Muddy Onion Spring Classic 2018

Last year I did my first gravel grinder, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Dirt and gravel roads are some of the quietest, most scenic ways to see an area by bicycle. And yes, they often have hills that challenge your mind and body to just. Get. To. The. Top. one pedal stroke at a time.

When Onion River Sports closed last year, the fate of the event was in limbo – but fortunately, a group of former employees decided the show must go on! If you’ve ever doubted what a small band of committed people can accomplish, look no further than this year’s Muddy Onion.

The route was revamped. The rest stops streamlined. The hospitality still off the charts.

Whereas last year we had perfect sunny, dry conditions – this year was almost the total opposite. Winter didn’t start relinquishing control until just a few weeks before the ride. It has been raining more than it’s been dry and sunny, and the roads and trails are in a nearly perpetual state of mud. Lots of people opted for mountain bikes and fat bikes this year over gravel or cross bikes.

Tire Selection

Let’s take a moment to talk about what everyone seemed to be talking about leading up to the event: tire choice.

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Mud2 clearance is “tight”

Last year I threw on 30mm Michelin Mud2s, which are excellent mud tires but sadly do not provide enough clearance on my Salsa Colossal to be used in truly muddy conditions.

After extensive online research (because apparently, no one makes mud tires narrower than 32mm generally), I asked my local shop to order Panaracer GravelKing SK 26s for me.

This was a flawless choice for this year’s conditions, ranging from wet sand to wet hardpack to full-on mud-pits conveniently located at the bottom of every really nice descent. The tires tracked beautifully in suboptimal conditions and were fast-rolling on paved sections.

 

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26mm tires and traction for days

To be sure though – no tire will save you if you can’t handle your bike when it’s sliding in a few different directions. Pro tip: mountain biking on a hardtail will give you the skills needed to improve handling on the road too.

The Ride

Vermont is blessed with an abundance of dirt roads and beautiful scenery – and the Muddy Onion gives you an opportunity to experience both. The first 5 miles still trend up, and by the rest stop at mile 10, we had climbed over 1,300′ while passing family farms, open fields, and taking in views of the Green Mountains.

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the better conditions encountered

The middle 17 miles looped us up to Mirror Lake and the tiny towns that dot Vermont. Screaming downhill to flat lake-side roads that provide an air conditioning effect – not much needed when it’s barely 60*F out! I had pulled off my arm warmers sometime in the first 10 miles, and I certainly wished I had them on as we passed the lake. We passed through beautifully dense pine forest, the scent of pine filling the air. Coming into the final rest stop with around 3,000′ of climbing under our legs.

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Class 4 means Quality

The final 10 miles feature that last few hundred feet of climbing and the last 4 miles trending DOWN and the welcome sight of getting back to Montpelier after 37 miles, 3,650′ of climbing, and a whole lot of dirty fun.

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at the rest stop

Racked the bikes and enjoyed the post-ride BBQ and beverages before getting cleaned up and heading back into town for a coffee at Capitol Grounds Cafe/802 Coffee and purchases at the state store. Sadly, no one at the store knew the whereabouts of Richard. Richard was our superlative Southern Gentleman/MOT clerk last year, and we were hoping to see him again this year.

(I’d love to know how much the Muddy Onion, a smaller gravel event, brings Montpelier in tourism dollars: in accommodations, food, and other purchases. I drive 5 hours each way and purchase gas, stay in a hotel, eat at local restaurants, and make purchases while visiting. Bikes Mean Business!)

Conclusion

The Muddy Onion has once again proven gravel grinders don’t have to be gratuitous sufferfests or hike-a-bike. With an enjoyable route that features stunning scenery and quiet backroads, none of the hills were insurmountable despite providing a truly meaningful challenge (although let’s be real, this year’s peanut butter-like conditions made the steepest of hills that much more challenging).

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this. all. day.

MO18 Elevation

Thank you Onion River Outdoors for another spectacular event. See you next year!!

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See you on the muddy roads!

 

 

REVIEW: Pactimo Alpine RT Thermal Bibs

Full Disclosure: As you saw in my last post, I’m a Pactimo Brand Ambassador! But I bought these with my own cash and no consideration has been given to review this product. The views are my own!

Spring is a tough time of year. It’s gradually getting warmer – but mornings can still be very much below freezing with afternoons not getting really all that warm. And if the sun isn’t out, it can feel a lot colder than it is. It can be tough to get layering just right.

I’ve always suffered through spring with the suboptimal cycling bottoms until this year.

Enter the Pactimo Alpine Thermal RT bibs.

 

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Fellow women, if you haven’t made the switch from shorts to bibs – don’t wait. Bibs are a game-changer. They aren’t just for pros or people on race teams or people who ride faster than you. Bibs are for you! Bibs slim the midsection and avoid the dreaded muffin top that even wide-band shorts can impart. Bibs mean I don’t have undue pressure on my belly while riding. In short, they are more comfortable and let you focus on the ride, not your apparel.

After three solid gravel rides in these, here are four reasons why these bib shorts are revolutionizing my bike life right now:

  1. They are super warm and cozy – yet breathable. The thermal fabric is soft against the skin – even the straps are thermal – but I don’t overheat while grinding up gnarly hills. No more red belly or thighs at the end of a ride!
  2. They provide gentle compression, hugging your muscles to support them as you go one more mile or climb one more hill.
  3. Reflective Technology (RT). The cuffs of the shorts have reflective threads woven into the fabric. This is a subtle yet effective way to stay visible but it doesn’t look obnoxious.
  4. The chamois is so comfortable I forget I’m wearing bike shorts. Maybe that’s an exaggeration – but I also think that when something works for you, it’s easy to not think about it and just focus on the experience. It’s the same chamois as in the Apex short liner from Pactimo’s mountain biking line.

(I got into Pactimo through their mountain biking line. I wanted a pair of baggies that weren’t too baggy and a jersey that was understated but also, totally rad. Pactimo delivered! I recently picked up another pair of baggies and liners for the upcoming season.)

Invest in yourself! Don’t suffer another chilly ride during shoulder season with sub-optimal bottoms and get on the thermal bib train.

See you on the road!

 

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me (left) and my friend at the Deep Hollow Furnaces in Wassaic, NY