By Trent Wilson
It was late January of 2016. Being an enthusiast, I considered this to be cycling's offseason. Rain and frigid temperatures aren't exactly my ideal riding weather. Through happenstance I stumbled upon the Kinetic Gravel Ride and figured I'd give it a shot. Hey, they offered to size me up on a test bike so how could I say no? After two and half hours of riding, about two of those in the "suffer zone", we were back at the shop. At that point in time at the age of 23, I had been an on-again/off-again cyclist since I was 13 and I had never been on such a tough, grueling ride. I quickly discovered that the gravel has a way of draining whatever power I had. Perhaps, subconsciously, that's what I was looking for because that same day I ordered my new Crux and began anxiously awaiting its arrival.
A little less than a week later, it was new bike day, which I imagine is the best day there is except for the birth of one's child. From that point on I made sure to have a standing appointment every Sunday with the Kinetic crew to enjoy some gravel. As the weeks went by I started to get more acclimated with the rides and could feel myself getting stronger. I progressed from struggling to hang on to the tail of the group, to mixing it up with the strong guys up front. In the couple of months I had owned my Crux, it quickly became my favorite bike, as it was capable on all terrains and in all conditions. Initially, the versatility was just a nice feature of the bike as my only aspirations for it were to be a rad gravel bike. Rad cross bike?...I figured I’d unleash that feature a year or two down the road.
As the KGR kept coming the good times kept rolling. In all my previous cycling years I had been more of a solitary rider so the group rides were quite refreshing. Being a bit of a reserved person I kept to myself and my parents—who also joined me on the gravel discovery—for the first couple of months until I got to know some of the Sunday usuals. These “usuals” sort of planted the seed of racing cross. It usually started with them asking “if I was going to race some cross this season” followed by me answering “I’m not sure” and then the knockout blow of “you definitely should, it’s so fun”. After I was given this line of questioning about 15 times...racing cross started to register on the radar, just a little. Being that I had never raced cross, let alone seen a cross course in person, I would have a lot to learn.
There must be something in the water down at Kinetic because I went from weekly gravel rides to being an employee in mid August. A passionate cyclist working at a bike shop, it doesn’t get better than that. I was still able to continue with the Sunday gravel rides while also immersing myself further into the bike community and culture. September rolled around and cyclocross was all the buzz around the shop. Lucky for me, the amateur I was, The Kid Kaiser was putting on some cross clinics that I was able to attend. Whether you’re an amateur like I was or seasoned veteran, which there were plenty, the clinics were awesome. I was able to learn the very integral skill of mounting and dismounting my bike to the more technical skills of off-camber hairpin turns and deep sand riding amongst a myriad of other things. If I was going to do some racing, I at least would have a little bit of confidence in some acquired skills.
Eventually the calendar turned to October and the local Sacramento Cyclocross Series was revving up. It was Race #3 at LangeTwins Winery and I was offered the opportunity to take in the whole cross scene and participate in my very first race. I enthusiastically seized that opportunity and anxiously anticipated race day. When I arrived at the venue I was simply amazed by the sheer number of people that were there as well as by the awesome layout of the course and all the twists and turns it had. Race time eventually rolled around and I had a bit of reserved confidence in my chances. I’d been going on what I deemed grueling gravel rides for months and had some recently acquired skills so I figured I had a shot to do reasonably well. Boy was I wrong. I was put in the hurt locker quicker than any other time I had experienced on a bike. For some reason, though, it left me wanting more. Maybe it was my competitive edge or just the awesome race day environment, but I couldn’t wait for the next race.
Bruce must have sensed my sheer enjoyment from my first ‘cross experience and wanted to up the ante a bit. I was offered the opportunity to be a bit of a “cyclocross liaison” for the shop. As “cyclocross liaison”, I would go out to all the races as a representative of Team Kinetic, get to know the rest of the team, and best of all, race! It was a dream come true and a highlight of my year. As I raced more the results got better. But that wasn’t the best part, what I really enjoyed was the comradery shared with the other riders—talking about the best lines on course, how each other’s races went, the near crashes and awesome maneuvers pulled. It was just such an awesome, supportive community and with races pretty much rolling nonstop from 9 AM to 4 PM there was always some action to take in. Truly an amazing experience.
Thanks to Gary's Cross Pics for the Photos
Looking back at the recent year that has transpired I can say getting myself going with the gravel rides was probably the best. It led me to discover a form of riding I didn’t even knew existed and introduced me to the cyclocross scene. More specifically talking about the cyclocross scene, I met some awesome people and got to know a lot of people I was familiar with better. Reflecting on the race season, it has sort of lit a fire in me to ride more, train more, and if need be run more. I’m willing to do whatever I need to do to be ready for next race season. My first cyclocross race season has seemed to rekindle my competitive fire that hadn’t been burning too much since participating in team sports nearly 10 years ago. It's an awesome feeling, and when I boil it down, its the result of taking a chance one Sunday on something we call the Kinetic Gravel Ride.