The Story Behind our Very First Event - Hunt of the North 2018

Images: Jack Gentle

The Beginning

It was back in January we began the process of creating our very first kit design with our friends at Eliel Cycling, something that was far more difficult than we anticipated. We wanted a clean look, something with a modern flavor but classic appeal. Originally we wanted to have it ready for our friends by early April for a local mixed-surface event, but the delays in design keep us from that target. The kits wouldn't be ready until late May, and with no event on the calendar to show them at, we decided to create our own.

Gravelstoke was never about a "team" and we don't come from a history of racing. We simply love to ride bikes, explore new terrain and connect with new people. Our event needed to be different, something that represented our way of riding, and bring others along for the journey.

The Concept

First came the name. HUNT of the NORTH. A perfect tribute to our location here in North County San Diego, and a play on the epic one-day classic Paris-Roubaix. We would then turn this ride into a scavenger hunt of sorts that took riders to 5 predetermined locations on dirt throughout our region, starting and finishing at Rouleur Brewing Company on June 3, 2018.

The Preparations

Preparations started early, brainstorming how to organize a ride that would not be a race, allow for riders of all capabilities, avoid large groups on any one trail and have everyone back to the brewery around the same time. Check out our highlight videos here for additional preparations like gravel painting and bag stamping.

The Challenge: Riders would depart at 8am, go in teams of 2 or more taking the route of their choosing and look to gather 5 pieces of uniquely colored gravel. We would hide colored gravel at 5 locations, with those coordinates revealed 24 hours in advance of the event.

The Reward: For each piece of gravel collected, 1 raffle ticket was awarded. If all 5 gathered you got a bonus ticket. Lots of raffle prizes would be available that afternoon from our event sponsors.

The day prior we revealed the 5 locations on our Hunt of the North Instagram and put out piles of colored gravel at each location. The TUNNEL, the BRIDGE, the TOWER, the GATE and the GREEN were our location names for an additional clue.

Event Day

With our new kits distributed and tickets sold out we were ready to roll. Our friends from Canyon Bicycles USA, GUP Industries and Bad Sea Coffee would bring their tents and other goodies for participants. 

Canyon arrived early to get things going

 Gup Industries, one of our many sponsors, hosted the check-in and nutrition table. PC: Tony Brand

Gup Industries, one of our many sponsors, hosted the check-in and nutrition table. PC: Tony Brand

 Canyon NA was on hand to show off their fleet of Grail demo bikes, a worthy ride for this adventure

Canyon NA was on hand to show off their fleet of Grail demo bikes, a worthy ride for this adventure

 We made Gravel Bags for hunters to collect their findings while out on the trail. Isotonic energy gels were provided by our nutrition sponsor, Science in Sport.

We made Gravel Bags for hunters to collect their findings while out on the trail. Isotonic energy gels were provided by our nutrition sponsor, Science in Sport.

 BadSea Coffee arrived early with their award winning Nitro Cold Brew. JoJe bars were also gobbled up quickly that made for a perfect pairing.

BadSea Coffee arrived early with their award winning Nitro Cold Brew. JoJe bars were also gobbled up quickly that made for a perfect pairing.

The Ride

While some riders embraced the scavenger hunt style event, we knew some riders were not all that familiar with our local trails. We wanted to make sure everyone had a great time and experienced some of our best dirt. With that in mind we created 3 suggested routes of different difficulty, and would offer a group ride for each route leaving in waves.

  • Mellow Stoke 35: Hunt of the North suggested route for those who want to hit all checkpoints, keeps things chill and maintains 50% road with mileage around 35 miles.
  • Super Stoke 40: Hunt of the North route that resembles a typical Sunday Gravelstoke ride with mileage around 40 miles, an average pace with regroups but definitely a challenge.
  • Extreme Stoke 50: Hunt of the North route is only for the strongest of riders, with lots of challenging climbs and maximum dirt. Must be able to complete in 4 hours or less!

Our first dirt section would be Calavera Hills where loose dirt, technical rock gardens and steep terrain would introduce riders to our style of gravel.

The Super Stoke group taking on the first of many climbs that day

Rob Griffin joined us from the great state of Arizona

 Riders cautiously rolled through the slick decking of Calavera Hills and on to the TUNNEL

Riders cautiously rolled through the slick decking of Calavera Hills and on to the TUNNEL

The Lauf Fork made an appearance

Ryan finds his first piece of colored gravel

With the first gravel pieces collected our group continued on to find the BRIDGE.

The Buena Vista park, one of our favorite gravel trails in the area, brought lots of smiles from everyone.

 The Extreme Stoke group finds their second gravel piece

The Extreme Stoke group finds their second gravel piece

We would then find our way over to San Marcos, to discover a long steep climb that would bring us to our 3rd location, the TOWER.

 Approaching the Tower of Terror

Approaching the Tower of Terror

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 Andy happy to find his 3rd piece of gravel

Andy happy to find his 3rd piece of gravel

Riders would eventually make their way to the final two locations, the GATE and GREEN.

 Fortunately Tony brought some GUP to save the day

Fortunately Tony brought some GUP to save the day

 Descending Ridgeline Trail towards the GATE beyond Questhaven Road

Descending Ridgeline Trail towards the GATE beyond Questhaven Road

Not surprisingly, Larissa Connors was the only rider to complete the entire Extreme Stoke 50 course.  You can read her great write up of the event here

 Larissa Connors

Larissa Connors

Extreme Stoke 50 - Hunt of the North

With all 5 pieces gathered, riders would make their way back to Rouleur, to collect their tickets and enjoy a beer.

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Plenty of rad gravel bikes were seen at the event, here are a handful of them...

The Bikes

Tony Brand took some incredible shots at the start and finish of the event, view the gallery here...

The Start and Finish

Additional shots from the ride can be found on our Hunt of the North Gallery Page, images courtesy of Jack Gentle.

The Brands

 Our event t-shirt, oh so comfortable. PC: J. Babb

Our event t-shirt, oh so comfortable. PC: J. Babb

This event was made possible only with the help of our incredible sponsors including: Eliel CyclingAbsoluteBLACKRouleur BrewingBadSea CoffeeTopical EdgeScience in SportWolftooth ComponentsIRC TireWend WaxJoJe BarDZ NuthouseMoonageTASCO MTBGUP IndustriesRocky Mountain Bicycles and Velofix.

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Lastly we want to thank all of our participants and everyone who ordered our first round of cycling kits that was able to celebrate with us on that day. If you're interested in purchasing our kit in either the Malibu or Rincon fit with Laguna Seca Bib we're excited to now offer this to the public through our collaboration with Eliel Cycling. You can find more details via the link below.