At an Incredibly Safe Social Distance, the MidSouth Must Go On
By TJ Stallbaumer
At its core, the bicycle is only two things: a compound machine, and a means for connection.
We hold that first truth to be pretty self-evident, but the second has become harder to grasp. When the world shut down, the cycling community lost much of its connection. Gone were many of the gravel groups; pelotons withered away, relegated to the screens of laptops in rooms given funny names like ‘pain cave’ or ‘COVID safety bike bunker.’
For many of us, the last gathering of bikes took place on miles of muddy roads outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma in March of last year. The MidSouth made its debut, a new name for a new era.
In 2021, the last great gravel race continues to reinvent itself.
This year, we welcome the Incredibly Socially Distanced MidSouth. We here at Gravel Routes, to put it plainly, are pretty stoked. Why? Because we appreciate the reminder that bicycles are a means for connection – even from a distance. To that end, while we are about to encourage you to get involved, you have to do so super safely. Don’t crowd your local shops, and don’t crowd the routes either. For the day to be fun, it must first be safe.
The format this year sees race organizers teaming up with bike shops and regular people around the country, to put together routes that are open to anyone who wishes for a great ride. There are prizes and perks available to registered riders, but in a paradox of sorts, what makes the Incredibly Socially Distanced MidSouth a special day indeed is its capacity to connect us to what we love in an accessible new way.
This race may not be for everyone, but it just became for anyone.
If, like us, you’re lucky to live somewhere hosting an official course, then you’re able to be part of the action by simply waking up on time, eating a good breakfast, and setting out down some gravel roads with the simple goal of reconnecting with nature, or maybe a few friends – from at least six feet away, obviously.
But if you don’t live somewhere that’s hosting an official course, well, that’s okay too. The Incredibly Socially Distanced MidSouth still wants you. We here at Gravel Routes also want you. Post your route on Instagram and tag us, or just slide into our DMs. We’ll throw it on the site, named in your honor. Anyway, all this work on the part of race organizers and shops to host a safe day against barely surmountable odds is, to employ a cliché, unprecedented. It’s a race that is denying convention, in a time that is unconventional – and it’s owning that.
So whether you’re out to go fast, or go slow; to hit 100 miles, or just your personal best, you have the opportunity to take part in a race like no other. And perhaps most importantly, you have the opportunity to remind yourself, and anyone else you may pass between March 12 and 14, that pandemic be damned, bikes can’t be stopped. And apparently, neither can the MidSouth.
We think that’s underlining something beautiful about a race founded on reinvention: In 2021, no matter where you start, it must be the place.
District Bicycles | Stillwater, OK
Meteor | Bentonville, AR
Gravel City | Emporia, KS
Angry Catfish | Minneapolis, MN
Cycleast | Austin, TX
Cycleworks | Lincoln, NE
Hope Cyclery | Johnstown, PA
Yawp! | Denver, CO
Don’t live near one of these shops? We invite you to make your own route and ride the roads around you.
You don’t have to be registered to join in on the Incredibly Socially Distanced Mid South. We’re encouraging you and your locals to safely rally or take on a solo challenge for a Mid South weekend. Build a route on @RidewithGPS and submit it to the Grassroutes map for MidSouth weekend.