Welcome to gravel riding
welcome to the good stuff
Where asphault is a four-letter word and adventure is the name of the game.
First off, let’s not complicate this too much, gravel riding has been around since caveman times, but has become a “thing” in the last few years. Just ignore the trendiness and take advantage of the advances in technology and accessories.
So what is the deal with gravel riding, anyway? What it means for me, and so many, is freedom, adventure and getting out of traffic where nobody like cyclists. Having a fear of bears and cougars is a lot different than having a fear of getting run off the road. Getting coal-rolled, having bad interactions and confrontations with all the a-holes out there is just not worth it.
What is gravel, really?
Gravel doesn’t have to mean sketchy rocky surfaces needing fat knobbies and expensive bikes. Gravel really means dirt, mud, grass, snow, ice, potholes, ruts, dust, cobbles, railroad trestles, and sometimes it even actually refers to gravel.
Gravel riding is more a state of mind, just get on your bike and head away from paved roads. After a little while, it’s just riding.
You can use a road bike, a gravel bike, a cyclocross bike, a mountain bike, a trail bike, an E-bike, even a unicycle. Having tires wide enough and tough enough is pretty important, so focus on your tire choices. It’s really about getting away from cars, not getting flats and getting into the sticks.
All the bike companies have been trying to cash in on the craze and things have gotten really good for us, and just keep getting better. I built up a magnesium frame into a very versatile all-road bike that is great for gravel grinders, cyclocross racing, gravel gran fondos, and even road riding. I can mount special bars, a mtb. cassette (mullet), and either 700c or 650b wheels. I can use the same bike using either 32mm or 47mm tires depending on if I’m racing or rough mountain climbing. I’t super comfortable, tough AF and I use it for 99% of my riding. I still keep a full suspension Specialized Stumpjumper 29er around and can use that for the super rough stuff.
So what is the deal with gravel riding, anyway?
What it means for me, and so many others, is freedom, adventure and getting out of traffic (where nobody like cyclists). Having a healthy fear of bears and cougars is a lot different than having a fear of getting run off the road, getting coal-rolled, and just having bad interactions and confrontations with all the a-holes out there.
One of the many good things about gravel biking is the relaxed nature of it. Bike weight, aerodynamics, flashy sponsor-laden kits and general posing isn’t usually important, mainly because there’s usually nobody around to marvel at your stylish kit. I wear muted and camo, even my shoes and bar tape are camo, to feel like I’m melting into the woods. I just want to be comfortable, having extra weight on my bike is fine, it just makes your legs stronger and at 58, my legs have never been stronger.
Is gravel riding always just for adventure?
Nope, there are a large number of gravel races around the country that sell out immediately, racing is racing, so speed is all important, but they are offroad events. Even gran fondos are timed so they are races even though the event organizers will say otherwise, but regular gravel riding is chill, a chance to get out of traffic, get solitude, scenery, see wildlife and just soothe your soul.
ean drivetrain is a happy drivetrain.
You don’t really need a plan, just look at a map and pick a direction, you might get somewhere, you might also take some turns along the way, who knows?
I rarely see anybody when I’m out in the backcountry.
I work from my home office, these walls get pretty boring. A trip into the woods always sets me straight.
I have worked out ways to carry my flyfishing gear and even various floating options such as a packraft, a pontoon boat and even 12′ standup paddle boards by using a diy trailer system.
Little to no traffic
I ride a lot in a 100,000 acre working tree farm and the mainline has a lot of truck traffic during business hours, but any turn gets you away from everybody. After about 4pm, it’s all mine.
Training for gravel events
What better way to train for a gravel gran fondo than riding gravel backroads? I get long flat stretches and being in the foothills, I get more hill climbing than I could do in a lifetime.
Extreme hike-a-bike adventures
The hardest ride I’ve done was about 50 miles and 5,000 feet around a local mountain (Mt. Si), it demands plenty of steep and rough riding and a big hike-a-bike at the top, but then I can look down on 2 different valleys and see past Seattle to the Olympic Mts. with a really long descent.
I know where I can go and be guaranteed not to see a single person or manmade thing. Just birds, wind, animals, sky, trees, mountains.
I do my best thinking and calming down from all the constant bad news from humans.
Look forward, not beind you
Since you’re not forced to ride on a narrow shoulder with non-stop vehicles coming up behing you, you can relax and keep your eyes forward and just listen for anything behind you.
Scare the crap out of yourself
Riding solo in the deep woods without bear/cougar spray or in the dark, that’ll put all your senses on high alert.
You just never really know what to expect out there, weather changes things, maybe you want to check out a new road, which leads to kmore unexplored roads, it always just depends on your mood.
Believe it or not, there are some negatives to gravel riding.
Crashing from rough and slippery surfaces, getting lost, bad animal encounters, breaking up with your roadie buddies, etc
True, everything is trying to make you crash out there, mud, ruts, wet leaves, roots, loose rocks, punctures, it’s all part of the game.
These seem to be rare-if-ever happenings while the dangers of road riding are on every ride.
Just plan it out a little, use common sense and learn some skills to fix a few things, like flat tires, chain issues, shoe cleats coming off, bonking, navigation. Knowlege is king and Youtube is full of help.
Our video page will be full of pertinent videos to get you ready for any eventuality.