2023 International Gravel Events - the best off-road events from around the globe
While the UK has a packed 2023 calendar of gravel events, there is even more on offer overseas. From Kenyan dirt roads to the mountain passes of Switzerland and weekend gravel packages with a recovery sauna included, there is plenty to explore beyond our island nation.
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Many of the international gravel events are rather long in distance, but some gravel cycling events offer multiple distances that are accessible even for mere mortals. Others are classed as purely social events, with no timing or racing taking place. There is literally something for everyone, and this only speaks for the inclusivity of gravel cycling as a discipline.
If type two kind of fun is your cup of tea, and you wish to race multiple international events, you can sign up for racing in a series, such as the Gravel Earth series, which brings together a host of gravel events that fulfil certain criteria into one series where the one with the most overall points will win.
But let's have a look at some of the most interesting international gravel events, so you can start to book holidays and travel for them.
Migration Gravel Race, Kenya
20-23 June 2023
This one will be closing soon so get registered quickly if you want to have a go at racing across the wilds of the Maasai Mara, Kenya. The “Migration Gravel Race” is a semi-supported four-day stage race and competitors will be pre-approved to race. This means you will have some re-supplying points along the route and rangers to ensure your safety in case you get up close with the wildlife.
The 650 km route includes singletrack, game trails, red clay, and rough hard pack gravel. And an average elevation of 1,900m through Maasai villages, plains, rivers, mountains and across the big game country.
Registrations are open now and close on 15 January 2023. The entry fee is $1,200, which includes accommodation, transfers and some meals for the duration of the event.
Evolution Gravel Race, Tanzania
27 June 2023
Another gravel race on the African continent, the Evolution Gravel Race takes you across Tanzania on an 850km gravel route. You will ride from the Ngorongoro Crater to the Swahili Coast in Tanzania and the fastest overall time from the Crater to the Coast wins.
The 850km course features long flat stages over smooth, fast gravel as well as mountainous stages with steep climbs, with the total elevation hovering around 10,000m and travelled through plains, national parks, Mt. Kilimanjaro, rainforests and many local villages. There will be support on hand to ensure safety throughout the race but a hardy sense of adventure and a strong cardiovascular system are prerequisites to admission - this one is not for the faint-hearted.
Registrations are open and cost $450. This includes transfers, a finisher meal, some medical cover and accommodation at the mid-point camp.
10 June 2023
From the African savannah, we travel to the dirt roads of Finland, and this vowelless gravel event that is taking place for the first time in 2023.
This event is the brainchild of a well-known Finnish F1 driver Valtteri Bottas and US-based event organiser SBT Gravel and is held at Bottas’ hometown, Lahti. There are three distances to choose from; 177km, 77km and 40km and in total, the prize purse for the different categories is a whopping 17,000€.
Registration is open now and the entry fee ranges from $50 to $300 including fully stocked aid stations, marked routes, a post-race meal, an evening award ceremony, an official finisher’s hat and more.
Flanders Gravel, Belgium
June - September 2023
Belgium, which we all know is the home of some of the best cobbled roads, beer and chips, also has some pretty awesome gravel roads! The Flanders Gravel events explore these groads and the organisers say monumental memories are guaranteed for participants. There are four events to choose from; Kemmelberg, Koppenberg, Limburg and Durbuy.
Each event has multiple route options with varied distances (from 60km to 160km), so you can ride as little or as much as you want. In addition to the riding that takes in some of the best sights in Belgium, there will be festival vibes with food trucks, beers and much more at the finish.
The tickets are available now and start from 45€ for the one-day events and about 99€ for the weekend ones, with the option to add on some accommodation.
Pannier ROAMER Series, various locations
19-21 May 2023
ROAMER is a bikepacking series hosted by established bikepacking outfit Pannier, and partners, that "invites you to discover new destinations, connect with people and places, and act accordingly".
The series consists of multiple editions and the first one is going to be in Sardinia. The event includes three days of riding in a bikepacking manner and is suitable for all levels of riders.
Every edition will support a local purpose partner, to help conserve, protect, and enable the flourishing of the area, and after a wave of forest fires on Sardinia, the event partner MEDSEA is working to regenerate habitats and reforest the island.
Entries are available now - and limited to 200 places - and prices start at £295.
The Rift, Iceland
22 July 2023
This one is now sold out for 2023, but just in case you are already thinking about your 2024, mark the details now. The Rift is a 200 km bike race through the dark lava fields in the highlands of Iceland. It traverses the continental rift between North America and Eurasia - a rift that grows one inch every year. The growth of the rift (where the race takes its name) is visible to the human eye - and in general, this race takes in some pretty unique landscapes.
The Traka, Spain
25-30 April 2023
Girona breathes cycling in every corner so it's no surprise that there is a premium gravel event happening there, as well. The Traka takes in some of the best gravel tracks over a variety of distances, which are all guaranteed to impress you with the hills and views.
There are four distances to choose from; 50km, 100km, 200km and 360km and you can tackle them on an MTB or e-bike, as well. The longer-distance riders head off on Saturday and are followed by the two shorter-distance riders on Sunday.
Entries are open and cost from 60€ to 180€.
Octopus Gravel, Switzerland
1 October 2023
Not that any of the gravel events on this list lack elevation, but Octopus gravel takes place on the Alps so it's definitely ideally located for some serious climbing. The event course is very interesting, as it consists of 7 spectacular dead-end gravel road passes.
These passes lead back to the main village, where you can rest, have some food and drinks, listen to some great beats and soak up the atmosphere at the event expo, before tackling the next segment. If you do all of the segments you'll cover 155km and 4450hm of climbing. Organisers say most participants will not do 4-5 of the 7 climbs, but we recommend that you give it a try to do it all. Every meter of the course is worth the effort.
So if you fancy some mountain views and climbing, the registrations are open for Octopus Gravel and set you back 99CFH (about 88£).
Nordic Gravel Series, Finland
2-3 June 2023
The Nordic Gravel Series takes riders around the best gravel in the region, and the races take place in Finland, Sweden and Norway. Kimito Island is the first race in the series, and explores the Finnish archipelago. The 150 km route goes around the southern part of Kimito Island and passes through historical landmarks. The terrain is hilly and undulating, a paradise of small gravel roads passing through wilderness-like forests.
You can choose to ride distances of 40km, 85km or 150km. The long-longest route includes three timed segments.
The event is limited to 500 participants and registrations are open. The entry fees range from 65€ to 120€ and that includes the riding, feed stops and post-ride buffet.
Nordic Gravel Series, Sweden
30 June - 1 July 2023
Next up in the Nordic Gravel Series is the Swedish etape, located in Uppsala, which is conveniently only half an hour away from the Stockholm-Arlanda airport.
The town was founded in the early Middle Ages and boasts a beautiful historic centre, making it well worth a gravel riding visit. The route options range from 50km to 180 km and will introduce you to the scenic hardpack gravel roads alternated with forest roads and landscapes northwest of the city.
The event is limited to 600 participants. This event welcomes riders from all levels and fitness and is not a race.
Registrations are open now and cost between 60€ and 92€. There are accommodation packages available, too.
Nordic Gravel Series, Finland
28 - 29 July 2023
The region around Jyväskylä offers perhaps the best, stereotypical Finnish setting for your gravel riding. It is surrounded by breathtaking lakes, nature and four national parks, and it even has the title of Sauna Region of the World! For someone who appreciates nature and quietness, this event is a good one to check out.
Routes cover distances from 50km to 172 km and there is also a timed option for the longer route, as it doubles up as the Finnish National Gravel Champs. Registrations are open and there is a variety of packages available, so you can experience everything the region has to offer beyond cycling. Prices range from 68.50€ to 139€.
Nordic Gravel Series, Sweden
11 - 12 August 2023
The Bergslagen area, located in central Sweden, boasts vast forests, lively streams and humble hills. This event explores the region's natural beauty and harsh hills in the Kilsbergen mountain range, the picturesque surroundings of Nora as well as the culinary gifts of Grythyttan and beyond.
The venue for the event is the beautiful old town of Nora and routes range from 60km to 197km with a timed race option. The event is limited to 600 participants and riders from all levels are welcome. Prices start from 70€.
Nordic Gravel Series, Finland
22 - 23 September 2023
Falling Leaves Lahti is the closing event of the Finnish (gravel) cycling season and happening for the fourth time this year.
Unlike the FNLD GRVL, this one is a lot more chill event with less racing and more admiring the beautiful autumn landscapes of Lahti and Salpausselkä Geopark region. The area offers scenic gravel roads surrounded by fields and forests, a good amount of forest roads and more challenging trails. Distances range from 50 to 160km and the longest route includes timed segments.
Warmup ride on Friday, post-ride buffet, lake sauna and the NGS season closing party are all part of the package. The event welcomes riders from all levels and fitness and is not a race. Registrations are open and prices start from 65€.
Nature is Bike Gravel Festival, France
16 - 18 June 2023
This is the first-ever gravel festival in France, and now in its third year, it looks like a big one. Nature is Bike was born out of the desire to promote the practice of Gravel around a festival dedicated to this new art of living and the result is a 3-day gravel expo with some long-distance gravel rides thrown in - you can even bikepack to the event in a group!. The festival combines a riding challenge (three routes) with a real desire to reconnect with nature. The organisers describe this as a "friendly, fun event, with food & beverage, live music & activities".
The details can be found on the website below.
Belgian Waffle Ride series, multiple locations
March - November 2023
The Belgian Waffle Ride is a series of gravel events organised all around North America, and they run for nearly the whole of 2023 so there's plenty to choose from. The first BWF kicks off in Arizona and the season finishes in November in Mexico. Most events have two distance options and plenty of feed stops (hopefully with waffles) to keep you going.
All the details of the different Waffle Rides are on the website below.
Unbound Gravel, Kansas
3 June 2023
Unbound is perhaps one of the largest and most well-known gravel events in the international gravel scene. It's grown from a small event organised on the gravel roads of Kansas, US, to hosting over 4,000 cyclists with a varied range of experiences and inspiration to ride such an event. Due to the boom in its size, this year the organisers have made some rule changes and banned aero bars in the Unbound Elite category, with the aim of making it safer.
And if not riding the event wasn't enough of a challenge, getting an entry is very contested, as well. The entries for the lottery are open now and close on 20th January (the XL 350-mile-distance registration is closed already). You can choose to ride a 200-mile, 100-mile, 50-mile, or 25-mile route and the entry, if you manage to snap one, costs from $40 to $250.
20 August 2023
This event is from the same organisers as FNLD GRVL, but this time in Steamboat Springs, CO. Although organisers claim the SBT Gravel is a world-class gravel race experience held on the greatest gravel roads on Earth (very bold claim) the event is not only a race (with prizes) but also works as a fantastic weekend away with family and friends. The distances range from 37 miles to 142 miles meaning there is something for every rider level.
Unfortunately, the registrations for this year's event are already closed, but in case you want to pencil this in for next year, below is the event website.