Gravel, gravel, you have to ride gravel.
Dear reader, I bring you some thoughts typed by the sore arms of a trail riding dad.
If you read the leading cycling news websites you’ve no doubt noticed gravel is among the biggest trends in recent years next to the e-bike.
Gravel rides mostly encompass an offroad distance ride on gravel roads, fire roads, back roads, and single track. Kind of a long road ride without pavement or the technical demands of mountain biking. Also, it’s free from the annoyance of cars.
I mean, anything to get away from scourge of cars, right?
My name is Travis Paterson and I’m doing the Factor 160km ride of Tour de Victoria on Aug. 17. It’s my fifth year doing the Tour de Victoria. I started with the 45km from Sidney in 2015. Then I did the 90km twice. Last year I upped my game to the 140km.
So back to gravel rides.
I’m no professional YouTuber but my training towards the Tour de Victoria includes trying different things. Last blog I wrote about a couple of organized group rides with local cycling club Tripleshot, a first for me. This month, I had the chance to head off road a couple of times on my cyclocross bike. Usually, I ride 25mm roadies but lately I’ve put the 35mm knobbies on and have been hitting gravel roads and green-level single track.
(I’ve also been riding on BLANK Island which has great mountain biking but unfrortunately the first rule of BLANK Island is you don’t tell people how great BLANK Island is. Sorry.)
What has me stoked right now is the gravel road, or groad ride (as my host Robby calls it), that we did from Horne Lake to the summit overlooking the Alberni Valley on the eve of Canada Day.
Yeah, you could have accomplished what I did on my brother’s 1979 Raleigh 10-speed and probably gotten away without a flat. But even with the knobbies and some mountain biking skills I couldn’t really keep up with Rob and his mountain bike on the downhill. As a result, I busted a spoke on the back wheel and bent the shit out of the front rim.
I learned that they call a bent rim a potato chip. I had two potato chips ($38 fix at North Park Bikes by the way, including a new bottle of chain oil). It was the most fun I’ve had cycling since the 2018 Tour de Victoria. And the rims only broke because they are 9 years old and I tried to keep up with Robby and his impeccable 2001 Giant with front suspension.
So here’s some beef.
I happen to have been that dad who read the reviews and bought a used cyclocross bike so that he had the super low gearing that would allow him to pull a bike trailer with two kids (those were the days) and then graduate to pulling a trail-a-bike (soon to be for sale if you’re interested) and also ride it as a commuter or as a road bike.
But do you need a gravel bike to go on a gravel ride? (Of course not.)
But, but, but, what about N+1? The right number of bikes is always one more, right? It’s in the rules?
After six years of itching for the next bike (I do have a 20 year old carbon fibre Trek with tri bars for the annual triathlon i do, slowly, but you don’t use it for group rides so it is now the bike I use on my bike trainer, as the tri bars hold up my iPad), I’ve found a place of comfort (for now, anyways).
I’ve heard cycling coaches say that as long as your bike is decent enough, about 85 per cent of reaching your cycling potential is the volume of riding you do (assuming a relatively healthy diet). After that, the marginal gains come from sharpening your training regimen, focusing your diet and from buying that sweet sweet honeysuckle carbon fibre frame with electric shifters.
This year I will do the Factor 160km on my Kona Jake. And probably next year too.
Dear reader, I leave you with this.
I recently talked to Karl Ullrich at Oak Bay Bikes and the bike store owner of three decades sees the future of bike ownership changing. Renting and leasing might become the way things go, as renting is already growing in popularity among local shops.
With the advent of so many high-end specialty purpose bikes, Ullrich sees a not-so-distant future where avid cyclists pay their monthly ticket to the bike store. Imagine a monthly lease take home whatever sweet sweet bike you want for the week, two weeks, or month.
I only say this because not everyone can afford to have their dream mountain bike, road bike and cyclocross or gravel bike. Or else I already would. Thinking of cycling couples, that’s like six bikes right there and we’re not even talking about a commuter bike or the kids’ bike.
I for one hope the idea or leasing takes off.
In the mean time, I recommend a cyclocross frame and also, get used to changing tires.
See you in the TdV beer garden.
Travis Paterson is a cycling advocate, fan of pro cycling and reporter for Oak Bay News. This year he will be riding the 160km for the first time!