Gravel road touring in South Dakota is a BLAST!

Gravel road touring in South Dakota is a BLAST!
Early spring gravel road ride from Sioux Falls, SD. Courtesy of Harlan's Bike and Tour

The dusty roads of Siouxland are beckoning me.

For the past six years, I’ve joined my friends in South Dakota for a relaxing week of supported bicycle touring. We traversed lightly trafficked roads emanating from Sioux Falls and visited friendly communities in all four directions. Each year’s route varied from the last, offering a different perspective on the rolling prairie that the pioneers had to brave on their way to new lives out west.

This year, the good folks at Harlan’s Bike and Tour have decided to liven up the ride by adding a gravel road option along with the customary pavement route.

BLAST – Bicycle Loop Around Siouxland Tour – is a 4-day, 3-night, minimally supported tour starting and ending in Sioux Falls. It begins promptly at 9am on Friday, June 14th and continues through Monday, June 17th. Overnight stops include Luverne, Pipestone, and Dell Rapids. Breakfast is served in each of these three towns and hot showers are available. Harlan’s will haul up to two 40 pound bags per participant (3 total per couple), allowing cyclists to focus on the ride, not carrying camping gear.

I’m particularly excited about the gravel road route.

I’ve broken in my adventure bike on the secret single track of Chicago and tested its load-carrying capabilities and long-distance comfort on the Katy Trail in Missouri. My Volpe and I are ready to grind some gravel!

For the past year, Harlan’s has been taking smaller groups on self-supported overnight trips along the many “ditch” roads radiating from Sioux Falls. This is the rugged, rural American landscape seldom seen by anyone other than the farmers and ranchers that call this area home. This route requires a more durable bike with knobbier tires and a rider up for the challenges of navigating unpredictable and uneven surfaces.

Harlan’s and Bianchi will be providing demo rides for any registered rider curious about gravel grinding on an adventure bike.

A limited number of Bianchi Volpes will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for all-day test rides. Harlan’s will even haul the participant’s bike to the next overnight town while he or she pounds the shorter, but more challenging, unpaved route. It’s a great way to put an adventure bike through its paces before deciding to add one to your collection.

Registration is open through midnight on Sunday, June 9, 2013. Space is limited. The fee is only $135 and includes a water bottle, Dryfit t-shirt, breakfast in the three overnight towns, and baggage hauling (see sign-up site for complete details). The pavement route is no more than 60 miles per day, while the gravel option is 40 or less.

I’ve met a lot of great people touring the Siouxland alongside my friends at Harlan’s. The camaraderie and hospitality of the Great Plains is unrivaled. The air is fresh, the skies are clear, and sometimes, the wind is at your back…

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Keep riding and be safe!

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