Culture

Miss racing gravel? Here’s a way to keep the stoke alive

Ted King's #DIYGravel events honor the original race calendar.

This Sunday would have been the ninth edition of the Belgian Waffle Ride, and I, like close to 3,000 others, was supposed to be there.

Truth be told, of all the gravel and mountain bike races I had on my calendar this season, this one had me the most worried because, well, “gravel” and “mountain bike” do not a BWR make. The 134-mile race near San Diego is mostly road with a bit of gnar and 12,000ft of climbing thrown in. But wait, with the race rescheduled for November 8, there is another, less-intimidating option.

Enter #DIYGravel – a way to do gravel events that have been canceled or rescheduled by completing the original distance and elevation alone.

This coronavirus-inspired project is the brainchild of Ted King, the decorated gravel racer and ambassador of stoke for the sport. In the absence of in-real-life racing, King, like many riders in North America, has been biking outside near his home in Vermont but missing the camaraderie of the sport. He’s also had plenty to do with a new addition around the house (King, and his wife Laura, welcomed Hazel Grace on March 8), but this hasn’t stopped him from thinking creatively in the time of coronavirus.

As the original April 18th date of the Rasputitsa Spring Classic approached, King was struck with the idea of doing it himself. And, he thought, for those who weren’t able to ride the actual course in Vermont, what about a challenge akin to the race, in both distance and elevation?

“I challenged people to ride the same distance, any distance that’s part of the original event, wherever they are, and submit their rides for chances to win some stuff from my sponsors,” King said. “Ride safely, ride solo, ride indoors or outdoors or gravel or pavement or whatever!”

King put up rules and a sign-up on his website and gave people a week to complete the challenge. He was floored by the response.

“1,302 entries came in from 750 people,” he said. “I created a Strava group that quickly grew to 1,165 members.”

The group now has close to 1,300 members. The plan is to do solo versions of each event that King was planning on racing this year, pre-coronavirus.

“I wanted to pay attention to the original dates of gravel events that are being pushed back deeper into the arbitrary 2020 calendar,” King told VeloNews.

Because King can’t contact people through Strava, he asks that they sign up via the link on his website if they want to be in the running for the swag he’s handing out. Details on the BWR challenge will be on the website soon, King says, but in terms of mileage and vert, this one’s a doozy. King has had two podium finishes at BWR in the past: “one 3rd place, one 2nd place. Now I get to do it in DIY place.”

“DIY place” at BWR sounds like a great goal for me. Even though I’ll miss hanging out with the gravel fam in San Diego this weekend, riding 134 miles with 12,000 feet of climbing alone is definitely better than not riding at all. Like King says, “we can still come together while being alone.”

See you on Strava, gravel family.