Biking // List

Must-Ride Gravel Bike Races in Minnesota

By Natalia Mendez

Le Grand du Nord gravel bike race Grand Marais

Le Grand du Nord takes riders on a hilly gravel adventure along the North Shore of Lake Superior / Visit Cook County

Looking to grind some gravel? Want to explore off-road without going full mountain bike? From epic adventures to pure joyrides, there are gravel rides across Minnesota for all skill levels. 

Here are seven to get your started:

  1. Ragnarok 105
    Ragnarok 105

    Red Wing, April 6

    If you’re looking to start your spring season with a butt-kicker, head out to Red Wing for the Ragnarok 105. This early season ride promises both calf-burning climbs and bar-gripping descents thanks to a challenging route along the Mississippi River’s soaring bluffs and deep valleys. Because the race is always held in April, the weather is often unpredictable—past years have featured rain, snow and ice, so come prepared. This self-supported ride often ends up sloppy, but the mud-freckles are well worth it.

    Afterward, spend the rest of the weekend relaxing and recovering with a visit to the multi-dealer, multi-store Pottery Place antique mall or the World’s Largest Boot at the Red Wing Shoe Company Museum.

  2. The Almanzo Series
    Almanzo 100 gravel road bike race Spring Valley

    The Almanzo 100 is Minnesota's most infamous gravel race / Kim Mensinger

    The Almanzo Series

    Northfield, May 17-18

    Since showing up on the scene back in 2007, Almanzo quickly became Minnesota’s most infamous gravel race—feared and cheered alike for its grueling climbs and DIY ethos. And although the race has changed hands a few times over the years, it never lost its heart; the goal is still to encourage riders to dig deep and believe in their abilities in the face of an unforgiving challenge.

    This year's Almanzo series brings riders to the gravel hills outside of Northfield. Ride options include a recently added 50-mile course, the Malanzo, the classic 100-mile Almanzo, the Royal 162, and for those looking for a multi-day event, the 380-mile Alexander. There’s no wrong way to ride this classic and uplifting gravel series and, like always, Almanzo is free to all those brave enough to enter.   

  3. RiotGrrravel
    Riders in the RiotGrrravel bike race

    RiotGrrravel is a family-friendly gravel race for women, trans and nonbinary riders / Kate Lockhart, courtesy RiotGrrravel


    Hastings, May 18

    For woman, trans and nonbinary (WTNB) people looking to get into gravel riding, the male-centric gravel racing scene doesn’t always feel super welcoming. Enter RiotGrrravel, a gravel ride meant to introduce WTNB folks to group riding and gravel in an environment just for you. The family-friendly ride offers 10-, 21- and 33-mile gravel courses on the scenic farm roads outside of Hastings.

    In addtion to the race itself, RiotGrrravel organizers also host info sessions beforehand to educate new riders about what to wear, how much food and water to pack, and what to expect from your first gravel race. This grassroots event is a must-ride for beginner WTNBs!

  4. Le Grand Du Nord
    Le Grand Du Nord

    Grand Marais, May 25

    From the artsy harbor town of Grand Marais, Le Grand du Nord takes riders on a hilly, gravel journey along the North Shore of Lake Superior that's as beautiful as it is challenging. The race offers 20-, 58- and 100-mile courses and takes place during the peak of spring’s bloom on the North Shore. Though the 58- and 100-mile courses feature a fair amount of heart-pounding climbs, the 20-mile route is much mellower: It cuts back on the gravel and offers more paved trails for beginners.

    Afterward, head to the post-ride party at Voyageur Brewing Company and spend the rest of the weekend checking out live music, eating delicious food and viewing the art in vibrant Grand Marais.

  5. Westside Dirty Benjamin
    Gravel roads and countryside near Plainview

    An example of the gravel farm roads the Dirty Benjamin traverses

    Westside Dirty Benjamin

    Chaska, June 8

    Minneapolis may not seem like the kind of place cyclists could easily find dusty gravel backroads for punishing their legs, but the Dirty Benjamin shows that some of the best gravel riding lies just southwest of the city in humble Chaska. The 100-mile Dirty Benjamin traverses wide-open farm roads and quaint towns to refuel in, but don't let that fool you: it's a hilly and gritty race with just enough flat sections to keep your legs spinning. With bone-rattling washboards, thick pea gravel and smoother crushed limestone all making appearances, tire selection for the Dirty Benjamin is notoriously difficult, but for many riders that's what makes it fun.

  6. Luce Line Loops
    Luce Line Loops

    Hutchinson, June 9

    All aboard for a fun and family-friendly ride! Beginning and ending at the Crow River Winery, this fully supported event is more of a mosey than an all-out race. Most Luce Line Loops riders enjoy ride paved, 12-, 25- and 50-mile courses that explore the Luce Line Trail and its offshoots, but for gravel diehards, the 75K Gravel Grinder weaves participants around local lakes and offers some elevation with rolling hills. By offering on-course aid and water stations, this route allows riders to pack light and fully enjoy the event.

    Showers at the end of the Gravel Grinder mean that when you’re done, you can clean up before you enjoy your free root beer float (earned by participants in any of the above rides) before heading over to the Hutchinson Jaycee Water Carnival.

  7. The DAM(n)
    The DAM(n)

    Aug. 3

    The Day Across Minnesota ride is exactly what it sounds like: a one-day ride across the whole (damn) state. Not for the faint of heart or the novice rider, this 240-mile race begins at midnight in Gary, South Dakota, and gives riders just 24 hours to grind out the miles to the finish in Hager City, Wisconsin, just outside of Red Wing.

    The course grows steeper toward the end as riders make their way to the Driftless region of southeast Minnesota, so pace yourself or suffer the consequences. For riders up to the challenge, this race might be the best way to experience the stunning scenery of southern Minnesota on a bicycle.

Natalia Mendez

Natalia Mendez is a former Wisconsinite who never lost her love for cheese, big lakes and going "Up North." She now lives in Minneapolis near lots of smaller lakes, and spends time in Minnesota's north woods as much as possible. When not dreaming of her next two-wheeled adventure, she can be found cooking and eating elaborate meals or petting her cats, Cosmo and Carl.