Choose Your Cycling Adventure in the Pandemic – A Complete Guide

Creating your own adventure is a fun way to challenge yourself

Like most of us, I had plans for this year.

This winter, I had laid out at least a monthly gravel adventure race for the spring, in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

I also planned to do several trail running events.

And while those plans have gone by the wayside, creating your own “Choose Your Cycling Adventure” will give you some creative ways to have fun, do something different, and still get in long training miles.

Choose Your Cycling Adventure: Create a “Dirty Kanzelled” Event

Laurens Ten Dam, a Dutch former pro racer, was planning to come to the States to race in Dirty Kanza Gravel Race in Kansas May 30.

Instead, he is encouraging people to create their own event on May 30, called Dirty Kanzelled.

“It’s a celebration of cycling to do a challenge like this,” he says!

You choose to ride 100 or 200 miles, trying to get as much gravel in as possible.

It’s a celebration of cycling to do a challenge like this!

Laurens Ten Dam

See the rules on his site.

Rogers-Vaughters Round 1*

Cycling Tips Editor Neal Rogers created a “Choose Your Cycling Adventure” when he challenged former cycling pro and current owner of the EF Education Pro Cycling Team Jonathan Vaughters to a race up Flagstaff in Boulder, CO.

Here’s how Rogers describes the genesis of the idea.

Rogers says, “The Vaughters things actually dates back to 2008, when I spent a week in Girona with the Garmin-Chipotle team prior to the Tour de France. I was pretty fit back then, doing some amateur racing, and went out on a ride with the Tour team that had three climbs. Riding on Tyler Farrar’s Roubaix bike, with a 46-tooth little ring, I hung well on the first climb, and only got dropped near the top of the second climb around the same time Magnus Backstedt got dropped. At the time, Vaughters had been retired from racing for about five years, and he had let his fitness slide; I joked with him that I could drop him on Flagstaff, the main climb in Boulder.

Rogers said he and Vaughters live near each other and are the same age. But Rogers describes himself as an average athlete, while Vaughters, well, was a pro cyclist.

“So the whole concept was to explore what might win out, training versus talent, Rogers says, “That became a bit of a running joke over the years, but there was never any real effort to make it happen. That all changed during the winter of 2018. I needed a goal, and challenged Vaughters to race up Flagstaff in 2019. He agreed ? it was good motivation to get fit ?  and it was on.”

Due to some scheduling conflicts, the challenge didn’t happen until early December. Rogers says by that time, he had lost some of his summer fitness, and Vaughters was able to train a little more after the long pro season.

“There we were,” Rogers says, “a couple of 46-year-old dudes battling up the mountain. He put in a very hard attack on the steepest section of the climb, near the top, and I wasn?t able to respond; he beat me by a minute on a 35-minute climb.”

Here’s a video of the challenge!

* There will probably not be a Round 2…

“Choose Your Cycling Adventure” – Cheesehead Roubaix

I’ve ridden the Cheesehead Roubaix, a ride in Newburg, WI that has a mix of gravel and pavement several times over the years. It’s one of those rides where the front group goes pretty hard until it breaks apart at Lover’s Lane, a washed out gravel, dirt crevice in a hill that separates the fast guys from the rest of us.

Dave Hanrahan created the ride in 2010 as an “adventure ride” for his bike club. After riding the Gravel Metric in Illinois and seeing the growth of Barry-Roubaix, Dirty Kanza, and Trans Iowa, he knew that gravel was about to be a huge thing.

In 2011, Hanrahan promoted the event to a wider audience of cyclists looking for a challenge.

He was also “motivated somewhat by regional pride,” he says. “I wanted to introduce others to the roads with which I had made myself familiar, out-of-the-way places that most people would avoid if they knew about them at all. I wanted to show people that they didn?t have to travel to another state or to some remote corner of Wisconsin to find roads like these. Now, when the weather is nice, I can get 300 riders and the parking lot is dotted with Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota license plates.”

Create a Team Time Trial

Focusing on the statement “Choose Your Cycling Adventure”, Nathan Phelps has built the Gryphon Velo Racing Team into a team that everyone knows from the bright kit and good humor on the road. Team members also travel a lot to events throughout the Midwest.

But instead of traveling everywhere, the team has had to stay home during the pandemic. So Phelps got creative in continuing to challenge his team to stay active.

“To keep the team engaged, I set up a Coronavirus Pandemic ITT that runs every other week.” Phelps says. “Riders can hit the 15-mile course anytime over the course of the week. Timing is done using Strava and times are recorded. We?ll do this every other week until ? whenever.”

While Gryphon has been doing intra-team time trials for years, more people are participating this year.

“It gives all of us something to connect over (who doesn?t like comparing times?),” Phelps says, “and to push ourselves when we otherwise might not. Four of us ended up on the course at the same time (unplanned) a few weeks ago, it was nice to see some teammates again.”

Tour of Milwaukee and Burlington Gravel Ride

I have two adventure rides that I like to do, both “Choose Your Cycling Adventure” material.

The Tour of Milwaukee uses bike trails and streets with bike lanes to take a big loop around the city. It uses the Oak Leaf Trails, Interurban Trails, and some pretty good roads. Good stops along the way for coffee as well.

The Burlington Gravel Ride is my preferred gravel and limestone trail ride. It has a lot of pavement on the course, but those roads are out in the country.

I added a loop including the White River Trail to get a 100-mile ride to do Dirty Kanzelled.

Got Your Own Cycling Adventure Route? Share it Here!

I’d love to see your adventures on bikes! Share them in the comments.

Want to Talk About Training for Your Adventure?