Getting Your Groad On!
Lately, the sport of road cycling has fallen into a slump. A few things have attributed to this, such as American hero Lance Armstrong, and his rise and fallout with fans since he admitted taking performance enhancing drugs (EPO) throughout his professional career that included seven Tour de France titles; the lack of appeal to riding on asphalt roads at high speeds, while wearing basically paper thin spandex; and the increase in traffic, as well as distracted driving. On the upside, mountain biking and cyclocross have become more popular, bringing people together on the trail, instead of the parking lot. Riding on the road can still be enjoyable though, you just have to mix it up a little. Welcome to "New Road" which is basically gravel road riding, or groading. Gravel roads offer a new way to ride and explore, and give a little added thrill to your road ride, so I like to ride them whenever possible.
Though it's not a new style of riding, most roadies cringe at the site of taking their expensive road bikes off the road and onto the beaten path. But what do you think Jacques Anquetil, Gino Bartali, or Fausto Coppi rode on in their hay day? Do you think the roads to Paris in the Tour were all paved with fresh asphalt? No. They had to drag their bodies over the mountain passes on dirt roads. Modern road bikes are pretty well engineered, and most accept a fairly wide tire to accommodate rough terrain, but several bike companies have also introduced "gravel ready" bikes like the GT Grade, Cannondale Slate, and the Focus Paralane, to name a few.
Most recently, I rode a dirt section of the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail, off of Hesstown road in Dorothy on my Cannondale CAAD12. It was a four mile dirt road, with hiking trails along the route to view wetlands and wildlife. I couldn't contain my excitement as I began riding on the dirt, checking out the scenery and dodging imperfections in the road. My Continental Gatorskin tires never slipped, as I railed though the turns in what seemed liked endless dirt road bliss.
Once I finally reached the end of the dirt, and got back on the asphalt, I had a huge smile on my face as I pedaled along thinking maybe going back and riding it again. I've ridden plenty of dirt roads in my time as a cyclist, and even raced on a few. Last years Hell of Hunterdon was the last challenging dirt road ride I've done since the The Tour of the Battenkill a few years ago, so I'm hoping to continue the streak with The Monkey Knife Fight this April. It has about a thousand feet more climbing than Hunterdon , so it should be a challenge for sure, especially since I'm not a climber! In the meantime, I'll casually hop on and off some of the local dirt roads, looking out for a little adventure along the way.