Biking/Fat Biking, New Moon News

Gravel Biking-Choose Your Own Adventure

The freedom, the experiences—it all starts with having the right gear for the job. Whether you’re dropping the hammer on the gravel scene, bikepacking into the unknown, or shredding flowy singletrack, gravel bikes are the key to unlocking all kinds of adventure!

Gravel riding combines elements of road and mountain biking, consisting mostly of distance riding over unpaved roads. Gravel bikes may have started out as a fad, but they give the rider a ton of options and flexibility.

Gravel bikes look similar to a road bike with their drop bars, but there are several differences that make them more durable than a road bike and faster than a mountain bike.

First of all, their geometry is more relaxed than a traditional road or cyclocross bike. They have longer wheelbases, so they are stable on roads, and also while riding over sketchy surfaces like gravel or sand. This also provides more comfort over long distances. There is a sloping top tube for easy ons and offs and a taller head tube for a slightly more upright position.

Gravel bike frames are designed to accommodate bigger tires. This gives you extra comfort and grip on rough and bumpy roads and allows you to tackle any sort of road surface.

Gravel bikes also have disc brakes, offering more power, and, in turn, more confidence, especially in mixed conditions.

It may have started out west, but gravel riding has taken hold here in the Northwoods. Joel says, “Our area is a perfect match for the versatility of the gravel bike, “we have a ton of scenic and quiet back roads; often with great camping, fishing and wildlife viewing.” 

Ian and Dusty really got into gravel riding in spring 2019 as they prepared for the Hungry Bear, a gravel race out of Cable. 

And, it’s not just the guys! Women gravel riders are one of the fastest growing segments of the cycling market. This year, after years away from road riding, Kristy has definitely caught the gravel bug. Right now she is training to ride the (modified) Highground Heroes Ride to benefit The Highground Veterans Memorial Park. 

“I haven’t been on a road bike in years,” Kristy tells me. ” When the idea of long distance riding for the Heroes ride came up, I wanted something that made sense for the road but versatile enough (so that) I could train off road if traffic were an issue.  The gravel bike fit the bill!  I expected to sacrifice the sleek maneuverability and speed of the road bike but I was happily mistaken.  The diverge handles like a road bike, is responsive and yet has the stability and comfort I need for long days in the saddle. The comfort and compliance of the frame and tires allowed me to break into riding again with little discomfort.  I compared the diverge head to head with the Roubaix and was surprised at how much more rigid the Roubaix was.  Not near as forgiving on bumps and cracks in the road.” 

Kristy (2nd from right) on her beautiful Diverge with ride partners after training.

“I know that for the comfort and added compliancy I’m sacrificing some top end speed but really,  I’m not a speed demon.  I cruise at about 13mph and roll just fine at that speed alongside my fellow riders.  The geometry and shock absorbency allows me to stay on the bike longer which makes up for any speed loss.  Joel feels you wouldn’t strictly need a road bike unless you routinely cruised above 18mph.  Someday that may be in the cards for me but until then I love that I can ride the gravel behind the Moon to the backroads home.  And when someone yells gravel! on the road ride, I have the bike needed to roll through it.”

Our staff is not the only Hayward area riders who’ve caught the gravel bug. Cindy Bijold has been a cyclist since she started riding at 2 years old. She has raced for nearly 25 years, been sponsored by TrekVW, and has won regional races, including the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival. “Gravel riding has become a passion for me as it has little to no car traffic, and fulfills my desire to commune with nature.” While mountain biking gets you out in the woods, as well, Cindy says, “gravel has a particular rhythm to it—the rhythm of my legs in a constant motion—where MTB riding is kinda on then off of the effort.” For her, gravel riding is time away from the masses, “I crave solitude anyway so gravel riding … is so pleasant.”

At the Moon, our favorite gravel ride is the Specialized Diverge, the model that Kristy mentioned is her favorite new ride. With speed, control, and confidence on any terrain, Diverge is the most capable gravel bike ever made. Switching from Midwest gravel at Mach 5 to rutted single track with ease, nothing helps you escape faster than Diverge.

Stop in to talk with us about how a Diverge can up your cycling game—whether it’s making road riding more comfortable, touring more sustainable, or dirt and gravel riding more stable.