In the heartbeat of the Mendocino County, Ukiah, CA, the Low Gap event unfolds as an iconic “Hopper Classic,” a gravel ride that fuses adventure, challenge, and unparalleled scenic beauty. The Low Gap is the first stop of the six-event Grasshopper Adventure Series, a leading U.S. event series produced by Hopper Adventures. It is an exploration and a competition, an eclectic mixed-terrain adventure ride, and race rolled into one. This event is famous for its equal blend of pavement and dirt terrains, its mesmerizing final 22 miles of dirt being particularly noteworthy. What sets this event apart is its picturesque terrain, a labyrinth of gravel and twists that push riders to their limits and offers an immersive experience in the beauty of Northern California, and is consistently chosen as one of our best gravel cycling events in California and the Northwest.
Event & Course Info
The Low Gap kicks off with a neutral lead out at Todd Grove Park, transitioning into a race as it reaches Orr Springs Rd. The route unfolds over 48 miles and climbs 6,164ft, offering a stimulating combination of climbing, descending, and rolling sections. The first 9 miles present an 1800 ft ascent, leading to Orr Springs area, and continuing along Montgomery Woods State Reserve. The subsequent miles involve more climbing and a transformative journey from pavement to dirt on Low Gap Rd. The unique characteristic of this ride is its passage through private property between miles 31.3 to 44, a track not open for pre-riding, thanks to a special contract with Mendocino Redwood Company.
The terrain is a balanced mixture of gravel and pavé, each constituting half of the route, providing an array of challenges and experiences for the riders. For optimal experience, a gravel bike equipped with 38-42c tires is recommended, with riders usually preferring full knob or side tread tires.
Riders are well-supported with hydration and nutrition stops strategically placed along the route. The first aid station is situated at the intersection of Orr Springs Rd and Low Gap at mile 22, stocked with bars, gels, and snacks. A second feedzone at mile 31 allows riders to refuel and continue their adventure. Personalized bottle support is also available through the NorCal BikeSport van at the start, ensuring riders remain hydrated throughout the event.
Whether you’re in it for the sheer love of riding or the thrill of competition, the Low Gap has you covered with podium positions for the top 3 in all categories. The event is not just about gravel grinding; it’s a celebration of the cycling community, featuring awards for the top performers and an expo showcasing the latest in cycling gear and technology. It’s a gathering of like-minded enthusiasts, sharing stories, experiences, and the joy of riding in one of the most beautiful settings in Northern California.
Area Accommodations & Things to Do
Ukiah, nestled in the lush valley of Northern California, is the vibrant hub of Mendocino County, known for its picturesque landscapes, rich vineyards, and a harmonious blend of small-town charm and natural beauty. It is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a myriad of activities such as hiking, cycling, and exploring the redwood forests, coupled with a warm, welcoming community vibe. The city’s diverse cultural scene, featuring a range of restaurants, art galleries, and festivals, adds a splash of color to the serene backdrop of rolling hills and clear blue skies and makes it a perfect place to enjoy a long weekend while in town for the Low Gap.
While there is no official lodging parter for the event, the Holiday Inn and Hampton Inn are two good hotel options downtown. There are also many wonderful vacation rentals for those looking for a more home-like experience, from rustic homes to charming guest houses. If you appreciate camping, there are tons of one of a kind camping spots in the area that are worth checking out.
If your legs aren’t too tired from the Low Gap, consider bringing your mountain bike and head to Cow Mountain Recreation Area which offers a thrilling off-road experience with its sprawling 23,000 acres of rugged terrains, steep hills, and panoramic views. For mountain bikers seeking an adrenaline rush, this area provides various trails, each offering its unique set of challenges and sceneries. The trails, laden with the freshness of winter rains and the vivid hues of winter flora, provide both challenges and spectacular views, offering an unforgettable riding experience amidst the untamed beauty of nature. Whether you are a seasoned rider or a beginner, the diversified trails of Cow Mountain accommodate all, making it a must-visit destination for every mountain biking enthusiast visiting Ukiah.
Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve is a sanctuary for those who seek the solace of nature entwined with the thrill of running. The reserve, home to some of the tallest trees in the world, provides an enchanting setting for trail runners. The undulating trails meander through ancient redwood groves and streams, presenting a challenge to athletes with its varying elevations and terrain.
Lake Mendocino, with its expansive blue waters and surrounding hills, is a haven for hikers in January. The lake offers a plethora of trails, each unveiling a new facet of the area’s beauty. Hikers can traverse the rugged hills, explore the wooded areas, and enjoy panoramic views of the lake, immersing themselves in the tranquil atmosphere. Whether choosing a leisurely stroll along the lake’s edge or a challenging trek up the surrounding hills, hikers are sure to be rewarded with breathtaking vistas and the calming murmur of the lake’s waters.
Low Gap is produced by Hopper Adventures, known as the US’s longest-running gravel/mixed-terrain adventure series producer. Whether looking for races or adventures, each event allows you to explore little-known paved, dirt, and single-track in Sonoma, Mendocino, and Humbolt County. These are eclectic races designed to push riders to the limit without pushing them over. The 2024 four event Adventure Series events run annually from January to May, including Low Gap; Huffmaster Hopper; Lake Sonoma MTB; and Ukiah-Mendo Epic. To compete for the Series overall, riders must complete at least 3 Hoppers. The points are calculated based on the placement in each race, with the Lake Sonoma MTB offering +10 points towards series overall in all categories, riders compete for the Hopper Super Hero King of the Universe title in their age groups. Attending specific races, including the long course in Huffmaster and Ukiah-Mendo Epic, is crucial for those aiming for series points. Special events on their calendar include the USAL Hopper: The Lost Coast, Lake Sonoma Enduro, and the Mendo Hopper. They are all considered to be some of the Best Gravel Grinders in NorCal.
Past events they have produced include King Ridge; Sherwood Adventure; and Humbolt Hopper. There is a competition for the Hopper Super King of the Universe title based on overall points leaders for riders who complete five Hoppers.
For multi-sport athletes, check out other Strambecco best-rated events taking place in California, such as Levi’s Gran Fondo from Bike Monkey or the Mount Diablo Challenge from Valley Spokesmen Bicycing Club, considered to be some of the Best Road Cycling Events in California, the Northwest & Southwest. Mountain bikers will also appreciate top tier events in the area such as Boggs MTB and the Downieville Classic. Trail runners – check back for more premier trail running events taking place in NorCal and the broader Northwest.