Although road bike registrations have decreased over the years, the interest in gravel rides and races has only climbed. Capitalizing on this trend, two long-time regional road rides have added gravel routes, and a new gravel race near Sandpoint is set for this fall.
Lilac Century’s New Gravel Leg May 21
The Lilac Century Ride put on by Spokane Aurora Northwest Rotary and sponsored by North Division Bike Shop, has added a gravel leg to this year’s options that’s set for May 21. The route begins at Big Barn Brewing at Green Bluff. North Division Bike Shop co-owner and Rotarian Scott Willegalle created the 32-mile gravel course for the Gravel Flamdangle, and it’s a welcome new addition to the Lilac Century. “There are a few really steep climbs, so there’s some challenge to it,” says Willegalle. The best part of the course? “The downhills, of course.”
“I think people are going to show up who are not traditional road cyclists,” he says.
People like gravel rides because “it’s getting off the road, it’s a different pace, too”—less focus on drafting, more on actual riding. Plus, they might encounter the North Division Bike Shop’s broom wagon out offering course support, fixing flats, and offering beers to riders ready for a replenishing break mid-route. With race proceeds, Rotary is able to get a matching grant to support local nonprofits and needs, which in the past have included Habitat for Humanity, Vanessa Behan, and groceries for families in need identified by school district counselors.
New CHAFE 150 Gravel Ride June 17
In Idaho, the CHAFE 150 (June 17) has also added a gravel route, says race organizer Mel Dick. The new 54-mile gravel ride will start in Clark Fork, ID (at a rest stop for the 150-mile and 80-mile road bike routes). Riders will ascend up forest service roads until they get to an elevation of around 6,000 feet, then descend to join with the road riders for the last 20+ miles into the finish in Sandpoint. The race’s main cause is Book Trust, a nonprofit that provides kids in kindergarten through third grade a specific amount of money each month so they can build their own libraries, share books with friends, and read to siblings.
New Monarch Grind Gravel Race Sept 16
The gravel route of the CHAFE 150 is part of the new Idaho Panhandle Gravel Series, along with the 3/4 Minus Cykeltur (May 6) and the new Monarch Grind (September 16), a race developed by Charles Mortensen of Syringa Cyclery. The 70-mile Monarch Grind route includes about 7,500 feet of climbing, starting outside of Clark Fork, ID, and looping behind the peaks of the Green Monarch Mountains overlooking Lake Pend Oreille. Funds raised support Sandpoint’s Pandida Theater and local public radio station KRFY. (There will be additional related events, like a movie night the weekend prior.) The Panhandle Gravel Series will use a point system to recognize the top three women and top three men who participate.
There’s excitement building as the Monarch Grind approaches. “It’s a new route. It’s going to be pretty epic,” says Mortensen. (Sarah Hauge)