If you haven't heard of off-road gravel bike racing in Michigan before, you're not alone. I hadn't either. That said, Michigan has been hosting the Barry-Roubaix every year since 2009.

What is the Barry-Roubaix cycling race?

It's the most well-attended race in the United States and known as the "World's Largest Gravel Road Race" according to Wikipedia. The course is really intense. It's meant to test skills to the highest level. Consider the course composition:

  • 80% rolling gravel roads
  • some pavements
  • one mile rough two-track
  • rocks
  • sand
  • mud
  • and sometimes, snow and ice (after all, it is held in Michigan)
  • 2200 feet of climbing for participants, too.

Even beginners have it rough. Those riders have a 22-mile course. Expert riders go for 36 miles while the "Elite/Pro" riders race for 62 miles in Barry County, MI near Gun Lake. That's southeast of Grand Rapids, just north of Battle Creek for the directionally challenged (like me). Winners grab over $30,000 according to Cycling News.

What does Barry-Roubaix mean?

Since I'm not a cycling expert, I had to look this up. Perhaps you've heard of the Paris-Roubaix? I hadn't. That's a giant cycling race in France. Michigan's version is named after that. Typically, the Barry-Roubaix is held on the third Saturday in March unless Easter is that weekend.

If you've ever owned a "regular bike" (as I would call it), you might find it surprising to learn participants use everything from road bikes (thin tires) to cyclocross, mountain and fat tire bikes. In my head, I'd want the fatter tire for stability. Then again, the only fat tire I know is... the beer.

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Here's what rail biking (part of the course) looks like:

Rail Biking

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