Gotta say, jumping back into work after a four-day weekend is a little rough. Last week, our company gave us Friday off so we could have an extra long Memorial Day weekend, and I tried my best to enjoy every freaking second of it. One of my favorite activities was a big gravel ride on Saturday morning with a couple friends. But let’s back up.
I knew my poor gravel bike needed some love after last year’s big summer rides and shreddy cyclocross season, but I never made time to bring it to the bike shop. I fixed little things here and there, keeping it barely alive and functioning for ride after ride. Then, last week I got to the point where rides just didn’t feel or sound great anymore and I got a couple punctures in a row on roads that I can usually cruise over with no problem. I needed new parts, new tires, new brakes—basically a new bike and priced like one OMG. Since we have finally arrived at the best riding weather of the year, I want to make sure my bike is sorted for the summer and fall when the real big rides go down.
After work last Monday I brought my bike to my local shop for some very necessary maintenance. The mechanics called me on Wednesday to let me know they had to special order some parts, and since I had a feeling my bike wouldn’t be ready to go by this past long weekend, I reserved a Canyon Grail at the Rapha Boulder clubhouse. The bike hire is one of my favorite services Rapha offers. It’s $50 a day which is steep for a couple hours of riding, but the bikes are super high end and the service really comes in handy when you’re down a bike. Plus, I’ve been wanting to take a Grail into the mountains for some time after I rode one around the block for fun when I worked at Rapha last year.
I met two of my friends at Rapha around 9 a.m. so I could pick up the bike and then head right into the mountains! These two have been wanting to do one of my favorite routes for awhile, so we started up Sunshine Canyon at a blistering pace. At the beginning of the ride we all agreed on a social pace after all complaining about soreness and fatigue from longer rides throughout the week…but I have some strong strong friends, and we were basically hauling ass.
After a few steep switchbacks, things flattened out and we took a left onto Poorman where we cruised over HERO dirt to Fourmile Canyon, a paved climb to links up with Logan Mill.
This is when the real work began and where one of the guys and I basically waved goodbye to the other. I didn’t have the legs to TT up a mountain.
In total, we had climbed over 4,000 feet but it felt like the temperatures were just getting hotter and hotter as the sun beat down on our backs. This is the weather I love, though, and I’ll take a hot day over a cold and snowy one any time.
After an hour or so, we made it up and over some of the steepest pitches and out onto a rolling dirt road. It’s my favorite piece of Escape Route (a road off Logan Mill). The day was crystal clear, big white puffy clouds dotted the bright blue sky, and I tried to take deep belly breaths to recover before we descended down and toward our final climb of the day.
I love these kinds of rides, and the places they take us, but what I especially cherish these days is just laughing with friends again. I really missed doing that and I didn’t realize how much I missed laughing like that until I had side stitches while riding 5 mph up a steep hill. God. It’s the best.
Oh, and the Canyon Grail. WHAT. A. BIKE.
I had a feeling I would love it because the components and the groupset are MUCH better than what I have on my current gravel bike, but what I didn’t know I’d love so much is the geometry. It’s much “racier” than my bike without being uncomfortably aero for a gravel bike. The gearing was also great, and with a 2x in the front, I felt like I had a lot of options and could descend quickly without running out of gears. (Will definitely think about replacing my 1x on my gravel bike because of this.) The handlebars are also comfy and getting down in the drops is a lot of fun because you can hook your thumb over the extra bar for more support and guidance.
Speaking of the handlebars: love. The extra bar is called the Hover Bar. It’s supposed to absorb some of the front end jostling in a similar way as Specialized’s Future Shock or another bike’s front suspension (though not as cushy). I would have to ride it longer and on more rides to really know if that second bar made a huge difference but, overall, the ride was really nice and I had an absolute blast testing out the Canyon Grail. Hoping to lean on some connections I have in the bike industry to score a deal…we’ll see.
Our ride ended with a climb up Chapman Drive on dirt and down Flagstaff Road on pavement. I cannot explain how much fun I had on Saturday, and I’m so happy we can ride together again, with proper precautions and in smaller groups of course.
I have another adventure to share from this weekend, but before I do…how was your Memorial Day weekend?