Move over, dirt. Hit the road, pavement. Gravel is all the rage for cycling now.
Yes, you thought gravel was just the bouncy part of the road you tolerated en route to some greater majesty, or just the annoyance responsible for the scar in your knee from a childhood biking crash. No longer. Gravel is enjoying its moment in the sun. And it’s pretty, darn fun.
Think of it like a poor man’s cobble – the American Paris-Roubaix.
The gravel riding scene is a rad cultural mélange between the ultimate clichés of all cycling disciplines. It’s the seriousness of road racing, with the dirt, snot and tears of mountain biking, and the irreverence (hello beer!) of cyclocross. It’s fun, challenging, exhilarating and mentally and physically demanding – just as you’d hope it would be.
Gravel grinding is a national craze right now. Though a few marquee events are already in the rearview mirror for 2014, there’s still time to test your wheels (with the right tires, naturally) and your fitness on gravel before the snow flies. Now is the time to start training for some of the gravel “classics,” too. Here’s a sampling:
Fall Foliage Gravel Grinder 2014 (Massachusetts): 53 miles of leaf-peeping is 53 miles of pretty. Oct. 5, 2014. More info.
Piggy’s Revenge 2015 Offroad Challenge (Florida): In case you like the added excitement of getting chased by wild boar and alligators while you’re sweating your butt off in the Gulf Coast sun. Jan. 11, 2015. More info.
As for the “classics,” start training now for:
Rasputitsa, aka ‘The Coldest Race in the North (Vermont): Unsanctioned, no prizes, 45 miles of barren Vermont back roads and assurances of cold, miserable weather. Sign. Us. Up. This is bike riding at it’s most down and dirty, base, fun level. There is a big after-party, plus bragging rights for finishing. April 11, 2015. More info.
Dirty Kanza 200 (Kansas): While this event can’t take full credit for “starting it all,” the Kansas endurance classic definitely has earned a plaque on the founders’ wall. It was one of the first (if not the first sanctioned event) to mix gravel and endurance racing, and it’s timed to kick-off your racing season. 200 miles of good-spirited pain. May 30, 2015. More info.
For more info on events or gravelistas nearer to you, check out:
- Ridinggravel.com, dedicated to the gravel riding scene in Colorado, it provides an excellent nationwide resource list for gravel enthusiasts.
- For a solid events calendar of gravel rides, races and club events around the country, check out www.gravelgrindernews.com.