Gravel has undoubtedly been the en-vogue cycling trend over recent years. Ever-growing in popularity and ever-evolving in form, early gravel bikes could be defined as road bikes with disc brakes and fat tyres. The latest crop sees ever-more-niche subdivisions of gravel being created, tailored to specific terrains and riding styles.
Along with the rise of recreational gravel riding, the popularity of gravel racing has seen a parallel ascent, and pro riders such as Peter Stetina and Ian Boswell have capitalised by hanging up their slicks in favour of knobbly tyred adventures.
As is often the way, demand breeds supply, and new gravel races are popping up like daffodils in spring. We've teamed up with komoot to bring you a collection of the most stunning gravel races and routes that you absolutely need to ride.
Silk Road Mountain Race
Kyrgyzstan might not be the first country on your cycling holiday bucket list, what with the Alps and the Pyrenees capturing hearts on prime time television every July, but the mountainous terrain in Central Asia really merits consideration.
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With mountains, lakes and endless gravel roads, this sparsely-travelled corner of the world is as picturesque as it is difficult. It's not an easy one to get to, but it's a once-in-a-lifetime holiday destination for the ultimate gravel enthusiast.
For the dot-watchers or ultra-endurance racers among us, the official PedalEd Silk Road Mountain Race takes place on August 14th 2020.. Competitors will traverse almost 2000km of remoteness, yet if you're just looking to follow in the tyre tracks of the racers, there are four tours available in Komoot, ranging from 351 to 582km in length.
Atlas Mountain Race
The Atlas Mountain Race has been and gone for 2020, taking place in February in Morocco, where Sofiane Sehili completed the gruelling 1,145km route in just 3 days, 21 hours and 50 minutes to take the victory ahead of Brit James Hayden.
While we don't suggest you try and beat that incredible time, we do suggest you take yourself off to Morocco to ride some, if not all of the route, which winds its way through the remote mountain landscapes of the Atlas and Anti-Atlas mountains.
The almost entirely unpaved route will require prior planning, occasional walking, and barrels of determination, but great exertion will yield great reward from both the Moroccan landscapes and the hospitality of its people.
The 200-mile gravel race that needs no introduction. Based out of Kansas, Dirty Kanza has been described by Lachlan Morton as the unofficial world championships of gravel - such is its fame, WorldTour pros have added it to their calendar.
What it lacks in elevation, it certainly makes up for in distance, and the wide expanses of mid-American scenery certainly don't lack far-reaching vistas.
With the event on May 30th, this marathon gravel race is undoubtedly one for the bucket list.
Grinduro is one of the most popular UK gravel events and while its location is moving to the west coast of Wales for 2020, the past three years have taken place in the depths of the Scottish Highlands on the Isle of Arran.
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The picturesque scenery of the Scottish island has earned it the nickname, “Scotland in Miniature," with more than 60 miles of rugged coastline, flowing trails and seemingly endless gravel roads, it's a gravel adventurer's perfect location. Not to mention it's much closer to home than America or Kyrgyzstan.
Possibly the closest thing to Dirty Kanza on British shores, Dirty Reiver is already sold out for 2020, but that doesn't mean you can't hit up Kielder Forest of your own accord with the help of komoot. The tour above is for the 200km 2019 route, which you can tackle in full, or edit a copy to create your own adventure on the Scottish Borders.
With well in excess of 12 hours of riding on offer, the Dirty Reiver route could make for a day-long epic or a week-long holiday. All we know is it's absolutely somewhere worth a visit this year.
The Gravel Epic is a four-part gravel race series across four countries. While the Marrakesh edition has sadly been cancelled, the route is available on komoot, so take yourself and your friends to the stunning Atlas Mountains and explore the 'epic' gravel routes.
If you're feeling competitive, fear not; there are a further three events in the Gravel Epic series later in the year. As explained on the Gravel Epic website, the other three events will take place in Mt Etna in Sicily, the green forests of Slovenia, and the cyclists' haven that is Girona.
Brought into the spotlight by Lachlan Morton, GBDuro describes itself as a scrappy rolling picnic in the countryside. For 2020 it's seen a name change to the GB Divide, and in less metaphorical terms, it's a four-part enduro-style race from Lands End to John O'Groats. It's so epic that we've split it into four parts. Oh, and it's off-road.
If you're looking for an epic day (or week) in the saddle, pick any of the four parts, head to the start, and ride. We promise you'll see some beautiful scenery along the way. They don't call it Great Britain for nothing, you know.
Dorset Dirt Dash
With 33km of singletrack and just 828 metres of state road, the Dorset Dirt Dash is certainly one to get you off the beaten path and into the countryside.
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Dorset might be a holiday destination to many, but it's not often considered a gravel kingdom; the 152km Dorset Dirt Dash will undoubtedly put paid to that. Using komoot, edit a copy of the tour above and create one or several gravel tours and enjoy some of the most stunning scenery southern England has to offer.
And of course, if you want to add a competitive edge to your gravel grinding, you can join the official race on Sunday 24 May.
The Frontier 300 is a 300km ride across the north of the UK, made up of approximately 50 per cent gravel and 50 per cent road.
Visiting some of the finest landscapes the UK has to offer, the 300km will be a difficult day in the saddle that rewards your efforts with almost 100 miles of off-road adventure and numerous countryside views.
For those looking to test their mettle, the event takes place on June 13th, but for those of us wearing our sensible shoes, the route can be traced into komoot and split into two or more days in the saddle.
If you're looking for remote countryside, picturesque scenery, brutally challenging weather conditions and endless gravel, Iceland is the place for you. The Rift is a 200km gravel race in the south-west of the country and tackles some of the toughest terrain in the world.
According to komoot's surfaces feature, the route features more than 153km of unpaved roads and less than 3km of state road - the ingredients of a perfect gravel adventure. Check out the tour above for some pictures of the 2019 Rift 200.
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