Name: Grant Clarkson
Bikes: Single speed Salsa el Mariachi, geared Salsa el Mariachi, Jamis Roughneck fatbike, Jamis single speed beatnik gravel machine, Jamis Satellite roadie
Q: When and how did you discover cycling?
A: Growing up in the 90’s, I was all about my bmx bike and ripping around the neighborhood and beyond. Sure, my friends and I were infatuated with building kicker jumps over the driveway in the ditch, but I also distinctly remember the freedom and sense of adventure that getting on two wheels brought me. I think that feeling of getting out there and having virtually no limit on how much fun you can have on the bike is what brought me back to getting a real bike after college. I had an old schwinn mtb that I used to commute around in my early 20’s, but it was around 2015 that I went all in and bought my first salsa el mariachi, a steel hardtail 29er. That bike opened a lot of doors for me. Shortly after getting it, my now good friend and local bike shop owner/mechanic called me out and said that I needed to come out to the Wednesday group ride. It was all down hill from there. I started doing gravel rides with an amazing group of riders from all sorts of backgrounds, entered my first race, and just couldn’t believe I was ignorant to this world of cycling out there. I was hooked.
Q: Has your inspiration to ride changed since then, and what is it now?
A: My inspiration for riding always seems to be going through some sort of adjustment. When I first got into a couple of races, I was focused on training to try and get faster – and seeing big gains when you first start out at something, that can really pique your interest. However, my primary goals now simply revolve around optimizing my time outside. In order to do that, I still work hard on certain rides in order to maintain a level of fitness that allows me to do big rides or events!
Q: How would you define your style of gravel riding?
A: I’m definitely a “run what you brung” type of guy, possibly out of necessity! I have a pretty humble stable of bikes and don’t even really have a true gravel bike as they have come to be known. The fully rigid 29er seems to do it all for most of my riding around Michigan and I like that versatility in terms of mixing up singletrack with dirt roads. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger maybe?
Q: Describe an ideal day on the bike.
A: An ideal day on the bike starts with coffee – let’s just get that out of the way first. The ideal day requires no agenda. I want to have absolutely no schedule and any rhyme or reason to my trip other than a good route and some tasty snacks!
Q: What are some notable trips you’ve done to enjoy cycling?
A: I live in the central region of Michigan and I’m lucky to be able to access some awesome roads, trails, and coastlines in all directions of my home. However, I am a hopeless romantic when it comes to the north woods. A couple times a month I usually try to draw up a route based on others’ rides or using heatmaps and do something new to me “up north”. Those are honestly some of my favorite rides I’ve done… totally unexpected places and not knowing if the road on the map will be anything like what you think it should be.
Q: You’re a Barnstormer Chapter Leader. What does that entail, and is there anything you hope to help other riders find within the club?
A: Being a Barnstormer chapter leader means a lot, and mostly that I’ll get the chance to perpetuate our love for riding bikes in wild places! In our society these days, so many people jump at the opportunity to snap a photo and share the cool stuff they see, eat, or experience… but I often wonder what it ultimately amounts to. Are most doing it for themselves, with little thought about who/what else they could positively impact? With the barnstormers, I’m eager to meet and collaborate with likeminded folks and explore new routes, learn new things in nature, and become a more well rounded cyclist. These are things that can benefit us all as well as the cycling culture itself!
Q: Everyone who rides has something unique to offer. Do you know what you might offer, in that regard?
A: I like to think that I maintain a positive outlook on most rides, even when you might happen to reach one of those dark places on the bike for one reason or another. Positivity doesn’t always mean being cheerful or even nice, but essentially trying to take what we are given and spin it in a positive way. Some of the worst rides I’ve been on, where unknown route I mentioned before is completely awful and is filled with miles of beach sand two track, are most memorable… and the ones I relish in every day.
Q: What role does cycling play in your current lifestyle?
A: Cycling has been a formative agent in my life since I really started into it. It honestly plays one of the biggest roles when I think about it – not just the time that I put in training and having fun throughout the week, but how it affects my overall attitude and personality. When you push yourself to do hard things on the bike, I think it translates directly to daily life at work or at home, and things just seem to go more smoothly haha! Moreover, it makes me want to live a more active lifestyle all around.