This post is a follow up to our visit to the Enve Composites headquarters which you can check out here: Premium Performance Built in the USA. Photos Courtesy Ian Matteson/Enve.
It was clear how much pride the team at Enve takes in their engineering and manufacturing prowess, but it's important to remember that it all stems from a passion on the bike. They wanted to make it clear on our visit for their Builder Summit/Open house that Enve is about riding bikes, and riding them freaking hard. Their method of proving this? By including us and the frame builders as guinea pigs for their inaugural Enve Grodeo, led out the the company's staff of gravel heavy hitters.
The brief on the ride was as follows:
"Start time at 6:0AM. 87miles. 8,400ft elevation. 40/60 ratio road to dirt. Bring at least 40c tires. GPS navigation is mandatory."
Past that, we basically knew nothing, which was just enough information to have us totally excited with curiosity while equally timorous as to what these guys had up their sleeve.
I'll be honest, it's never with excitement that I set my alarm to 4:45. As we were both preparing to head to bed, Peter and I asked ourselves, "Are we really doing this thing?" We didn't fly our bikes our here for nothing, so when the alarms went off, we begrudgingly forced ourselves out of bed. Quickly, we gathered our things to check out of the hotel and scrambled to make the ride's 6AM rollout.
With the sky still dark, a group of us amassed at Enve's front door—under rested, under caffeinated, and without any real clue of what was in store. With equal part excitement and equal part dread, the ride got underway and we followed the Enve leaders through town, and into the Wastach mountains.
The first twenty miles we were on the road, gradually climbing up highway 39 into the Ogden Canyon. As daylight started to diffuse into the sky, it brought with it a surprise... a trickle of raindrops that turned into showers. Nothing like a wet chamois at the start of this 80+ mile excursion to reaffirm you made the right choice in getting out of bed so damn early.
Timing and luck couldn't have worked out any better. As we crested that long paved climb, the rain subsided and we were treated to an incredible sunrise over the Pineview Reservoir. We left the pavement to hit the first dirt of the day onto a stellar ribbon of single track and board walk meandering though tall grass and wild flowers like a theme park of a cyclocross course. Immediately, everyone's vibe switched to full on stoke.
As brilliant of respite as it was from the the morning's early gloom, it didn't take long for the suffering, and rain, to make its return. After a brief spin through the flat countryside, we got our first taste of proper gravel in the shape of a two and a half mile climb, ascending just over 1,000 feet at an average of an 8% incline. It was rough, loose, steep, and a brutal wake up call to both Peter and I's sea-level lungs. Trying take in the panoramic views as a distraction from the pain didn't really work as keeping traction over the rocks and holding a line through the ruts took deliberate focus. The sporadic sounds of gunfire from the nearby shooting range didn't make things any easier.
Making it to the top, Enve treated us right; a proper aid station was waiting for us with chairs, hydration, and a smorgasbord of snacks. Some were eager to keep it going, some were fully crushed. This point served as the parting point for those opting for the truncated route. For those of us pushing on, there was another sixty miles ahead... and we hadn't even hit the hard parts yet.
Freshly refueled, the party carried. Neil Shirley, Enve's marketing manager, lead us out on to a fast double track descent. The trails were flowing, encouraging us to let off the brakes, but keeping us on our toes as there were clumps of rock gardens littered throughout.
Ripping and raging down the undulating tracks, Peter's front tire met a premature fate as he tried to gap over a rock section at speed. Despite riding on big 42c tires, they were no match for the babyheads poking through the earth's surface. The twin punctures from the pinch flat were too much for a Dynaplug to rescue, so an inner tube was the only resort. A quick change and he chased to meet us at the top of the next steep climb.
It's never a good thing when you need to throw a tube in, especially that early into a ride. Extra especially when the steepest, rockiest, gnarliest of the sections we still to come. As we dropped into the next descent, we were warned of how sketch it was. Deep ruts, exposed boulders, and steep chutes. Was it awesome? Hell yeah, but I think we were all scratching our heads as to why they didn't sell this as a mountain bike ride.
Peter found out pretty quickly what happens when you put a pinner, lightweight road tube in a high volume gravel tire. As any good teammate does, I offered him my own spare tube. To Peter's later demise however, it was yet another skinny road tube.
The next segment was a a slog along the highway. After having our wrists and backs rattled to the core, the smooth roads were a welcome break, but at this point the summer heat was in full effect, and the tarmac was anything but cool. A four mile climb brought us up to the the next aid station. A quick refueling and a restocking of tubes (this time proper gravel sized) and we were off to another ripping and twisty gravel descent.
A fair bit smoother and buffed than anything we'd ridden yet, everyone was pretty excited to get in the drops and charge it. Well, everyone but the inner tube in Peter's front tire that is. Another explosion left him sidelined and forced to chase back.
We regrouped once more to let Peter catch back on before tackling the next flat road section. Ike Pantone, Enve's test lab manage, took the front and started laying down the hammer. Why? Nobody really knows, or questioned it. We just got in line and hung on.
A few miles on, the road turned to dirt and casually turned into a climb. For the next nine miles we climbed an eternally lasting false flat. Seriously, a three percent grade never hurt so bad. It didn't help that the temps had bumped up into the 90s. Eventually, an Enve pop-up tent appeared like a mirage in the distance. The same pop-up tent we'd stopped at in the morning. It dawned on me, that we were climbing up the first long descent we'd come down earlier.
This time, there was a grill fired up with hot dogs ready to go. Even vegan ones for me. At this point, everyone was looking pretty cracked and people were rejoicing as if we'd made it to the end. Downing an ice cold Coke was a necessary kick to finish off the final 25 miles.
Remember that first steep dirt climb we had to trek up earlier? Now it was time to bomb back down. Ike and his brother Jake, Enve's product manager, led it out and engaged full send mode. I did my best hanging on to their pace, but it didn't take long for things to get rough and all I could hear was a cacophony of pinging from carbon rims bottoming out into the ground. Realizing I didn't have the same luxury of working for a rim company, I dialed the speed back. My tires made it out unscathed. Peter on the other hand... well, you can guess what happened there. At this point the one guy on a MTB offered him a burly 29er tube.
A quick roll through some residential roads, and then it was pretty much all single track to the end. First, a steep and twisty climb got us out of the canyon. It was technical and it was painful, but it was cool and in the trees. We were greeted by one last rest stop with water for us to refill, and it was a series of technical single track bring us back to town.
The first bit was once again a bone shaking rocky stretch, the next a meticulously groomed flow trail with manicured berms and rollers. The last was something in between, dropping us all the way back into town.
At long last, we made it back to the finish line. Looking down to my Wahoo, we logged 88miles and 8,100ft of vertical. I've done bigger mileage, bigger elevation, but I can't think of many rides that left me feeling as cracked as this (and it wasn't even a race!) More than once through the day, Peter had turned to me to comment that it was the hardest ride he's done. Coming off his recent win at the Grasshopper series final, that's saying a lot.
As tough and grueling as it was, I was beyond blown away by how incredible the Utah riding was. Our trails in California are world class, but the riding in Ogden was like nothing I've seen before. The course was phenomenal and the support was first rate. We really couldn't think of a better way to wrap up our trip. Fingers crossed we get an invite back for next year!
Peter Lucas, AC Sales Manager | Bike of Choice: Sarto Gravel TA | Tires of Choice: Challenge Gravel Grinder 42c
Derek Yarra, AC Brand Manager | Bike of Choice: Mosaic GT-1 | Tires of Choice: Vittoria Terreno Dry 40c