In my continued recovery from a concussion last fall, my bike rides have consisted of short, low-intensity rides of about an hour. Usually on my fat bike and usually on city paths and bike trails. As 2016 turned into 2017 I found myself yearning to get out on the fantastic gravel roads in the area. I started discovering these unpacked gems about 5-6 years ago when fall turned to winter. A group of friends and I decided that riding outdoors as temperatures dropped and daylight hours shortened easily topped the alternative (indoor training).
And so began my education into “off season” cycling, or as I like to call it “cycling”. I needed to acquire cycling clothing and I needed a better bike. My first rides were on an old Devinci hard tail mountain bike on 2″ knobby tires but my friends were on cyclocross bikes and I had some difficulty keeping up (it might have had something to do with fitness…). Having just invested in a road bike, I couldn’t justify buying a cyclocross bike, so I made some modifications to my hard tail.
First, I changed the fork from a heavier Fox suspension fork for a lighter rigid fork. I bought the (bright red) fork from a cycling friend who had it in his basement. It’s an old mountain bike fork from the days when suspension didn’t exist.
After riding that way for a while, I then changed the tires from 2″ to 1.25″. Still with a bright red fork!
My final change was to put on larger wheels (and paint the fork black). I had some old road wheels that I used. This required brake adaptors because the old mountain bike wheels were 26″ while the road wheels were 700c (different units… I don’t understand why). I tracked down some brake adaptors, but only single adaptors were available and I needed two. I ended up ordering one from Europe and another from Colorado. And then… it was complete! My hardtail/gravel bike. I rode that for a few years until I finally got a cx bike.
There’s always been a great deal of satisfaction when I ride this bike. I bought the frame used and built it up with old parts. It can be a hard tail mountain bike. Or a gravel grinder. Some parts are pretty old, but having put it together myself has always added to the joy of riding it.
I rode this bike set up this way a lot, including Steaming Nostril, Paris to Ancaster, and countless gravel grinder rides with the Waterloo Cycling Club. So much so that I felt I needed a cyclocross bike. I got a good deal on a used Kona Jake, which I sold last fall (I had it for a couple of years). In the time I owned that CX bike, this old Devinci barely saw the light of day. However, since I no longer have the CX, I’ve had to rebuild the hardtail for gravel rides.
As I stated above, the majority of my rides since September were on my fat bike. Last week, however, I felt the need to get out on the gravel again. I rode 25 km a week ago and yesterday, in an attempt to slowly increase my mileage, I rode 30 km alone. And I included more gravel.
The temperature was above freezing and the gravel roads were mostly free of ice and snow. However the dirt roads were soft in places. And muddy. The thick fog made for an interesting ride and I was glad I wore my new bright green-yellow cycling jacket for visibility (I’ll post a pic later, but it’s hard to miss, even on a foggy day).
The 30 km ride took an hour and half. I felt good for the first half. During the second half, I started to feel a bit dizzy, so I was reminded that I need to continue to take it easy. Still, it’s promising that I was able to get out and RIDE!