Gravel is Good for the Soul
Take one part endless gravel trails. Throw in a pinch of lakeside views. Sprinkle in some good company. Top it all off with a dash of wild weather and you have a recipe for a perfect Sunday afternoon.
With the growth of gravel events all around the continent and the bike industry’s trend towards all-road bikes, more and more people are hearing the gravel’s siren call. And what’s not to love about getting off the beaten path and finding a new trail, taking in views you don’t get on the road, or slowing things down and chatting with friends.Fortunately for some of us, riding gravel is not a new thing. Ontario has been home to events featuring a healthy helping of gravel for a long time now. This year marks the 22nd edition of Paris to Ancaster, a race which takes competitors over roads, gravel, farm lanes, and mud shoots. So really, the rest of the world is just starting to catch up with us and get in on the fun.
This Sunday’s ride was being used as training for Paris to Ancaster. With two weeks to go (April 24), I was in need of some good miles. Davide Frattini and Trevor O’Donnell provided the company and the Oro-Medonte Rail Trail, between Barrie and Orillia, provided the gravel.I was quickly reminded of the different demands of riding on travel, most notably the increased rolling resistance of loose gravel. The greater effort required to go just a fraction of the speed meant I was soon hanging off the back of our small group. Luckily, we took a break at Shaw’s Sugar Shack to grab some coffee, warm up, and eat some sugary maple treats.Unfortunately, the weather conditions started to deteriorate as we headed back to Barrie. The wind picked up and the snow began to fly, so to speed things up, and relieve frozen fingers and toes, we returned to the road. You don’t realize the different effort required to ride gravel until you get back on smooth pavement. Thankfully we had Trevor with who pulled us all the way back to Barrie.After 60kms of gravel and pavement, a water bottle that didn’t want to come out of its cage, and not enough food, I was feeling the effort and cramp began to set in. Never trust anyone who says its better to suffer with company as they chat with you up a steep climb while your quads cramp.
Despite frozen fingers and toes, it was a great day of riding gravel. Breaking free from the white lines of the roads is always worth it with great views, great company, and great training. With many kilometers of rail trails around Simcoe County, this summer will be full of gravel.