On Centre: Penns Valley | Inaugural Great Gravel Gathering biking festival kicks off Friday

mcarroll@centredaily.comSeptember 29, 2013 

The cyclists are coming.

Off-road bicycling enthusiasts are set to hit the trails around Millheim this weekend as part of the inaugural The Great Gravel Gathering.

Organizers say the event is the not just the area’s first, but the nation’s first gravel riding festival.

Sounds great. But what exactly is gravel riding?

“It’s just that, riding your bike, any bike, on gravel as a way to explore and find adventures,” organizers said on their Facebook page. “There’s an estimated 1.3 million miles of unpaved roads in the U.S. These roads often lead to hidden gems of scenery ...”

And the unpaved roads and trails in and around Penns Valley are the perfect place to start, according to event sponsors High Speed Cycling, Freeze Thaw Cycles and the borough of Millheim.

Organizers are planning multiple courses, some as short as 10 miles and others longer than 100. Participants can head out on their own or join small groups that will be riding the trails through Bald Eagle State Forest and into Rothrock State Forest.

Riders can pick their own pace, and there will be opportunities for veteran gravel riders and novices.

And as if the more adventurous need motivation to explore the forests, organizers are working on actitivies, like a scavenger hunt, that will encourage lots of riding.

But participants are advised to plan ahead. Routes will allow riders to refill at times, but participants should be prepared to be self-sufficient on their rides.

Camping will be available at the venue at the Millheim Community Park. Tickets for the event can be purchased online at www.bikereg.com/Net/18673.

Organizers said all levels of riders are welcome and that there will be a wide variety of activities, including demonstrations, clinics and entertainment.

The event is scheduled to run from Friday through Sunday.

Matt Carroll writes about news from the Penns and Brush Valley regions. He can be reached at 231-4631 or mcarroll@centre daily.com.

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