I am lucky to live in Rupert Idaho where I am surrounded by countless miles of Dirt roads. These roads are generally very lightly trafficked with only the occasional farm vehicle or annoying dog to give you any company. Harvest time however is best avoided on these roads. It doesnt rain much here so the roads are generally very dry and dusty. You do hit some wet patches from the irrigation sprinklers but in the summer a spray from these is very welcome. Generally there isnt much climbing and the roads are pretty straight and gently rolling. The only down side can be the wind which has been particularly nasty this spring. It can make riding as difficult as a steep climb.
After exploring most of the roads within a 15 mile radius I have noticed that the roads fall into a few categories. All of these categories are increased significantly by “Washboard” which can make the roads miserable. This year the washboard seems particularly bad on many roads. The other thing that severely impacts the roads is when they regrade them and add fresh gravel, Freshly re-graveled roads are seriously hard work to ride on and require major concentration
Gravel Zero :
The first type of Gravel isnt really gravel at all but very compressed dirt that is super fast when dry and horrible when wet. There are virtually no actual lumps of gravel on this type of road. It is pretty rare. This type of road would be no problem for a road bike.
Gravel One :
This is smooth gravel characterized by small rocks of up to a few millimeters in radius and is super fast, This is my favorite type of gravel and I seek out sections of it as a preferred place to ride. Probably ok on a road bike but perfect for gravel bikes. It can get pretty dusty especially if a farm vehicle is passing,
Gravel Two :
This is probably the most common type of gravel and is characterized by rocks up to about about 25mm. Generally speaking this is pretty easy if you let your bike go with the flow and dont fight it. It can become a little challenging if it is more than an inch deep. It is also horrible with washboard, Ok on a gravel bike but can be a bit sketchy if it is more than an inch deep.
Unfortunately there seems to be a lot of this type of gravel this year. Rocks of greater than 25mm and several inches deep make this really hard work. I really dont like trying to ride this on a gravel bike and I am much happier on an MTB with 2.2 tires but even with front suspension you get beat up a bit. Couple this with washboard and it is a true test of your resolve. An example of this type of gravel is on the 600N all the way out to Meridian. I finf this type of gravel exhausting.
Gravel 4 :
This isnt really gravel but there are some roads with in laid boulders on gravel roads that can be better suited for mountain bikes
There are also some Sandy sections that are beyond category in terms of difficulty. I seriously can only just ride these on a fatbike. Fortunately they are rare, Hit these when you arent expecting it and a crash is likely. I have gone over the bars more than once hitting one of these.
One of the cool features of Strava is it allows you to see what rides you have done in the form of a heat map. I have done a lot of exploring round Rupert and have ridden many roads within a 2 hour out and back time frame. My heat map is pretty busy
In 2015 I had some of my best form ever but I also had a life changing event. After getting a PR on the Mount Tam Hillclimb I had a stroke in the parking lot afterwards and it was touch and go for a while. After many months of hospital time I eventually started riding my bike again in spring 2016. My first efforts were pitiful and after falling off a few times I managed only a few miles.
My First Ride Back
Slowly but surely I started getting some sort of fitness back and the riding certainly helped my balance issues. I knew I was never going to get back to my previous form but I was enjoying riding the bike. Back in the fall of 2015 I had a 20 minute power of around 379W and my maximum heart rate was 184 BPM. I attacked 200 mile hilly rides with glee. I had big plans to ride Dirty Kanza and other mammoth off road events, Today my 20 minute power is 224W and my max heart rate is 170bpm. I ride less than 3 hours at a time these days but do try to ride for a couple of hours every day.
In 2019 I started riding a few time trials as a start back into racing but I found I pushed myself a little hard and felt absolutely dreadful afterwards. After one TT I felt so bad for 3 hours afterwards I thought I was going to have to go to to the hospital. I felt bad for a few days afterwards too. It was at this point that I decided to give up racing forever. I found that if I stay to around a 160BPM heart rate for extended periods I am OK but if I push harder I feel awful.
With COVID I pretty much rode on my own for 2 years but I recently joined in on the Tuesday Night group rides out of Burley to keep my wife company. I struggle a bit to ride in a group and my balance feels off when riding next to people but the rides are fun. In the video below you can see that I was pretty comfortable until a stop sign where I let a gap go . I was in the second group on the road and we had a strong cross wind but I managed to keep my pulse to around 150, I had to do a 400W plus effort to get back on and this drove my heart rate to 163BPM and I had to concede defeat. I reckon that if I had ridden more intelligently I would have finished with the group
I got these for less than $50 from Bike Tires Direct to replace the awful Orange Donnely CX tires that I had on previously. These tires are superior to them in every way.
These tires roll really fast on both road and Gravel and have a buttery smooth ride even at 60 PSI. On the road they really shift at 60PSI and the grip seems excellent. I have ridden about 70% Road and 30% Gravel so far and have been very pleased with them.
The only down side seems to be the wear. I can see wear after only 260 miles and I was hoping for at least 1000 miles out of them. I will update in another 250 miles.
After moving from California to Idaho I finally got to ride the Fatbike in the snow. I am really impressed by how it rides and it is an eerily smooth adventure. It is surprisingly hard work on fresh wet snow but on the compacted stuff it is pretty fast. If you ride in your own tire tracks it is much easier. Up till now I have only tried a few inches deep
Traction is really good. I love being the first person to ride on fresh snow
These tires weren’t cheap at $70 each but I got them on sale so I took the plunge. When I first fitted them I found the on road performance to be terrfying. Cornering on them was horrific and even on dry tarmac they slid. Don’t get me started on damp pavement as it was like riding on ice. Off road they worked well and they rolled fast and were pretty quiet.
I have been riding them for 500 miles now and as you can see from the above picture they are showing significant wear. The on road cornering feels a lot better and isnt really an issue any more, I doubt I am going to get 1000 miles out of these,
I got the Ritchey Speedmax 40c for my commute bike at a super cheap sale price of only $35 for the pair including tax and shipping. I was hoping to get over 1000 miles out of them but was pleasantly surprised to get slightly over 2000 miles. The tires have been ridden around 90% on road in all weather conditions with the exception of snow. They have been ultra reliable. I did not have a single puncture on these tires and my commute has lots of glass and debris. These tires ride OK ridden at 60PSI which is a bit less than the 75psi on the sidewall. My only grumble with them is that they don’t really seem to be as wide as a 40c should be.
Although there is quite a bit of life (especially in the front) I wanted the reliability to continue. I Got a new pair for slightly more expensive $35.98 but still cheap. Plan to keep these on for another 2000 miles.
Also it is worth reporting on the Excess 18t freewheel I fitted a while back. Although this one hasn’t started slipping like the last one yet, the bearings feel absolutely terrible and it is making some horrible noises. These freewheels really do not seem to like wet weather riding. I think it is toasted but I am going to keep on riding until it starts slipping. This is a very disappointing 956 Miles.
Finally I fitted fenders to the commute bike as I got sick of getting a wet rear end, Wet roads and flooded underpasses really get you wetter than you have to. Fortunately the Masi has huge clearances even with the supposed 40C tires. Hopefully me fitting these will stop the rain 🙂
Normally my goals are full of racing but since I retired from that, I have different plans. I would really like to do 10,000 miles for the year. This year I only missed that total by a few hundred so I think it is within reach. I would also like to complete all the monthly Strava Mileage and climbing challenges. Last year I got pretty close but a few mishaps prevented it (e.g. A bad car accident in September). It requires real commitment to do these challenges and requires typically 25 miles and 800ft of climbing every day.
I also have a rather silly climbing challenge. Although my days of attempting an Everest challenge in one day are long since past, I would like to do it over the year. The climb I have chose to do it on is offroad on the 0.8m 356ft Laughlin Ranch off road climb. To achieve the required total would be 82 repetitions.
I reckon if I was actually Everesting this climb it would take me around 21 Hours !!!!
It is a tough 10 minute climb that can be ridden as a loop. My target requires the climb to be ridden twice per week. If we have bad weather , the clay nature of the climb makes it out of bounds. Back before my stroke I did this climb in 5m52s but now I am happy to break 10 minutes. The fastest time since my recovery is 8m42s. Trying to do this adventure should help me to achieve the Climbing Challenge (7/12 in 2017). The climb is made hard by cattle that churn up the surface.
I have converted my drop bar fat bike to straight MTB style set up. To be honest although the drop bar set up was fine on roads and fire roads it was a pig on proper off road stuff. Since I stopped doing the epic gravel grinder stuff and was just riding the local trails I grew to dislike the fatty. I was all set to sell it but then my wife said she wanted a mountain bike so I decided to let her use the fatty as a mountain bike.
The transformation with the wide MTB bars is unreal. The steering no longer feels like a bulldozer and I have much more confidence off road. The other changes that came with the swap to flat bars were some Deore XT brakes and Trigger shifters. The hydraulic XT brakes are vastly superior to the hybrid HyRd brakes. A fairly expensive upgrade but worth every penny. My gear changes on the fatty have always been pretty crummy and it was always going out of adjustment. The change with the X5 shifters is perfect.
The bike should be perfect for my wife and I intend to borrow it a lot 🙂