Gravel Growler riders beat flat tires and shoulder injuries in season finale

Cyclists prepare to start the Gravel Growler outside Winterlong Brewing on Sept. 19. The event ended with a socially distant beer garden. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Emily Macht starts the Gravel Growler event outside of Winterlong Brewing on Saturday morning. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Gravel Growler rider Reid Sandiford, 11, starts the race on Copper Haul Road. He was named the “Belgian Hard Kid” in the 2019 event. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Pete Sandiford and Amy McClintock lead a pack of riders down Copper Haul Road. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Yukon cyclists of all stripes hit the road on Sept. 19 for the annual Gravel Growler — a social ride with a little bit of course for every type of bike.

Weather for the Saturday morning event was cool and bright, sparing riders extra trouble on a course that already combines gravel and dirt.

“Obviously there’s not a lot going on in terms of real-life events this year, and it was great. Weather was awesome and everyone finished,” said organizer Joel Macht.

The event is less a race than a biking challenge and social event that rewards effort, grit and good times. All levels, tires and frames are welcome.

Shelly McKee and Travis Flath were named the Real McKenzies of 2020, an award formerly known as the Belgian Hardwo/man. The award isn’t necessarily for best times, but for the best effort.

Flath encountered three flat tires prior to finishing 10 kilometres of the race. Despite the setback, he managed to walk back, obtain a new tire, and set out on the course just as some riders were finishing for the day.

“It was such a nice day and he didn’t want to miss out. And before he went out to do his ride, we were all in the beer garden and we let him know there’d be a growler waiting for when he got back,” Macht said.

The second Real McKenzie was awarded to McKee for riding the course on her fat bike despite a shoulder injury that forced her off her bike earlier in the season.

The fastest riders were Dave Gonda, who took the win in the long course in 2:18:43, just five minutes and 36 seconds ahead of Ian Parker. Phil Hoffman took first in the short course in just under 1:59:30 and Bill Curtis following 10 minutes behind.

The 65-km long track began at Winterlong Brewing, starting on the gravel Copper Haul Road followed by a steep elevation gain up to Fish Lake. From there, cyclists descended to the highway and transitioned to Mount McIntrye singletrack before winding back to the start.

The event concluded with a socially-distant beer garden at Winterlong Brewing, the start and finish area for each track.

The event also included a 40-km short course that skips the 500-metre elevation up to Fish Lake.

The inclusive event invites road bikes, mountain bikes, fat bikes or touring bikes to take on the challenge, but warns that “whatever you ride, know that at some point on the day, it will be a great choice, and at another point it’ll be a terrible choice. Ponder this. Accept it. Embrace it.”

“The idea is that everyone is welcome. The bike industry is always wanting to sell more bikes, which is just fine, but you don’t need a special bike for the gravel scene,” Macht said.

“So when we first started doing this, the idea was that you take whatever kind of the bike you have, whether it’s a mountain bike or a road bike, and you equip it with whatever tire you think are going to get you through pavement, gravel, roads, dirt roads, single track and everything in between. Just go for it. So the idea behind it is not really a race. It’s kind of a ride-hard-if-you-want-to — or not,” Macht said.

In total, between 40 and 50 riders registered for the event, a cap that was necessary due to COVID-19 restrictions. It was the first time the Gravel Grower registration was combined with the Royalty of the Canyon race to form a “series.”

The two events were collaborations by Velonorth and the Contagious Mountain Bike Club.

“Road riding has gone through some ups and downs over the years. It’s been popular for a while and then mountain biking has been definitely on the up and up for the past few years, particularly in Whitehorse. It’s great riding up here. But it’s nice to have something for everyone,” Macht said.

Contact Haley Ritchie at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announce the first COVID-19 related death in a press conference announcement Friday morning. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
UPDATED: Yukon announces first COVID-19-related death

The person was an older Watson Lake resident with underlying health conditions, officials said

Wyatt's World for Oct. 30.

Wyatt’s World for Oct. 30

Health Minister Pauline Frost insists no one who shows up at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter for dinner will go without a meal, despite no drop-in dinner service being offered starting on Nov. 1. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Non-profits concerned as Whitehorse Emergency Shelter ends drop-in dinner service

Minister Pauline Frost insists everyone who needs one ‘will be provided with a meal.’

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29. Affordability challenges is being described as being among the most pressing issues facing housing markets throughout the north in a report released Oct. 29 by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Home, rent prices increasing in Whitehorse, northern housing report says

Affordability continues to be a major challenge, report says

Premier Sandy Silver talks to media in Whitehorse on March 19. According to the premier, who is also the finance minister, the Yukon government ran a $2.6 million deficit in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, instead of the surplus it had originally predicted. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government ran a $2.6 million deficit in 2019-2020

Deficit attributed to lower-than-expected revenue, higher expenses on health and social side

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and management roundtable discussion Sept. 26, 2019. During an Oct. 29 meeting, Constable highlighted a number of potential changes to the City of Whitehorse procedures bylaw. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Work on City of Whitehorse procedures bylaw continues

Officials will look at procedures for other municipalities

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley at a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Aug. 26. Hanley said the source of the outbreak in Watson Lake may not ever be found, but contact tracing in the community continues. (Alistair Maitland Photography)
New Whitehorse COVID-19 case is unrelated to Watson Lake cluster, officials say

Chief medical officer of health says avoid indoor Halloween parties, monitor for symptoms

Joel Krahn/Yukon News file Whitehorse City Hall.
Whitehorse city council, briefly

Updates on matters before city council on Oct. 26

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
GoFundMe for Whitehorse boy hit by car on Range Road raises more than $62k in a day

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

A proposed Official Community Plan amendment would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. Whitehorse city council passed first reading on a bylaw for the designation change at its Oct. 26 meeting, prompting an upcoming public hearing on Nov. 23 ahead of second reading on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Local contractors will be given an advantage on a contract for the design and construction services that will see a new reception building at Robert Service Campground decided city councillors during the Oct. 26 council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local firms will get advantage on contract for new Robert Service Campground building

Yukon-based companies competing for contract for new reception building will receive 20 extra points

Fallen trees due to strong winds are seen leaning on to power lines which caused some power outages around the territory on Oct. 26. (Courtesy of ATCO)
Wind knocks out power around the Yukon

High winds on Oct. 26 knocked out power to Faro, parts of Whitehorse and beyond

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over the Takhini elk herd be struck by the court. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Yukon government asks for Takhini elk lawsuit to be struck

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over… Continue reading

Most Read