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Ben and Marty started The Heywood Ride in recent years but haven't been able to actually host it until 2022 due to COVID precautions. Riders of the 2019 Almanzo event will recognize the routes and ethos of the event. I chatted with Ben and Marty to learn more about the idea and backstory of the event in this interview.

The Heywood Ride is a totally free, pay-what-you-want event in Northfield Minnesota. Taking place on May 21, the ride has a 55-mile, 110-mile, 165-mile, and 380-mile route to cater to gravel cyclists of all interests ands abilities.

Photos: Galen Murray @murraygd13

How long has The Heywood been around?

This is actually the first year its been run as The Heywood. 2020 and 2021 were not run because of the Covid Quarantine and the rise of the Delta variant.

Perhaps we could have run it in 2021, but neither of us wanted to be the reason that anyone got sick. We thought it prudent to just hold off until this year.

In 2019, these loops were used as the Almanzo courses.

Is The Heywood a continuation of Almanzo? Or is it some kind of distant cousin?

Sort of.

We are inspired by what Chris did in promoting cycling in general, and gravel specifically.

We sat with Chris in late 2019 and talked about cycling events in general, and gravel specifically. Turns out we agreed that events like The Heywood should continue to happen.

Events that have a low entry. Events that welcome all riders.

New, old, experienced, round, rails, touring, WTF, Fatbikes. We don't care. All you really need to do is get yourself to town.

If you can afford to pay, we provide opportunities to do that via PayPal. You had to car pool gas money to get here and will be digging for change for post ride beers? That's awesome!We're glad you came and experienced our roads.

Your payment to us was having a great time! So in the end, we didn't buy the ride from Chris or anything like that. We did however have discussions about our philosophies of getting butts on bikes and they aligned well.

Free Ride. Free Camping. Why is it Free? & Why Do You Put This On?

Free as a bird. We want everyone to be able to ride.

Cycling can be expensive.

There are too many events out there that have raised the bar cost wise. Its intimidating. $160-$250 to enter a race? Sheesh!

Having done that a couple times, the experience is good, but good lord those were expensive (but cheap ) t-shirts to come home with!

So we made the decision to lower the barrier to ride to be as low as possible.

Of course putting on rides like this aren't free. We still have to pay for things like insurance and port-o-johns! As such, we are accepting donations. The 'pay what you feel like your experience is worth' idea is a proven concept from bands like Radiohead and Wilco who have put albums out in the past with this concept.

Ben has experience putting on the former Northfield Crits, and Marty has put on Cyclocross races in the past. This isn't necessarily new for either of us.

Why here and now though?

We've got some good roads around here, and Northfield could use a marquee event like this. The cycling scene here in town is truly blooming right now.

The road scene has always been strong, and in the last ten years, the gravel scene has exploded. There multiple group rides in a week focused from the casual to fast guise to the fun havers and a WTF ride night that should get a lot of attention this year. The mountain biking is growing and getting better year by year.

Why Northfield, Minnesota?

Number one, we both believe in Northfield.

This is Deep South Metro.

The life here is good.

We have great opportunities for entertainment. We have good food, excellent opportunities for family members that aren't riding, and for post ride entertainment, three excellent breweries, a distillery, and a cidery (check out our instagram guide for the details!).

For the non-riders, we have parks to explore and shopping to do downtown. Finally, the riding we have here is better than many realize. We might not have massive climbs, or super challenging b-roads, but we do have some gorgeous roads around here.

We also have an excellent partnership with the City of Northfield.

The support they offer is outstanding. From leadout through the city, to offering Sechler Park as a campground.

Camping normally isn't allowed, so there are not really any facilities. No fire rings or anything like that. But if you're following the trends and have a Camper van or rooftop tent, we've got you covered!

If you're tenting it, you're welcome as well. Unfortunately, we don't have room for big rigs or trailers, so you'll have to find other spots for those.

A 380-mile midnight ride sounds like madness. What's that ride like and how hard is it?

380 miles is real dumb. Marty has done The DaMN a couple times and found the midnight start....inspiring.

But 242 miles is a good sight different than 380! Personally we haven't ridden it, but we would certainly like to tour it over a nice 3-day weekend some time!


The Heywood Ride takes place on May 21, 2022 in Northfield, Minnesota. The event is totally free but donations are accepted. To learn more about the event or to make a donation of support, visit The Heywood Ride.




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