It's the best of the more polar, celebrated styles of riding. Much of the speed and distance of road, with the bike handling, dirt and guts of mountain biking combine to create a unique, inspiring type of ride: the gravel grinder. It's a segment of the sport that has grown consistently over the past few years, bringing around massive, grueling events like Trans-Iowa, the Almanzo 100, and Dirty Kanza.
Michigan's own Barry-Roubaix and Lowell 50 have brought the racing aspect to the fore, drawing thousands of riders from all over the Midwest. Northern Michigan is getting in on the act, with two brand new events this fall. The Rock Road 50/50 is September 21, and it's a special combination of Ec's training roads. As implicated in the name, it offers 50 mile and 50km options, with both courses making great use of the famed "There Will Be Blood" route that the guys at the shop use as a training circuit. For race day, a series of hills, reminiscent of the Belgian berg, will break up the peloton early. Those who make it over the three climbs at the start of the lap will have mile after mile of gravel ahead of them before returning to Timber Ridge for the finish.
The other race debuting this fall is the Michigan Mountain Mayhem Gravel Grinder. Leaving from Rotary Park in Boyne City, the course takes on myriad climbs and takes elevation to a whole new level for the 60 mile course. Racers can expect to hit over 3,000 feet of climbing on race day, with the 40 and 20 mile routes quite a bit less. There is simply no better way to prepare for Iceman that to take on challenging, daunting routes like this, and certainly no more enjoyable way either.
Gravel riding gets riders off the pavement, away from traffic, and to new places. We're very lucky to be just a quick ride up Four Mile or Five Mile to get onto any number of gravel roads that lead to hideaways like Kalkaska, Fife Lake, Grayling, or even places south like Kingsley or Karlin. Almost everyone at the shop has a cyclocross or gravel bike set-up and ready to roll at a moment's notice.
Watch the Ec Ride Calendar for more information after Labor Day!