Part 1 - Why Gravel?
If you haven’t been totally daydreaming while cruising your bike down the usual tarmac roads in the last couple years, you have noticed a significant movement of cyclists off the pavement and on to the gravel roads. It isn’t just us; gravel riding has emerged globally as a new and growing genre in the world of cycling. In the shop, we often get asked what is it that attracts people to ride gravel roads, especially here in Northwest Illinois where our paved rural roads are so perfect for riding. People have many questions about gravel cycling, but the first is always: “why?”.
1. Gravel changes the scenery. Admit it – you’ve ridden the same pavement to the same places hundreds of times, and unless you are willing to put your bike on the car and go somewhere else, you’re going to ride them hundreds more. Gravel roads offer an easy way to see the places you haven’t seen, and take you places you haven’t been.
2. Gravel changes the game. After years of honing your bike handling skills on solid roads, the shake and shimmy of gravel challenge those skills in a way that makes you focus more on how you actually handle your bike. This new challenge to your skill on the bike elevates the ride into a new level of engagement. The impetus behind the mountain bike boom of the ‘80s and ‘90s was much the same: it’s more exciting.
3. Gravel has less traffic, way less than paved roads. While we’re not afraid of a little traffic, the quiet of the un-beaten path is relaxing.
4. Gravel is great in the Winter. While paved roads get salted and sanded into sloppy messes following winter storms, gravel roads get only the plow. As a result, winter gravel roads tend to be firm, dry and a little crunchy with a thin layer of gravel that gets scraped to the top providing a good grippy surface.
5. Gravel is great for training. Depending on conditions, gravel generally creates more rolling resistance than smooth pavement. A ride on gravel will usually take more effort, or if you prefer, burn more calories than a ride of equal distance on pavement. Additionally, most gravel roads were built without much effort put into reshaping the land, meaning that the hills can be steeper and more frequent than their paved cousins. For the cyclist, gravel sometimes becomes a bit of interval training – always good, whether you think you need it or not.
Join us again next week for part 2 – Tires and air pressure