Photo by Eric Benjamin
WHAT IS A GRAVEL GRINDER?
Simply put, it is an endurance bicycle race on gravel roads. They are amateur-level races geared toward cyclists looking for a life-changing event that includes a good amount of physical suffering, MMR’s, open range, cattle, and of course, gravel. The granddaddy of the scene has to be the Trans-Iowa, a 320-ish-mile race. That event in turn inspired the Dirty Kanza 200, currently the most popular gravel grinder.
Minimum maintenance road. These roads are usually made up of mostly dirt with some gravel. They can be overgrown with weeds, can have washouts from rain, and can be quite technical in nature, although some dirt roads, if dry, can be as smooth as a baby’s butt and as fast as pavement. With rain, MMR’s can become a cyclist’s worst nightmare.
An area with no fences where cattle graze unencumbered by boundaries of any kind. These are common in the Flint Hills of the Dirty Kanza 200. Once a cyclist crosses over the cattle guards into open range, he or she shares the land with the cattle and must be careful not to get trampled.
This is what happens when you mix a midwestern storm with an MMR during a gravel grinder. The mud is impassable no matter what kind of fancy tires a cyclist may have. The only choice is to pick up the bike and walk.
LOW WATER CROSSINGS:
Leading through the countryside, gravel roads occasionally cross over streams or small rivers. Care must be taken going through these as rocks waiting to shred sidewall may be hiding under the surface.
A FEW WEBSITES
• The Pirate Cycling League (and the Gravel Worlds): www.piratecyclingleague.blogspot.com
• The Dirty Kanza 200: www.dirtykanza200.com
• Trans-Iowa: www.transiowa.blogspot.com
• Gravel Grinder News: www.gravelgrindernews.com