#GravelFamily: Josh Shear

• What’s your favorite GW experience? Showing up to my first GW…

• What’s your favorite GW experience?

Showing up to my first GW check in at Cycle Works, having just found out it was even a thing the day before.
  I came in last minute asking to sign up the night before the event. A friend had told me about it that morning at coffee. He said it was full but it was going to rain so a lot of people probably wouldn’t come so I should just show up and do it.  It was full but Corey (who I had just met at check in) said if I showed up at the start and if anyone didn’t show I I could ride with their postcard (this was the last year that your postcard was your race “number”.  I asked, “If I finish I show up and finish even without a postcard, then am I still in?”. He told me sure if you finish it I’ll say you are in. So the next morning I show up early to find Corey, he remembered me and had a postcard from an out of state no show entrant waiting so I could be “official”. I forgot you needed cash for the lotto tickets so my wife had to hurry back home to get some for me. I left the start about 10 minutes late. My headlight illuminated the fog while I cut through the a sea of blinking tail lights for miles as the sun came up. I had a huge grin on my face, I  had never seen so many bikes out on gravel before.  Getting a finishers patch at the end of 165 miles (because I missed a turn after the 120 mile checkpoint) was awesome.  Chatting with riders as I drifted between groups on the road some of whom traveled from other states to come ride was super cool. All of the volunteers at the checkpoints with cokes, pickles and offering to fill my bottles was unexpected and amazing.  I’ve been hooked ever since.  

• What’s your funniest Gravel event story (ie never trust a fart)

Shooting video of Cornbread hauling 4 car tires on his bike rack into a headwind at the first Trash Time Trial. One hand on the bars, one hand keeping the tires from falling off.  He came prepared to win that day and did so with style. 

• How long have you been riding? Has gravel changed your perspective on riding, and if so, how?

Since I was a kid. When I was 13 I used my detasseling money to buy my first real road bike, a pearl white Bianchi,  from Deluxe Bicycles. I switched to a MTB after that got stolen a few years later. MTB in nebraska was a lot of group training rides on gravel back in the 90’s. Fell out of cycling for a decade or so being busy with work, family and not able to commute. Decided I missed it enough to make some changes around 2010. We live on the edge of town (and on a still gravel street in town) so the old gravel MTB training route was part of my Sunday rides. Its like someone designed gravel riding specifically for me.  I used to only ride fast. If i was on the bike it was full gas until I blew up. Either I dropped everyone I rode with, or more often, they dropped me.  Now I only go full gas sometimes.  I ride a lot more so chilling out and enjoying a few miles with gravel friends is all good.    
• Has gravel brought you closer to your community and if so, how?Getting involved. Seeing that it’s just other riders who are putting together the routes, dates, times to make up events, names and logos and saying “Hey we are doing this, come if you want to ride” made me want to help out. The fact that most early events were free (And some of the best still are) and are not “professionally” run with rules, age groups, timing etc helped pull back the curtain. The rules are simple, the riders diverse and mostly no one takes it to seriously. Gravel events are now like small family reunions. The best part is putting on an event or helping someone who is. Gravel is a potluck dinner, not a restaurant, so  bring a bottle of wine, do some dishes or both.  

• What does #GravelFamily mean to you?

Like a church congregation. Closer than just friends, even if you don’t see them everyday. It’s not the same as other cycling groups where the pace you ride at automatically selects who you ride with.  It’s about the shared experience more than pace. The party at the finish is as important as the ride beforehand. It’s the only biking I have seen where the volunteers are as much a part of the event as the participants.  

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