By: Collin Daulong
Recently road biking has seen fewer and fewer riders participating, and for valid reasons. Roads are getting more congested and drivers are becoming increasingly distracted by the accessibility of technology. In light of these two facts, many road riders are seeking quieter roads for a safer, more enjoyable ride. Gravel (riding on dirt roads) has recently taken off in popularity because it offers the solitude and safety that riders are looking for, and generally good routes are closer than you think.
Below are 3 ways to better prepare for your next gravel (dirt road) ride:
When dirt road riding you will usually find yourself amongst riders who are simply interested in the enjoyment of the beautiful natural surroundings. While escaping the concrete jungle you will often find that services along your ride will be more sparse and you may even run out of cell phone reception, so it is important to be prepared in the event of a flat tire, getting lost and the dreaded bonk (getting very very tired). In previous years, I have been a minimalist when it comes to being prepared but recently I have fully embraced being ready for whatever my adventure brings me. I wear a Thule Hydration pack, their smallest model, and carry essentials like a Pedro’s multi-tool, extra high-energy food, plenty of water, a few extra layers, a fully charged cell phone and some cash for the mid-ride market stop for a home baked cookie! It is way cooler to be over prepared than underprepared when it comes to adventuring out on dirt roads.
Have a plan but let it evolve:
I love both having a plan and not having a plan, as a tour owner and operator it is important to have a plan at all times but you also need to be able to evolve due of the energy of the group, weather and many other considerations. When setting out for your adventure do the same, generate a plan that you will want to stick to but do not be afraid to let it evolve or find yourself exploring a new dirt road you may not have seen before. When heading out on these rides it can be a great way to experience the local culture of an area so add in some local coffee and pastry shops to fuel up mid-ride (and use their facilities if you need too). Also, let a friend or loved one know where you are going and when you will be starting and finishing just to be safe!
Soak it in:
Cycling can be an amazingly cathartic experience, it allows you a physical and emotional release from the twitter, facebook, instagram, instant gratification culture we live in. Finding dirt roads near you means that you are experiencing an area that many do not (hence the roads not being paved) and there can be a lot of hidden and not-so-hidden beauty there, so soak it all in and enjoy the view. I can nearly guarantee that if you go and find yourself on an adventure via dirt roads you well come back to the craziness that regular life can bring with more clarity and a better sense of presence.
I think Ernest Hemingway probably said it best “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” If you are a cyclist or non-cyclist we strongly encourage you to give riding on those quiet dusty roads a try for your health, happiness and general well-being!
Looking for a great way to try out dirt road riding or an adventure for the seasoned gravel rider? Check out Gravel & Gastronomy on June 2nd!