GRiT Pre-Ride #1

Route Beta: This is a mountain biker’s gravel course: significant climbing on minimally maintained roads.  I suggest 1.9” or wider tires (basically mountain bike tires) and gearing as low as you can go (mountain bike gearing).  The Yeti is old skool with a triple in the front.  I spent a lot of time in the 22/36 granny gear.  That works out to be 15.13 gear inches on my 27.5 wheels.  Riding a modern 700c gravel bike you would need to be riding a 30/50 (15.78 gear inches) to be in the same neighborhood.

Route map can be found here: Pre Ride of GRiT Gravel Event | Ride | Strava

My partners and I at Off-Camber Productions are busy putting together a mountain bike slash gravel weekend July 9-10, 2022 in the mountains above Cle Elum, Washington.  Currently we have four courses – small, medium, large and XL – mapped out, but due to mountain snow and complicated permitting issues we haven’t been able to preview the routes yet.  The snow is melting quickly and this past weekend I decided to see how far I could get.

Note: since I wrote this post we’ve consolidated the event into three races: GRiT, GRiTL and GRiTXL.  Keep an eye on our website for up-to-the-minute information.

I drove the hour and a half from Seattle to Cle Elum on Sunday with hopes of pre-riding the small (32 mile) course.  For those of you who don’t know the great state of Washington we are bisected by the Cascade mountains, which run north-to-south nearly continuously from Canada to Oregon.  The West Side (commonly known as the Pacific Northwest or simply the “Seattle side”) is wet, green and temperate.  The east side (known as the Inland Northwest or the Inland Empire) is hotter/colder and much drier than its western neighbor.  In typical fashion I left my Seattle home under gray misty skies and arrived in Cle Elum under blue sunshine.  It’s been a grumpy spring and I’ll take all the sun that I can get.

Cle Elum was quiet, but not deserted, on a pleasant Sunday morning; I wanted post ride brisket so I parked at the Palouse to Cascade Trailhead, which is conveniently located next to Smokey’s BBQ.  After an easy roll to our starting location of DruBru I was on route and riding. 

This route is in your face within the first mile.  A right turn onto Statford Street marks the beginning of climb number one.  The climb starts stiff but quickly evens out tricking you into thinking “yeah no problem.”  Man what a beautiful day.  I love this western edge of Eastern Washington landscape, the forest here is more open than what I’m used to in the wetter western woodlands.  It’s a forest that you can walk through.

Beautiful Eastern WA forest

The climb is steady, and I would say difficult, for the first four miles.  Another mile of gradual ups and downs takes you to the summit.  The climb tops out at 3800’ and it was here that I hit an extended path of uninterrupted snow.  After a few hundred yards of bike pushing I decided that I’d save the remainder of the ride for later in the spring.  My guess is that it should be entirely snow free within a week.

Pushing and postholing

Instead of descending my uphill route I dropped down the mountain bike trail Brass Monkey.  Both up and down I was happy that I’d ridden Beti the Yeti, my 26” ARC hardtail that I’d converted to a gravel/bikepacking rig (rigid fork, drop bars and 27.5 wheels).  I was rolling over-inflated 2.1” tires with a moderately aggressive tread.  I could have dropped some pressure had I started to feel beat up, but the trail is buffed out and I felt fine.

No problem descending Brass Monkey on rigid-rigid gravel bike

After a fun descent I rolled through Roslyn and onto the Coal Mines Trail.  From there it’s a quick ten- minute gradual descent back to Cle Elum.  A quick stop at Smokey’s and I was home by 2:30.