There’s a new kind of cycling experience coming up the trail called gravel riding. Gravel riding, aka gravel grinding or adventure riding, is a form of cycling that combines elements of road and mountain biking, and consisting mostly of distance riding on unpaved roads.
Oklahoma mountain biker Ray Trammell signed up for his first gravel ride, the Land Run 100, and the rest was history..and the future. Ray has since become race director and promoter, turning his passion for gravel riding into a three event gravel racing series called The G3 “An Oklahoma Mid-South Gravel Series”. The G3 is a 3 race sprint gravel series in Guthrie, Oklahoma in the Fall of 2019.
We were curious how fellow mountain biker Ray transitioned in to the gravel arena, what made him decide to take on such a huge undertaking of creating a race series, and what exactly makes gravel riding so fun.
We decided to get up close and personal with Ray to find out how this race was born.
OKLAHOMA OUTSIDE EVENTS: Having been a mountain biker, what got you interested in gravel riding?
RAY: So a couple things here… first, I saw the documentary “Tour Divide” roughly 6 years ago. It inspired me to push my limits. I woke up the next day and basically searched out the most challenging local event I could find, which ended up being the Land Run 100. I signed up & told everyone I knew, to put the pressure on myself so I couldn’t back out. At the time, 10 miles of trail or 30 miles of pavement was a big ride for me. It was hands down the worst year of this event, however I enjoyed the event so much that I had to return to finish course. I only made it halfway that year. I didn’t really search out gravel riding, it kind of showed up on my doorstep. Second, living in Oklahoma City is tough for single track riders. As my fitness level increased, I wanted longer ride miles (but don’t care for road cycling). Most of our mountain bike trails are short, so I would have to ride multiple laps. Just my personal preference, but I would rather ride longer distances even if it’s at a slower pace, than ride multiple laps of the same trail. Really with exception to the Lake McMurtry and Lake Thunderbird trails, it’s tough to get in bigger miles without re-riding the same thing over and over. So the longer miles associated with riding gravel really appealed to me.
OKLAHOMA OUTSIDE EVENTS: What makes gravel riding so awesome versus other types of cycling?
RAY: Honestly it’s the safety (lack of car traffic) and lack of pretentiousness for me. It’s very much different for every rider out there. So I can’t speak matter of factually as I know the bicycle means something different to everyone. But I feel 90% of participants are typically racing themselves which I LOVE. Racing mountain bikes is very much a competition BETWEEN fellow riders. I haven’t been in a lead pack during a gravel event, and now that the roadies are moving to this medium I definitely never will be. So maybe it’s different up front. But I have been in the faster half and you’re still very much riding WITH your pace group more than you are racing against your pace group.
OKLAHOMA OUTSIDE EVENTS: What made you decide to put on your own gravel event?
RAY: Well, there was a lot of thought (procrastination) put into this series. It started with the centrality of the City of Guthrie and how accessible the gravel roads are there. It seemed very easy to build courses out of there and a reasonable location to leave from with smaller towns to ride to. It then occurred to me that with the growth of gravel after the past two years, we still didn’t have a cohesive series of events. Everything is kind of its own separate entity. Which is fine and the way to move forward after all is all said and done. There’s no telling. We are not re-inventing the wheel here, but this format of the races is very much a litmus test for the community. Ideally, I would like for the event to be out of my hands by year three and become a state wide series, with different promoters/directors, similar to how the Tour De Dirt race series is structured. There was also a growing group of friends I noticed heading to Texas or Kansas every weekend to race smaller events. I KNOW Oklahoma is gravel rich enough to pull out-of-state participants for more than one event a year. Jack Christian has a Trans Oklahoma Gravel Route and Stillwater riders created an Osage 200 route, Shawnee has an event in February, that has grown quite large. We should not only be able to keep people racing in Oklahoma, we should be bringing more people in. Most importantly, I was part of a forum for Land Run entries to be transferred after their remarkable sell out this past year. I kept seeing the same type posts in the vane of “haven’t trained for the 100, would like to sell my entry or trade for the 50 etc etc…”. In the end, people have to do what’s best for themselves and their bodies but I thought, “what if there was a way to engrain the confidence needed for them to achieve their goals, in a less daunting way?” The idea was born within the scope of all of these things but with the focus on pushing people just a bit past their limits to instill the confidence for the big race in March. I want an event that can and will do those things, and not consume the entire weekend. I settled on 100k distances with a gradual increase in elevation as the mileage is enough to keep the racers entertained but also push the casual riders’ comfort zones. I f you do the courses sequentially you will not only push past distance barriers, but also get comfortable with the type of elevation that comes with the Bobby Wintle Land Run Course. It was important to me to have this event prior to Land Run registration so when a rider buys that 100-mile entry they would know this was their year to complete it.
OKLAHOMA OUTSIDE EVENTS: Tell us one thing people don’t know about you in regards to your personal cycling journey.
RAY: Ideally, I would like my life to be setup where I could be car-less, even if it’s for just a few years. I’m sure I will catch some static for this, but the idea of an Ebike seems to make that closer to a reality than not.
Race dates are September 21st, October 5th, and October 19th. Official Timing and Results provided by none other than OKLAHOMA OUTSIDE EVENTS. The races will also feature goodies from Stone Brewing in Oklahoma, Hoboken Coffee Roasters, Buchanan Bicycles. Oklahoma Outside Events timing brought to you by the amazing crew at The First National Bank & Trust Co.