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Gravel Grinders are Today’s new and refreshing road biking events. These are rides or races that mostly take place on gravel roads instead of on pavement. Participation is open to everyone, with no sanctioning or license needed.
I first took part in Rasputitsa in 2014 and I’m not sure I’ve ever had more fun on a bike. I only placed 48th, but I’d never been happier. I had a blast! How could I be bored with the massively amazing start, the friendly peeps, the strava segment, the maple syrup shots at the top of Cyberia*, all with the fun of being surrounded by a small group riding and attacking the hills?
*Cyberia: a segment of Rasputitsa where you may… or may not… be able to ride your bike…
Rasputitsa attracts a wide variety of participants: roadies, mountain bikers, cyclo-crossers, riders on borrowed bikes and bearded single-speed dudes. Even the odd pro shows up sometimes! It makes out for a thrilling ride for everyone; you can to hang on to a group that matches your skill set, and hope for the best!
You don’t really need a cyclo-cross bike for the event, even though it’s on a gravel road. I’ve been using my road bike with 700x28 tires, and my friend used his regular 700x23 road tires and rode just fine! Some guys even showed up with fat bikes at Rasputitsa, and certainly found themselves riding with a certain edge in Cyberia!
Like trail is to running, gravel races are not mainstream and probably won’t be (thank God) but the phenomenon is growing, and you can find more and more of them out there. The Après Vélo party is always certainly the highlight of the day - complete with a BBQ, local beer and your fellow adventurers’ stories of their day.
Dirty 40 and 100 à B7 are two very good organizations that offer fun days rife with challenges that are well worth the post-race endorphins payoff:
Raputitsa in April http://www.dirty40race.com/
Dirty40 on September 5th http://www.dirty40race.com/
100@B7 on October 4th http://100b7.com/index.php
Do yourself a favor and tackle some dirt this summer!