Gravel Fears

I got out to ride some gravel today (about 4 miles) and managed to scare myself - again. I thought that gravel riding would be fun because I wouldn't have to deal with narrow or nonexistent shoulders and car traffic like I do when I ride my road bike. Instead I'm finding that I'm stressed as I navigate loose gravel and deep gravel and feel like I'm going to fall over. Even on relatively smooth areas I'll find myself hitting some chunks of gravel and feel like I might just wipe out. I never worry about falling over when I ride my road bike or my fatbike. I fear getting hit by cars on my road bike, sometimes wonder if I might tip over while attempting to ride a mountain bike trail, but I really haven't felt this insecure about my riding ability before.

It's a weird feeling, this fear of falling off my bike, this fear of riding gravel. I don't like it.

It's not that my I really dislike riding gravel or that every moment of my gravel rides is bad or scary. There are wonderful moments. There are some great times spend coasting down hills. There's the thrill in getting up a big hill. There are memorable moments like today when I scared up six buzzards feasting on fresh road-kill (today it was a young buck in the middle of the road. Thankfully the buzzards moved before I got to them). There are times when I'm overwhelmed with the beauty of my surroundings as I pedal down the road. There's the glory of finding a long stretch of fast gravel that rides better than tar.

Pretty decent to ride gravel near my home
Riding gravel gives me sights and sounds that I wouldn't get if I was riding my road bike. But it still scares me - and it's pretty easy for me to get caught up in those scary moments and forget the wonderful moments because I'm not very confident with this gravel riding thing.

I'm guessing the best way to get over the fear is to ride more gravel. And, since I have a gravel race to ride on June 21st I guess I will just have to deal with the fear and ride more and more gravel in the days to come.

Right now my goal is to ride my 30 mile gravel race averaging 10 miles per hour or more and manage to not fall off my bike.

Most of the time I believe I can do that.

But there are moments when I wonder why I'm trying to ride gravel at all. I know lots and lots of people are riding gravel and they go really fast - like 16 mph - and I end up just feeling inept knowing they are so fast and I am so slow and so unconfident. I recently got off a bike club email list because of how inept I felt every time I read about yet another fantastic really long, really fast, really difficult ride they were going to go on or just got back from.

A big gravel hill and beautiful scenery
Yeah. I suppose I could feel inspired to work harder and get to this level - but, you know what? I don't really WANT to go that fast or ride that many miles. I don't. It's great that other people do it but it's not what I want to do. I do wish there were more people like me, though, who wanted to go shorter distances at slower sometimes feels like I just don't fit in this world of bicycling...

Oh well. It's time I stop comparing myself with the fast set and just look at what I WANT TO DO and what I WILL DO to get ready for this gravel race. Here's the deal:

  • What I WANT TO DO is get more confident in my gravel riding
  • What I WANT TO DO is actually ride and finish this gravel race I signed up for 
  • What I WILL DO is ride gravel in the weeks to come so I get more confident at my own, slow and not-so-steady pace
  • What I WILL DO is forget about everyone else who is faster, stronger, better than me and just worry about me (Okay, that's probably going to be the most difficult thing for me to do but I will do my best with that.)
  • What I WILL DO is get out and ride with my friend and race partner, Lisa, and do more training rides with her. She's really cool, helps make me feel better about my riding and gives me great riding tips without having me realizing she's offering advice 
  • What I WILL DO is focus on the good parts of my gravel rides instead of the scary parts
  • What I WILL DO is give myself credit for riding at all and as much as I do. A few years ago I wasn't riding a bike at all. Now I have four bikes and ride a ton. That's something... 
Okay - Now that I've written about all of this gravel fear I have a plan to move ahead. Good enough. I have my work cut out for me. I may get to the end of my gravel race and decide to skip riding gravel in the future and stick to riding paved trails or something. That's a decision to make later. As for this moment, it's time for me to make dinner then get outside and enjoy this gorgeous evening. I hope you do the same.


Anonymous said…
Make sure your tires are inflated correctly for gravel really helps. 26x2.0 try around 40 psi. 700x35 try 50psi. That will help you handle the road better. You also just get used to it and let the bike 'surf' as you ride.

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