Which Bike?

By far the biggest question I’ve been asked regarding the Crusher is “What bike do you think I should use? (wink, wink)

Which Bike?

**Note: Below is the original “which bike?” description I created for the event’s first edition back in 2011 (and subsequently updated), before “gravel” bikes or racing were really even a thing. In the 8 years since, there’s been an explosion of purpose-built “gravel” and “adventure” bikes that are now being offered by a huge variety of manufacturers in addition to discipline-specific tires, wheels, clothing… you name it.

In light of that, I thought about simply taking this page down , but the more I thought about it, the more I believe there really still isn’t a perfect bike for the Crusher, and likely never will be. I also think it’s pretty fun to look back and see just how far mixed-surface cycling has come since the event’s inception.

Bike style and equipment preferences will always be as varied and colorful as the personalities who show up for this crazy thing, so for now the page will stand, along with the omnipresent dilemma of figuring out just what is the perfect Crusher rig…. happy reading! 


For those of you who are absolutely sure that I know there is one bike that will be better suited to the event than another, I’ve decided to do this: I will detail each sector of the course below and it’s probable conditions and give the nod (in my humble opinion) to either CX (Cyclo Cross) or MTB (Mt. Bike). In the end, you can take that information for what it’s worth and make the decision yourself.

That being said, I think race announcer Bruce ” The Hornet” Bilodeau summed it up best as he addressed the riders with the following;

Bruce Bilodeau
“Welcome to the Crusher! The only race in the world that let’s you choose your weapon with only one guarantee… at some point you’ll be very, very wrong!”

As to whether I think you could ride a road bike on this course. The short answer is probably, but I don’t recommend it. With 11 miles of fire-road descent mid-race that holds some truly wicked washboards, rocks and cattle-gaurds, I think the road bike would be wise to sit this one out. If you’re hell-bent on the idea of using a road bike, I’d suggest doing some course recon at some point when the snow has melted a bit to scout-out the dirt portions so you know what you’re getting yourself into and don’t blame me if/when things go pear-shaped!

Tim Mathews
Tim Mathews en-route to successfully defending his title in the Men’s 30-39 category aboard a fully-rigid 29er.

Lastly, with 3 editions of the Crusher now under our belt, it may seem easy to quickly look at the Pro Men’s Podium from the last few years and simply make the assumption that a Cyclo-Cross bike is the way to go. Well, I’ll offer this insight: at the finish line the most common remark I hear (regardless of the bike ridden) is something along the lines of “Next year I’m using a different bike!”

Happy pondering!

Sector 1: Event Start to Little Reservoir Campground (11 miles)

This first portion of the race climbs the pavement more or less gently for 11 miles and around about 1500 feet of ascent. Great pavement.

  • Advantage: CX

Sector 2: Little Reservoir Campground to 1st Aid Station (18 miles)

This sector contains the first dedicated portion of dirt fire road riders will encounter. Conditions can be highly variable based on the Spring runoff and local traffic, especially as the course nears the event’s high point at 10,500 feet. Sustained climbing with a few quick descents. Again, riders should expect patches of gravel and washboard but generally good, hard pack with potential for some mud and run-off rivulets.

  • Advantage: Draw

Sector 3: Aid Station 2 to the City Creek Campground turnoff (9 miles)

Nearly 9 miles, this sector is all dirt and downhill and includes the white-knuckle, switch-back, washboard and gravel-filled descent into the Piute Valley. The Mountain bike will offer a distinct advantage in terms of both comfort and control.

  • Advantage: MTB

Sector 4: City Creek Campground turnoff to Doc Springs Road outside of Circleville (12 miles)

Here the scales tip squarely back in favor of the Cyclo Cross bike with 12 miles of pavement starting at the City Creek Campground turnoff including a brisk run-in to the 3rd Aid Station at the town of Junction and then a rolling jog on U.S. Highway 89 to Circleville.

  • Advantage: CX

Neil Shirley
Neil Shirley of Road Bike Action descends on his custom “Project Gravel” bike, built especially for The Crusher.

Sector 5: Doc Springs Road to the final Aid Station at Bentenson Flat (14 miles)

It’s back to the dirt just outside of the town Circleville. Starting out innocuously enough, Doc Springs road quickly deteriorates from hard-pack gravel to a rutted and sometimes sandy slog of a climb. There’s some short respite at Aid Station 4 where the route turns back onto the tarmac of SR 153 for a brief 1.5 miles, then it’s back to the dirt where the relentless climb to the KOM/QOM begins on ball-bearing gravel and washboards. Expect to die a thousand deaths here regardless of what bike you’re on. It’s debatable as to whether the larger gear range of a Mt. Bike outweighs the potential advantage of a lighter Cyclco Cross Bike for the truly rude ascent of the “Col d’ Crush”.

  • Advantage: Draw

Walk of Shame
The “walk of shame” is not uncommon on the slopes of the Col d’ Crush for those who make poor decisions when it comes to their gearing or tires…Consider this image fair warning!

Sector 6: Aid Station 5 to beginning of final paved sector beginning at Puffer Lake (7 miles)

This section of fire road will be graveled and rolling with a combination of relatively shorter climbs and descents. A MTB will be able to rail through some of the quick, “turny” downhills while a CX bike will be faster on the climbs and straightaways.

  • Advantage: CX

Sector 7: Puffers Lake to finish at the upper ski lift at Eagle Point Resort (3 miles)

This is the homestretch, and it’s all pavement. There’s immediately a steep kicker of a climb followed by a quick descent and then the final, disgusting grunt to the finish which sits at an elevation nearing 11,000 ft. The advantage here will tip in favor of the CX bike, but at this point in the event it won’t much matter what bike your riding…. it’s all gonna come down to how much gas you have left in the tank and just how badly you want it.

  • Advantage: DESIRE TO C*R*U*S*H!

Gretchen Reeves
Former Leadville 100 champ Gretchen Reeves piloted a 29″ hard-tail MTB to victory in the 2012 & ’13 Crusher’s Pro/Open Women’s class along with course records both years.

So there you have it. The pros and cons in black and white. Now you do the math and leave me be!