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Why Get Into Gravel Biking? And What Events Are Worth Racing? [Guest Post]

Gravel Biking Top Races

By Tyler Tafelsky

Top Gravel Biking Races

In the cycling world, gravel biking has gained popularity among all types of cyclists. Designed to allow wider tires, disc brakes, and other off-road features, gravel bikes have picked up traction among cyclists looking to get off paved roads but enjoy going fast.

Unquestionably fun and virtually limitless for adventure, a gravel bike provides a renewed sense of freedom that many cyclists seek. Whether you’re new to the scene or have a competitive ambition for racing, below, we discuss why so many athletes are embracing gravel biking and which races are gaining attention throughout the U.S.

Why is Gravel Biking so Popular?

Gravel biking has become popular in the cycling world for its mixed terrain versatility, adventure-ready potential, and go-fast capabilities. Often designed with drop bars which are commonly seen on road bikes, gravel bikes fit wider tires and thereby enable a wider range of unpaved riding surfaces.

As an alternative to road bike races, criteriums, and mountain bike events, gravel bike races and mixed-terrain adventure cycling races have gained interest from all types of endurance athletes. Even professional cyclists and tour riders are trying their hand at some of the top gravel bike events.

Compared to conventional road cycling, a huge draw toward gravel biking is the ability to ride low-traffic, unpaved roads. Not only does this support safer riding, but gravel cycling keeps the cycling journey fun, novel, and adventurous.

Gravel Biking Top Races Forest Trail

5 Awesome Gravel Bike Races Worth Racing

1. Barry-Roubaix

The Barry-Roubaix has gained a reputation as the largest gravel road bike race in the world, and rightfully so. It occurs every year and draws nearly 4,000 athletes to Hastings in Michigan. It’s usually held in the early part of Spring.

The race offers four different distance categories. First is an 18-miler which offers about a thousand feet of climbing. The 36-miler lets you experience some 2,200 fee of climbing, followed by the 62-miler at 3,800 feet, and century (100-miler) which has 6,800 feet of climb.

The Barry-Roubaix is a useful start to the season for bikers of all levels. It is a stunning experience that lets you enjoy the scenery of Barry County. Furthermore, its sheer popularity and community interest will make it every bit worth your time. Visit Barry-Roubaix.com if you wish to know more!

2. The Heywood Ride

Also known as the “Deep South Metro” in the Minneapolis/ St. Paul area, the Heywood takes place each May amid rolling countryside. Types of terrain you will notice include woodlands, prairies and farmland typical of that region.

The Heywood attracts over 500 cyclists annually and features three distances: the 100, 162, and 380-mile courses. The smooth gravel roads get little traffic most times of the year. They’re known to have some steady rollers and steep climbs too.

Located in Northfield, Minnesota, this race calls a college town its main hub. You will find a thriving downtown with no lack of shops and cafés.  Visit TheHeywoodRide.com to find out more.

3. Crusher in the Tushar

This race is a definite YES for individuals who love climbing in rocky and mountainous regions.

Held in mid-July in Beaver, Utah, the Crusher in the Tushar has trails that are made up of 40% tarmac and 60% gravel. Its claim to fame is the stunning landscape of the Tushar Mountains.

This 70-mile route boasts over ten thousand feet of challenging elevation gain. Racers begin at a height of 6,000 feet, overcome some huge mountain slopes in excess of 4,000 feet, and polish off the race at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Speedy bikers can complete the course within five hours!

Visit TusharCrusher.com for more information.

4. Unbound Gravel

Unbound Gravel Biking Top Race Kansas

Within the U.S., Unbound Gravel is one of the more acclaimed gravel bike races. It  used to be known as Dirty Kanza. While it has a choice of short-distance races, it also includes a 200-mile race and an XL-course that runs for some 350 miles.

The town of Emporia, Kansas comes alive annually in early June. The long-distance courses hug the remote roads of Kansas’ Flint Hills area, running through some natural grassland.

The race attracts several thousand gravel bikers, but not all participants have the ability to complete it. This competition is extremely challenging with substantial climbing portions and sweltering weather.

Learn more at UnboundGravel.com.

5. Moran 166

This is a relatively new gravel bike race put on by Bearclaw Bicycle Co. Based in Moran, Michigan, it is located north of the Mackinac Bridge in the Upper Peninsula.

Nestled in the Hiawatha National Forest, the Moran 166 is a long-distance Fall event that combines the scenic with speed. Urban developments are few and far between. Competitors can expect to encounter plenty of breathtaking views and wildlife.

The trail is made up of very fine U.P. gravel roads lined with hardwoods, evergreens, and wetlands. There are very few intersections. Bikers can look forward to two-tracks deep in the forest, fast action, and pristine gravel roads.

You can find out more about this race at Moran166.com.

Gravel Biking Top Races

Is Buying a Gravel Bike Worth the Money?

The decision to invest in a gravel bike will depend on your riding preferences and budget. For those who wish to ride both paved and unpaved roads but cannot afford a beginner road bike and gravel bike, the latter will accommodate both types of terrain. The price, however, will dramatically vary.

In many cases, you should be ready to pay between $2,000 and $3,000 for a quality gravel bike that enables your potential as a competitive or adventure cyclist. In this price range, you can find a great carbon or lightweight aluminum gravel bike.

For higher-end options designed from better quality materials, we recommend a titanium gravel bike or a carbon gravel bike. While more expensive options will cost upwards of $5,000 or more, the performance, comfort, and longevity can not be beat, especially with high-end titanium.

Gravel biking is known for adding a combination of thrill and adventure to the cycling experience. It takes cycling to the next level and provides cyclists with a novel sense of exploration and exhilarating discoveries. The incredible scenery and race-day accomplishments felt along the way make gravel biking one of the most appealing riding types for all types of bike riders.


Images: Unsplash/ Derrick Cooper, Mary Hammel and Viktor Bystrov

Originally published: https://bettertriathlete.com/bike/gravel-bikes/

About The Author

The post was contributed by Tyler Tafelsky, a passionate cyclist, multisport athlete, and blogger for BetterTriathlete.com. From racing triathlon to ultra-distance adventure bike races, Tyler enjoys exploring many facets of endurance sports and shares his knowledge and experiences through blogging.