Gravel Biking is for Everyone - Really!
Before you decide you are NOT a gravel cyclist and NEVER plan to be one and do not think you want to read a post written about gravel cycling, we have a few questions for you:
- Do you like beautiful scenery?
- Do you like (or need) to get away from the bustle and noise (literally and figuratively) of everyday urban dwelling?
- Do you like riding a bicycle?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then we encourage you to try gravel biking!
We truly believe being a cyclist does not mean being 'hardcore'. It can mean you ride your bike around your neighborhood, or across hundreds of miles of gravel. And by talking about all the ways we bike as cyclists, we hope to inspire you to see that riding a bike is not a lifestyle, it can be part of your life.
Although Kurt and I are very different in our cycling abilities, we definitely meet on common ground when we ride together. And recently, that has included gravel cycling.
Whether you are riding 10 miles, or want to sign up for that 100 mile gravel event - we are here to say... it's all OK. It's not about the distance, or competition, or the most expensive gear (although nice gear does enhance the experience for sure). It's about you. And it is about community.
It seems with each passing year, gravel biking gets more and more popular. When something goes from grassroots to mainstream does that mean it is any less than it initially was? NO. Is the hype justified? YES.
Similar to our post about camping and biking (Campbiking), we believe there is no need for anyone to feel intimidated or overwhelmed when it comes to getting your gravel on.
In fact, I think I am the perfect one to write this post. I started gravel biking last year at the age of 47 and have been on less than 10 gravel rides. And you know what? It was love at first ride.
That's me up there on my first ever gravel ride. If you have ever gone downhill skiing, I equated this ride (and now all my gravel rides) with my experiences as a downhill skier - you have to focus on the moment, it takes your mind off of any other worries because you are engaged in picking a good line, not falling down, and soaking in the scenery around you, and freeing your mind.
Gravel riding has impressed both me and Kurt in that it really is for everyone; from beginners like me to professionals who have also gravitated to the sport. What IS IT about gravel biking? Well, I can tell you what it is for me, and I think likely for a lot of other people.
It’s not just about winning.
I always say I am not a racer, and I am not big into riding with other people. I have been to different types of cycling events my entire adult life; from being a spectator at professional road and cyclocross races, to being a Soigneur at races Kurt has participated in (Road, Cyclocross, Fat Bike, Mountain Bike). But I have never been around any cycling event that compares to the atmosphere, camaraderie, and supportive atmosphere that is a gravel event. A few people might disagree, but I think the majority of people that have participated in gravel events would concur that gravel events are really more just rides, not races. Unlike other cycling events that are typically focused on ‘racing’ and ‘winning’, gravel events are about persevering, personal goal setting, working through challenges and coming away with a sense of accomplishment.
It’s about community.
The penultimate gravel event that in our experience embodies all of this, and so much more, is the Land Run 100. Our experience at Land Run, Kurt as a rider and me as a spectator/soigneur, will stay with us forever. Not just a gravel race, Land Run is an experience, whether you are a rider or a supporter, that gives me chills to this day. What sticks with us both is the vibe at the event - all these people gathered together to bring to life a moment they had been working towards for months who were jazzed about their ride ahead, but were also jazzed for everyone else ~ cheering each other on and offering words of support. Kindness and enthusiasm abounded. And it was a very very special thing to be in the presence of.
“If you are a cyclist and you have any inkling to do an event, I can’t recommend more trying to do one of the big gravel cycling events, because when you are done the sense of accomplishment is amazing and you are going to feel so connected to the cycling community and yourself, it really is an amazing experience." ~ Kurt
It's about getting in touch ~ with nature and yourself
Although I love the sense of community around gravel cycling, I also love the complete escape and time away from all the noise of daily life. What captured my heart on ride #1 as an urban cyclist, was the freedom of being alone in nature and the complete silence. The silence.
Our first gravel ride in Crook County Wyoming this Summer cemented this love for me. Not one single vehicle. Not one single person. Only two people on their bikes riding through the beautiful scenery of a remote area of Wyoming, with the occasional deer or cow checking us out, feeling so so lucky - and so alive.
Kurt always says days like this put years back on his life, I have to agree. It is hard to verbalize how beautiful it is to be in these moments on gravel roads under your own power propelling yourself to the beauty around each bend. Forest bathing - it’s real...
It's about learning and growing
I definitely have to give Kurt kudos for both bringing gravel into my life, and being amazingly supportive in my gravel journey. He bought me the most perfect bicycle for gravel riding and built it up specifically for my ability level. And not only that, but he has been on all my gravel rides so far and only offered words of encouragement and support (there’s that gravel vibe again…). He’s not only there for me on my best rides, but he is there for me on my worst rides saying things like, “It took me two years to figure out gravel riding, don’t worry we’ll get you there” and “nothing like climbing 50+ stories for your wakeup call eh?” And he also pushes me on those bad days saying things like “think of this ride when you are back at home and how you need to push yourself so next time you are doing a climb like this it won’t be so hard”.
Maybe you do not have a Kurt, but I am sure you have a local bike store who can provide both advice on the right bicycle set up for you and likely friends to ride with.
And to be honest, it is fun riding with our own gear. We use our Seat Rollios, Purist Bottles, wear our Socks. And I have been riding with my Essential prototype to test it on gravel and have been really happy with its performance in non-agressive riding. (I would suggest getting some frame saver tape to prevent abrasion on your frame - something gravel cyclists encounter with regularity).
What I know after riding gravel the last two years is that it is OK to only ride 10 miles, and slowly. It's not about riding 100 miles (although just riding 10 will put into perspective what that must be like and enhance your admiration for those who do). It is about getting outside, spending time in nature, spending time with friends, focusing on what is in front of you (and that is definitely not a phone), releasing your mind so that you can create space for new thoughts and ideas to come in. It is about SO MUCH MORE than riding a bicycle. Gravel is about the äventyr. ~DeAnn