According to the internet, a gravel bike is a cross cross bike – a cross between a cylo-cross bike and a road bike. I’m not sure exactly what that means. Read the internet.
My Gravel Bike
I spent a day shopping at five local shops, and selected a bike with a frame that fit me correctly, could be modified with clearance to mount 40mm tires, and a shop wrench who was competent to make the modifications. One of the shop guys spent an hour doing a complimentary bike fit, which set up the bike with a good starting configuration. Later, I raised the saddle to where it was supposed to be, flipped the stem so it felt more like a road bike, and switched to WTB Nano tubeless tires.
As of this writing, the bike fits me almost as well as my Davidson. It has a longer wheelbase, meaning it lumbers through turns, but has better stability on rough road. The tubeless tires running at 35 psi provide a softer ride over washboard and rocks.
I’m pretty sure OED hasn’t added this word to their tome of true words yet, because I just made it up. Gravelventure means taking your gravel bike somewhere you’ve never been before. Ideally, but not necessarily, a gravelventure includes some unpaved road. It’s okay to check out your route on Strava, rideWithGPS, or Google Earth, but not okay to drive it beforehand in your FWD. Sag support on a gravelventure is out of the question. Riding from home is a plus.
My First GravelventureS
I began exploring the local forest service roads near my house. Road conditions range from sandy smooth, to bumpy washboard, to rocky to impassible.
I rode with my buddy Brett Blanc (BB) from Tonto Hills, out the Seven Springs Road (AKA Arizona FR 24) to the 51 Ranch, which I never before knew existed. A week later, I rode Lone Ranger style out FR24, hooked a left on FR41, then another left onto FR17. When FR17 became unrideable, I carried my gravel bike half mile over a boulder field to the top of New River Mesa.
A week later BB and I climbed Humboldt Mountain under the light of a super moon. Although I had ridden that route several times before, this was my first and possibly only climb under a super moon.
Pretty obvious – ride your gravel bike somewhere, stay overnight. That means you have to carry some extra stuff. While camping out provides the ultimate freedom to stop anywhere, staying in a motel means you carry less stuff, get a shower, and don’t wake up the next morning with aches and pains from rocks rubbing your ribs.
My First Overnight Gravelventure
I rode from our home in Tonto Hills, AZ, south and east to the Superstition Wilderness, a mountainous region created by a resurgent volcano 25 million years ago. After riding the requisite 50 miles to escape the city, straight road became winding road. Office buildings gave way to towering spires, buttes and rock walls. Massive faces of dacite and welded tuff glowed in the golden afternoon sunlight, and most of the traffic vanished. Eventually the asphalt pavement turned to dirt and washboard, as I descended two miles into a box canyon formed by Fish Creek.
Ninety miles from the start I reached Apache Lake Resort, special only because it was there, a king size bed and restaurant in the middle of the wildness. The motel room was basic and I was the only customer eating in a spacious restaurant where the waitress served me draft amber bock in a plastic cup.
The following morning I found to be most enjoyable, foregoing coffee and breakfast to climb a couple thousand feet through the crisp morning air and riding fifteen miles before having breakfast in the saloon at Tortilla Flat.