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Fresh off her win at the inaugural, unsupported 360-mile Dirty Kanza XL, world champion mountain biker Rebecca Rusch is back at home in Idaho, scouting routes and unridden tracks for a packed summer of gravel riding. "Part of the reason why gravel has really taken off is that riders, especially over here in the U.S., are tired of being near cars. And these gravel roads are opening up land where even I haven't ridden before. Gravel riding lets you get 'the alone experience' away from civilization, where people can get out and adventure."
For when you've got several days of adventure ahead:
This year I'm organizing the inaugural Rusch Academy in my favorite place of Idaho, my hometown. The whole state is connected by gravel, so I'm leading four days around Ketchum, a point-to-point ride with between 50–70 miles each day. It's not a competitive event - the aim is to empower all riders to have their own adventure, so it's about teaching and advising everyone on how best to pack, carry your stuff, cook and, above all, explore.
For something wholly new with big climbs:
I'm really excited about a brand new event called unPAved in Pennsylvania, which is all on carriage trails and unused paths. Billed as a "raw road adventure," the 120-mile route promises to be "easy on the eyes, hard on the legs."
For opening up gravel riding to everyone:
Rebecca's Private Idaho is on Labor Day weekend again, and it's getting bigger than ever so that we really offer something for everyone. There's now a really accessible 25-miler, a 50-miler, and a 100-mile option, as well as a stage race, which has an adventure-packed first day with trails and singletrack to really suit the mountain bikers. For sure, there's some climbing for all of the distances, taking us up to around 2,800 meters.
“Join me for a gravel-strewn, grit-filled, pedal-cranking love letter from me and my Idaho home to the rest of the world.”
For exploring with a more competitive spirit:
One ride I'm excited about is the Crusher in the Tushar in Utah, my neighboring state. It's about four hours from where I live, and the route mixes pavement and gravel. The very first winner of my Private Idaho is actually the organizer of this one, so it will be great to do his event.
For when dirty just isn't dirty enough:
The first edition of the Dirty Kanza XL really appealed to me because it wasn't just about total fitness, but also tested navigation, planning, fueling and general adventure skills. Self-sufficiency adds another layer of responsibility, and I really like that I had to be independent there. I love the bike-packing style of gravel riding, where you've got to carry virtually everything necessary and resupply at convenience stores. It's a cool category.
The bike —
Rebecca rides a Niner RLT, which stands for Road Less Traveled-a name that Rebecca is completely convinced by.
The kit —
Photos by: Linda Guerrette.
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