Doing it all the hard way...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Welcome to my Gravel

Vous etes des Assassins !
This past weekend I was joined at le Cabane dans La Foret by Einmotron and McWoodie for some serious Gravel Riding.

We jumped right into it and got in some k’s and m’s (kilometers of distance and meters of climbing) under our belt before the sun went down Friday.   It was a thrill to share with friends the roads that, aside from a couple excursions with KB, I have generally been riding solo.

Einmotron and McWoodie are such strong riders that when I uploaded from my Garmin I found I had collected a KOM on a climb they dropped me on. If I am the King of the Mountain then they are the Gods of the Mountain.

On Saturday we went for five and a half hours and went up pretty much everything doing what I have named the Loup Loup Super Loop.

When we finished the day everyone was smiling. My legs were quivering and we were all moving a little slow at dinner.  We eventually concluded our lethargy festival and fell into bed.

Sunday was the final opportunity to express our OCD masochistic desperation and we went for one last ride.  Without ever expressing it in so many words we decided to ride the steepest route up the closest mountain.  The single track climb was so steep I found myself recovering when the grade let up to only ten percent.  It was one of those climbs that when you reach the top without having stopping you wonder if you earned the right to have your name engraved on a plaque at the top.

On the ride home we were baked.  When the conversation went quiet McWoodie turned on the podcasts and I tried not to fall asleep.

The weekend had several takeaways. 

First and foremost was that gravel riding is both lots of fun and very challenging.

Second was the life altering realization of the improved control and safety of disc brakes.  They allowed McWoodie and Einmoton to bob and weave around me and get close with confidence and control that I could not have imagined. They were able to relax on down hills where I was so nervous I finished the descent with sphincter cramps.

The next impression was how those guys were able to float over rocky roads that made my fillings loose. Their tubeless wheels running at 28-33 psi were like cheating. The increase in control means an increase in safety and comfort.  Both of those things translate into a more enjoyable ride, especially for us Masters racers.

Their carbon bikes were grossly efficient which only served to further discourage me.

It was hard to stay discouraged for long as I have been having so much fun riding off road.  It might be a stretch to say it is my future, but I will say that I don’t have any plans to stop and in fact I have plans to focus more on these kids of rides.

I was reminded of an episode last winter when teaching a grandchild to cross country ski and she complained that it was hard. I told her then and I tell myself now, ALL the cool things are hard.  You don’t have to go right into zone five and stay there for four or more hours, but gravel riding is slower and harder and the roads without pavement often kick up to fourteen percent grades and stay there longer than you can fake it.
 Why Einmo-tron has an illustration of the female reproductive system 
on the back of his jersey is not know to me

If you are willing to pay the price the rewards are awesome.

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