Bike Friday Gravel Grinders
It’s nearly impossible to forget the first time I felt the exciting crunch of gravel beneath the wheels of my bike.
The summer sun beat down on us, four junior high renegades bombing around on our bikes with a thirst for exploration and adventure.
That’s a fancy way of saying we were looking for a shortcut to my friend’s new digs, hoping a closed road would pay off.
We skirted around the wooden barricade, and soon charged down a thrilling, winding, hill. That’s when the pavement disappeared beneath our rubber and gravel introduced itself at the most inconvenient of moments.
A quick, terrifying glance at my speedometer showed we were pushing 30 mph as we whipped through a tight corner.
My buddies, with more appropriate bikes for this, slammed on their coaster brakes and roared to a stop with their fatter tires. Meanwhile, on my less than ideal 10-speed with rim brakes and thin tires, I didn’t dare touch the brakes for fear of my wheels skidding out from under me.
With some sketchy fish-tailing not to mention Divine Intervention, I somehow managed to stay upright through the turn, but before the road could level off and I could breathe easy, reality hit.
I found no wooden barricade on this end of the road. No, I faced a 6-foot tall berm of dirt to discourage visitors. A small, foot-wide worn section showed I wouldn’t be the first to slip over this impressive obstacle.
Instead, I would just be the first to do so at 30 mph.
Here I bow to the reports of my witnesses, who say I launched 20 feet high and 20 feet out before flipping over my front wheel with my elbow somewhat softening the impact of my face on, you guessed it, more gravel.
Of course, by this point in my life I was well acquainted with the emergency room and stitches. So you understand how gravel sparks memories for me.
The emergence of Gravel Grinders as popular cycling events — my aerial acrobatics notwithstanding — makes sense to me. Especially having spent the better part of the past 10 years in Oregon exploring countless gravel fire roads.
My Bike Friday Pocket Llamas (yes, I have two) have proven to be perfect for Gravel Grinding, and after my recent trip to Sea Otter in California, I learned our Bike Friday Diamond Tourist might even be more hungry for that type of terrain, and for a more affordable choice we have our Bike Friday Pocket Expedition.
The greatest value of my Bike Friday comes from the travel aspect that few consider at the outset: Its ability to remain folded in the back of my SUV, under a blanket, giving me constant access to my bike without anyone knowing I have it with me.
Here in Oregon, that means endless opportunities to steal away an hour or two, simply riding up the nearest fireroad.
The ability to go to wider tires make the Llama, Expedition and Diamond Tourist perfect for this joyriding. Toss in a Thudbuster seatpost and you’re ready for action.
After countless miles on Schwalbe Big Apple tires, I’ve spent the past year enjoying Maxxis Holy Rollers, that give me a little bit of knobby tread that, I hope, might come in handy if and when that next berm rears its ugly head.
Here are two great resources for Gravel Grinding:
Travel Oregon’s RideOregonRide.com
Riding Gravel website
You can read more of Raz’s adventures in his ebook “You Can’t Cook a Dead Crab and Eat It”