Joe Grant and his Single Speed Myth Cycles Wyvern
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In this Rider and Rig, we get to know Colorado-based ultra-endurance athlete Joe Grant and his single speed Myth Cycles Wyvern. Find a post-ride video interview, photos of his colorful rig, and a profile of Joe put together by Colt Fetters here…
Joe Grant is somewhat of a legend in the ultra-running scene. He’s known for his impressive results in races such as the Hardrock 100, Colorado Trail, and Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc, to name just a few. However, running isn’t the only area Joe excels in. Mountain biking seems to come naturally for him too, as evidenced by his first mountain bike ride, which resulted in a sixth place finish at the Colorado Trail Race in 2015.
That he’s someone with many talents is apparent upon first meeting him. Fast friends with just about anyone he encounters, conversation seems to flow effortlessly, even with strangers. His stream of consciousness almost seems like pre-written prose, most likely the byproduct of many hours in his head while bumping through the mountains alone. Peruse Joe’s Instagram (@alpineworks) and you’ll be greeted with bold and contrasty film photos of the places and things he encounters, coupled with thoughtful captions about how he perceives the world around him. Through physical activity he finds himself in a state of mind that punctuates the details and nuances of a place. Joe expressed in our interview that, “Heightened states brought about through intense activity can be channeled into a piece of work.” That work might be in the garden, the kitchen, photography, or a piece of writing—reminders that Joe is much more than just some runner guy.
The Japhy Ryder
Most folks view single speeds, especially rigid ones, as toys reserved for short outings on flat terrain. Joe is here to tell you that couldn’t be further from the truth. Crafted by Durango’s Erik Tomczak of Myth Cycles, Joe’s Wyvern has been given the name “Japhy Ryder.” The bike received its namesake from Jack Kerouac’s novel The Dharma Bums. Japhy was a character based upon the poet Gary Snyder, a man who lives in the Sierra Nevada backcountry, meditates before he eats, and enjoys a boilermaker with dinner—a zenlike figure and ideal namesake for a bike with so much character. This single speed rigid machine has a custom paint job done by the builder himself. Decked to the nines with top of the line componentry, Joe made sure to keep all the parts as local as possible. From the cog made in Fort Collins, the anodizing of the cranks, the hubs from North Carolina, and the frame here in Durango.
Although it’s an elegant build, Joe wanted to keep the bike as simple as possible. Not only for the aspect of minimal maintenance but because the simplicity of single speed and rigid appeals to him. He explained that stripping down a mountain bike to the bones enables him to be more connected to the intricacies of the trail. Not opposed to high-sprung trail bikes, Joe just doesn’t seem to need anything more than what the Japhy Ryder provides. When riding some local mid-country trails with Joe, it was obvious he only has one speed: FAST. Joe chugs right up steep climbs and walks when he needs to, although he is still faster than most who can clean those particular sections of trail. I was most impressed when we set off down a brake-blazing technical descent. I was on my full-suspension trail bike and I pulled over to take some photos, assuming I’d have plenty of time. Without time to take out my camera, he’d come picking through the chaotic mess of the boulder-strewn trail. Joe attributes this to the bike’s geometry, which keeps the front end light and the bike nimble. Constructed for long days with downhill prowess, Eric seems to have built the perfect two-wheeled companion for Joe.
Myth Cycles Wyvern Build Kit
- Frame Myth Cycles Wyvern
- Fork Whisky Parts Co. No.9 29 MTB Fork
- Rims Velocity SS
- Hubs I9 Hydra
- Tires Maxxis Rekon 29 x 2.6”
- Handlebars Oneup Carbon
- Headset Chris King NoThreadSet
- Crankset Cane Creek Eewings Ti (anodized by Agave Finish Works)
- Pedals Canfield Crampon
- Cog Anodized Kick Ass Cog from Endless Bikes
- Brakes Shimano XT
- Saddle Selle Italia Flite
- Seatpost Bike Yoke Revive Dropper w/ Paul Components lever
- Stem Paul Components Boxcar
- Frame bag Yanco Custom Frame Bag
Runner turned Cyclist
As mentioned, Joe is a man of many talents. Hearing him muse about dream trips, it’s clear he’s not constrained by any particular mode of travel. On our drive to the trailhead, we carried on about backcountry skiing, snowboarding, pow surfing, packrafting, alpinism, and bouldering in the span of just 20 minutes. Inspired by natural places, Joe seems to always be searching for ways to connect to the landscape he’s recreating in, whether that’s searching for the perfect turn on his snowboard, discovering the intricacies of whitewater on his packraft, or exploring every indentation of his freshly built backyard trail by bike. In fact, running didn’t really come up in conversation, even though it’s what he’s best known for.
When I asked Joe what cycling gave him that running did not, he thought for a second. “They’re different vehicles for the same purpose.” It’s evident that Joe enjoys exploring natural places and finding ways to engage with the landscape. He also explained that not only are these tools for exploration of a physical place, but they can also be used as an exercise to explore oneself. As for advantages of the bikepacking over running, Joe turns to the bike to travel a bit further, carry more weight, all the while creating less impact on his body.
Running for Joe is about being able to travel far and see a lot with a minimal aesthetic. He explained how that’s what drew him to the sport in the first place. However, as with most things that we devote ourselves to, at some point he began to burn out on running races. While the idea of adventuring in wild places was still top of mind, bikepacking was a new vehicle for the same pursuit.
Joe’s list of accomplishments is a long one. Without going into exhausting detail, here are a few of his more impressive feats (taken from BlackDiamondEquipment.com).
- Colorado Trail on foot: 8 days, 20 hours, 9 minutes (FKT Denver to Durango, Collegiate West Route)
- Nolan’s 14: 49 hours, 38 minutes (previous unsupported FKT holder)
- Tour de 14ers: 31, days 8 hours, 33 minutes (FKT linking of all the Colorado’s 14ers, self-powered and self-supported)
- Hardrock 100 Endurance Run: second place in 2012 (25:06), third place in 2017 (25:37)
- 2016 Arizona Trail Race: 750 miles in 7.5 days (bikepacking)
- 2014 White Mountains 100, Alaska: first place and course record (17:05:00)
- 2013 Iditarod Trail Invitational 350: 6 days, 2nd place on foot
- 2009 Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc 20th place (26:07:16, first ultra)
- 2008 Caballo Blanco Ultramarathon First place and course record (6:24:00)
Long and grueling ultras are apparently where Joe excels, some of which you’ve likely heard of, and others more obscure. If it’s long, human-powered, and in the mountains, Joe has probably done it—and fast. For instance, the Tour de 14ers was an epic month-long mission to link all of Colorado’s 14ers by bike and foot. An underground ITT that’s essentially one long stage, once you start, the time doesn’t stop. He travelled nearly 1,500 miles in total, 1,100 via his Reeb Cycles X and 400 on foot, to summit each of the 58 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado.
He’s not limited to legitimate events or even known routes. One of Joe’s many projects this year is devising and scouting a giant fastpacking loop around the San Juan Mountains. The loop will link the main sub ranges of the San Juans, allowing users to pick their own route/summit options in the mountains and then continue along the route to the next subrange. Joe expressed distaste for how many long routes are quite specific. His route gives users the option of picking through subranges in creative ways, summiting whatever is significant to them. This route has yet to be released as it’s still being scouted, and will likely be published in 2021.
In 2016 Joe set off on the Arizona Trail Race (AZTR), and being the runner guy, he felt out of place. But soon he fell into the front of the pack. Usually one for mountainous environments, he expressed how surprised he was at the beauty of the Arizona Trail. He looked to the experts in the bikepacking ultra community and followed their style, “carrying almost nothing.” In 7.5 days he finished in second place behind this site’s very own Neil Beltchenko.
All this to say, I think Joe is the most impressive bikepacker you’ve never heard of, silently crushing KOMs on his rigid singlespeed Myth Cycles. And I say silently because the guy doesn’t track any of his data. You heard that right, a serious runner who doesn’t wear a watch!
An ultra runner, bikepacker, photographer, snowboarder, writer, or any other number of things, describing Joe Grant is no easy task. I’m here to tell you that he’s much more than that Black Diamond guy who continues to pop up in your Instagram feed. But he’s not so different from most of us. Sure, he’s ridiculously fast, but Joe’s mostly a guy who’s absolutely stoked to be outside, experience new things, chat about interesting topics, and then enjoy a cold beer at the end of the trail with good company.