I knew nothing of the lore of gremlin bells when I signed on for Ozark Gravel DOOM, at the urging of a friend after a coveted spot opened in the sold-out 2023 event. The race had been on my radar for some time, though I was intimidated by its 390-mile, mostly dirt, route that starts and finishes at the iconic Oark General Store, in a small town by the same name, and traces the boundary of Arkansas’ Ozark St. Francis National Forest. Anything billed as a throwdown by one of the hardest riders around – route designer and event organizer, Andrew Onermaa – was sure to test my limits.
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?
My mom worries about me when I’m out riding my bike, for multiple days at a time, alone. By the way, I turned 30 in March. She says it’s not that she doesn’t trust me, it’s other people she’s worried about. And while she’s never outlined this explicitly, I’m sure the fact that I’m an only daughter—not an only son—also plays a role. But, to her credit, she’s getting more comfortable (or, better at hiding her discomfort) with the idea of me pursuing solo endeavors. This time around, when I called her from the car to let her know I was en route to the Ozarks to attempt an Individual Time Trial on the 380-mile Ozark Gravel Doom route, instead of a flat-lined, “…what?” I heard her pause, then—on the tail-end of an exhale—say, “Okay.”
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.
Ted King might be familiar with road and gravel racing but ultra-endurance bikepacking is new to him. Follow along as he takes off on a 1,000+ mile adventure across the NWA, Northwest Arkansas. From Fayetteville and deep into the Ozarks in just under five days.
Our friends at Education First Pro Cycling, aka that cool team in pink, sent over a whole grip of images shot by Jordan Haggard from their team camp in Arkansas this past weekend. We were supposed to head out to experience this first hand but had prior engagements. So, without further adieu, check it all out below!
On the Arkansas/Missouri border lies Tablerock Lake, one of the most expansive lakes west of the Mississippi River. The area is also home to an expansive MTB network, Eureka Springs. A group of riders took to the wake and shredded the trails in the same day.
Happy Father’s Day!
On our road trip up to Bozeman for the Swift Campout, we mosied up through Abiquiu to visit some friends who own a nice little tract of land in the hills. At a favorite lunch stop of ours, we bumped into a father and son bikepacking duo from Arkansas. They are riding the Tour Divide from south to north, beginning in New Mexico. They were 14 days into their trip when we bumped into them. They looked cooked!
Arkansas is a MTB riding destination for many people in the Southern United States and beyond. This video featuring Jimmy Smith shows why!