Friday Group Ride #405

Friday Group Ride #405

In 1980, my parents bought me a BMX bike. I rode BMX street-style, before that was a thing. I rode single-track in the Alabama woods. I rode off plywood jumps and on small dirt tracks we shoveled together, too. I was 100% BMX then.

In 1986, I started riding my brother’s road bike. I wasn’t doing road rides. I was just getting around. Call me a commuter, cycling 100% for transportation.

In 1980, I got an entry-level Trek mountain bike, put slick tires on it and rode urban assault and commuter style through my college years. It was then, ripping around the streets of Boston that I fell back in love with cycling, doing it as more than transportation, exploring the city’s every back street and cut through, circling the Common in the middle of the night. I was something like 100% commuter, adventure dirtbag.

In 1995, I bought a Specialized Stumpjumper and went back to the woods. Riding around the city had honed my bikehandling skills and I had just enough BMX left in my heart to fall madly in love with mountain biking. Soon I was on the trail 4-5 days a week, sometimes for an hour or two before work, sometimes for all of a weekend. I was 100% trail.

In 1997, I got my first real road bike, stainless steel, Ultegra, a real whip. One of my mountain biking friends was a former crit racer, and she convinced me I’d enjoy trail riding more if I had road fitness. I don’t know that that ever proved true, but I do know that I immersed myself in roadie culture and learned how to ride in a paceline, how to climb properly, how to eat and drink on the bike. Suddenly I was 60% roadie, 40% trail.

In 2012, I got a gravel bike, after months of just riding my road bike in the woods. Local trails that had gone stale on the mountain bike suddenly came alive with drop bars and skinnier tires. Something of the BMX bandit in me woke up again, too, as my friends and I strung trail systems together, dirt-to-pavement-to-dirt. It’s all I wanted to do. The balance shifted again. Something like 20% road, 70% gravel, 10% mountain bike.

Since 2012, I’ve ridden a lot of dirt roads. My gravel bike became my commuter, and I began seeking woods-ways to work. I took on long dirt road events like D2R2 and Rasputitsa. Categories blurred and mixed. Sometimes I’d go through a spell of intensive mountain biking. Then I’d go all road for a while.

This year, I really mean to be on my mountain bike as much as possible, but who knows what will happen.

This week’s Group Ride asks how your percentages break down. Are you all roadie, smooth-legged and watt-obsessed? Are you a gravel hound, sand embedded deep in your cassette and the sound of disc brake honk echoing in your ears? Or, do you mostly like the fat tires, baggy shorts and parking lot beers that go along with trail riding?

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13 comments

  1. Michael

    D, sort of all of the above? The last time I was only one type of rider was in the late 1970s when I only had one type of bike. I then got a cross bike to pair with my road bike, and the hills opened up to gravel riding, even if it was on sewups. First mountain bike in 1985. I know a few people who are only one type of rider and once even encountered someone who sort of sneered when I said was going road riding the next day. Why would one restrict oneself? The most fun, as you alluded to, is to be had sometimes by using the WRONG bike for the job and relying on your skills (and dumb luck) to get you through. A rule I have for all local-ish riding is never to put the bike on or in a car – ride to the ride. It just feels better. So, I don’t think I have ever had a parking-lot beer.

  2. Kayce

    Its hard to break down. My 6 mile commute is almost always done on my road race bike. I commute down to the Tuesday night Crit, there is a grass and gravel section I hit on my fancy aero bike.

    My track racer has wider flat bars than my mountain bike right now, but in a few weeks, it will only ever see the velodrome.

    Then there is my cross bike, that sees a lot of cross races, lots of gravel, and most of my neighborhood errand running. Its also my first bike to loan out for a friend.

    Really its only my mountain bike that gets purpose ridden, and that’s just cause I dont have any trails close enough to ride to.

  3. Jan

    One bike to rule them all…. or at least, to rule my one bike budget. It’s a road bike, not fancy, nor new, but it’s fun. And it reminds me of riding as a kid, when I rode my crappy three speed and dreamed that sometime I’d get a ten speed like my brother had (because he was a boy, and so was given a ten speed and not a crappy three speed… ). But I loved riding then, and now, it brings out my inner 12 year old.

  4. david

    How about none of the above?

    I’m a “roadie”….riding exclusively on the road…….but without connections to any sort of data gathering device, power meter or Strava. And certainly NOT watt-obsessed.

  5. Brian Ogilvie

    Aside from my 6-mile round-trip commute, which I do on a Dutch-style step-through commuter with enclosed chaincase and IGH, I do most of my riding on a Boulder All Road, or a Bike Friday New World Tourist when traveling; they both have 42 mm tires. Aside from D2R2, which I’ve done for the last 5 years (I’m a local), I do probably 85% of my riding on pavement and 15% on gravel, mostly because the closest gravel to me requires a good stretch on pavement first and for some reason I don’t like driving to the start of a ride; I’d much rather roll out of my driveway. Given the chip seal, pavement cracks, and potholes that are common in western Mass., I like having the wider tires even on pavement.

  6. Sbarner

    Sounds like a lesson in discovery, and that what should have been learned experientially through how much fun you had with each type of cycling in which you found yourself immersed was that it is all good. Photographers like to say that the best camera is the one you have with you. A couple days ago, I took a 10 mile detour on my commute home to pick up a bag of special treats for my pooch. I took a chance on the way home and slipped in a long, dirt road that winds through a lonely woods. The dirt was just firm enough for the cheap, 28mm tires on the 34 year-old Bianchi road bike to not sink in, if I picked my line carefully, the 39 x 28 was adequate for climbing the steep stuff, even the 20% section that was still closed to traffic for the winter. The rushing brooks and freshets put Paul Simon’s “April, Come She Will” on my mental soundtrack. With no one around to poke fun at my mismatched brakes, the rust creeping under the paint around the cable guides, or the fact that I was thoroughly enjoying riding the long way home through a 48 degree rain, that was exactly my thought — “It’s all good.”

  7. Jeff Dieffenbach

    For recreational riding:
    2010: 86% road, 1% dirt (remainder is paved commuting and borrowed/rented where I haven’t differentiated by surface)
    2011: 90% road, 6% dirt
    2012: 96% road, 2% dirt
    2013: 89% road, 10% dirt
    2014: 70% road, 22% dirt
    2015: 51% road, 42% dirt
    2016: 39% road, 50% dirt
    2017: 33% road, 49% dirt

  8. Ron

    2014: 90% mtb, 10% cx/gravel
    2015: 50% mtb 50% cx/gravel
    2016: 80% cx/gravel, 20% mtb
    2017: 100% cx/gravel
    2018: 100% cx/gravel

  9. TreyH

    ~80% grovel/20% pavement for the last quarter century, which (fortunately) is a symptom of living smack dab in the middle of the Flint Hills of KS.

  10. Drb

    70% Road 30% gravel on a cross bike. I just bought my first mountain bike so these numbers may change.

  11. Geoffrey Knobl

    I’m 100% road when outside. That said, I just did a road ride that went over about 9 miles combined gravel roads. On my 25mm tires, I did not enjoy the sections that had been recently graveled. I was in constant fear of sliding out or going into an unexpectedly deep pile of blue chips. Squirley front and back ends don’t make for a happy me. I really wonder whether 28mm would have made the situation much better. My bike can be outfitted for 32s but I’d need to do something different on my brakes.

    Once we got to the majority of the dirt road section – hard packed dirt with little gravel – it was actually quite nice! We went by many mountain bike trails that cross the forest service road we were on. Riding in the heavily wooded sections dotted with small open fields was much like an Appalachian hike. Where I went from near the front of the pack to next to last on the “road” in the gravel areas, once on the dirt roads I moved to the front without effort. The only place I stopped was near the top of a steeper climb where there was enough washboarding that I could not keep traction on my rear. I dismounted and walked the last ten yards, literally. Once over that rise I rode the short distance down to a major highway (riding that shoulder was NOT fun with 18 wheelers going by). And there’s where I got a surprise. In the middle of the dirt road as I neared the end was a big, fluffy, red fox startled that someone had come quietly up to him. Perhaps 30 feet away, he looked at me, then got his stuff together and ran down the road then up the side of the embankment into the woods.

    I like the dirt section but it was more or less a coincidence it had that much “gravel” riding in it. It’s the only one in my area I know of and I’d not do it again on my bike. If someone could tall me 28mm would make enough of a difference on my Gunnar Sport to make the worst sections better, then, by all means, say something.

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