The Flint Hills Ultra (FHUGR) is a roughly 1050 mile gravel cycling route showcasing the amazing Flint Hills of Kansas and upper Oklahoma. The route is entirely on public roads and is open to ride year round. FHUGR takes you through 16 counties. Fourteen of those counties are in Kansas and two are in Oklahoma. The two Oklahoma counties are Kay and Osage. Kay county is home to the Kaw Nation. Osage county is home to the Osage Nation. Towns in all 16 counties vary from "ghost" to few thousand folks. Emporia KS is by far the largest town on the route although many others are within a few hours pedal from the route.
The FHUGR route was designed with Emporia KS as the "starting location" because I live here. You can certainly "jump in" from any location. My only caution in doing this is making sure you plan well and be aware of where your first resupply might be. The exception is The TOUR which begins and ends in Emporia KS each Memorial Day weekend. More on this below. I advise you to plan well and do your research. Kansas looks flat until you begin to pedal. The route has almost 50,000 ft of climbing and it's spread out over the entire 1,000+ miles. Yes. 1,050 miles of pristine Flint Hills gravel lie ahead. Resupply spots are consistently placed but there are some spacious gaps here and there. A friendly church hydrant or local rancher may be welcomed options. Do your research and be prepared! The Flint Hills Ultra will be an amazing journey!
The Tour is a date for all to gather and ride the Flint Hills Ultra route at the same time. I strongly say again it's just a common day people choose to gather and ride. I'll be flat honest, for liability reason I will say there is no official event. Riders will ride for the fastest time. Riders will ride to escape the day to day life. Riders will ride for the pure enjoyment of a pedal on the backroads of the Flint Hills. Just go ride.
PSA - The FHU Gravel Tour is absolutely influenced by all the existing ultra distance gravel rides. Locally, in Emporia Kansas, we have The Cannonball 550 ride in September hosted by Matt Slater. A 550 mile gravel journey throughout shuffled Kansas routes showing off the backroad beauty of our state. Much respect to all existing ultra gravel distance rides.
FHU Gravel Tour leaves from Emporia, KS annually the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend at 6am. Wanna leave at 7am...okay...but most will leave at 6am. The Start and Finish location is in front of the Emporia Zoo entrance gate on the south side of town. I will have BikeReg registration for the FHU Gravel Tour. There is NO entry fee. I want to have registration so I have a better idea of how many are coming and if I need to provide safe long term parking. I can better distribute last minute known route information and such as a friendly observer. Registration is extremely appreciated but not required. You show up. You get a high five. You pedal. Good luck. Trackleaders will be setup prior to the event. You may opt to use the service and you may opt to not use the service.
Support. No support. Look. I'm not going to follow you around with a drone. Go enjoy the route. Yes you can go off course to the McDonalds...just come back to the course where you left off. Yes you can stay at a Holiday Inn...just come back to the course where you left off. If you have family with an RV at some park along the way...give them a high five for me. If you ride the entire route with no cell phone, no human contact, eat plants and the occasional handful of ants, drink your own filtered urine and prefer your bike single speed, steel and with 100 pounds of pannier bags...I'll high five you myself. Respect other riders on the course. Respect their individual journey. Respect their space. You are all awesome.
That said...immense respect for all who finish this route using only whats available along the way with zero outside support or assistance from known friends and family.
Okay. That's it. Any questions, feel free to DM me. See ya in May!
-BobbyT, owner of Discover Gravel LLC
You must obey the laws of the lands you are crossing. Respect the locals you meet that live and work every day on the roads you are enjoying. A friendly wave goes a long way. You are on your own out there and unsupported but you are also an Ambassador of Gravel. You don't need to win every argument should one arise...you simply need to get back to enjoying your ride. Safely.
Cattle. Cattle will be everywhere! Cattle will be behind fences...cattle may not be behind fences. BE GENTLE when approaching cattle near the fence line or in open ranch land. The number one thing I try to avoid is startling the cattle. They will run and running can cause stress and injury. Approach at a slow and consistent speed and be vocal. I actually talk to them in a calm voice as I ride by. The point is to make them aware you are coming and that you are not a predator. I will say that sometimes stress can not be avoided and it's best just to move along quickly and move past them.
Oklahoma. You will be crossing and spending a long time on the lands of the Osage Nation and the Kaw Nation. I provided hyperlinks above to their respective information sites. Take a moment to read, research and gain some appreciation for their culture and history. Remember that you are a visitor and a guest while on these lands.
The roads are public. The ditch is public. The field or ranchland? NOT PUBLIC. Trespassing is serious to a lot of folks out in the Flint Hills. Be respectful. Road muddy? Ditch muddy? Field rideable? Enjoy the walk. Do not trespass. Should you need emergency help and come to a farmhouse...understood...but approach respectfully.
The route will be just over 1000 glorious gravel miles. The miles mostly consist of various types of gravel roads. Dirt roads are my favorite type of road and there are a fair number of miles of blissful dirt. There's no way to avoid the occasional piece of pavement leading into or out of towns so yes, there is pavement. Roughly 9% of the route is pavement. The direct route link can be found here: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/41517212
The route will go through about 30 towns. The largest towns being of course Emporia, KS. The smallest towns contain a handful of residents but usually offer a community center or local church as possible water refills. These near ghost towns are the exceptions. Guaranteed water refill spots are typically 30-50 mile jumps with a couple exceptions at 70 miles. Food follows the same pattern with one exception where food refuel may be a 100 mile journey. Lodging is scarce and you will have to research and plan well. CALL ahead. Camping is available in camp sites or with advance notice small towns will usually let you take a nap in the city park. Ditch camping is discouraged. Think about the local rancher driving by at 5am and seeing some person in a ditch asleep...its creepy. Plan well and be ready for Kansas weather.
The Kansas counties as of today in alphabetical order are: Butler, Cowley, Chase, Chatauqua, Elk, Geary, Greenwood, Lyon, Marion, Marshall, Morris, Pottawatomie, Riley and Wabaunsee. The Oklahoma counties as of today are Kay and Osage.
The route is entirely on public access roads. Please keep in mind as stated above, you are the outsider. Many local farmers and ranchers are used to driving these roads day in and day out without cyclists on them. Habits form. Mistakes can happen. The cyclist is usually the one who suffers the most when a mistake happens. Be aware. Be ready to move over. Be ready to hop off the bike if needed. I always wave. I always try to give a tired smile. I always give ranch trucks and farm equipment the right of way. They are working. I am playing.
Okay. Yes. We will record fastest known times. We will have separate records for Supported (Solo and Team Relay) plus Unsupported. Supported means I don't care if someone hands you a bottle every mile as long as your bike is completely self propelled. Non-Supported is exactly what it means. No non-rider pre-planned support along the route if this is the record you are going for. I ask observers to please respect the effort and allow the rider to ride with no support. I need to be notified at least 1 week ahead of time for ANY record attempt. You can attempt a record ITT at any time through out the year. No notification though equals no record attempt. I will verify all requested Time Trial attempts.