Gravel bike races have become a very popular outdoor event. People who love cycling have taken to gravel bikes and are now looking for races and large events.
A gravel bike race is a challenging and fun event that attracts a lot of people. Many are held in beautiful locations.
We scour the gravel bike race landscape and find a few that stand out. These are the top ten.
Rooted Vermont Race
This race in early August offers beautiful summer riding in hilly Vermont.
The race was started just outside Burlington by Ted King and Laura King, both professional riders. There are some amazing gravel roads along the route, with a few Class 4 gravel stretches (often called Jeep roads). The race covers 82 miles and involves 8,000 feet of climbing. Each climb is a short steep climb.
This stretch is very rocky and chunky. These surfaces are not only hard on the quads, but also create problems. You will need to be able to ride your bike on rough terrain if you are going to attempt this type of race. It is a scenic race with lush mountains, rural pastures and many red barns.
Riders have two choices. Riders have two options. They can choose to take the Little Sip course which is shorter than that of the Sip of Sunshine. This course is shorter and covers 48 miles with 4,000 feet of climbing.
The Vermont Overland is another great race in Vermont. It’s a late August race that features several hundred participants.
Rooted Vermont participants can find accommodation in the region. It is possible to get accommodation in a limited area. It is a good idea to book early. There are many lodges and hotels in Waterbury and Burlington. Riders can camp on the site as well, but it is limited in space.
Fistful of Dirty Race
Wyoming’s Fistful of Dirt, an early September race, takes place in the state. This is a relatively recent high plains race that starts at approximately 5,000 feet. If you’re a flatlander, altitude can play a role. This race will give cyclists a taste for hills and mountains. You can choose to ride the 20-mile, 62 mile, or 100-mile race. This is determined by your fitness level as well as how long you plan to be riding that day.
The course is 100 miles long and covers the North Fork Highway. Riders can enjoy the stunning view of Yellowstone National Park to the West. The climb to the top of 5,50 feet is something riders should be prepared for.
You can expect lots and lots of gravel on the surface, but not much flat. It is not difficult to find a grade of 5% if you’ve been to Cody. The 100-mile “ugly” route has some steep climbing in the last third, but you can finish the race with a multi-mile descent back to Cody.
Riders are encouraged and encouraged to bring their friends and families, as the race is very accommodating in terms of your abilities. You can also enjoy a variety of activities throughout the weekend, such as the evening backyard barbecue or live band performances.
Wyoming has a strong racing scene in gravel, and we nearly added The Dead Swede (a little further east) to the list. There is a good chance Wyoming will feature two races when we expand our list.
There are many Cody hotels that will provide accommodation for your needs during the event. If you prefer camping, there are a number of campgrounds in the Cody area.
You want to put yourself through a serious test? Ride gravel at high altitude! Steamboat Gravel may be the race for you.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is located at 6,800 feet. This course will reach up to around 8,050 feet in parts. Although there will be a lot of climbing, you’ll be distracted by the beautiful views. You will have fun in Steamboat and the surroundings.
The August race is a hugely popular race, with many people coming from far and wide to participate. There are 144, 100 and 64 miles. You can expect to climb approximately 9,000 feet on the long course. The century covers 6,500 feet. It is difficult to find flats in this area of Colorado so the climbs continue.
The race will be called the SBT GRVL, which is how it’s branded. This should not be confusing. SBT GRVL = Steamboat gravel. This race is fast approaching an iconic status within the gravel community.
This race fills quickly so be sure to mark it on your calendar if you’re interested in signing up. Usually, registration closes within 24 hours. Many people mark this race on the calendar.
The largest gravel bike race in the world, which they call The Largest, takes place in Hastings (Michigan). Although this race doesn’t have insane mountain climbs at high altitudes like some of the others on this list it presents a unique challenge. It throws at you a lot of different things: pavement gravel, double-track, rollers, hills and even more depending on what the weather is like.
The Barry Roubaix is unique in that it takes places in the North Country and in March. What type of surfaces will you find in March? You never know. Perhaps perfection. Perhaps mud. Perhaps snow. It’s possible.
This race has many facets that make it unique. You will face all sorts of obstacles and encounter every kind of terrain. It is important to have all the gear you need for any conditions. You won’t know how the day will unfold until you are a couple of days before.
Racers need to be ready for anything, due to the soft gravel.
Distance options vary from 18 to 32 to as high as 62 to 100. There will be a distance that suits your level of fitness depending on when you come out of winter. The popularity of this race is steadily increasing, with an impressive 3,300+ participants in the pre-pandemic years.
The Gravel Grinder
Are you looking for mountain gravel in beautiful country? You can ride in southern Utah near Cedar City or Reyo. Both the Volcano 120K and Fire Road 100K races are held in May and August, respectively. You can search for photos of Zion National Park to find out where Cedar City or Reyo are. Beautiful and must-see material.
These routes are made up of a lot of gravel and you will be riding at elevations of approximately 6,000 for most of the day. Hydration is essential. These parts don’t have much shade and the August highs can reach 90 degrees. This is the best race for good food and water.
Utah has a fantastic gravel biking scene. We would also consider the Gravel Grinder and the Utah version Belgian waffle. Both offer great routes with plenty of challenge. We prefer the Gravel Grinder, as it feels more local and has a unique setting.
Although the Gravel Grinder rides are not very popular, we anticipate that this will change in the future as more people discover about the amazing riding and beautiful scenery. You can choose to stay in Cedar City, or St. George for racers. We recommend staying for at least two more days to see the wonderful National Parks around the area.
You’ve probably heard of the Belgian Waffle, or the shorter version, the Wafer, if you have ever studied gravel biking races. This is not the race for beginners. You will encounter some gnarly terrain. It can be described as a cross- or mountain bike race. However, you will also see many people riding their gravel bikes.
You will be amazed at how rugged California can look. The course is held in and around San Diego. You will be able to ride on a variety of terrain, including gravel roads and coastal riding, single-track, dirt, and off-road riding. If you have the right tires (ideally 40mm), you can handle the off-road, but it will be difficult for many riders regardless of what bike they ride.
There are three main lengths to the ride: The 130+ miler, the 70 and 35 miles. Although the routes can change from year to year due to the difficulties of running a race in this region, they tend to follow a similar pattern. Although none of these routes is easy, if you’re just curious about the process, try one of the shorter ones.
The ride is in the late April/early May. Although altitude and temperatures won’t play a major role, the terrain is challenging, with rocky terrain that offers a little bit of everything. There is plenty of climbing on the inland legs. The Belgian Waffle race series features gravel rides in North Carolina, Kansas, Utah and Kansas.
Le Grand du Nord/Hail to the North
Minnesota has a serious gravel bike scene. Two races were held in Northern Minnesota by the same group. This is what makes North Country gravel biking so special.
The Le Grand du Nord bike race takes place around Memorial Day. It starts from Grand Marais (MN) on the shores Lake Superior. The 100+ mile gravel race takes you through beautiful wilderness on pristine gravel roads. Most of these roads seem to be rollers.
Heck of the North, a race that takes place in September, is challenging. It is located in Two Harbors, just a little further from Le Grand du Nord. Although it doesn’t have as much climbing as Le Grand du Nord, the surfaces make up for this. As you try to cover 100 miles or more, you will come across rough, rocky tracks, single- and double-track, and even grass.
You will need a good computer for navigation on both of these courses. You will often be alone on the course, with no other riders. It is difficult to mark the entire race because of its length.
Le Grand du Nord is for those who want to climb more but also have more gravel roads. Heck of the North offers slightly less climbing, but more forest service and rough fire roads. If you’re interested in gravel racing, these races should be on your calendar.
Enjoy a relaxing weekend on the North Shore away from traffic and the hustle and bustle of the city.
Garmin Unbound Gravel
An iconic east-central Kansas race called the Dirty Kanza, may have been the first to introduce gravel racing, at least for larger events. The Garmin Unbound Gravel is the name of the event, which is probably a better one but still a very popular race. Emporia, Kansas is home to one the USA’s most prestigious gravel events. It has approximately 25,000 residents. Emporia could be described as “East Central Kansas”.
This race is for you if you enjoy riding on gravel roads through rolling farmland. The distances of the race are divided into five categories: 200, 100, 50 and 25. The 100-mile race is more hilly than you might think. It has approximately 4,800 feet of climbing. Most of this comes in the form long, gradual, low-grade inclines or rollers. The 100 has the most climb in the first 25 miles. This is just to give an idea of what you can expect.
This race is great for those who want to experience a larger race. The total number of finishers for all four races will range from 1,000 to 2,000 in most years, with most of them taking the longer routes. Emporia can be reached easily from Kansas City or other major routes. There are plenty of accommodations to accommodate weekend visitors.
The race is held in June. Make sure to bring plenty of water. You won’t get much shade on the course because of the high temperatures in June.
It’s not hard to see that gravel biking is very popular in the United States. It didn’t take long for gravel riding to make you think, “Hey, there might be a race?” These races are great races we have either tried or shared with our cycling friends. These races are all on our bucket lists, along with about 20 others.