Jim Northing // Grand Epic & Big Epic

An Epic Experience!

My good friend, ride buddy and “all round top man” Adam and I signed up for the Epic ride back in February. It looked like great local preparation for summer events like Unbound (formerly Dirty Kanza 200), BWR and Rebecca’s Private Idaho. However, as it turns out the Epic is an incredible course and noteworthy event in its own right.

We first experienced the course with fellow ride buddy Luis in April. Our “quick recon” of the dirt sections via the Big route turned out to be more than we expected – more beautiful, better riding conditions, more effort, and significantly more challenging to navigate. We had a wonderful day, but considered it a “fail” in terms of recon’ing the real course. I returned for a successful (other than one flat!) solo recon of the Santa Teresa and road sections ahead of the “real event” on May 2. It was that day when I learnt all about the “real Santa Teresa” and the gnarly Stiles Ranch segment. I was at least able to warn Adam and Luis ahead of the main event.

May 2 – The Grand Epic

We all drove from home in the Walnut Creek area and rode separately for the main event. Adam successfully completed the Big route. Luis had a navigational “Epic fail” while attempting the Grand route, but still covered 124 miles and had a wonderful day! I set off on the road section at 5:57 a.m. and thoroughly enjoyed a quick spin in the early morning mist and cool temps around Gilroy and the reservoirs. I returned to my parked car in just under three hours and took a quick break for pre-stashed coffee and pastry. It was then on to the beautiful dirt sections and challenges of Santa Teresa! After the two prior recon rides, I now had the course memorized and Garmin navigation interpretation perfected. Only one slight error over the full 130 miles - your horrible trick of going “illegally out of bounds on the Um descent, where I also tweaked my back lifting the bike over those gates!

The weather was perfect that day, no mechanical issues, and I still had “gas in the tank” to go all out on the final road section back to the parked car. 129 miles, 13k feet climbing, 10:15 moving time 11:08 elapsed time. I’m proud of that result.

Adam and I then met up for a well-deserved burrito at the wonderful El Amigo Mexican restaurant next to Santa Teresa Park. Not my last visit to this fantastic replenishment location!! Luis was still lost somewhere out there, but he eventually made it safely back to Walnut Creek.

May 22 – The Big Epic

For all of his navigational challenges, our friend Luis is a gritty and persevering MF. And so, we returned again to the location of his two previous “failed route-following” attempts for a third and successful ride on May 22 on the Big Course. For this effort, we drove together from Walnut Creek, and while we rode separately, I waited for Luis at every junction along the route (yes, all 739 of them!) to make sure he didn’t make a wrong turn. And we were successful with a faultless loop of the Big Epic course. As a result my moving time of 6:55 is very respectable, but the elapsed time of 9:20 won’t win me any prizes. Regardless, we had another wonderful day on this spectacular and challenging course. We finished up at El Amigo for yet another of their wonderful veggie burritos. A very memorable day too.

In summary….

I would say “mission accomplished” for you as organizers in putting together a wonderful event in challenging times. Hopefully there will be a full-on supported event next year and we will all definitely attend! Just cut out Stiles Ranch which is not meant for a gravel bike! The rest of the route is fantastic. You have encouraged three East Bay riders to venture south to new terrain and we have all fallen in love with those trails. I’ll be back down in June with two other grav riders to show off this area! Bravo, chapeau and thank you!!