Have you raced your bike yet? Some of the writers at Singletracks are a little conflicted whether we should or should not race our bikes. Personally, I’ve found that a race holds me to my goals and helps me dig down, going places in my mind that I never thought possible. But even as a novice in the racing community, I’ve discovered that not all races are the same.
When you think of a mountain bike or gravel race, you may imagine 500 to 1,000+ racers all lined up, trying to cram themselves onto a narrow road or singletrack. The legendary Leadville 100 is a prime example of this. But there are so many races all over the U.S. now, that this just isn’t always the case.
I’ve compiled a list of 11 off-the-grid races that (mostly) skip the crowds, all throughout the year and across the country, from 750 miles to under 30. You take your pick – better yet, make a year out of completing all of them:
Rebecca’s Private Idaho
Location: Ketchum, Idaho (Sawtooth Mountains)
Start Date/Time: September 3, 8:00am
Distance: 94 miles
Elevation Gain: 6,500 feet
Trail Type: Gravel
Additional Distance Options: Yes – 56 miles
In beautiful Sun Valley, Idaho, surrounded by the Sawtooth mountains, is a century ride that will go down in your record books as one of the best races you’ve entered. From the scenery to the challenge to the afterparty, you won’t be disappointed with Rebecca’s Private Idaho. The route consists of about 90% gravel and 10% pavement. You’ll have access to 3 aid stations as you ride between elevations of 5,800 to 8,000 feet. A shorter ride option of 56 miles is available, but you miss some great views with that route. You’re in Idaho, in the mountains, in the fall. Any weather is possible, including varying temperatures – bring layers and be prepared.
Maah Daah Hey 100
Location: Medora, North Dakota (Badlands)
Start Date/Time: August 5, 6:00am
Distance: 106 miles
Elevation Gain: 11,975 feet
Trail Type: Singletrack
Additional Distance Options: Yes – 75, 25, and 13 miles
Having recently bikepacked the Maah Daah Hey self-supported, I can tell you first hand this trail runs through some epic country. In the middle of the badlands of western North Dakota lies one of the wildest singletrack trails in the country. The MDH100 starts near the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and ends in Medora near the South Unit. Prepare for some stream and river crossings and to be truly pushed to the limit with punchy climbs and fast descents. There are several other race options available, ranging from 13 to 75 miles. With pre-race and post-race events and several race lengths, this is certainly a great one to bring the family to!
Also be sure to check out the Maah Daah Hey 150, which is generally ridden as a bikepacking race.
JayP’s Gravel Pursuit 120
Location: Island Park, Idaho (near Yellowstone National Park)
Start Date/Time: September 23, 7:00am
Distance: 120 miles
Elevation Gain: 7,370 feet
Trail Type: Gravel/ATV two-track
Additional Distance Options: Yes – 60 miles
Yellowstone National Park is packed full of tourists, but on the west side of the park boundary lies some wild country in the Targhee National Forest. This past year I participated in this event, riding the full 120 miles on a fat bike. You ride near the Yellowstone border and in and out of the Idaho/Montana border along the Continental Divide. There are two aid stations for the 120-mile route. If 120 miles is a bit much for you, the 60-mile ride still challenges you on some pretty long climbs and rewarding descents.
The Epic in Missouri
Location: Bagnell, Missouri (Lake of the Ozarks)
Start Date/Time: April 29, 6:45am
Distance: 150 miles
Elevation Gain: 9,055 feet
Trail Type: Gravel
Additional Distance Options: Yes – 80 miles
The Lake of the Ozarks is one of those places that leaves lasting impressions on its visitors. Biking 150 miles through this region guarantees lifelong memories. Whether these gravel roads are dry or wet, they’re rideable, which makes for a great racing experience. You’ll cover roads with chunky gravel to smooth hardpack, crossing some creeks along the way. Tight switchback roads, big climbs, and miles of rollers are bound to test you, but the phenomenal views are worth it! An 80-mile course is also available if you’re not feeling the 150.
Location: Norman, Indiana (Brown County State Park)
Start Date: November 26, 10:00am
Distance: 60 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,802 feet
Trail Type: Gravel/Singletrack
Additional Distance Options: Yes – 20 miles
Brown County State Park in southern Indiana has some magnificent country, and you can ride it! The Gravel Grovel consists of mostly gravel forest roads but mixes in some backcountry singletrack and unmaintained two-track. With the race beginning and ending in the same place and offering a shorter 20-mile version, it’s a great beginner race that still gets you out and away from civilization.
Badlands Gravel Battle
Location: Medora, North Dakota
Start Date: May 28, 8:00am
Distance: 120 miles
Elevation Gain: 8,084 feet
Trail Type: Gravel
Additional Distance Options: Yes – 77 and 44 miles
We’re back in Medora, North Dakota! But this time, for a pure gravel ride in the badlands. Beginning and ending near the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, this 120-mile loop takes you through the rugged backcountry roads made up of crushed scoria rock. These roads can be awesome hardpack when dry, but with the possibility of an overnight rain you need to prepare for anything.
Click over to page two for 6 more off-grid races!
Favorite OTG event for me is an easy one. Hands down the BT Epic. 55 miler in southern Missouri near Steelville. Got to be the best MTB course anywhere near that part of the country and I’ve ridden several around there. The Berryman trail was an IMBA epic at one time. Start/finish is at the Bass River Resort that has great cabins and camping to make an awesome weekend out of it. Super laid back and turn your phone off b/c it won’t work anyway. Never mind the after party with dinner, tons of prizes given away (seriously, one year they stopped calling numbers and just told the crowd to come grab something if they hadn’t won yet), and Scott daring everyone to drink all the beer he brings!!! I did it a few years in a row while living in MO and recently went back last year after a 3 year hiatus due to a move to GA. Did not disappoint. 2018 will be the 10yr anniversary and I’ll be back for that no doubt.
I’d love to ride the Maah Daah Hey!
Go ahead big boys (and girls). I hope just to do a few of these rides one day — Maah Daah Hey, AZT especially. You guys can race them. Plus, several of these routes are mostly gravel road rides. That doesn’t interest me much. Some of you might also consider the Northern Arizona Barn Burner. It is an “easier” qualifier (all gravel and not too much climbing) for the Leadville 100 if you looking to up your game to that level. It is in beautiful country. The only drawback I see is that for the 100 mile race you repeat the same route 4 times. I would think that they could be a little more creative with all the trail and dirt road in Northern Arizona. Maybe it’s just a lack of manpower ??? Maybe it’s a USFS thing ???