Gravel Gatherings: Weaving Threads of Community
The gravel community is best described as a lively tapestry woven together by a collective passion for adventure, nature and the thrill of two wheels.
This community, along with the passion and fun they bring with them, was on full display at two amazing events this year, RAGBRAI’s Gravel Day and the Spirit World 100.
For the kickoff of the Community Series, we immersed ourselves in the core of these gravel gatherings.
Here, the true spirit of the sport isn’t found in the race against fellow riders but rather in the endless miles of smiles and the camaraderie that unfolds along the dusty gravel roads.
The Spirit World 100, nestled in the rugged terrain of Patagonia, Arizona, beckons riders from all corners with the promise of a gritty yet soul-enriching experience.
Although labeled a race, the reality reveals itself early on: by the 30-mile mark, participants can be seen grinning, grimacing and soaking up the scenery far removed from the competitive front lines. Aid Station One, historically placed near the Mexican border, encourages first-timers to dismount, absorb the panoramic view of the San Rafael Valley and embrace the profound sense of accomplishment.
What sets the Spirit World 100 apart
What sets the Spirit World 100 apart is not just the challenging terrain but the organizers’ (Zander Ault & Heidi Rentz) commitment to creating a down-home gravel road expedition that transcends the typical race atmosphere. After Four years of making this dream race of theirs a reality, this event is a testament to Heidi & Zanders spirited entrepreneurship, aiming to infuse the gravel community with a unique blend of biking, culinary delights and unforgettable parties. The 50, 80 and 100-mile options cater to a diverse range of riders, and Pivot Cycles took charge of the Boomshakalaka bar, ensuring riders were fueled and the party kept rolling.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country but cultivating similar vibes,
RAGBRAI’s Gravel Day epitomizes the soulful spirit of the gravel community within the grandeur of rural Iowa. RAGBRAI, renowned for its festive atmosphere and ample libations, takes a detour on the optional gravel day, where the revelry begins with the pop of a beer can, or the slurping of a Jello shot as soon as tires meet gravel.
Unlike the competitive undertones of gravel races,
RAGBRAI is a ride, and this is never more apparent than on RAGBRAI’s Gravel Day as the entire day finds a way to exude a carefree ambiance. It’s a day where riders may find themselves engaged in a 20-minute bumpy conversation with a fellow cyclist or relishing in the solitude of a 10-mile stretch devoid of human presence. Only a fraction of RAGBRAI participants opt for the gravel day, and that exclusivity contributes to a unique blend of intimacy and expansiveness.
The vibes on the gravel day this year were infectious,
highlighted by the sight of riders donning cut-off jean shorts, known as jorts, and a lively group donning matching jean jackets adorned with cycling-themed patches.
The collective thrill of transitioning from pavement to gravel, especially after conquering 100+ miles on the road, was pronounced in the atmosphere. As the day unfolded, spotting fellow gravel enthusiasts turned into a dusty spectacle, their figures cloaked head-to-toe in a fine layer of gravel dust. Yet, beneath the gritty exterior, radiant smiles forged an unspoken connection among these dedicated dirt-covered riders. Each passing encounter became a moment of celebration, accompanied by a toast to a well-executed ride and gratitude for contributing to the infectious vibe that characterized RAGBRAI’s Gravel Day.
At the core of these gravel events,
the allure lies not just in conquering the miles but in the connections forged along the way. Gravel cycling attracts a diverse array of individuals, from seasoned riders seeking a new challenge to newcomers enticed by the community’s infectious energy. The gravel community thrives on the shared experiences of pushing boundaries, embracing discomfort and reveling in the simple joy of pedaling through breathtaking landscapes.
In the tapestry of gravel cycling, where victory isn't confined to podiums but woven into the fabric of shared stories and camaraderie, the Spirit World 100 and RAGBRAI’s Gravel Day emerge as vivid threads.
As the Spirit World 100 organizers passionately declare, their mission is to connect people through a love for biking, culinary delights and vibrant celebrations. The gravel community, in its essence, transcends the mere act of riding bikes; it is a tapestry woven with threads of passion, resilience and the collective pursuit of joy. The gravel road becomes the canvas, and each participant contributes their unique brushstroke to the masterpiece of the gravel community.