What do YOU look for in a gravel race?

I’ve only done three so far but my favorite was Love Valley Roubaix.

Things I liked:

  • It wasn’t a 10-12 hour brutal endeavor
  • It is in a very quiet area so while there weren’t absolutely no cars it was only in a few places
  • It is a smaller event but I was either with a group, catching a group, or about to be caught by a group for the majority of the ride so the participation by people at my level was good
  • The after party was an actual party with a lot of food and people having fun and talking to strangers

Doesn’t hurt that it’s an hour from home in an area that I enjoy riding in.

I’ll hopefully be doing a few of the Southeast Gravel Events next year again. They tend to be larger and will be a little further but basically all the same stuff applies and I’m looking forward to them.

There are a lot of gravel races in CO/Wyoming area that are close or under $100-150 and a lot of people that are ‘hitters’ locally still show up. I guess those are the ones I look for.
It’s nice to go with some friends/teammates for a long weekend.

Like a good mix of difficulty with some tech sections like b roads, single track, etc. good way to split up groups and make a move. Something that starts off with a long climb though is a hard no for me haha

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The most “fun” gravel event I do (semi) locally is the LA Tourist Race series.
$25 entry fee, very hard day out, but it’s more about the adventure than the result, and a great party atmosphere afterwards
I’m doing some of the bigger, marquee, events early next year (Rock Cobbler, BWR San Marcos) but I’m struggling to get the stoke level high for those, especially BWR which just seems to get worse every year and seems far too focussed on the pro riders

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You camp outside at a highschool track and feild area for 1 day, a beautiful campsite near a river for 2 nights, then another highschool field the last night.

There are a couple options as far as camping goes. You can choose the VIP tent option (150$? Added cost, and when you arrive on the finish line, your tent is already setup for you prior to arrival) the tent is a 6 person tent. You can share if you are racing with a buddy/SO, or sleep alone.
There is also a free option of bringing your own tent. Its free. But obviously you set it up yourself.

There is also an RV/car camping option, but you would have to have someone drive it to the next location. Not sure on cost but it isnt outrageous. I may also add you can “tag team” the race where only 1 person races on a given day. Totally a viable option, its a huge amount of elevation gain and everyday is a major gravel race all on its own.

I also forgot to add, they have showers at every location.

As far as the transfer of your stuff, your payment includes one of those large black and yellow cargo bins. You can pay 50$ for a 2nd one. Your race number is attached to it. You can also bring a spare set of wheels. Its not stated on their site, but I saw a few people bring an extra bike as well. It definitely feels like a big family event. The event organizer is personable and is totally catering to both the “spirit of gravel” while simultaneously satisfying the die hard racers.


And a few pet peeves:

  • Too much swag. I’d rather save $5 than get another dumb t-shirt or medal or pint glass. The exception might be truly epic rides (Oregon Trail sounds like it might be in that category), and even then the swag should be useful and decent quality.

  • Food - I hate when events have food but the selection is so limited that anybody with allergies or other limitations can’t partake. Yeah, a pasta dinner is easy but if it’s meat sauce, you just eliminated vegetarians and anybody with celiac. If you don’t want to provide a good selection, don’t bake the food cost into the entry. [I’m not talking about snacks after a local 5k here - but meals before/after an all day event that are included with the rather large entry fee]


I’ve been waiting for a gravel race that is ~1-3 hours and not a fondo (mass start for everyone and their dog with lots (most?) not actually racing it). I want to race it safely and not take all day, and no I don’t want a “free” beer or useless trinkets. The “atmosphere” I want is competition, not camping and drinking with a bike. I don’t want to pay more than I’d pay for any other race unless, like the few fondos I do per year, it’s for a good cause.

Can you tell I’ve never done a gravel race?

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Breakaway Promotions (Oregon Gravel Grinder, Cascade Gravel Grinder, etc) put on some truly fantastic events and went above and beyond for making sure the event was fun. For Cascade this year they were out clearing snow and ice to make sections rideable.

Poor communication is a sure way I won’t do your event again.

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Yeah, I did every race in that series. Super fun. That snow section on the 3rd stage was so fun lol

I missed out on it and dropped down to the middle distance. I was pretty beat up at the end of a week long vacation and was packing my bike in the venue parking lot. The race director happened to be there and we got to chat for a bit. A+ would pay every dollar for their other events.

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lol, You’ve pretty much just eliminated all of the gravel races in Michigan.

I’m so tired of hike-a-bike. That’s my #1 complaint for a gravel race. If it’s a small section or two fine, but these long hikes are just annoying.


I was getting on here to say that my only gripe or thing I look for in a gravel race is the ability to ride every section and not needing to unclip to complete a section.

Thats really the only thing I look for in a gravel race - rideability, if you have to walk/run/climb a section on foot then its not a race anymore IMO.


We have far fewer options in the Uk.

To oversimplify, I’m looking for a good course and great organisation. The latter absolutely makes or breaks events. Adequate toilet facilities, good signposting and an accurate gpx file, a high number of marshals, well-stocked food stations, and a few mechanical aid stations are, in my mind, the bare minimum.

Though a road event, and 90% on open roads, the Fred Whitton challenge is a model of how to do it. I’ve done some other events that are a model of how not to. One local to me has gone from an annual ‘must do’ to a ‘must avoid’ because of the utter shambles they have made of the start, and their insistence on using a particular section of road.

:joy: It’s true, most places just can’t put on a gravel race because the roads just don’t exist. But they also can’t put on any other kind of cycling event because nobody will show up. So they do some mild single track…ride across a field or two…out & back a fire road…whatever you can put together. It’s a mixed surface ride and it can be fun for people who are into it but it’s not gravel.

Not many places in the world can offer gravel like the Home of Gravel in the US midwest where the countryside is literally divided up into mile blocks of gravel road Anywhere you want to go, you can get there on a gravel road.



For me, the course is most important. I want something fun, whether fast and flowy, rough and mtb like, whatever. It’s hard to describe what makes the difference between a good and bad course, but I’ve been on a few that seemed like a promoter wanted to put an event, and said ‘where’s some gravel’ vs people that ride who want to have an event on a route they like.

Beyond that, a reasonable fee, and decent organization. Fee inflation is definitely out of hand. Things that I don’t care about: prize money, and how many pros attend. I would vastly prefer the promoter focus on making a good event for everyone over catering to a few that are only there because gravel is the current hot topic.

Great gravel events IMO:

Skull 120, Burns OR. Best event in the PNW, and somehow nobody seems to know about it. https://www.adventureharney.com/
Any of the Vicious Cycle events in WA https://www.rideviciouscycle.com/ Events range from roadie friendly to logging road gravel. Each course is uniquely different. Goldendale is possibly the most scenic ride in WA.
Cascadia Super G, also WA. Very mtb and mtber friendly. https://www.downeastracingnw.com/

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I know a few people that have done the OTGG and rave about it. On the other hand, other events by that promoter have been quite lacklaster IMO, mostly due to courses that just weren’t great. And they’re definitely not cheap.

The grusk venue is my favorite. Nothing like camping on top of the mtn in july with cool temps. But if your not camping, that would be an issue

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SouthEast Gravel covers all the bases for me in what I look for.


I look for different things for different events. Last year and this year, my A event is BWR SD because it’s my hometown event and I like that it’s competitive. The course is challenging, fun, and now familiar to me.

For other events, I like a bit of novelty - so if I haven’t done it already then, I’m more tempted to make a drive, or even a weekend out of it and pay some money. Last year I did Rock Cobbler 10.0, and it was pretty epic, fun and weird, and very hard. It was actually too hard and now that I’ve done it once, I’m going to skip it this year. It’s an entire weekend and quite costly given my circumstances. I got very muddy, shoes were soaked - which is something I’d like to avoid, and my back was killing me for a couple of days after that. But the novelty drew me in. And I had a ton of fun with other cyclist that I know from my area. No regrets at all.

Speaking of novelty - there’s a local ride/race which isn’t too expensive, it’s a reasonable distance and I haven’t ridden there before so that made my calendar. If it’s totally raining that weekend, I’ll skip it without a thought and since it was “only” a hundred bucks I’d rather stay healthy than get my money’s worth and wreck myself or my bike.

When it comes to courses, I know it’s going to be difficult in some shape, way or form - I prefer the difficulty to come in the form of a 60–75-mile event with a mix of pretty much any sort of acceptable off-road sections - minus huge drop-offs or stuff that is only suited for a full suspension mountain bike. I rather have the climb to mileage ratio stay 1,000 feet climbing per 10 miles of road or under if possible. I’d rather not have deep creek or river crossings - but it’s not a deal breaker. Crazy mud roads, not a fan of it, and hopefully it can be avoided. Nice things to have a low cost/no cost entry fee’s - I don’t mind self-supported rides and would actually prefer that at times.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I do like the hubbub and community aspect of certain events. I’d like to do the Patagonia 100 in Arizona at the end of next year - it’s a multi-day event and the race day event seems to be an excuse to get out there, socialize and ride bikes in the dessert. Again, for me - the novelty of the event draws my interest as we as discovering some new roads.

I guess it just kind of depends - it’s like going to a concert - I might like to see the same band over and over, or I might not be interested, but if it’s in a new venue I’d be more interested.

  • route that’s mostly gravel
  • little to no singletrack
  • limited sections of big chunky gravel that would make me think I should have brought a mtb
  • simple parking
  • safe finish (I had a race in a tourist town that fed you down the Main Street and you were mixed in with a line of cars coming into town)

I don’t really care much about swag. I’ve got enough stuff. I will say for swag good socks get the most use. Mugs are pint glasses always end up being cheaper junk

any meal is fine afterwards.

I do a mix of big expensive marquee events all the way down to free local events.