Gravel Grinders: The Advantages of Saying Goodbye to Blacktop

If you haven’t heard about the new trend in cycling, you soon will. There are already four gravel-riding events in Simcoe and Grey counties this year and likely more to come. So what’s it all about?

 

words :: Noelle Wansbrough

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If you can road-ride, you can ride on gravel. But there are some unique technical aspects to gravel riding and those with a background in mountain biking will likely have an easier time. The feel of loose gravel at speed can be daunting for cyclists new to rough roads. The rider needs to relax and allow the bike to move around a bit. Stay seated on loose climbs in order to maintain traction on the rear wheel and on descents avoid braking on washboard and allow the bike to float beneath you. Braking on rough roads will cause the bike to jump around so if you have to brake, feather the rear lightly.

 

What is a gravel bike?
At a glance, a gravel bike looks much like a road bike but is built for a wide variety of terrain including gravel roads, rough pavement and singletrack trails. These bikes have clearance for wider tires, longer wheelbases and lower bottom brackets which create a more stable feel than a traditional road bike. Cyclocross bikes are suitable for gravel and have been around for years, however there are some differences.

A true gravel bikes boasts more gears for steep climbs while cyclocross bikes are geared for quick, flatter riding. Mountain bikes are fine for unpaved roads and paths but for long distances, the gravel bike is a much better choice. And because of the drop handlebar, there is much less wind resistance riding a gravel bike.

Tires
According to Velofix Simcoe owner Mike Perejmybida tire options are one of the key advantages to the sport. “You can install a variety of tires on your bike, but which one is the best for you and your gravel bike? An advanced rider tends to look for a fast tire, which means rubber that has a slick centre channel and treads on the side for grip in the corners. An intermediate/ beginner rider would put their trust in a tire with medium to heavy allround tread so they have confidence in all conditions. Modern gravel bikes can accommodate a 700x38c tire but a 700x35c is perfect size to help keep the rubber side down.”

 

 

Routes
Simcoe and Grey Counties have tons of gravel to choose from. Jody Wilson (Co-founder of The Growling Beaver Brevet) is an avid gravel grinder. “Some of my favourite gravel rides in the area are over in the Beaver Valley—hidden back roads like Old Mail Road, Quiet Valley Road and Lower Valley Road are all gems. I love riding the steep gravel climbs like the monster 12th Sideroad out of Collingwood or the steep pitches near Kimberley like the notorious Sideroad 7B or better yet, Graham’s Hill Road.”

Gravel = Quiet
The best part of the gravel riding trend is quiet roads. There is generally much less traffic on gravel vs. pavement. Our area has so many roads to choose from and for cyclists concerned about car traffic, gravel is the way to go. The demand for gravel is now so great, the Collingwood Cycling Club will be offering gravel club rides starting in late August. Check collingwoodcyclingclub.ca

 

GRAVEL EVENTS IN ONTARIO  SUMMER ‘17
• Eager Beaver StuporCross 100: August 12.  substanceprojects.com
• Gravel Grinder Clinic: August 26.  pedal-pushers.ca
• Centurion Cycling—True Grit Gravel: Sept 17.  centurioncycling.com
• The Growling Beaver Brevet: Sept 30.  raceroster.com/events/2017/11951/growling-beaver-2017

 

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