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Gravel Biking Offers Great Rides

Editor’s Note: this story about gravel biking on the Range was created with the help of local rider Frank Roark, owner of Mesabi Recreation Sarah Priest, and IRTB staff.

Gravel Biking, The Fastest-Growing Sport on Two Wheels?

By many accounts, gravel biking is growing and will continue to grow in popularity in the U.S. This article by Cycling Weekly gives some reasons why. And this article on Cyql gives even more.

With miles of roads in the Superior National Forest and plenty of good old rural country roads, northern Minnesota can be a great destination for gravel cyclists looking to either add another style of cycling (and another bike, we know how you are!), or are tired of road biking or mountain biking. It’s also a great way to get out on the bike before MTB trails open. Read on to hear from a local gravel enthusiast, and link to this blog from Mesabi Recreation to learn more about bikes, events and routes for road bikers on The Range.

Why I Love Gravel Biking

The crunching of the gravel under your tires. The sound of the wind rushing through the needles of a red pine. Birds chirping. Wildlife including deer, bear and wolves hanging out on the roads. It’s that time of the year. The gravel roads and some forest roads are finally dry. Exploring has started.  My name is Frank. I am a member of Iron Range Off-Road Cyclists (IROC) and one of the trail builders at Lookout Mountain. I love to ride mountain bikes. However, this time of year, the trails are usually too wet and soft to get out and mountain bike. This is when I get into Gravel Riding. My second favorite type of riding and something I usually do weekly until the snow flies.

I first got into gravel riding in 2012 when a friend of mine asked if I would ride the Almanzo 100 with him. A ride/race strictly on gravel roads in Southeast MN. The gravel training and adventures started. After the ride/race I was hooked on this type of riding. Nothing crazy is needed to get into gravel riding. They make specific bikes for gravel, but you can use any bike that will fit a bit wider tire than a road bike. Some people like a drop bar bike but many use mountain bikes or touring bikes. Gravel can easily be found right outside your door, especially in northern Minnesota.

How To Find the Best Gravel Biking Routes

Download a maps app like Avenza on your mobile device, or my favorite is to get out a paper map and search for some good routes. The beauty of gravel riding is that there is less traffic than paved roads and you can relax a bit more. There is joy to be had in planning the route. Gravel roads are usually in the country and the scenery is terrific. Seeing the area by bicycle is something special that you will remember. The crunching of the gravel under your tires helps you concentrate and think clearly. It’s a stress reliever that helps you get in shape to mountain bike and is another great way to enjoy cycling.

Big Aspen Trails

Franks’ Favorite Rides

This week was a good one. I’ve been out three times this week crushing the gravel under the tires and enjoying the scenery of a beautiful spring we are having. Today I was on the Pfeiffer Lake Rd. near Big Aspen: 24 miles out and back of awesome gravel with some great hilly areas and the option to ride around the campground to check out the lake. Gravel roads have more resistance than paved roads and are a slower ride. There are times when you feel like you are flying though. Push those legs a little harder and catch the breeze.

Go out and get yourself a map book or check out websites like gravelmap or ridewithGPS. These have routes that other people have ridden and directions. You won’t be disappointed and might find out that gravel is your new favorite type of riding. Cruising through the woods, birds flying overhead, the crunch of the gravel. You can get lost in the experience and find something you thoroughly enjoy.

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