Wednesday Gravel

For the past couple of months Wednesday evening has meant gravel Wednesday evening. Earlier this summer I built up a Twin Six/Handsome Cycles Speedy Devil, Singlespeed gravel grinder. It’s been a tremendous change in pace from the typical road training. In my short couple months experience I can conclude that gravel roads have almost zero traffic, tougher climbs and much better scenery than any paved roads, at least in Southern Minnesota.

With the season winding down I decided to change gears again and took the gravel grinder down to the new mountain bike trail in town. The trail is a very basic 1 mile loop with no significant hills and the only obstacles are a few log piles and what seems to be endless twists and turns. It’s definitely not the toughest riding you’ll find but on a rigid steel singlespeed with 700×32 tires it turned out to be quite the challenge. I actually went down 3 times. Twice my front tire washed out on leaf covered turns and the other time I did a complete superman after getting wide on a corner and plowing into a log. No doubt about it, it was a good time.

I find that it’s good to mix up the regular routine and to try different things. I wouldn’t ever want to building a training program around the off road CX ride but it was definitely a challenge and helped me build new skills. And much to my surprise, I snagged an off-road KOM on a SSCX!

Happy trails


Strava Winds

Strava, now a staple to our cycling world. I was definitely a latecomer to the world of Strava as this was my first year in the virtual racing scene. I set off for my evening trainng ride and I got thinking about what Strava brings to the table, is it good for cycling or has it ruined it? There’s not an answer to these questions but I think we can all agree that Strava has changed  the way we ride. In my previous life of cycle racing I would follow a pretty regimented training plan that revolved around certain routes on certain days. Monday was an easy 14mile loop, Tuesday was intervals out on Hwy 96, Wednesday was along day out to Marine on the St. Croix, etc…. Structured and I stuck to the plan. Nothing wrong with this, it sort of worked. The main problem was fighting off boredom as I got into July and August.

Fast forward 15 years and now we have Strava. Sure, I still put together a regimented training plan but I can use Strava to find new routes, new segments to incorporate into my routes and new challenges to conquer throughout the season. Strava allows to focus on a segment, put together game plan and go out and nail the KOM. But has virtual racing ruined our sport? Let’s say you’re out on a group ride, everyone is having a good time, a certain someone is sitting in the back of the pack doing everything they can to suck wheels and then you approach a climb and boom! They’re gone. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with some spirited group racing or an attack on a climb. But this individual who sucked wheel for the past hour isn’t racing the group, he’s racing the internet gang. After the climb he slides back into the pack and waits casually until the next segment.

Scenario two – Easy Monday. You had a tough weekend of riding and are looking forward to an easy day but you still feel pretty good. You look outside and the wind is just right for that segment you’ve been after all summer. You need the rest but that segment is calling your name… You can always rest on Tuesday, right? What if you go easy on 95% of the ride and just push that 1-mile segment… Your body needs rest!!! Don’t give in to the temptation that is Strava.

Strava has certainly changed things and introduced more competition into your daily training rides. Organized racing may be down in the U.S. but virtual racing is most certainly on the rise.

What if we can harness this tool and use it to our advantage? Tonight for example, I spent my day in the office from 7 -4, staring out the window at the gloomy skies. It’s a typical October day in the Northland, high temp in the mid 50’s but after 4 it drops like a rock. I only have a week or two left of hard riding for the year before I shut things down. It’s dark by 6:30 now so the number of days I can ride after work are very limited. I checked the weather arond 3:30, 55 degrees, cloudy and 20mph west wind. It would have been easy to blow this ride off. It’s a Tuesday which is typically my tough day but it would be easy to justify just going home and having a nice warm cup of coffee and watching Seinfeld reruns. But something stuck out, something had me ready to go, today was the day, the day I’ve been waiting for….A strong west wind….Strava Winds!  There is a segment that I occasionally ride that is a moderate climb about 1.5 miles long and it climbs straight East. The problem is, it’s about 16 miles to get to the climb, which means a minimum 33.5 (16+16+1.5) mile ride…and it’s dark by 6:30. 4:00 hits, I rush home, grab a quick bite to eat, slip into my kit and I’m gone. 16 brutal miles fighting a 20 mph side wind and plummeting temps. Finally I arrived at my segment and I crushed it! I gave it everything I had and as I crested the top I just hoped it was enough. Mission complete? Not even close. Now I had the 16 mile race against darkness fighting the same 20mph side wind with even colder temps.

I made it back, I survived and I now have one more KOM to my name! Had it not been for Strava, I probably would have stayed home. Use Strava to push yourself but don’t let it consume every moment of your cycling life. Remember your off days and remember to fun. Tomorrow when I go to work, no one will know what I accomplished the night before. I’ll just be the quiet guy in the cubicle again. But that doesn’t matter, I know I have the crown by my name…Until the Strava winds kick up again and someone else attacks the CR19 Climb.


Fall Riding

The race season is winding down, the temps are dropping and the days are getting shorter.  Fall is here and it’s time to get out and ride. But wait, you’ve been riding all year?  I don’t mean training or logging miles, I mean actually get out and ride because you enjoy it. Instead of racing Strava segments, attacking climbs and pushing for 10 more seconds in zone 5, try taking a single speed down a gravel road. Feel free to stop on the side of the road and admire the scenery as the few weeks that we call Autumn are going to be gone soon.