A burly 55 mile mixed terrain route, navigating rugged dirt roads covered in rocks and mud pits, scaling pitches nearing 20%, and averaging over 1k ft of climbing per 10 miles, all right in the middle of January with a very high chance of rain? It sounds like a pretty ridiculous thing to do, but somehow we convinced a crowd to sign up, and even after the event sold out, we still got a barrage of calls and emails from people trying to get into the second annual OFFICIALLY SERIOUS BICYCLE RIDE.
Is it a ride? Is it a race? WTF is OSBR? Why is it in January?
OSBR poster illustration by Chris McNally, design by Lisa Ferkel
OSBR is an excuse to bring people together, ride a ridiculous route, enter the depths of the pain cave, ride amazing trails, and take things as serious (or unserious) as you please while embracing what we feel is the true spirit of gravel. Why January? Because why not? Also, because there's already enough going on in the middle of the year.
This wasn't our first time throwing the OSBR, but this time around we wanted to up the ante a bit. For starters, we designed a brand new course, highly curated to showcase some of the area's more hidden jewels while also treating people to Marin's classic hits. Oh, and of course it had to be hard. Stupid hard. On top of that, we were able to bring in some top level support with Enve, GU Energy, and WTB running aid stations, and Pinarello and Open providing bikes for riders to demo on the demanding trails. Similar to the first go-round, the course was un marked and you either needed to have it downloaded to your bike computer, rely on local knowledge, or buddy up with people who knew. Lastly, we wanted to make it a benefit to support the Marin County Bicycle Coalition and raise funds for their trail building initiatives.
Taking on OSBR is no joke, but this past Sunday nearly 150 riders showed up to take on the challenge. Early on the morning of, people gathered at nearby Equator Coffees before the sun came up and in the field we had everyone from former pro tour roadies and past Dirty Kanza champions to total off road newbies, and even a couple on a tandem bike, ready to get out and get dirty.
At 8:00 AM sharp, the group rolled out heading north along the bike path, seeking the dirt ahead. After a short climb up the road the group came upon the literal and figurative gate keeper to the gravel—a single file entrance around a gate before a quick but spicy 16% climb, funneling people into single track.
From there, the course linked through some of Southern Marin's lesser known gravel ridges. A quick drop down the aptly named Goodhill Road, then back to the dirt through the classic watershed territory for more groomed fire road fun.
Popping out from a golf course for a brief spin on the road, our riders found the the first Enve aid station waiting ahead. After a quick bottle refill and maybe a tire pressure adjustment, riders made their way up the steep and rocky Pine Mountain trail before the two courses would split. Short courses would enjoy a ripping fire road bomb back down to Alpine Dam with a road climb back up the mountain, long coursers would continue on to the ultra rugged San Geronimo ridge, eventually making their way to the dreaded Shafter Grade.
If you've been a mountain biker in Marin for any length of time, you probably know San Geronimo Ridge as a classic passage, but to many of the dirt new comers this modern wave of gravel has brought, the seven mile ridge line, littered in rocks and undulating pitches, was something totally new. 100% rideable on a rigid gravel bike, but you wouldn't be bummed to traverse it on a hardtail.
After a loamy rollercoaster of a descend down from the ridge, a much earned rest stop was waiting at the bottom. GU Energy really went big to keep riders hydration and calorie levels topped off and it seemed like everyone was taking advantage. As great as it was to have the stop, it was best to save your snacks and the steepest, most brutal climb of the day was just around the corner.
Ever ridden Shafter Grade? Probably not, and for good reason. It's an especially stupid 1.7 mile climb, averaging 12% but hitting up to 30% grades. There's really no reason any sane person would approach it, which is exactly why we put it in the OSBR route. Many walked, some managed to paper-boy it up, but everyone was relieved to finally make it to the top. It was finally time to down those GU gels and waffles.
Shafter was over, but the climbing wasn't quite done. From there, the south bound dirt traverse of Bo Ridge has a steady flow of steep rollers, and the recent rains brought on a lot of standing water and mud bogs. Tough for sure, but well worth it to be encased in such beautiful forest.
Six miles later, it was through the gate and onto the road, and both the short and long courses converged onto the iconic Seven Sisters on Mt. Tam. For many of the long coursers, the smooth tarmac was a welcome break. WTB was on top of the mountain for the final aid station, providing snack and stoke before the final leg of the ride.
We couldn't just end things with that much pavement. Before dropping all the way down from Mt. Tam, riders took to the dirt once more via Miwok trail, back into the headlands and a one last fire road bomb out through Tennessee Valley.
Gassed, cracked, and some fully broken, riders trickled back to the AC headquarters, with heaps of paella hot off the grill waiting. Relief, excitement, and stoke, and some extra help from cold beers, all washed away the fatigue, making way for smiles and high fives. Regardless of who they were, everyone clearly had a hell of a time. OSBR was a success for all.
It goes without saying: we're greatly appreciative of our event sponsors. Equator Coffees, Enve Composites, GU Energy, WTB, Pinarello, Open, Kask, Koo, and Speakeasy Brewing. All of them had a huge hand in making the OSBR the experience it was. Of course we are beyond grateful to the community of cyclists who came out and joined us on this epic journey of a ride.
Photos by Tony Little/AC, Michael Alvarado, Tom Boss/MCBC, and Derek Yarra/AC
For more photos, head to the gallery here.
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