Tuesday Gravel and More

So it seems as though I’ve been logging into this site with no particular frequency and though I may promise myself I’m going to write more the time and/or enthusiasm just doesn’t seem to be there however this week that changed just a little bit with an amazingly fun ride in Michigan.

As there have been some changes here at Raleigh our territories changed as well which is both a blessing and curse. The added States in the territory do make for some more windshield time but it does also add quite a few iconic riding areas that I now get to visit with regularity such as the Brown County trails, the Louisville MTB Caverns, and all the amazing MTB trails/rides of Michigan. As each new area has been a great adventure Michigan proves to be a State that continues to surprise me on the riding side. I know as an Ohioan I’m committing a cardinal sin in praising Michigan especially during football season but it’s been quite a trip so far. As a rep who rides when the day is done finding a group ride or trail to hit can often be a challenge however Michigan Mountain Biking Association (www.mmba.org) makes it quite easy to find a trail or two and I quickly found out Michigan is littered with MTB trails all over the state with a very reliable rating system so you know exactly what you are getting into before you get there. Excellent for someone not from Michigan. With my trip up to Michigan this week I opted out of taking the MTB choosing to bring the SSCX bike instead hoping to ride some MTB trails. Well after my last visit of the day at Freewheeler in Grand Rapids, Patrick introduced me to the TUESDAY GRAVEL ADVENTURE via a Facebook events notice. Though apprehensive as I only had my SSCX and with only a 5 minute “get ready” window with drive time I hustled over to Warren Townsend Park to hook up with this ride. I immediately was floored by how many riders were showing up to a Tuesday Night ride let alone a Gravel ride. I double checked the FB page and noticed over 100 riders had acknowledged the ride and it looked like every single one of them was there despite the looming rain clouds.

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The ride was fairly old school in that it was setup as “meet here and lets ride” which is unusual in this age where everyone seems fine with taking one another to court for frivolous reasons. The “rules” to the ride were that the 1st lap was to be at a modest tempo and then when given the okay the 2nd lap could go full gas. Having a moderate gearing on my SSCX I was happy with the tempo portion as I knew and/or hoped I would be able to keep with the group however the “race pace” lap in the dark on unfamiliar roads had me a bit nervous as I wasn’t keen to getting lost. As luck would have it despite the lead group riding away on the fast lap, I was quite comfortable…okay totally spun out but managing to keep up on the flats and lead out on the hills…and anytime I would get gapped all I had to do was chase blinking tail lights as it had gotten pitch black by the time the 2nd lap started. With most of us using lights designed to light up MTB trails like it was daylight there were no problems riding the near perfect pea gravel at night.

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The only challenges came early in the lap in that we felt the first drops of rains and the rooster tails of moistened gravel dust now littered our kits like we were riding a fancy Belgium spring classic. Once “wet” it was full go again. The next “challenge” comes as we enter an area that was a very soft uphill grind, think 200 yard sandpit uphill. For me riding it was easy as I had a heavier gear which kept me up to speed and kept my back wheel from spinning however this of course was the one section that we encountered an oncoming car and had to drift over to the side of the road where it was even softer yet. I managed to keep my wheel but my speed was scrubbed and needing all possible momentum to keep up with the chasing group I was in, I was quickly gapped. Tried as I might to get back on with the group once the road leveled out I quickly found myself spinning at a crazy 120+ cadence to keep the gap from growing. As we had now entered the flatter section of the ride I reduced my efforts as I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold that cadence for the remainder of the ride and focused on keeping track of the blinking red lights so that I didn’t lose my way. I took a couple of glances back to see where the 3rd group road was on the road but didn’t see anything so kept my tempo up so that I kept on route. Though I lost sight a couple of times of the lights through the twisting roads I managed to keep on route and breathed a sign of relief once I reached the familiar finished downhill heading back to the parking lot. I’m already looking forward to the next visit out to Grand Rapids not only to visit the great Raleigh dealers in the area but to also bury my tires into some of the best gravel roads I have ever ridden. If you ever find yourself in the area on a Tuesday I highly recommend checking it out!! For details just look up TUESDAY GRAVEL ADVENTURE on Facebook. Make sure to bring front/rear lights and a great attitude as you will have a great time. Also remember this ride is a pickup ride with 100 or so of soon to be friends.

Until next time

Sean

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