There has been quite a bit of discussion recently among many of my cycling friends regarding riding on gravel roads, specifically riding road bikes on gravel roads. Anytime I’m going on a ride and ask fellow riders if they are interested in joining me they almost always ask, “will you be going on dirt roads?” I must admit that only recently have I totally embraced rides that have sections of dirt-gravel routes. I too had many excuses or concerns for not traveling these roads, “too rough, I’ll get flats, it will get my bike dirty, etc…”
So this blog post will attempt to explain why we ride gravel roads and why you should too!
A gravel road adds a level of engagement with riding that you miss when on smooth pavement. You gotta stay focused and concentrated. . . the road surface is always changing. It brings you back to the heroic days and ways of cycling 50, 75 and 100 years ago which most often gives you that special feeling of adventure that you don’t always get with pure asphalt road riding. I actually prefer hard packed smooth gravel roads over pavement. I love the feel under my tires, I like the way it doesn’t rattle my teeth and bones the way rough pavement often does. In order to maximize your enjoyment and minimize mechanicals and flat tires you must be prepared. Don’t take out an old bike that hasn’t been ridden for years that has dry rot tires. Proper maintenance and tire pressure (110-120 psi), good tires, and a properly equipped under seat tool bag is essential (spare tube, CO2 cartridge and inflator, tire levers, chain tool, multi tool, money, patch kit) should always accompany you on all your rides. Continental Gatorskins are one of the toughest, puncture resistant tires I ride, I and many of my cycling buddies highly recommend these for lots of varying terrain. Usually these dirt roads are way out there off the beaten path (… and that has made all the difference, as Robert Frost once reminded us), minimal traffic, no noise and beautiful undiscovered scenery that is seldom seen as we routinely travel the paved roads of familiarity.
People who see you on a road bike on a particularly difficult and gnarly section of road have this look of incredulous disbelief, almost bewilderment. When discussing with someone that you rode your nice new road bike over 10-15 miles of dirt road they simply shake their head and wonder what’s going on in your head.
Perhaps one of the best reasons to ride your bike, any bike on gravel roads is because you can and you should, folks are doing it and have been doing it all over the world for years. The Paris-Roubaix and the Strade Bianche heralds springtime in European bike racing. The Paris-Roubaix is one of the best known one day classic races that have many sections of asphalt, cobbles and dirt and often times mud! The Paris-Roubaix is by far the most popular and epic of all the classics and that is directly due to the harsh nature of the ride and all the hardships that must be endured. People tune in and line the cobbles braving cold, wind and rain to simply catch a glimpse of these hard men of cycling. Italy has it’s own spring classic known as the Strade Bianche. This “White Roads” pro event takes racers over stunning scenery of central Tuscany via white gravel roads before finishing quite spectacularly in the Il Campo, Siena’s main city square, the same spot that the famous “il Palio” horse race is run on July 2 and August 16 every year for hundreds of years. Other great rides that include sections of dirt roads and can and will give you the feeling and experience of the classics are; D2R2, L’Eroica, Paris-Roubaix, Strade Bianche, Tour of Battenkill, FARM ride and of course the Tour de L’Acadie!! August 16, 2014, I hope to see you there!.
Oh by the way, the 30 mile tour option of the Tour de L’Acadie does not have any dirt sections for those of you who are not yet convinced.
www.freshtrails.com Click on tours and register now, the first 50 to sign up will get a special gift in the already full schwag bag.