By Shane Cooper, Founder and Chief Sockologist
By now, Belgium Waffle Ride (BWR) has probably crossed your radar. With all the gravel events popping up, many are making a name for themselves - and BWR is leading the way. One of the largest gravel events is Unbound, and there are so many more one-day gravel events that it’s getting hard to choose the one that speaks to you.
BWR is special, though, because they now have 6 events, covering the nation with options: California, North Carolina, Kansas, Michigan, Utah, Arizona, and now Vancouver. More than likely, one is within a day’s drive for most of the USA.
BWR make their rides stand out by having special sectors that are added right before the event day. Many of these will be through private woods, fields, or swamps. Not knowing what is in store for you with 15 miles left to go is a crap shoot. They offer 3 distances: the Wanna is 30-40 miles; the Wafer is 75; and the Waffle is 140. These miles are all “ish” with vaguery and many missing details. Just come prepared for lots of fun and excitement and the determination to just say “no” to quitting.
DeFeet has been a supporting partner of BWR since 2021, and we have been to several of these events. Hope and I like to do the Wafer rides. We train all year to be able to compete; we're always glad we’ve trained, as they are very difficult. Usually about 5 hours for us, give or take. Usually it's TAKE, though, as these events are so challenging.
A couple of notes from our experience: usually the drive is as hard as the event - 12 hours to Michigan, 14 hours to Kansas. Traveling smart, eating right, and getting rest is crucial for being your best on race day. We find stopping about every 2 hours on the drive to move the legs is important. Also, keeping hydrated while driving makes good use of the rest stops. We use a Sprinter van and stop for sleeps at Cracker Barrel parking lots. Walmart is also open to campers, but we have been a bit scared a few times in Wally World lots. See the list that is recommended for free RV overnight here.
The return trips should also be planned with care, as you will be tired, worn out, cramping, and in need of rest. We opt to drive a few hours after the event to find parking before dark.
In October, we entered the Michigan BWR that started at Mt. Holiday, with 75 miles and - much to my delight - only 3500 ft of climbing. That looked so good on paper. Easy, in fact. Well, let me tell you, those 3500 feet were sand dunes! Deep sand at the bottom of the climbs, and deep sand up 15% grades made for a Northern Hell for sure. The Michigan Cherry on top was right at the finish. As I looked down at my computer, I saw 73 miles and I could see the finishing shoots. The tent and all the music. But then suddenly an unexpected left turn was forced upon the tired legs. It was straight up the ski slope - 400 feet straight up - with soft mulch as a trail at +15% grade. Oof. So hard. To the top it was, then even the downhill at that point was hard.
The BWR will leave you questioning your mental health, and it will be sure to make your calendar for the next year.