Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Return of the gravel / bike / King. (biking)

Yes. I am aware it has been a long clock since I last posted. I am not like the cycling glitterati on You-Tube who constantly update social media, vlogs, blogs, grams and the like as real world takes precedent. Family, dogs, life and co. But, since we last spoke, a few bicycle related things have happened. 

So, going back to my last 2017 post regarding feeling unwell, I actually got iller and iller to the point I was, um, what you might call 'very ill'. My friends and family suspect I had pneumonia. Doctors refused antibiotics so nature ran it's course. I cannot be sure although I agree that the symptoms were there and frankly it has taken me an absolute age to recover, if I am indeed fully recovered. I spent all of December training on the smart turbo. Averaging three sessions a week. All interval based shaking down as interval hill work (think pain), regular intervals and sprint work (think easy). I also did a couple of zone 1 leg loosen rides to keep the hips rotating. Right now, I would say this this has paid off. I feel very strong, very fit and given it is the last day of January tomorrow, I feel like I should do in May so kudos to the direct drive turbo and Wahoo training plans. 23 sessions logged with more to come. It works. Thankfully the yesteryear way of riding a turbo aimlessly is outmoded and long forgotten. Heck, we all owned turbo trainers way back when but lets be frank, very few of us got anything out of them other than abject boredom and squashed bollox. I left my old turbo in Bristol when I moved. Probably in land fill right now.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I made a decision to buy a 'gravel bike' the current cycling zeitgeist seen with modified cross, gravel, bike packing bikes - call it what you like - Salsa called it first and decided to go for the Giant Tough Road SLR GX0 drop bar bike, which has been a revelation. Historically, I had viewed gravel bikes with a sense of cash cow as like the 29er, then the 27.5er they were brought to the public in a fanfare telling us this was what we needed to be on. In the case of the 29er, Gary Fisher was telling us this 20 years previous but I digress. Technology was not ready for revised geometry when Fisher and co. were radical dudes as they are now, albeit younger. 

In 2012 if I can recall correctly, something like 9 of the top 10 in the Olympic MTB cross country event rode 29'ers before people started calling the bikes barge like, slow to turn and not so good. However, I loved em, still do. A 29'er is to my mind a road bike for the woods, til now. The recent upsurge in Gravel bikes has usurped the 29'er and agile, fast, smart looking 700c bikes are now the new king. The king is dead, long live the king.  Hand on heart I have found my gravel bike to simply be joyful. It reminded me of why I fell in love with cycling in the early 80's when I used to scramble about the lanes of Horfield; Bristol behind my parents house on my BMX, Geoff Delderfields grifter and what ever bike I could lay my hands on for any period of time. 

Where I live in Devon is a brutal place to ride a road bike, but interestingly, there is a bizarre hinterland between the coast and the moor which is awash with gravel tracks, fire-road, green lanes, ratty Devon maze like back roads and to top it all off, a mountain bike trail centre at the top of a 1000 foot climb on Haldon. My gravel bike has tackled it all with relish. Shod with 40c tyres running 40 psi I have taken this bike everywhere you can imagine. I kid you not. Gravel, toe path, road, green lane, bridleway, two blue runs on Haldon, cycle paths, regular roads - the lot. Presently it is my favourite rig and is a great switch up from my main passion road cycling. Even netted a few runs on the two blue trails at Haldon with the full face MTB crew looking on agog. It will help my fitness loads as yes there is traction off road, but on road not as fast as a stock road machine, but actually not slow. The benefit of a fatter tyre and hydraulic disk brakes is simply sublime and makes me question whether my fleet should be disk. Jury out, I have a few things to think about but as before, for someone who felt that disks on road bikes was illogical, and just bonkers, I have thought again. So. many. positives. But, on the gravel machine I have completed 144 miles in 15 days. Nice.

For now, I will leave you with a few images of the machine in action here in Devon. 24 miles of off road again today. It is a proper all over body work out for sure, but when the shit goes down on fast Tuesday this machine will have rendered me into a great place.

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