Started in 1998 by Miguel Crawford and the tight-knit Gianni cycling club out of Occidental, CA, the Grasshopper Adventure Series are long, fun, hard rides with cold beer and good stories at the end. Road, cross, and MTB skills are all tested to their limits, with each ride often blurring the line between cycling disciplines. With the start of the Grasshopper Adventure Series drawing near, Kitsbow Ambassador Nicholas Haig-Arack asks fellow Ambassador Mig Crawford about the Series and what it takes to become a Grasshopper.
What kind of rider should sign up?
“A rider who comes out to a Hopper should have experience at long, hard rides. Someone who knows themselves and their limits, yet likes to be challenged. The Hoppers are for individuals who are looking for adventure on roads less traveled; they have to be ready for remote, steep, and technical mixed terrain.
Because of the deep field, it’s great for pros looking for a great training race and retired racers who like to mix it up. It’s really satisfying to meet the riders who’ve made the Hoppers the goal for their season. Like I always say, it’s my purpose to push riders to the limit but not over. It’s become a staple of the the cycling season in Sonoma County and Northern California.”
Tell us about the name. Why Grasshopper?
“It derives from the Aesop fable about “The Ant and the Grasshopper”, where the grasshopper was busy playing all summer while the ant was busy preparing for the winter. I was given this name in my younger days. It’s also a reference to the 70’s TV show, Kung Fu. Myself and some of my riding buddies, especially Yuri, loved the Taoist quotes from the Kung Fu series. The Hoppers have been about initiation into epic riding; about pushing yourself into the unknown. In bike racing, a Zen approach – beginner’s mind – is a good place to be in. We all learn and re-learn lessons and mistakes when racing the Hoppers.”
What have the biggest race challenges been so far?
“A couple of year ago there was black ice on the road that led to a large pile-up. The puddles on Willow Creek were solid ice and there was lots of stacking. I think probably 1 in 3 riders crashed at some point during the day. Last year’s Chileno Valley was in late February, and all the surrounding roads were closed due to flooding but we were able to ride the course. It poured rain for the entire day; 80 miles into driving rain. Every year people watch the water level on Old Caz creek crossing. This year is no exception.
Keeping the riders safe on our crazy back roads is always the most important. It’s logistically impossible to close the roads or have California Highway Patrol at every intersection controlling traffic. We rely on riders to follow the rules of the road and to look out for each other. Safety and a quality experience is more important than results. This is why, although competitive, we downplay the competitive/race aspect of the Hoppers. It’s been a challenge to keep the Hoppers small and grass-rootsy as we have grown, but I think we’ve done a good job. I always try my best to make eclectic, challenging courses that most people would not think about doing.”
Any surprises this year?
“This year, for the first time, we have three rides with alternate loops. You can find these routes on the Hopper web page. I’ve grown from the ‘brother’ role into the ‘uncle’ role. Meaning, the tough love that I used to fling around, is now about scaffold, taking care of the riders so more people can share the adventures. I love that more and more people are coming out and are riding gravel, dirt and mixed terrain these days. Hopper loops are epic. We’ve created “shorter” options for Chileno Valley, and King Ridge and for Sweetwater there is an option for all paved and skipping Old Caz. These loops will be a bit shorter and are perfect for riders who want a challenge but might not have the mileage, the fitness or the time. That said, there will never be an easy Hopper.”
Thanks to Mig and the hard-working team behind the Grasshopper Adventure Series for making these events happen. We’re looking forward to seeing all of you, smiles and grimaces alike, out at Old Caz.
Images courtesy of Paul Miller
Need gear for your Grasshopper? Check out Kitsbow Road.