Forest Dramis

JayP's Gravel Pursuit

By: Forest Dramis

As a fan of both road racing and cyclocross racing I've always been interested in gravel racing. But for the past couple of years I've always come up with an excuse not to do the Tushar or Rebecca's Private Idaho or one of the other "gravel grinders.". It's not that I was really against gravel events, but the idea of a gravel road race seemed to be the worst of all worlds -- a road race without much drafting or strategy and a mtb race without single track. Not for me, I thought.

But then I heard about the Gravel Pursuit. It was being put on by a friend, it was in my backyard and I had no other races scheduled. In short, I'd finally run out of excuses and so I signed up. Now, after the fact, I'm oh so happy I did.

The Gravel Pursuit takes place on the vast array of Forest Service roads in and around Island Park, Idaho. For those unfamiliar with the area, Island Park is just 30 miles south of the Yellowstone border. The terrain consists of gentle rollers, dense forest, windswept plateaus and incredible vistas. At some points along the course the views extend all the way to Yellowstone; almost enough to make me wish I had a camera with me and wasn't racing. Almost.

Quiet and flat. What else could you want?

Quiet and flat. What else could you want?

Lodging is easy and convenient. The Ponds Lodge hosts the race and pre-race dinner and offers great rooms and cabins. For those looking for a little more rustic sleeping location the Forest Service Buffalo Campground is a great alternative. Just a 3 minute bike ride from the Ponds Lodge, it offers tent and RV sites, bathrooms and showers for the low price of $15 a night. My site was flat, and quiet with only the sound of the bugling elk to keep me company.

Dinner and a bear safety presentation at Ponds Lodge.

Dinner and a bear safety presentation at Ponds Lodge.

Race festivities begin Friday night with a great dinner of pasta, salad and dessert provided by the Ponds Lodge (included in the race fee). Lodge staff was friendly, helpful and made everyone feel at home. During dinner we were treated to a course description from JayP and a visit from a park ranger to provide bear safety information to the riders. While many races take place in bear country, it was great to see that the organizers of this event not only took our safety seriously, but also took the safety of the bears seriously. The ranger gave a great talk on safety, bear spray use, recent bear sightings and what to do when encountering a bear. Though I'm well versed in bear safety, it was great to see this information given to racers.

After a restful night listening to the elk bugle and the coyotes howl, I made the short ride to the start line for our 8am start. Dirt double track and a shallow stream crossing lead to dirt roads and the first challenge of the day, a paved climb. Long and mellow, never exceeding 8% and hovering near 5% for most of the way, this is a great climb to break up the peloton and help establish the group you'll be hanging with the rest of the day.

Photos courtesy of Gravel Pursuit

Photos courtesy of Gravel Pursuit


Dense forests lead to the summit where a fast and fun dirt road descent lets you catch your breath and test your nerves. This descent leads to some fun rollers and flat sections and takes you to AId 1. Aid stations were incredibly well stocked and manned by volunteers both helpful and vociferous in their support of the racers. The next challenge is a long, tough climb on dirt that ascends through pine forests and deposits you on the summit plateau with views to Yellowstone including distant peaks and forest. A long, winding and fast descent on dirt leads to 6 miles of flats to the finish line. (120 mile course details can be found here).

Well-stocked aid stations and awesome volunteers!

Well-stocked aid stations and awesome volunteers!

An interesting, challenging and varied course with incredible views in a beautifully wild location with enthusiastic volunteers...what more could you want? Schwagg? OK, let's talk schwagg. A great racer bag with items you actually want, a massive raffle from Salsa, Princeton Tec, Osprey, K-Lite, Crank Bros., HED, GU Energy, Kate's Food, where every entrant got a prize and the coolest trophies around. Custom designed and forged from bronze by artist Lee Kinder, belt buckles for the top 3 men and women in each distance received a trophy anyone would be proud to wear. I know I am! All in all, an event not to be missed. Well organized, well run and a ton of fun. Some people race it. Some people ride it. But everyone had fun and really, isn't that the point?

Lee Kinder's beautiful bespoke bronze cast belt buckle.

Lee Kinder's beautiful bespoke bronze cast belt buckle.


One of the first questions anyone ever has is, "What kind of bike setup should I use?" The second question is generally, "What kind of tires and pressure should I run?" Below you'll find the race day setups of the top finishers. If you have any questions regarding bike setup, shoot us a line and we'll be happy to help out!

Gabe Klamer • 1st place 120
Fitzgerald's Bicycles, Trek Bikes, Snake River Brewing, Kate's Real Food

Frame Trek Boone 9 (18#'s race day weight)
Wheels Hed Ardennes+ tubeless w/ Stan's valve stems
Tires WTB Nano 40mm set up tubeless w/ Stan's sealant
Pressure Front/Rear 44fr/46r My front tire was down to <20psi at the finish due to it burping on the descent off of Two Top
Pedals Crank Brother's 11 4ti
Any specialty items? Revelate Designs 'Mountain Feedbag', Garmin 510, PrincetonTech 'Push' and 'Swerve' lights, Krieg saddle bag with 2 spare tubes and Pedro's tire lever. Blackburn 'MtnAir' pump stashed inside of my camelback and two 16 gram CO2's

Number of bottles consumed? 150oz's of Kiwi Lime CarboRocket, 50oz's of Lemon CarboRocket 333
What were you drinking? CarboRocket and CarboRocket 333
What did you eat? How much? 6oz's of Tram Bar 'nugs', 2 packages of strawberry banana Power Bar Chews, 1 flask of Rasberry Hammer Gel

How many times did you stop at an aid station? I stopped very briefly (coming in hot!) at both aids to pick up my drop bags. Applied chain lube at aid #2 

Did you do any special training or prep for this race? I rode several long gravel rides the weeks leading up to test my gear and to become familiar with my bike. I raced a cyclocross race on the Thursday before which definitely opened me up. This season I have climbed close to 500,000 vertical feet and ridden over 4,500 miles.

What’s one piece of advice that you’d give to someone thinking about racing next year? 'What the mind of a man can conceive and believe, the mind of a man can achieve, with a positive mental attitude' and 'HTFU!'

Anything else that you’d like to add? Huge thanks to Jay, all of the race volunteers, the Ponds Lodge and the city of Island Park for allowing us non motorized weirdo's on their trails for a day.

Eric Balog • 1st place 60
Hoback Sports

Frame Specialized CruX
Wheels Zipp Tubular
Tires FMB 32c
Pressure Front/Rear 36 psi
Pedals Time ATAC

Special items?  SRM with PC8 head unit

Number of bottles consumed? 2.5 bottles, Nuun
What did you eat? Hammer Gel (x5 or 6), 1 Honey Stinger waffle
How many times did you stop at an aid station?  None
Did you do any special training or prep for this race?  No

What’s one piece of advice that you’d give to someone thinking about racing next year?   Tire choice is critical. Know the capabilities of your tires as well as the proper pressure to run. Don’t be like me and build your bike the night before—do a full shake-down in advance.

Anything else that you’d like to add?   The course profile made the main descent, which the 60-milers hit twice, appear steep; the director's warning about this stretch of road made it sound loose/washed out/nasty — enough for me to worry about it. When run with tires at the right pressure, it was downright fun. The event is a fantastic excuse to get out and ride some of the most beautiful terrain in the area—roads most of us otherwise would not ride unsupported. The event was clearly put on by and for racers; every detail and need was anticipated by JayP and his crew. I want to send a big thank you to the volunteers who enabled us racers/riders to go out and have fun all day. 

Shae Griffin • 1st place 60
Teton Cancer Institute, Sticks and Stones and Kelson Bikes 

Frame Trek Crockett
Wheels Hed Belgium on White Industry Hubs setup tubeless
Tires Hutchinson Piranha, 33mm
Pressure Front/Rear 45/45 psi
Pedals Crank Brothers Candy 2
Any specialty items? Suunto Ambit3 Peak

Number of bottles consumed? 5 1/2
What were you drinking? Water, Red Bull and Gu tablets
What did you eat? Gu, Scratch fruit drops, Power Bar Chomps
How much? One package of each listed above and 3 or so chocolate Gus with caffeine.  
Any specialty items? Red Bull! 
How many times did you stop at an aid station? Twice
Did you do any special training or prep for this race? Just riding with my friends. Also raced Crusher in the Tushar and Rebecca's Private Idaho.

What’s one piece of advice that you’d give to someone thinking about racing next year? Bigger tires for those sharp rocks. 

Anything else that you’d like to add? The course was awesome and aid stations were friendly and well organized. I can't wait 'til next year's race! JayP was awesome when I flatted out in the first 5 minutes and he came by to help change my flat in record time. I was frustrated to start like that but he encourage me to just enjoy the day and have some fun! 

Forest Dramis • 2nd place 60

Frame Giant TCX Advanced
Wheels Stan's NoTubes Iron Cross, tubeless
Tires Specialized Trigger 37mm
Pressure Front/Rear 43/45 psi
Pedals Crank Brothers 11 4Ti

Any specialty items? Lezyne Energy Caddy, Suunto Ambit 2S, Pedros saddle bag with 2 tubes, tire lever, two 16g CO2

Number of bottles consumed? 2 tall bottles and Camelback vest
What were you drinking? Gatorade, Gu Energy tabs
What did you eat? How much? 4 Gus, 1 prior to the start, Powerbar chews
How many times did you stop at an aid station? None
Did you do any special training or prep for this race? Bought wider tires for my 'cross bike
What’s one piece of advice that you’d give to someone thinking about racing next year? Just do it! Whether you're racing for the win or just out for a ride, it's a great course to challenge yourself on and beautiful place to ride.

Mark Linares • 3rd place 120
The Hub Bicycles

Frame Niner Air 9 carbon with rigid fork
Wheels Easton EC90 XC
Tires Tubeless Schwalbe Thunder Burt 2.1 (I do not like this tire, very fast and light but way too squirrely in anything other than road or bullet proof single track. (I used it at Leadville, a mistake and thought it would be better hear but it was not.)
Pressure front/back 25/23 psi (a little on the hard side)
Pedals Crank Brother's 11 4ti

2 X 16 oz bottles with two Endurolytes Fizz in each, grape flavour.
2 X 100oz Camelbacks with Accelerade. (Only drank half of my last one after aid two)
2 X Handlebars
1 banana
1 pickle
2 x EFS gel flasks

How many times did you stop at an aid station?  I stopped at both aid stations. Probably 90 seconds aid 1. Probably 3 mins at aid two, ate the pickle and had a piss( my 7th of the race, yes I was counting) just to confirm that cramping has nothing to with being dehydrated.

What’s one piece of advice that you’d give to someone thinking about racing next year?  My advice. For the 120( 118 on my Garmin) Although you may think that it will be a fast race, being no single track etc etc. It is not. I was thinking I should average 15mph. I was for the first 45 miles but then the course slowed down a lot. Between miles 50 and 90 it is pretty slow with a very challenging double track straight out of the second aid station. Thank god I had MTB I was in the 32t for 20 mins. Also don't underestimate the road climb after 20 miles or so. I went too hard up that.

Kris Quandt • 4th place 120
Fitzgerald's Bicycles

Frame Salsa Fargo (steel)
Wheels I-9 hubs laced to 32 hole DT Swiss XMC Carbon 29 rim. Tubeless with extra Stan's
Tires WTB Nano 40c (they measure a little narrower, 38ish)
Pressure Front/Rear 45-50psi (I use the hand squeeze test method for best accuracy) 
Pedals Time Atac Carbon 8 (run them summer and winter with zero issues)

Any specialty items? Nuclear Sunrise feedbag for snacks, Revelate Designs Mountain feedbag for bear spray, Garmin 510 mounted with a BarFly mount. 

Number of bottles consumed? I used 2- Zefal Magnum bottles which hold 33oz each. I think I finished 4 bottles during the race.

What were you drinking? 1 bottle always had water the other had Skratch Matcha Green Tea (The larger bottles delude the sweetness so it is easier to get down when the stomach is not happy).

What did you eat? How much? I carried Kate's Bars x3, Cliff Blocks x2, EFS Liquid shot x2 and a stick of jerky (Just in case the space food was not doing it for me). I ended up eating 1-Tiki Kate's Bar, 1-Margarita Cliff Block and 2 bottles of EFS Liquid shot. Probably not as much as I should have eaten but I was able to push the pedals. 

Any specialty items? Quick hand full of BBQ potato chips at Aid 2!
How many times did you stop at an aid station? 1 quick stop at each to fill water and mix Skratch drink mix.

 Did you do any special training or prep for this race? Besides taking part in 2 other gravel races this summer, DK200 and Rebecca's Private Idaho, I spent as much time in Teton Valley, ID riding gravel roads. I rode the middle 60 miles of the course a month before the race. 

What’s one piece of advice that you’d give to someone thinking about racing next year? Get a Salsa Fargo or Cutthroat and ride as much gravel as you can. Most important is to know that taking part in these events is a personal journey, make it what you want. If you want to race...Great, if you want to push your personal limits and have fun...EVEN BETTER. As JP said the event is designed for everyone to Pursuit their own challenges. 

Sunscreen Shootout

By: Forest Dramis

Before we get into the actual review of the sunscreens in our test, it's important to understand some of the basics of what sunscreen labeling means. When shopping for sunscreen most people only consider the SPF (Sun Protection Factor). SPF is measured by the FDA as a comparison of how much UV exposure it takes to cause a sunburn versus when someone does not use a sunscreen. The higher the SPF number, the more protection against burning. However, because the SPF indicates only how much Ultraviolet B is being blocked, the spectrum of UV that causes burning, it doesn't give an indication of protection from Ultraviolet A, the spectrum of UV that causes melanoma. Under FDA regulations, any sunscreen labeled "Broad Spectrum" must block UV-A and UV-B at the same level. Nowadays almost every sunscreen on the market over SPF 15 is Broad Spectrum, but it's best to make sure. All sunscreen designations and claims assume you will reapply after 2 hours. Is your sunscreen "waterproof" or "sweatproof"? The answer is no. The FDA prohibits either terminology and only allows "Water Resistant" to be used if the SPF efficacy isn't drastically reduced during 40-80 minutes of water activity. 

So what exactly does the SPF number mean? SPF 50 blocks more UV than SPF 30, but how much more, and why does it matter? It matters because higher SPF sunscreen can be considerably more expensive than its lesser SPF companions. During our research we found that some companies' SPF 50 sunscreen cost as much as double the same sunscreen in SPF 30. SPF 15 blocks 93% of UV rays. SPF 30 blocks 97% of UV rays and SPF 50 blocks 98% of UV rays. Is that 1% worth double the cost? Add to that consideration that the amount of sunscreen you apply is critical to your protection and I think SPF 30 is the best way to go. It should also be noted that the FDA considers SPFs over 50 to be "no more effective than SPF 50."

We tested 5 sunscreens: Coppertone Sport SPF 30, Beyond Coastal Active SPF 34, Trilipiderm Broad Spectrum SPF 30, Banana Boat Sport SPF 30, and Neutrogena Ultra Dry Touch SPF 30. (All of these sunscreens are Broad Spectrum.) Since the FDA regulates sunscreen, we can confidently assume all these sunscreens block approximately 97% of UV-A and UV-B. All these sunscreens will protect you on your ride or ski. That leaves a few metrics for us to use when deciding which to buy. Feel: How does it feel on your skin? Is it slimy, sticky, greasy or dry? Smell: Does it smell good, bad or innocuous? Price: Do you want to pay $15 for your sunscreen or $5? Here's what we found...

Most favorite: Beyond Coastal Active SPF 34  This was our favorite sunscreen in the test. After application my skin felt well coated but never felt sticky, slimy or wet. The smell was innocuous and the price was great.

Our second favorite was Coppertone Sport. Great feel on the skin, easy to apply and a smell that reminds us of the beach without being too obtrusive. Even though Coppertone came in 2nd during our test, because of its much lower price -- $1.34/oz versus $3.94/oz for Beyond Coastal, we feel that this is the best choice if you're on a budget.

Honorable mention: Neutrogena Ultra Dry  I'm giving the Neutrogena honorable mention because despite its steep price it has some desirable properties that shouldn't be ignored. While it misses the mark on the cost metric it does have one very important quality that active users shouldn't ignore: it didn't burn my eyes when sweating from under my helmet. All sunscreen will run when you're sweating hard, but this one seemed to run the least and also burned the least.

Least favorite: Trilipiderm Broad Spectrum SPF 30   We found this sunscreen to be quite slippery and slimy when applied. Our hope was that after a couple minutes it would "soak in" and be less noticeable, but no such luck. I'm sure it was moisturizing my skin and it was certainly giving me a glow....or shine...but the feel of this sunscreen had me trying to wipe it off. Not really what you want to be doing with your skin protection.

Bottom Line: Wear sunscreen. Every time out. Most of us live at altitude and play at an even higher altitude. There's every reason in the world to use it, and no reason not to use it. Based on our tests I've switched my regimen to use Beyond Coastal Active SPF 34....until I run out, then I'll switch to Coppertone. If it's going to be especially hot, I'll add the Neutrogena Ultra Dry to my face because of its sweat-related properties.

First Ride: Shimano XTR Di2

By: Forest Dramis

This week I was able to ride Shimano XTR Di2 for the first time. While a couple hours isn't enough time to thoroughly explore the nuances of such a complex and capable system, I was able to get a good sense of what it's like to ride this gruppo. If you're looking for weights, battery specs and marketing copy....go here. If you're looking for an honest impression of what XTRi2 can and can't do, and what it's really like to ride with it, read on.

The test's Pivot Mach 4 came equipped with XTR Di2 and everyone was excited to take it out and see what it was like. Our test loop on this day consisted of a 25 minute climb up singletrack and a 15 minute descent, all on single track. The climb was varied with flat, smooth sections as well as rocky, steep sections. All in all, a great loop for testing with varied terrain and grades.

The Pivot was set up 2x and included both a left and right shifter. Because of XTRi2's sophistication, only one shifter is needed, and I would definitely suggest eliminating the left hand shifter. (Both triggers on both shifters are completely customizable and can activate any combination of front/rear shifting.) As set up, the shifters use beeps to indicate three different moments in the shift pattern. At the high and low end of gears the system beeped once. In the middle cogs it beeped twice to alert you that the next shift would also shift the front chainring. I found the beeps annoying and would turn them off. (Like almost everything with XTRi2, shift alerts are fully customizable and can be shut off.) The automatic front chain ring shift is great. One need only decided whether you want to shift harder or easier, the system then shifts both front and derailleur into the most efficient position to achieve your desired gear. It works perfectly. Every time. Unlike Di2 levers, which I find a little vague and hard to feel with gloves on, XTRi2 has a very definite "mechanical" feeling in the trigger shifter. There is an audible click, natural movement to the lever and no dead feeling. If all you could perceive is the tactile impression of your fingers, you couldn't tell the if they were mechanical or electronic shifters. 

Shifting was predictably immediate and flawless. Even under full pressure. The system easily shifted both front and rear even when I was out of the saddle on steep sections. I would say it was only marginally faster than with mechanical XTR, but the benefit as I see it is being able to shift under full power. Coming out of a creek crossing in the wrong gear? No problem. Out of the saddle, charging hard and wanting to shift? No problem. Cash weighing down your wallet and want a quick way to get rid of all of it? No problem!

Yeah, it's expensive. Really expensive. Like it's brother Dura Ace Di2, you don't need XTRi2. But when was the last time you bought something cycling related just because you needed it? Mountain biking was pretty darn fun on a 26" hard tail with 8-speed shifting. But technology moves on. Rest assured, riding won't be any more fun with XTRi2, though when the servos shift it does sound positively sci-fi. But if you like having the newest toys -- who doesn't --and money isn't an issue, you could do far worse than plopping down for the future of shifting.