Gravel Riding (“Mixed Surface Riding” is probably a better term) is the hottest trend in cycling today. Outside of urban areas, the vast majority of roads in our region are unpaved. They are much quieter and the few motor vehicles you do encounter on unpaved roads tend to be polite and considerate. Getting off the pavement opens up some stunning scenery and vast new areas around the National Capital to explore.
Regular Gravel Group Rides
The OBC is starting regular gravel group rides as an experiment to gauge interest in gravel riding in the club. What gets offered in terms of dates, ride lengths, how challenging the routes are, the details of the ride structure, etc will be determined by feedback and interest from club members. Anything is possible! We need your input and participation to make this work.
This program is a member’s-run initiative, led by Bill Bourne. Bill is looking for members who are gravel enthusiasts to get involved. Please contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest, provide your input, and get involved.
This is the start of an evolving, growing program. We want to be flexible, and accommodate all riders. We want to make gravel riding accessible and fun for as many members as possible. So we plan to start with group rides on routes that are “non-technical” - no unmaintained roads, ATV trails, or other rowdy stuff.
The rides will be “no drop”, enjoy the scenery, group rides. Gravel riders have a tradition of “bragging rights” going to people who find the most unusual sight, or have the most unique experience, not the ones that go the fastest. Photos are encouraged. We are still hoping the experienced, hard core gravel riders will come out, socialize and share their love of gravel riding with newer riders.
We will try to find routes that introduce you to scenic local areas that are “hiding in plain sight”, beautiful areas that you wouldn’t know about unless you are riding unpaved roads.
Initially, the rides will be on Saturday mornings.
It’s important to note that we don’t paceline ride on gravel! A group of riders will naturally space themselves so that everyone has room to choose their line on the road, to slow down, speed up, or swerve to avoid a pothole (and stop to admire the sights and take photos!) Groups may break up climbing or descending hills, and folks may ride more challenging sections at different speeds. That’s all part of a group gravel ride, and we’ll slow down or stop to regroup at regular intervals as needed.
In spite of all the industry hype, you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to enjoy mixed-surface riding. The most important thing is larger tires. How big depends on your own skills and desire for comfort. “Bigger is better” is common advice. 32mm will get you access to many well-maintained unpaved roads and prepared trails. 35-36mm will be comfortable on pretty much any open road. 38-40mm is the current “standard” if you want to tackle some unmaintained roads or ATV trails. Most recent endurance bikes, and many touring bikes can handle the tires sizes to get you started.
Another useful thing is “lower gears”, especially when riding in hilly regions like Lanark country or the Wakefield region.
And while optional, it’s really useful to be able to easily & quickly unclip, and to walk in your cycling shoes. So “mountain bike cleats”, like Shimano SPDs, and touring or mountain bike shoes can be a help.
Here are a few resources to get you started:
- A Beginner’s Guide to Riding Gravel has some good introductory information
- RideGravel.ca is the goto resource for gravel routes in the region
- The Facebook groups The Ottawa area Gravel Atlas (the OaGA) Public Group | Facebook and Ontario Gravel & Adventure Riders… provide some great community support.
- The OBC RWGPS Route Library will have a range of gravel routes added to it over time. Use the “Filter by tag” field to filter on the tag “Gravel” to see the gravel-specific routes.