If you look up the word stoke in the English dictionary you will find that it means, “to poke or stir up or supply with fuel” or “to increase the activity, intensity or amount of.”
On highway 58 in the town of Cedar Point, North Carolina, there is an old service station coated in fresh white paint. Outside of the station are lounge chairs and a fire pit. A bicycle leans against the plate glass window and a block letter print alerting visitors that “THE STOKE LIVES HERE” hangs on the wall. It’s fitting that the home of Ridge Supply Co. was once a fueling station. Owner Matt Hawkins is the proverbial fueling station of stoke in his cycling community and beyond. After being struck by a vehicle from behind while out on a ride in 2014, he refocused his pursuits in life and started Ridge Supply Co. on a few hundred dollars and a surplus of passion. Over the last few years, what started as a design on a pair of socks has become its own way of approaching life on the bike. Hawkins has expanded his line of cycling clothing but perhaps, more importantly, the community around the brand has grown as well.
Cedar Point, North Carolina is never a place I would have considered a cycling destination, but the past few years of following what Hawkins and Ridge Supply have been up to have begun to change my opinion. A few short miles down the road from Ridge Supply is the Croatan National Forest. An expanse of tall pines and sandy, dirt access roads that snake for miles away from the buzzing traffic of Interstate 58, the Croatan offers choice riding for the cyclists of Cedar Point. I’ve been seeing regular posts on social media of Hawkins and crew heading out to “shake the dust” as they say. Isolated rides on the back lanes of the Croatan had me intrigued to say the least.
Last weekend, Hawkins, with help of single speeding monster Gordon W. Wadsworth and countless family members and friends, put on the first edition of the Croatan Buck Fifty. The Croatan Buck Fifty is a multiple lap event that takes riders through the heart of the Croatan National Forest and down some of its more challenging passages. As the sun crept over the grandstands of the Carteret County Speedway, riders collected their food and drink for the day and headed towards the starting line. Hawkins and Wadsworth, both straddling Ruckus Scooters, adorned in classic moto helmets, were ready to usher the 200 plus riders out to the course. Greeted by sun and warm temperatures, riders smiled as they exited onto the first stretch of Croatan dirt for what was sure to be a long day on the bike.
As the flames from a controlled burn conducted by the forest service earlier in the week smoldered, Hawkins and Wadsworth were poking and stirring up their own fire.
Riders pedaled their way down seemingly endless stretches of dirt and sand lanes, and twisted and navigated their way through what was the main feature – Savage Road. Less a road and more a mosaic of puddles and ruts from the exploits of local motocross and Jeep enthusiasts, Savage Road added the drama and was the eventual stage for deciding the race amongst the day’s leaders.
It took Bryan Lewis, the eventual winner of the 150-mile route, just over 6 hours to complete the course while the final finisher rolled in 12 hours after they had begun. Regardless if they were one of the fastest on course or were simply there to see how far they could push themselves, the masses were most definitely stoked! For many, the 150-mile route was the farthest they had ever ridden in a single push before, and for Hawkins and Wadsworth, it was a successful first year. While we sat around the Ridge Supply Co. the day after the event recalling the moments of the day before, one thing was clear, the first version of the Croatan Buck Fifty had indeed brought the stoke. With the date for next years event already set (March 16, 2019), you can be sure that there will be an increase in participants looking for their own fire to stoke out in the thick of the Croatan National Forest.