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Le Graveur: The Margins

Le Graveur: The Margins

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I just got turned back from a ride. 5k from the house I realized my bits were getting too cold not only for comfort (in which case, apply Rule #5 and move on) but safety (i’ll take my vasectomy in the hospital, thank you very much). It’s a lovely sunny day, the only problems being the minus 12C temp, biting headwind, and leg warmers that stop mid-thigh. Having to pull the plug on a ride is a bummer. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen all too often and I’ve still got the rollers set up in the house. But the silver lining here is that it was only my 4th or 5th training ride of the year for the Heck of the North which is still 7 months away.

Some would say gravel riding is here to stay. Others would say gravel riding has always been a part of cycling and all we’re doing now is applying intention to it. It’s undeniable though that the gravel scene has taken on a prominent role in cycling of late. From open-registration races all over the world to the Strade Bianche, graveling has ignited a passion in many of us. Riding dirt roads has a certain unique aesthetic, an aesthetic that is best described as taking place on the margins.

The tarmac, as we move further from the center of town, gives way increasingly to gravel. As the rider begins to stitch together longer gravel stretches of road he needs to go further out on the margin of the city until finally, any reminders of the city are gone. This is where the margin is blurred between “civilization” and “wilderness”. The Graveur‘s bike is marginally a road bike. Road bikes can be fitted with wider tires but are limited by frame and fork design as well as clearance at the caliper. Cyclocross bikes can run with skinny tires which is usually preferred and then we’re left often with a higher BB, heavier bike, and a position that’s closer to sit up and beg. Only just recently have bicycle companies begun to manufacture equipment intended specifically for the booming gravel scene. But even still, the rider has to select a hodge-podge of gear from road, cross, and even MTB that will suit his needs and the particulars of the course.

This year, I’m experimenting with new bars. I’ve decided to give the Salsa Cowbell a spin. Maybe you’ve seen bars like this on Randoneur and drop-bar 29er’s common in the adventure bike and UltraCX scene. I’m trying to achieve a few things with these flared bars: flat hood-to-top area while maintaining horizontal drop, more upright position with a shallow drop, lot’s of drop for secure grip, and leverage provided by wider-than-Lampre-Man 46mm span. Gianni recently referred to the geographically curated bike as a “Terroir Bike”. I like this turn of phrase.

Toeing up to the start of a gravel race can result in sensory overload of Rule-breaking gauche.  Riders operating on the margins of The Rules show up with frame bags and EPMS‘s, Camelbaks, zero saddle/stem drop, facial hair, MTB shoes, and even aero bars. The list goes on of Rule violations. Be mindful though that Rules are often bent consciously and  broken for geography, practicality and self-reliance. The most Rule compliant of Velominati on the road may seemingly be found out on the margins of decorum riding gravel. Don’t be too quick to judge.

It is the margins that attracted me to gravel riding and is partly what keeps me excited about it. For one, I have little choice in terms of the roads I have to ride. I live on a gravel road that mostly leads to other gravel roads. I’m closer to the margin of wilderness than civilization. Graveling is a necessity if I want more places to ride. Keeper status aside, I’ve always been one to eschew rules and authority and go against the grain. Gravel riding allows me a damn good reason to blur the Rules from time to time to see what works. Here are a few Rules worth breaking when it comes to gravel road riding:

  • Rule #29. If you’re way out on the margins you just may need the extra space for tools or food.
  • Rule #32. Two bidons won’t cut it often times. So unless you have the ability to filter or treat water, try a hydro pack or frame bag.
  • Rule #34. You will find yourself walking or running out there. Wear shoes that allow this.
  • Rule #44. I’ve found, especially on technical trails and ultraCX, that less drop reduces fatigue and improves visibility over a long ride.
  • Rule #50. I live in the woods, hipster. I’m growing a fucking beard and riding my bike if I damn well please.
  • Rule #52. Pfft.
  • Rule #54. I haven’t done this and won’t. But the guy that won the Heck in 2012 had aerobars and used them. Just sayin’.
  • Rule #61. I ride a fi'zi:k Antares VS on my gravel bike and appreciate the extra padding (although the saddle is compliant).
  • Rule #68. It’s been said riding gravel saps an additional 10% of energy and thus requires an additional 10% of V over a course of the same distance of tarmac. Therefore, the quality of your ride will be 11% more on gravel. That’s one higher.

Vie la vie Velominatus

// Accessories and Gear // Breaking The Rules // Le Graveur // Technique

  1. The three most beautiful words in the English language:

    Bike Race Tomorrow.

  2. @gaswepass

    @Endurimil

    One hasn’t lived till they tried to T Bone a bear at 14 bombing down a logging road.

    Isnt that kind of a moot point?

    I guess the key to it is doing it and living to tell the tale!

  3. @G’rilla

    The three most beautiful words in the English language:

    Bike Race Tomorrow.

    Bike Ride Today?

  4. @Teocalli

    @gaswepass

    @Endurimil

    One hasn’t lived till they tried to T Bone a bear at 14 bombing down a logging road.

    Isnt that kind of a moot point?

    I guess the key to it is doing it and living to tell the tale!

     Yep.

      Last year  had a Turkey fly head height across the road and try to take me out here in Kingston.

  5. 3rd from last. Two places better than last year!

  6. @frank

    Riding gravel roads out in the cascades is so incredibly awesome. You’re basically on a road bike with wide tires, no cars, no assholes throwing shit at you. You see a moto come by every now and again and give eachother a nod.

    One of my all time favorite shots from a ride I did last summer. You can’t find this shit on tarmac. (click for enlarged photo)

    Can, and do. But I hear ya.

    Eg, Victorian High Country

  7. @Marko

    @Ccos Perhaps another way to look at this is that some Rules just don’t apply given the circumstance of the terroir. Shorter, less marginal rides will find me totally Rule compliant on the gravel bike. Two small bidons, road shoes, and everything packed nicely in jersey pockets. But when required for self-reliance and certain trails on farther flung rides those lines start to blur.

    I way I understand it, The Rules only truely apply to road racing (style machines, maybe you don’t race) anyway. A commuter, My Mrs and her flat bar for riding to the park with the kids, MTB etc aren’t the disciplines where the rules are aimed, nor intended. It makes perfect sense that with road bikes one end, and MTB the other end of the scale, the more you move toward MTB, the less and less The Rules apply. Long range/remote area Gravour-ing… one would be forgiven for rule violations that are taken in order to permit the activity to be conducted in a safe manner.

  8. @Marko

    @Ccos Perhaps another way to look at this is that some Rules just don’t apply given the circumstance of the terroir. Shorter, less marginal rides will find me totally Rule compliant on the gravel bike. Two small bidons, road shoes, and everything packed nicely in jersey pockets. But when required for self-reliance and certain trails on farther flung rides those lines start to blur.

    Don’t know if this qualifies as a EPMS so will leave it to you. However the  guys at Backcountry Research came out with this this year.

    http://www.backcountryresearch.com/CAMRATBRROAD-SADDLE-MOUNT_p_70.html

    Which is a downsized version of their  XC racing version. Use last years version on the MTB and no problems yet. Even tried it on the Kaffenback to see what happened And held everything in place no prob.

    http://www.backcountryresearch.com/RACE-3BRMTB-SADDLE-MOUNT_p_36.html

    The road version I believe only fits a 700c tube and maybe a CO2.

  9. @Ccos

    @frank

    @Ccos

    Well since the door’s been opened: Can rule violations be given some sort of hiarchy? For example those determining rider behavior trump those governing rider aesthetics which then trump those governing bike aesthetics. Violations of the rules could then only be entertained if done in order to preserve a higher rule. There are sins and there are cardinal sins after all. Not hardening the fuck up will still have dire consequences.

    I for one will restrain, but you know, on those rare occasions…

    Let me see here, what’s the phrase I’m looking for? Oh, right: FUCK OFF!

    I reject the premise and the question; this sort of thing can result in excommunication, you know. Even just asking these sorts of questions.

    I done some more thinking on this (re: just had a beer). What is needed here is some guidance. Now I have a riding buddy who, save for garishly colored and inappropriately long brake cables, is rule compliant and 100% badass (he bought a snow bike just to match the insulated boots his wife got him for Christmas and routinely puts in 16k/year in New England). Last year on a ride he flatted and didn’t have a repair kit (ours were neatly stowed in our back pockets). Rather than use ours, he phoned his son who in three minutes was on the scene with a replacement bike (100% true story). Now this bike was a complete freak show of rule violations. Because he is a badass and because both his behavior and appearance were rule complaint we continued to ride with him (although we offered profusely to repair his tire in some degree of despair). Had he also taken the opportunity to change into Daisy Dukes and a cut-off t-shirt, we would have bailed on him for sure. Were we wrong?

    Imagine this as George Carlin’s “would dat den be a sin Fahda?” routine.

    The rules are in order for a reason.

    Rule #6 explains exactly what to do in these circumstances.

  10. @Marko

    @The Grande Fondue Initial reaction to the Cowbells is that they’re headed in the direction of a Reverence article this fall. More data needed but so far so good. These are 46″²s! Yikes. They’re so wide. But they feel nice, open up my chest for breathing, give be tons of positions, and oh the leverage. Plus, I just think they look cool.

    46cm is insane. I ride 40cm, and test rode a bike with a wide “42” and found it really weird. Adam Hansen has gone down to 38cm http://inrng.com/2013/01/whats-new-with-rider-position/

    But I guess I’d want the hoods close to my normal position, so flaring out would be ok.

  11. @Ccos

    …Last year on a ride he flatted and didn’t have a repair kit… …Because he is a badass and because both his behavior and appearance were rule complaint…

    Which part of setting off on a ride without the wherewithal to fix a flat and get yourself home is complaint with either the written rules or the ethos implied by the rules and La Vie Velominatus?

    Don’t forget Rule #2.

  12. @Endurimil Whilst I can appreciate its name “Introducing the Camrat… because it would have taken an army of lawyers to call it the Tarmacâ„¢“, it’s an EPMS without the outer casing. As for whether it’s acceptable or not, @Marko has it spot on.

  13. @Chris Oh I agree, I’m just searching for the right balance between cutting some slack/giving shit when faced with the rule violations of others. Rules #2 and #3. One can proselitize only so much with people before it comes to fisticuffs and that ain’t pretty with us cycling types. (The 2010 TdF Barredo/Costa death match comes to mind).

  14. @Chris

    You can always try the one freebie then charge $$ the next time method.

  15. @Endurimil I’m afraid the space is already taken up.

  16. @Chris

    @Endurimil Whilst I can appreciate its name “Introducing the Camrat… because it would have taken an army of lawyers to call it the Tarmacâ„¢“, it’s an EPMS without the outer casing. As for whether it’s acceptable or not, @Marko has it spot on.

    Looks like a potentially neat way of holding a tub though.  Having said that I have my spare tub bound tight with a wide ski strap and that keeps it tight enough to get in a pocket.

  17. Fed up with the lack of variance on my commuter/rain bike I opted to decommission it in favour of something that allowed more freedom. Freedom of what, you ask? Everything. Gone is the tight geometry and even tighter wheel clearance of a steel and carbon road bike, hello slacker angles, beefy tapered head tube, long chain stays and enough clearance to fit a 45mm wide tire. I took the reverse path and went for a gravel bike that I could cross with. I have some rims with road tires and sks longboards for weekday duties and A23’s with grifos for weekend fun.

    Here are some pics from a ride two weekends ago.

  18. Clearly, photo uploads can’t be done from a phone

  19. Does the full site work?

  20. @urbanwhitetrash

    Does the full site work?

    you cant upload pics from your mobile device memory.

  21. @Teocalli

    @Chris

    @Endurimil Whilst I can appreciate its name “Introducing the Camrat… because it would have taken an army of lawyers to call it the Tarmacâ„¢“, it’s an EPMS without the outer casing. As for whether it’s acceptable or not, @Marko has it spot on.

    Looks like a potentially neat way of holding a tub though. Having said that I have my spare tub bound tight with a wide ski strap and that keeps it tight enough to get in a pocket.

    In the Graveur and the Monstercross arena it would give one a way to carry another tube leaving more space in the jersey for items. Keep in mind I am suggesting this for rides where there isn’t exactly alot of help.  Having to hoof it it back 20k down logging roads to the first available paved road can royally suck.

    Don’t know how effective the idea of going tubeless would be for this. I know that last year some of the CX clincher tires are tubeless capable.

  22. @frank

    @Marvellous

    Beautiful looking bike and I can recognize the Alps anywhere. Is that Switzerland or Northern Italy?

    Hi Frank, just worked out how to reply…..  This is Austria, Zillertal Alps.  Italy 18km over the tops – 3000m+ – you would have use climbing gear to get there….

  23. @Puffy

    @Marko

    @Ccos Perhaps another way to look at this is that some Rules just don’t apply given the circumstance of the terroir. Shorter, less marginal rides will find me totally Rule compliant on the gravel bike. Two small bidons, road shoes, and everything packed nicely in jersey pockets. But when required for self-reliance and certain trails on farther flung rides those lines start to blur.

    I way I understand it, The Rules only truely apply to road racing (style machines, maybe you don’t race) anyway. A commuter, My Mrs and her flat bar for riding to the park with the kids, MTB etc aren’t the disciplines where the rules are aimed, nor intended. It makes perfect sense that with road bikes one end, and MTB the other end of the scale, the more you move toward MTB, the less and less The Rules apply. Long range/remote area Gravour-ing… one would be forgiven for rule violations that are taken in order to permit the activity to be conducted in a safe manner.

    @Puffy

    @Marko

    @Ccos Perhaps another way to look at this is that some Rules just don’t apply given the circumstance of the terroir. Shorter, less marginal rides will find me totally Rule compliant on the gravel bike. Two small bidons, road shoes, and everything packed nicely in jersey pockets. But when required for self-reliance and certain trails on farther flung rides those lines start to blur.

    I way I understand it, The Rules only truely apply to road racing (style machines, maybe you don’t race) anyway. A commuter, My Mrs and her flat bar for riding to the park with the kids, MTB etc aren’t the disciplines where the rules are aimed, nor intended. It makes perfect sense that with road bikes one end, and MTB the other end of the scale, the more you move toward MTB, the less and less The Rules apply. Long range/remote area Gravour-ing… one would be forgiven for rule violations that are taken in order to permit the activity to be conducted in a safe manner.

    Totally Agree, as demonstrated here……

  24. Loads of functions and features on these steam showers,
    I quite like the radio idea along with the lighting style

  25. @Marko

    Inspired last year to begin looking for Columbus SLX frames to build up an 8-speed gravel bike.

    [ Napoleon Dynamite voice ] “Probably one of my biggest V moments of all time — from last year.” Thanx!

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