Barry Roubaix Gravel Race 2016 Start Line

If you are considering doing the Barry Roubaix race, or if you have already done it and want more insights, this is the post for you! We will give you an overview of the race, course options, bike setup tips, lessons learned, videos of past races and more!

Barry Roubaix Overview

Barry Roubaix claims to be cycling’s largest gravel race in the world with four different distances to chose from: 100, 62, 36 and 22 miles. Thousands of racers show up from all over the country for a chance to win some prize money and party like rock starts afterwards.

Here is an overview:

  • The gravel race traverses the rolling and scenic gravel roads throughout Barry County, Michigan.
  • Up to the top ten finishers in the various categories receive cash prizes.
  • Over 3,500 cyclists race in all the categories.
  • Cyclocross, Mountain, Road, Single-Speed, Fixed gear, Fatbikes & Tandem bicycles are welcome in any category.
  • The course is marked well.  RED = 62 mile, YELLOW = 36 mile and BLUE = 22 mile. The 100 mile “Psycho Killer” course is not marked.
  • There is a huge after-party and awards ceremony.
  • The organizers do a fantastic job running the event.  It is by far the best run gravel race I attend each year.
  • The time of year is not always ideal from a weather standpoint.  In 2015, the starting temperature was in the low teens and did not warm up for the entire race.  In 2017, the starting temperature was in the 30s and it poured rain.

Barry Roubaix Lessons Learned

I raced Barry Roubaix in 2015 for the first time.  In fact, it was my first bike race ever, and I had no idea what to expect and was nervous as hell! I did the training and was prepared to ride hard for 62 miles, however, I did not know how to fuel, hydrate, position myself, etc…

That’s why I decided to write this post, so that you can be ready! Below are my top tips.

  • WEAR A CAMELBAK FOR HYDRATION AND FUEL. The gravel roads are nice, but they are rutted and choppy.  It can be difficult to grab a bottle, especially in the first 20 miles.  It’s a hammer fest with hills and lots of traffic. Not to mention, if it’s cold, opening a gel or bar with gloves is impossible. Do yourself a favor, and heed my advice. Use a hydration pack. I wear mine under my jersey to stay more aero.
  • Follow the rules. Do not wrap your number plate around your top tube.  In 2016 I got “cute” with my number plate and wrapped it around the head tube and got DQ’d.  Not to mention, my time chip did not even work.  That was really stupid and a direct violation of the posted rules.
  • Consider  taping the ride profile to the top tube identifying the major hills and jeep trail… I recall a steep hill later in the ride that becomes a factor if you are getting tired.

Race start and positioning yourself

  • The selection starts when you hit the first large hill on the gravel.  You can see them on the videos below.  Prepare to ride full gas on these hills.
  • Stay to the left side of the road in the first group of hills.  Slower traffic to the right can be VERY slow and sometimes they walk their bike up the hills.  Do yourself a favour, and STAY LEFT.
  • The first 20 miles are hard. Prepare to ride at near your threshold for 50 minutes, until the jeep trail around mile 15.  The last major selection happens here.  The jeep trail is a total mess.  It’s rutted, sandy, and steep.  I dropped my chain on the inside and lost valuable time in 2016.  Get in your little ring BEFORE turning left onto the trail to avoid a chain suck.

During the race

  • If the temps are warmer, the roads can be dusty.  You can see it in the 2016 video, compared to the 2015 video below.  There is nothing you can do to prepare for the dust.  Just be aware it’s coming.  
  • Also, in the warmer temps, there are sections in the first 20 miles that have sand.  Be careful about hitting the sand fast.  In 2016 there were sand sections that I hit at 25mph in the middle of a dust cloud.  People don’t know how to ride sand.  They stop pedalling and create log jambs. Remember,  pedal through the sand at higher RPMs.  Do not stop.  Keep pedalling.
  • For some reason, riders go very hard up the hills and coast down the back side.  For the heavier riders, you can surf the pack going up the hills and catch up going down the backside.

Food

  • There are some feed zones to get water and gels.  However, you don’t need to stop for food if you have a Camelbak full of water and fuel (either in your pockets or in liquid form mixed with your electrolytes.  I use Carbopro for liquid nutrition.  
  • If you must bring food, tape gels to the top tube.  That way, you will be able to grab them easily, especially with heavy gloves.

Lodging

  • Hotels for this event fill up fast.  If you plan to stay in Hastings, make reservations several months or even up to a year in advance, as accommodations are limited.  Better yet, right after the year of the event, you should make hotel reservations for the following year.

Barry Roubaix Bike Setup

Tires

For all courses, the roads are predominantly gravel (at least 90%).  I recommend a lightweight gravel tire assuming the conditions are dry.  In 2017 I plan to run the Gravel Grinder TLR 33.  I’ve been testing this tire for months now and love it, it’s light.  The puncture protection with the Clement LAS is adequate given the smooth gravel conditions.  In prior years I ran a 700×38 and 700×36 tire setup.

The added weight of the wider tire is not worth the gain in traction and/or ride comfort.  Plus there is only one technical section (the jeep trail) and the sand pits are short and infrequent.  You are better off running through the sand in exchange for a faster rolling gravel tire.

Barry Roubaix Course

Here is the 62 Mile Course Profile and route.

Barry Roubaix 62 Mile Course Profile - 360velo
Barry Roubaix 62 Mile Course Profile

Barry Roubaix Images

Barry Roubaix 62 Mile Gravel Full Length Race Video – 2015

Barry Roubaix 62 Mile Gravel Race Full Length Race Video – 2016

Race Summary

In summary, I believe Barry Roubaix is by far the largest and best run gravel race in the Midwest.  The course is a good mix of gravel roads, punchy hills, technical trails, and some asphalt roads. In addition, the locals come out to support the racers and the cars seem to be on their best behaviour.

Lastly, if you have signed up for the race but have not been doing much training, is unsure how to prepare, or if this is your first time, drop us a message and ask how we can help you.

Hope to see you out there!

Check out the Barry Roubaix discussion about the race and ask questions in our forum!

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