Gravel, road, and getting older

I’ve never been one to enjoy road riding. I respect those that do and race but it just wasn’t for me. It was always a thing I had to do whether it was riding to trails or all serious n stuff training for racing in the winter months when the trails were covered in snow or too muddy. I never really understood the appeal, why people thought it was fun, and why they wore that tight lycra billboard clothing when there was all this quiet car- and people-free dirt right out my back door!

Well now i’m 46 years old, finally maturing a bit, and I’m starting to understand.  There’s a little pooch of a belly from drinking beer and eating too many pints of Ben & Jerry’s (vegan) ice cream, and I’m just not riding as much as i used to. I’ve slowed down in my drive and my speed like most all of us tend to do as we get older (except for Ned, but he’s an alien). Just like many things once you let go of previous biases you can appreciate things more for what they are, not what you think they should be.

Having moved to a place with no trails out my back door I’ve learned that road riding can be enjoyable if you find the right roads.  Ideally dirt roads and few no cars. I’ve learned that I could definitely be a roadie (albeit in baggies) if all roads had no cars, but since that’s highly unlikely I’ll take ones that look like these ones in the photos. You can cover a lot of ground and see a lot of places and not be so focused on what’s right in front of you on the trail. It’s no wonder “Gravel” has taken off so much even though it’s just an extension of already available bikes with slightly different geometry and bigger tires (mostly a bigger range of tire options).

Everybody that rode bikes in the past used to ride gravel but on skinnier tires. It’s just a new thing since there is new product to be marketed. When training for mountain biking in the 90’s we’d link a bunch of dirt roads, pavement, bike paths and singletrack on our cross bikes with 700x32mm tires. Those were some of the funnest rides since each ride was like a puzzle, connecting as much dirt as possible on bikes that really weren’t designed to be ridden on much of it.

It’s cool there are so many gravel events now, but it’s kinda weird how popular it has become.  It’s really nothing new in what and how you ride bike!  It reminds me of NAHBS creating a category for ‘Best Gravel Bike’ but no category for ‘Best Fatbike.’  Only one of those has completely different frame fit specifications and requires a completely different gruppo in order to work. Unlike the new Gravel specific Shimano GRX (which looks nice don’t get me wrong!) but you could put it on any cross or road bike from 20 years ago (assuming it had disc brake mounts). Anyways…i digress. Go ride your damn bike and stop making up new categories!

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