Heck of the North 50


This is the fourth annual Heck of the North 50! So why a half version of an already great course? It’s my belief that there are hundreds of people wanting to experience gravel cycling, but are a bit intimated by the now standard length of gravel cycling events, 100 miles. So I have hand picked my favorite sections of the Heck of the North course and tweaked it to come in at 55 miles. The Heck of the North 50 is no gimme. It will test the rider just as the Heck of the North has for years. It will include a healthy sampling of all aspects that make the Heck of the North one of the best and most challenging gravel courses in the country.

So how to prepare? The first thing: have a bike that fits you properly. And yes, there are options for what bike to ride. Most ride a gravel specific rig. There are many on the market these days. Thinks cyclocross bike with frame geometry more suitable for long days in the saddle (more stability, too.) A mountain bike (a 29er is preferable) outfitted with narrow knobby or “gravel” tires will work fine, too. In fact there are sections of the course that this will be the optimal bike. Tires: go with at least a 35 c or wider (there are a growing number of tire options in the 35-40 c plus width.)  Anything narrower will be too prone for wheel/tire failure. I like about 40-45 psi in my 35 c cyclocross tires. Too little air = pinch flats. Too much air = too rough a ride.

The next thing: get those training miles in, preferably on gravel/dirt roads. Off-pavement riding is different than classic road biking. At first it might seem like gravel riding is the hardest way to participate in the sport of cycling, but within a short time you will notice something: way fewer cars, way more silence,  more trees, more wildlife, beautiful rural scenery, and maybe just that true sense of adventure missing in everyday life.

The Heck of the North 50 will be a big loop, starting and finishing at the same place as The Heck of the North. So join that person riding The Heck of the North this year. See what it’s all about. Share the same terrain. Tell those stories of gravel glory. And maybe next year you’ll be ready for a 100.

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