Rounding out the 2018 Sierra Buttes Triple Crown with Grinduro in Quincy!

Grinduro is my favorite cycling event of the year and when you include it in the Sierra Buttes Triple Crown, alongside Lost and Found, as well as Downieville, you’re in for a hell of a weekend. In its fourth year, you could tell the event is dialed but that’s mostly due to the amazing venue that is the Quincy Fairgrounds, Giro, the volunteers, the sponsors, and the Sierra Buttes’ impeccable ability to show everyone a great time!

My goal for 2018 was to ride in and also photograph each of the three events in the Triple Crown, and it was no easy task. Riding the course and photographing each race was a physical and mental challenge. After each event, I didn’t want to “play bikes” for a week after, seeing as how my body was wrecked for days following. Part of the recovery process I like to go through is culling down the images in a digestible format – hopefully – presented in a way to deliver the stoke on a Monday morning.

Following an epic Nevada mountain bike trip, I bounced over to Quincy a day early to set up my campsite, go for a few soft pedals, and an epic mountain bike shuttle, thanks to the crew at Yuba Expeditions. Come Friday, the Quincy Fairgrounds were alive with people as the finest in car camping accessories began to unfold across the green grass lots. Seeing friends and meeting new ones is just part of the whole experience. Wandering the Town Hall, looking at bikes, at art, at products, and watching others do the same brought about a frenetic energy, culminating on Saturday morning as the 8am roll out takes place.

With cold hands and jittery legs, the Grinduro rollout is something special. The event itself isn’t really a race – only four select sections are timed – which removes the usual soul-crushing sprint from the line. This means everyday cyclists get to ride alongside pros and cycling celebrities alike, checking out their bikes, and striking up pleasant conversations. Soon, however, Mount Hough and puff rears its forboding head and the dusty climb ascends along with the temperature and party vibes.

The aid stations come faster than you’d expect and soon, the first timed segment approaches. A brutal climb is sure to awaken the legs and when it’s all said and done, you’ve still got 10 miles of climbing left! It isn’t until the next timed segment – a fire road descent – that the party really begins! Ripping loose corners, flying over scree, filling your lungs with Plumas County dust, and cramped hands from hard braking are just part of the experience. At the bottom, the scent of smoking rotors fills the air, as people crack open cold beverages and begin to share stories. If only we could find some way to harvest this energy to power the world. It’d keep a major city’s lights on for weeks!

As you’ll notice, the bike selection is unique and varied, ranging from 90’s mountain bikes, to disc road, full squishies, and straight up monster cross machines. The participants are as diverse as the bicycles, with men, women, boys, and girls filling their smiling grill with dust and their stomach with delicious food, all supplied by the Sierra Buttes. It’s at lunch that the tone goes from party to seriousness, for the climb up to the Mount Hough Singletrack awaits.

Souls are strung alongside this dreaded hike a bike and suddenly the heaping plate of food seems like a bad idea. Turn after turn, crank after crank, and all you can think of is that fast singletrack that awaits. I can’t think of another event where the reward is as great as that final descent down the ass crack of Hough… Especially when you account for the beautiful swimming spot party zone at the bottom!

Back at Grinduro HQ, the chefs are cooking up for 300+ hungry souls, and warm showers and cold beer await. Unwinding after a hard day on the mountain is something else, as the sound of crackling firewood coincides with chitter chatter about leg cramps, rattlesnakes, and near-misses. The party goes on and on, and for many, it doesn’t even stop at the break of dawn!

Before you know it, Sunday morning rolls around. Hangovers and high fives abound, as tent poles clatter, stuff sacks get stuffed, and bikes get loaded up onto roof and hitch racks. People lament how sore they are, or how this year was harder than last – perhaps we’re all just getting older?

Longevity for events like Grinduro rely on Giro, you, the participants, and organizations like the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship. If you’ve yet to make it out to this event, I highly recommend it. You won’t regret it! Thanks to everyone that makes Grinduro a possibility, to everyone who said hello, who heckled, who handed me a sparkling water, and who continue to make this one of the greatest cycling events of all time!

Check out a broader image selection at my Dropbox.


Follow Sierra Buttes on Instagram and Grinduro on Instagram.

  • Patrick Jonathan Neitzey

    Eddy Merkin lolz

  • Peter Hedman

    Great captures John – makes me want to go to this event so badly! The dirt and those trails look so great from behind a desk…

  • Marcus Granberry

    John! So good to see you, as always! Thanks for always being there to document our silly sports.

  • Ricardo Rocha

    Awesome pictures, John. After years of following your coverage of this event, I finally made the trip to Quincy, all the way from Panama. I loved every minute of it (except for China grade haha!) and would definitely come back. Maybe I can get a bunch of my Panamanian friends to join me then? Cheers!

    • Ricardo, that is AWESOME! Bring them all! Yeah, I’ve climbed China Grade three times and this year, I rolled into lunch on my Sklar and they had a Levo e-bike for me to ride. It was wayyyyy easier! And only took 20 minutes, leaving me plenty of time and energy to shoot on the singletrack.

  • Gene

    Yoooo the crew in #112 is hella cute!

    • Amanda

      The cutest! ♥

  • Patrick

    Thanks John! Your photos and storys are always the stuff of magic.

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to add to the Grinduro portraits. :)


    and after. :)

  • Jamie

    Ontario needs something like this desperately.

  • Keith Kenworthy

    Such a fun event! Great photos as usual.

  • Burke Culligan

    Year One: Standard Cross Bike; Year Two: Monster Cross; Next Year: Hardtail flat bar — it really is more of a hardtail grinder course… and then you can rip the final singletrack without your forearms screaming from drop bar, no suspension setup. Post lunch climb up China Wall could use SRAM eagle too… amazing atmosphere and scenery – hit Downiville and Graeagle to make an epic long weekend.

    • For me: Year one – Firefly, Year two – Rigid MTB, Year three – null, Year four – monster cross.

  • Justin Scoltock

    First time at Grinduro and I’m going back every year as long as it exists! Amazing riding, too much fun and some of the warmest folx around. Thanks for the snap and chat, John. See you up here in the forest soon!

  • DopePedaler

    i need to be faster so i can get some photo opps

    • That’s the thing, you don’t gotta be fast. I don’t try to hustle in this event. I just see a shot and wait for someone to roll through.

      • DopePedaler

        I guess I mean ‘fast enough’. I’m having trouble hitting all the cutoff times!

  • Emyr Davies

    Were these all these taken with your trusty Leica M10 John?

    • Half and half. Leica M10 and Canon 5D mk4

  • Johnny Burrell

    Better photos than I took, that’s for sure :) You captured it like it was, a great, well organized ride. The most surprising thing about it to me was just how nice everyone was. I sat down at random tables and had conversations with total strangers that were a lot more like talking with old friends. Shared sips of beers with people I’ve never met before. The highlight of my year, for sure. Thanks for taking so many great pics.

    That single-track tho…

    • The singletrack is amazing! Rode it for the first time on a mountain bike this year and it was a blast.

  • krazy d

    Hmm, I turn 40 next year. Maybe this will be my goal, to do this race. Reading about it and watch the videos gets me pumped!

    • I would recommend it!

      • krazy d

        I think I’m going to start trying to plan this. Coming from Kentucky, I’ll have to fly the bike out. Got some research and training to do!

        • You can fly into Reno and Bike Flights your bike to a shop there. Or just fly with it.

          • krazy d

            Thanks, was researching some. Wife and I were planning to visit Yosemite around late September next year, so maybe we can do both.

          • DopePedaler

            or just ride from Kentucky

        • DopePedaler

          or, just ride from Kentucky

  • Scott Sattler

    I love all the non-bike vehicle photos – thanks for including them

    • Yep! It’s part of Grinduro. Quincy is OUT THERE, so you have to drive / carpool. Plus Weir’s deuce and a half is crazy!

  • datboyPAP

    Any additional info on the cycling playing cards in #29?

  • chrismoustache

    bacon-wrapped pickles!

  • Hacheon Park

    Thanks for the photos! John!