Submitted by Marketing By Gabby
It’s 8:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning in July. The air is already so thick, you could slice it with a butter knife. But that doesn’t stop a group of 17 cyclists wearing as much Lycra and nylon as the women in an 80s movie from meeting in the parking lot of East Hickman High School in Hickman County, Tennessee.
A wave of helmets and cycling jerseys as vibrant and visible as street signs, the group known as the Gravel Grinders of Tennessee is preparing to go out on their second of four rides as part of its Sunday Summer Soaker Series.
On the first Sunday of every month from June through September, gravel bikers across the state are meeting at a starting point on the east side of Hickman County. From there, they’ll embark on a special 30-45 mile bike ride together.
With at least 171 streams, Hickman County is well known for its abundance of creek crossings. Although each route offers a new and unique challenge for riders, one factor will remain constant: they are going to get to bike through some cool, clear water—a welcome respite from the overbearing heat.
Hickman County: a gravel rider’s playground
This series is bringing gravel cycling enthusiasts from near and far to Hickman County, according to Gravel Grinders of Tennessee group and ride organizer Corby Yarbrough.
“It's [Hickman County] close to Nashville close to Franklin so that's where you see a lot of people tend to start,” Yarbrough said. Then there are locals like himself who join to explore more gravel roads in their backyards.
Any place with mountainous geography is a popular destination for gravel riding and racing. Tennessee is no exception and Hickman County is a standout in particular.
“Hickman and probably Cherokee National Forest and all the gravel around Tellico, they're probably neck and neck on who might have the most [gravel] but I think there was talk at some point of 300 plus miles just in Hickman,” Yarbrough said.
Join the last two rides of the series designed by a “hillbilly Magellan”!
There are two more rides planned for August and September. The next one starts at the Buford McCord Sports Complex and the last one starts at East Hickman High School again.
All routes can be previewed in advance on RideWithGPS.com. Yarbrough designs each route with diligence, striving for a 60/40 ratio of gravel to road.
“I like creating routes,” he said. “I think I'm kind of like a hillbilly Magellan in terms of wanting to really get out there and explore.”
Yarbrough says gravel cycling is a perfect mesh of mountain biking and road biking. With gravel cycling, you don’t have to worry about hitting trees or getting hit by cars, especially on the routes he creates throughout Hickman County.
“We have a few dogs that we deal with, but other than that dogs and creeks are probably the most dangerous thing we deal with,” he added.
He loves riding in Hickman County because the gravel provides a unique riding experience everywhere you go.
Riders often get to explore the back roads of Hickman County’s 13 unincorporated communities. On this ride, some riders made it as far as Littlelot while both routes hit Primm Springs.
For a more technical ride, Yarbrough steers the Gravel Grinders of Tennessee towards the Piney River. Riding gets less intense around Beaver Dam and Littlelot. No matter where you’re riding in the county, however, you can expect to climb a bit. But rest assured because most of the gravel is smoother than other areas in Tennessee.
“You can come to all four corners of Hickman and have a completely different ride.”
Outside of the monthly, weekly, and sporadic rides which are posted in their Facebook Group, the Gravel Grinders meet up at the annual Gravel Revival put on by MOAB Bike Shop. This grassroots gravel cycling festival is also located in Hickman County, Tennessee. It will be at the Peaceful Hills Campground in Centerville on October 22-23.