SALSA – As is often the case, event promoters never get to participate in their own events. What did it feel like when it dawned on you that you might be able to take part in this year’s edition of Mid South?
BOBBY – I've always, always, always secretly wanted to line up with everyone for the 100 -mile course every single year. Especially when the weather has been super bad, and the conditions have been so terrible. Those are the years I really wanted to be out on the roads with everyone. It felt very surreal and hard to accept as something that might actually happen. I kept telling everyone at District and the Mid South team that I wasn't going to commit until we got close to event day, and then I would see if it made sense for me to be in the shop or out on the road. Finally, on the week of the event, I committed, and then Austin and Tyler built the Stormchaser with a bunch of new dope parts I had been waiting for months to put on the frame. I wasn't nervous. I wasn't in shape either. I was just feeling really, really grateful and stoked for the opportunity. This is all a privilege. We are all very, very lucky to have these roads, these bodies, these bikes, and for me this community to allow us to have the experiences on the courses that we are able to have. I felt like this was going to be the only chance in my life that I would be able to do the course on the day of the event and I'd be crazy not to make it happen. My heart was full of gratitude and love the entire day.
SALSA – As you rode that day, can you share a bit of where your brain went? What were you thinking about?
BOBBY – Mostly I was thinking, "YES, the conditions are horrible. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED." I wanted it to be hard. Very hard. It was hard. It was a mess. It folded me inside out physically, but mentally it filled my cup to the absolute brim. I couldn't stop smiling. My mind just kept thinking about the thousands and thousands of people who had walked, ridden, and carried their bikes through our incredible dirt roads at our events in the past. I had no other option but to move forward and to allow myself to be fully immersed by every single thing around me. The road, the sky, the trees, the rushing water in the creeks from the rain the night before, the encouragement from other riders, the exhaustion setting in from other riders; all of this was happening, and I didn't want to overlook or miss any single moment. It felt like we were taking a hike in the backwoods most of the day. The roads were so bad for most of the ride that we saw less than five vehicles on course that weren't either out there to support riders or coming to rescue someone with a broken bike. It was calm and chaos all in one. I just kept thinking and hoping that my friends from District and the cycling community in Stillwater would be at the finish. And I wanted champagne. Real bad. And I got it.
SALSA – What did riding this year’s course in a single heaping helping, as the competitors each year experience, make you feel? Did it bring to mind any possible changes or additions for future editions of Mid South?
BOBBY – It made me realize that what we have and what we offer participants is incredibly special. It made me appreciate all the months and months of hard work and logistics that we put in place for the event in a way that I quite hadn't been able to see because we're always on the production and promotion side of the event. We are always thinking and tweaking ideas for changes or additions to the race throughout the year. One thing that I would like to implement for the participants sake is to try our best to create gathering spots for emergency Jeep SAG pickup for those not able to finish the course. Instead of having the Jeeps sweep the course (especially if it's muddy) I would like participants to get the remote feeling that this course offers and the minimization of vehicles on course is essential in achieving that goal. Besides that, I think that what we have and what we are sharing with people on all our courses is quite special and more than anything I don't want to add or do anything that might take away from that fact. I want to keep this event simple, beautiful, hard, wild, accessible, and full of love.
SALSA – I know all of us at Salsa are looking forward to the next time we’re all able to gather at Mid South and other events. How much are you looking forward to Mid South 2022 and seeing everyone together in Stillwater and joining in to take on the challenge you’re dishing out?
BOBBY – There are no words for how excited I am about Mid South 2022. The party will be bigger than ever. Period. More music, more beer, more food, better halfway point festivities in Pawnee, and more vendors than ever before. It is time for Mid South to go into full festival mode and this is my official invitation to anyone reading this right now. You are welcome here. Ride, run, spectate, cheer, volunteer, party...all of the above. I can't wait. See you in March.
Our thanks to Bobby Wintle, Josh McCollock, the Mid South and District Bicycles crews for letting us share this story, and for the years of shared gravel love.
AS SEEN IN STORMCHASER: A MID SOUTH EXPERIENCE
The Stormchaser Single Speed gravel bike is for the days when the course presents a challenge or you want to make your own challenge. Frame protection at the fork and chainstay prevents wear from the elements. Mounts for water, food, and accessory storage let you ride far and wide in places with few resupply options. Whether you’re looking for an all-weather warrior or just appreciate the simplicity of single-speeding, Stormchaser is a gravel machine that’s up for anything.
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I love being outside. I prefer to ride on dirt. Or snow. If I was born a hundred years earlier I might have been a polar explorer. There's a great natural world out there to see, smell, taste, listen to, and experience. Life slows down out there and the distractions we've created will disappear if you let them. Give me a backpack and let me go.