Renegade Rambler






I feel pretty badass lining up in the North East of Texas and heading out for 100 miles in the chilly winter weather. Coming from Norway, I hoped for warmer weather but am welcomed with homely temperatures around 38°F / 6°C and light rain. Better than snow, I guess. However, I am not dressed for this.

I want to take on the Renegade Rambler as a perfect race to kick off the season of gravel racing. Some big events are coming up in the next few weeks. I arrived in Dallas on Wednesday with temperatures up in the high 70s (23-26°C). Renegade Rambler is known to be a grinder, and characteristically this year would be another one.

Riders lining up for a bike race.
Lining up for the 100-miler. Photo: Greenville Gravel Grinders.

Grassroots event

The Renegade Rambler is organized by Greenville Gravel Grinders, who use the event to raise funds for the Northeast Texas Trail (NETT). When the NETT is completed, it will be the longest Hike/Bike and Equestrian Trail in Texas and the 4th longest in the USA.

We are picking up our numbers at the Onion Shed and meet two very kind gentlemen named Matthew and Michael. They tell me they are the head of the event and are very grateful we took the drive to Farmersville. It was just about an hour for us; that’s as local as it gets in Texas. We are grateful they organize and make the event happen.

I strap my race number to my Almsthre handlebar bag, get on four layers of clothes on my upper body, load the route to my Dash, and roll over to the start line. It’s unfortunately not a big turnout. We are about 30 riders taking on the 100 miles (160 km). In the 65-miler, there are another 73 riders, and 53 riders are doing the 35-miler.

Riders starting a bike race.
Off we go for 100 miles! Photo: Greenville Gravel Grinders.

Easy lead in

It’s not a fast start. We are following the NETT for about ten miles before we turn north. The speed ramps up, and we are soon down to 12 riders. Keith Bartholomew is setting the tempo. Corey told me about him before the race. A man to look out for. He is driving the pace right now, but it’s not an attempt to get away. Soon, the group starts working together.

The course is rather flat, with occasional short inclines of a few hundred meters. We are passing farms and country residences. Some look pretty shabby and should clean their garden of trash and old vehicles. The gravel roads we are on vary from fast solid gravel; in other places, there is more chunky gravel. The little rain in the morning has made parts a bit muddy, but it is not bad. The mud up here is super sticky, and if you get stuck in the mud, you have to peel it off, or the wheels will not spin!

Except for some trees, it is open farmland; if there were wind, we would feel it. Today is relatively still.

Group of riders on gravel road.
Grinding on the gravel roads in North East Texas. Photo: Jonas Orset.

Chasing dogs

One thing I dislike about riding in the US is all the dogs. They are protective; if you ride past their house, they will chase you until you leave their territory. It makes me a bit nervous. There are a lot of dogs here. Most run inside their fence, but some also go into the road.

A couple of times, I make a solid relay and find myself with a gap. It puts me into a thought process. 1. Yes, I feel strong. 2. I should keep riding my pace. 3. No, riding the next 80 miles solo will be boring. 4. I then have to meet all these angry dogs by myself.

No, I am waiting for the group.


To grind: (from Wiktionary)

  1. (transitive) To reduce to smaller pieces by crushing with lateral motion.
  2. (intransitive) To become ground, pulverized, or polished by friction.
  3. (slang) To dance in a sexually suggestive way with both partners in very close proximity, often pressed against each other.
  4. (transitive, slang) To annoy or irritate (a person); to grind one’s gears. 
  5. (intransitive, slang) To work or study hard; to hustle or drudge. 

Riding gravel is often called gravel grinding. I understand why, according to the different explanations of the word. When riding for a long time, you crush your legs until they feel pulverized. You kind of also gets in a joint movement with the surface. You can not fight it; you have to get in line with the ground and sometimes let your bike dance along. You will at times, get annoyed by the rough surface with constant bouncing. There is a need to work hard and never give up. A gravel race is not going to be easy.

Our group is now down to seven riders as we are approaching halfway. We have been together for a bit now, and the speed has been pretty good. To be honest, I don’t feel that good, but each time we make an acceleration, it is like my body gets going, and I feel better.

Riders cycling through the woods.
We are seven riders when we pass the 50-mile mark.

– It’s too early, Corey

We are passing the turnaround point in Bonham. Not long after, we hit a few kickers. Corey uses the downhill to get momentum up the hills. I join him. The move is creating a gap in the group. I get excited and start to push the pedals. Then Corey and I find ourselves with a small gap. 

– Shall we go? I ask Corey.
– No, I think it’s a little early, Corey answers. 
– Okay, let’s wait.

We regather, but the move starts to change the dynamic in the group. 

A few miles later, Corey hits the climb again and gets a gap. Soon he is rejoined with two other riders. I play it cool in the back of the group. It is perfect; I can let the others work for a bit and then jump to Corey up front. 

A mile later, down the road, we arrived at a 500-meter climb, and I decided to make my move to Corey. I quickly get a gap on the others and make it up to Corey. Keith manages to rejoin us together with Mitch Adshead. But Corey and I have more gas in store, and we decide to attack again to lose the two.

It works! We get a small gap, but it grows quickly. I feel strong and make some solid efforts. Soon we get out of sight, and we can slow down a bit, ensuring we maintain the gap. With 40 miles to go, we must pace not to blow up. We want the double win for Team Cadence.

READ MORE: Season of 2023 coming up

Finish line

To ride 40 miles on gravel takes a while. Finally, we are getting close to the finish. We have been out for almost five hours and 30 minutes, and now we get on the NETT for the last miles. I have done most of the pulling, and Corey tells me he will let me take first place. 

I keep looking back to make sure Keith won’t catch us, and even though I have been feeling confident about the win since we broke away, it is a relief crossing the finish line—a double win for Cadence Cyclery. 

Three minutes behind Keith is passing the line for a comfortable third. 

Podium in Renegade Rambler.
Corey is on the left, Keith is on the right, and I am on the top step. Photo: Greenville Gravel Grinder.

The winner ax 

The trophy of the Renegade Rambler is an ax. What a great trophy. We are having a small ceremony, as the cold temperatures aren’t making people stay around. However, those who are here are all smiling. A fun way to spend the Saturday!

Thanks a lot to the Greenville Gravel Grinders, who made the event happen. They have done a great job setting up signs all around the route. It’s a massive job, and even though we had our head units, the signs made navigating the course easier.

I hope more people in Texas put the Renegade Rambler on their calendars for 2024. Such a great ride, especially perfect for gaining fitness for the upcoming season, and an excellent way to get together with the gravel community in North East Texas. 

Thanks, Corey, for the ride, and Cadence Cyclery, for supporting my American campaign. 

Next up is Belgian Waffle Ride Arizona.

NEED COACHING: Check out my coaching page

The Renegade Rambler is a grassroots gravel event that centers on the rich heritage of northeast Texas.  When the Civil War ended in 1865, fighting did not cease immediately.  In fact, the drama continued on in some places for years after. One of the biggest areas this drama played itself out was in the Corners region of northeast Texas, where Grayson, Fannin, Hunt, and Collin Counties converge, in an area known as “Wildcat Thicket.” This thicket was massively dense and was home to panthers, wolves, bears, and wildcats… It was said that if you wandered into it, you might never make your way out again. For this reason, it was an ideal haven for army deserters, outlaws, and renegades.

While many of the names have since changed, the region is home to some of the best gravel roads in our area.

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