Ride the Wrong Bike

Thoughts on Gravel Riding and Beyond

The other day I rode my gravel bike in the snow, which doesn’t seem worth mentioning.

Except I have to admit that was a little nervous – maybe because I’m “old.”

Or maybe it’s because I’m spoiled. After all, I have several bikes to choose from for specific conditions. Then I reflected on how my gravel bike tires are darn near the same width as my first mountain bike tires.

This admission of tire width dates me of course.

I got my first mountain bike, a Trek Antelope, in 1988.  I rode the Antelope on everything.

Gasp – I did not have a special bike for every riding surface. I even rode the Antelope in a half-century on the pavement with my friends. Then I ate 12 tacos at the pub.

These days it’s gravel this, gravel that. Which I find ironic. The first road races were also gravel races. On skinny tires, steel bikes, and one gear. Or two gears by flipping the back tire around. Tour de France, Giro de Italia. The stuff of legends.

One of the competitors cycles in Romilly-sur-Seine (1936)

 

As for me, I was riding gravel on county roads in the wilds of Wyoming from the time that I was old enough to drink alcohol legally.

In my day, you could still order a cocktail at the liquor store drive-up window. Imagine cruising around with a jack ’n coke in a plastic cup, the windows rolled down, and “Boys of Summer” blasting on the radio. Yeah, all before trucks came with cup holders.

This is not a humble brag. I’m merely pointing out that maybe we’ve gone overboard with specialization and sometimes miss the point of bikes, which is FUN. And to have FUN not only do you not need the right bike for the right surface, but I would argue the opposite.

Roll your fattie on dirt. Ride your gravel bike on singletrack. Ride the gravel bike on pavement over two mountain passes in a road race. Heck, put drop bars on your single-speed fattie and ride in the snow like the Duke of Fat, Studd Pyles.

I admit that I like to geek out on bikes and gear as much as the next gal. But there is beauty in simplicity and going back to your roots. In riding like you did when you were a kid. I’ll bet you rode your first bikes on anything and everything, with a friend balanced on your handlebars.

I invite you to take a chance and push your limits by riding the ‘wrong’ bike.

It may be downright scary at first.  But you will learn new skills, you’ll have fun, and best of all, people will look at you like the bad-ass weirdo that you are.

Happy trails my friends!

Punching through mini-drifts on a warm February day in Wyoming on a Surly Midnight Special with Panaracer Gravel King tires.  It was suprisingly easy and all the more fun because it was a change from riding my fat bike in the sand, snow and mud.

 

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