(Note: Since this article was originally written, ‘fat tire’ has taken on a whole new meaning.)
It’s Not Just for Fat Tires
To serious mountain bikers there’s nothing technically challenging about it. At forty miles, some road cyclists may find the distance a bit short. And to anyone who knows the Adirondacks, heading into the woods in early June means donating some blood to black flies. Yet despite these seeming impediments, the Black Fly Challenge has thrived, growing to legend status across U.S. – it is know far and wide as the Granddaddy of All Gravel Grinders.
Started in 1996 by Inlet businessmen Mike Drake (Drake’s Inn) and John Nemjo, a.k.a. Mountainman, the Black Fly has long-been a yearly ritual for many cyclists – not bad for a race in the middle of nowhere that literally goes through the middle of nowhere. Over half the race distance traverses the rugged Moose River Recreation Area between Inlet and Indian Lake on gravel mountain roads with plenty of elevation changes.
But the course is not all grueling uphills and steep down hills. There’s a relatively flat section on the Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road, along the actual Moose River Plains – for about a mile.
The scenery is incredibly picturesque. And with nearly 1,000 racers putting the mettle to the pedal, adventures are only a split-second away.
With so many races in the books, there’s no shortage of wild stories from “out there in the Plains.” Bikes have crossed the Finish Line with no seat, flat tires, broken rims and even on the shoulder of more than a few determined competitors. Post-race discussions are often friendly debates over bike frames, tire width and even favorite direction of travel (the race changes direction every year.)
The crazier adventures are usually the domain of the serious racers, but not always. There are plenty of Black Fly riders that find a victory in just crossing the finish line and they have their own stories to tell.
Black Fly Challenge has grown steadily over the years which has resulted in the race producers imposing a cap of 1,000 competitors, to better manage logistics and safety.
In that time multiple records have been set for number of entries, number of finishers and fastest times. Not to mention the purse – currently over $14,000.00!
From expert racers to merely energetic riders, the Black Fly Challenge draws a diverse crowd that comes back year after year on the second Saturday in June.
This article last updated May 2019.