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Why I Ride: Reflections on My First Gravel Bike Race

September 7, 2022

by Brit­ta Berube

Bik­ing has been an inte­gral part of my life for the past 10 years. I’ve changed career paths, com­mit­ted to sea­son­al work, and moved around to pur­sue my dream of being in the bike indus­try. And, even more so, to share my pas­sion for bik­ing – whether it’s get­ting a cus­tomer excit­ed about an upcom­ing tour, empow­er­ing a begin­ner rid­er to feel more con­fi­dent on their bike, or guid­ing a guest through new ter­rain in SW Utah. These moments remind me to reflect on the why I ride bikes.

Gravel Pursuit:
Grassroots Gravel Bike Race in Island Park, Idaho

I’ve dri­ven the road that takes you through Island Park, Ida­ho (longest main street in the US), many times, but have rarely stopped. It’s a snowmobiler’s par­adise in the win­ter and a fly fisherman’s dream in the sum­mer. The con­ti­nen­tal divide also runs through the area and attracts hik­ers and back­pack­ers from all over the world. It’s a beau­ti­ful area that I have always want­ed to explore, but it always seemed that I was in a time crunch any­time I was pass­ing through.

This year, I chose to spend my sum­mer just south of Island Park in Drig­gs, Ida­ho. Being in close prox­im­i­ty, I knew I could cre­ate oppor­tu­ni­ties to get up there and explore. When I found out about the Grav­el Pur­suit, a grass­roots grav­el race that goes through the heart of the Greater Yel­low­stone Ecosys­tem, I signed myself up.

I didn’t think twice. I’ve been in over a hand­ful of 50+ mile moun­tain bike races—it couldn’t be much hard­er, right? My bik­ing sched­ule is pret­ty spo­radic, but I try to ride 4–5 days a week. Fol­low­ing a train­ing rou­tine for bik­ing is not my favorite thing; I would rather just go out and have fun on my bike. I knew 60 miles was going to be a slight stretch, though I always go into chal­lenges with a pos­i­tive atti­tude and a strong mind­set. No expec­ta­tions were set for this grav­el race. I was par­tic­i­pat­ing to have fun and expe­ri­ence a new area by the seat of my bike.

We lined up, the count­down start­ed, and off we went. Every­one start­ed their own jour­ney to the fin­ish line. Some were rac­ing, some were rid­ing for fun, and oth­ers were out there to chal­lenge them­selves. When I came upon a tan­dem bike with a dad and his sev­en-year-old son, I couldn’t help but smile and think, what a cool event to do with your dad at that age. Lat­er, I found out those two were sea­soned bike pack­ers and have been on many mul­ti-day adven­tures. What an awe­some way to grow up.

Facing the Gravel Challenge with New Bike Friends

Short­ly after, I took note of how I was feel­ing. I was still warm­ing up, and my legs didn’t feel com­plete­ly loose—they felt slight­ly heavy. I hoped this wasn’t an indi­ca­tor of how they would feel for the entire ride. I caught up to a new friend, who I’d met the night before. He is an ultra-bike rac­er recov­er­ing from a hip injury and just out for a joy ride. We talked about many of his adven­tures and how excit­ed he was about rid­ing this route in the sum­mer, as he had only fat biked it in the win­ter among groomed snow­mo­bile trails for the Fat Pur­suit race. It was famil­iar ter­rain, but he was utter­ly sur­prised by the surface—a fun mix of every­thing and very lit­tle of what “grav­el” seems to mean these days. The route took us on most­ly for­est ser­vice roads that were loose, rocky, sandy, and rut­ted out in some areas. There was about a mile of rid­ing through a swamp, 4 miles of sin­gle­track on the con­ti­nen­tal divide, and a punchy hike-a-bike sec­tion that sat just below the high point, Mount Two Top. The 360 views of sur­round­ing moun­tain tops, green mead­ows blan­ket­ed in yel­low, orange, pur­ple, and pink wild­flow­ers made the strug­gle to the top well worth it.

From here, there was a fast descent amongst the end­less fields of wild­flow­ers into aid sta­tion 1. The chal­lenges went on, my legs con­tin­ued to feel heavy, and all I could think about was how am I going to fin­ish this race if I’m already strug­gling and not even half-way. I men­tioned to my friend that I thought I was in trou­ble, and he said “why?” After telling him how I was feel­ing, all he said was “we have all day”—and he was right. I had to remem­ber that I’m here to ride and have fun, not com­pete. He end­ed up sup­port­ing me through the rest of the race. Could I have fin­ished it with­out his sup­port, yes, but it would have been much more of a struggle.

Gravel Bike, Mountain Bike, Road Bike: Just Ride

We even­tu­al­ly made it to the fin­ish line 6.5 hours lat­er. It was the longest I had ever been on a bike, and it was worth every sec­ond of pain and sec­ond-guess­ing my abil­i­ty to com­plete that big of a ride. As I reflect on this adven­ture, and it was indeed an adven­ture ride, I real­ize that I had put no pres­sure on myself, which is very unusu­al for me. It made the ride so much more enjoy­able and it’s a good reminder of why I ride bikes. To have fun, explore new areas, meet incred­i­ble peo­ple, and to be part of a grow­ing com­mu­ni­ty. This event was like no other—It was grass­roots, there were no big ban­ners, the vibe was laid back, and there was a pota­to bar for lunch and a cook-off for din­ner. It was a group of like-mind­ed peo­ple com­ing togeth­er to ride, eat good food, and build community.

Our Sacred Rides mot­to is live life to the fullest & explore the world by moun­tain bike, but in real­i­ty, explor­ing the world by any bike will cre­ate an incred­i­ble expe­ri­ence. Ready to cre­ate your own mem­o­ries or test your lim­its? Whether you want to ride moun­tain or grav­el bike, Sacred Rides has a trip that you are sure to enjoy. Check out our sched­ule at Sacred Rides Moun­tain Bike Tour Sched­ule — Sacred Rides.

Why do you ride bikes?


Ready for your own Gravel Experience? Check out our Columbia Gorge 7‑Day Gravel Bike Tour