Editor’s note: News director Spencer Powlison is racing all four of the Epic Rides Series mountain bike races this summer to cover the pro racing and experience the events from a participant’s standpoint. This coverage is sponsored by Fezzari Bicycles, Smith, and Mavic. Powlison will ride Fezzari’s new Signal Peak cross-country bike, wear Smith’s Session helmet and Attack Max sunglasses, and ride Mavic’s new Crossmax Elite Carbon wheelset.
As part of our continuing coverage of the Epic Rides Series, I’m off to the Grand Junction Off-Road, May 18-19 on Colorado’s Western Slope. The high desert mountain bike mecca hosts the sixth edition of this race with all of the usual fun stuff you’d expect from an Epic Rides event: A Friday night fat tire crit to showcase the pro racers, live music all weekend, and a difficult race course to amateurs and pros alike. Here’s a look at what’s on tap this weekend.
Pretty much all of the pro racers I’ve talked to confirm that this is the most technical course of the Epic Rides events. Grand Junction’s “Lunch Loop” trails will serve up a 43-mile route with around 7,000 feet of climbing. A lot the uphill comes on the Windmill climb, which is about six miles long, gaining 2,000 feet midway through the route.
Sure, that’s a healthy dose of climbing, but the rocky ledges on these desert trails really define the Grand Junction Off-Road. The action starts early with the difficult Butterknife trail, six-mile downhill that starts after about 10 miles of climbing out of Grand Junction. Race promoters have added three more singletrack trails to the course, Good Vibes, Second Thoughts, and Snake Skin, which should make finish times a bit slower than last year.
There are also 15- and 30-mile race routes for those who aren’t ready for the 40-Grand course.
The Four Peaks Brewing Co. Downtown Music Festival will feature a whopping 32 performances headlined by The Motet. There will be three performance stages surrounding the start/finish line on downtown Grand Junction’s Main Street. The music starts Friday afternoon and goes all weekend through the end of the pro races, midday Sunday.
Three tech tips
Here are three ways I’m planning to cope with the rocky, technical terrain at Grand Junction.
1. Pump it up. I usually run about 20-23psi on my 2.25″ tires. Occasionally I hit something big enough to bottom out the tubeless tires, but so far, the Mavic carbon rims haven’t seen any damage at all. To be safe, and avoid shredding a tire on a big ledge, I’m opting for slightly more tire pressure, probably around 25psi.
2. Drop in. My Fezzari Signal peak came with a dropper post out of the box. That’s just how I like to roll. But it did seem like overkill on the Whiskey Off-Road‘s climber-friendly course. There just weren’t enough gnarly sections to require a lower seat. However, I’m going to be loving the dropper post on Grand Junction’s rough singletrack.
3. Turn up the volume. The rear shock on my Signal Peak came stock with a volume reducer. Simply put, this means the suspension ramps up more, becoming firm at the end of the travel. That’s good for smoother courses. However, for Grand Junction, I wanted it to feel more active, to use as much of that travel as I can on the bumpy downhills, so I took out the volume reducer. It’s actually pretty easy, but check with your shock’s manufacturer before you try it yourself.
What I’m riding