Yes, this “roadie” has started graveling. As an off-season shift and a what-the-heck moment, I decided to try my hand at actually mounting a mountain bike and doing a bit of gravel riding. First of all, strapping on a mountain bike is a strange feeling. My brain is screaming that I am sitting up way too high, and my hand position and pedal stroke feels like I am twelve years old again and riding to a friends house to play his Atari. It actually does not take that long to get use to things . . . well, except for pulling my brake lever occasionally when I am attempting to shift gears. Oh, and even though I have been doing a pretty good bit of graveling this off-season, I still turn the pedal over when I start to clip in!
My first few adventures were fun and a bit strange. Again, my eyes were seeing gravel and my mouth was wanting to shout “GRAVEL!” to the riders behind me. My speed was slower than where I usually roll on a road bike. I was told by another rider that 15 mph is the new 20 mph on a mountain bike. The whole gearing is completely foreign to me. I am not use to having a hubcap for a rear cassette and a small ring that could pass for a coin. I shifted and shifted often. In the beginning, the jury was still out. “Is this really going to help me for my road season?” Not one to pass things off too quickly, I kept shifting and keeping my weight back. To my surprise, it did not take me long to realize how beneficial this new thing was going to be. My climbing legs were screaming at various points; and, to added to the pain, there is basically no free wheeling in gravel riding. Spin it, brother!
Now, some maybe asking about single-track mountain biking. Let me be quick: not for me. A friend of mine took me out on a single track section, and I found it way too technical. I did not feel the same “work out” being applied, and I was constantly afraid of being made into a tree ornament. Wrecking is not a problem for me, but I cannot risk my road season trying to climb a granite cliff on a single track. I do not mind if the single track is a nice path with good climbing, but the whole “jump this log while turning the bike in the air to place it back into the track as it is bending back around” is not for me.
Here is what I soon found interesting: back on my road bike, I feel like a missile. Adding gravel to my repertoire has given a breath of fresh air to my off-season training. I feel fairly confident that it is going to launch my new road season. And least I forget, it also added a few new mountain bike friends whom I did not know before. All-in-all, I am digging the different kind of riding. To be sure, my love for the road is not going away. Everyone has a favorite. Mine just happens to be the pavement. Sorry, dirt.