Welcome to the Basics of Gravel Series (B.O.G.)! In this series I will attempt to bring a very foundational knowledge of gravel and back road riding to anyone reading that may be curious or a beginner in riding off-pavement, but not wanting to be mountain biking. There will be a new entry every Wednesday until the series is complete. To see the schedule, click this LINK. Thanks!
|This is gravel.|
With miles and miles of smooth, paved roads, why would anyone want to ride on gravel? It's dirty, dusty, rough, and uncomfortable. All these things are true. Pavement is a lot faster, smoother, and more fun- IF you aren't getting buzzed by speeding cars, afraid for your life, or getting abused in other ways like getting yelled at, having things thrown at you, or getting 'coal rolled' by some numbskull in a diesel truck.
Maybe you are just tired of the attitude on the local group ride. Maybe the urban bike trails are getting boring. Perhaps you are in need of a new challenge. If any of that is you, there are a ton of gravel roads waiting for you.
I used to ride road bikes on the road a LOT. I've toured across four states unsupported, and I've done RAGBRAI and other paved road rides. I LOVED riding paved back roads, but with today's distracted drivers, seeing others getting buzzed, hit, and even dying, I decided that it was more prudent to be on mostly deserted back roads which are not paved. Once I made the commitment to riding gravel, I was hooked. Here are a few of the reasons why:
- Super low traffic counts, and when you do encounter vehicles, they are more often than not piloted by friendly people.
- Beauty and Peacefulness. Gravel and dirt roads take you places you will never see on pavement, plus the peacefulness of the rural areas is beyond description. Need a break from social media madness, your rat-race job, or life in general? Get off-pavement!
- Challenging Riding: Generally gravel and dirt roads follow the contours of the land. It is more challenging, but that just means that your riding will be more rewarding. Challenges are good things!
- Gravel riding will make you a better bicyclist. The contours, the varied nature of the surfaces, and dealing with various situations which gravel riding brings with it will stretch you as a cyclist and improve your bike handling skills. These things will translate to all areas of cycling you choose to pursue.
- You can enjoy riding abreast with others, converse, and not be in the way or potentially become a road hazard. Obviously, you still need to be alert, but gravel riding is a social activity if you want it to be. It lends itself to that in a much better way than paved riding.
- Flora and Fauna: The rural areas are ripe with animals and plant life you just don't see off paved roads and certainly not in cities. Depending upon where you live, off-pavement riding can open up an entirely new world to you in terms of wildlife and plant specimens.
- Lots of Places To Ride: Many states have tons of off-pavement roads to explore. Here where I live we have upwards of 70,000 miles of gravel and dirt roads to ride. While Iowa is one of the top states for off-pavement riding, your state probably has a lot of hidden gems to explore. Elsewhere in the world off-pavement riding can take you to some really interesting places.
Obviously gravel riding is one of the hottest trends in cycling right now. That may be a reason as well why you'd want to check it out. Now with all that said, gravel road riding is not for everyone. If you try it, or have tried it, and it just doesn't trip your trigger, well that's perfectly fine. You are not crazy. But good on you for giving it a go.
Now, if any of the above hits your heart right and seems to be a good idea, the following articles in the series will hopefully get you sent off on the right track. There always are deeper dives into any of the topics I am going to cover, but I'm going to hit the highlights and send you on your way, hopefully, on an adventure that will bring you much joy and growth as a cyclist and as a person.
Next Wednesday: What Bike To Use