Voted “Event of the Year” by the Design and Innovation Awards committee, the unique format of Grinduro combines the best elements of a mountain bike enduro with a gravel grinder-style road race. Festivities include two days of excellent food, a handmade bike show, an art exhibit, live music and camping.
Name: Dain Zaffke
Position: Captain of the Grinduro Planning Squad and also the Director of Marketing at Giro Sport Design.
How did you come up with the concept of Grinduro?
We wanted an event that combined all of our favorite things — an epic loop, some friendly competition, art, gourmet food, hand built bikes, live music, camping and a picturesque location. We selfishly created the event that we wanted knowing that at least we’d have a good time. Grinduro is essentially a formal version of how most of us ride on the weekends with our friends. You go all out and hammer up a climb, then regroup. Then you go all out and take a bunch of chances on a descent, then you regroup. And maybe you have a stop or two with coffees and/or beers.
What does the name mean?
I kind of love that a lot of people pronounce it “Grin-Duro,” thinking that we intended to make everyone smile. But the truth is it’s more “Gravel Grinder” plus “Enduro.” We came up with the name about four years ago, just before Grinder.com became widely known. There was definitely a period early on where I got some flack from people that said it sounded like a festival for the all male gay dating site, but I figured, what the hell… Those dudes know how to party! I’m happy to report that Grinduro brings in a fair number of women, 30 to 35-percent, which is a much better balance than the typical bike race.
Who did the branding?
We pitched this project to one of our favorite artists, Geoff McFetridge, early on. A few of us at Giro had always wanted to work with him, so we got in touch and he loved the concept (he’s an avid cyclist). Shortly thereafter he sent over a bunch of amazing concepts, including the mountain with eyes and the color purple. We instantly fell in love with the direction.
Funny side note – the original art showed a couple riders flying off the side of the mountain alongside the tumbling bikes. I personally loved it, but our lawyers shot that down just as the posters were going to print. They said that we’re not allowed to show “lifeless bodies” in promotional materials for an event that comes with some heavy liability (this is the United States, you know).
Our partners at the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship are headquartered in Downieville, about an hour from Quincy, but they’ve been putting a lot of time and energy into developing the trails there in Quincy. The final singletrack descent is a product of SBTS’ efforts in that area and it’s a real gem. It’s pretty great to know that all proceeds from the event go into SBTS continuing the development of amazing trails like that. Not to mention that Quincy is surrounded by massive mountains, huge trees and it’s a really undeveloped area. The only real industry in that zone is logging, so the town is very welcome to tourism and bike riders. Plus it’s home to a community college and a fairgrounds that includes all the facilities we need. The same fairgrounds that host Grinduro in October host a music festival in July that brings in 10,000 people!
Why is Grinduro more than a race?
80-percent of the ride is at a conversational pace… beyond that, there’s the music, the food, the camping, the art and the handmade bikes.
Who does it attract?
We get all walks of life at Grinduro. Just to name a few – we had a princess from the Norwegian royal family out there this year (she was working as a volunteer and her husband was racing); Greg Minnaar came out and crushed it; Katerina Nash has been out a few times in between winning cyclocross world cups; people from virtually every cool bike-related brand (and the best part about that most of them are not there in any official capacity, only to ride and party); typical hammerhead bike racers show up and have a great time; we see a lot of first time bike racers, from college-aged kids to middle-aged parents; we get hundreds that come up for the weekend to ride the local trails on MTB or moto and stay for the party (but they don’t actually do the ride); we have 100+ volunteers; and we have a ton of the young people from the town of Quincy come and join the fun because it’s one of their biggest parties of the year.
Is there a dominant discipline at Grinduro?
Grinduro is all about being a well-rounded cyclist. You need to be able to climb, to hammer the flats, to descend the dirt roads and, of course, be able to attack a singletrack descent.
Do you see a cultural shift away from hard-core racing?
That’s a big question that deserves an in-depth, multi-faceted answer. But I’ll try and be succinct. Here’s my point of view:
Texting while driving is an epidemic worldwide and is the single biggest killer today. To cyclists, to pedestrians, to other motorists. That alone is attracting cyclists to dirt roads and adventure rides. Enduro mountain bike races have created a fun platform that’s more inclusive than DH or XC racing. The rise of Strava has encouraged folks to get competitive in shorter, timed segments. And the culture of doping in pro road racing seems to have soured a lot of people from having those aspirations. All of those factors have created a perfect storm for an event like Grinduro to come along and capture the imaginations of a wide variety of cyclists.
Bike riders will always and forever be a competitive lot… whether we’re on e-bikes, cross bikes, road bikes or mountain bikes. With Grinduro (and enduro formats) riders can get that competitive outlet, yet still have the social benefit as well. But for now e-bikes aren’t allowed at Grinduro (sorry, Nick Larsen).
How does the party attraction and lure of fun affect the racing?
There are plenty of people that I see partying all day. That scares me slightly from a liability standpoint, but philosophically I’m all for it. The main thing (in my experience) is that when you just finish a really kick ass ride – and you’re buzzing with endorphins and adrenaline – the best thing to do is keep that energy up by having a drink or two and keeping moving. The worst-case scenario is to wind down and take a nap… there’s no coming back. I’ll use my experience as an example: I went all out on the final timed stage (the Mt Hough single track descent). I was in the zone and nailed every line and pedaled my ass off and had what felt like a nearly flawless run (let’s not mention the massive over the bars toward the end)… So moments later when I got to the swimming hole, I was excited to have a cold beer. That was followed by some story telling, a few high fives, a “Ginduro” cocktail (thanks to the gang with the rogue bar in the woods) and a couple more beers. My legs were tired but my spirits were high and that enthusiasm didn’t start to wane until I strolled back to my sleeping bag around 2am. Partying and racing don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Cycling isn’t just about suffering. It’s also about the giggle-inducing descents, the conversations and jokes in the peloton and the after party. In fact some of the wildest parties I’ve seen are with world cup athletes after major competitions are finished.
What is main hook; bike riding or party?
I like to talk about the party a lot, but let’s be honest — it’s only a good party by bike racing standards… It’s not a Hells Angels motorcycle rally. It’s not Burning Man. The hook is probably always going to be the bike ride. But for bike riders that want to cut loose a bit after the ride, Grinduro is a lot of fun. That’s fine with me, ‘cause I don’t think I could handle a Hells Angels party anyway!
What’s next for Grinduro?
I’d like to see the art and music aspects grow over time in both Quincy and Scotland. And, ultimately, I’d like to make this thing more of a global series. I believe that this style of event has a lot of appeal for a wide range of people. I find the Enduro World Series really inspiring and I have a massive amount of respect for Chris Ball for taking those events so many places while retaining such a high level of quality. But the Grinduro Planning Squad is a small team… it really depends on how much energy the folks at Giro, Fabric and SRAM can devote to this event without compromising our day jobs!