Product Review / Travelogue by PBE Squad member, Rachael Sage
A few weeks ago, I drove down to Stillwater, OK from Michigan for another shot at Midsouth Gravel since 2020. The year of rain, miles of peanut butter MUD, broken hearts over busted derailleurs, and early rumblings of COVID. The specific event marked the beginning of my affection and appreciation of hardship in the elements along with many friendships that inspired miles I rode solo through the past couple of years. For those unfamiliar with Midsouth, it’s an early spring Midwest challenge with distances ranging from 12-100 miles and a 50k run, you prepare for whatever weather decides to cross the area that day and it’s more often not, unfavorable conditions. Unexpected twists and turns of a path ahead are intriguing to me so I was stoked to get back with different tools for the experience this time around!
This year, I brought along my single speed Mars Cycles outfitted with some cotton candy Industry Nine UL250 TRA’s – 700c tubeless paired with WTB Venture 40C, switched to a 42T/18T for the ultimate head boppin’, party pace through the climbs, which can be illustrated through sound by listening to The Ill Communication album from the Beastie Boys. When I travel for events, I want to fully experience the space I am in both light and dark. The goal this year was to finish under the night sky… and THAT I DID!
My day was filled with 100 miles of orange, tan and gray surfaces. Plenty of fresh grated road with chunky, loose gravel, a little mud and sandpaper all littered with ruts, SO MUCH washboard and descents on hills boasting questionable paths through rocky mess. That mess could grab your wheel and send you wherever it directed, at anytime. All of this was mostly into headwinds with plenty of climbing! Temps ranged from 20-55 degrees and then back down to chilly again as I rode into the dark roads under the blanket of stars overhead.
In the mud, while some walked, I joined those who rode through two tracks, finding myself floating over potholes and long grass with ease. Every pedal stroke was met in quick response to move forward – regardless of the path. Through sand, rocks, mud, pavement, unpaved chunky mess, up and down countless hills, I felt strong, confident and able. Under the stars, riding along with limited light and very few riders around – I was grounded, stable, prepared for anything that might come across my path.
Cycling is a source of self expression for me. A space for me to celebrate my love of color, texture, design and function. I care as much about the aesthetics of my machine as I do its abilities to take on any road or path set before it. Custom ano dials in the personality to my bike as much as the frame and accessories. Being able to choose down to each spoke on the wheel is a really cool way to celebrate color partnered with design and a sense of ownership to MY own bike. The profile of the rim is sleek. The decals, modern, timeless and minimal. Being able to customize color through spokes to integrate MORE color to accent with is super LEGIT. But even more, these wheels brought an openness to the folks surrounding me. Where we could take a moment to get to know one another and cheer each other on, perhaps in our darker moments on the path.
A rainbow spinning from afar can start a conversation pretty quickly with folks out in the middle of roads like these. And if anything, the greatest lesson I’ve learned from cycling is just how much my community becomes family. And my family is constantly inspiring me to become a better person and cyclist each day in passing.
Anyhow, this is the face of a person who felt at one with their bike. From the first mile, to the very last… the sound of the hubs to every compliment at SAG stops and new friends made through conversation while eating snacks and talking bikes, my heart is so full. THANK YOU to the folks at Industry Nine for general badassery. Engagement is key. Sound is key. Color is key. All of the things that are DIALED on these wheels! And even better, they were gracious through every poor line choice I may or may not have taken.
The lands we rode and ran were on the land of those of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and Osage, Kiowa, Kickapoo, Wichita, Quapaw, Pawnee and Seminole Nations. I am grateful to have ridden these roads in thought of those here before me, thank you for the opportunity to grow my mind, spirit and heart.
This is Rachael Sage from the PBE Squad signing out!!!
HOPE TO SEE YOU ALL OUT THERE SOMEWHERE SOON!