who needs a gravel bike anyway?

I’d love a gravel bike, i think it would suit 70% of my riding down to a T. riding back lanes and branching off down interesting looking off road routes whilst out, something capable of riding through the mud and pot holes but not as slow as an MTB on the smoother stuff.
I work in a bike shop and have access to bikes at staff rates. i also get support of a number of companies and i love to help promote their products and way of doing things, companies such as Cube, mudhugger, beerbabe  rad8 sunglasses, Wren forks, Smokestone etc. the guys and girls who run these companies have been awesome. I’m no racer, i’m no superstar, just an ordinary rider doing the things others do or may aspire to do. if i can inspire just one person to get out on a bike, no mater how short or long the ride then i feel it’s been worthwhile.
Cube’s gravel bike is so new and so popular i’ve not been able to get my hands on one the right size. I’ve sold loads of Nuroads though, they look like an awesome bit of kit “pro” reviews back this up too. so, as much as i’d like to try one it’s just not possible so I’ve had to look elsewhere, bikes such as Trek’s checkpoint, now Trek are a massive company sponsoring super athlete’s so they don’t really need my help to sell  and develop their bikes. there is another company my shop deals with and they have have always, in my eyes been about the real rider. riders doing epic but attainable stuff and run by riders too. their frame has also had some great reviews too so i was hoping for a discussion with them about how i could help and of course how they could help me. now nothing is free in the bike industry, times are hard and i fully expect to have to pay for anything i receive. that’s how these things work. all the above companies give me a discounted rate and communication has been excellent. i’ve approached hundreds of companies and usually there is a polite reply stating how they can’t help or aren’t in a position to send anything at that time, i’ve always replied thanking them for even considering me and wishing them well. I’ve sat in board rooms with chief executives, spoken to giant global company’s GM’s p.a (hi to the lovely lady at Tunnocks!) and not every time come away with anything but a warm feeling and the proof that these companies are not just about the money.
however, this is the first time i’ve not even gotten a “sorry we can’t help you” reply, nothing, nada. maybe i’m disillusioned and the outward appearance of being a cyclist friendly company promoting this brand is all just clever marketing and I’ve fallen for it. i think you can tell i’m disappointed, the bike doesn’t matter in the end, just the politeness of a “i’m sorry” reply would have been enough and i’d have moved on, fully supporting the brand to our customers regardless of whether they had been positive or negative in their reply. now though i’m not sure i can have the confidence in them to suggest their products as an option.
I know this will make zero difference to he company in question, i’m a very very tiny fish in an ocean but if they treat all their prospective customers like this it does make you think. I won’t name the company as for one i don’t write this lightly and it’s not in my nature to slag people off and for two i don’t want to promote them indirectly with a google hit.
so i’ve been using my 28mm slick tyred road bike as a gravel bike and learning the bike handling skills that only come with using very inappropriate tyres and brakes in the sort of conditions we have at the moment
i still want a gravel bike though 🙂
ride 17
45 miles
Total 431

Dialling it in

First ride on the new bike, i’d been waiting for better conditions but i think if i’d waited for that i’d not ever ride it.
So i manned up and got it dirsty within 2 minutes. once it was muddy that was it, there is no going back, it’ll never look like a new bike again. I had to make a few tweeks to saddle position and height but overall i’m pleased how it went.
Ride 14
14 miles
Total 350

Spring is here..oh,…wait

temperatures of 12.5 degrees Celsius greeted todays ride, i was aiming for 100k and achieved it quite easily, which surprised me after all the days iff the bike. in fact all the Strava PRs were in the last 15 miles so i must have been doing something right. what i didn’t do right probably was eating, turns out this was a food free ride with just a piece of toast before i set off. i did make sure i drank plenty of fluids though. looks like a proper century coulkd be on the cards.
and the “….wait” bit in the title? well the day after we reverted to winter and had 4ft drifts of snow over the following few days scuppering any long distance riding plans i  might have had
Ride 13
62 miles
Total 336

probably the worst start to any riding year ever

12 rides in 2 and a half months and only 274 miles is pathetic. it’s been caused by a series of illnesses, both respiratory and stomach wise. I’m not sure why my immune systems seems to be failing to protect me from all these things that it usually fights off. Usually all those around me are getting these things and i don’t. I worked in healthcare for 14 years surrounded by some of the most infectious diseases and viruses going and had nothing more than the occasional snuffle. no i seem to be getting everything that is going and it’s made a big impact on my riding.
Todays ride was a jaunt around the lanes to see how i’m feeling. I did a few commutes to work last week and seemed ok after last weekends stomach bug so i ventured a little further today and all seemed good (so far, writing the day after).
the lanes are currently awash with melt water from last weeks snow and there are many flooded sections needing a special technique to pedal across without getting my feet too wet .
Loads of riders were also out making the most of ice and snow free roads. everyone seemed to be wearing a massive amount of clothing for the conditions, the temperature was in double figures with no wind! it must be uncomfortable riding in a jacket that thick and most seemed to be at least two sizes to big. aerodynamics are obviously not their top priority.
It was even warm enough for me to refit the spd pedals and clip in for the first time since November 2017 and i still had feeling in my feet by the end of the ride!
I really hope this run of ill health has now passed and i can get some decent miles in.
Ride 12
23 miles
Total 274

the Ice cream ride

Originally the weather forecast said dry and sunny and the plan had been a road trip to the Forest of Dean. the forecast then changed to drizzle so i wasn’t keen on the 1.5hr drive to ride around in the wet so i suggested a bit of a mad ride and route to Henley to Henley ice cream.
Dan and Vegan Ian were mad enough to sign up for the ride and we all paced (read suffered) up the steep slopes of weatheroak hill, always a shock to the system at the very start of a ride and on towards Earlswood resevoir and the lanes to Hockley Heath where we joined the grand union canal and made good progress to Kingswood junction and the turn for the North Stratford canal. it was this stretch of towpath that quickly got muddy, traction was difficult and sections were a real slog. funnily enough this bit came soon after the guys said how good the route was.
just before the end of the canal section we stopped to let some walkers past on a bridge and this act of politeness somehow set off Vegan Ian’s garmin emergency alarm! it wailed away and the screen informed him a notification of his accident had been sent to all his designated contacts on his phone! thankfully no one gives a shit about Ian and the Tracy boys and International Rescue didn’t appear over head in thunderbird 2 or surfaced from the canal in thinderbird 4 and we carried on.
Henley was it’s usual sleepy Sunday self with only a few spots for a coffee open for business and we made full use of the outside chairs in the weak sun.
a route back through Tanworth  and Beoley made sure we got a decent amount of climbing in before heading home.
My longest ride of the year so far and i was feeling the pace by the end. it was a good route though.
Ride 11
38 miles
Total 251

the tyred ride

plus tyres can be a drag (literally) at the best of times but having one on the bike and two on your back is even more of a chore. 
Dan and i were doing a tyre swap, he needed plus tyres for his new build which i have spare and i needed to replace a worn out 29er tyre which he had lying around so i pedalled over in very cold and blustery conditions. tyres swapped and tea drunk i thought i’d go a longer way home via shortwood. it was then the weather decided to blow up a storm. one minute blue sky and shunshine, the next a complete white out snow storm where i could barely see 100 ft. then just as quickly sun and fluffy white clouds appeared while i stood dripping despite sheltering under a tree.
no speed records on the ride as i headed for the warmth of home incase i got caught out again.
Ride 10
12 miles
Total 213

the lazy wind ride

Russ turned up completely white over, like a mobile snowman. i suggested a cuppa while he formed a deep puddle on my kitchen floor.
the snow stopped and i manned up and we left wrapped up for the worst the weather could throw at us. it soon came apparent that this was too much as i began to over heat on any sort of uphill gradient. i quickly swapped to a gilet rather than a waterproof jacket. of course within a couple of minutes it was raining but i pressed on with the knowledge the weather forecast said the conditions should improve throughout the day.
we made for Alcester via the ford in search of cheesecke but in the end the cafe was chosen not for its menu but for it’s position regarding the week sunlight. so sat in the sunshine we filled ourselves with toasted teacakes and ginger and lime cake.
the return leg of course was completely into the coldest ever head wind. it was super lazy cutting right through us instead of going around. the last drag up to spernal was a chore and it was a relief to shelter in the bus stop while the view to the horizon was obliterated by a short sharp rain/sleet storm.
we passed through arrow valley and had a warm in the local bike shop which meant i actually got home with warm feet for a change!
Ride 9
32 miles
Total 201