Like most cyclists (I think this is a fair generalization), I record my rides on Strava.com (no affiliation in any way :)). It’s a great way to keep track of your workout history, and also see what all your mates are doing, and spy on their latest efforts over the local segments.
I also like to occasionally look at my heat map and check how many of the local roads I’ve been on. For those that don’t know, this is a map overlay of any area, and which roads or paths you have traveled, roughly colour coded with the number of trips you’ve taken over them.
I’ve become pretty proud of my heat map, and how its been build up over the last few years. It’s predictable, in that my daily commute shows up most predominantly, but I have slowly started to add longer and longer rides, over more and more out of the way roads. Without a doubt however, there are lots of gaps.
When I first went into my local bike shop fifteen years ago, when I wanted to start riding again after a long hiatus, I just wanted to buy a bike. I had no idea actually what sort of bike. Just doing research back then, it became a bit overwhelming…hybrid, road, mountain…I had no idea what I wanted. I just knew I wanted to ride. One of my first questions when I went in the shop was, could I get a mountain bike, but with drop bars. In my minds eye, I wanted a solid bike with thicker tyres for any type of road, but still have the ability to go on road, and stay aero. The shop attendant smiled, and said, well no, not really. Some people do do this, but they are a bit weird, perhaps a hybrid is what you are after. I ended up buying a mountain bike, and rode this for a number of years, mostly paradoxically, on road.
Well things have changed (or perhaps have gone back to the past when there were just ‘bikes’). Adventure bikes (nice marketing term), have really started to take off. I follow a number of other blogs, facebook groups, and instragram accounts of people getting off road, riding for long distances, on a combination of mountain and road bike.
What really drew me back to looking at this, was riding recently on some fire trails, and logging tracks through the Otways (see one of my previous blog posts). Riding these on a mountain bike, which is what I did do, is certainly possible, and enjoyable no doubt, but these are not mountain bike tracks, with jumps, huge bumps or anything like that. They are just not sealed tracks, but have lots of ruts and loose gravel…they scream out for a lighter road bike, but with nice thick tyres to handle the loose surface and distribute the riders weight.
So, fifteen or so years later, yesterday I picked up my road bike frame, with mountain bike wheels. It’s a Specialized Sequoia (again, no affiliation). I took it for a little test ride out the back of the Barrabool hills yesterday, and it isn’t hard to find gravel around where I live, and gave it a test run. All I can say is that it was great fun. Knowing that you can handle any terrain, and not worry about sliding all over the place is incredibly liberating, especially in the wet, which is what it was yesterday afternoon.
I’ve called it Ena, after my grandmother. It means little fire, which suited her well. It was a stormy day yesterday, with thunder and lightening, so perhaps there’s some synchronicity in that. (mind you, I soon realised that riding a metal object, on wet roads, with lightening wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve done).
It is amazing, that once you get out with a different mindset, you do also start to see so many other options that you were blind to previously. I have ridden past so many tracks and trails that I’ve never noticed before, that scream out for a gravel grinder. Also whats fantastic, is that it’s bloody hard work! I rode just 50km yesterday, and was knackered (I had done 50km earlier in the day, so I do have some excuse I suppose). But, it now opens up lots of new training options. Also, its just about a reset in training. This allows me to do some stuff that’s just a bit different than the same old roads I ride each day, allowing me to mix it up mentally.
Other than my excitement this weekend, there’s not much else to report. I’ve kept up my Zwift training through the week, which has become a bit harder (I’m into the final few weeks of some FTP training I started) both in terms of intensity, but also mentally after a fairly stressful week at work. Today is Sunday, and its a miserable day, with high winds forecast later in the afternoon, so my plan is to do some more training on Zwift. Other than doing one of the preset workouts, I find it less intense that on road, but I’m due for a quieter week anyway, and my legs are still recovering from the gravel effort yesterday.
It is Paris Roubaix tonight…so I’ll have to somehow keep myself awake for that one, and push through a sleep deprived night. I think it finishes at after 1am, and I need to drive to Melbourne at 6:30am, so will be a real challenge, but there is only one Hell of the North after all.
So in summary, as you can probably tell, I’m very chuffed with my recent purchase, and can’t wait to get Ena out again, and start to fill in some of those gaps in my heatmap.