Greenwood Gravel Grind offers participants — both beginners and longtime cycling enthusiasts — an opportunity for an outdoor adventure.
“It opens up so many more possibilities for terrain when you go off-road,” said Richard Beattie, co-founder of Greenwood Gravel Grind. “Off-road or on gravel roads, you can go to so many different sites that you normally wouldn’t see — that’s the adventure aspect of it.”
The non-competitive ride offers participants the “freedom to get away from the traffic, get away from the typical scenes from the highway” and see “unexpected sights,” said Beattie, who also serves as an adviser for the Greenwood-Leflore County Chamber of Commerce, the host of the second annual event.
Greenwood Gravel Grind will be held at 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 26 and will feature two routes — a 100K and a 50K.
This year’s event has a participant cap of 150 riders. There are about 115 participants already signed up, which tops the inaugural year’s nearly 100 riders.
“We get some crossover from Bikes, Blues & Bayous, but for the most part it’s different riders who like to specialize in off-road type riding, gravel riding,” said Beattie.
Some locals have signed up for the event, but most of the participants will be traveling from other parts of the state and some from Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Louisiana.
Gravel riding is a growing trend, and the sport often brings together mountain bikers and road cyclists.
For the gravel ride, road bikes with skinny tires and little tread are discouraged.
“You don’t want the real thin tires that people ride on the road. It’s got to be a wider tread, knobby tread,” said Beattie.
Because of the changing conditions of minimally maintained rural roads, there is never the perfect bike. A bike with slightly knobby tires size 32c or larger is recommended. Hybrid bikes or mountain bikes each work well with gravel riding.
“It’s got to be something you’re comfortable riding in a gravel situation,” he said.
Beth Stevens, the chamber’s executive director, participated in the ride last year.
“My husband and I have hybrid bikes, and they worked perfect for this,” she said.
Stevens said the best part of the ride was the scenery.
“When you get out on those levees and those back roads, it is just so cool,” she said. “Some of it is actually off-road in places that cars can’t go, so you’re seeing things that you don’t normally see when you’re in your automobile. That levee ride out to the airport off of highway 430 is really pretty. That last stretch before it opens up to where the airport is, you’ve got the hills of Carroll County and it’s just a beautiful, beautiful scene.”
Without any training beforehand, Stevens rode half of the 50K route before she had to return to manage some post-ride activities, but she said the route was easy and enjoyable.
“It’s not as hard as you think it is,” she said. “That 30-mile route is really fun. This doesn’t require as much of a specialized bicycle as a road race. ... The short course is all flat. It’d be easy to do for a beginning rider or family that wanted to come ride together.”
Online registration closes at 10 a.m. Friday, and in-person registration will be held from 1 to 6 p.m. Friday at the Chamber of Commerce, which will also be the same time and location of packet pickup.
Entries will not be allowed on the day of the ride.
Packet pickup will also be held at 7 a.m. on the day of the ride at Rail Spike Park Pavilion, located at the corner of Main and Johnson streets.
Both rides will head out on the Pelucia Creek levee, and just past the airport is where the routes will take a different twist. The 50K will return on flat levee paths, while the 100K leads to the rural roads and hills of Carroll County.
The participants will travel through “the flatlands of Leflore County” and “the rolling hills and gravel and dirt roads of Carroll County,” said Beattie.
The gravel ride was originally scheduled to be held in April and was postponed until September because of the coronavirus pandemic. Beattie said next year’s ride will return to the last weekend in April.
This year’s ride will feature many of the same health and safety guidelines as August’s Bikes, Blues & Bayous road cycling event.
Like all of the recent chamber-sponsored events, staff members and volunteers will be provided and required to wear approved personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves.
Hand sanitizer will be provided to participants at rest stops and finish areas, and handwashing stations will be provided.
Riders will be advised prior to the event to wear masks and gloves when contact with volunteers is unavoidable or necessary, and masks and gloves will be made available to riders.
The start area will be marked with Xs in advance to allow riders to maintain a minimum of 6 feet apart for social distancing. All riders will be provided a map and GPS directions for their ride routes.
The ride will include two rest stops, which will feature tables with individually packaged food and beverage items. Hand sanitizer and masks will be available for riders at the stops. The rest stops will be located at the Greenwood-Leflore Airport and at the Gravel Hill Volunteer Fire Department. SAG vehicles will be available to offer non-medical help, and the event will include a bike mechanic.
From 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., a post-ride party will be held at the pavilion. The event will be scaled back from last year’s post-ride party at Tallahatchie Flats. “It’ll just be a recovery period after the ride,” said Beattie.
The post-ride event will include a meal of brats, baked potatoes and beer.
“We learned how to serve food from the BBB, so we’ll do the same sort of thing,” said Beattie
The ride ends at 2 p.m.
This year, all riders will receive a custom long-sleeve pullover featuring an embroidered Greenwood Gravel Grind logo and a 16-ounce custom tumbler with the logo.
For more information or to register, visit greenwoodgravelgrind.com or call the chamber at 453-4152.
• Contact Ruthie Robison at 581-7235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.