We are so proud to partner with the Barry-Roubaix Killer Gravel Road Race, the largest gravel road race in the world, held right around the corner from the brewery in scenic Barry County, Michigan. The race offers three different length marked courses (22-mile, 36-mile, 62-mile) to accommodate every level of cyclist and awards over $32,000 in cash and prizes to the top finishers. Interested in registering? Go here.
We had 6 free entries to the Barry-Roubaix to give away and, to make it interesting, we asked you all to share a story about the best bicycling ride you’ve ever been on in order to enter to win. The heartfelt, funny and moving stories (and photos) came flooding in and we found ourselves trying not to cry yet again (after the Bring Me to Black Party Contest entries, we thought we’d got it all out but apparently not). Six entries rose to the surface and we think you are going to love them as much as we did. Thanks to all who shared their stories with us and congratulations to the winners!
Grand Rapids, MI
There have been so many great rides, but the one most fresh in my head was last July. I had flown to San Francisco for work, but I had Saturday and Sunday for a biking adventure. I rented a touring bike at a tiny shop along a wharf. The day before I had headed north across the Golden Gate Bridge and camped out in a hammock at a state park. I ended up riding on Bolinas Ridge Road, which was less of a road and more of a rock field up and down never ending rolling hills through temperate rainforest drenched by fog and riddled with mud puddles. It was getting darker and darker, and my phone had died. Luckily, one of the people at the campground I stumbled into had a small battery pack that was able to get it back up to 76% charged for the next day. I woke up early and plotted a route toward the Hostelling International-Point Reyes lodge, after plunging down a huge hill that I knew I’d soon be climbing, I ended up riding a two track out to a beautiful campground over looking the beach and ocean. A server at the place I ate breakfast suggested some other trails further north. After taking in the views for a good long time, I started my way back. There was a trail connecting up to a road that went to the other trails. The map said bikes were allowed. It started out as a two track, but after connecting with a short section of paved road, made a sharp left and headed UP, UP, UP.
After pushing my bike up multiple unrideable hills, I noted that if the map says “Bench”, marked by a little dot, that bench is probably worth visiting. The view over Point Reyes was spectacular! I could see the beach where I had been earlier that morning. There I met a man who had biked up the paved road I was about to bike down. He told me there were some old fire roads and an old railroad grade leading down from Mt. Tamalpais that I could try to ride if I had enough time on my way back to SF. He likely had no idea the adventure he was sending me on. I said my goodbye to the view and coasted down a steep, narrow road full of switchbacks and little traffic, headed back to the ocean.
I wasn’t sure exactly what route I should take, but ended up on the Drake’s Head Trail. I’m so glad that I did. The view was absolutely stunning, perched above the ocean, I could see up and down the coastline. That’s where my photo is from. At this point it was well into the afternoon and I knew I still had a lot of miles to cover to get back to my rental car parked on a side street near Golden Gate Park. I headed back toward civilization and Tomales Bay. I had been told to stop in Inverness for some fresh Oysters. I ended up at a Czech restaurant with very friendly service and I did try some oysters. I continued south, still unsure what route to take to get back inland to Sausalito and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Somehow I get it in my head that I should probably still visit Mt. Tamalpais, being so close. Plus, there’s that trail on the old railroad grade my friend from the bench told me about that will take me back down. I found a road that will get me back up on the ridge, Bolinas-Fairfax Road. It’s a beautiful lonely road full of switchbacks. After climbing for six straight miles I reach the ridge road. It’s gorgeous. The sun is getting low in the sky and the light on all the grassy hills of the Marin headlands is truly spectacular. Lots of people are pulled over at various spots along the ridge road to watch the sunset. They get to hop in their cars and drive home, but I’m still 25+ miles from my car. It’s getting chilly, but I am still warm from riding. Despite the darkness setting in, Mt. Tam is still calling. When I finally get to the parking lot of the visitor center at the East Peak, it’s empty, and it’s completely dark outside. The view over the bay of the peninsula of San Francisco is stunning. Around this time, my phone dies again, so I can’t access any maps to find out where this “Old Railroad Grade” trail starts. I search around and find a trail. “Eldridge Grade”. This must be it. Okay, let’s do it.
I’d later learn looking at Google Maps that the start of the “Old Railroad Grade” was about 100 ft west, going down the other side of the mountain. The trail is super steep, and even more strewn with rocks than the previous fire road. I have no idea where I am or where I’m going. I console myself with knowing that if I just keep going downhill and head generally south toward SF, I will eventually find a road. It’s so steep in parts that my hands get tired of braking. This is no railroad grade, so I realize I must have found the wrong trail. I’m following signs for trails with names that mean nothing to me. Finally I make my way to Mill Valley. I’m guessing that it must be after 11pm, but I really have no idea what time it is. I must have looked helpless. A young guy in a car asks me where I’m trying to go. I finally make it back to a paved trail that I recognize from my trip out. It follows aways along Richardson Bay. It’s really quite beautiful. I’m tired. I’m worried the bike/ped access on the bridge is going to be closed. I’m coasting down a medium grade, toward the historic fort at the bottom of the bridge. BU…BUMP. I brake hard, but am unable to keep from crashing. Oh S*$&. Oh yeah…those plastic speed bumps I rode around yesterday afternoon while passing some slower riders up the hill. I assess myself, and then the bike. My hand is a bit scraped up, and I think there were a couple scrapes on a leg. Shoulda worn gloves. The bike suffered some scrapes on the brake lever and bar tape, but everything was still operational. I finally get to the bridge and discover I can hit a button and it will open a gate and then I can ride across! Yay!
With no map, I attempted to head in the correct direction, but end up getting lost in the windy roads of The Presidio. I finally found my way to my car. It’s after 1am and I still have an hours drive to my hotel in Livermore, CA. My adventure is over and I cannot wait to hit the bed.
I later mapped my route and found I’d ridden over ~95 miles and climbed 10,000ft. https://ridewithgps.com/routes/9285060. Not bad for a rental bike and a pair of Chaco sandals
Let me start by saying that I just fell in love with biking three years ago. I dug out my mountain bike and hit our very small local trail in Toledo. It is only 7 miles and there is barely any elevation. My bike was an old 26” GT from the lat 1990s. I was terribly out of shape and suffered through seven easy miles. But something happened. I was happy every minute that I was riding. With a young daughter it had been a very long time since I had done something for myself. Life was about chasing her around and making sure that she was happy and safe. Now I had time for me.
Three years later and I entered my first iceman. Just like that first ride I was not quite in shape for it and suffered through it. I have never had so much fun doing so poorly at something! I guess the point is that I am hooked on biking and trying to get a little better every year. Because last year was so wet I was not able to practice on the trails very much. As a result I spent way to much time indoors wishing I was riding. So I made the decision to buy a road bike. With a road bike I could ride anytime the trails are wet and still get my miles in.
Now, back to that little girl that I was spending time trying to keep happy and safe. Her name is Allison and she is my best friend. We do everything together. We camp, ski, white water raft, rock climb, zipline, you name it. If we can get outdoors and do it together we do. She just never really got into mountain biking. But the minute I bought that road bike she stared at it in awe. She thought it was the neatest thing ever. On her birthday this year I bought her a legit road bike. So far she says it was the best birthday ever. Our first ride was a 12 mile out and back. She is hooked and she is in love. She told me that we have to ride every day. Her goal this year is a 30 mile ride with her Dad! I have to say that I think that this is the beginning of a shared passion that I hope lasts as long as I can be in the saddle.
Keep in mind that my daughter is a type 1 diabetic. She is currently 11 and was diagnosed when she was 3 ½ years old. She doesn’t let anything hold her back. She is a dancer and is on the swim team. She participated in her first kids triathlon last year and will participate in more this year. Truthfully she is my hero. To be able to go out on our road bikes together for the first of a lifetime of rides…….yeah the best ride ever.
In the Summer of 2014, I signed up to ride a 4,000 mile, cross-country bike trip to raise money and create awareness for young adults with cancer, an event called the 4k for Cancer. This was the most physically and mentally challenging 70 days of my life. On day 13, our friend and teammate Jamie Roberts was struck and killed by a distracted driver while changing a tire on Kentucky highway. After several very difficult team discussions, we decided as a team to complete the ride in honor of Jamie and for all of the young adults and their families that have been affected by cancer. Our team alone raised over $200,000 for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults (mostly donated on Jamie’s page, of course). I want to say that every day we rode was the best ride ever because I was always constantly thinking of Jamie and all those counting on us and praying for us to finish. If I had to pick the best day, it was when we finally made it to the West Coast in Tillamook, Oregon. This picture is of me and my out of shape body riding straight into the Pacific Ocean – a body of water that I had never seen before that day.
Barry Roubaix race in 2013. Seven weeks and six days before the race while on a spin bike I suffered a heart attack and needed CPR and AED machine to survive. Went to cardio rehab for a few weeks and passed stress test and got clearance to ride with no limitations two weeks before the race. Finished the 36 mile race feeling good and alive!
Quentin Rampage Jackson
2 summers ago, I decided to participate in the Tour De Ford metric century ride in Detroit. That seemed too easy… so I decided to ride it on my ’69 Schwinn Panther.
You know, an appropriate bike for riding long distances. Bendix 70 coaster brake I’d rebuilt the year prior when I sheared the nibs holding the cog onto the hub and wiped out while pedaling out of the saddle, with a slightly fewer tooth count cog than it came with (off a little kids bike, mostly because it was all I had lying around).
Naturally, I show up to the ride, deal with people looking at me strange and asking if I’m there for the ride because I’m not wearing any cycling gear and I’m riding Pee Wee Herman’s bike. We take off, I ride for a bit and end up corking a freeway exit ramp so the ride can get through… and I stand there for about 20 minutes or more until all the riders. I end up at the back of the ride and start cranking to get to the front… which I managed in about an hour. The bike felt especially difficult to pedal, like I was churning mud, but it seemed to roll fine, so I figured maybe it was something about the smaller rear cog that made it feel wonky
By the time I made it to nearly the front, I was on Jefferson in Grosse Pointe with Lake St. Claire to my right, and I was pretty well tapped out. The last other cyclists I passed had a brief conversation about how they couldn’t believe I’d gone this far on my bike, were joking about how fast I was moving, but my legs were just aching. Rolled into our rest stop at a hospital, went to the bathroom, drank water, ate snacks, and tried to relax.
We took back off… and I really couldn’t push myself anymore. The last 20 miles or so were miserable… it took all of my effort just to get back to Henry Ford hospital on the boulevard where the ride started and ended. I was completely alone when I returned, and found I could barely walk, my legs were so sore. People were congratulating me on finishing my first metric century though, people had talked about how they couldn’t believe I’d made it… I just wanted to die at the time, haha. But it was definitely one of the hardest and most rewarding rides I’ve ever done.
My legs were so sore I could barely climb the stairs in my house for days, and I couldn’t get on a bike for almost 2 weeks. Even when I rode the Tour De Troit weeks later, I was still in pain and couldn’t do more than just putz along on a more traditional road bike, haha.
I later took apart the hub on the Panther again since it didn’t feel right… apparently, the non-drive side bearing cage was missing 3 balls and had been grinding apart internally the entire ride. How I made it 62 miles like that, I don’t know.
Only picture I can scare up from the event was me and some friends passed out on the helipad behind the hospital post-ride. I laid there for a solid hour. I’m the only one not wearing any cycling gear.
Last week, a group of friends and I finished an amazing week of spring training in the mountains of North Carolina, and the picture is from our last day of the week’s riding… It was stellar, we finished the day with 95+ miles and over 10,000ft elevation gain, nice way to cap a week with some great friends and prep for the best gravel road race ever!