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Anatomy of a Graveur

Anatomy of a Graveur

by / / 124 posts

I am a road cyclist, at heart. Even when I’m in a car, I’ll daydream about riding the same road I’m driving. I’ll imagine how the tarmac might feel as my wheels carry me across it, the wind, the smells in the air. I’ll imagine how my lungs are expanding and contracting, cleansing me a little with every exhale. In my mind’s legs, I’ll feel the pressure building as I imagine myself rising out of the saddle to power over a pitch. I know I would feel the pain of such a ride, but I can’t really imagine what it would feel like. I can never really imagine pain.

The paved road is where we are the closest we will ever be to achieving flight. To restrict ourselves to tarmac, however, is to restrict ourselves to those places in this world which are most travelled. The most beautiful places do not lie at the end of such roads; they are hidden away, where those with some element of imagination might venture to look for them. A two-lane dirt track, perhaps, or a forest road that winds off beyond the damp forest and on to places unknown.

On gravel and dirt, we find a completely different sensation from that on the road. Certainly, many of the elements are still there, but the terrain demands a different kind of harmony; we dart along from one side of the road to another, looking for the best bits where the holes are smaller and the gravel is held together more. The dust or mud kicked up by our tires hovers in the air about us and covers our lips, teeth, and tongue. Suddenly, we taste the road as much as feel it.

Being away from traffic and in the wilderness awakens something primal in our spirits. The smell of damp dirt, moss, and bark or the baking scent of dry pine needles flushes the city from your senses and immediately awakens a calmer Self. My soul is at peace when I return home from such a ride.

The road is where my heart lies, but gravel is where I find my soul.

// Belgian Affirmations // Cyclocross // Le Graveur

  1. Not to bring attention back to dirt, but Merckx, this video makes a strong case for a full suspension downhill bike.

    Talk about a different kind of harmony.

  2. @frank

    Not to bring attention back to dirt, but Merckx, this video makes a strong case for a full suspension downhill bike.

    Talk about a different kind of harmony.

    Dude. You are fucking killing me, here. Alan Fucking Watts. Gorgeous vid!

    Just when I’m starting to let go of my negative emotions toward riding dirt. Starting to address my boundary issues. Fucker.

  3. @PeakInTwoYears

    @frank

    Not to bring attention back to dirt, but Merckx, this video makes a strong case for a full suspension downhill bike.

    Talk about a different kind of harmony.

    Dude. You are fucking killing me, here. Alan Fucking Watts. Gorgeous vid!

    Just when I’m starting to let go of my negative emotions toward riding dirt. Starting to address my boundary issues. Fucker.

    Unless you are riding that path in the lead photo, then every case is strong for a full suspension bike.

  4. @PeakInTwoYears I make it no secret that I enjoy riding my MTB which is a hard tailed XC inspired rig. 29er with thin tires(2.0) and we dont have buff trails out here by any means. oh and I ride in road kit.

    but here you go

    10 Things I have learned about Mountainbiking from Filme von Draussen on Vimeo.

  5. @motor city

    @frank

    That’s right out your door??? JAY-SUS, man! What a sight those roads are! How many K’s?

    There are a lot of routes in different directions but after around 10KM i can join the South Downs Way which is a famous 160KM / 4150M^ off road trail that can be cycled – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Downs_Way

    There is a fairly hardcore MTB challenge to tackle the whole route in one day so I’m going to investigate further to see how achievable it would be on a cx / gravel bike. It could make an epic cross-cogal.

    @Teocalli You are probably right about the weather, perfect for it this year but it must get sketchy at times.

    I remember a few years back and I went out from QE Park West after a short wet period.  There’s a flat bit a little before Cocking and I fell off 3 times on the flat it was so slippery.  At that point I turned round and came home before I did damage to myself.  Not very V but it was not fun.  I know someone who did e-to-e this year in under 10 hrs and someone else who doubled it inside 24 hrs.  Mad.  I’ve done it a few times with Trailbreak over 2 days with a overnight stop and party at the YHA at Truleigh.  It is perfectly feasible on a CX just have to be a bit careful on a few of the descents, there are other parts where a CX would be humming along.

  6. @frank

    @Buck Rogers

    Besides the obvious fact that it is an excuse to try to complete the infinite equation of n+1, why not use your road bike with a different set of tires for graveling?

    I have a Merckx Scandium frame which I often run HED C2 Belgium rims mounted with Vittoria Pave 28 mm tubulars that have fine fork clearance.

    Any reason that this is not an okay rig for riding gravel? The gearing? Seems like with a 39 up front and a wide assortment of gears on the casette it should be okay.

    It depends on your gravel and on your roads. Out in southern MN, the roads I used to ride were fine on a road bike, even with 25mm tires. The Almanzo gets raced on road bikes a lot. Here in the PWN, a lot of the roads I ride have quite large rocks and the gravel can be quite loose. I can hardly keep the wheels on the bus with 33mm tubs and at about 5 bar – not to mention I definitely want some knobs on the sides of the tires for cornering. I cannot imagine doing those on a road bike, and you’d peel out on the steep bits.

    Also, I’m running 38×27 and some of the steep stuff is scraping the bottom of the barrel on the gear inches, so a compact would not be a crazy addition if you’re doing lots of climbing on steep forest roads.

    Gravel basically adds about 20% resistance, so keep that in mind. Except when descending, when it basically means you’re riding on ball bearings.

    The tire choice for me always comes down to the cornering/rolling resistance equation. 28mm Gatorskins are fantastic for a lot of gravel for their low rolling resistance but corner for shit on loose stuff. Nobby cx tires let you blast through the corners with confidence but can be a bit slow rolling. Nobby’s are also nice on the trail sections of the Heck of the North because they can be muddy and if they’re not muddy they can be slick with grass and have fine sand. The trail sections of the Heck are where the selections are made as well so gambling on good tires for these is a consideration. With that, there may only be 10-12 miles of trail over 100 miles of gravel so low rolling resistance may win out. File treads have been my choice for the most part as they seem to be the best of both worlds. But if it’s wet they slip too.

    There’s a few peeps who ride the Almanzo on road bikes but it’s a bit ballsy and risky. That crushed limestone, especially when freshly graded, is really really loose. Bombing down those hills requires meat on the wheels to stay upright and climbing up those +12%’ers with road tires on would be a futile exercise in the saddle only I imagine. Most peeps are running CX tires, especially the ones who are winning.

    http://www.cxmagazine.com/tire-review-challenge-almanzo-gravel-race-tire

  7. @brett

    @PeakInTwoYears

    @frank

    Not to bring attention back to dirt, but Merckx, this video makes a strong case for a full suspension downhill bike.

    Talk about a different kind of harmony.

    Dude. You are fucking killing me, here. Alan Fucking Watts. Gorgeous vid!

    Just when I’m starting to let go of my negative emotions toward riding dirt. Starting to address my boundary issues. Fucker.

    Unless you are riding that path in the lead photo, then every case is strong for a full suspension bike.

    With my history of ruptured disks and a compression fracture of the spine, full suspension is pretty much required. But to ride a downhill bike, on the kinds of trails downhill bikes were made for and in the ways in which they were meant to be ridden, would represent a ten-fold increase in what I love and fear about riding my mtb in general.

  8. @RedRanger Beautiful.

  9. I bought my Felt F75 CX late last winter for winter riding, but I’ve come to recognize it for the its full potential on gravel and dirt. I was at Dirty Kanza 200 as support for 4 riders and watching these bad-ass people finish convinced me gravel is king. I can also swap my road wheels for a compact if I like since I purchased that bike for the rim brakes and the ability to switch.

    I’ve clocked a decent bit of saddle time on gravel but the best ride of the season was a 50km ride with two others when about half way in the clouds exploded giving me perhaps the best ride ever. Now perhaps it ain’t to smart riding in a serious thunderstorm, but there wasn’t much choice, really. Climbing these hills which were now river beds, the water flowing down hill against us, was slow, but amazing. When we finally emerged from the back country into polite society, cars were slowing down a bit to look at the three of us, coated in grime. That rain ride was exhilarating.

    Paved Michigan hills aren’t too plentiful, but they sure exist through gravel country. West Michigan is catching on to gravel racing with the Barry-Roubaix and the Lowell 50. The Barry-Roubaix weather is anybody’s guess. This year it was icy, freezing and wretched. I crashed 3km in and hated every second after that. Registration is Dec 1, 2013. See you there.

    Oh… Tires. I ride Ritchey 35. Like riding on pillows.

  10. So much gravel happening on the STRAVA. Very fun to see.

  11. I started as a mountain biker, and although I don’t have the opportunity to do it very much any more, it still holds a special place in my heart.

    That being said, I find myself doing this all. the. time.

    Even when I’m in a car, I’ll daydream about riding the same road I’m driving.

  12. @frank

    @EricW

    Talk about Rule violations. The only Rule Jacquie didn’t violate was Rule #5.

    Is there a ruling on the V to Rule Breaking exchange rate?  I.E. Each helping of V above 1 V allows the rider to break some fraction of another rule?

    Note that this is a generalization of Rule #33.

  13. @EricW short answer is No

  14. @RedRanger

    @EricW short answer is No

    Noted.

  15. @EricW

    @frank

    @EricW

    Talk about Rule violations. The only Rule Jacquie didn’t violate was Rule #5.

    Is there a ruling on The V to Rule Breaking exchange rate? I.E. Each helping of V above 1 V allows the rider to break some fraction of another rule?

    Note that this is a generalization of Rule #33.

    Even answering that question would violate Rule #2.

  16. @Nate I thought we were friends man.

  17. The Graveurs amongst you might want to have a gander at Cycleboredom’s latest exploits…

    http://www.cycleboredom.com/ggcso-part-duh-le-glutton-pour-la-punishment/

  18. Cross bikes are not the thing yet in Evansville Indiana. That despite the fact that we now have 4 serious bike shops representing 10 major brands in a city of 120,000. One bike shop however had risked ordering a cross bike in 2009. It was a Specialized Tricross with a price of $1600. I discovered it last year when looking for a cross bike and talked them out of it for $900. I love this bike. It shifts so smoothly despite its wide range of gears (nice drive train with Tiagra levers and a Deore LX rear). The ride with the larger tires and the carbon fork is the nicest road bike ride I’ve ever had. And to top it off it does not feel heavy or slow despite the 32 mm tires. (Well they are supposed to be 32’s despite the fact that they look wider than the 35’s on my wife’s Trek hybrid.) I’ve also got it set up with lights because of the fact I don’t have to worry as much about hitting potholes and losing control on it at night. Every cyclist should try one once.

  19. I love rockin’ my Marinoni Fango single speed cx on the gravel cottage and colonization roads north of Muskoka, Ontario. I raced it at the Paris-Ancaster this spring. It was a blast.

  20. I mentioned the Lowell 50 earlier – That was this morning. It was a soul searing ride with mud, bits of rain and hard gusting wind. Of the two distances to race, 55km or 92km, I raced the latter in my age division (over 50) and out of the finishers numbering 12, I beat one guy. Out of the entrants (21), I did better.

    Upon awaking and hearing the howling wind this morning and looking at wet roads, I chose the 12/30 to go with my 46/36 front rings. Given the mud, I’m very glad for the big cassette as that got me through the mud with something nearing aplomb. Or perhaps elan… In any event, I’m pleased to have finished at all. My time of 4:13:09 is slower than I would have liked, but I finished, eh?

    Climbing wasn’t bad at 897 meters and were made worse by the wind, but as I said hills in West Michigan aren’t terribly plentiful. Roughly 72-80km were into the wind or cross wind and the cross wind sucked the life out of this ride.

    A hard day in the saddle, deep in the pain cave with proper post ride hydration makes for an excellent day.

  21. I guess this video fits here perfectly:

    Lucas Brunelle goes to Africa from Cinelli Official on Vimeo.

  22. Revisiting this thread due to current thoughts of a cx bike as my n+1:

    Why is there (to me anyway) such a (recent?) zeitgeist toward gravel? With the Heck of the North discussion and, what seems to me anyway, a growing momentum with CX and gravel riding, I would like to understand what’s driving this.

    Is it that the road is getting boring for those who have ridden it all of their lives? Is it the evolution of equipment design that makes this kind of riding more accessible? Is it that roads are becoming congested?

    Curious as to your thoughts…

  23. @Bespoke Great questions all and fantastic way to further the discussion and bump a great thread.

    For me, gravel riding is home. It boils down to place. Road cycling is fine here but limited. MTB is burgeoning but forced (with great potential), CX is not on the radar. But gravel, gravel is home, it is geography. I live on gravel (literally), at least half the roads here are gravel. It opens up thousands of miles of riding that would be too dicey on a road bike and too slow on a mountain bike. It’s that perfect blend of need and tool. It’s no wonder that the premiere gravel races in the US are in the midwest. The Heck, Almazno, Gravel Worlds, are all in the bread basket. It’s our contribution. The gear doesn’t offer much that hasn’t existed in some form for years. It’s just a bunch of people coming home.

  24. @Marko You are always so poetic. I appreciate your response.

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