Lowell 50 Gravel Road Race Course
Some of our Team NL cyclists really love gravel road riding and cyclocross racing. The mix of road biking and off-road riding is a draw for a huge segment of the cycling demographic these days. Cyclists that are drawn to this type of riding love to explore new roads off the beaten path, experience the varied terrain, and have a strong desire to use their bicycle for exploration just as much as a tool for performance.
Because of this love of backroads riding, six of us took off for a Sunday Funday to a little town just northwest of Grand Rapids called Lowell, MI, home of The Lowell 50 gravel road race. The Lowell 50 happens two times a year, once in the early Spring and the other in late Fall, and has two lengths, 34 & 57 miles. The Lowell 50 and other races like it try to create an event that caters to the experienced racer all the way down to the person that simply wants to ride the race for fun. Just the type of event that works well for all the different types of cyclists at Team NeighborLink.
Our experience on Sunday was led by a few team members that have done this race a number of times and were eager to get a pre-ride in before the fall race as well get a change of scenery from our regular Fort Wayne roads. The rest of the riders were up for the adventure and simply wanted to enjoy each others company and experience some new roads. The course experienced some rain the day before and we weren't sure what to expect. Each of us had a different bike setup. Some road dedicated gravel bikes with 33mm tires, some cross bikes, and the rest of us on road bikes with tires between 23-28mm. The reality is that you can do this race on just about any kind of bike and make it with ease.
We chose the 57 mile route and were quickly woken up within the first 2-3miles on steep gravel ascent called, Good Morning, I believe. It's steep, pretty long, and loose gravel road that had us grinding the top. The first 8-10 miles left a few of us wondering just how long of a day it was going to be due to a lot rollers with punchy grades and humid tree covered roads. Things flattened out, the breeze blew, and we all began to settle into a great pace and enjoy the rest of the day. The roads were actually in fantastic shape and although slower than riding on the road, they were just as smooth for most of it.
Like any good day away with your cycling friends, our included lots of conversations about everything, laughs, and a visit to a brewpub on the way home. One thing is for sure, these kind of trips solidify friendships and team culture like no other.
We could go on and on about the specifics of our ride, but we'll cut it short and simply say that this is a fantastic route and worth the drive whether you want to race it or ride it for fun. If you're not use to riding gravel, get out and start incorporating some into your routes. Not only does it provide a bit of variety to your ride, it will help you become a much better bike handler, which translates into your road riding.
We'll likely field a team of cyclists for the October 31st race. Stay tuned or hit us up if you want to join other Team NL riders going up.