other variables involved. It takes quite a bit of $$$/experience to really suss out the small changes and their effects.

I will also say that the terms relaxed and aggressive are poor descriptors and do not describe how a bike rides. It would be better to describe bikes along a spectrum as:

Use steering to turn or maintain a straight course, leaning and body english produce much less reaction and are much less necessary. Also has less stability at the front end as the speed increases.


Use leaning the bike at an angle, counter-steering (push handlebars inside of the turn) and body english to turn or maintain a straight course, steering with the handlebars produces much less reaction and is much less necessary. Also has more stability at the front end as the speed increases.

Low Trail 35mm
Steering, less stable at speed

Mid Trail 55mm
Balanced steer/lean, stable at speed

High Trail 70mm
Leaning/countersteer, very stable at speed

Note: larger tires, more aggressive tread and lower pressure all increase trail for a given geometry. Wider handlebars provide more leverage and increase feedback on low trail, too wide creates a nervous descending bike that is overly sensitive to small corrections – oversteer condition. Narrower handlebars do not have enough leverage and decrease feedback for high trail, the bike is hard to maneuver during descending and resists cornering – understeer condition.

Personally I find high trail bikes extremely hard to corner with handlebars less than 52cm wide. Even then they require a significant amount of leaning and benefit from very aggressive side knobs to prevent sliding at lower speeds than lower trail bikes. Conversely I find low trail to be much too nervous descending – compared to mid/high trail, smaller rocks and road features tend to wrench the front end around requiring significant focus to make corrections to track the preferred line. Mid trail is my preferred front end geometry as it has a good balance of steering/leaning and although it lacks the stability of high trail on rough descents at very high speed it is still acceptable for the additional ease of cornering.


2018 Skyway Epic

Lets see

Jerkoff race promoter started the race 4 minutes early, after giving a 5 minute warning and starting to make small talk. I think as soon as he saw me ride off to the porta-potty he said something like it was go-time as soon as I opened the door. Because that was what happened. It was embarrassing and made me feel like a fool. Seriously fuck that guy, what an asshole.

Rode angry all race and knocked 30 minutes off my time from last year. Probably riding a mountain bike with hydraulic brakes and the cooler weather helped.

Unbeknownst to me my bottom bracket was pretty much destroyed within the first few miles. The incessant squishy creaking that followed me all race was due to the bearings on the drive side being completely seized. When I noticed later I could not turn the crank by hand without bracing my entire body and putting in some serious strength. Realized I wasted a ton of energy pushing it around the course.

Skipped the trash food they serve at the end and just went home. I’m not doing any more events from this guy.



Race Report: Middle Ga Epic 2018

I won, also came in 3rd. Mainly because all the hardasses did the 200k.

Course was pretty well split between gravel, sandy/silty muddy dirt and pavement. Several people crashed in the first muddy rutted section, everyone sat on for the first 55 miles. I attacked with one guy and then two guys and got some distance, lost a few places once we hit the soft downhill but got a few back after one rider got stuck in some mud and the other pulled the ripcord on the rocky hill a few miles out. Managed to keep him in the distance and finish first in my class and third overall.

Nice event, had a lot of fun. Everything worked out pretty great, cut off shorts are fun.Shorts.jpg

Link to facebook pictures of the course


Race Report: Standard Deluxe Dirt Road Century 2017


This is the most perfect race I’ve ever done.

I got dropped early but quickly joined a chasing trio. We rotated well and kept the pace high, at the first aid station we all stopped to pee and refill water. About 6-7 riders came in just after us and eventually we all got together and kept the same high pace. Lots of rotation and regrouping – southeast riders can be very polite and hardworking.

As we moved through the dusty countryside the pace pushed higher and higher and riders dropped as exhaustion and mental fatigue set in.

Riding in a fast paceline on unknown gravel roads creates a hyper focus – it’s a rush and completely fills my mind. There is no time to focus on anything other than the road 15-20 meters ahead. I eat, I pedal and I rotate through with strong pulls.

Eventually we hit pavement. The rush recedes and suddenly we’re all just pedaling along – confusion sets in and there is some crowding and back and forth rotations as everyone tries to square their different bikes and tires and strengths. Eventually we all calm down and the rotations begin again.

Thinking back now, 2 weeks removed from the event, this reminds me of having an injury break in the middle of a wrestling match. High school wrestling is an absurd sport and this is no more obvious than when the pause button is hit and I’m just standing there in a tiny lycra singlet while the other guy gets his bleeding nose stopped with tiny cylinders of cotton.

For the previous 3 minutes we’ve been locked in combat. Arms, legs, heads and bodies attacking, defending with hearts pounding away. Suddenly a spot of blood appears on the mat and multiple whistles are blown. The hands of the ref, shockingly strong, pull us apart and my bleeding opponent kneels in place as his injury is attended to. I stand there and can only really hear my heart beating. Everything takes a crystal focus. I feel like I can see every single face in the stands at once. My dad yelling encouragement in the stands as my coach paces back and forth showing support with a diminutive thumbs up and some clapping. My mind is running so fast and I’m only along for the ride, the break only takes a minute or two but it feels like an eternity. Wrestling cleared my mind and now I’m noticing everything that had been turned off. I’m cold and tired and hungry and angry and ready to get back to wrestling. I’ve worn down my opponent and he doesn’t deserve any rest now so close to his edge. Shortly the ref guides us back to the center and we resume, everything gets shut off again and I feel at home.

Anyway, the pavement section is fast and a little boring. We blast along rolling hills and I look around and note the other bikes. I see a 650b Open Up with slick tread WTB Horizon tires, another a Felt that is some sort of monstercross rig with 60mm G-One tires. Mostly the other riders are on cross bikes with mildly aggressive 38mm-44mm tires, like my bike but theirs are either carbon of aluminum. That’s ok, I like my wiggly steel Soma – it’s skinny tubes look nice and it rides so well.

We reel in a few more riders and the group is eating and happy and moving along. Shortly we hit gravel and the knives come back out. The strength differences become apparent after each rider takes a few pulls. The weaker riders are slowly discarded as the pace picks up incrementally. I dig in my dwindling reserves and try my hardest to maintain the pace when I hit the front and there’s an uphill. It’s uncouth to drive the pace from the front on the flats or downhills – just a waste of energy and I’ll get caught anyway.

But when the road turns up, that’s where I can attack. Keep it quiet and non-obvious. A little bit faster here, keep the cadence normal but pedal hard. Riders behind will unconsciously keep up and with each 20-30 second climb they get pushed closer and closer to the edge.

Miles tick by, the gravel goes from grey to white to red to orange back to red and we get closer to the finish. I keep one eye on my GPS and watch the miles go by, the other is on the remaining group members. There are five of use now, they are all strong and the friendliness and comport have left. We’re riding the ragged edge of exhaustion. Mental and physical fatigue are intense and slowly grinding down our will to continue. We are close to the finish, less than 2 kilometers now. Intermingled with the short course riders I surge over the remaining hills. In the drops climbing out of the saddle but crouched low. The gravel rumbles under my tires. Our group is still together but spread out, attacks come and go – no one has enough energy to pull more than a few bike lengths ahead. I am metering out my efforts as well as I can, I have hardly anything left by the time we hit the wooden bridge that signals the last few hundred meters.

The group is still together, a ragged sail of five riders crouched over their machines breathing fire amid the dusty heat of the day. We are seconds from finishing, ending the pain and falling into the grass exhausted. The group is fluid, posturing and threatening attacks when something explodes in my head. I grip the drops as if to crush them and stomp the pedals, attack so none can follow, blasting ahead I leave the group behind. Bouncing and skittering over the broken pavement I am alone at the top of the hill. I drop my head and coast through the finish line. People are hanging out, mingling with smiles and cold beers. Music drifts through the air chasing laughter and the smell of a well run grill. The instant change of atmosphere is surreal and underlines the absurdity of the experience.

Race Report: 2017 Fools Gold 60


I ate too much before the race, didn’t eat enough during the race. Didn’t drink enough water or caffeine. The singletrack was amazing – so many rocks and roots and tech. Blew up heading back over the mountain but pulled it together to catch and then fend off 3-4 other riders. Next year I’m bringing better tires, flared handlebars and paying attention to my front fork pressure.