Off-Road Assault on Mt. Mitchell (ORAMM)
Location: Old Fort, North Carolina (Pisgah National Forest)
Start Date: July 30, 8:00am
Distance: 60 miles
Elevation Gain: 10,500 feet
Trail Type: Singletrack/Gravel/Pavement
Additional Distance Options: No
This 18th annual race in North Carolina has built a name and reputation for itself as the best mountain bike race in the Southeast. Mountain bikers travel from all over to experience the ORAMM. The race starts in Old Fort, climbs up the Blue Ridge Parkway, connecting to forest roads and epic downhill singletrack. Don’t let large numbers of riders for this event make it seem novice. Singletrack and forest roads run through extremely rugged terrain and are home to large cats and black bears. Stay aware, ride safe, and be ready for anything. Afterward, you get a complimentary ticket to drinks and food!
The Wild Horse
Location: Cedar Mountain Wilderness, Utah
Start Date: May 6, 9:00am
Distance: 76 miles
Elevation Gain: 5,000 feet
Trail Type: Gravel/Two-track
Additional Distance Options: Yes – 31 miles
When you think of a bike race in Utah, you probably envision slickrock and red dirt. The Wild Horse race, however, takes you through terrain and scenery you’re likely to never see when traveling by car. 45 minutes west of Salt Lake City is the Cedar Mountain Wilderness, which this completely unpaved route circles and goes through. You might feel inclined to go with a cyclocross bike on this ride, but they actually recommend mountain bike tires when going the full distance due to some pretty rough terrain in parts.
JayP’s Fat Pursuit (December)
Location: Island Park, Idaho
Start Date: December 17, 9:00am
Distance: 30 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,148 feet
Trail Type: Snow
Additional Distance Options: Not same day (in January there is a 200K and 200 mile)
Think you’re ready to step it up a notch and take on the Yellowstone winter? Try the 30-mile Fat Pursuit to give you a taste. 30 miles may not seem like much in comparison to some of these other races, but with varying snow conditions and unpredictable mountain weather, being prepared for anything is an understatement. The race takes place in the same location as the Gravel Pursuit but follows a slightly different route.
Bikepacking Expedition Races
These races are for another breed… the inhuman. Perhaps you’ve already ridden in the 500-mile Colorado Trail Race and Huracan 300 PLuS. Maybe you want one more challenge before taking on the infamous Tour Divide. If you’re seeking something more than a day-long race and want to go all out, consider these epic trips!
Black Hills Expedition
Location: Spearfish, South Dakota
Start Date: September 20, 6:00 AM
Distance: 460 miles
Elevation Gain: 50,000 feet
Trail Type: Singletrack
Additional Distance Options: No
The Black Hills Expedition is likened to the Continental Divide. As Joe Stiller put it, “you’re riding your biking on a hiking trail.” This is a true expedition. The route does pass through towns, but terrain and unforeseen events are likely to test and challenge your timeline – do your research, know where water is located, and make sure you have enough food to last you through the 100+ mile stretches of wilderness.
Arizona Trail Race
Location: US/Mexico Border
Start Date: April 15, 7:00 AM
Distance: 750 miles
Elevation Gain: Around 70,000 feet, but seriously, who’s counting?
Trail Type: Singletrack
Additional Distance Options: Yes – 300 miles
The Arizona Trail race is not something you get medals for. It’s not something that people cheer you on while you’re riding. And there is definitely no support. It’s just you and your bike getting from one end of the state to the other. You cross hot, open deserts, push your bike up rocky ridges, and even carry your bike on your back through the Grand Canyon. This isn’t for the faint of heart, but for anyone who is seeking true adventure and challenge, this trail is a must. The 300-mile option could be more feasible, though both will test your grit.
Picking only 11 off-grid races was not easy – there are so many to choose from, with new ones popping up each year. Despite the difficulty, these are some of the wildest and most remote races that also pack some awesome scenery.
Your Turn: What are some backroads and off-grid races you recommend?
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 ???