Gravel what? Yep! You read it right – gravel grinders! Gravel Grinder 101: are popping up all over the country. Generally, they are unsanctioned, unsupported endurance bicycle races on primarily gravel and dirt roads, with little or no outside support, course markings, fees or prizes. There are no governing bodies, race officials, or licenses. Just a dedicated race organizer and some volunteers plotting out a unique course highlighting local, out-of-the-way sights and sounds, with unapologetic bike geeks gathering for a long day of riding. For many cyclist, gravel grinder experiences are the newest and most sought after events. Here’s why these races are growing in popularity.
Gravel Grinder Racing: What You Need to Get Started are gravel road races and rides that combine riding on surfaces such as asphalt, gravel, dirt, some singletrack trails and maintenance or B roads. The courses vary from hard-packed dirt to softball-sized rocks. The distance usually ranges between 50 and 150 miles, but can be even longer. Two of the most popular events are the Dirty Kanza 200 and the Trans Iowa, which are both over 200 miles long. Cyclist ride an assortment of bikes. Over the past few years, the market for gravel grinder specific bikes has exploded. These bikes are similar to cyclocross bikes but have a geometry that’s more suitable for riding all day as opposed to short, one-hour races.
Yet, you’ll see many on mountain bikes and more cyclist tend to ride cyclocross bikes. If you’re curious about an event, don’t shy away from it because you don’t have the “right” bike. Just get the right bike parts and cycling accessories to meet your needs. Because of the terrain type, you’ll be riding through dirt, dust, and possibly mud and sludge. With that being said, you’ll definitely want to liberally coat your chain with chain lube and be sure to carry a small container of chain lube with you on your ride.
You might be wondering what is the appeal of a gravel grinder race? Basically, it’s adventure! Gravel races usually offer up the “most adventurous” roads of your area. These can be forest roads, minimum maintenance roads,or an abandoned jeep road. Don’t let this intimidate you if it’s something you don’t typically ride. Most of these roads lead you to something pretty cool, like an old farmstead, bridge, a beautiful hidden valley or grand vista. The adventure rests in exploring areas you typically wouldn’t explore.
Making the best of the adventure is training properly for a gravel grinder. Gravel grinders bring together different disciplines of cycling. First, the courses are designed to be technically difficult requiring good bike handling skills. Second, depending on the location, the route could be very hilly and offer different types of climbs from short and steep to long sections. Finally, most gravel grinders are lengthy, not necessarily in distance, but in time required to complete them. Read, How to Train for a Gravel Grinder for more tips on training for a gravel grinder event.
Why not try something new? Embrace the new cycling discipline! Try a new adventure! Why? Because with any given gravel grinder event, there’s an adventure out there waiting for you!