Gravel: A change is as good as a rest

Over the last weeks of summer I rode myself into a bit of a hole. I was pushing hard, seeing good progress, and hitting tough training sessions with vigour. I was feeling great, until I wasn’t. All of a sudden my legs simply said no. My performance dropped and so did my motivation to ride hard. I tried to push through it but I simply got weaker and more fatigued. Over a fortnight I went from ripping up the road, to wallowing on every effort.

Something had to change. On a whim, I decided to switch up my scenery and take the focus away from the numbers. I unplugged from the hammer fest of road riding and pointed my wheels towards some unsealed roads. Gravel.

And you know what? It’s been superb!

Now, I’ve hated on gravel here before. Actually I’ll correct myself, I’ve hated on the gravel marketing machine that pushes “gravel-specific” everything, from tyres to shoes to bib shorts to bar tape, and everything in between! I still think the whole “gravel movement” is a bit of a marketing ploy, but now I fully understand the pull of riding gravel.

RELATED: Gravel, it’s still so hot right now.

Quiet roads, all new scenery, very little traffic. Riding into the countryside on Tasmania’s unsealed backroads has brought me back to the reason I started cycling in the first place. Exploration and freedom. It’s been both mentally and physically refreshing. For most of my gravel riding I hardly even look at my Garmin. Speed, distance, watts, none of that matters. I am simply riding my bike and enjoying each and every pedal stroke.

After a few weeks of almost exclusively riding gravel, I felt refreshed and recharged. It seems the change really was as good as a rest! I was ready to get back on the road and ride hard once again. In fact, I wheeled the time trial bike out for a hearty threshold session for good measure, taking a KOM that I’d been eyeing off for a while.

Will I become a full “Gravel Bro” and eschew the road from now on? No, I don’t think so. I do love riding hard and fast. The smooth sealed blacktop is still my thing. But from time to time, when I’m feeling like getting away from it all, or I’m feeling like a change of pace or scenery, I’ll certainly heed the call of those scenic gravel roads…

8 Comments Add yours

  1. muddytweed says:

    I’m generally worried that at some point I lose myself in training so much that I forget why I started cycling. Some times it’s worth keeping things fresh – like you I’ll drag out my MTB, use another bike, try another type of route or do something else entirely. Sometimes the legs need a break!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. niall says:

    Variety is key in every walk of life 👌

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I tried to tell my wife that, but she disagreed… 🫢😂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. john hobson says:

    No your still not a gravel bro, takes Nugent hall to qualify.. 🙄💪
    Hope to see you back in the “ sufferfest” soon !
    Cause thats all I need, “ another GUN to lose too ! 😩🤪

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Growing up on gravel roads (with more than my share of road rash to prove it), I have always been a fan of smooth pavement. There is nothing like brand-new asphalt. The back roads around here used to be beautifully paved so the milk trucks could get to the dairy farms. Times have changed. I agree that “gravel” is the latest marketing hype to get you to buy another bike (you’ll probably “need” different clothes to ride on gravel, too) – but it sounds like you have rediscovered the joy of riding just for the sake of riding. Gravel roads (especially Forest Service roads in the US) can get you to places that pavement can’t. Thanks for an ode to riding for the beauty of it. And congrats on getting refreshed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. It’s been fun, but I’m certainly not going to be one of those full time gravel riders. Although, some of the gravel roads are better than the asphalt roads around here! Just ordering my gravel-specific base layer now… 🤣

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Gravel is great for soul but exists off a lot of bullshit. I was riding ‘gravel’ years before it became a thing. Glad you are refreshed and ready to go again

    Liked by 1 person

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