Now on its third year, the BeltGrind has become a hybrid between a community event, adventure tour, and bike race. Billed as “an annual bicycling odyssey through southern space and time,” participants range from casual riders looking for a fun outing, all the way to time trialers hoping for a top finish. In short, the BeltGrind has something for everyone.
The course is roughly 20 miles long and follows Atlanta’s evolving railway corridor. This large development project, the Beltline, aims to bring communities together via a paved path circumnavigating the city.
The plan is to finish the Beltline by 2030. Race organizers used this project for their ethos and inspiration, hoping the bike race would help connect a broad range of communities and riders. The race has a goal to have participation be similar to the demographics of the city.
When compared to other bike races, this makes the BeltGrind really stand out. The race is stubbornly rooted in community and awareness as much as competition and adventure. By traversing the rails-to-trails project, riders are exposed to unheralded Atlanta communities and less-visited corners of the city. In essence, the race has become a way to see the city through a new pair of eyes.
The BeltGrind includes four checkpoints, located at notable landmarks on the course. At each checkpoint riders are invited to complete challenges to earn badges. Badge collecting isn’t obligatory to participate, but is required to win. Regardless of your desire to compete, each stop is recommended for a good ‘ol time.
Between the checkpoints, riders can expect a healthy cocktail of briars, brambles, sand, kudzu, gravel, mud, railroad ties, and a bit of pavement, too.
The BeltGrind begins and ends at the Monday Night Brewing Garage on the west side of the city. Participants will travel the route in both directions, depending whether they received an odd or even number at registration. As it has done in years past, the race donates all of its profits to Bearings Bike Shop.
While relatively new, the BeltGrind’s traditions are starting to form. All riders must carry a leather belt often slung around their shoulders which is notched at each checkpoint and branded at the end of the race, as a yearly badge of completion.
The after party has mini competitions and a local band. Checkpoints vary from black tie with bubbly (kid-friendly, too), to bobbing for apples, mandatory facepaint, Eggo waffle eating, and so much more. Riding in costume is highly encouraged – In fact, the prize for “best costume” tops that of first place.
Registration is $45 and includes an event T-shirt.
All Photos Courtesy of Growlbros.
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