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April 18, 2024

Driving 42 hours to ride bikes with friends.

Thanks, angela!

Last year, one of our board members, and co-owner of Dialed Bicycles & Repair in Cayce, Angela Grimes was awarded a scholarship to participate in a bike race in Oklahoma. It sounded incredible, and she crushed it, coming back with nothing but amazing memories. While we couldn’t join her in 2023, her experience was something she wanted to share with her friends. Determined, Angela and her husband Jayson vowed to return this year, bringing the entire crew along.

The “crew” is a perpetual stew of folks, that Jayson Busbee started cooking up when he opened Dialed in the midst of the Pandemic in 2020. Somehow a hodgepodge of lovely miscreants who enjoy riding bikes, being outdoors, and general shenanigans were drawn to Jayson, Dialed, and the CTBC by extension. If I were to try to describe these folks, it would just sound like an exaggerated list ripped from The Breakfast Club. Amusingly enough, the characters in the crew might just be a fine cast for an 80’s comedy.

This twenty-deep rowdy bunch with personalities as big as the rolling Oklahoma plains spent 21 hours caravaning and somehow not one person was strapped to a roof or bumper at any time. It was more akin to a rolling party. Speaking for myself, as a mid-40s fella, this may be some of the best folks I’ve ever had the luck to be surrounded by.

Stillwater, Oklahoma

The Mid South is an annual gravel race that kicks off the race season. It was created in 2011 by Bobby Wintle and the folks at District Bicycles. The race is known for its peanut butter mud, red clay, unreliable weather, plains winds, and 100 miles of incredible Oklahoma scenery.

What started with roughly 120 participants the first year, has turned into a full on multi-day, multi-block party with bands, dozens of vendors, an ultra marathon, and over 3000 cyclists racing a variety of distances. Participants range from actual pro cyclists to first time long distance riders. 

The Dialed crew of hoodlums fits perfectly in this range (ok, maybe not the “pro athlete” end). When we arrived after the 21 hour drive from Columbia, we must have looked like extras from The Walking Dead pouring into the streets of Stillwater.  After a nice breakfast and a morning beer (is it really a morning beer if you’ve been up for 30 hours?) and we were all ready for the weekend!

As we were unloading bikes from the trailer, vans, etc. Bobby somehow manifested out of nowhere! His presence really drove home the vibe that would carry for the entire weekend. His excitement, enthusiasm, and genuine love is almost overwhelming. Bobby has one message that he repeats throughout the weekend- and that is that The Mid South is for everyone, and he means it with his entire being. Bobby spends the entire day of the ultra marathon and the bike race at the finish line to make sure everyone who participates gets a Bobby Hug.  

The festivities began with a social ride, giving us a preview of the terrain we would be riding in a couple short days. The ride ends at the highest peak near Stillwater, where Bobby gave one of many sermons about the event. Taking a moment to survey the folks around us, we felt an immediate sense of belonging among the crowd of enthusiastic riders. These were our people.

Over the last decade and a half, I have participated in bike events in all forms from races, century rides, multi-day rides, but none of them ever had the camaraderie and community that this event was oozing. Sure, we were all there to ride bikes, but it was like we were all there to ride bikes with 3000 of our closest friends.

The next day was spent checking out vendors, meeting the folks from All Bodies On Bikes, and admiring a stunning array of custom-built bikes. We took the opportunity of the chill day to fit in another small ride led by Angela with our crew which would turn out to be the first 5 miles of the century the next day. Bands were playing on the stage for most of the of the day, and the stoke was high for everyone there. 

Race morning we all gathered in the hotel dining area and did our best to not look like a pack of hyenas tearing apart the breakfast spread. There would be checkpoints where you could refuel on the ride, but going in calorie dense is the best way to have a good crack at the day. A short ride from the hotel in the brisk morning air as a group took us to the start where we met with thousands of other cyclists, a big band playing New Orleans standards on the stage, and an overwhelming buzz of excitement.

The mass start was a slow roll, that felt like it continued for the next 10 miles. The mood was more focused on fun than the daunting 100 miles ahead.

At Mile 13 there is a muddy creek crossing that creates a bottle neck, as there is a single-track section that routes to the easiest area to cross, while the boldest riders just send the crossing and hope for the best. It’s a party atmosphere watching to see if the gods smile on those who chose to send. Some make it, some don’t. Everyone is cheered on! About half of the folks from the Dialed Crew sent it in one way or another, and all made it to the other side. It was fantastic to see friends just owning the course, and taking no prisoners.

The rest of the day was spent meeting new friends who matched my speed or pace,  sharing stories and laughter. It was a great experience riding with folks from Oklahoma, around the world, as well as a bike messenger from Philly- who was my trail buddy for about 20 miles.

Angela was volunteering at the mile 90 party stop. I’ve never been happier to see anyone in my life, as I was starting to hit a wall at that point. She gave me a small cup of something and told me to drink it. Protip: Tequila and Skratch is probably not great for a house party, but it was welcome at that point. She topped off my bottles while I shoveled 3 chicken quesadillas down my neck. There were a couple miles of single track ahead of me, then it was 7 miles to the finish line.

I don’t know if it was seeing Angela, the tequila, the quesadillas, or maybe all three- but when I got back on the bike, I was ready to go full gas. I made it through the single track with my Philly buddy, but once we punched out the other side, I was big-ring all-go and found myself just pushing for the finish. Coming back into Stillwater and seeing the start/finish banner just over the road, I got somewhat emotional. It’s a hell of a ride, and I will admit, I was really hopeful for a great Bobby Hug. He was there, and it was everything I’ve ever hoped for.

I was glad I got in a little earlier than the rest of the crew, as I was able to stand at the finish line cheering like a madman as the rest of our folks came in one by one. We had all done it! 100mi, 6000’ of elevation, and gravel the whole time. Our bikes held up, our butts held up, and the crew that Angela and Jayson convinced to drive half way across the country to ride bikes had the time of our lives.

Get a bike, ride it with your friends. Do silly stuff. Don’t be too serious. Your rides will get longer, your crew will get bigger, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself on an adventure halfway across the country. 

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