I love my road bike... but the 'road' part of the name is not entirely accurate because my bike also loves eating up gravel. So when I heard that our mates over at Australian/NZ Cyclist had teamed up with Bicycle Network to bring a gravel focused ride to Victoria my ears pricked up.
If you're used to pounding out the K's on the road it could be time to change things up. While endless efforts on the road are good for your fitness it can become tedious... or perhaps, like me, you are not specifically training for racing, you just love riding for personal challenge, stress relief, social banter, general fitness, or as just a way to see the country. Whatever type of rider you are it's time to embrace the rough stuff.
If you're not sure where to ride I've got a good one for you... Gravel Grit You Yangs - 1 September 2018. Put together by Alex Malone at Australia/NZ Cyclist and Bicycle Network, this will be a great ride to experience the best of Victorian gravel with two ride options - 'The Long Haul' (91km, 1100m vert, $99 entry) or for a taste or the joys of the rough top, 'The Teaser' (32km, 498m vert, $59 entry). Of all the cyclists that I know, Alex Malone has the unofficial and envious title of having ridden most of the best routes this planet has to offer, on the road, gravel and MTB, so in short, I'm expecting good things from this event.
Included in your entry is:
- Pre-ride coffee
- Rest stops with snacks and water filling stations
- Medical, mechanical support and friendly staff
- Post ride meal and drink
- End of ride bike wash
Gravel Grit You Yangs starts at Little River, under an hour's drive from Melbourne. The Teaser takes you into and around the You Yangs Regional Park, while the Long Haul takes in the Brisbane Ranges, Steiglitz Historic Park and the You Yangs Regional Park and offers a more solid experience for those of you that want to push on.
I've got no doubt that this will be a good one, I'm pretty keen. More information can be found at the event page HERE. Hopefully see you there!
If you need some reasons why you should take your bike off the smooth stuff, James put his case forward as to why all roadies should buy a mountain bike, now here's my case as to why you should go gravel.
YOU CAN USE YOUR ROAD BIKE
Yes, believe it or not, most road bikes will be fine on dirt and gravel roads. Yes, if it gets a bit too rough, rocky or muddy you might be a bit stuck, but you'll still have a massive smile on your face, and you'll genuinely be surprised how far off road you can take your roadie. Just chuck on the widest tyres your frame can handle, drop the pressure a bit and off you go.
IT GIVES YOU MAD SKILLS
Yes, there are skills needed to ride on the road, especially in a bunch. But get out on the gravel, dirt, sand and rocks and you'll take your bike handling to the next level. You'll really need to feel and work with the bike rather than just point it where you want to go, you'll need to watch the road surface up the trail and close to your wheels, you'll need to be smooth and measured when descending, and adjust your power constantly on climbs. The road will feel easy once you've mastered gravel.
IT'S A TIME MACHINE
It has been proven by La Velocita scientists that time speeds up by between two and three times when you ride gravel. The concentration combined with the extreme fun factor make the K's disappear double time. There's no time to get bored. It's just you, your bike and the gravel.
YOU'LL EXPERIENCE NEW PLACES THAT FEW GET TO SEE
Ok, without getting too deep and meaningful, one of the reasons I Iove getting off the roads is that few riders choose to take them on, there's less if any cars to worry about and you're surrounded by nature. It's a calming environment that makes you feel lucky to be alive.
THE PEOPLE ARE COOL
When I get off the road and bump into other riders there's a lift in the level of care from other riders versus riding on the road. It's more of an MTB culture where riders tend to be a bit more chilled and have a stronger connection with other riders sharing their interests. You're out enjoying the wilderness together and somehow there to look out for each other. It's a good vibe.
IT WILL MAKE YOU STRONG
I find that K for K you get way more bang for your buck when heading off road. Rolling resistance is high, there's little opportunity to get in a rhythm and some of the gradients make all roads look flat. This changed up, energy sapping environment is an awesome training ground. Expect 1km on gravel to be worth 2 or 3 on the road.
So give your bike a once over, stick on some wider tyres and prepare yourself to be transported to a gravelly happy place.