Friday, June 28, 2013

Why ride gravel?

If you're reading this, chances are you noticed the flyer up at the shop, or the event notice that has been on the shop Facebook page. You may also be wondering what would possess anyone to think that riding thirty miles of gravel is a good idea.

If you do a web search for "gravel grind" or "gravel ride" you'll get thousands of hits from events all across the county.  One of the longest running is the 300 mile + TransIowa, which actually used Hawarden as a start point for a number of years. Other well known events include the Almanzo 100 in SE Minnesota, and the Dirty Kanza 200 in Emporia, KS. Events like these attract thousands of participants from around the US each year, and their numbers are exploding. This year's Almanzo 100 alone had well over 1000 riders at the starting line.

The reason that the Midwest is the epicenter for events like these is pretty obvious when you think about it: We've got the gravel. Consider our corner of Iowa. The unquestioned majority of our roads are unpaved. But I'll dare to bet that most riders never set tire on a gravel unless they're forced onto it.

The perception is that gravel roads are hard work, dusty, traveled only by maniacs, and should be avoided at all costs.

That's a perception we want to change with this ride, and I've got some things for you  to consider before you dismiss this ride out of hand.

Consider what most riders dislike the most. You may say wind, or rain, or heat, or cold, but the universal for everyone is traffic  No one likes considering the what-if's of riding in traffic. I've logged a ton of miles on gravel roads in the last two months. The number of vehicles I've met numbers in the teens. You hate traffic, you'll love gravel.

Think about options. Many of the paved roads are busy,  narrow, and can get really repetitive.  You start riding gravel, even a shorter ride has dozens of options for different routes.

Consider that, unlike many types of biking, taking a ride on gravel requires no special equipment. A basic hybrid bike (easily the most popular type of bike in our area) will float across gravel. If you've got a mountain bike, you're set. And yes, road bikes work as well. I ride an 80's era steel frame road bike on gravel, and I love it.

Riding on gravel is different, without a doubt. It may take a few miles to adjust from paved to gravel, and that's fine. But don't let that difference keep you from trying it out.

This ride is about having a good time exploring some fun roads with a group of curious cyclists. We're not out to race (though first to Carnes will be first to eat) we're not out to snub your bike, we're not out to sell you something. We just want you to come ride with us.

July 13th. 4:00. Come grind some gravel.

The Carnes Gravel Grind

I've updated the map and cue sheet. The original route took some rather messy roads and featured more than one nasty hill. The new route is clean and hard packed, and has some very fast rollers. You're welcome to print this out, or pick up a sheet on Saturday.

Carnes Gravel Grind instructions:

A 32 mile unsupported gravel ride from Sioux Center to Sfumato Pizzeria in Carnes on July 13. We depart at 4:00 pm sharp. Please show up a few minutes early to get a map and cue sheet printout.

The route is almost exclusively gravel roads. Road conditions will vary greatly. But you do not need a special bike for this ride. Mountain bikes, hybrids, and road bikes are all good ideas. Be aware that bikes with tires narrower than 25mm (1in) can be difficult to handle and will be more prone to flats.

Riding on gravel is a very different experience than paved. Doing this ride will take effort similar to a 40 mile paved ride. However, the route is quite flat.

There is no SAG for this ride. You are responsible for yourself if you need a lift home.

The route is NOT marked. You are responsible for navigation. Remember: East/West Roads are numbered, and increase (420th, 430th, 440th) as you go south. North/South Roads are named, and go up alphabetically (Ibex, Indian, Ironwood) as you go east. Call Nathan if you get lost.

This is a no-drop ride. Ride at your own pace and remember that the ride is only half done when we get to Carnes.

Nathan will be riding sweep, and will gladly help you with flats or any other mechanical. Taking a spare tube along is A VERY GOOD IDEA. If you need help, call him with your location on the route, and he’ll get to you as soon as he can.

Wear a helmet.

Go ahead and order as soon as you get to Sfumato. Let them know you are with the bike ride. Though it’s nice if we arrive as a group, everyone needs to ride at their own pace. You may leave Carnes whenever you are finished.

You do have the option of taking paved roads back (Take Jackson Ave. north out of Carnes, through Orange City, then head west on B40/400th St.). If you take that option you will be 100% ON YOUR OWN. Nathan will sweep for riders on the gravel route, but we cannot be responsible for riders on alternate routes.

Watch the Brother’s bike shop Facebook page for updates, especially concerning weather. Lightning, hail, or tornadoes in the area are an automatic cancellation. We will ride in light rain.

Nathan Nykamp’s Cell: (712) 441-2979

Comment here if you have any questions