Why has gravel riding become the fastest growing style of cycling? Gravel grinding or adventure riding combines elements of both road and mountain biking. It consists of riding long distances over unpaved, rocky terrain through dirt, gravel, and forest roads. Although gravel roads are more technically challenging, they are also less trafficked and tend to be more scenic. If you are ready to take on the challenge, read on for some of the best gravel biking events in America.
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The Barry-Roubaix has been dubbed the world’s largest gravel road race. This gravel biking event is styled after the Paris-Roubaix spring classic and features a wide range of terrain through the scenic roads of Barry County. The race is composed of 80% rolling gravel roads with one mile of rough, two tracks with rocks, sand, and mud. In some years, riders have had to ride through snow and ice on the roads of Barry County. There are 4 main race lengths:
- The 22-mile Lauf Chiller ~ 1200 feet of ascent.
- The 36-mile Smith Optics Thriller ~ 2200 feet of ascent.
- The 62-mile SRAM Killer ~ 3800 feet of ascent.
- The 100-mile Panaracer Psycho Killer ~ 6800 feet of ascent
Which of these competitive courses would you choose to take on? The prize for completing this grueling race is up to $32K in cash rewards. It is no surprise that in 2019, over 3,5000 riders participated in the Barry-Roubaix. For more information, visit the Barry-Roubaix road race site.
The Dirty Kanza 200 is the world’s premier endurance gravel biking event. Riders will find themselves on the rugged roads of the Flint Hills region of east-central Kansas. Due to its difficulty, the Dirty Kanza is not an event for entry-level cyclists. The course route is in a remote area with no towns or stores in between checkpoints. The few checkpoints that are available occur every 50-80 miles on the route. This race is meant to challenge the self-sufficiency of participants since riders are on their own for the whole 200 miles. So, are you ready to take on the challenge? However, not all riders who wish to participate actually can. Changes in the registration process means that riders now have to enter a lottery for a chance to be this race. You can find more details about this at their official site Dirty Kanza.
Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnée
The Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnée (D2R2) is the best gravel biking event in New England. Riders have said the roads on this course are not only the narrowest, but also the most winding and scenic roads in the country. The event offers 7 course options for a wide range of disciplines and levels. The longest course is the 180k with steep climbs (20 percent grade) and steep descents. Navigation is also part of the challenge because the course is not marked, and riders will need to rely on cue sheets. Rest stops can be found every 20-30 miles where riders can replenish with drinks and snacks. Included in the registration is breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even a pint of ale from the Berkshire Brewing Company. There are no awards and finisher results are never posted. The experience is what makes the race so popular! This event is also a fundraiser for the Franklin Land Trust, and their site provide all the details for upcoming events.
San Marcos, California
The Canyon Belgian Waffle Ride (BWR) is a unique event that attracts world-class cyclists from around the world. This Euro-style spring classic has a cult following of racers from cylocross, road, mountain, and gravel biking. Every year the course changes. In 2019, the event was 133 miles total with 46 miles of dirt and 12,000 ft of elevation. So don’t let the name deceive you, this race is a challenge. Riders also have the option of participating in the Canyon Belgian Wafer Ride. This course is 74 miles with 6,500 feet of elevation, and is the perfect choice for beginner gravel riders. Before the race, revelers and riders are treated to a Belgium waffle breakfast. During and after the race, anyone can enjoy ale from the Lost Abbey Brewery and food from Gear Grinder Grill. Don't hesitate to sign up, registration opens in December and spots sell out fast!
Get Out There!
Now that you have read up on the best gravel biking events in America, which event are you most excited to conquer? Make sure to jump on the registration as spots fill up fast!
If you are looking for a new gravel bike before you hit the grind, check out our buyer’s guide for the best gravel bike options of 2019. Running the right tire set up is also important at these events so read up on our top tire picks. The proper equipment is essential to take on some of these grueling events. At the end of the day, just get out there and enjoy the experience!