Barry Roubaix

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I was talking with my buddy Wrighteous up in Chicago the other day. He told me about some gravel race in Michigan that was going to be 60 some-odd miles long, shitty weather, and a bunch of beer. I said he better send along a race report when he got back. Here it is:

First rodeo with Barry-Roubaix

We all know that “The Gnar” can be shredded. But it can also be grinded.

Since I began racing in the last three years, I’ve kept hearing the term “gnar.” And it’s finding its way into my cycling lexicon to describe extremes endured on two wheels.

To wit:

Post cross race: “Dude, that sand pit was so gnar.” [Coughs up sand/beer.] – Cat 4 goober.

Whiskey Off-Road ‘12: “GNAR.” –Dude who got hit by a deer, then kept riding.

There’s a cycling discipline perhaps most evocative of The Gnar: gravel grinders. About 3,000 riders in Hastings, Mich., this past weekend would verify that claim.

Let’s get to it. Enter Barry-Roubaix.

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Welcome to Gnarville.

Pick your poison: It’s a 62-, 36-, or 23-mile suffer fest on a healthy mix of road and hilly “gravel” country roads. I put quotes around gravel because this part of Michigan has been blue-balled by spring, rendering these back roads into an unpredictable, tacky, half-thawed trail of tears. For the most part I didn’t have trouble finding an acceptably smooth line. But sometimes I danced between car tracks to avoid stretches of rumbling, pock-marked mud or full-blown craters that sent countless water bottles fucking flying out of their cages. At the first off-road section, I saw a few guys in the first wave go down hard because of either bottles littering the course, ice, pot holes, or all of the above. And it was cold. Falling when it’s cold sucks. “That second crash felt like a car accident,” said my one buddy who went down on ice, all muddy and bloody at the finish.

I've fallen and can't get up
I’ve fallen and can’t get up

But once you started getting sick of gravel, you’d see the cop car blocking traffic ahead, waving you through. Pavement. Sweet, forgiving pavement. I can’t say I’ve ridden in a paceline with cross bikes, 29ers, and single speed MTBs. But sometimes you gotta tighten up and pull each other through until you dive back down the gravel rabbit hole. Then more pavement, gravel, grinding: repeat.

The cold got to me at times. My Clif bars and goos nearly froze in my pockets, which turned what’s normally a quick feed into a slow awkward chew that I washed down with slush. The sky was grey all day and didn’t look happy about it. I heard rifle shots, saw a freshly run-over jack rabbit, and rotted front porches swollen with years of junk.

I traded pulls with a rider for the last few miles into town. As I pulled into the chute, she threw the hammer down on me and crossed the finish a bike length ahead. Turns out cycling skirts make women faster, after all. That, or I need to put in more hours on the trainer.

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Women’s podium (and creeper)

After I finished but before I hit up the Founders beer tent, I shivered my way over to Aaron and the guys at 616 Fab’s tent to marvel at incredible fat bike fabrication. Now I get why Dirty swears by his. Those are some solid bikes. Soon I found my teammates and devoured a couple Dirty Bastards, basking in that camaraderie that comes with the grinding and conquering of Gnar. We exchanged tales of HTFU. 

barry (13)
Show that crank arm who’s boss.

And I met this woman, who right before I took this picture, impressively took a big pull from all three cups at once. Don’t worry, I won’t tell whoever you bought these beers for.

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I’m thinking next spring I will make my way north and try and do a few of these. Seems like my kind of scene.

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About dirty biker

I am a fan of singletrack, singlespeeds, single women and single malt. Currently in Carbondale, CO Follow on Instagram @dirty_biker

11 Replies to “Barry Roubaix”

  1. It brings me tears of joy to read about the goings on in my birth state. The scene there is strong with Founders Brewery making damn fine beer and supporting the cycling scene since we used to race bikes in the tap room at the original location. Rick of KissCross puts on so many fine events it is painful. He has something for everyone, and a few things you’ll hate him for. His events are top notch and always filled with great people. There are some serious badasses that came from the G-Rap area…Mark Hendershot, Danielle Musto, Dan ” candy van” Jansen, and Mackenzie Woodring all still represent hard. Ballers on the Bissell team and Brent Bookwalter are holding it down on the bigger platforms. 616Fabrications is killing it as of late with Velocity Wheels being a staple in the business for some time now. America’s high five has a few tricks and gems up it’s sleeve. I am proud to call everyone of these bastards a friend, many have helped get me where I am at today.

  2. The “creeper” in the women’s podium pic is Rick Plite the race promoter. Definitely NOT a creeper, Barry Roubaix would not exist if not for Rick!

  3. I added that little part, i would be looking in the same general direction if I was up there too…and people would call me a creeper. And I would be OK with that.

  4. Check out the Land Run 100. 100 miles of gravel in the Oklahoma backwater region of Stillwater. Stop on by next March!

  5. DB- check out Gravel Grinder News site. You’ll find some graveling closer to home if you want it. You usually have to sign up way early for these events, which is fine; gets ones ass moving on getting ready to get ready for the long haul. Lots of these events are free too.

  6. It was a mighty fun day and my first time rocking the gnar of Barry-Roubaix; I loaded my new-used Husky, Rocko, my 15 yo Gunnar Crosshairs (another fine Great Lakes region builder), an altoids container of bud (the special-green de-energizing kind), and my sorry carcass rolled to do the 36-mile single-speed event. Given the title-sponsor was Founders, I was expecting an event of Iceman-like proportions and fun factor. B-R didn’t disappoint; although my race went to shit almost from the gun, I had a mechanical that took 20 minutes to fix right after the start, leaving me feeling like a rookie. I decided heretofore, it’s smart to have a spare everything when pairing old tech with new. Even though my race was over, by the time I got rolling, the fast ladies in the 36-mile race were rolling right up next to me. And when the first icy sections saw a slew of pile-ups, I opted to stop and help a SS-ridin’ damsel in distress de-tweek her ride (I actually remembered to bring a multi-tool along despite my poor pre-race bike inspection), my good karma factor got the points. Once the ride was over, Rocko and I headed to the beer garden; let me tell ya, nothing brings people together like good beer and a handsome dog. Rocko and I made about 50 new friends on the day.

    I may just have to come back next year, hopefully we’ll see y’all there!