Weather the Weather.

This is Deaner.

My first Gravel Metric was in 2011.  I was considerably less experienced in the world of cycling, having really only been “seriously” riding for about a year.  Heck, I was less than a year away from having a flat bar road bike on 23c tires.  With mirrors.  And a rack.  And a giant gel seat.  And aero bars.  I could go on…

But in 2011, I had good friends of mine build me up a “gravel bike”–a Vaya–and I trained for the Metric.  My training consisted of riding a lot, and even riding some gravel roads.  There was a 2 mile long stretch of gravel that was near my house, and I’d go out and ride it, back and forth and back and forth and back and forth, to “train for gravel.”

On the day of the event, the skies opened up.  There were microbursts.  There was hail.  There was seriously sideways wind.  There were drenching downpours.  There was flash flooding.

That, my friends, is a road.  Not a creek, but a road.  There was water over the bottom bracket in some areas.

I remember the crack of the lightning, and I was riding next to Mattias–me on a titanium bike and he on a carbon fiber bike.  I remember joking about how I’d draw the lightning because of my metal frame.  I remember lightning getting closer, and thinking about how that really wasn’t funny.

I also remember riders taking respite in barns along the way.  I remember riders getting invited up onto front porches of area farmers.  I remember riders sticking together and helping each other through.  I remember getting filthy, and then getting drenched, and then feeling cleansed.  I remember riding in conditions I had never ridden in before, doubting whether I would finish, and pushing through to the end.  I remember how good finishing felt.

So why do I share this today?  Well, the weather forecast is calling for some rain over the next few days.  The forecast is also suggesting isolated showers on Sunday.  I’ve had a few people email me and express doubt and reservation about riding if it rains.  This is my formal response.

Ride the event anyhow.

This is the best course we’ve ever had.  This is the best start/finish spot we’ve ever secured.  The people volunteering are some of the most dedicated people I’ve ever met.  This course will challenge you–dry or wet roads.  But all you have to do in order to finish is to keep turning over the pedals, quickly or slowly.

If it’s looking wet, throw on a set of wider tires, or ride your bike that’s set up for worse conditions.  Take your time and provide extra room on the B-roads.  Bring along an extra bottle or two, and some extra calories, in case you end up riding slower than expected.  Throw your phone in a sandwich baggie so it doesn’t get wet.  But come out and ride–because by riding you become stronger.  By doing your best, finishing or not, you become tougher.

Our slogan at Axletree has long been advocacy, events and awesome.  You’ll note that “winning” is not a part of our slogan.  We’re not really racers at heart.  We pull through, and help each other out.  We start together and we finish together.  We stop when someone has a flat, rather than engaging in an opportunistic attack.  That doesn’t mean that we are better or worse than race teams–there is enough gravel for everyone.  And there will be people out on the course absolutely killing it (despite the fact that this is not a race).  But there will also be people on the course taking their time and enjoying the ride for different reasons.  If you have doubt, know that there will be others who have doubt as well–just like I did some five years ago.  What I’ve found over the years is that the doubt of wondering if you will finish is far better doubt than the question of what would have happened if you would have ridden.

So come ride.  Be awesome.  Pull through.  Weather the weather.

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Further Event Details and WAIVERS!

Weather forecast looks like this might be a Gravel Wetric…at least for the days leading up to the event.  We’re getting really excited to share this new and amazing route with you.

If you’re coming, please consider printing off a waiver and bringing it signed–that will speed up your registration:

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Man, we get so excited about waivers.  Waivers are awesome, no?

We’re getting some questions on course layout and road surfaces.  This course has more gravel than any other course we’ve ever done, for any event.  As indicated in the previous post, the B-roads are a bit rougher than normal, and it looks like they might be wet.  If you’re on the fence about bike or tire selection, we’d suggest going more rugged rather than less rugged.

One final note: we will have 2 large tents this year (rather than just 1), and a great site to set up at.  We will also have our standard array of tables, chairs and picnic tables.  If you’d like, please feel free to bring your own camp chairs and such to be cozy.

See you Sunday!

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Final Route Details

So you’ve all been wondering…

And here it is.  This is the 2016 Gravel Metric Route.  A few route details:

This is a new route–with a lot of roads that have never been in the Gravel Metric.  It is, bar none, the best route we’ve ever had.  Beautiful scenery, more gravel, and further into places unknown.  It’s fantastic.  We did a pre-ride yesterday to verify last-minute course conditions, and it’s our favorite route in the area.  There is gravel of all kinds–from smooth, fast hero stuff to chunky, loose and deep.  Depending on the wind, you will either love us or hate us.

Those familiar with the Metric will recognize that we are riding Locust and Elva, because they’re at the heart of this ride.  Please note that the condition of those two roads is worse than we’ve ever seen them.  Locust in particular has some deep, hard to see ruts, so take your time and ride with caution.  Locust is not the place for a breakaway–you will want to leave some room behind the rider in front of you, so you can stop when she crashes, and so you can see obstacles that she’s avoiding.  If you’re riding near others on Locust, do a solid and call out obstacles.

The Forest Preserve makes an appearance again this year, and it’s late in the ride.  Prepare to be heartbroken.  There is not a good “non-GPS” way to plan the course through the preserve; we are not allowed to mark turns, and there are too many to mark, anyhow.  So either print some screenshots showing yourself the route, or bring GPS/ride with someone that has GPS.

Quick note on routing: We used 3 GPS to track yesterday, and the mileage was off by about a mile between the three.  The course routing track is accurate.  You can print off a cue sheet, and the mileage on there is accurate based on my GPS track.  But your GPS may be off by a mile or more, based on our results yesterday.  Using a GPS is the best course here.

We do not go through any towns on this year’s map.  If you look, most of the course does not have anywhere to bail to, or to head for supplies.  We may have some support somewhere on the course, but don’t plan on it.  This ride is 70 miles, the vast majority of it being unshaded gravel.  We brought 3 water bottles yesterday (each) and wished we had 4.  Bring your own food, water, tools, tubes, and whatever else you need to successfully finish 70 miles of gravel unsupported.  There is no SAG.  (Well, there might be some, but don’t rely on it).  Some areas of the course do not have cell service.  Be self-sufficient.

Roll-out will be at 9:00am, sharp.  The Metric starts and finishes at 6805 Leland Road, Waterman, Illinois.  When you arrive, we will have people to help pack cars in for parking purposes.  We will have registration and merchandise right at the farm, for the start of the event.  Bring monies for sweet bottles, stem caps, t-shirts and surprises.  We will also have a few Axletree kits available.

At the end of the ride, weather permitting, we will be “finishing” back in the woods.  When you get out to the ride, you’ll see that the start point is a grass lane that leads back to a mature Oak woods–we’ll have tents, food, beer, music and such back there…along a scenic creek.  So the ride isn’t over until you get back to the woods!  If you need to stop at your car and grab something, or a change of clothes, before heading back to the woods, go ahead.

A note on the start/finish location from Dean: this is my family’s farm.

  1. Please do not show up before 7:15am at the earliest (and if you show that early, expect to be put into service).
  2. Volunteers, please be there at 7:00am.
  3. We will have people in the yard helping with parking.  Please listen to them.
  4. No one is permitted to go into any of the buildings, nor to go up to the farmhouse, for any reason.  Anyone who violates this rule will be told to leave in not nice words.
  5. We will have portapotties on-site.  No one cares if you want to pee in the woods, or on the side of the road, or just about anywhere else, but please do not pee in my family’s yard.  We’d like them to maybe have us back some time in the future.
  6. No trash, debris, junk, etc. left anywhere.
  7. Keep in-yard changing tasteful.  (Nudity in the woods is encouraged).
  8. We’re going to fog the woods a bit for skeeters, but feel free to bring some OFF as well.

Post-ride food will be from Fatty’s, and we will have beer there as well.  We are planning on food for 300, based on current FB registration.  The final food order goes in Tuesday, so if you’re planning on registering, do it now.  As I said in the last post, please bring some monies to support the event,and to pay for your food and beer.  Our food cost is about $15/head (plus beer, plus paper products, plus portapotties, plus everything else we’re bringing out).

If there are any questions, hit us up on Facebook, or email me here.

It’s going to be a beautiful day, and an amazing course.  Join us!

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Events are Free. But Bring Monies.

Part of our core philosophy has always been that our events should be free–that if people like what we do and want to support it, we’re honored and humbled.  So as always, we are resisting the trend of many of our peer rides that charge an admission fee.  Come out, enjoy the ride and the roads and the camaraderie–it’s free.

We will have schwag, though…and you know you want schwag.

We will have Axletree shirts available in 3 color schemes, and in Mens and Womens sizes.  This is what they look like if you’re an 8 year old model who is wearing them over pajamas and reclining on a chaise.  (Seriously…don’t ask.)

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And of course, #humblebrag for our awesome partners:

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T-Shirts will be $25 each.

We will also have our first ever run of Axletree Stem caps, for the low, low, low price of $15.

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You know what you need to do.  You need to pull through.  This helps you remember.

In addition, we will have a run of custom water bottles…and yes, they’re the really nice ones that have the nice thing where your mouth goes, and the soft feel when you’re squeezing it, and a pretty logo, and general awesomeness.  No, I don’t yet have a picture.

Before the ride, our friends from Heritage will be there with coffee, scones and general excellence.


You know you jealous.

And after the ride, we will have food, beer, food, beer and beer.  We will also have ice-cold Coca-Cola.

So here’s the deal: our cost for food is going to be about $15 per eater, if we get our numbers right.  We’re shelling out several benjamins for the nice porte-potties and hand-wash stations.  We’re shelling out for some other general surprises and awesomeness.  And the rub of hosting a free event is the sad truth that nothing is really free.  So while there is no charge, we won’t be shy about asking you to support Axletree–whether you want to support it and help us recoup our costs of holding awesome events, or if you want to kick a little something-something in the pot to help us keep up with advocacy work like Project Enable, which delivered 25 new bikes/helmets/locks to persons of need in our community last year, or Project Humpty Dumpty that delivered scores of helmets to kids that otherwise would not have access to them, or the other projects that we currently have up our sleeves.

So either way, come out.  If you eat, we ask that you at least pay for your vittles.  But stay a while, buy some schwag, support the endeavor.

And don’t forget to pull through.

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Gravel Metric Update #2

We will have t-shirts, bottles, and potentially some other swag for sale!

We will have portapotties on site–some people were apparently getting concerned about that.  Never fear, we know the scourge of cyclists with small bladders.

We will have food and beverage available after the ride–delicious food and tasty, ice-cold beverage.

We’ll provide the online cue information a week before the event, along with GPS files.  You will be asked to bring your own cue sheet, and also to print your own waiver.  Those’ll be forthcoming (again, a week out).

If there are any questions, please hit us up!

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Gravel Metric Update

So we’re doing some pretty exciting things this year.

For the first time ever, the Metric is moving.  Not far, but it’s moving.  For every year since its inception, the Metric was hosted out of a parking lot in beautiful DeKalb, Illinois.  While we love DeKalb, we’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a more rustic start, closer to gravel, that avoided the several-mile stretch on busy state highways.  This year, we’re going forward with that.

The ride will start and end on a farm just a couple miles outside of Waterman, Illinois.  We’ll provide maps and an exact address as we get closer, but for your trip planning purposes, plan on being about 5 minutes (by car) outside of Waterman.  And here’s the deal…

We’re starting and ending in a beautiful, mature oak grove, about 1/4 mile back from the road, with a winding creek running through it.  It’s scenic and natural, and the start and finish will both be on a grass lane that runs back to the woods.  This ride will begin and end on a b-road.  We’ll have some nice tents, tables and chairs, and of course catered food and beer.  We’ll have merchandise.  We’ll have portapotties.  But there are some things we won’t have…

We won’t have running water.  We won’t have buildings.  We won’t have the restrictions of starting and ending in a City.

We are planning on having tubes and small parts available, thanks to the loving support of Comrade Cycles and Heritage Cycles.  We’re even working on having some demo bikes at the event–that’s TBD.  We’re planning on having some water available too…but with an unknown number of riders, we can’t plan on having water for everyone, so plan on bringing your own.  (And for that matter, if you are attending, please register on the Facebook page so we can get a head count for estimated food/beer needs).

Here’s the deal.  Cyclists are like a big family.  I’ve trusted other cyclists in a lot of ways that I don’t trust the world at large.  So the farm that we’re starting and finishing at?  It’s my brother’s house.  We’re going to be parking cars in his yard, and hosting the event in his woods.  We will have volunteers to help point parking cars in the right direction, and to help get you pointed at the woods and such.  But I’m putting this out early and I’ll be repeating it often–we’re being invited onto private property by a very gracious property owner.  Please treat the property with respect.  Please do not engage in nudity in the yard.  (Nudity in the woods is up to you).  Please do not leave trash or debris in the yard.  Please do not drive in areas that you’re not pointed towards.  Please act incredibly respectful to the property owners (if you see them).  Please do not go into any of the buildings on the farm.  Anyone going into a building will be kindly asked to pack up their bikes and leave–no warnings, no questions, no exceptions.  This is a working farm with equipment and supplies that are both expensive and dangerous.

The area we’ll be starting/finishing from and eating in is a woods–it will be mowed, but it will not be a perfectly manicured lawn.  You may wish to consider that as you evaluate post-ride apparel.

At the end of the event, we’ll ask for help with cleanup and teardown.  Please remember that it’s all unpaid volunteers putting the event on, and that we do the event to be awesome, and to raise money for advocacy.  So please pitch in a hand and help with teardown.  Please also come prepared to pay for your food/beer, and if you’re so inclined to be awesome, to make a contribution towards our advocacy efforts.  We have made a conscious decision to not charge for our events, because we’ve found that you all, as riders, are a generous lot.  We appreciate your support, and we try to show our appreciation by continuing to do awesome events and advocacy.  Check the Axletree website for more details on that.

We will have t-shirts, bottles and a very small supply of Axletree kits on hand.  We ask that you bring cash if at all possible.  If that is not possible, we may not be able to accommodate you, but we’ll do our best.  Pricing and related information will be released shortly.  We will release the waivers in advance as well–printing your own copy would be appreciated.  Routes will be released at least a week before the event, with cues and GPS files.  At this point, it does not appear that we will be selling cue sheets, so come prepared.  We do ask that if you pre-ride anything, you not ride on private property until the day of the event.

We’re looking forward to seeing a whole bunch of you join us at the farm, and we’re looking forward to everyone having a great time.  We’re also hoping to show how awesome cyclists are, so that we can continue to host this event at new and better locations each year.  Come out and ride with us.

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Ride Axletree Kits Available

Those sparky geniuses over at Axletree have come up with this year’s kit design.  If you’re showing up at the Gravel Metric, give some thought to showing up all schnazzy in an Axletree kit.

Linky to Kits…


Also, for the most up to date info on the Gravel Metric, check out the Facebook page!


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