Monday, January 19, 2015

The year for Gravel biking?

Growing up, we all rode our bikes on gravel roads.  That is what we had.  I can't even count how many times I got a flat tire after getting a real road bike and still putting miles of back roads on those skinny, sketchy tires.  Little has changed really.  I still have to drive unpaved roads to get anywhere and still those skinny tires are sketchy.  However, I really like riding around on those back roads.  Aside from a occasional dog (or even coyote), there is little to worry about besides the road.  I had been putting miles on my old Redline d440, truly my first ever real mountain bike, rigid and steel 29er.  After switching to a Redline Monocog Flight 29 years ago, the geared d440 was dropped as my mountain bike and just used for those back roads.  It is slow as the bike weighs 27 lbs and has 2.3" wide tires, but it is very stable on any kind of road I hit, which sometimes can be mud, freshly graded 57's, loose 8's, or chip and seal.  Over last fall I changed the bike up a bit to be a more dedicated back road tourer, bikepacker, gravel rouser.

It is now setup with tubeless wheels (Sun Ringle Black Flag Expert), dirt drop bars (Origin 8 Gary bars), 1x10 Shimano drivetrain (SLX 11-36 cassette, SLX 9 speed rear der).  For shifting, I am using Retroshift CX1V (now Gevenalle).  I like this setup a lot.  Shifting is easy and I have 5 hand positions.  I could still use a good set of mechanical brakes.  These are low end stuff and they squeal, a lot.  I also want to narrow the tires down.  2.3 is super comfy, but a 1.9 or even 2.0 tire could drop a pound and perhaps be faster.

Since gravel biking is suddenly "in", it means there are some good events to be had for this style riding.  Athens Bicycle hosts the Grvael Rouser each year, set for March, it is an early event to burn the legs after a long winter.  After that, there are a couple of Roubaixs within a couple hours drive, the Amish Country Roubaix and the Hilly Billy Roubaix.  The Hilly Billy has replaced the Wayne Ultra on my list of try to get to events this year (since the Ultra was also dropped from the schedule).

I managed a few miles over the weekend of some frozen, some thawing back roads after the temps got above freezing and we even saw the sunshine.

Photos from the Garmin Virb, mounted on my bars.  Fun little camera to play with.  #getoutside
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