All year long, gravel races and events seem to pop up in towns across the US. With its approachability, it’s no surprise that “gravel” has become so popular with cyclists in disciplines spanning the continuum between mountain and road riding. IMO, the most successful of these races are the ones that embrace and exemplify the values and character of the communities in which they are based. Having lived in Fort Collins, CO for nearly fifteen years, the FoCo Fondo is a special one for me, as it shows off some of Northern Colorado’s incredible mixed surface riding with multiple expertly-curated routes while also fostering an inclusive and comfortable environment for a diverse group of riders.
The route is just under 1,000km tracing the Westfjords of Iceland, the most remote area of a sparsely inhabited country in the Arctic. The challenge is to finish the mixed gravel and pavement route in 4 stages. The weather can be harsh. The wind can be fierce. But that’s what makes this place. It’s stunning and it’s brutal. Treeless mountains rise out of the sea. There’s very little development. Beyond a flawless road system, humans have left little impression. It’s a wild place and we get to ride our bikes through it.
“It’s the best” must be one of the most common, purely subjective statements made so regularly with enthusiastic conviction. We do it all the time, but it’s ludicrous. You have to define a word like “best” in your own terms. It’s a value statement. Saying something is the best only tells you a little bit about the thing in question, but a lot about the person saying it and what they value. What’s the best gear ratio for a single-speed 29er? What’s the best tire choice for a course that’s littered with mud pits, rooty singletrack, and rock gardens, but is also interspersed with long, hot, 15 miles stretches of pavement? Do you like to mash or spin? Are you a confident bike handler and want to make the long road stretches easier? Are you strong-legged and get annoyed at spinning out on the flats?
So what am I really saying when I write that the MountainCat 100 is the best bike race in America?
It’s been over a decade since I’d been to Emporia to help establish Unbound Gravel’s Crew For Hire program. The world is a great deal different now. Having spoken at length with Kristi Mohn about things like generational change I was curious to see what, if any, of those changes had taken place in not just Emporia but also in the Unbound Gravel event itself. There was also the tragic passing of Moriah Wilson, the induction of the first class of the Gravel Hall of Fame, and a variety of other things going on that really made this year’s Unbound Gravel more significant than most.
Every day that I spent in Emporia had its own moments that showed me something new and unexpected. There were signs of the massive changes the cycling community, industry, and Emporia itself are going through. I witnessed grief, loss, love, and more. Throughout everything, there was one common theme: People who were doing the best they could.
The weather was the hot goss around Emporia during the week of UNBOUND Gravel 2022. “Will it rain?” “How hot will it be?” “What tires are you running?” “Oh look, the forecast changed!”
There’s more than 4,000 miles of graded dirt roads in Plumas National Forest connecting a dozen quaint and remote mountain communities across Plumas and Lassen County, California. The landscapes are stunning, from majestic mountain meadows bursting with wildflowers to craggy granite peaks and glacially carved mountain lakes. Hidden cabins and remnants of the Gold Rush can be found everywhere along the way. The only thing you don’t see much of in the backcountry of Plumas County is people, which is why this region is quickly becoming known as The Gravel Capital of the West.
6:27 a.m., Friday the 13th, 2022. Twenty-four grown-ass adults are walking around in circles ringing bells and there is a dude wearing a Scream mask counting down the minutes until a bike ride begins. What the F%#k is going on?
This year’s edition of Grinduro California had been delayed twice. Once in 2020 because of increasing COVID infection rates, and again last year due to the Northern California fire conditions. After this many-year delay, Giro’s Grinduro event emerged into a new, and very different, world.
The following is a love letter to Cyclocross and in particular photographing cyclocross. During the 2018-2019 season, I was blessed to attend a few races and got a chance to shoot freely and candidly with no one expecting anything from me but everyone letting me in and close. I had no idea what was about to happen to me, under the lashing rain of Overijse, a small cold flemish town, I fell in love with cycling once again, a way I never expected, cold, easy, mind-blowing and everlasting.
“We get to play like kids in the mud but as adults, what else could be better?” – Rebecca Gross
We are beyond excited to report that after 9 days, 8 hours, and 23 minutes our dear friend Lael Wilcox has established a new overall fastest known time for the 800-mile Arizona Trail Individual Time Trial*!
Tackling the Arizona Trail at a record-setting pace, from the Mexico border to the Utah state line, is one of the most grueling cycling challenges in the world and we couldn’t be more excited for Lael’s accomplishment. In the coming weeks, we’ll be featuring a full report from Lael’s time on the trail in addition to a short film from Rue Kaladyte. In the meantime, head over to Lael’s Instagram and send her a virtual high-five!
Edited on 4.23.2022 for clarity: We have correspondences with John Schilling, the organizer of the AZTR, where he reached out to Rue, the videographer and Lael’s wife about the media rule. Lael and Rue accept the * by their time for breaking the media coverage rule implemented in 2019. Previous records still stand.
The Arizona National Scenic Trail is 800 miles of singletrack, stretching from the Mexican border to the Utah border and traversing most of the state’s major mountain ranges. With initial development in the 1990s, the hiking trail passes through several wilderness areas, requiring bike detours. The current bike route is 827 miles, including a 24-mile required bike portage through the Grand Canyon (wheels can’t touch the ground).
A strange sensation grips the mind when a long drive begins in the darkness of predawn. The city remains still, holding onto its final few hours of sleep, and the highway remains virtually empty. There is a promise in the loneliness of the opening hours of long highway travel. Exits flutter by in the darkness; distant lights of tractor-trailers and roadside oasis’ are the only possible signs of life beyond the confines of my car. The falling snow has narrowed my concentration to the reflecting lines on the asphalt as I navigate south and west on my way to Fayetteville, Arkansas, for this year’s Cyclocross World Championships.
Here in the Mid-Atlantic we have a great ‘cross scene. Most races tend to have geat spectator crowds, full fields, interesting and varied courses, and, thanks to the highly variable and mid-atlantic climate, weather that spans from the hot and dusty to absurdly muddy in any given season. There is a lot to like in the Mid-Atlantic if you like cyclocross.
Into the Lion’s Den was a criterium race event held in Sacramento, CA this past October over Halloween weekend. It represented L39ion of Los Angeles‘ vision for the future of crit racing in America. Four members of the Bay Area creative collective, Photo Pace, were there to document the event. Read on below for Christopher Stricklen’s experiential reportage accompanied by immersive photography from Rj Agcamaran, Emily Cheng, and Kyle Thornhill.
Trans Cascadia explored a new region this year in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. This land is the traditional indigenous territory of the Wenatchi and Syilx people. As a blind enduro, racers are given each day’s map the night before, with no chance to explore the trail prior. Race Director Nick Gibson was excited to get started. “I’m stoked to get people on course after a year’s delay. We’re excited to show people this area, this is the first-ever bike race on these trails.”
With a full volunteer staff, spending countless hours in preparation, racers shuttled into Foggy Dew Campsite, their home for the next 5 days. A remote backcountry experience with all the amenities save cell service, racers are treated to a camp that feels more like a living village. After Covid testing and orientation, participants devoured a stunning southern-inspired meal prepared by Hannah Carlos of The Bayou Catfish under the stars…
The beauty of bikes is in the people who ride them—and how they all have a story. I have little doubt that everyone—serious riders, aeroed and grimaced, and carefree cruisers alike—have experienced that epiphanous fresh-air feeling of freedom that accompanies spinning your legs astride two wheels. Sometimes we just enjoy it at the moment—letting the short-lived wave of release and clarity wash over us during a weeknight burrito run, or a trip to the coffee shop. Other times we chase that feeling down with the hope that, somehow, it might change our life.
What first intrigued me about Josh Uhl was, however, not his history with bikes but his podcast Here For Now, which he started in February of 2021. Josh uses this platform to have intentional and intimate conversations with his guests about motivation, struggle, and the big whys of life. Listening to an early episode with Peter Hogan, where the recovering addict asserts that “Bikes aren’t God,” and to a later episode where the writer Zoe Röm reflects on the delusion of “authenticity” on social media, I found myself frequently nodding along. Yes, exactly.
The towns of Marathon, Marfa, and Terlingua are the gems of Texas, where the Chihuahuan Desert plateau crosses into the Trans-Pecos area of West Texas. This is where the mountainous West intersects with the rolling limestone hills of Texas, resulting in stunning vistas, diverse wildlife, vistas, and the mighty Rio Grande. “Rio Grande Gravel” is a new gravel race coming to Marfa on November 13th. This event is sponsored by Red Bull and the registration is opening on September 17th. See the full press release from Red Bull below, along with some more photos featuring Colin Strickland and Payson McElveen…
“Expect the Unexpected”
The MGR is a 650 km gravel route, 4 stages, about 8000 meters of elevation,
some like to call it a disguised mountain bike race with a bit of gravel,
some will argue that this is the spirit of gravel, a limitless exploration of where the bike can take you.