30 Things Only People Who Ride Gravel Understand
1. You look forward to seeing this sign:
The adventure begins where the pavement ends!
2. You don’t mind getting a little dirty.
This means you’re doing it right!
3. Sometimes you spend more time hiking with your bike than riding it.
4. Your gravel cycling adventures have allowed you to experience places you wouldn’t have otherwise known to exist.
It turns out that small towns like Emporia, KS, Grinnell, IA, Spring Valley, MN, Stillwater, OK, Elizabeth, IL, etc. are beautiful places to ride and the people who live there are awesome! Whether the locals are volunteering to come rescue you from a thunderstorm or handing you a beer at the finish line, they are happy to host you.
I made it to Emporia! I’m looking forward to riding 200 miles of Flint Hills gravel with some of the best cyclists in the country! Training hasn’t gone so well since the Gulf Coast 511 so I don’t know how this race will go but I do know that I’ll have fun riding through this beautiful area with all of these wonderful people taking on this challenge! Feel free to say hi when you fly by me suffering out there! Good luck everyone! #DK200 #dirtykanza #RidingUltras #FindYourLimit #ridegravel #ultracycling #flinthills #bikekansas #kansasgravel #kansas #emporia #gravelgrinder #unlearnpavement #doublecentury #cycling #endurance #bikerace
5. You can’t stand riding on pavement anymore.
Paved roads will never look like this.
6. You have an ongoing debate with your gravel friends about which type of tire is the best.
You finally decided it’s best to agree to disagree.
7. You don’t mind the fact that you don’t usually get an award for finishing.
It’s ok because the memories are priceless.
8. You compare gravel types from various locations across the country.
If only there was one bike/tire set up that would work for the tire eating flint rocks of Kansas to the Oklahoma red clay to the Iowa class B roads and everything in between.
9. You’ve sent in a post card to register for Trans Iowa three times but you have yet to be selected as one of the chosen few.
Just sent in my registration for Trans Iowa! I find Rule #18 very entertaining. Since I’ve already had a raccoon incident and been recruited to scoop pig poop, hopefully it doesn’t mean that I will be run over by a tractor next! #transiowa #iowaproblems #ridegravel #gravelgrinder #iowa #cycling #ultracycling #ultracyclistproblems #endurancecycling #endurance
10. You’ve spent hours cleaning your bike after a race.
I was still finding Oklahoma red dirt hiding in random places in my bike over a year later.
11. Fresh gravel is your worst enemy.
12. Your dreams have been crushed by a broken derailleur or other non repairable component during a race.
13. You can never predict how long your race or ride will take.
Sarah Cooper said it best: “Gravel racing is an adventure and adventure always takes longer than planned.”
The unpredictable nature of gravel riding is one of the reasons why I love it so much. Even on supposedly easy rides near home, I never know what I’m going to get myself into. Last weekend’s ride included the challenge of trying to figure out how to get through a creek when the bridge was out and backtracking would have added more miles than we wanted to ride. The only option was to trudge through and keep moving forward! #ridinggravel #gravelgrinder #bikeiowa #iowabackroads
14. The word peanut butter doesn’t make you hungry when it’s used to refer to gravel conditions.
15. You have had an unfortunate encounter with wildlife.
It turns out that raccoons are very unforgiving when you hit them with your bike.
16. You get annoyed when people ask how you train in the winter.
Put on studded tires and bike through the snow…duh!
17. No matter how well you think you know how to read cue sheets, you somehow still get lost.
This only ever happens when your Garmin is dead and your phone doesn’t have service.
18. You own an assortment of bike bags in various shapes and sizes, but all the stuff you want to carry with you somehow never seems to fit.
The one thing you decide not to bring is the thing you end up needing when you’re alone in the middle of nowhere.
19. You’ve experimented with different ways to carry your bike through the mud.
It turns out that there is no good way to do this
20. You’ve made new friends while suffering through a B road or helping each other navigate and stay awake at night.
It turns out you’re not the only crazy person out there who thinks this is fun!
21. When you say “The Tour” you’re referring to a one stage, 2750 mile self-supported trail and unpaved road race along the Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico.
“The Tour” that road bikers refer to is a 21 stage, 2,200 mile road race where cyclists are handed food and water from their support teams, have people take care of their bikes for them, sleep in nice beds at night and eat real meals. What’s supposed to be fun about that?
I’m in Banff. I got my bike all packed up today and picked up some supplies that I’d forgotten. Went for a ride, sorted out the kinks, and rode the first mile of the trail. Later, Colin and I went to a Q&A where we learned how to deal with grizzlies and mountain lions. Finished the night off with a bison burger. There are tons of locals who are equally as stoked about the ride as I am. A few things as the hour approaches… What the hell am I doing?! The feeling that best captures the moment is that of lining up for a race, standing on the line waiting for the whistle. Or that moment when you’re at the top of a Red Bull Rampage freeride course. Totally relatable right? My main concerns are eating enough, carrying enough food, and making sure I don’t have any mechanicals. I heard from Tour veterans that I should watch out peanutbutter mud, noted. There are a few other guys on CX bikes. All have the same tires so that’s somewhat confidence inspiring. I guess all I can do now is just wake up an go for a bike ride. Every pedal stroke gets me that much closer to Mexico. The Boone feels like a motorcycle. I think it’s close to 55lbs with 7 liters of water but I don’t really want to know for sure. Again, what the hell did I get myself into?! Long post I know, you can watch my blue dot “WS” here: http://trackleaders.com/tourdivide15
22. You have a bucket list of awesome gravel races that you want to do.
23. You’re tired of explaining to people why a person would ever want to ride gravel roads.
You know that other people will never understand how awesome gravel riding is until they try it themselves.
24. You know what it means to #unlearnpavement.
25. You see more dogs than cars on the road.
The only time you do sprint intervals is when you’re trying to escape from them.
26. You know that supported races are for road bikers. You can ride for days surviving on gas station food and sleeping under a mylar blanket on the porch of an abandoned rural church or the like.
Who needs an aid station or a support crew when you can fend for yourself?
27. There’s always some sort of obstacle in your way.
It’s never just an easy weekend gravel ride. #bikeiowa #ridegravel #iowagravel #gravelgrinder #iowabackroads #ruraliowa
A video posted by Kelsey Regan (@ridingultras) on
28. You sign up for races that challenge you to surpass limits you never thought you would reach.
29. You don’t ride to be the fastest, place the highest or get the most Strava KOMs. You ride for the experiences and the memories you make along the way.
30. You’re excited for your next gravel riding adventure!
What are some other things that only people who ride gravel understand? Share in the comments below!
Huge thanks to my gravel riding friends for capturing what it means to be a gravel cyclist and letting me use their pictures in this post. Click on their names to follow their adventures: Chris Welch, Thomas Adams, Steve Fuller, Sarah Cooper, Liz Ann, and Will Sheel.