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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Where's best to gravel grind in US?

Old 09-05-19, 04:04 AM
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GmanUK65
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Where's best to gravel grind in US?

I live in UK and I'm planning to have a gravel grinding holiday in the US somewhere between April and September but don't know where in the US to go. Which counties are the best for gravel grinding?
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Old 09-05-19, 04:19 AM
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I have a friend who's bound and determined to do the Dirty Kanza ride:

https://dirtykanza.com/

I can only assume that there has to be beau coup gravel roads in the area.
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Old 09-05-19, 05:33 AM
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Being used to the UK....the thing about this part of the world, generally, the *average* farmer-family works 1,000 acres of land. The normal farm family owns and works 2,000-4,000 acres of land. That is right, 4 people living and working a farm bigger than many countries. Result being you don't ride 50-100km to the next town, you ride 50-100km to the next family ranch.

A few things to conjure with:

A) Are you planning on bringing a bike, or renting one, or buying one?

Many places out here on the Great Plains, you'll need/want a 40mm+ tire bike if you don't have one. Possibly 50mm+ depending on the conditions and where. If you don't have one, you'll want it. Here in Lancaster County Nebraska, the Department of Roads dumps truck loads of pea-gravel which is the nominal definition of a "gravel road". You won't be able to go anywhere really without 40mm tires. You'll frequently want a drop-bar MTB moreso than a Spec Roubaix or the like. Next door in Thurston you'll see much more MMR/dirt road.

B) Do you have plans in place for transit?

Much of the area--there's NO infrastructure like airports to just fly in and get to where the gravel is out here. And WRT (A) there's no near bikeshops or nearby anything. Places like My Fair city (LNK) are an exception as it is surrounded by farm land and lots of county dirt/gravel roads.

Bigger urban areas with bigger airports---you'll need a car with a bike rack to get to where the gravel is.

C) Are you planning on camping or hoteling it? Hotels are going to limit you because (B)....there's little out there but farm fields.


Not knowing what time of the year you're coming makes it a bit of a crapshoot. You'll be looking at daytime temps 35C in High Summer with high dewpoints, best time to ride and get miles in is starting before sun-up. This year we've had massive rain problems and flooding, making many roads impassible whether dirt or paved. Out here, outside of major highways--most roads are dirt/gravel....Hence why Gravel Worlds and Dirty Kanza and the like have so many route options every year---there's no infrastructure (and no money for it) so there are tons of options.
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Old 09-05-19, 05:57 AM
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I would be planning on bringing my own bike and would desirably like to be in places where the weather is slightly better than British temperatures 30 degrees centigrade at most, hence the time of year. I would like to be somewhere where I can enter an event as well as doing gravel grinding myself. I would prefer not to camp so towns that near to gravel would be my preference
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Old 09-05-19, 06:02 AM
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D2R2 is pretty awesome. can do a lot of roads around it other than the event or drive a bit north more and do more vermont gravel which is also great. bring low gears
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Old 09-05-19, 06:23 AM
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Originally Posted by GmanUK65 View Post
I would like to be somewhere where I can enter an event as well as doing gravel grinding myself.
Here's a local-to-me event that might be worth a look: https://crushergravel.com/

Lots of dirt roads in my region due to low population density combined with large swaths of national forest, state forest, and private timberland.
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Old 09-05-19, 06:25 AM
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If I were to go on a gravel vacation in the US I would look at the West Coast, Colorado, and Northeast before I would look at the Midwest.
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Old 09-05-19, 07:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Hmmm View Post
If I were to go on a gravel vacation in the US I would look at the West Coast, Colorado, and Northeast before I would look at the Midwest.
For views, yes.
But if you arent used to the thinner air and/or elevation climb during rides- the Rockies and PNW could be pretty rough for a vacation of riding gravel.
Ive ridden in West Central CO and it was humbling, mostly due to the thinner air. 20mi of riding the first day was all I had the mindset to ride. It took a few days to confidently ride the same distance I ride in Iowa. The total climb was more, but that in and of itself wasnt a huge issue- that combined with thinner air was no fun.

You couldnt pay me to fly to SoCal to ride gravel...since it apparently doesnt exist, and most gravel bikes seem to be drop bar MTBs out there. <---all that is simply coming from perception based on forums.
NoCal though- yeah thatd be amazing. Set up shop in Point Reyes, meet Mike Varley and get some suggested routes from him while perusing his collection of bikes, then do a hub-n-spoke tour of the area. Sounds damn ideal, mostly since its hills but not absurd elevation, and the incredible views are included.
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Old 09-05-19, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
Being used to the UK....the thing about this part of the world, generally, the *average* farmer-family works 1,000 acres of land. The normal farm family owns and works 2,000-4,000 acres of land. That is right, 4 people living and working a farm bigger than many countries. Result being you don't ride 50-100km to the next town, you ride 50-100km to the next family ranch.
Good lord- no need to scare the guy.
Your comments apply to some parts of the US, but is hardly something to base a vacation on. Anyone with a map or access to google could easily see the spread of towns in a given area. Routes can be planned accordingly. In Iowa, its 25mi at most to another town with most being 10-15mi away since its based on the idea that everyone could horse wagon it to the county seat within 1 travel day.
Yes, there are areas of Western NE(and elsewhere in SD, WY, CO, etc) where you might ride 50mi to the next town...but if I am taking a vacation halfway across the world, I am going to at least have some general plans and those would include avoiding the most barren and sparse areas of a country since the exception isnt the rule.

Also, last numbers I saw showed the avg farm size as 450acres. Large scale farms are obviously significantly larger than that, but 90% of US farms are classified as 'small' with less that $350K gross. Significantly different from what you show above as the average or the 'normal'.
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Old 09-05-19, 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by JonathanGennick View Post
Here's a local-to-me event that might be worth a look: https://crushergravel.com/

Lots of dirt roads in my region due to low population density combined with large swaths of national forest, state forest, and private timberland.
Shhh, you're giving away top secret info to the U.P.
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Old 09-05-19, 08:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Hmmm View Post
If I were to go on a gravel vacation in the US I would look at the West Coast, Colorado, and Northeast before I would look at the Midwest.
As someone who lives in the Midwest, I agree with this statement.

I love our gravel roads around here but there's a lot better places for scenery that I would point a tourist towards.
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Old 09-05-19, 08:56 AM
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We don't have gravel roads in Southern California. Have only seen a couple of gravel bikes, and who are they kidding? We have bad fireroads doable with MTBs.
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Old 09-05-19, 09:02 AM
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The US is a pretty big place so some places might be prohibitively expensive depending on your budget. For example, my business travel to southern California is often 25-35% more expensive than travel to somewhere like western Kentucky or central Texas. Personally, I'd go to Washington state around the Cascade mountains or Eastern Oregon to ride the Oregon Outback route.

You ever come to Georgia, between TimothyH and I we can set you up with a couple dozen gravel routes that are pretty fun.
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Old 09-05-19, 10:12 AM
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There's the Continental Divde maps and tours through https://www.adventurecycling.org/guided-tours/

https://www.orbea.com/us-en/blog/joh...-pioneer-trail

The northeast has a lot of nice riding there is the D2R2 ride.

If you want to keep the temp below 86F/30C I would recommend staying to coastal areas or the northern US also consider a lot of areas have high humidity along with the heat.
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Old 09-05-19, 10:57 AM
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Take a hard look at the Boulder, CO area. Fly into Denver, drive to Boulder and there are lots of gravel trails (often connected with paved bike paths) in the surrounding towns. No need to camp. Yes, the altitude is high, so it depends on how long you plan to be there. Avoid July/August due to heat & thunderstorms if you prefer to ride later in the day, although mornings are spectacular even then. Lots of sun - rarely rains more than one day in a row, and when it does rain, it rarely rains all day. Awesome bike culture in Boulder. Hang out at Full Cycle Bikes, get a beer at the bar and learn where to ride. And if you are willing to take a half a day and drive to various places in the mountains, even more places to ride & hang out.
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Old 09-05-19, 11:15 AM
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Depending on the time of the year I'd throw my two cents in for Georgia. But the Denver/Boulder/Front Range area would be my #1 choice.
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Old 09-05-19, 04:02 PM
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Originally Posted by ksryder View Post
As someone who lives in the Midwest, I agree with this statement.

I love our gravel roads around here but there's a lot better places for scenery that I would point a tourist towards.
Was going to post something similar. Iím from Kansas and wouldnít suggest someone come here for the gravel unless itís of specific interest, or a DK bucket list thing. The gravel is awesome and challenging in places, but it also is elsewhere, and the beauty and enjoyment will be highly weather dependent (and Kansas weather is ridiculously variable). Plus, there may not be a lot of things to do besides riding, depending on your interests. Donít get me wrong, If youíre just here for a few days and want to do DK, Emporia would be a lot of fun. Of course you have to wait to see if you get in the lottery, and finding lodging is tough, but it would be worth it.

I would suggest Colorado...plenty of cycling (and beautiful scenery!) and good cycling and beer culture, especially near Denver, Boulder, Ft Collins, etc. Portland Oregon and Northern California both seem to have a good cycling culture, and other stuff to take in. Certain plant-based products are also legal in those places I believe (if thatís your thing) but definitely not in Kansas!
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Old 09-05-19, 04:38 PM
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A humble suggestion for the OP: most, I dare say all, of us have not experienced the entirety of the US, let alone ridden gravel in enough different locales to be able to give an informed opinion on the best place for you to go. Perhaps you could ask instead: "if you were coming to the US to ride gravel, where would you go?" Better yet, provide us a more detailed list of your criteria and ask: "why do you know places that meet these?"

You could also check out gravel pics thread on here to see if any places tickle your fancy.

Based on what I've seen online, but not experienced, I'd echo the recommendations for Boulder or the Pacific Northwest (to include northern California, Oregon, and Washington state).
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Old 09-05-19, 07:48 PM
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Is there anything other than riding you want to do? Tourist spots with gravel nearby?
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Old 09-05-19, 09:50 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
For views, yes.
But if you arent used to the thinner air and/or elevation climb during rides- the Rockies and PNW could be pretty rough for a vacation of riding gravel.
Washington has true alpine at low enough elevation not to be an issue, the highest road in the state hours to 7,500', is gravel, and to quote a good friend, you haven't lived 'til you've been there. But you can ride much lower in the valleys with ice giants towering over you.
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Old 09-06-19, 06:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
Washington has true alpine at low enough elevation not to be an issue, the highest road in the state hours to 7,500', is gravel, and to quote a good friend, you haven't lived 'til you've been there. But you can ride much lower in the valleys with ice giants towering over you.
Agreed. My comment you quoted was phrased poorly- I was referring to your area as a place where elevation climb could be difficult if the OP isnt used to it(vs thin air elevation).
My sister in law's family lives out in Kirkland and we are going out there for a few days in October to visit. Always love the trips out there as its a total 180 from where I live in terms of scenery and activities.
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Old 09-06-19, 11:20 AM
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I just sent you a PM about the best fall color in October.
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Old 09-08-19, 12:27 AM
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I go back and forth between SoCal and Portland and ride both a lot, as well as in between.

The LA area has lots of fire roads that are doable on a gravel bike, but if you're looking for multi-day without being close to an urban area it's hard around here. Doing a bunch of day rides from a fixed location probably works better. The inland San Diego area is probably better for gravel roads and I've done some mixed terrain rides around there.

The Oregon/Washington area has lots of real gravel roads that are some nice gravel riding. I've mostly ridden around the Oregon/Washington border +-100 miles or so, with lots of up and down the various hills & shoulders of the Cascades. It's excellent riding, but things to watch out for are roads being temporarily closed due to either impassable washouts or active logging, and roads through logging areas that show on maps but no longer exist and are basically impassable due to small trees and dense blackberries (barbed wire). If you're lucky you get a gravel road that has a small washout that's easily portaged on a bike but not a car, and you can get 25-30 car free miles through forest on smooth gravel.

Norrthern CA also has some very good gravel - I did an organized tour this spring from Reno to the Pacific Ocean that was probably 90% gravel and was lots of beautiful terrain. I had 38 mm tires and would have been happier with 45 or 50s, but it was doable 28s or 32s if that's all you had. I don't know the roads and rides around there, but can dig up contact info for the ride organizer if he's doing it again.
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Old 09-09-19, 06:58 AM
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Central Pennsylvania has enough gravel roads for a vacation. State College is more of a mountain biking mecca, although there is a ton of awesome gravel here and nearby.


One idea is to do the TransVirginia route https://www.transvirginia.org/
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Old 09-09-19, 11:33 AM
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Originally Posted by GmanUK65 View Post
Which counties are the best for gravel grinding?
You'll want to define your style of gravel... It can vary from basically drop bar mountain biking to dirt roads that you can drive any car down. For example, this weekend I participated in Uncle John's Dirty Ride in St. John's Mi. Not the biggest event by any means, but the lead pack in the 54 mile race was averaging 23+mph. It's a full-on road race, just that there's only a few miles of pavement in the whole event. I was in a paceline behind another rider with aero bars and what looked like 25mm tires.

Now, next weekend there's another event where there are 9 miles of singletrack, plus more two-track and seasonal roads. The event organizers recommend 50mm tires minimum.

Both events are part of the Michigan Gravel Race Series, so even within one state there is a lot of variation in "gravel".
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