Our partner in podcasting, The Gravel Ride Podcast, sits down with Matt Hawkins, organizer of North Carolina’s Croatan Buck Fifty and founder of Ridge Supply. The special origin story of Ridge Supply and ultimately the Croatan Buck Fifty have lead Matt to create an amazing early season event.
Ridge Supply Website – Croatan Buck Fifty Website
Automatic Transcription by The Gravel Ride (please excuse all errors)[00:00:00] Craig Dalton: Hello, and welcome to the gravel ride podcast, where we go deep on the sport of gravel cycling through in-depth interviews with product designers, event organizers and athletes. Who are pioneering the sport
I’m your host, Craig Dalton, a lifelong cyclist who discovered gravel cycling back in 2016 and made all the mistakes you don’t need to make. I approach each episode as a beginner down, unlock all the knowledge you need to become a great gravel cyclist.
This week on the podcast, we’ve got Matt Hawkins. Matt is the founder of Ridge supply, as well as the creator of the CRO 10 buck, 50. Oh, super well-regarded gravel race out in North Carolina. I’ve been wanting to get Matt on the show for a few years after meeting him at sea Otter. And I’m excited to have you get to know the Crow 10 buck 50.
I believe there’s still some spots available for the 2023 edition. It’s one of those early season races. So a great way to get tuned up for a fantastic 2023.
Before we jump in. I want to thank this week. Sponsor, bike index. Bike index is a bicycle registry and stolen bike recovery platform. No one likes to think about getting their bikes stolen. I unfortunately have had two stolen over the course
One was a BMX bike when I was a kid. And I feel like that scarred me. I’ve always been super careful about how I lock my bike up, which is probably a good thing, but ultimately, a garage that housed my bikes in San Francisco got broken into and I lost a track mountain bike. Neither one of them were ever recovered.
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it’s a nonprofit. All the services are free. All you need to do is get your serial number and add your make model and color to the platform. And there you go. It’s like insurance. That didn’t cost you anything. Simply visit www.bike index.org and get your bike registered today. With that said let’s jump right into my conversation with matt[00:02:10] Craig: Hey, Matt, welcome to the show. [00:02:12] Matt: Hey, Hey Craig, [00:02:14] Craig: I’m excited to get into the Croatan buck. 50. Am I saying it? Correct? [00:02:18] Matt: you are, you are a lot of people say Croatian but 50, but I think they do that just to make me mad. [00:02:24] Craig: Yeah, and we’ll get into it. We’ll get into it. Cuz I think people are gonna need to get out a map and you’re gonna tell us where it is in the country. I, I had to do that myself. I knew it was in North Carolina, but I didn’t know exactly where and it’s actually pretty interesting part of the state, but we’ll table that question for the moment, cuz I was like just starting out by.
Just a little bit about your backstory, where you grew up, how you got into riding. And I think we should talk about your company Ridge supply, because I think it will filter into why you created the event and you know, the vibe behind it.[00:02:53] Matt: Sure, [00:02:55] Craig: Yeah. So let’s start with that question. [00:02:57] Matt: wanna know? [00:02:58] Craig: Yeah. So, where’d you grow up and when did you start riding and when did you decide, when did you discover drop bar gravel riding. [00:03:04] Matt: Well, I, I my wife and I both are from central Virginia. So up near the Charlottesville area born and raised there. My family’s been there a long time, many generations. And I, I grew up in a real rural kind of county, a lot of farming communities there, but we just happen to have a race. That started back when the tour Deon and the tour to Trump rode, they came through our town.
And we had a, we had a local race called the tour to Madison, and I did that with a buddy of mine on some, some Huffies. And we started racing and riding when I was really young. I’ve literally been riding bikes for, for almost 40 years. And yeah, so that’s, that’s kind of how I started. I, I of course I, I crashed on my first race and and loved it, loved doing it, but I was a swimmer by trade and I swam my whole life and swam through college.
So I really picked up cycling after college sort of as my primary. And I’ve been doing that, you know, every, every chance I get as my soul sport really, since I got outta college,[00:04:18] Craig: Were you, were you more excited about the roadside or did you start off road riding as well back? [00:04:22] Matt: You know, actually I did a whole lot of mountain biking to start and did used to, you know, race 24 hour team races with, with the, with a team and did some road racing and some crit racing gravel obviously didn’t exist back then. When I moved here to North Carolina back in oh five.
I, I, you know, the first place I went to ride was the Croatan because I could go there at night with lights and be off the road. And it felt like, you know, that’s where I could take my mountain bike and I could just go kind of ride. And I didn’t really know. CRO, Tan’s a pretty big, you know, a surface area and it, it has a lot of roads, but they’re not all connected.
So a lot of it’s kind of sketchy. You’re just like, I don’t know what’s down that road. So we started, you know, exploring a little bit more on road bikes with, you know, 25 sea tires or whatever is probably a bad idea. But we are just seeing, Hey, what’s down that road. And I got my first cross bike and started really.
Exploring it and doing, doing proper gravel, if you will, kind of before the gravel boom, but more like 2013, something like that. And and yeah, so I was like one of the first people here in our little town to do Strava. And so I made a lot of the segments originally. And and that’s kind of how I got into, got into gravel was the Croatan was, was here and then everywhere I’ve travel.
That’s the bike. I primarily will take, you know, I ride a rodeo labs trail donkey now, and I’ll just everywhere. I’m gonna go. I’ll take that. So I can, I can ride road or, or gravel or whatever suits a fancy,[00:06:08] Craig: Yeah, exactly. When you first started on Strava and it probably sounds like the same vintage I did. When you created a segment, you could actually name it, right? Like you could name, you could name the, you name, the climbs, all the climbs. You could put your own names on them. [00:06:22] Matt: Yeah. Yeah. My, my mother-in-law sends me things all the time. Bless her heart. If she’s listening, I love her to death, but she’ll just send like a text message with some, with some cycling related news article and. If you, if you’re like us and you follow cycling, it’s things that you’ve already heard two or three days before, but when they hit the mainstream media and maybe my mother-in-law would see it, I would always be like, yeah, yeah, yeah.
But she sent me this article about Strava, which I’d never heard of before. I think this was 2011. And I kind of clicked on it. I was like, oh, this is kind of cool. And I thought, well, I wonder who’s using it around here. and I, I, I downloaded the, it might have been a beta app or something at the time. And, and of course there was no segments anywhere everywhere.
I went for the first six months I was telling you gotta try this, you know? And Yeah, I made all, I made all the segments in the beginning which was kind of funny. And tho the GPS on your phone back then was horrible and it, it was all squarely lines looked like spaghetti everywhere. And so, yeah, Stravos come a long way with better head units and yeah.
You know, all that stuff.[00:07:28] Craig: Yeah, yeah. A hundred percent. So it sounds like the Croton is, is actually rideable from where you live right now. Is that [00:07:34] Matt: Yeah. Yeah. So we are, we are surrounded by it’s 200 miles a road gravel road. And it’s right here. It’s five, five miles from where I’m sitting right now, so I can ride over there linked together all I can handle and, and come back pretty and it’s open, you know, year round. There’s no closures.
It’s they’re public roads.[00:07:57] Craig: And to position it. So it’s in North Carolina, but very close to the coast is what I saw. [00:08:01] Matt: Yes. Yeah. So we’re, we’re in Eastern North Carolina. It’s totally flat. There’s zero elevation. And the Croatan is what’s called a pacoin. So, pacoin is like an elevated section of low lands. So there’s a lot of water in. In the Croatan and it has nowhere to go because there’s no elevation and there’s really no drainage.
So what they did was back in the sixties They dug canals to create the roads. So they would go in there, they would scoop out, you know, along the left and the right side, create these canals for drainage and that, and they’d put the earth in the middle and then they’d elevate that section for the roads.
And so a lot of what we’re riding on is you know, as gravel roads that were built in a swamp essentially. So, that. It’s pretty cool. Like when I first started going in there and riding, I was a little bit like, because you, you can be like 20 miles from nothing, you know, which it’s really hard to say that, especially over on the east coast, you know, if you’re in Montana or something.
Sure. You could maybe, but like out here, man, you can’t be that far from civilization. And we have this beautiful, you know, national forest that is like kind of weirdly isolated We can, we have it right here in our backyard, which is, which is great. So this is a[00:09:24] Craig: Yeah, isn’t [00:09:25] Matt: to start a start a bike race. [00:09:27] Craig: Isn’t that one of the, that’s just one of those amazing things about having a gravel bike. You can just sort of explore and get into these pockets of wilderness. And in, in this case, pretty large pocket considering where you are now in, in the, in the four, is there, what’s the canopy, like, are there large trees in there?
Are we looking at kind of[00:09:45] Matt: Yeah. So Eastern North Carolina is filled with pine. And a lot of it is plantation planted pine. So RO you know, long, straight rows of, of pine Warehouser and places like that own. Ridiculous amount of land down here with just pine trees and the Croatan is essentially mostly that except for there are maybe six pretty big lakes that are in the Croatan.
And then there’s a lot of, you know, tributary, swamp creeks that are coming in and out of that, when we. A lot of rain here, which, which is pretty often it’s heading towards the coast, which isn’t that far away. It’s just that we, we tend to we te we tend to fill the sound is right here, where we’re at.
So we have the sound and the ocean in a barrier island. That’s like 25 miles long. So, it’s all connected. And you know, it’s three miles off the beach basically is where the, where the place starts.[00:10:48] Craig: Got it. And are there other kind of offroad recreators in there? Are there, you know, jeepers and four wheelers and [00:10:55] Matt: Some, some of that, mostly it’s hunters in the, in hunting season. And other than that, honestly, it’s, it’s pretty much just for us. There, none of the roads really connect to each other. So we, we get to use them. A lot of days when I go out there, man, it’s like, I can’t believe, you know, just it’s like, it’s just, it’s all.
It’s just you. And that’s, that’s, that’s a blessing for sure. It also means that the roads aren’t maintained as well as they could be. And like we had the, we had hurricane Florence sorry, if you hear that helicopter, just the sound of freedom here. We got the Marine Corps here. So, the hurricane Florence in 2018, which.
Yesterday 2018. I mean, we just got devastated and we still haven’t had the roads fixed since then. So that’s been four years. You, you just can only imagine the amount of potholes and damage and stuff that’s there, but that’s what makes our race a little interesting too, is that you never know what the roads are gonna be like[00:11:56] Craig: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. [00:11:57] Matt: the new change.
They’re like a lot.[00:11:59] Craig: before we get into the race itself, let’s talk a little bit about Ridge supply and what, what led to you founding the company and the vision? Cause I’ve when I heard the story, I found it super interesting and frankly made me want to just jump on the website and order some socks. [00:12:13] Matt: I appreciate that. I, I need that. I need that. Yeah. If, if, for folks who don’t know, I, you know, I own and operate Ridge supply, which is a which is a cycling apparel. Running apparel brand. I’m a one man show, so I I’ve got no employees. I’ve been doing it seven years and it’s an online, only business.
We, we, we primarily sell direct. So you know, the pretty much the only place you can get our product is, is at our our website. And I, I, I ship everything myself. I started doing. Back in 2015 and I didn’t know what I was doing. I, I, I knew that I had I had a pretty good job at the time. And I, the, the, the quick story is I, I got I got run over by a pickup truck while I was riding my bike.
And it was a hit and run and I was sort of very, very fortunate to be alive and. Acutely aware of that in the hospital that a lot of folks wanted to know if I was gonna keep riding my bike. And I, I immediately that I had to resolve that was just like, of course I was, I wasn’t, it was never like, I’m scared of riding on the road.
I, I certainly was aware of the danger prior to this happening. And I knew that that day I was wearing all black. and that’s kind of the easy color to find in cycling apparel. Everybody makes black apparel. And I knew that if I was gonna continue to do it, I wanted to try to figure out how to do it safer.
And so while I was laid up with a broken pelvis, I started doing some research and I put two sort of premises together. One was that Blocked color was more visible than solid color. And what that means is if you have the brightest, you know, pink or orange, that neon pink or orange, and we, we love it in our products.
If you put it by itself and you stick it down the road like you would see from a car, you might, you might not know what that is. It, it, it looks like. anything could look like a road sign. It could look like whatever. It could just be a bright thing that you’re not quite identifying yet, but when you put blocked color together like a dark color, a light color and a bright color, it catches the eye in a way that makes it stand out.
It’s not necessarily as. As the solid bright color, but it’s more eye-catching. So that was one premise and was sort of a scientific premise there. And the other was bio motion mechanics. And what that means is that the human, the human brain recognizes another human’s movement. And when that, that happens, that that brain will then acknowledge that that’s a human and treat it like a.
and I think what happens in cycling, the phenomenon that we all experience when we’re riding is we’re not treated like humans at all. And it isn’t because people are driving around saying, you know, oh, these Kirsty cyclists, you know, it’s actually that when they’re driving, they’re just not acknowledging that, that thing that they see is.
Another person. It’s, it’s just an object. It’s not, it’s not dangerous. But when you think that that’s a person, you notice it’s a person, you will, then you don’t wanna run somebody over. You know, that’s not what anybody’s trying to do. Then you will start acknowledging that that’s person treat ’em like a person.
So I took those two premises together and I said, well, I knew defeat is here in North Carolina. I had been to visit. and I was kind of their neon poster child after my accident. And I realized like I could make my own sock. All I had to do was make 72 pair and. I took the most trite design. If you, if you’re seeing this on YouTube or something, it’s right behind me.
But I took the blue Ridge mountains that I grew up with in central Virginia. Everything is blue Ridge, blue Ridge, blue Ridge. It’s the most trite non-original thing I could have come up with, but I’d never seen it in a sock. And so I took that design and a contour line also was something I had never seen.
I only has it really seen straight. They’re easier to knit straight. Or vertical line. So I took that contour line. I made this five color sock and that was my idea was like, if I make a bright eyecatching multicolor sock and it’s moving all the time there, you get your bio motion, you get your most visible.
And and yeah, so that’s what I did. I mean, I. I, I did that in 2015. I, I had no idea what I was doing. I thought, man, if I could just sell these 144 pair that I ended up buying the first time I maybe I could do a sock of the month club or something. I no idea how to ship them nothing. And I made a phone call to a buddy who owns a bike shop.
And he was like, oh, this is great. You know, I’ll buy six pair. And I called another buddy who owns a bike shop. And he was like, oh, I’ll order 18. And I was like, oh my gosh, whoa, I’ve sold 23 pair. What am I gonna do? You know how I was just panicked. And so I, I, I really worked hard for like a week and I like created a website and did got the shipping integrated and I did all these.
Back in 2015, these tools were just becoming available to people like me, who really didn’t know what they were doing, but pretty dangerous on a computer, but like, I can’t do code, you know, and I could do all these things, like sort of cookie cutter and just like work hard at it and do it. And so that’s, that’s how I was, it was just dangerous enough to, to get ’em sold.
And then I sold them within two weeks and then I was like, well, I’ll just take that. And I’ll reinvest it in a new, new color and I just keep flipping it. And that’s how my business started in 2015. And I literally never put another dime into it. I bet I was able to do that for a while, while still having a regular job.
And then yes, slowly but surely it’s grown to the point. , you know, I think a lot of people think Ridge supply is a lot bigger than it is. But you gotta sell a lot of $17 socks to make a living. And I’m fortunate to sell a lot of socks. So, we that’s, that’s what I do, which is kind of, kind of crazy when people ask me, like, what do you do?
I’m like, I sell socks and they’re like, well, what do you do for a living? I’m like, I sell a lot of socks. I don’t know. I mean, that’s the deal.[00:18:43] Craig: I, I love that Matt. And for the listener, like I’ll put a, a, a link to Ridge supply, so you can check out the color ways and whatnot. And I think it’s the type of design that once you see it, as you said, you’ve, you’ve iterated on the color ways. Numbers and numbers and numbers of times now. And there’s lots of different options there, but the core elements are generally the same, that skyline design that you’ve talked about early on from the blue Ridge mountains.
So it’s super cool and visual. And I think I also heard you mention to others that, you know, you, you do find that people talk about their socks, which I think is, is interesting. And you know, in probably a great way that has, has helped the company.[00:19:20] Matt: Yeah. A AB I mean, absolutely. I had no idea. The. The a community nature that was being created. And then the, the virals, not the right word, the personal connection that the Sox would make with other people out in the world. Like I’m always blown away at the number of new customers that rich supply gets every month that I’m not, I’m not advertising to get them.
They’re they’re coming through grassroots. You know, people on a group ride, people, seeing something on Instagram, people telling somebody else about ’em and that excitement around it is something that is, is the blessing of why this is actually a business. And isn’t, wasn’t just something I did. And , and, and it, and I can’t take credit for it because a lot of that is timing.
And the MIS the, the mistakes or risks that were taken early on with the business that worked at the time when nobody else was really doing that now in revisionist history, it looks like, wow, you really knew, I didn’t know what I was doing, you know, like, so, I, I can’t sit back now and be like, yeah, look at this.
I, I, I still just in awe and my wife and I will look at each other sometimes and be like, what is going on? Like, we , we both had, you know, Big time jobs and corporate blah, blah, blah. And all of a sudden it’s like, we’re sell socks for a living. And, and, you know, it’s bizarre. It’s a bizarre life, but I think I got the best job in the world for me, you know?
So[00:20:59] Craig: Yeah, that’s amazing. And I, I do, I mean, I think as a consumer, we all appreciate like the transparency and authenticity of business owners. Like now that I’ve heard the story, the origin story about why the SOC design is the way it is. You better believe if anybody asks me about those socks or says like, oh, those are kind of cool.
I’m gonna tell them, oh, they were designed for increased visibility. And like, there’s no doubt in my mind that customers relay that story if they hear about it. Because it’s just, so it’s just an interesting talking point. Like most socks are boring. These aren’t.[00:21:33] Matt: and I appreciate that. And you know, you, can’t not, everybody can listen to a 45 minute podcast to let me get long winded about telling that story either. So it’s, it’s hard to, it’s hard to get that message out there. I assume everybody knows it, but of course they don’t. And so I’m, I’m happy that you’ve.
You know, you, you brought it up because it’s, it is a, it’s not marketing. I it’s the last thing from marketing, it’s really the, kind of the core design philosophy of what I do. It, it, isn’t just, it’s either mountain related, you know? So like the names, the style, the design is kind of related. It also has that five color.
I try to do five sometimes I can’t, but. And once I that’s my brand identity, I don’t have a logo that people recognize. I don’t have a text that somebody’s like, oh yeah, it’s it’s that. And when I started that in 2015, nobody was doing that. And so when you see my socks in a picture, they really stand out because of that branding.
And that I’ve I’ve I like to say like, You know, like a dog, like peed around my tree. So many times, like you come near that tree, you’re like, oh, that’s where it supplies tree. Whoa. You know? And it’s because that’s what , that’s what that did. And I didn’t know that’s what was gonna happen. But now I, I, it’s funny, like I have like, Social media watchdogs out there.
You know, if somebody does anything with five colors or contour lines, I get these text messages. Like they’re stealing from you. You know, it’s, it’s not that there’s only so much you can do on a sock. That’s not really what happens, but that’s, what’s made it unique. Is it it, you can tell what it is without seeing the words or some, you know, a swoosh logo or.[00:23:17] Craig: Yeah. I love it. I love it. I’m in the listener. Well knows that I can geek out about the basic business behind any enterprise. Cause I love it. I’m fascinated by it, but I definitely wanted to transition to the Caran buck 50. And learn, learn more about the event. So what, when did you get the idea for it and what was the inspiration?
Why, you know, it’s a lot of work to put on an event as you can attest. And why did you tackle that?[00:23:42] Matt: Well, I mean, ignorance is is a great motivator to do something ridiculous because I had no idea. I had never, I don’t think I’d ever volunteered for a race and nor had I ever put one on I’d done a lot of them. And I just knew that I knew that our area was kind of unique. Gravel was something that it hadn’t quite taken off.
There weren’t a lot of big events outside of, you know, like Mid-South and dirty Kansas at the time. And there was really no, and there’s there still aren’t many events on the east coast, outside of like Vermont. And so I knew we had the Crow team here and I. The better part of six months or so, just kind of riding the Croatan, giving a feel for it and, and trying to come up with something that could work.
The, the one challenge we have most, because we’re on the coast, you can’t go in our case south, because we’re south facing, which is kind of strange. They don’t, we’re like long island, you know, when you go south, you go into the water. So. We don’t have options for loops. You kind of go into the Croatan and the way that it’s structured with its lakes and its swamps and stuff, some of the roads just don’t go anywhere.
And they’re really kind of like fire access. So we couldn’t do like a, a traditional loop, like you would normally like almost every course is. So we had to do an out and back. That’s interesting. Nobody really does that. And I wasn’t sure people are gonna like that. And so I kind of wrote it enough.
So I was like, you know what, I don’t hate this. I could do this, you know, and enjoy it. And it is different an out and back’s always different. It’s going another direction, a different view, different thing, different turns. So, but yeah, in 2017, I, I did that. I, I had a. A buddy at the time that was helping me kind of promote it.
And we got it started. And, and we had 250 people, I think in 2018 come and do it. And I like I’ve told some other folks too, like I had no idea what I was doing and a lot of bike races, you know, you just kind of show up, they start you and then you finish. Sometimes there’s timing. Sometimes there’s not.
If you’re not on the podium, you just kind of, you know what I mean? Like there’s nobody there to finish. I finished races before here, locally, where I got back to the finish line and there was literally nothing there, you know, I’ve won event like that where I’m like, there’s no finish line. There’s nobody to, to document it.
You just ride across and you’re like, I won. You don’t win anything. You’re just the first person to finish. So with this race, We just winged it that first year it was a success. People loved it. We do start and stop at the Speedway here, which is, which is one of our crown jewels. We, we have a a, a NASCAR short track.
If you don’t know what that is, it’s essentially like, you know, less than a half mile track. And it is. they call it the nicest one in the country. And the reason that is, is it’s built like a, like a Speedway where it’s got, it’s got like eight or nine bars. It has grandstands, it has towers. It has a restaurant in the middle.
It’s got a garage. It’s I mean, it’s, it’s amazing, but we, we are able to use it for our start and our finish and it, and it provides this ambiance about. The start and finish in a way that is real communal and has the right vibe. And it’s right beside the Croatan so short, little, little paved section to get out there and then you’re in the woods.
And just that combo together was a good, it just worked in 2018.[00:27:33] Craig: Yeah. And was it 150 mile race? Or did you have other [00:27:37] Matt: Yeah, no. So we have three. We call it the buck 50, because there’s 150 mile race. We have a race called the buck, which is a hundred miles and we have a race called the 50. That is 50 miles. W the first year we basically had a course that was almost 50 miles and we did one lap, two laps or three laps. It’s a mass start.
Everybody started at the same exact time. And we had. We had sections of the course. It changes every year, the course changes a little bit every year, but that first year we had this section of road that was really primitive and abandoned road that was, had a lot of potholes, a lot of mudhole and we called it Savage road.
And that was a section that was about three miles long that really broke the race up. It was the, it was the animated piece. And that was a big hit. We were able to use that the first two years. And since then we haven’t been able to use it, which is fine. And we’ve changed the course a little bit, but now, now we have three races.
The 50 uses that same out and back to start. And then the hundred uses a 60 mile loop and then a 40 mile loop. And then the buck 50 uses 2 75 mile loops. So what’s kind of nice is we have all these people out there in the course, and it kind of is three different courses, but there’s a big section of the course where it’s it’s everyone uses it.
So unlike a lot of races, we have a lot of back and forth traffic. So, out there on the course, you will find other riders heading the other direction that are 40 miles. You know, away from you in the race. But the way that we stagger it and that provides a lot of, we found that that provides a lot of positive comradery.
Yeah. There’s that small group in the front, that’s drilling it for the race lead and they’re not waving it people. But everyone else seems to be really encouraging of the other groups. And that community aspect, I think, is something unique about our race that people really like.[00:29:49] Craig: Yeah, that sounds super interesting. And I agree. I mean, there’s, it’s very few races where you double back on yourself and see other people. And it, it’s fascinating as, you know, as a mid packer to see. to get an opportunity to see the front front leaders of the men’s and women’s race go by. That’s a lot of fun and inspiring to see. [00:30:06] Matt: Yeah. And I think makes people feel a little bit safer too, you know, if you had a catastrophic situation you’re, you’re not alone. The Croatan is very remote and you could be. You wouldn’t be out there by yourself forever, but the way our race is set up, you know, you’re not alone very long. And I think people, like, I think people like that. [00:30:26] Craig: For sure. You talked a little bit about how the terrain was laid out early on in this conversation. What type of equipment do you see people riding? What kind of tires, et C. [00:30:36] Matt: Yeah. You know, the more I’ve tr traveled around and don’t know other races and stuff, I, people that have never done this race, they actually, they just don’t believe that the terrain, this terrain exists, you know, and they’ve never really ridden terrain like this because it is it’s perfectly flat and what that means for you is that you never are able to coast or, you know, there’s no climb, so there’s no dissent and you never stop peddling.
And in the course of a 50 mile, even just a 50 mile ride, it can really drain you when you do 150. It is a, it is a serious effort. So as far as gearing and stuff is concerned, you could literally ride. , you know, you could ride road gearing here and be fine. But a lot of folks, you know, this is a great single speed course, because if you get the right gear, that’s, you know, the right cadence you want and can get you at the speed you wanna go, you don’t need to change your gear.
So it’s a perfect course for just grinding out on a single speed tires. You know, we’ve got really good surface area or surface that is not like sharp rocket rocks at. It can be a little Sandy at times. So a little bit of volume is important, but I mean, the race has been one on like 30 fives and 30 twos.
So I wouldn’t ride it on a 32 myself. I’d rather I ride like a 38. And I feel fine on that, but I ride a slick out here all year round. So even, even if it’s wet a slick is fine. Our corners. Our corners are a little Sandy. So tires tend to not do anything for you. You just gotta take ’em a little gingerly.
If you go in a corner too hot, you’re just gonna eat it. But we don’t have many corners, you know, so a lot of the roads are straight and you’re what you really have to do is find your line. That’s the other thing you can’t ever explain to somebody until they come and do it? We have. We we, you call ’em potholes, but like we have small indentations, like a pothole in the gravel and they’re everywhere.
They’re everywhere. And so imagine you’re in a group of 800 people and you’re nine, 10 riders back. You’re not gonna see any of that. And all of a sudden, you’re just like, bam, you hit the bottom of this pothole with your rim. It becomes this thing where as the course opens up and as people start to spread out, picking your line, it’s like a snake, you know, and it just winds around and, and the groups are all doing it.
You can be on the left, you can be on the right. If you’re in the middle of the road, it is a nightmare because there is just no way that you’re not gonna have some catastrophic pothole in your way. It, it’s a weird kind of way to race your bike. But one really cool thing is like, you’ll never calm down and just like tune out.
You have to be on the Razor’s edge mentally the whole time. And I think that’s actually a great way to grab a race, you know? Cause if you’re just like, you always talk about people, like I just had to grind through this thing, which is so boring. Like this course is not. It’s flat and it’s an out and back, and that sounds boring to people until they do it.
But then when they do it, you throw in these potholes it’s, there’s something special about it.[00:34:03] Craig: A heck of a lot of peddling and a heck of a lot of attention required. It sounds like [00:34:08] Matt: Yes. [00:34:09] Craig: when you think about the event, were you looking to put something on the calendar that attracted sort of a highly competitive crowd or what was, what was kind of the vibe and intention of the, the race design in your mind? [00:34:20] Matt: Yeah. You know, I, I set out to create something that could be the first gravel race you’ve ever done in the 50. That is like, You know, like, even if you’re going pretty slow, you can complete that course in four hours. And I felt like four hours is like, you know, if, if you’re really riding and training, some, you can do that.
Even if you never train more than two, you could still pull out a four hour effort. The buck 50. Was always gonna be a challenge just from a time perspective, because like even the fastest people who are blazing this course at like 21 and a half miles an hour, they’re still in the seven hour range. And that is that’s goes all the way up to 12, you know, depending on who who’s doing it.
What I tried to do was make a race. and this is the magic of the Croatan being flat. If you’re the, if you’re the, the person who just wants to come out and experience it and ride, you can line up against, you know, Ian Boswell, who’s gonna go, maybe win it. And you both have. An equally rewarding experience.
It isn’t that the person in the back is just lollygagging. The course they’re gonna have to do something really special for them to complete it, but the people at the front are gonna get this unique experience of a March race that doesn’t have crazy elevation. Doesn’t have, you know, high altitude doesn’t have extreme weather and yet it’s.
But it’s just hard enough for wherever your fitness is at. And I think that’s one of the sweet spots and we don’t bill it. I know it’s called the buck 50, but it, we split it about a third. So we have, you know, a third of the people sign up for the 50, a third of the people sign up for the a hundred and a third of people for the buck 50 and.
One of the unique things about our race too, is like, we let you switch the distance up until a month out because people will sign up and then they’ll be like, ah, my fitness, isn’t what I want it to be. Or they maybe have a great winner and they’re like, you know what? I wanna do. I wanna bump up from the a hundred to the 150.
So we allow people to do that and change it on their own. And that’s, that’s been a big, a big blessing because it, it, we were seeing 150 people. Change, which is a nightmare for a race director to have to deal with all that. So we just let him do that one bike edge until January.[00:36:53] Craig: Nice. Yeah. It’s interesting that March date on the calendar, I think it’s like, it’s such a great focal point for your energy. Like through the winter to say, oh, I gotta, I gotta stay fit. Cuz I wanna do something big in March and it just sets the table for a great year on the bike. I think if you’re fit at that time. [00:37:10] Matt: Yeah. I think people that we, so registration just opened up yesterday and on, on the 15th of September and it’s a long way out, but it really isn’t. When you think about your holidays. Your new, year’s all these things. And people do use this as their carrot. I know I do. I use it as my, I gotta get on swift.
You know, I gotta do another workout, even though I don’t ride it. I just know that that’s what people do and then they, it’s not, you wanna come outta your, come out of your, you know, to start your season at the buck, 50 Andy blazing, but you know that you don’t really have to perform at a weird, you.
Extreme level, you just have to grind and that’s, that’s kind of a neat way to start your year too. And I think, I think it’s worked for people that really wanna set, you know, set a goal, an early season goal and then pick up their June and, you know, July things later, cuz they built that base.[00:38:08] Craig: Yeah. Yeah. It sounds like from your description that the, the race track has just created this very important piece of infrastructure. For the overall event, how are you kind of harnessing that? Obviously like a lot of gravel events try to foster a nice after race party or an event or experience for the community.
How do you kind of manage that? And, and what should we expect when we show up?[00:38:32] Matt: Yeah. You know, we’re, we’re, we’re super blessed. We we’ve got all of these things in this background where you’re you’re you’re on this NAS. You know, short track it’s paved. It has a pit lane. We, we have the finish line there, right? Where, right where the the vending is and the food and all that stuff.
So it’s this communal effort once you’ve, once you either are coming through for a lap, you get to see everybody or at the finish right after you finish you’re right there. And it’s been an interesting. It’s evolved, but it’s been an interesting environment because we also have free camping there on site.
So basically like you can literally come in there the night before pitch a tent inside of the track, wake up, you’re basically at the start finish line and start the races re reminds me a little bit of the, some of the mountain bike events that you get to do or camping’s involved. But we, we offer, you know, meal afterwards and beverage, we typically will have like a, you know, a, a beer, a partner that’ll that’ll have beer.
We do like. A, a full catered buffet style meal, which, which is kind of nice because just some, you know, where we are. It’s not like we got eight, 900 people. There’s not a lot of restaurants and stuff, you know, you can’t just like, say, Hey, go get yourself something to eat. We kind of have to provide it.
So we do that. And the big thing that because of Ridge supply and because of who I am as a business person, if you will like. I’ve always made. I’ve always tried to set out to make this race a value, even though it’s not inexpensive race. There’s. I feel like there’s peer races that are of our size or bigger that are more expensive.
And the return that you get from the buck 50, I’ve always tried to maximize the return and make every decision that we make. I say we, that I make about the race is rider focus. Because I think what happens with race directors and I’m not pointing any fingers at anyone else, I’m saying this happens, happens to me.
You get this registration, you sell your registration, which is great. Then you have to provide services with that, with the, that revenue and the amount of services you provide. There’s like a minimum and a lot of folks stop there. They’re just like, this is all you gotta do. . And what I try to do is give back enough a in services, but also in product, we give away a huge swag package.
Nobody does this, but I do it because a that’s what I do. I sell stuff, you know? But like this year, when you come and do this race, you’re paying for the entry, but you’re get, you’re gonna get basically a, a, everything that we do is fully custom just for racers too. So it isn’t like you can buy this on this, on the website or.
Somebody printed a cooi and gave it to you. It’s like you get a custom pair of socks. You get a custom race tee that is not like your typical race tee. It’s a legit piece of garment. You get a finisher’s hat. When you finish, that’s specific to your race, you’re gonna get a pair of gloves that are custom long fingered, hand up gloves that you’re gonna get.
You may get some other things and I’m not gonna say out loud what they are. Those things all add up. It’s well, over a hundred dollars worth of stuff. You get a meal afterwards, you get beverage afterwards, you get free camping. It isn’t about what you get back, but when you do all those things, and then the value of the race experience in itself is what it is.
And people do really enjoy doing this event. I hope that they tell other people about it and then they wanna come do it again. Otherwise, you know, it’s a giant waste of time. I’ve found that from, from a race director’s standpoint, if, if it stretches me a little bit where I’m just kinda like, oh man, I got, you know, when you have 900 people, every dollar that you spend is a thousand dollars, you know, and those add up very quickly.
And there’s a lot of times that that feeling that you have, you’re like, well, I don’t have to do that. They won’t, they don’t really, you know, you don’t really need that. That’s almost the, the surefire indication I need to. And I, the one thing we don’t do that a lot of big races have, I don’t really have a whole lot.
I really don’t have any corporate P partners. I don’t sell sponsorship. Nobody’s presenting this. And I like that because it keeps it, the vibe is the right vibe for March. I don’t think a March race should feel like the world championships of anything. It’s like, bro, you’re just coming outta hibernation in the Northeast.
This is your first time to see the sunshine and you wanna ride your bike, but you know, you, you don’t need all that pressure yet. And so we try to keep it like that. And I think it’s translated. I think the, the race track does provide that. And that’s kind of what we use it for. It’s just a backdrop.
We really don’t, you know, you do get to ride around it and finish and you come in and out of it to do your pit. But yeah, I’m not sure if I answered that question correctly, but[00:43:35] Craig: You you, you, you did for sure, Matt. No, I love it. And I do think, you know, by my likes again, like it’s come to me through a number of different sources that this is a fun event. If you can get it on your calendar and you’re close to the east coast where you can get there. So I think you’re doing all the right things and I’m, I’m happy to have you on the podcast and just hopefully expose this race to a broader audience.
I really love the idea. Encourage encouraging people to travel, to ride gravel in different parts of the country. Cuz as you expressed early on in this conversation, it’s such a unique part of our country that has these funny little attributes that you’re not gonna experience elsewhere.[00:44:14] Matt: Yeah. Yeah, I appreciate that. It, it is it, when you live here, you’re kind of like, why would anybody want to come here and ride our little gravel and then you make the bike race, and then everyone’s like, It’s amazing. And you’re like, really? Is it, you know, and, and that’s kind of been an eyeopener too, is that you realize that it is unique.
The art terrain is unique and I’ve, I, I spent a lot of time in Vermont. I I spent a lot of time in Colorado, kind of all those kind of areas. I’m like, you can’t mimic those things. They’re just, they are what they are. And they’re amazing. It’s just that what we have is just. Squished flat and you can get away from everything in a way that is just kind of bizarre.
You know, there’s no homes, there’s no buildings. There’s no nothing. You’re just on a gravel road in the middle of a forest, as far as your eyes can see. And that’s kind of cool.[00:45:04] Craig: Yeah. And thank you. Thank you for just putting a hand up in creating this. I mean, it, I always like to express that sentiment to advent organizers cuz it’s, it’s hard, hard work, but I know it’s, it’s a virtual, it’s a love story to your local community in the, the trails that you’ve explored the last few years. [00:45:22] Matt: I appreciate that, man. Yeah. I mean, I would do it again if I, if I knew, but if I knew it was this hard, I would think really hard about starting it. I’m glad, I’m glad the ignorance is, is prevalent for me. [00:45:35] Craig: it, it totally is. It totally is. I don’t think you start a business. If you know everything you’re gonna have to go through and you probably don’t start an event either if you know everything that’s in front of you, but cool. Thanks again, Matt. I really appreciate it. [00:45:48] Matt: Craig. Appreciate it. [00:45:48] Craig Dalton: That’s going to do it for this week’s edition of the gravel rod podcast. Big, thanks to Matt for coming on board and talking about his backstory for Ridge supply and that amazing sounding Croatan buck 50 race coming up in early 20, 23. Big thanks to bike index for supporting the show this week.
Until next time here’s to finding some dirt under your wheels.