Our partner in podcasting, The Gravel Ride Podcast, sits down this week with Carlos Perez, founder of Bike Monkey to discuss the upcoming 2023 Truckee Tahoe Gravel event. We dig into why Truckee Tahoe is such an amazing area for gravel riding and Carlos’ definition of influencers.
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Automatic Transcription by The Gravel Ride (please excuse all errors)
[00:00:00] Craig Dalton: Hello, and welcome to the gravel ride podcast, where we go deep on the sport of gravel cycling through in-depth interviews with product designers, event organizers and athletes. Who are pioneering the sport
I’m your host, Craig Dalton, a lifelong cyclist who discovered gravel cycling back in 2016 and made all the mistakes you don’t need to make. I approach each episode as a beginner down, unlock all the knowledge you need to become a great gravel cyclist.
This week on the show, I’m thrilled to have Carlos Perez talking about Truckee Tahoe, gravel. Carlos is the founder of bike monkey. If you live in California or maybe in the surrounding area, undoubtedly, you’ve done a bike monkey event. Carlos and his team have produced Levi’s Gran Fondo bogs fish rock hammer road, rally.
Wente the list goes on and on of the events that Carlos has had a hand in producing. I’ve had a number of friends that have done the Truckee Tahoe gravel event in the past and had a great time. So I’m finally got around to pinning Carlos down and getting him on the podcast to talk about this year’s event.
They’ve made a couple changes to the event, which I wanted to have an opportunity for him to highlight, but all in all, it’s just one of those events here in Northern California, that is well-regarded from an athlete’s perspective. It’s certainly taking place in a beautiful area. We’ll get into why Tahoe is so special for cyclists and why it’s a region that you can bring the whole family to.
On that point, we did also dig into when Carlos and his team create events. They think about influencers, but not influencers. In terms of someone on Tik, TOK or Instagram, they think about influencers from the perspective of the family that might be joining you, whether it’s your husband or your wife, joining you while you go out and ride, it’s always great to have a location where the whole family can enjoy the event and have an event organizer.
Who’s thinking about that broader community. Versus just simply the athletes themselves. So I’m excited for you to hear about the Truckee Tahoe gravel event. But before we jump in, I want to thank this week sponsor. Dynamic cyclist.
If you scroll back your feed to episode 1 54, you can hear my interview with Sarah from dynamic cyclist.
Dynamic cyclist is a video based mobility, strength and injury prevention program designed specifically for cyclists. I am probably about 30, 35 episodes into my stretching routine and my low back injury prevention routine. My low back has been a big issue for me the last couple years, and probably the most gating feature of my body in terms of how long and how hard I can ride.
So this winter, I was definitely determined to do the thing we all should be doing, which is stretching. I’ve struggled, even though I’ve known the stretches that I need to do. I frankly, struggled to fit it in and having dynamic cyclist in my life and the 15 to 20 minute long routines available for me each night. Has gotten me focused on something easy. That I can do.
And I found it really easy to follow, and I’ve been impressed in terms of the different tweaks and orientations that they’ve encouraged me to do throughout the routines to get to different parts of my muscles. And I’m very excited about this being part of my daily routine, because I think we all know that stretching.
Is the number one way in which we can prevent injuries and make sure we’re taking care of our bodies. But anyway, I encourage you to check out dynamic cyclists. They have a seven day free trial.
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To check it out, just head on over to dynamics, cyclists.com. With that said, let’s jump right into my interview with Carlos.
[00:04:10] Craig Dalton: Carlos, welcome to the show.
[00:04:12] Carlos Perez: Thanks, Craig. Happy to
[00:04:13] Craig Dalton: Good. Yeah, good to see you. It took us a little while to get this scheduled, but I’m stoked to finally have you and, and get you on to talk about the Truckee Tahoe Gravel event.
[00:04:22] Carlos Perez: Yeah, it can be a little hard to pin me down sometimes, so I’m glad that we made it work.
[00:04:27] Craig Dalton: It sounds like it’s especially hard to pin you down in the spring and summer months cuz with Bike Monkey you’re producing events all over California and also outside of the.
[00:04:38] Carlos Perez: Yeah. Yeah, our spring’s very busy.
[00:04:41] Craig Dalton: Let’s take a step back before we kind of jump into Bike Monkey and into the gravel event up in Tahoe. How did you get into cycling originally? And then let’s talk about how you got into event production.
[00:04:54] Carlos Perez: Uh, well, it can be, I’ll, I’ll keep it as short as I can. . Um, we, I was working for a, a medical manufacturer company as a software developer. And, um, my boss at the time, Russell Briggs actually, uh, was like, yo, dude, let’s go mountain biking. And I didn’t really have a mountain bike at the time, so I went and I bought a mountain bike and he took me into Adel State Park and I was like 20 at the.
And I was like, what the heck is this is amazing. Like, I want to do this and that. That was where I got the bug for, for riding bikes. And did that for several years. Uh, and then ultimately one day, uh, some friends of mine were around, you know, trying to do some fundraising for a cause that was important to us.
And I kind of raised my hand and said, Hey, you know, like I’d like to actually organize a bike race. And so that’s where it started. And we organized a small. Mountain bike race with, you know, like one truck full of supplies for about 80 people. And um, that’s kind of where the spirit of Bike Monkey was born.
And I, I got the bug.
[00:06:04] Craig Dalton: And to set the stage a little bit for people. So you’re, you’re based in Northern California, right?
[00:06:09] Carlos Perez: Yeah. We’re based in Santa Rosa, which is in the middle. It’s the biggest city in Sonoma County, uh, which actually has. roads more paved and gravel roads per capita than I think almost anywhere in the state.
[00:06:26] Craig Dalton: Absolutely. And then that that first event was called Bogs, and where was that located?
[00:06:32] Carlos Perez: uh, it was actually wasn’t in Sonoma County, it was just outside of Sonoma County in little town of Cobb. In this demonstration state Forest called Boggs. and we’d gone mountain biking up there a bunch in the past, and so it’s about an hour and 15 minutes outside of Santa Rosa.
[00:06:51] Craig Dalton: It’s such a great spot. I mean, you talk about a riding in Annadale, getting, getting you hooked. If you have the opportunity to ride in bogs, you’ll also get hooked on mountain biking. It’s just so good up there and I had the pleasure of doing that event. God, it was must have been eight or 10 years ago, I feel like.
[00:07:08] Carlos Perez: Yeah, bogs. There’s a, a lot of history with us and bogs, you know, we, uh, resurrected mountain bike racing there. When we first produced our eight hour event, there had been a multi-year hiatus of mountain bike racing in that space before we came along. And then that event ran for 10 or 11 years before the valley fire blew through that area and just decimated the entire forest.
And so it was off limits. Probably three years, four years at least before we were able to actually go back and host the event again, which it returned last year for the first time in, in a long while. Actually, I take that back, I think it was closer to seven years that nobody had been riding or racing in bogs.
So that was a big milestone for us to be able to go back and get back to our.
[00:07:58] Craig Dalton: Yeah, I remember the word spreading amongst my local bike community that it was back and people were super stoked cuz I think everybody has great memories from racing at bogs. It’s such a fun place to ride and doing an eight hour event, whether it’s solo or where the teammate is. Always just something that’s special.
[00:08:15] Carlos Perez: Yeah, it really is. It’s, there’s so much camaraderie and hanging out and you know, taking it casually or taking it seriously. It is such a good mix of racing and fun. Um, there really, for me, there’s no event that’s more fun than our eight hour mountain bike races.
[00:08:38] Craig Dalton: Yeah, there’s just like, you know, it’s, there’s an interesting dynamic when you’re doing one of these events with a partner. Because you can decide, you know, the laps are typically 45 minutes or an hour in length. You can decide to do two laps, one lap. If you’re tired and your partner wants to keep going, you can do that.
There’s all kinds of strategy that just makes it fun. And there’s rules around obviously, like how and when you cross the finish line within that eight hours that come into play. And so you have to have a little strategy in in your mind as you start to figure out your lap times.
[00:09:10] Carlos Perez: Yeah, there’s tons of strategy around it. It’s really cool you see people coming through going, trying to ask us like, should they go back out for another lap? And we’re trying to figure it out and you know, we’ve got it down to a science where like, you do need to go cuz somebody’s like nipping at your heels and if you don’t and they do, it’s game over.
You go from first to third pretty quick.
[00:09:30] Craig Dalton: Yeah, exactly. So that’s amazing. So from that or original sort of beginnings of like, Hey, I’m willing to throw my hands up because I think I can produce an event. I’m willing to do this as a fundraiser. What was the path towards you doing it again and, and then expanding to other events?
[00:09:47] Carlos Perez: Well, I, I, after that first event, I definitely had to do some soul searching because, you know, I had a full-time job as a software developer and it paid. L. Um, but I was still young and I just, um, I saw an opportunity to do something that I was really passionate about and I had some close friends really pushing me to try and.
achieve that, and they’re like, basically, we’re gonna disown you if you don’t take a stab at this. And so I took a big risk and I kind of threw all my chips at race production because I just loved it. I loved what it did for the community. I loved that we were able to raise money for a good cause. It just had, uh, all the good stuff around it. it didn’t feel like work. So it was that second year, after that second year that I decided, you know, I need to really take this seriously because if I don’t, that opportunity’s gonna pass me up. And so I took a risk. Uh, I quit my job, cold Turkey, and, you know, kind of lived, uh, hand to mouth for a while, uh, figuring it out.
And then we just, it just grew, you know, what we were doing made a lot of sense. I brought on my first. . And then my second, and then, uh, Levi Leipheimer lived in the area. We were a super small production company at that time, and we were only doing some small mountain bike races and cross races, and he wanted to, he had this idea of putting on a Fondo because him and a friend of his, uh, you know, were on a ride and his friend being Italian was telling him about these amazing events that they have in Italy.
And he’s like, you know, Levi, you should do that. Uh, through, again, a mutual friend through Yuri. Uh, somehow Levi came to us, uh, and, um, we said, yeah, we’re, we can do this. Nobody had ever done that in the United States actually before. We were the first big grand Fondo on US soil. And, uh, well, I guess technically the second.
There was one in San Diego that had happened a year prior and no one really knew about it. It was, it was relatively.
[00:12:06] Craig Dalton: Yeah, I feel like it, it’s impossible not to know about the Levi’s Grand Fondo if you ride a road ride road in California, but I imagine that statement probably holds for almost the entire US at this point. It’s such a popular road, grand Fondo.
[00:12:21] Carlos Perez: yeah, yeah. And it exploded. You know, we went the very first year we had 3,500 people, and it was in the heyday of Levi having, uh, he was heading into winning his third tour of California. So he was huge in California. and a very popular cyclist at the time. So it was the right timing. So there was, there was kind of that golden moment for us where we had to work really hard to do something really big and really outside of the box.
And we grew really fast, uh, like from a production standpoint. It forced us to grow up really quick.
[00:12:56] Craig Dalton: Yeah, what is, what does that look like? Just to explain to the listener and frankly myself as well, for event production, what type of organiz, what are, what are you doing at the event, and what type of equipment do you need to own in order to provide these services to something like Levi’s Grand Fondo?
[00:13:13] Carlos Perez: well, you’ve got some event organizers that maybe are purely volunteer based and they’re kind of scrapping to pull together as much rental equipment as they can and outsourcing a lot of it to produce. And then you’ve got other nonprofits like the Santa Rosa Cycling Club, which own a ton of equipment that they’ve just amassed or built over the years.
and multiple trailers that they’ll use to move things out to produce stuff. every race organizer. And I, I always, I find this topic really interesting because as race organizers we do talk to each other and we share ideas, uh, on things like simple stuff like how are you calculating how much water you need to have at an aid station and what mechanism we’re using to transport that water out there?
Cuz it’s heavy, right? And it takes time to fill up a lot of jugs versus it doesn’t take as much time to fill up one big jug. You know, how are you getting it out? That kind of stuff. The, the logistics behind the scenes, I think people, they don’t have enough information to really appreciate what goes into producing an event and setting up an aid station and marking a course.
Um, but we have, I mean, we’re, I’m in my office right now, which is adjacent to a, a warehouse full of equip. Ranging from course stakes to snow fencing, to stage material, to water jugs, to weight down tents, the tents, the tables, the chairs, the timing equipment, um, the arch to make stuff look fancy, and the list goes on.
We’ve got a lot of equipment too that we use, electronic equipment that we use for radio communications and for R F I D timing tags. and it’s just a lot of weird stuff too. It’s not the kind of stuff that you would see in like a typical business.
[00:15:06] Craig Dalton: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I think it’s important to note, I mean, everybody, when you go, it’s easy to think of like, oh, I’m just putting it together, a group ride. And when you’re doing that for 20 people, there’s, there’s next to no infrastructure that’s involved in that. But anybody who’s been to one of these events, you start to look around and you see like, oh, the aid station has a table there.
And oh, there’s this massive container of water that somehow got it out into the wilderness. Someone needs to do that and someone needs to provide the equipment. Uh, it’s a really fascinating space and I think more and more as I interview event organizers, I’m uncovering that there are entities like bike, bike monkey in other states and other places that are carrying the load for lots of these events in the background.
[00:15:49] Carlos Perez: Yeah. A lot of people will get in touch with us and say, you know, we, we wanna produce a bike race, but we really don’t know where to start. Um, and, and a lot of times it starts with the vision of what it is that you wanna produce, but a lot of times people don’t, they underestimate how far into the weeds you really need to get simple things.
you know, putting a label on a, on an envelope and putting the rider’s information inside of that label and then putting the stuff in the packet so that you can streamline packet pickup or the process of capturing their information in a way that, uh, makes that whole experience smooth. Because it starts when you show up.
If you have to wait two hours to get your packet because the line’s too long, well, something’s not right already. Little, little tons of, little, little details that you really. , uh, there’s no school for this kind of stuff. That’s the, I think the thing that probably is one of the most unique characteristics that all event organizers probably share is we all learn, learn through experience and through trial and error, working events and seeing what does and doesn’t work.
And that’s, that’s one of the crucial components. You have to be the type of person that’s willing to just continu. Bumble and fail and try to make corrections, and you have to stay committed to that. Cause if you’re not, then you’re, you’re just not gonna make it. It’s, it’s too much learning that has to happen on the job.
[00:17:25] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a big lift to put on any of these events. So you were talking about how Levi’s, grand Fondo kind of was a big break in terms. Pushing you guys to create more infrastructure, more discipline, understand how to manage a 3,500 plus person event. When did gravel start to become part of the pitcher for bike monkey?
[00:17:47] Carlos Perez: Well, interestingly, we started doing gravel. In 2012, so before it really exploded, right? And it was because of Levi’s Grand Fondo, Rebecca Rush came to that event as a guest and at the end of it just came up to us and said, Hey, this was amazing, and I wanna do something like this in my hometown of Keem, Idaho, but I want you guys to help me do it.
I want to do it on gravel, on dirt roads. And we’re like, that sounds amazing. Yeah, let’s do it. And so we actually started Rebecca’s Private Idaho with her, and we ran it for two years. At the time, we weren’t really a consulting company, we were in the pattern of just building our own events from scratch and putting them on.
And so we weren’t structured the right. To continue to run that event. So we stepped away and let her run with it on her own. And she did that for about seven years and then came back to us last year and was like, can you guys please, please, please come back and run this event for me? Because it’s really hard to do and we just need a solid team.
While over that nearly decade that passed, we did become a consulting. and, uh, we came back and, and produced it last year and we’re producing it again this year. And it, it’s amazing and it, it feels right at home with us and for her. And so we’re super excited about it. But that was where we started our first gravel event.
And then gravel kind of exploded everywhere. And the next one that we did, um, officially was, uh, you know, Sagan Fondo, Truckee Gravel. , which takes place on June 10th of this year.
[00:19:48] Craig Dalton: Interesting. So let, yeah, let’s go back to that origin story cuz I think it’s so interesting. You had mentioned to me offline that obviously like being in this region, the idea of putting on an event out of Truckee had been in your head for a while. Let’s talk through like. What, what transpired prior to Sagan’s team contacting you, and then what was that like to get that call?
[00:20:11] Carlos Perez: Yeah, it, it’s funny, I mean, I always find myself looking back and going, wow, how did the stars align for this? Like, what was it that caused us to go up and start looking around in Truckee for gravel roads to, you know, to go and ride? And it was just, uh, some rides that I had seen people. , just a couple people do.
They were like, wow, check this cool stuff out north of Truckee. And then, um, you know, that’s when the gravel scene was starting to pick up a little bit. But in Sonoma County, we don’t have a whole lot of gravel. There’s, there’s gravel roads, but it’s not like you have in other parts of the state. But we also knew through experience that in order for an event to have teeth, we needed to have a place that appealed to.
the family component. So we started looking at different towns and we love Truckee and you know, we’ve been up there so much and it’s just, uh, it’s got so much going for it. It’s got such a cool vibe and culture. The ski scene is amazing, but the Artisan Craft brewing at 50 50 Brewing company and some of the others like alibi and the um, the food scene and the bakery scene and the coffee scene and like the.
Stuff and the outdoor stuff, it was all just, it’s just bumping all the time. So it was like, you know, we really should start exploring trucking. And so we spent some time looking around up there. And then we got the call from uh, Peter Sagan’s team of people. It was actually through Osmo. Ben Caprin over Osmo reached out to us and we’ve been associates for quite some time, and he said, Hey, Peter’s looking to, Peter and his team are looking to do an event in the US and I recommended that it be you guys because of what you’re able to do around here.
And so we started talking and decided to choose Truckee. Uh, we actually persuaded them to move their off-road event to Truckee that they wanted to create and change it from mountain biking to. And that’s where it actually was born. Uh, and then we teamed up with, uh, Kurt Gen Shaer, who formerly angry single speeder and now a Trail whisperer.
He’s a big in the mountain bike scene in that region and big with Sierra Trail Stewardship. Uh, he was really familiar with that area and lives in Verdi. and so him and I started exploring. He drove me all over these roads. They’re basically his backyard. He’s also built a lot of trail up there, and we came up with the gnarliest gravel event that I think anybody had ever really ridden at that point.
We kind of nicknamed it Segundo you, you. Left Truckee and you went up into Tahoe National Forest and you went past, uh, a handful of pretty large reservoirs and you went up over Sarine Peak. This huge summit dropped down, uh, towards Loyalton. So you’re getting way north now. And then we turned and we came up this trail, this Jeep Road, uh, called Badden off Canyon Road, and it was just, Freaking junkyard of people trying to ride these baby head rocks all the way back.
So we definitely, like, I think, overshot in some aspects that first year. But again, everything’s a learning experience and we were exploring, but anybody who did that first Saigon Fondo event definitely earned, earned their keep
[00:23:54] Craig Dalton: Yeah. I.
[00:23:54] Carlos Perez: someone capable of riding a gravel.
[00:23:58] Craig Dalton: I know, I love it. I, I have a neighbor who is constantly scratching his head about gravel bikes and is like, why don’t I just ride my hard tail? And he always chooses his hard tail. And he happened to do that event on his hard tail, and he came back and he was like, this thing, this event was amazing, but I don’t know how anybody wrote it on a gravel bike,
[00:24:18] Carlos Perez: a lot of people did not ride that section on their gravel bike. And it was long. It wasn’t like this, you know, moderate quarter mile long section of, you know, tough to ride stuff. It was probably two miles of climbing on just really technical, uh, stuff, but beautiful country and, you know, I, I’m always intrigued by what our events do to like the Strava heat maps, because prior to us having that, Nobody was riding out there like probably old crusty dudes that, you know, don’t use Strava.
You had ridden out there for, you know, eons. Right. But nobody, uh, was going out there and riding with any frequency and now that place is just full of gravel bikes since that event.
[00:25:07] Craig Dalton: So the, the original event was called, was it the Sagan Dirt Fondo? Am I recalling that correctly? And so that happened for, was it two editions under his branding?
[00:25:18] Carlos Perez: Yeah,
[00:25:19] Craig Dalton: Yes. and then it transitioned to the current Truckee Tahoe gravel.
[00:25:24] Carlos Perez: yeah, yeah. Then it transitioned into Trucky, uh, well, it was Trucky Dirt Fondo, and then we rebranded Trucky Tahoe Gravel. But our short name and like the, the operative name is Trucky Gravel. Tahoe is, is part of our name because, um, There’s the marketing tactic in there. A lot of people from outside of the state or even further outside of the country maybe aren’t as familiar with Truckee.
So it’s important that we capture the region and our partners at Visit Truckee Tahoe, uh, are also influential in the naming of it. So we have a strong partnership with Visit Truckee Tahoe. . And so, uh, last year we rebranded the event Truckee Gravel and the long form name is Trucky Tahoe Gravel.
[00:26:15] Craig Dalton: as you’re talking about the event to rider from around the world, how would you talk about Tahoe as a destination? Let’s set aside like the gravel experience, which I definitely wanna get into, but there may be people out there who just don’t understand what Tahoe is.
[00:26:32] Carlos Perez: Yeah. Well, I mean, the lake is the first thing that comes to mind. I mean, you have this ancient crystal clear lake. that has been there for millennia and it, it is one of the most beautiful places on the planet Earth. And it’s surrounded by, you know, the lake sits at over 6,000 feet. Uh, and around that basin are the Sierra Nevada mountains.
And, you know, they go up to, you know, 11,000 feet in some areas, and you’ve got ski resorts in every direct. and you’ve got mountain bike trails and hiking trails and off-road trails and climbing and hiking and you know, all the stuff that comes with being able to do something on the lake. And then you go almost any direction from Lake Tahoe and you have these other communities like Meyers and um, you know, Carson City and Reno and Truckee.
Um, you’ve got. more of that in these towns that live up in this area. And so the entire region as a whole has an incredible mix of every type of outdoor activity that you could imagine. And it’s just, if you appreciate the outdoors, it’s all there. Everything, it’s all there. And it’s, you know, it’s, it’s a populated area because of.
It’s about as populated as it can get right now, especially during the pandemic. Like everyone went up there. We kind of missed our window cuz we were interested in, in getting a place up there. But that ship kind of sailed during the pandemic
[00:28:17] Craig Dalton: Yeah, no, you’re, I mean, you’re a hundred percent spot on. It’s such a magical part of the country that if you’re interested in, if you enjoy being in the mountains, if you enjoy being around lakes, it’s just stunning. , and to your point, like 360 degrees around that lake is mountains and ski resorts, and there’s so much beautiful terrain regardless of whether you’re on a bike or on foot that you can explore out there.
One of the things you alluded to, and you certainly mentioned it to me offline very strongly, was as you think about producing events, you’re not just thinking about the riders, you’re thinking about their families and what the experie. They are gonna be having at these events. Can you just talk a little bit about that and why that’s important to you?
[00:29:02] Carlos Perez: Yeah. Well, so there, there are a lot of different types of events. There are events that are designed for the The Racer that’s chasing points, right. And they’re just like, there’s an event every single weekend. And. Sometimes they’re just like in the event promoter’s backyard, because it’s easy to do that.
You are gonna use the, the local park and you’re gonna put on a cross race or a mountain bike race or a road crit. And those are great for the sport of cycling as a competitive sport. Um, we always have, um, strived to produce events that are a little bigger. Chasing points. We we’re always, we’ve always had this mantra of putting on events that are appealing to what we call the influencers and not influencers like on social media, you know, influencers on Instagram or Facebook, but the influencers are my family members, so my kids, my.
They might not race their bikes, they might not be able to participate in this event that I wanna go and do, but there’s something in it for them. When you do it in a place like Truckee, or you do it in a place like the Wente Scout reservation, or you do it in a place like Carson City or um, you know, you name it someplace, that has a lot more going on for it.
So I can be out racing my bike for four hours. and they might wait for me. They might go out to an aid station or they might just go shopping, or they might go get on the lake and wait for me, or they’ll see, we’ll see you at the brewery. Uh, we’ll see you at the climbing gym. Uh, but then there’s the before and after as well.
So we stay there for multiple days and most people do. It becomes a destination for the whole family. as opposed to just another race that I have to somehow finagle time away to go and do that. And it’s, I drive up, I do it, I turn around and I go back home.
[00:31:06] Craig Dalton: Yeah. I feel like that’s such an important component for so many of us gravel athletes that are, you know, not super concerned about the pointy end of the race. We’re really looking to have a good. Had a hard day out there on the bike, but also wanna share time with our families and not make cycling.
Always something that takes us away from home.
[00:31:23] Carlos Perez: Yeah. And I think that that mentality has shifted as a whole too. It’s not just, it’s not just, uh, that we are focused on those events, but I think the appeal has shifted over the last few years, a little bit away from racing and a little bit more towards that whole experience that you get from going and having races, and you see that.
You know, the conversations that a lot of pro-athletes are now having about, you know, I raced my bike for a while and that was important and it got me here, but I also wanna ride with my friends. Like, I started riding a bike as a kid because it was fun and I enjoyed it. And then I got serious. And being serious is exhausting, you know, it’s like, it is like you can’t, almost cannot have fun when you have to be so serious about bike racing and when you can let go of that a little bit at our events and not take it so seriously.
There’s a lot more room to enjoy yourself. There’s a lot more room to be okay not standing on the podium and riding with your friends and just being there in the moment and, and experiencing what everyone else.
[00:32:38] Craig Dalton: Yeah, a hundred percent. I took us on a little bit of a detour. You had started talking about how in that first year the course was maybe a little bit more technical than, uh, it is today. Can we talk about what the course will look like for 2023?
[00:32:54] Carlos Perez: Yeah, totally. So, um, it’s changed a little bit over the years, you know, not necessarily because. It had to, um, well, I guess in some, in some ways it, it did have to, there were some years where the snow was so deep that we just, we couldn’t go over Sarine peak. Right. And so the elevation ended up having to be a little bit lower that year because the snow pack was too high.
Ultimately, we pushed the event from. To a later date in June. And so we’re in a pretty good spot now where unless it’s like crazy snowy in March, we should be able to get over Sardine Peak. That’s one of the signature high points on the courses that we design up there that um, you know, it makes sense to go up Sardine Peak.
[00:33:45] Craig Dalton: And when you’re, when you’re, when you’re getting up there, uh, Carlos, like what kind of terrain is that climb and is it like, you know, one of these long sustained efforts?
[00:33:56] Carlos Perez: It is. Um, so once you get to the base of starting peak, you’re at about 6,000 feet and it tops out just over 8,000 feet. And it, it starts off at like, you know, four or five, 6% grades. And then as you get near the top, you’re pushing, you know, 11, 10, 11% pretty consistently. , you, you don’t have to stay seated for this stuff, but it, you definitely are putting out some watts to carry yourself to the top of this climb.
And then as soon as you get over the top, it is just a ripping, white knuckle descent all the way down. Um, about to the same elevation in the past. This year, there’s a change. We’re actually extending the course, so last year we were about 64 miles in length for that. this year we’re gonna be 75, and so it’s, or maybe it was 67.
We’ve, we’ve increased it by several miles and we’re going a lot further north towards Loyalton, and so that dissent off of Sardine Peak goes from 8,000 feet all the way down to 5,300 feet over the course. Probably 10 miles. So you just have this constant descent. It’s such a reward to get that after finally making it to the top of Sardine Peak.
And then once you get to that part just south of Loyalton, you turn and you climb a gradual, really well graded and maintained gravel road. And so your return isn’t like, arduous, painful journey back. You can really get into a rhythm and warm yourself up and, and keep the pace going. Pretty good.
[00:35:45] Craig Dalton: As we’re coming down off Sardine Peak, is that, is it a fire road and is it, is it kind of loose? Are we, are we sort of white-knuckling scared, or
[00:35:53] Carlos Perez: it
[00:35:54] Craig Dalton: it pretty, pretty flowing?
[00:35:55] Carlos Perez: can be rutted. And so it changes a little bit every year. And what happens is we go out there right before the race, like a couple days before the race and we’re cutting down trees that have fallen. We’re cutting down branches where, you know, maybe there’s a spot where it’s really bad, there’s like a lot of rocks that we’re exposed.
We actually go out there and try to fix some of that stuff up where it might be deemed. Unsafe. Uh, and then we mark the crap out of it. So we’ve got a signed guy, this guy Cole Rasmussen, who goes out there. Um, this actually this past year, it was, um, it was an associate of his, went out there and, uh, marked the course over, over two or three days.
And we take these big, you know, it’s like, it’s a big deal. We’re not just putting. Uh, flags in the ground or hanging ribbon in the tree. We’re driving a stake in the ground and then we’re putting a big two foot sign on it with an arrow for each of the route colors telling you where to go, or that it says hazard or, you know, sharp turn or, you know, cattle guard things that are important.
Um, for riders to not only be able to race safely, but also to make sure that no one gets lost, cuz it’s hard to find ’em once they do. Um, and so anyway, I, I got a little off track with what we’re doing out there. The course. On that diss descent off of Sardine Peak. Uh, it varies each year, but it can be a little bit hairy.
And so we do advise people like really pay attention, try to control their speed because you can come around some areas where all of a sudden there are ruts, you know, and how, how that feels. How you pucker when you’re like riding next to a rut that’s like a train track and you’re trying to stay out of it.
[00:37:40] Craig Dalton: Sometimes you do exactly the wrong thing when you see those
[00:37:43] Carlos Perez: you look at it, that’s the problem.
[00:37:46] Craig Dalton: Yep. Exactly. Yeah, I was looking at the course profile and I see that big prominent sardine peak, and then to your point, you actually looks like you descend to a lower elevation than kind of the baseline to begin with, and then you’ve got that one gradual bump and a few bumps, but largely kind of progressively downhill on the way back to the start finish.
[00:38:10] Carlos Perez: Yeah. Yeah. And there is. , there’s one descent. Uh, after you get back up to your next peak at about 7,000 feet. That next descent, uh, is a little harrowing. Also, it has some baby head sticking out of it and some ruts and things and roots and stuff. So it’s definitely like an o hv road, not, not like a gravel road, but totally doable on a gravel.
You just have to pay attention to where your line is. And like I said, we go out there every year with my beat up Nissan Titan, and we carry tools and we clean it up and get it as prepped as we can For the
[00:38:48] Craig Dalton: I imagine for people listening, there’s a couple camps. There’s one people like me who are like, that sounds awesome. And there are others that are like, maybe I won’t really like that part of this event.
[00:39:00] Carlos Perez: we do not produce events that are easy. , we just don’t, uh, there’s, there’s a sense of accomplishment. Having completed any one of bike monkeys races, whether it be a mountain bike race or a mixed gravel and road event like fish rock or hammer road rally, or a road event like Levi’s, grand Fondo, or a gravel event like Truckee or Rebecca’s private Idaho.
There is always an element of pretty extreme challenge. We have shorter routes, right? We’re talking about the big route right now. We have shorter options for people that do forego having to take on some of those tougher challenges. and that option’s there. And there’s even time cuts too. So if you don’t make it, you know, to the base of starting peak by a certain time, you’re not gonna be allowed to go back over that.
Uh, we can’t restrain you. You could climb over it if you wanted to, but your support is not guaranteed at that point.
[00:40:05] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. And it’s nice that you have the easy, moderate, and hard courses. Available for people. If you, when you think about kind of advising riders, and I know this is like a horribly tricky thing to do, but when you think about ad advising riders as to what sort of tires they should be thinking about running, what are you putting out there in the world about the the Trucky Gravel event?
[00:40:26] Carlos Perez: Well, I mean, tire technology has changed a lot over the years, right? Like it’s really improved. We used to, everybody used to think that, um,
[00:40:36] Craig Dalton: I.
[00:40:36] Carlos Perez: a big tire. Was gonna slow you down. Um, that’s really not the case. And, and even just the science behind it really. Um, we, we advise you guys as big as, as you want, really.
I mean, it’s, uh, as long as you feel like it’s fast rolling enough for you, the challenges that you’re gonna see and running a small. on any of these events is that when you do get to the rough sections, you risk, uh, you take on more risk in losing control in an area, um, or pinch flattening. Uh, so, you know, and a bigger type volume tire allows you to run tubeless easier and that improves the quality of the race or the ride.
So, you know, 40 C plus, uh, you know, easily, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t go smaller than that. . Um, but some people do, you know, it really does come down to preference, but generally bigger riders are gonna want bigger tires and smaller riders might be able to get away with something that might be a little bit faster rolling on some of the flat stuff.
But at the end of the day, I think the tire technology that we’re dealing with today has improved so much that. you know, a good volume gravel tire is gonna be the perfect choice for this event. And we see people come out there on mountain bikes and do pretty good. Actually, you know, one of the, one of the, um, photos of the lead group on our homepage is you’re scrolling down.
Actually has a dude like with that lead pack, like on a mountain bike, just going for it.
[00:42:11] Craig Dalton: Yeah. I, I mean to each their own, right. There’s a lot of fast, hard tail mountain bikers out there that can keep up with the best gravel racers, I’m sure. when you think about,
[00:42:21] Carlos Perez: is like one of the most common questions that we get is like, what tire do I pick? And honestly, like the, the, it’s really up to the racer. Uh, the best we can do is explain the course profile and then you have to make your own choice.
[00:42:37] Craig Dalton: Yeah. And look, I mean, I think at the end of the day, a lot of people. Just don’t bother changing their tires and run what you brung, right? Run, run what you’re comfortable with. There’s no, no need to kind of spend money to kind of get somewhere you don’t need in your home terrain. That said, I’m, I’m with you.
Like I enjoy the bigger tires and certainly on those descents with baby heads, like it’s just nice to have that volume to be able to slam through things even if it’s not purposeful.
[00:43:03] Carlos Perez: I think at the point where people start asking and trying to make critical decisions around tire. You’re almost splitting hairs at that point. You’re really getting into the, to the nitty gritty of like, how am I gonna get that little extra edge what it comes down to. I mean, unless you’re on, like, you’re talking about running 30 c you know, slicks on your bike, on road bike, then you know, maybe that’s a little extreme, but, uh, you know, we’re talking like mountain bike size tire versus like a, a bigger gravel size.
[00:43:39] Craig Dalton: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I’m always like, for me, that performance edge is just around comfort and control, and I’ll error that wave over speed any day of the week, even though I totally agree with you. Like the modern high volume tire is not any slower than some of these smaller tires at all.
[00:43:56] Carlos Perez: Yeah.
[00:43:58] Craig Dalton: Yeah. When we talk about sort of the racing element of this event, like is that something you’re leaning into?
Is that something that you’re kind of craving as an event promoter to get the fastest men, men and women around to the table and, and see them throw down? Or is that a, a secondary consideration for the event?
[00:44:16] Carlos Perez: For me, that’s secondary. Uh, I’ve never been one of the camp to really invest in. Making sure that the professional road racer with a ton of followers is showing up at our events. I wanna make the events appealing enough that they, they want to be there. Um, and so, and there is a competitive component to these events and they often do end up standing on the podium, but I really want to cater to the families.
because that’s just how my business is built. It’s really built around family experience and. Yeah. So we’re not like the, we’re not like the lifetime events where it’s just hyper-competitive, you know, super like you’re, we’re . You don’t really read about us in Bellow news that often cuz we’re not catering to that professional market.
We want professionals to come to our event and because they wanna be there and enjoy themselves, and many of them do. And we make sure they have a good time just like everybody else. And we try to put on a good event for them, but that’s not our. that’s not by design for us. We really are designing events that are, uh, meant for people to come and have an amazing time with their friends, with their family, and hopefully not take it too seriously.
Um, but we do a professional scoring operation and we give away amazing awards. I mean, behind me and you know, I mean people are mostly gonna see this on nut or listen. On an audio podcast, but we work with graphic designers to make these posters for each of our events, and every one of ’em is fully custom.
And this is kind of the touch that we put on giving awards away. Last year, Forte’s Painter, I actually made, uh, We, we handmade, or I hand cast silver ingots because it’s in the silver state and we gave away bars of silver that I made myself. That’s the kind of stuff that people get to walk away with from our events.
We don’t do like cash prizes or, you know, stupid metals. Like everybody’s got a drawer full of metals. It’s useless, and I hate giving that stuff away. So we don’t do it. You know, we give you something that’s like either a work of. A real keepsake. Uh, occasionally we might do like a bottle opener, but we just, you know, people have enough junk.
So we try to give people something useful for their efforts that they really feel good about, that we’ve put our heart into.
[00:46:56] Craig Dalton: I love it. I noted one thing that I thought was interesting. It, it, it looked like on the site that the sort of the race, quote unquote, ends at the, before the last aid station.
[00:47:07] Carlos Perez: Yeah.
[00:47:07] Craig Dalton: Is that sort of purposeful because it’s unsafe to race the last eight miles, or was there other intention there?
[00:47:13] Carlos Perez: There’s two reasons for it. Uh, one, uh, safety is important and you’re in a very remote area when you finish. So you’re finishing next to Boca Reservoir. next to a dam. Uh, part two is there. It’s beautiful there. And we want people to be able to stop and maybe regroup with somebody that they were racing with before and do the high five and they get actually like a nice, uh, return back to the Riverview Sports Park where we have our festival.
and they don’t have to race it. It’s on a shared use bike path, and it’s important that we don’t have racers going the opposite direction of a mom with a stroller and her kids or a dog walker. And so there’s the safety component is number one, but number two, we get the added benefit of people being able to do a pretty decent cool down ride after they just throttled themselves for 50, 60 miles.
[00:48:13] Craig Dalton: Yeah, I thought that was a fun concept as I was thinking about. It is nice to your point, to just be able to kind of reconnect with people you might have dropped or been dropped by a few miles back, and then just chill as you have a cool down and then get to the, to the sort of the end point. Just be ready to transition into enjoying the community.
[00:48:33] Carlos Perez: Yeah, and Truckee Gravel is one of the few events that we have where there is a long sustained racing portion of the event. A lot of the events that we’re producing now actually have segments. that you add up over time because it’s actually really fun to, it’s almost like how we ride with our friends in a group nowadays is we ride and then it’s like we go hit a segment and then we regroup.
and we ride together and we’re bringing that element to a lot of our events and legitimizing it by accumulating segments. And what it means is that you race for a little while, but then you ride with your friends and then you race for a little while and you ride with your friends and it makes the whole experience so enjoyable because you still race, but you don’t have to race the entire time and destroy yourself.
But with Truckee Dirt Fonda, we do have more of a traditional longer duration race, and I think that’s important. You know, each event we evaluate for what the best experience is gonna be, and Truckee’s one of those where we want people to really go out there and work hard.
[00:49:34] Craig Dalton: Fun. And final question, Carlos, around the post-race experience there, I think you mentioned it was Riverside Park. What, what is it like, what’s the, what should the, uh, the riders expect at the end there?
[00:49:46] Carlos Perez: Riverview Sports Park is right next to the Truckee River. And so people that are, you know, at that park can actually walk down to the river, which is super cool, you know, and there’s a path that takes you down there and it’s a really beautiful area. But the park itself, uh, is a pretty neat facility.
There’s lots of trees and shade and grass and. It’s next to this awesome bike park that the Truckee Bike Park organization has been building over the years. Uh, Brooks Millon, uh, has, has, and, uh, a partner of his have been building this thing and it’s amazing and you can. Take your mountain bike or your cross bike or your gravel bike and ride on, uh, the pump track or these features and just, it’s a real cool skill building thing.
And they have events there. There’s a little pump track for kids. So, uh, it’s really is like a, a cycling maker. Mountain bikers make a. It’s a really neat place to finish the race at and we’re actually partnering up with them this year and we’re gonna do some really cool stuff. Activations with that bike park that’s part of Riverview Sports Park.
[00:50:58] Craig Dalton: Fun. And then is, is there, are there food and beverages available at the end there?
[00:51:02] Carlos Perez: Oh yeah, absolutely. We, uh, we always have a beer partner that, um, you know, both NA and traditional beer. So we’ve been working with Best Day Brewing Company, uh, and Truckee. We’ve worked with 50 50 Brewing Company and, you know, they’re right there. Obviously, uh, that changes up every year. So we might have another partner this year.
and then we bring in some really cool food trucks to make sure everybody’s fed well afterwards. I think we had three different options for folks last year. Uh, we usually have some music going and it’s just a really cool atmosphere to hang out and, and kind of recap the day.
[00:51:41] Craig Dalton: That’s awesome, Carlos. Thanks so much for giving us this overview of everything that Bike Monkey’s about. I know we only touched on probably like a quarter of the events you have your hand in, so I definitely encourage people to go check out the Bike Monkey site. I’ll link to it in the show notes. I also very much appreciate the intention that you’ve put into all these events and how you make.
Really a community experience in the way that, you know, I certainly look for in events. So thanks for all your hard work over the years.
[00:52:11] Carlos Perez: Yeah, of course. Craig, thanks for talking to me about it and letting us kind of tell a little bit about our story
[00:52:17] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Awesome. And thanks for getting everybody stoked on, uh, trucky Tahoe Gravel 23
[00:52:22] Carlos Perez: Is the place to be on June 10th.
[00:52:25] Craig Dalton: That’s going to do it for this week’s edition of the gravel ride podcast. Thank you for joining us and big, thanks to Carlos for a putting on all these great events over the years and B for working so hard to make the Truckee Tahoe gravel event. So amazing.
Until next time here’s to finding some dirt under your wheels.