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Monday, December 3, 2018

Head for the Hills! It's the Mother Lode!

The Black Hills Mother Lode is a 210 mile gravel road race out of the college town of Spearfish, South Dakota. Organized by the folks behind the popular Dakota Five-O and 28-Below bicycle races, the Mother Lode is the big sister to the 110 mile Gold Rush and the 70 mile Gold Dust running the same day. Put the three together and it's a weekend gravel festival for everyone, featuring live music, a catered picnic at the finish line park, a high energy awards ceremony and tables filled with door prizes.

Over the years, I've ridden and enjoyed each distance. Chose one based on your conditioning and ambition and you're bound to have a good time. For 2019, I plan to return for another run at the Mother Lode.

Early miles at the 2015 Mother Lode, about to turn onto Sand Creek Road to enter the Black Hills.
Jason Thorman, Craig Groseth, Luke Meduna (photo by Randy Ericksen)

What to expect on the Mother Lode course? Gear up for long, steady climbs measured in miles. For the most part, the roads are hard packed, lightly graveled U.S. Forest Service "primary" roads with relatively long sight lines, low traffic and uncomplicated navigation. The country is rolling forested hills and meadows with little development of any kind, other than some logging operations and an occasional campground. After climbing the 70 miles up O'Neil Pass, the following 100 miles are particularly remote, with cell coverage sporadic at best. Carry everything you need between the four check points, including water, food, repair supplies and foul weather gear.

Of all the things to bring to the Mother Lode, pack a bottomless bottle of optimism and a flask of your best judgment. In the words of Odin's Revenge, "He hath need of his wits who wanders wide."

Boles Canyon Road not long after crossing O'Neil Pass at the 2015 Mother Lode.
(photo by Randy Ericksen)

For more event details, start at for maps, gpx files and cue sheets of all three courses, as well as a photo gallery and other essential information. There's plenty to prepare you to get out there and have fun.

For my first account race reports and related observations of the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder races, go to the following posts on the Black Hills BackBone blog. Back in 2013, I managed to finish the inaugural Gold Rush on my single speed cyclocross bike with 32 mm knobbies, a couple of water bottles and a few gels. A Taste of Gravel. That was a rough introduction to gravel, but two years later I returned for the inaugural Mother Lode. 2015 Mother Lode. After riding the Mother Lode in 2016 (Cooked at the Mother Lode), the Gold Dust in 2017 (A Friendly Little Ride) and the Gold Rush in 2018 (A Single Speed Gold Rush), it seems right to return for another Mother Lode in 2019.

Heading for the Hills! For another Mother Lode!

Already cooking at 5:00 am in the 81 degree start of the 2016 Mother Lode.
(photo by Randy Ericksen)

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