Gravel Racing in Michigan

Just posting this here because I always shake my head a bit when people talk about what gravel racing is/isn’t - sometimes I think Kanza, er, Unbound Gravel has come to define what gravel is in the collective cycling consciousness … which is slushy, steady, long and windy.

This is my power file from the Barry Roubaix yesterday (IYKYK). I did the 36 mile race. There were some luminaries there, like Stetina and Alexey Vermullen doing the 62 miler.

My point is: this is what gravel racing is in Michigan. And Michigan, by any definition, is one of the cultural hearts of gravel racing … it is hilly, punchy, fast, (sometimes) sketchy and can be a little bit sandy. It is full throttle bike racing🤘

Long live gravel in whatever form you prefer :slight_smile: Long live Michigan Gravel!

(Humblebrag: I finished 8th in my age group, which isn’t my best result in a race … but given the field size and talent the Barry draws may be the result I’m proudest of)


Gravel is many things…it is not homogenous and all gravel is not the same.

To that point, you are kinda comparing apples and oranges here. Not only is this Gravel different in MI vs. Unbound, the length of the races makes a massive difference in how they are raced. Of course a 36 mile race is going to be punchier and have way more power spikes vs. a 200 mile slog.

Congrats on the result….B-R is a tough race. Lots of strong riders from all over the region target it. A couple of guys I ride with here in Chicago had great races, winning their age group and another who finished just behind Stetina from what I heard.

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This was my first gravel race (36 miler) on a borrowed bike. Course and conditions were great. Just wish I had a better bike and more time/experience on drop bars as well as riding in groups. The 5 hours the previous week on the bike by myself wasn’t enough before my first race, lol.

Didn’t have a power meter but it felt quite punchy and not too far off from local XC races.


105 Mile race from yesterday in Iowa.

Burned matches in the first 30 miles to stay with the group, then spent the rest of the race picking off riders that did too much to early.


I did the 62 mile and cramped out of the third group with 6 miles to go. Ended up 36th. Man it was a tough one. But it was basically just a road race on dirt. Attacks, punchy, team tactics, 22+mph avg. As my first gravel race it was pretty amazing.

Edit: Since the thread was started with a shot of the power trace, I’ll add mine. You can see the moment I had a double quad cramp and then TT’d the last 5 miles when I got them sorted.


Congratulations! I was there also, I finished 6th in my age group in the 36 miler. I love Michigan gravel racing and Barry is top notch!

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Nice work. My only quibble, as someone who did the 105 race, is that it wasn’t a little bit sandy. It was a lot sandy. To the point where I have ~15 unaccounted for minutes between my garmin moving time and elapsed time. It only pauses on complete stops.

My son did the 18 miler. Doesn’t seem like any of them were easy by any stretch, even without the endless sand.

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This is a fair point. Totally.

My larger point (I think) is the preponderance of the Michigan Gravel Race Series was built on middle distance racing (40-70 miles … which is the bullseye of distances I love to race) like the Barry, The Lowell 50, Michigan Mountain Mayhem and others that are just a different style of racing than what has more-or-less overwhelmed the public consciousness in terms of what gravel racing is … which has become synonymous with ultra-endurance events. I feel like the Barry Roubaix shoe-horned the 100 mile race option into their menu in the last few years for this reason.

Actually, now that I think about it I’m not sure I had a “larger point” … I was just riding the stoke of a great event and a pretty nice result and I wanted to throw a shout out to this genre of gravel race🤘

PS: Congrats on finishing the hundo… not my cup of tea, but mad respect to you for the ride on that sand :facepunch:

Haha…you’re good man. I was just messing with you. That stuff was brutal. But I expected it to be. I just wanted to get a mug and a war story.

You 60 milers were pretty awesome to provide some tows back into Hastings.

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Nice job on the race! I live in southeast Michigan and thinking about getting into gravel racing. How were the road conditions? Are they pretty typical Michigan dirt roads? What gravel bike did you ride and what was your tire size?

I live in Ann Arbor and all the gravel around here is extremely representative of any gravel I’ve ridden most every where else in Michigan. The exceptions are the extremely sandy two track type roads that can exist in some places but aren’t that common.

It’s all mostly brown roads that are fast rolling when dry.

In lower MI, the UP is a different animal!

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It is 98% fast rolling dirt roads … there is a 1.5 mile section of Sager Road, which is a rocky, rooty sand pit. If you have the right tires for Sager Road, you’ll have the wrong tires for the rest of the race, and vice versa.

I rolled Schwalbe 35mm tires, and I definitely had problems on Sager that ultimately cost me a podium. Thinking about doing 38’s next year with at least a little bite on the edges. My tire choice was perfect for that fast 98% of the race … but I need to stay connected on Sager to win/podium at the age group level.

My gravel bike was a 2017 Norco Search w/many upgrades, picture below.


The roads are interesting… hardpack smooth dirt with occasional sand filled pot holes. You can run slick 28s to mini-knob 45c gravel tires and be competitive on many days. The 28s will pull away on the early road sections, but will nearly come to a halt when they hit a sand patch; the XC mtb tires don’t even slow when they hit the sand patch (heads up if you’re drafting).
There’s one 1.5mile sandy climb that’s pointless to optimize for, as people will be falling over in front of you - just run up it (I was able to climb this on 43c GK SKs, until someone fell over in front of me). For sand running shoes, find a flexible toe bike shoe (Shimano XC61 worked, maybe Shimano RX8, not the XC7/XC9, Spec Recon, etc) There’s also 1 steep climb and 1 downhill turn.

I was only able to do the Barry once… and, due to my ignorance, I put myself in the ‘competitive a-hole’ category on the 62mile. I was looking for ‘sporty/spirited’ not red mist. There didn’t seem to be a non-competitive group as I was getting tossed off the back over and over for infinity working my way to the back of the masses. It’s a full on competition (the ‘open’ category felt had a Cat3+ crit atmosphere), not something to show up at 60% ready in the spring. Everyone showed up with the latest high-end everything, in f-you mode, and seemed to think they were competing for the win at DK200 (unbound) or BWR.


This is all good info. Going to put a deposit on a Gravel bike soon with the goal of doing Barry Roubaix and Watermoo. I found something with room for 2.1" on 29er wheels, should be plenty.

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I believe it was the 2018 edition that a woman was taken out on one of the final pavement sections by some try-hard. I rode past later and there was a pool of blood. Word was the guy just got in his bike and left her.

Just a gear tech response, I used the Pirelli Cinturato Gravel H in a size 40 and on the Zipp 303 S (23mm ID) they blew out to about 42mm.

I had zero problems anywhere on the course, they were ample on the flats and I typically was doing all the pulling and I couldn’t have asked for anything better on corners or loose areas.

I am 195lbs and ran 37.5/35.5 PSI and I ran a 1hr 50min getting dropped on every single up hill.


Yeah, 2.1 is excessive even unless you’re hitting washboard roads, tire trenches, or the ground is super soft. Once you start hitting bumps bigger than Red Bull cans, you need a suspension fork to keep from going over the bars. The bumps not that big, but it slows you down enough as you hit it to cause issues with lower road bars. The XC tires are nicer than the 42c+ options though. You’re giving up 5-6w aero @20mph over a 38c, so that might be something to consider (or not).

I’m sure there’s 75% not-jerks there, but the 25% of jerks are such jerks that the event seems best left to those in it to win it. No one was even making light chit chat waiting the 20min for the gun. What’s odd to me is the atmosphere vs the branding. The branding is 50% fun race, 50% fun; beards and beer all around. The event is 95% fuck you; 5% beer at the end. THats’ what really soured the day for me was the expectation vs reality there.

I understand your point, and I would disagree with you on the percentages, but I can see where you’re coming from.

The simple fact is this: if you go to a bike ride and you pin on a number and someone is timing it: it’s a race.

I’d like to think I’m not a dick, and I would be disappointed to discover someone thought I was/am — but the reality of the matter is that the Barry Roubaix was my ‘A’ race this year. My goal was to get an age group top 10; my stretch goal was to age group podium; and my if-everything-goes-just-perfectly goal was to get the age group win.

So if you saw me at the start line, I hope I wasn’t being a dick. But I wasn’t ass-slapping and joking around either. I ride solo, and I was sizing up the teams at the front and trying to evaluate good vs. bad wheels to follow. I trained for over 6 months specifically to get a result here, and I had all of the pre-race anxiety almost all of you understand in relation to the work I put in vs. the outcome I was hoping for.

I know that race tilts up steeply and selectively less than 3 miles in (see: The Three Sisters) and you better believe I wanted to start in the right position to be able to pedal to the right position before that climb so as to not watch that race go up the road in the first 10 minutes. Nothing I did was unsafe, but I wasn’t going to be deferential to anyone who was trying to fight for the same position I wanted. I used my legs, not my elbows to get it… and that’s fair play.

If you’re at the Barry to have a fun, community ride I would tell you that’s pretty easy — my first year there, that’s what I did. Just park yourself in the back 1/3rd of your wave, stay to the right and be aware of fast trains that may be coming behind you.

A$$holes are always going to be a$$holes, but it doesn’t make you an a$$hole if you’re trying to win a race.

Long live riding. Long live racing🤘


I get pinning a number on for your “A” race and being focused.

My only beef was with the distinct difference between the marketing and the mindsets on the scene, as well as the mid-pack aholes. You can race, take it seriously, make it a milestone, and it still be enjoyable.

I stopped around the 20mile mark to fix my shifter cable that was jammed with sand at the rest stop. Everyone was racing, so there were 0 people who stopped for water/potty/snack. It’s a big event, and there was an endless mass of people coming by. The staff at the stop were just laughing at all the stupid things people were saying.
They release waves based on category. I was probably halfway back on a 4000-ish person field. This woman flies past in the group, asking/yelling in her competitive-ahole voice, “HOW MANY WOMEN HAVE COME BY HERE!?!?!??” meaning - “how far back am I from #1” (her Masters? group 36mile race? ) . LAUGHTER 1) She’s in the middle of a gapless mass of people, no one is counting, no one knows who here competition is. 2) A crap-ton of women have come by 3) there weren’t any specators who might have been there counting for her 4) she went by so quickly it was not possible to answer her.

Still a great A race to put on your calendar!