Oh my 2016, you’ve been a stinker haven’t you?? Well, to be honest – lately it seems as if every year has it’s share of woes and accomplishments. We’ve seen more economic issues, social polarization sprung forth from politics (biking and politics don’t mix), good vs. greed in the Dakota’s … and crazier traffic than ever before. I’m even afraid to get on the busy streets in my car – much less on a bike!
Here’s some of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of 2016 – and a little bit of what’s to come.
We’ve lost loved ones on the road…
Since the United States has not yet lept onto the bandwagon with other, more evolved, nations and outlawed texting and driving – we will continue to have more accidents and more senseless deaths. Since cyclists are still considered some weird bunch of spandex-wearing freaks by most of Americans (we don’t have this issue in Europe); treating us like second-class citizens will continue.
The pace of life is accelerating and everyone is in a frantic rush to get … everywhere. Most times without any real reason. Those with the harried and harassed little minds will continue to hate us holding them up for 2 seconds. I don’t know what it will take, but it saddens me to my soul to see that human life is treated so callously when cyclist/motorists encounters go wrong.
I had an ignorant block-headed idot threaten me, call me a “B*tch” and told me to “get off the road” in Waller TX not more than a month ago. Nevermind I was as far to the right as I could be, we were in a single pace-line, and there was no traffic to speak of. I’m sure he felt justified in persecuting two women on bikes. I thought about owning a gun… I’ve thought about what I’d do in situations like that and I’ve decided I don’t like small cinderblock rooms with bars.
No gun for me… yet.
The attitude from the courtroom on the Adessa Ellis case (she was struck by a car and is a partial amputee) was basically: “she shouldn’t have been on the road”. Since when does that make it acceptable to run people over? Convenience is more important that life itself these days and humans are unfortunately adept at ‘stereotyping’ others so they can justify unspeakable acts. Our sense of community in this nation is dissolving, empathy in younger people have dropped over 45% in the past 5 years along (scary!), and our society is slowly drifting apart.
When are people going to wake up?
On the flip side: 2016 has been good to women’s competitive cycling too. We’ve had more women compete locally than we have in years! It’s been incredibly exciting to be a part of a women’s development race team in Houston, TX. We’ve had Kristin Armstrong win her 3rd gold medal in the Olympics this year! Yay!! We’ve seen small, but important, strides being taken in professional women’s cycling and world records taken as well. Ella Cycling has a great article that dives into 2016’s overview of women’s professional cycling.
I’ve personally experienced so much community and comradery amongst cyclist that I can’t describe how much it makes my heart sing! When one of us needs help – help comes from all directions! It’s truly breathtaking when you realize what a strong bond we all have. Such a committed, responsible, caring, giving, and supportive community would be hard to find anywhere else. We, as cyclists, look after one another – that means more than you can possibly imagine.
Community is our key to survival.
Perhaps the escalation in road-related incidents provides some fuel behind why Gravel Grinding is on a major upswing. Perhaps the other reason is: it’s fun (in a hard, painful kind of way). Gravel grinding gets you out of the hussle and bussle of the city. It allows the cyclist to relax a bit from the constant worry about becoming road-kill. Even Kristin Armstrong has taken to gravel grinding!
“Riding the dirt would be my choice first and foremost. I haven’t been on my roadbike since the time trial in Rio,” [Kristin Armstrong] said, nearly a month after her gold medal ride at the Olympic Games. “In fact, I am trying to figure out how I am going to do the team time trial at the world championships without actually getting on my road bike in preparation.”
In another article in Cycling several months ago: it discussed how professional cycling might have a dusty but promising future in the sport of gravel grinding as more races hit the UCI books for 2017. There’s plenty of fun to be had with longer courses and beautiful scenery. If you aren’t opposed to a little cross-country trip: The race Rebecca’s Private Idaho is over Labor Day weekend… plenty of time to train!
Even I’ve succumbed to the lure of Gravel.
Due to the fact that the great United States of America has gazillions of miles of gravel roads and it’s incredibly time consuming to try and plan a touring ride only on paved byways – the latest models of touring bikes accommodate fatter tires. In fact: there is a whole new genre of bike coming out call the ‘Adventure Bike’. These suckers do a little bit of everything and I’m now a proud owner of a Diamondback EXP Carbon (EXP is for ‘explorer’, not experienced, because I’m not the latter for sure) that will tackle gravel with full-on 2.1″ tires, handle touring with a full set of attachments for racks, and climb just about anything with a throw-back 3x9spd drivetrain.
Yessir! I’m ready to tackle some serious gravel grinding. Although, after looking at the serene pictures from some of the gravel events from other states – I have to say that Texas always does it bigger.
Bigger darn gravel to start with.
You see, here in TEXAS (especially west & central TX), we have gravel roads that are laid down with what is commonly called Bull Rock. The reason they call it ‘bull’ rock… well, use your imagination. You might feel like you got kicked by a bull after so many miles of spleen-rupturing vibrations. This gravel is cheap and popular and it makes me insanely jealous of other states with their prissy little crushed granite gravel roads.
My first adventure on back-country gravel roads was several years ago on my ‘Sportive’ bike that could only hold up to 32mm cross-style tires. The ride was 50 miles.
I couldn’t feel my hands for two weeks.
Otherwise: gravel grinding is FUN! I will admit that one shouldn’t jump into it unprepared or take it lightly. Here’s a few recommendations to make your Texas-style (or anywhere else for that matter) gravel grinding future easier:
- Get the fattest tires you can squeeze on your bike.
- No one will laugh at you if you show up with a Fat Tire bike, especially when it comes to the really rough deep gravel sections, but you might be a tad slower (maybe).
- Put roubaix tape on your handlebars. Trust me on this.
- Pick a gravel-appropriate saddle that has a bit of give to it and a decent nose for the descents.
- Get a butt-guard flap for your bike for the muddy bits. Mucky-nutz makes a nice cheap attachment.
- Seriously, carry TWO tubes if you aren’t riding tubeless … and even if you are.
- Tubeless is probably the best, so pick a wheelset that is tubeless ready. Lower psi in your tubeless tires will save your butt – literally.
- Gravel = no standard gas station water stops, so carry plenty of H2O.
- Don’t start your gravel adventures with a 50 mile ride… work up to it. It’s more effort than you think.
- Don’t forget to stop and take pictures!
If you have a CX bike, or hard-tailed mountain bike – gravel grinding is a great way to get out and stay off of unfriendly roads. Don’t forget to check out other gravel event closer to home, such as the Castell Grind coming up in April!
Best of all: OUTSIDE IS FREE