The Enve GRODEO and Builder Open House Show is a unique event. On one hand, it is a super fun gravel ride with absolutely amazing views, technically challenging trails, and a really fun vibe that you can only get when an event is not a race.. Sure, the ride is 93 miles with over 8000 feet of climbing, but when you have a police escort, amazing feed zones, and camaraderie amongst all of the riders participating, it’s definitely not your typical gravel event.

On the other hand, you have a Handmade Bike Show featuring some of the hottest handmade bicycle builders in the industry today. Builders that have been making custom bikes for over 25 years to fresh brands in their first or second year of business. Only the best are invited and to be a part of that group is a nice tip of the hat to everyone who attends. When you combine these two events together, you make an interesting weekend that is not to be missed.

According to GPS, the drive from Portland, OR to Ogden UT is approximately 10 hours. However, what Google Maps does not take into account are the 3 dogs and the 2 humans who need multiple stops so the drive ends up being closer to 14 hours. The scenery is pretty and it’s a good drive with a few pit stops along the way. We left at 8am PST and arrived in Ogden around 10pm MST. Once we checked into the hotel, it was time to pass out and get a good night’s rest.

The schedule for Day 1 was the builders would have a product meeting and general updates around 4pm on Thursday with a happy hour and dinner to follow. I decided to get to Enve HQ around 10am so I could drop off the show bike for a photography session and catch up with the builders who arrived early as well as catching up with the the folks at Enve. After connecting with everyone that I could find, the Scarab Cycles boys, Steve from Viral Bikes, and I decided to head out for a gravel ride to spin out the legs for an hour before the afternoon meeting. We rolled out from Enve HQ with a general idea of where to go and that meant heading to the mountains North of Ogden. It’s pretty much uphill the entire way there, so we spun at a comfortable pace and enjoyed being out on our bikes. We got up to the main trail that spans the width of the range and rode until we hit a dead end. Of course, we had to get some pics of the scenery before heading back. We rolled back to Enve HQ to get cleaned up and ready for the afternoon meeting.

After some product and marketing updates, it was time for Happy Hour and Dinner. Of course, all of the show bikes were on display, so most of us were checking out the other bikes that were and asking lots of questions. It always amazes me to see what other builders create and where their vision takes them. Each builder is so unique that no two bikes are alike, yet they all perform the same basic functions. It’s the passion in the creation of it all that makes each one a work of art and something to admire.

The bikes ranged from Gravel bikes to MTB’s to pure road bikes. It was quite the collection and the finishing work on each of the bikes was outstanding. I took a few pics of the highlights that stuck out to me as being unique/ interesting and worthy of notation, but in all honesty, all of the bikes were amazing and there just isn’t enough room here to give them all some love even though they deserve it.

For Friday morning, there was a builder only gravel ride led by some of the Enve employees. We rolled out of Enve HQ around 9:15am and headed up to the trails that I rode the day before, but this time we rode the “local” trails that were not obvious unless you knew they were there. There was about 25 or 30 of us, so we were definitely a sight to see coming through the singletrack as other trail users politely stepped aside for this mass of cyclists coming through. To our credit, we were respectful of the other users as well as we were not racing and the last thing we wanted to do was make a bad impression while on the trails. We rode for about 2.5 hours before heading back to Enve HQ. A quick shower in the Enve Employee Locker room and then it was off to lunch at Roosters Bar and Grill across the street from Enve. There, a nice little buffet awaited us along with some cold beer and the chance to kick back and relax for the next few hours.

While we were eating lunch, customers were gathering at Enve HQ to do their own gravel ride for the last 10-15 miles of the GRODEO course so they could see what they were in for at the end of the day. The singletrack descents for the last few miles of the course are a blast to ride and definitely worth seeing. From what I heard, everyone had a good time. When the customers arrived back from the group ride, it was time for them to clean up and for the Builder Open House to begin.

The Open House is a relaxed and fun time. Enve plays the part of a great host by bringing in a food truck, serving refreshments, offering tours of the facilities (definitely worth walking through the freezer where they store the carbon sheets before they are made into wheels), and even a Dirt TT on a fun pump course behind Enve HQ. Guests got to mingle with the builders and check out the beautiful bikes while asking as many questions they would like. The party ended sometime around 8pm as everyone knew they needed to get up early the next morning for the big day.

The GRODEO rolls out from Enve HQ promptly at 7am with a rolling Police escort. You need to be there early to listen to pre-ride instructions as well as take advantage of the small breakfast that is served. People gathered on the unofficial start line and everyone was super excited. The difference here is that there is not that usual feeling of “butterflies” or “nerves” that you get at the start of the race. Rather, it feels like you are going on a fun ride with a lot of your friends and a few of your friends happen to be either current or former Professional riders…

As we roll out from Enve HQ, everyone is super chatty. The police are both in front and behind us. As long as you stay ahead of the police pickup at the back of the group, the “rules of the road” do not apply in that you can safely run red lights and ignore stop signs. The police do an amazing job blocking off the intersections and escorting us to the mountain range where we are safely able to navigate the Ogden Canyon Road on our bikes. During normal hours/ times, you would pretty much NEVER ride through this canyon on your bike. It’s narrow (2 lanes) with minimal shoulder and cars can drive through pretty fast. Thus, it’s safer riding with a police escort.

Once we are through the canyon, we get another few miles of police escort before we are released to the open roads and the ride can truly commence. The pace during the “neutral rollout” is a steady 16mph hour for the first hour. After that, it picks up for sure until we reach the first dirt climb of the day. It’s a 2+ mile ascent with about 1000 feet of climbing. It’s steep and full of CHUNKY rocks. You are at elevation and just clawing your way up this brutal loose long steep climb that doesn’t want to end until you hit the aid station at the top. When you see those Enve banners in the distance, salvation awaits.

In a race situation, racers will either not stop at the first aid station or they will stop for no more than 90 seconds to refill a bottle or make an adjustment if needed. In the case of GRODEO, you are encouraged to get off your bike, grab some food and some drinks and hang out for a moment. If you see a group of people you want to ride with, then go join them. Look for your friends, make new ones, go find a riding partner you want to ride with and enjoy the day. The only reward at the end of this is a hot shower, good food, and lots of laughing and hanging out… and a commemorative pint glass…

After the first aid station, you can either turn around and finish the back half of the course, or you can continue forwards and do what is meant to be done. If you go forward you will be rewarded for sure with stunning views of mountains, fields of wildflowers, blue skies, and as much natural beauty as you can handle. The suffering that it takes to get to this point on the course is absolutely worth it. Yes, there are rocks the size of bowling balls sticking up out of the ground ready to eat your puny gravel wheels. Yes, there is more climbing than you know what to do with, and yes, it is all worth it.

This ride is not for technically challenged. This is a HARD ride. Sure, we are not racing, but the course demands tires of 42mm or bigger. Dropper posts are encouraged, and from personal experience a gravel suspension fork is the most “choice” piece of equipment you can use. This is borderline XC racing type of terrain if you were running a full suspension MTB with 120mm of travel. Gravel bikes? That just makes it all the more insane!

Luckily for us, there is an oasis somewhere in the middle of nowhere that supplies food, drinks, games, and axe throwing. If you want to wait on line to throw the axes, I encourage it. Last I heard someone won something pretty cool and made out of carbon. Not bad for tossing an axe.

After the brief respite of the Oasis, you are back at it in some of the nastiest sections of the course. Pick your lines, give space to the rider in front of you, and get off and walk if you are not feeling it. It’s not worth getting hurt here and that is quite easy to do at this point. Eventually you make your way out of backcountry and back onto smooth gravel and pavement. A welcome respite indeed until the next aid station at the top of the next major climb at mile 45.

The next 22 miles goes by quickly over the course of 90 minutes. Of course, the 1900 feet of vertical slows you down as the ascent up to Aid Station 3 is a slog of 9 miles on a never ending gravel road climb that does not offer much in the way of protection from the sun. The insult to the injury is that there is a beautiful little creek running next to the road that begs for you to get in it and cool off, but if you do, you might never get back on the bike and you only have a few miles of climbing left to do to the Aid Station 3. Once you arrive, you are treated to a most welcome site: Hot Dogs!!!! There were other snacks and drinks there, but how can you pass up a hot dog? It was a tough call but choices were made and no regrets were had.

Aid station 3 was also Aid station 1, so this means you get to descent that super gnarly climb you did at the beginning of the ride. Everything you remembered about it is gone now as you fight to survive one of the nastiest open gravel road descents I have ever done. Hand grenade sized to softball sized and maybe some football sized rocks await you on a high speed descent that wants to kick you off the road and down the embankment at each of the switchback turns. Speed is not for the faint of heart and a full face helmet and body armor might not be a bad idea. Of course we are on gravel bikes, so we are already pushing the envelope of sanity. Making it to the bottom in one piece is rewarded with a stretch of pavement for a few miles before the last major climb of the day to Aid station 4.

The climb to Aid station 4 is a beast of a climb. It’s 5 miles that starts out with a 14% paved kicker on the road before getting onto a singletrack climb that is littered with tree roots, rocks, and very tight confines. This part of the climb is not so bad, but it masks the true nature of the climb which you hit about 3.5 miles in or so. It’s the Powerline section of the climb and this just goes straight up. There are no turns. There is only exposure to the trail. It’s a tight ribbon of singletrack and it averages over 12% for about 1 mile. You need low gearing or strong legs, or both! However, salvation awaits at the top of the climb for that is Aid station 4! Once at the aid station, you are treated to cold beers and pickle juice shots. There might be some other libations floating around up there as well in addition to the assorted food choices. The best part of the aid station are the chairs to sit in and the knowledge that the majority of climbing is done for the day.

The descent after Aid station 4 is one of the harder descents in general for the ride. It starts out with a fantastic singletrack descent in what feels like a lush forest. It eventually opens up into a river bed that is disguised as a rock garden on the side of a mountain that just goes downhill for a LONG time. We are talking BIG rocks here and the type that if you crash, it will really hurt. Take your time and pick your line. This is no place to go down on. Once you finish this rocky descent, you are back on the main trail system just above Ogden. Here you get some really swoopy fun singletrack descending that you hope goes on forever. It’s a total blast for sure.

After a few more dirt sectors and some short climbs, you make your way back to Enve HQ where cold drinks, hot showers, good food, and lots of stories await. Most everyone takes a shower to freshen up and then hang out in the backyard of Enve HQ to relax and take the day in. It’s such a good time that you really just want to hang out for no other reason than it is fun.

Unfortunately that is where the weekend must end. Most people drive home the next day while some might stay a little longer. We had a 14 hour drive to get back home and the dogs were flat out exhausted from the long weekend (lots of hikes and swimming for them). The drive was brutal enough after the ride the day before, but it was good to be home and a chance to reflect on the past few days. We will be back next year for sure. Hopefully you might join us.