One of the fastest growing segments of cycling—gravel grinding—is almost a throwback to what cycling was in the 1890s.
Outside of major cities, most 19th-century roads were so bad that cyclists created the Good Roads Movement, which quickly led to paved roads, multi-car pileups, and 23mm bicycle tires pumped up to 120 psi.
But here’s the thing: Dirt and gravel roads still exist. They give you a different perspective on the land. They’re not as rough as you’d think. And riders are rediscovering them across the country.
Including here in central Illinois.
Just one problem: So far this century, there hasn’t been a local event to bring together everyone interested in gravel.
Gravel for the 21st century
That changes 9 a.m., September 9, with the Giro d’Spoon in Canton, which features a 30-mile route that’s 60-percent gravel and a 62-mile route that’s closer to 80-percent gravel.
Both routes begin and end at Billy’s Tap (your Canton source for food, beer and conviviality). They’re unmarked, which means riders will rely on cue sheets—plus a GPX file for the long ride.
One of my clients, Jeff Nigel, is leading the effort, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Gravel grinding combines the skills of road riding, cyclocross and mountain biking. It’s about being self reliant, which means being self supported when it comes to food, water and mechanicals. Plus, the Giro d’Spoon is focused on fun, not competition (though I’m sure folks will still pay attention to their average speed).
There’s no registration fee, just a waiver to sign. And the waiver puts you in the running for prizes from Bushwhacker, Orange Seal and Specialized.
Watch for late-breaking news and the GPX file—within 48 hours of the event—on the Bushwhacker and Gravel dogs Facebook pages.
After the Spoon: the Dutchman
This is the fourth year for the Dutchman Classic, a mixed-surface event featuring my favorite Peoria streets, country roads and Springdale Cemetery—where I learned to ride, navigate tight corners and stay upright through the loose stuff.
This challenging 110-mile ride, featuring approximately 5,000 feet of climbing, starts at Bushwhacker at 7:30 a.m., October 14.
No cost to enter; just sign the waiver day of ride. There’s not a ton of gravel but roads can be rough. Wide tires (28mm minimum) are good; tubeless tires are better. Like the Giro d’Spoon, the Dutchman is a self-supported ride, so take whatever you’re likely to need.
The course will be marked, but we’re not going to hold your hand. If you don’t see a mark, go straight. And be ready for something that doesn’t look like a turn to be the turn. A GPX file will be available 48 hours before the event.
No spoilers here, though I will say the spot most distant from the beginning is close to Elmwood.
About 35 people rode the Dutchman in 2017. I expect more this year. People ride throughout the year to prepare, and I’ve had plenty of folks say this is the most fun they have on a bike.
Let the fun begin.