Sunday, a few friends and I showed up to ride with a guy in our group who moved down to Clarkston (about 30 miles from our place) a short while ago. He’s jumped in with the local club and invited us down to ride at the Fall Back 40, a gravel bike ride that cuts through the most unlikely of areas we ride in. Typically, Clarkston is a high-traffic area – vastly busier than we’re used to. The gravel roads are a different story altogether…
I’ll get the easy part out of the way right off the bat; this was one of the most enjoyable gravel rides I’ve ever been on. We did the 48 mile route but took a wrong turn so we ended up with 44 miles with 2,300′ of climbing. I don’t know where they found all of those hills in southeastern Michigan, but we ride hundred milers with 500′ less elevation gain. Fortunately, even on my entry-level Diverge, I had the gears for everything the route could throw at us – I used them all, though. Every last one.
We rolled out just before 8am to a just-rising sun on a windy, chilly Sunday morning. I bundled up pretty well, even with a pair of compression shorts under the bibs. I also went with arm-warmers, a jersey, a long-sleeved jersey and a vest, leg warmers and full foot covers. At 44° (7 C), I was a little over-dressed, but the wind was whipping north of 15-mph. As is normal, I’d rather have it and take it off than not have it and be cold – especially with the wind. It had rained Friday, but the dirt roads appeared to be dry enough.
I had my entry-level Diverge (Sora) and Mrs. Bgddy was using the gravel bike that our friend loaned her. It’s a beautiful Cannondale SuperX Ultegra with the nicest wheelset I’ve ever seen on a gravel bike. Everyone else rode a higher-end carbon gravel bike – the guy who loaned my wife the Cannondale had a new Pinarello Grevil (upgraded to SRAM eTap). I was a little envious but I figured I’d get a better workout trying to keep up. I wasn’t wrong, and I had to tell myself that more than once that day.
It never fails – I tell myself the extra eight pounds going from my Venge to the Diverge won’t be that big a deal… then I hit that first big hill, and it very much is a big deal (it’s only six extra pounds going from the Trek. Two pounds? Not so bad. Six or eight? Woof!).
The ride was perfect though. My Diverge handled fantastically and I only had a tough time keeping up with the lead guys on the bigger hills. On the flats and downhills I was fine and we kept a fairly decent pace with the crew we had.
The important thing was that we observed post-season “it’s all bonus miles” pace. We were just out there for the good time, and that’s exactly what was had. With a 15-mph average, we certainly didn’t watch the leaves turn color, but we weren’t killing it to hit a 16-ish average, either. And Mrs. Bgddy crushed it… and I, according to my wife, accrued 1,000 points for accepting the pace for what it was with a smile on my face.
Then came the taco lunch that was a part of the entry fee. It wasn’t quite fantastic, but it was very good. I tore mine up – lugging that heavy-@$$ bike around made me hungry! After everyone had eaten and laughed and congratulated one another on a good time, we all went our separate ways. My wife and I, having already loaded the bikes, made our way to my car. She kissed me tenderly on the cheek, squeezed my hand and let me know the thousand points wasn’t an exaggeration.
I don’t think she realized staying together was the plan all along, but with a thousand freakin’ points, I’m not saying anything, either!
UPDATE: My buddy, Chuck and I took the gravel bikes out last night, too. 20 miles, we were passed by one car. Gotta love it, baby.