Podcast: The Southeast Gravel Series – With Ben Renkema & Boyd Johnson

podcast southeast gravel series

Our partner in podcasting, The Gravel Ride Podcast, sits down this week with the team from the Southeast Gravel Series. Ben Renkema and Boyd Johnson discuss the journey to creating a 6-event race series in North and South Carolina. The team shares their passion for the Southeast region and the desire to create a competitive, yet inclusive series to serve the area.

Southeast Gravel WebsiteSoutheast Gravel Instagram

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Automatic Transcription by The Gravel Ride (please excuse all errors)

[00:00:00]Hello and welcome to the gravel ride podcast. I’m your host Craig Dalton. This week on the show, we’ve got Ben Renkema and Boyd Johnson. Founders of the southeast gravel series

[00:00:15] As you know, I love talking to event organizers because I think they’re the lifeblood of the community and the sport. It’s great having people put effort in and in the southeast ben and boyd have been

[00:00:26]Contributing to the community for a number of years, both as riders and racers and Boyd as the founder of Boyd cycling.

[00:00:34]The team decided to create a six events series throughout 2021 with the falling Creek pinnacle Punisher, actually coming up this weekend, May 8th. So if you’re in the region, make sure to grab a slot.

[00:00:47]There are three additional races stretching out to October 2nd. So if you’re in the region or fancy a trip to the region, there’s still time to get some great racing in.

[00:00:56]Before we get into the show, I’ve got to thank long time program sponsor athletic greens. The most comprehensive daily nutritional beverage i’ve ever tried.

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[00:02:26]With all that said let’s dive right in to my conversation with Ben and Boyd about the Southeast gravel series.

[00:02:32]Gentlemen.  Welcome to the show.

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[00:02:34] Ben Renkema: [00:02:34] Thanks for having us.

[00:02:35] Craig Dalton: [00:02:35] Yeah. Happy to be here again. Yeah. Excited to have you back Boyd and happy to meet you Ben for the listener, we had boy Johnson on the show.

[00:02:43] I think it was episode 30 back in 2019. Talking about Boyd’s experience as a writer. As well as the founder and owner of Boyd cycling, a great wheel manufacturer out there in South Carolina. So I encourage you to go [00:03:00] back and listen to that Boyd. You’re in rarefied air of being a two time guest on the show.

[00:03:04] I think there’s only two or three others in that group.

[00:03:06]Boyd Johnson: [00:03:06] That’s good to be in that company. Yeah.

[00:03:09] Craig Dalton: [00:03:09] Cool, Ben, welcome to the show for the first time. We always start by getting a little bit of your background as a writer. If you could just start by, just give us a quick synopsis of how you came to the sport and how ultimately you ended up riding off road on gravel bikes.

[00:03:24] Ben Renkema: [00:03:24] Definitely. So I like to tell people that I’ve been riding gravel since, Oh, the early two thousands. I grew up in Holland, Michigan, and before I even knew bike racing was a thing. He used to take my crappy road bike and just bombed down gravel roads. Cause that’s what we had a lot of. About a year later, I found out bike racing was a thing.

[00:03:40]So I went with my best friend did my first bike race. And that was it started as a mountain bike race, or mostly gotten into road racing. About 2007, started racing at a professional level on the road, did that all the way until halfway through 2019. And then, yeah, partway between that, Boyd and I were teammates for awhile And yeah, we both had this common we’d love to explore, ride off road on road bikes.

[00:04:04]And that’s kinda how Southeast gravel came about.

[00:04:07] Craig Dalton: [00:04:07] Nice. And if I’m not mistaken, you spent a little time with some stars and stripes on your back.

[00:04:12] Ben Renkema: [00:04:12] I did. Yeah. I was lucky enough to have won three national championships as a cyclist. I’m the best one being 2017 elite national championships for the criterium which, trying to win that race for a long time.

[00:04:25] So I was super stoked to win that. Nice.

[00:04:27] Craig Dalton: [00:04:27] A good way to go out. And probably 2019 [00:04:30] was a good time to end a professional career on the road. Given what happened in 2020.

[00:04:34] Ben Renkema: [00:04:34] Oh, it made it very easy to end my career that I had a heart condition halfway through 2019. It forced me into, retiring.

[00:04:42]But I’ll tell you what, 2020, when no one was racing, it wasn’t as hard as it should have been.

[00:04:48] Craig Dalton: [00:04:48] I bet. I bet it gave you a little bit more time to think about gravel. I imagine

[00:04:52] Ben Renkema: [00:04:52] exactly. Yup. What’s really important. So

[00:04:56] Craig Dalton: [00:04:56] gentlemen, why don’t you tell everybody where in the country you’re located and then I’m excited to get into the Southeast gravel series?

[00:05:04] I think it’s a real unique set of events and I was excited to watch the last one unfold on Instagram.

[00:05:13] Boyd Johnson: [00:05:13] Yeah, so Ben and I both live in Greenville, South Carolina. He was actually living in Florida and he was talking about moving up to Greenville. I think this was 2012. And he was working at a bike shop.

[00:05:24] He had been building some wheels and so we actually hired him as one of our first wheel builders and got him to move to Greenville. And we’ve been here ever since. He started his own company outside of. Southeast gravel as well. And so he’s no longer working for Boyd cycling, we remained friends and we run Southeast gravel together and we run that out of Greenville.

[00:05:45] Craig Dalton: [00:05:45] How did the series come about? Is this the first year for it, or did you have events prior to 2021?

[00:05:51] Boyd Johnson: [00:05:51] So this is technically the third year. It’s funny. The first year just happened by accident. I’m a big map geek. I like to go out and find [00:06:00] new roads and I plotted a 80 mile course down by Clinton, South Carolina.

[00:06:06] And after I got done with it, there was not a single Strava segment on the course. And I was like, Oh, we have to turn this into an event. And so I just put out a Facebook message a post and I said, Hey, Joe, just did this ride who would be interested in a cycling event up here. And 200 people commented and said that they would come out to it.

[00:06:25] So we quickly made a bike Ridge. Paige started the event and we got 200 people to come to that first one. We really, it wasn’t even Southeast gravel at the time. We didn’t really even have a name for the event or anything like that. Ben came and raced it. And I think Ben, you got second or third place.

[00:06:43] And after that we were talking about it and we knew that we had to make the series even bigger and better.

[00:06:50] Ben Renkema: [00:06:50] Absolutely. Yep. Yeah. I think it was like that afternoon to the next day. Boyd’s this is going to be a thing, like I need your help. Let’s do this together. And I was a hundred percent on board.

[00:07:00] Craig Dalton: [00:07:00] Amazing. I remember from our earlier conversation, Boyd, your love of adventure and just getting out there and discovering the lesser known gravel roads in your neck of the woods.

[00:07:12] Boyd Johnson: [00:07:12] Yeah. And a lot of times, when I go out for an exploration ride, it’s usually by myself because. Sometimes I find an amazing route like that.

[00:07:19] And other times I ended up just hiking through the woods for awhile, carrying my bike with me.

[00:07:24] Craig Dalton: [00:07:24] It’s important to know your partners when you’re going out for an adventure and what they’re actually going to get into for sure.

[00:07:31] [00:07:30] Ben Renkema: [00:07:31] Yeah, boy, Boyd has a little bit of reputation in Greenville. Eventually everyone started calling them Boyd rides where, he would try to get his friends to come with them, but everybody knew that.

[00:07:41] Okay. We’re probably going to be carrying our bikes through the woods. But it’s funny. It’s full circle. Now people pay us for that pleasure.

[00:07:49] Craig Dalton: [00:07:49] Nice. Can you characterize the roads of South and North Carolina that you tend to. Tend towards for these gravel events.

[00:07:58] Boyd Johnson: [00:07:58] So a lot of the, it’s very different because we’ve got six different events.

[00:08:02]Most of the gravel that we have it’s cars can travel down the road. There’s very rarely a situation where you’re gonna find where vehicles can’t get to. The brace we just had, we have a little bit of single track in there, but it’s only about a mile or so Some of the roads are big, chunky gravel, and others are, you can ride a road bike on them.

[00:08:21] No problem.

[00:08:23] Craig Dalton: [00:08:23] Gotcha. So as far as equipment choices go, it sounds a fairly narrow tire would suit for most of the courses.

[00:08:30] Ben Renkema: [00:08:30] I would say we, we’ve got our first two events while our first event is Clinton. We actually in 2019, our winner did it on a road bike with 32 mill tire. That being said he was a very skilled professional not something that everybody wants to do.

[00:08:45] And then we have, I would say our roughest course is May 8th coming up falling Creek, pinnacle Punisher, that’s something where you’re gonna really want more of a 40 to 42 mil tire. Something even bigger if you want to be comfortable and have lot of competence, because [00:09:00] there are big boulders there’s, big, gnarly gravel fast downhills with rough rocks.

[00:09:04]And I think that’s what makes Southeast gravel so cool is it’s not just one event. It’s very different. Yeah.

[00:09:10] Craig Dalton: [00:09:10] So as you guys have laid it out, I believe it’s a six event series. Is that correct? Yes. And starting in March, fairly early in the season and ending in October, obviously that’s a, a full cycling season journey for the athletes as you laid out the courses.

[00:09:28] Did you think about that? And did you think about adding elevation or complexity and technicality to the courses over the journey of the series?

[00:09:37] Ben Renkema: [00:09:37] Yeah, we definitely put a good amount of thought into it. Originally the first event, which is the gravel battle of Semper forest was earlier, it was kind of February.

[00:09:46]But I think 20, 20 Boyd, correct me if I’m wrong. I think it was like 30 degrees at the start. And so we decided to move it, a little later we put it into March. It what we did is we took our two S Southern most events that are, lower elevation. And we put those early in the year because it’s usually about 10 to 15 degrees warmer that far South of Greenville, which is when you go North of Greenville kind of up into the mountains, it gets pretty cool.

[00:10:10]So we stuck our events more towards the summer that are up in the mountains where it’s cooler. So that was our thinking for that. And then also we wanted the. Doing air quotes here, the easier course, which would be the Clinton and the Greenwood chorus earlier in the year, just because, a lot of people don’t have as much fitness yet.

[00:10:27] So start with kind of the easier courses

[00:10:30] [00:10:30] Craig Dalton: [00:10:30] and are the core, are you offering multiple distances for the athletes during each event?

[00:10:36] Boyd Johnson: [00:10:36] Yeah each one has a a short and a long, and the thing with the Southeast gravel series is, It’s not the ultra endurance gravel that, some events are popular with.

[00:10:47] So our distances tend to be between 30 to 40 miles for the short course, and then between 60 to 70 for the long course.

[00:10:55] Craig Dalton: [00:10:55] Great. Yeah. I actually liked that. That’s my sweet spot. I found that kind of. Extension of this ultra endurance race kind of category doesn’t necessarily fit with me personally.

[00:11:07]I did my Leadville one hundreds, and I did that stuff when I was a little bit younger, but now it’s nice. If it’s a hundred K, I feel like I can go out there regardless of what my family duties have taken me away from my training. And I can still have a great day and it could feel APIC, but I’m not absolutely destroyed afterwards.

[00:11:25] Ben Renkema: [00:11:25] Yeah, absolutely. It’s something where, you can, you could do this event every weekend. And it’s a lot of the racing that Boyd and I personally are used to, going into a criterium or, sub a hundred mile road race. It’s not something you have to train months for.

[00:11:39] Craig Dalton: [00:11:39] I also think it’s neat. Sorry to interrupt, but I’d also think it’s neat that you designed the earlier courses to be a little bit, maybe more beginner and intermediate friendly, just in terms of the profile and elevation so that someone can get into the sport early and get a taste of what riding and event might be like.

[00:11:56] And then train up and learn the technicality for those more [00:12:00] mountainous stages or races later in the year.

[00:12:04] Boyd Johnson: [00:12:04] Yeah, I think, we get the question all the time. It’s I don’t really race my bike. I want to come out and, can I just ride this? And so having some of the, easier to rain courses earlier in the season and less people get out and we encourage all levels of people to come out.

[00:12:19]Whether you’re averaging eight or 28 miles per hour, it’s got a course for you. And we’ve had a ton of people where each event, we have so many people where it’s their first ever gravel event and they come out, they have a good time and they’re hooked and they want to do more of them.

[00:12:34] And if they never want to race, it’s great. We have rest stops. We’ve got food afterwards. It’s a great community atmosphere.

[00:12:41] Craig Dalton: [00:12:41] Yeah. How have you seen over the last few years, the gravel cycling community in the Carolinas start to grow up?

[00:12:47]Ben Renkema: [00:12:47] It’s definitely growing a lot. I actually went and did a.

[00:12:51] A group ride yesterday up in Bravard, which is a little North of Greenville. And there was a lot of people telling me that, man, I’ve had people coming into the bike shop here in they’re buying real gravel bikes because they’re like, there’s this, the series called Southeast gravel and we’re doing all of them and we want to get better.

[00:13:06]We’re buying a more specific bike for it. And yeah, my wife and I Christie with our company. We’re a coaching company and we have so many of our normal athletes that are runners that are triathletes road cyclists, and they’re getting into gravel just because, Hey, everyone’s doing it.

[00:13:21] I want to try it. And they try it and they just absolutely love it.

[00:13:25] Craig Dalton: [00:13:25] Yeah, it’s certainly been a great couple of years. And I think one of the other things I love about the [00:13:30] series aspect of what you’re doing is if you’re local to Greenville and picking up a gravel bike, you can look at a series like this and just get in your mind.

[00:13:38]These are areas where I can ride and train all year long, irrespective of race day. And I can get out there and know where other gravel athletes are putting down some miles.

[00:13:50] Boyd Johnson: [00:13:50] Yeah. And on our website, one of the things we have is, for every event we have instructions for, if you want to come out and pre-read the course, here’s where you park, here’s the course file information like that.

[00:14:01]Some of our some of our events, then you can’t park there on race day. So we give alternate parking places. So you can go out and just ride the course. That

[00:14:09] Craig Dalton: [00:14:09] makes sense. That’s awesome. I love that about the gravel cycling community, that across the board, everybody’s very giving about information and it’s so great to see you facilitating that at the Southeast gravel website hub.

[00:14:24] Can we talk a little bit more about some of the more mountainous races. I think you were talking about the fallen Creek, pinnacle Punisher and the race to Valhalla. What are those courses like in terms of technicality, how much elevation, how much climbing is happening during those events?

[00:14:40]Boyd Johnson: [00:14:40] Both of those you’re going to get over a thousand feet per 10 miles.

[00:14:44]And I can’t remember. I know that the Hala is 69 miles, 7,400 feet of climbing. That course actually has the least amount of gravel. It’s got some very long gravel sections, but there’s road in between them. But the cool thing with that is you’re [00:15:00] in the very Northwest corner of South Carolina near the Georgia and sorry, North Carolina border.

[00:15:06] And. That area, no traffic up there. You get some very cool roads. Great scenery. So that’s by far our hardest course, but it’s also the one where it’s just enjoyable to go out and ride.

[00:15:19] Ben Renkema: [00:15:19] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I think the ball Hala course. We haven’t had an event there yet. This will be the first one. Yeah, Boyd’s right.

[00:15:26] It’s right at 70 miles. It’s 7,000 feet of climbing and it is the least amount of gravel of any of our courses. But I guarantee you, I don’t think anyone’s going to complain about that. Cause the gravel is hard and the road sections that are on the course are beautiful. There’s some really nice paved road climbs.

[00:15:42]So it’s not like when you are on the pavement, they’re not like these kind of crummy transfer road stages where a lot of traffic they’re beautiful. And so same thing with the wall holler course with our Clinton and Greenwood, boy, I, we whipped this course together just based off of maps and, looking at, Google, well maps.

[00:16:00] And I went out there one day early in the morning and I just wrote it, the 70 miles. And immediately I called Boyd. I said, this is perfect. I don’t think we should change the course at all. This is incredibly ideal and I uploaded to Strava and there are two people. They have ever written the most of the gravel sections on the course and the one really hard climb that I think is the coolest part.

[00:16:21] And of course two people have ever written it. Which I thought that was the coolest thing. Yeah.

[00:16:25] Craig Dalton: [00:16:25] That’s amazing. I talked to another a couple other sort of regional groups that are putting together [00:16:30] events and it’s funny when they. Talk about how the locals are just amazed and flabbergasted that all of a sudden on a weekend, you’re now getting a dozen riders out there, training in these rural communities that see very little car traffic, let alone cycling traffic.

[00:16:48] Ben Renkema: [00:16:48] Yeah we get that a lot. It’s pretty funny. Like, why are all these people suddenly coming to Greenwood, South Carolina? Like it doesn’t make any sense.

[00:16:56] Craig Dalton: [00:16:56] Did we talked about how this is this six race series? Are you tracking athletes performance in each race and doing a kind of overall season long competition?

[00:17:07] Boyd Johnson: [00:17:07] Yeah. Each one of the six races, as soon as you enter one of them you’re eligible for the omnium. We’ve got a points calculator and it actually tracks it as soon as you’ve finished, we know your omnium results and we can track that. And so we do a year long series for omnium points as well.

[00:17:23] Craig Dalton: [00:17:23] Nice. And you’re a couple events down already, and I imagine, a lot of the men and women athletes that have been attending, are you seeing throughout the series different skillsets that are favoring. One type of athlete versus another start to emerge?

[00:17:40] Ben Renkema: [00:17:40] I think so definitely. I’m really excited for falling Creek coming up May 8th because now we start to get into the climbing.

[00:17:47] I was actually just talking to two of my athletes and one of my teammates the one did really well at the first two events. But he’s not going to do so great at the next one. Just because he’s a bigger, more powerful rider. Yeah, so it’s exciting to [00:18:00] see that, if you don’t do great in the flatter ones, but you’re a climber.

[00:18:03] Okay. Now it’s your chance to shine and vice versa.

[00:18:06] Craig Dalton: [00:18:06] Yeah. Just out of curiosity with you mentioned that you’ve got your new coaching organization that you’ve been working on red rocket revolution.com is the URL for the coaching services, right? Yes. Yep. And so for that athlete, the bigger guy who’s does well on the lower elevation and lower climbing routes.

[00:18:27] What type of transition are you making for him as a coach to try to make him as competitive as possible when it starts going uphill more?

[00:18:34]Ben Renkema: [00:18:34] It’s a lot of mental. A lot of the people that we work with me being a racer, I was always a sprinter and I would go into these races. And think, okay, there’s climbing, I’m not a climber.

[00:18:45] And so guess what, the second back climb starts, you just give up and you don’t even try. So of course, changing the training up a little bit but just mental, like it is so much mental people don’t realize that, that, okay. There is a lot of descending on the score still, and there’s still some plat riding.

[00:19:00] You never know what’s going to happen. You just get on that climb, you ride your pace that, you can hold. Maybe don’t try to stay with the leader, stay within your limit and then race your strengths on the dissents and the flats. So really, I think just kinda, in between a year is just the mental

[00:19:15] Craig Dalton: [00:19:15] game.

[00:19:15] Yeah. There, I think there’s a lot to that in gravel, in general. Just the idea that everybody around you is going to be suffering at some point. And this is obviously extendable to cycling in general, just knowing that everybody’s going to be [00:19:30] hurting. And it’s the athletes that can push through that. And keep motivated, keep moving forward, always moving forward.

[00:19:36] Those are the people who are going to Excel in gravel racing.

[00:19:39] Boyd Johnson: [00:19:39] Yeah. And I think a good example of what Ben was just talking about. If you watch the video for the Greenwood gravel

[00:19:45] Craig Dalton: [00:19:45] grinder

[00:19:45] Boyd Johnson: [00:19:45] after the first card sacks and you had a lead group of five riders and, you may have looked at that of Oh, the FA the strongest five or up the road. And, but the second and third group caught up with them after 20 miles and all of a sudden it’s a whole new race.

[00:20:01] Craig Dalton: [00:20:01] Yeah. Yeah. I thought that was interesting.

[00:20:02] And I do want to get into your Instagram coverage cause I felt like to a degree I was there, which was awesome. I agree. I was watching it and I think Ben was commentating out there and there was the lead group up the road and it felt like a foregone conclusion. And then all of a sudden, boom, you had this big group bridge up and it was really fun to be part of the action.

[00:20:23] Ben Renkema: [00:20:23] Yeah, it was cool. And I think even, when I was doing my on the motorcycle announcing, I was like this is our six rider group. Like this is it for the day. But I was actually quite surprised that we had three groups once we hit the first pavement section and it all came together.

[00:20:38] So I think we had 30 people going into kind of the first hard little climb of the day. And I was super surprised by that. But really cool to watch that

[00:20:47] Craig Dalton: [00:20:47] happen. Yeah, for the listener I was watching via the Southeast gravel, Instagram account, the same weekend as rock cobbler was going on out in California.

[00:20:57] And it had some other coverage from the team at [00:21:00] pure gravel. It was just a lot of fun as a fan of the sport to be able to see those two events. Can we talk a little bit about your vision for how to cover these events? That it’s incredibly complicated. You’re out there in a Mo motorcycle, trying to get as much footage as you can.

[00:21:15]What did you learn? And as a fan who saw it, great job getting out there. What did you learn in this event and what are you going to try to do in future events to keep fans around the country and around the region watching and participating from their armchairs?

[00:21:30] Ben Renkema: [00:21:30] Yeah, totally. The coolest thing about having six events in one year is we can.

[00:21:35] Quickly make changes and make things better. In that, see, we have all these categories of things, the food, the courses the coverage. So what I want to do better for the next time is I’m actually going to put some on them, someone on the motorcycle with me so I can get closer to the group safely and get that.

[00:21:51]Inside of the group coverage, really seeing those paint faces get a really good shot of, okay, who are these riders? And the biggest thing that’s been a struggle from for me doing this on my own is I want to get coverage of the women’s race. Especially our first event. We had 40 pro women out there.

[00:22:07]But unfortunately as the lead Modo, I have to stay with that lead group for several reasons. If our core signs get taken down by some time locals I have signs that I put back up just to make sure no one gets off course. And then at the few busy intersections we have, I do stop the traffic.

[00:22:25] For the front public groups. So what we’re going to do is we’re actually going to put people on course at our rest stops that [00:22:30] are gonna be logged into the Instagram. So they’ll do live updates of, okay. Here’s the lead group of the women. Here’s the second group, here’s the third group. And so on.

[00:22:38]So yeah, we just want to beef that up, not just show the very front of the

[00:22:42] Craig Dalton: [00:22:42] race. That’d be great. So Instagram fans May 8th is the next one. Then July 10th, following that I’ll have a link to the Instagram account and the website in the show notes. I think it’s super cool and exciting that you’re out there doing that.

[00:22:58] Ben Renkema: [00:22:58] Yeah, it’s a, it’s definitely a fun way to watch the race unfold. When we did the first event, Clinton, it was an absolutely massive group going into the first section of gravel. Looked like Stratta Bianche with all the dust. And part of me was like, I am so glad I’m not in that group.

[00:23:13] But also I was like, man, I wish I asked that

[00:23:16] Craig Dalton: [00:23:16] group. I can only imagine. I sort of sense that as you were giving your commentary that you’d be itching to get out there. If you weren’t one of the people running the event.

[00:23:27] Ben Renkema: [00:23:27] Absolutely.

[00:23:28] Craig Dalton: [00:23:28] Yeah. One of the challenges I think, which is a bit of a bummer, I was going through the Southeast gravel, Instagram account and, the way Instagram stories work, they don’t save and retain themselves.

[00:23:39] So it was unfortunate that I couldn’t go back and rewatch any of the footage prior to this conversation.

[00:23:46] Ben Renkema: [00:23:46] So actually if you go to our Instagram account I’ve made highlight reels. Great. So yeah, if you actually look down the highlights I’ve saved, so you’ve got Clinton and you’ve got Greenwood’s, you can go back and actually rewatch all of it.

[00:23:58] And what I did [00:24:00] is I actually also downloaded those using just the race coverage clips and maybe a video that’s on YouTube. Oh,

[00:24:08] Craig Dalton: [00:24:08] perfect. Yes.

[00:24:09] Ben Renkema: [00:24:09] You can actually go back to Southeast gravel and Instagram. You can actually rewatch it, which is cool, but a lot of people that’s. Yeah. It’s easy to miss.

[00:24:17] Craig Dalton: [00:24:17] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I might have to pick your brain offline to figure out how to do that myself.

[00:24:23] Ben Renkema: [00:24:23] It’s actually I’m not a super techie person. It’s like intricate complicated, but once you’ve learned how to do it, it’s pretty easy. Yeah.

[00:24:29] Craig Dalton: [00:24:29] That’s good to know. I did it early on in the pandemic.

[00:24:32] I started doing a little bit of Instagram live recording of this podcast and it was fun. But at the end of the day it was just hard to say for me to figure out how to save that content. So I ended up moving away from it, but maybe I’ll revisit it a little bit in this coming year. As I get out there to some more events.

[00:24:49] Definitely. Is there anything else you guys want to share about, you got four more events coming throughout this season. Anything you want to share to athletes who may be planning on registering for those events or otherwise?

[00:25:02]Boyd Johnson: [00:25:02] I think the main man passages, the people who are coming out, they’re having a blast.

[00:25:06]You have people that worried if they’re going to be fit enough to do it. We’ve had long people or people who do the long course. And halfway through, they realized that maybe they should transfer to the short course and we can adjust the result on the fly. Really, we just want people coming out and joining the roads, having a good time.

[00:25:24]We’ve got a really good community atmosphere with, free lunch afterwards. We’ve got a really good beer [00:25:30] sponsor and it’s just a great time, a great day on the bike.

[00:25:35] Ben Renkema: [00:25:35] Yeah, I absolutely agree with that and to piggyback off that is, I like to tell people. This is if you’re a pro bike racer.

[00:25:43] Yeah. You’re going to have a lot of fun. There’s awesome competition. But the Mo most of the people out here are not bike racers. And that’s what I love about gravel is, being a criteria, my road racer it’s if you’re a beginner, you go out there we’ve all seen it. You get dropped two laps in, you get pulled off the course okay, I drove three hours for a five minute race.

[00:26:03] And it’s probably embarrassing. That’s not what grapple is. We have people who take, who average eight miles an hour for the day. And our pros usually average about 23 miles for the day. So you do not have to be a bike racer to come to these events. Most of the people doing them are not it’s fun.

[00:26:19] We’ve got rest stops and yeah, you finish up, you can drink some ONTAP Thomas Creek beer usually at barbecue or burrito. So it’s awesome.

[00:26:27] Craig Dalton: [00:26:27] Nice. And where are you seeing riders come in from, to get to these events? That how big of a draw regionally?

[00:26:35] Boyd Johnson: [00:26:35] Obviously mainly, we get a lot from the Carolinas from Georgia.

[00:26:38]We’ve been starting to get people from Florida coming up. Some of our first people that registered for the whole series are from Florida. Recently we’ve had a really big draw from the Washington DC area. And we’ve got some writers up there that are, trying to get more of their friends to come down to the series.

[00:26:54] So we really appreciate that. I don’t think because we have the six events I don’t think any [00:27:00] one of them is particularly going to be a bucket list where, like you have people flying from all over the world to do an Unbound. We’ve got a little bit more manageable where, you’re coming it’s okay.

[00:27:10]One day or a weekend event y’all have to plant, a week and a half of travel around it.

[00:27:15] Craig Dalton: [00:27:15] Yeah, that makes sense. So not any one of the events is deemed the queen of the series per se.

[00:27:26] Ben Renkema: [00:27:26] Yeah,

[00:27:27] Boyd Johnson: [00:27:27] Clinton won the battle of Sumpter forest. The first one that we had, because we’ve had that now for three years, that’s been our largest attendance. It’s the first, one of the year, people are itching to get out and ride their bike in a competitive environment. I think the Valhalla one has the potential to be that really hard challenge that people are looking for.

[00:27:46]So each one is unique and its own

[00:27:48] Craig Dalton: [00:27:48] aspect. Yeah. Nice. And then, regionally, are you seeing more and more events crop up in 2021 that hadn’t existed before we started to see a growing trend in that region for more events?

[00:28:03] Boyd Johnson: [00:28:03] Yeah. I There’s obviously more gravel racing that happens. Ben and I have already gone and done a few races this year. But we’ve had some pretty good staples in the area for a while. Southern cross up in Northern Georgia, we’ve got monster cross and Pisgah. We just went down and did the swamp

[00:28:18] Ben Renkema: [00:28:18] pretty good.

[00:28:20] Boyd Johnson: [00:28:20] So there’s a good series, a good amount of events that happen around

[00:28:24] Craig Dalton: [00:28:24] here. Yeah, it certainly seems as a region Southeast has had gravel athletes [00:28:30] for many years now that have been standouts and a lot of participants out of that region.

[00:28:37] Ben Renkema: [00:28:37] And we get a good

[00:28:38] Boyd Johnson: [00:28:38] draw. We get a good draw because we’ve got such a good mountain bike scene here.

[00:28:42] And the road scene been really good too. And gravel is where the mountain bikers and the road riders are starting to play with each other.

[00:28:49] Ben Renkema: [00:28:49] Yup.

[00:28:50] Craig Dalton: [00:28:50] Okay. Yeah. It’s super interesting. Are you, do you get a sense that more getting drawn from one sport or the other.

[00:28:57] Ben Renkema: [00:28:57] No, I, what I’ve noticed is it’s an absolutely mix.

[00:28:59]So Clinton, our first event this year, where we just had an absolutely massive profield for men and women, it’s evenly split. W there’s a lot of pro mountain bikers that live up in Bravard kind of Asheville area. And they were, they all came out. And then we had. A handful of pro road racer.

[00:29:15]So I think it’s a really even split. And then also cross racers. We had a handful of legit cross racers who live up in Asheville. So I think it’s a really like pretty much 50, 50 split of mountain bikers and roadies. Yeah,

[00:29:28] Craig Dalton: [00:29:28] I guess that makes sense. As the bikes have become more capable.

[00:29:30] I remember starting out as a mountain bike racer, begrudgingly getting a road bike because I knew I needed to train on the road in order to be competitive as a mountain biker. But I suppose today you’re probably not going out and buying a pure road bike. If you’re a mountain bike, you’re getting one of these gravel bikes and then falling in love with all the great things about.

[00:29:49] Drop bar riding on road and mixed terrain, and then discovering, Hey, this can really push me even as a technical mountain biker riding these drop bars on these [00:30:00] trails can really push me and challenge me in a way that’s super exciting.

[00:30:05] Ben Renkema: [00:30:05] Definitely.

[00:30:06] Craig Dalton: [00:30:06] Yeah. Gentlemen, thank you so much for the overview of Southeast gravel.

[00:30:10] As I said, I’ll put all the appropriate links in the show notes for this, and I hope you guys have a successful series. Awesome. You’re

[00:30:18] Ben Renkema: [00:30:18] going gonna, you’re gonna, you’re going to come out and race with us, right?

[00:30:21] Craig Dalton: [00:30:21] I hope to, and I’ve been itching to get to some East coast events for a long time. I thought last year was going to be a year of great gravel travel for me, but obviously that imploded.

[00:30:31] So I’m slowly getting around to the idea of getting on a plane and getting out there. So I would definitely love to hit some of your events,

[00:30:40]Ben Renkema: [00:30:40] but we’d love to have you.

[00:30:42]Craig Dalton: [00:30:42] Big, thanks for that invitation, Ben and Boyd. And thank you for joining us this week on the gravel ride podcast. Great to learn more about the Southeast gravel series. I love that it’s a year long series of events. I think that’s so great for a region in nor Cal. We have the grasshopper series, which I know is the cornerstone for many bay area athletes. And I imagine Southeast gravel does the same duty. They’re in the southeast region

[00:31:07]I’ll have all the appropriate links to their accounts and websites in our show notes.

[00:31:12]And if you’re looking for regional information as a gravel cyclist, I encourage you to join the ridership. The ridership is an online forum where a gravel cyclists are connecting on a regional basis, as well as discussing the macro trends in the industry. It’s also the number one way to get in touch [00:31:30] with me or provide feedback about the show. Simply visit www.theridership.com for your free membership

[00:31:38]And if you’re interested in supporting the show further, please visit buy me a coffee.com/the gravel ride.

[00:31:46]I genuinely appreciate all the contributions that have been made today to cover the overhead of the show. And it gives me a little fire in my belly to keep churning out the episodes. Until next time. Here’s defining some dirt under your wheels.

Craig
The Gravel Ride Podcast