One of my club’s more enthusiastic race-oriented members posted a link to a nearby gravel grinder race. “This looks like fun!” she said. The 100km and 50 Km races would be run on mostly gravel roads near the hamlet of Castell, Texas, near where I had an enjoyable ride about a year and a half ago.
Problem was, the race was limited to only 100 entrants for both the 100 and 50. And both are now full. But it got me thinking — wouldn’t a ride over mostly gravel roads be fun, if you had the right equipment?
And what would be the right equipment? It turns out, gravel grinders have a devoted following. Even though I’d never heard of one, I soon found plenty of references on the internets. And the right equipment turns out to be pretty simple.
It’s not necessarily a mountain bike, although they would do fine in this kind of venue. Some companies make bikes for the express intention of riding or racing on gravel. They’re essentially cross bikes. Wider tires, with aggressive treads, disc brakes. The frame can be aluminum, or steel, but probably not carbon fiber.
Other gravel grinder bikes are built up at home. They’re referred to as “gravel mutts,” and might start life in a number of different ways.
One build that seems to have its adherents is to start with a steel road bike, perhaps an old 10-speed, and fit it with wide tires and a redone drive train — maybe a triple chain ring and bar end shifters. Another would be to equip a mountain bike with drop bars. Or, for the budget-minded, take a hybrid and fit it with drops.
I think this would be a lot of fun. I know I hate to ride my skinny tires on gravel — I don’t even like gritty shoulders on paved roads. And just because my friend was thinking of entering a race (she’s funny that way) doesn’t mean you must race on gravel. Just bombing around on a weekend day would admirably fill the bill.
Have you ever done any gravel riding? Do you have a special bike for the purpose?