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.

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