December 12-18, 2016; U Lazy S Ranch, Texas
By Jerry Bernardo
All Photos: Kirkpatrick Digital Cinema
Cole Kirkpatrick is a leader, the man with a plan, a take-charge kind of guy who will put in the hard yards in order to get a result.
Followers, on the other hand, are defined by their actions, doing only what’s asked.
If a complete lack of fun is what you seek, you could be invited to pour concrete in the middle of summer when the humidity approaches 100 percent.
On the other hand, the much more enjoyable option would be you following Kirkpatrick and his high-profile group of guides on a two-wheeled adventure second to none.
The first time I met Cole was in Texas when I was an announcer at the Red Bull Last Man Standing extreme enduro, one of the first of those events in the U.S. He was riding a bicycle to the pits—in dirt bike boots, mind you—so he could get some fuel for his abandoned, dry-as-a-bone KTM in order to continue smashing himself at that radical race. He was sweaty, he was filthy and he was smiling. I thought to myself, This kid knows how to have fun!
As the lead guide and event organizer of the inaugural GRINduro, Cole reminds me of Sean Penn when Penn directs a film: He would not ask anyone to do anything he would not do himself.
Of course, that may or may not be a good thing.
Dirt Buzz: One-off extreme enduro events are popping up faster than a zit on a Loretta Lynn’s Nationals poster. Would the GRINduro be classified as an extreme enduro?
Cole Kirkpatrick: I wouldn’t classify the GRINduro as an extreme enduro, maybe not even an extreme event. I think I’d classify it as an extremely fun event. The idea was to get a group of motorcycle enthusiasts together to support the Kurt Caselli Foundation at a location that rarely sees large numbers of motorcycles.
DB: How did you choose that location?
CK: The location is where I grew up riding and has been in my family for over 100 years. It was the original location of the Lubbock Trail Riders enduro back in the early ‘70s and they stayed there until the early ‘90s. My dad, brother and I still went to the property often, and I would take friends riding out there a couple of times a year. We always talked about how cool it would be to do a big group ride and we finally committed to making it happen.
DB: Explain the name GRINduro.
CK: The naming of the event was tough. We thought about Funduro, Good Times Ride and a few others, but GRINduro just fit perfectly. The event was about having a good time and riding challenging enduro-type terrain. Every person I’ve taken out to the ranch always comes in to camp with a grin so it was a fitting title of the event.
DB: Rumour has it you brought in some heavy hitters with guys like Russell Bobbitt and Steve Leivan aiding you in your quest to remove any dirt bike related ADHD quirks from troublesome riders. Were you successful in your efforts?
CK: We had a great group of guides at this event and even a few well-known attendees. Andrew Short and Ben Spies both signed up to support the cause and it was great to see them out to trail ride with the rest of us. I would say that the riders totally exceeded our expectations. The terrain we have is very challenging, but everyone held their own and made for a worry-free weekend.
DB: As the promoter of an event, there’s so much more to it than the trail-cutting duties. From looks of it online, you had all your bases covered. Did all that responsibility throw off your own good time or did you have fun and grin as well?
CK: I didn’t lose too much sleep in relation to the event, but I had a great team around me. My wife helped with the registration duties and organization of the riders that had entered. My dad and Doug [Cunningham] worked countless hours on the trails and building furniture around camp. The trails were in okay shape because I still ride them a couple times a year, but we had a ton of face-slappers and the majority of it was really overgrown. I spent a good amount of time the last couple of months coming out to the ranch and just doing laps on the trail to try to burn it in. Once the riders’ meeting concluded on Saturday, I was able to really enjoy the event and it was so cool to see so many people having a great time.
DB: What sort of challenges did the riders face on the day?
CK: I’d say the biggest challenge of the weekend was the weather. On Friday, I was wearing a T-shirt working around camp and by Saturday afternoon I was wearing a riding jacket. I kept thinking that there would be nobody crazy enough to do the night ride, but we had 11 guys show up to brave the below-freezing temps and howling winds. Challenges that we had on the trail would be dirt that has hardly any traction, hill climbs, sandy river beds, rocks, cactus and mesquite thorns.
DB: Are there any top-shelf bench racing stories that stick out in your mind from the shenanigans that ensued?
CK: One of the guys on the extreme ride Sunday morning knocked his radiator hose off of his bike. At first, we thought he destroyed his radiator as he almost disappeared in a cloud of steam. After inspecting the damage, it was just the hose and we were able to reattach it and fill it up with water and continue down the trail. I think the funniest thing that happened all weekend was the slow race/demolition event. The idea was to put six riders in a small square space and have them ride around eliminating each other by forcing other riders to put a foot down. Watching the guides demonstrate the event was hilarious, but then watching the participants get into was even better!
DB: I heard it was pretty chilly. Was it an enduro coat day or was the trail so tough that turkey thermometers began to pop out of guys’ chest protectors?
CK: Saturday morning I started with just a jersey and normal riding pants. After lunch before we left, the cold front hit and it dropped 20 degrees in a matter of minutes. I put an enduro jacket on at that point and made it back to camp comfortably. For the night ride, I had on long underwear, Moose XCR pants, a base layer jersey, a normal jersey, a fleece vest, a riding jacket and a face cover. I was wearing windproof gloves with hand warmers shoved in the tops and had my grip heaters turned on high. Sunday morning was the same dress code and I did have to open a few vents because the extreme ride was a workout. We actually got lucky, though, because some of the wet creek beds that normally develop sink holes had frozen so we could safely get 20-plus bikes through the creeks without having to worry about getting stuck.
Seventeen-time Missouri State Hare Scrambles Champion Steve Leivan explains the GRINduro in a bit more detail: “The ‘cool factor’ was high. We were riding on a piece of property that has extremely diverse terrain. It’s not a regular riding area so many of these guys had never seen any of it.”
He continues, “GRINduro isn't a race. It's more about throwing down the miles with like-minded people who want to see what's around the next corner. It fits for every level of riding ability and has guys from all different disciplines. It's obviously an off-road event, but we had moto guys come out and even road race guys. It worked for everyone. The highlight for me was the extreme part of the ride: It was 17 degrees and we had 25 guys that were willing to see just what they were capable of riding through. Segments of the trail were much like the Last Man Standing and in the end more than one guy said, ‘I didn't know I could do shit like that!’ "
DB: Cole, I know a lot of great people stepped up to help you guys put this all together. Who would you like to thank?
CK: Thanks to all the people that made the event possible and the participants for braving the cold and coming out to have a great time. We couldn’t have done it without the following sponsors: KTM, the Kurt Caselli Foundation, Verve Coffee, FMF, WP Suspension, Troy Lee Designs, Skratch Labs, Task Racing Lights, Grumpy’s Cooking, Tyler Anderson with Red Bull for bringing out the MXT rig, Doug Cunningham for all of the work around camp and keeping things under control around the campfire. Thanks to my wife, mom and dad, my brother and his wife for all their help throughout the entire process.
Also a huge thanks goes out to the following guides: Russell Bobbitt, Drew Higgins, Steve Leivan, Mike Krause, [my brother] Cameron Kirkpatrick and [my dad] Richard Kirkpatrick. We are already coming up with ideas for next year so stay tuned!