100-Mile Love Song: The 2023 Lost & Found Gravel Festival

After an almost-decade long run, the Lost & Found Gravel Festival continues to provide adventurous-minded riders with dynamic and challenging terrain in northern California’s Lost Sierra Mountains. Registration for any of the event’s 100-mile, 60-mile and 35-mile courses goes directly to supporting the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship‘s Lost Sierra Route, a route that seeks to connect 15 mountain communities and foster economic prosperity through recreation. Billy Sinkford joined in for the mixed terrain fun this year and shares moments from the race along with photos of the Builders’ Bazaar.

High in the mountains of Plumas County, CA, a different kind of gravel event happens every year. It’s a celebration of community and a gathering of friends. This anti-gravel-daddy festival is where one is more likely to see a Blue Collar custom than a production bike. The event is Lost and Found, and its organizer, the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship (SBTS), should already be familiar to Radavist readers.

The 2023 edition fell on the same dates as Unbound, but for many riders, the choice was as clear as the sky above The Lost Sierra mountains. A super-bloom sea of flowers greeted racers instead of miles of mud and peppered the course with vibrant pastels. And celebrating its 8th year, the Lost and Found brought nearly 1,000 racers to the start line, with thousands more entering the town of Portola for the accompanying festivities. The L&F race itself is only a part of the weekend’s events, with a full expo, live music, and family-style meals for racers and spectators alike to enjoy.

The party was in full swing this year with the return of the builders, though many never left and have supported this event and the Stewardship since day one. With a few calls and texts, a dozen builders agreed to join in the #buildersbazaar, an impromptu gathering of makers hanging in the woods and spreading the #connectedcommunities message. We camped right by the river with event title sponsor Cervelo and the CNCPT Team, ripping single track, hanging around camp, and catching up after what had been, for many, a lot of time apart.

After trekking into the staging and camping zone, bikes and legs needed a shakedown before race day. The frame builders were restless and needed something to do with their hands, so we took a tour of Lake Davis. I had the pleasure of riding this stretch of dirt years ago, on the first Builders For Builders challenge, with John Watson. It was wonderful to be back and all in attendance enjoyed a variety of dirt roads, alpine lake views, and sublime single track. More than anything, we enjoyed each other’s company. It’s been years since many of us had spent time in person. The hugs were abundant and as pleasant as the pedal strokes. Paul Component Engineering was on hand not only to ride bikes, but also to provide us with music, fuel, and the general good stuff he and his crew are known for.

Race day was one for the books. The weather did not disappoint and the mountain meadow flora was in full bloom. I recall pacing a builder back to the pointy end of the race after an unfortunate mechanical problem. We had a legit argument about an object in the distance, attempting to discern if we were viewing a lake, or sea of blue and purple flowers. Unreal. Pretty sure we were both right. The course was relegated to a lower elevation due to this past winter’s monstrous snowfall, but the Stewardship was prepared. Greg Williams and his staff put together a gem, 5K of elevation gain over 100 miles, with a real kicker of a decent dropping back down into Portola proper.

There were winners, and each pedal stroke was spirited. Not a soul I rode with had anything less than a shit-eating grin from ear-to-ear. Even those deep in the cave were there on purpose, and the aid stations and roadside support kept spirits up. The last descent provided breathtaking views during the few seconds we had to look up—full-tilt boogie on Boulder City. Every few feet, a rider doing the 35 or 65 miler was sideways on the edge of the road, spent, and trying hard to plug a puncture or true a wheel.

After handing out all the plugs and tubes I had on hand, a quick return to Portola had me surrounded by nearly 20 handmade bikes and the impromptu “Builders Bazaar.” The builders hung out and chatted with all, including many reunions with long-time customers. As the afternoon turned to dusk, the band kicked in and Portola turned into one large dance floor, with tired legs moving to the beat of their own drummer.

The Lost Sierra is my happy place. I am at home in the endless mountain expanse, loving every moment of the weekend. Covering this race by bike was a treat, and not something I have done in years. Thanks to The Radavist for making space to share the stoke. Lost and Found, The Downieville Classic and a whole season of wonderful riding is made possible by the tireless and often thankless work of the SBTS. If you have it in your heart or your wallet to lend a hand, it would be met with appreciation. These open spaces, cleared and maintained by the stewardship are precious and deserve our collective support and attention. Come and play. The water is warm (ish).

The Builder’s Bazaar included bikes from: Pine Cycles, Mosaic Cycles, Seeker, Breadwinner, Caletti Cycles, Blue Collar, Falconer, Manzanita, Prandus, Squid Bikes, Sycip, and Moots