My 1x: Getting Rad
Words by Matt Roy. Photos © JPOV Photography.
The beginning of autumn usually means one thing in Gloucester, MA: cyclocross. Racers from around the world assemble to be a part of the spectacle that is the crown jewel of New England cyclocross, the Gran Prix of Gloucester. In conjunction with the 17th running of the GPG, SRAM invited a small group to meet at the venue and hop on their fleet of Force 1 and Rival 1 equipped bikes for a mixed-terrain ride on the hidden roads and trails of the north shore.Open the Road ride organizer, Jen Agan, making sure everyone is outfitted with food and water before departure.
A month or so before the event, the folks at SRAM reached out to Mo and me to help put together a route for the Gloucester edition of the #OpenTheRoad ride. Knowing that these routes have typically included mostly dirt roads, we were in a bit of pickle. Truth is, there are only about five miles of dirt roads in the north shore (and we would use them all), but there are plenty of trails. Here’s a little secret; look at a satellite map of eastern Massachusetts. If you see green, there’s probably a trail there. Breaking from route tradition, we decided to put a ride together that would include everything from breathtaking ocean vistas, to fire roads, rocky, rooty single track, slick rocks, maple swamps and, of course, a coffee stop. Our goal was to show people not only what their borrowed bikes were capable of, but more importantly, what they as riders could do. That's Mo out front on her custom Seven.
Along with Rapha Ambassador and fellow ride leader, Jenny Wojewoda, Mo and I met at the start early Saturday morning. It was a crisp morning with a hint of fall in the air. There was a flurry of activity as races were ongoing and #OpenTheRoad riders were getting sorted out on their demo bikes. The group of riders were about as mixed as you could imagine, from young to old(er), tall to short, flat pedals and baggies, to clipless and team-issue kits. I could sense a little trepidation in the SRAM crew, but I reminded them, as I often remind myself: never underestimate people’s willingness to get in over their heads.
And with that, with more than a few fingers crossed, we left the venue. We were on pavement for about a half a mile and then, trial by fire, we entered Ravenswood, for the first real taste of what the next 45 miles would be like.
The whole group powering up the first pavement climb on the way to some New England singletrack.
Mo, who recently retired after a 12-year career as pro/elite ‘cross racer, was on her Seven Cycles Mudhoney PRO, custom built and painted to her specs. Set up almost identically to how she raced the previous season, Mo rode SRAM Force 1 with a 40-tooth chainring and an 11x32 tooth cassette (she typically raced 11x28), coupled with the Force 1 rear derailleur.
I rode my Seven Cycles Evergreen PRO, Seven’s do-all, be-all Swiss Army knife of a bike. I had it set up with SRAM Force 1 on a 44-tooth chainring and an XG-1180 10-42 tooth cassette on my Zipp 30 Course bombproof aluminum disc wheels. Like Mo, I had a pair of prototype Clement X’PLOR MSO 36 tires, brilliant for mixed-terrain rides. I navigated using a Garmin Edge 1000 (though after my 6th time on this route, I didn’t really need it).
An example of some of the beautiful wooded singletrack on the route.
The ride was brilliant. The smiles beat the frowns, hands down. A little past the halfway point of the ride, I posed a question to the riders… we could A) take a shorter, all-paved route back to the venue or B) get rad. After more than 2-hours of dirt, roots, leaves, riding through a collegiate cross-country footrace, a gratuitous climb, and lunar-landscape potholes, not a single rider opted out of getting rad. It was, and we did.
We have both been riding 1X off-road for a couple of years and given the opportunity to race ‘cross on a dedicated 1X group, Mo leapt at the chance. She’ll be the first one to tell that she’s never going back to 2X. From a racing standpoint, eliminating the front derailleur took a lot of guesswork out of shifting, focusing instead on smaller changes on the cassette. In her 33 races last season, including 13 wins, she never once dropped her chain (though more than once she said “See you later, front derailleur.”).The whole gang after filling up on coffee and pastries mid ride.
I ride a lot of mixed-terrain events and the first thing I noticed about 1X is how quiet the bike is. The clutch rear derailleur all but eliminates chain slap. You can focus on the terrain ahead, accelerate, descend and hit bumps with confidence. With the large jump between cogs I expected to find I was over or under-geared more often than on 2x. I’ve been surprised to find that this has not been the case. When it comes down to it, big tires, big gears, disc brakes, and the hidden dirt of New England are pretty much all I ever need. Me enjoying some high quality riding nutrition.
Read more My 1x stories from: Grinduro!, Gloucester GP CX Race, riding and racing in Indiana, The JAM Fund Grand Fundo, German National TIme Trial Champs, 70.3 Ironman® U.S. National Champs, and the Dirty Kanza 200.
Learn more about SRAM 1x Force 1 and Rival 1 groups in the video below.