For the last few years graveling has been the biggest trend in cycling. In 2020 I finally succumbed and bought a used cyclocross bike so I can join in the gravel biking craze.
Am I glad I did? Absolutely yes!
- It’s fun! Riding dirt trails makes you feel like a kid again. Exploring new terrain on a gravel bike is a blast! You can ride not only gravel roads but also smooth single track. The wider the tires you use (say 45mm), the rougher the trail you can ride. The narrower the tire (say 35mm), the faster you’ll be on smooth road and pavement.
- Safety – You can get away from traffic and find safer places to ride then on the streets and highways. And you’re less likely to crash than mountain biking because you’ll be on less challenging trails.
- Versatility – A gravel bike is better for year around riding and commuting. The knobby wider tires can handle snow and ice much better than road tires. You can ride any road surface and jump curbs too! The gravel bike has been described as the SUV of bikes because of its versatility. I would say that on pavement a high-end gravel bike may be only 10% less efficient than a very light road bike.
- Comfort – Generally gravel bikes are a little more comfortable than a road bike with a slightly more upright position and fatter tires.
Colorado has many great destinations for long gravel bike rides including Boulder, Fort Collins, and Steamboat Springs. Although Jefferson County is not considered a destination spot for gravel biking, there are lots of places to ride, especially in our thousands of acres of open space. Some of the County, State and local parks with significant gravel riding include South Valley Park, Hildebrand Park, Chatfield State Park, Bear Creek Lake Park, Green Mountain, and South Table Mountain. If you go further east there’s a network of trails south of Highlands Ranch, and of course the 72-mile Highline Canal trail that starts near Waterton Canyon and goes all the way to Green Valley Ranch near the airport. There are also many miles of ridable gravel roads in the pike national forest around Deckers. A great website for finding gravel riding is gravelmap.com.
So, if you can afford a beautiful new high-tech $8000 gravel bike, go for it! On the other hand, you can pick up a good old quality mountain bike (hardtail or no shock) on Craigs List for less than $300 and do pretty much the same kind of riding.
So, you may not need another bike, but it certainly can be justified!
I used my gravel bike on a cool day in Autumn to explore the Dutch Creek trail in the southwest metro area. The ride included pavement, paved paths, and dirt paths. Remember, exploring is the essence of an interesting and rewarding life!