A new trend is emerging in the cycling world as bicyclists from all walks of life step away from paved roads and designated paths, favoring unpaved, gravel roads.
“’Gravel riding’ is an unfortunate name for something that really means riding anything beyond just a truly paved road,” Gerard Vroomen, co-founder of the Canadian bike company, Cervélo Cycles, told Worth magazine.
The rush for going down the road less traveled, unplugging and exploring are among the appeals of gravel bike racing.
“You really lose the stress of riding on the road with the cars, traffic lights and everything else that is competing for your attention,” Justin Kelly, CEO and CIO of Winslow Capital Management in Minneapolis told Worth.
And now, the trend is making its way to Michigan.
For those into cycling, mud and challenging adventures, southeast Michigan’s first mid-length gravel bike race, The Watermoo, is scheduled for Aug. 8.
The course of this cycling road race will start and finish in Chelsea, Mich. and go through farmland, the Waterloo Recreation Area and even cross the Portage River and require participants to get off their bikes.
Nicholas Stanko, the event director and one of the creative minds behind the course, has been working on developing the perfect path for over three years.
“I have been riding my bike out to different bridges, abandoned bridges, and just seeing if there was a river crossing,” he said. “I was out on a ride one day and going through his part of the (Waterloo Recreation Area) and they had an old bridge hat they had just taken down. I was kind of like ‘maybe this is the time to do it.'”
Stanko says he created the race to bridge the gap between shorter and longer distance races and encourage participants to jump into the ultra cycling world.
“It allows somebody to take other step into the longer racing,” he said. “The course is pretty challenging too, so 88 miles on that terrain is almost worth 100 in a lot of other races.”
But don’t let the challenge scare you.
Stanko says that, although some experience would be helpful, there will be a wide spectrum of participants at the race and his team’s goal is to help everyone succeed.
“I hope it is a good challenge for people and that they feel, when they get done, that they earned their beverages and food and are happy with their effort out there,” he said.
Registration is now open for The Watermoo and three other smaller races organized by Stanko.
The smaller races, Stanko said, are meant for “getting people into cycling so that they can feel comfortable out there on the gravel roads because it is different and it can be intimidating at first.”
They are free, short and meant to give future participants of The Watermoo a taste of what the longer race will entail.
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