For us cycling has always been about the adventure. Yes, we get into the racing thing, the training thing, the trail stuff but really it’s all about adventure and regular readers will know this theme runs through a lot of our murmurings!
Gravel is something we only really get on the driveways of large houses but it’s cycling a thing now and has been for a while. Being ever sceptical and thus behind the curve we are indeed again behind the curve; but we recently jumped into the canoe and began to paddle. It is safe to say the canoe is awesome and there is more room on board.
“Gravel” as a term (in respect to bikes) comes from the states where a large proportion of the road network is indeed gravel. The term in this part of Europe at least is probably defunct and frankly we’re not sure what the difference between a long CX ride starts and a “gravel” ride ends. But really this should be overlooked. Maybe they should just be renamed “mud bikes” in Western Europe… But that’s a mountain bike right?! Who cares. As Rownan Keating once said “its only words”.
Our modern gravel bike has essentially all the mod cons of a mountain bike minus the suspension: tubeless tyres, bolt thru axels, a dropper post, 1X drive train and hydraulic disc brakes. Probably more capable than a lot of old school mountain bikes. Yes, ok, a CX bike is a really close fit, of course and we have done this sort of riding on CX bikes in the past however the ability to run higher volume tyres with a bit more clearance and the racking options make these bikes a highly versatile option. What’s even better is that you can clad yourself in shorts and a tee shirt and have a varied ride to a pub or a café or full lycra and smash out 3hrs in varied terrain and keep your training interesting. There is a relaxed feeling around “gravel” riding, it is what you want it to be. What’s not to like?!
We even got the OS map the other day for the first time in ages. Checking where the various bridal ways went, working out how to link them all up, which ones were a dead end, which went in totally the wrong direction. We were able to link in routes that we do frequently on the mtb and have been ridden by guys on rigids before disc brakes were even a twinkle in their mothers eye (or whatever the saying says). So as a way to keep our riding fresh, as an excuse to we are embracing these beefed up CX bikes. We may not be blessed with loads of “gravel” as such but round our way we have loads of bridalway that is mud for part of the year and somewhere on a sliding scale of mud and dust for the other. So those bits we rode in our youth that aren’t extreme enough for the mtb and too rough to put the road bike through now begin to be little interconnecting segments between bits of road. The gravel bikes road pedigree make the road bits bearable unlike slogging it out on a hardtail or an xc bike. We have plenty of green lanes, bridalways, byways and concrete roads, tow paths and such and while a mountain bike would make these hard work over long distance the gravel bike takes all the best bits from the mtb world and chucks it onto some sort of CX bike/road bike (let us not get into geometry) and makes the whole thing not only tolerable but exhilarating.
It’s sure going to be the used in all manner of ways here in the duckhouse!
So what is this blog post really about? It sounds like a bloody advert! It’s not. This ducks got another dick.
This morning we went for a bike ride. Nothing out of the ordinary with that.
Someone tried to argue the toss on twitter about how hard it was raining and in the mean time we watched a video on the you tubes about a bike race called The Dirty Kanza. I thought The Dirty Kanza was a race on a remote Scottish island but it seems I got it mixed up with another one. Either way it forms the pinnacle (or close to the pinnacle) of gravel racing and looks an especially gruelling bike ride.
It just so happened that a day or so before I had also listened to The Cycling Podcast. I haven’t really listened to it before despite having ridden with the presenter of it a couple of times last summer. We’re recent convert to it as Life In The Peloton has switched over to it’s platform and, as regular listeners will know, we’re huge fans of Mitch Docker. I digress. Anyways on TCP they were discussing the UCI getting hold of gravel racing and making it a series. The pros and cons, the whys and the wherefores.
I got rid of my gravel bike at the start of the winter because frankly having a bike with disc brakes, giant tyres and a dropper post that stopped quickly and was semi easy to control was less fun than one without those things and didn’t.
So off we went. Into the mizzle. Cross bikes under our legs.
Where does cross become gravel and gravel become XC and is cross racing just gravel crits and can I go on an adventure ride without a handlebar bag and a plaid shirt. Why am I so confused? Does gravel exist in Belgium? When will the 3 Peaks be renamed a gravel ride or is that really a mountain bike race done on the wrong bike?
Why do I care?
I don’t really.
Lovely day for it.