Unexpected Gravel


Riding gravel is the new “in” thing in cycling. The advantage over road cycling is that riding on gravel roads means very few cars. And that alone is enough for many gravel riders.

New Drivetrain Day

The disadvantage is that the bike is harder to control. In addition, I always feel like I am one piece of gravel away from having a flat tire.

Clean cassette and chain

Although I have a gravel bike, a Trek Checkpoint, I have not come to embrace the new fad in cycling. I am a fearful gravel rider.

Generally, I am one of the fastest descenders on group rides. I seem not to be able to recognize or process risk and am probably inches away from a serious high-speed accident. But put me on gravel and I am absolutely the slowest descender. Others in the group are flying down these roads over gravel and I am holding a handful of brakes.

Near Rixeyville

I am not comfortable descending and don’t think any amount of practice will make me enjoy it. I ride it to join friends on group rides but that is about it. And perhaps if paved roads simply aren’t available.

Culpeper detour. Just walked through it.

I needed a metric century because I was doing a fundraiser for my upcoming MS-150. I challenged my friends that I would ride in distance the number of miles they raised in dollars. I went to RideWithGPS and mapped out what I hoped would be a perfect metric century. RWGPS uses Google Maps so I assign no blame to RWGPS. I drew the route and it showed as 100% pavement. I was set.

Near Culpeper

It was a combination of my Remington routes and a Culpeper route which I always route clockwise. I decided to ride this one counterclockwise because it would be new to me.

Post Office Lignum, Va.

I headed out on familiar roads even if the direction wasn’t. I quickly came to “Climb 1/6” and then Climbs 2-5. Almost all the climbing seemed to be done in the first 30 km. I was happy to get what climbing there would be out of the way early because it was to hit a record-breaking 80 degrees today.

The Climbs on the mapped route appear on my Wahoo

The sixth and final climb was just ahead at 63. km to go. The country road was beautiful with almost no traffic. And then the road turned to gravel. Oh no. This was not expected. I slowed down. I did not know how far the gravel would extend. Well, it was three km (two miles) when it turned to pavement for the final climb of 500 meters. And then it was back to gravel for another three km. In all, it was four miles of unexpected gravel. This was not fun.


I tried to choose my line and stick with it. The gravel alternated from packed dirt (which is actually quite alright) to newer gravel that had been put down within the last year or so (not quite alright). I didn’t know how far it would go and was quite relieved when I reached pavement at the end.

This was a beautiful route but the map drawing let me down. I already went to the drawing board and changed it. I hope that I found all asphalt roads this time.

Moo Thru at the end of the ride

DISTANCE: 62.2 miles (100 km)
GRAVEL: 4.0 miles

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