Thinking About a Gravel Ride in the Pinenuts? Here’s What You Should Know

OR perhaps more appropriately entitled: Here are some lessons I just learned. Yesterday, in fact. Since Stetina’s Paydirt was postponed, and Chris and I had planned on riding it, we decided to do some of the course.

WE left open the possibility we would do the entire route (~63 miles and 4700 feet of climbing) but it turned out that bite was more than we could chew. We did, however, get in 42 miles and about 2800 feet of climbing.

GRAVEL riding is hard. Not that we didn’t know that. Still, the experience is enlightening; you never know what you’re going to get. Or what’s going to get thrown at you.

The Weather Was Amazing!

IT had been so long since we had experienced clean air and average temps. A light breeze, about 65 degrees at the start (8:30 a.m.) and nice clouds and light winds all day long. It did get hot towards the end of the ride but the breeze kept it bearable.

Lesson #1 – Leave early and beat the heat!

HAD we been out on the course for much longer it would have been a different story.

Running Out of Water Made It Even More Epic!

Easy to say when you end up getting lucky and finding a spigot with 8 miles or so to go. We had just come off Sunrise Pass Road when my Camelback put forth no more liquid. Well, I thought, it’s only another 30 minutes or so and we’re on the pavement so…And there it was. The red handled goddess of H2O. So lucky.

Lesson #2 – Bring more water than you think you’ll need.

I had a frame-pack and could have carried another bottle at least but I figured 3 liters (~100 ounces) would be enough. It wasn’t. We were out there almost four (4) hours afterall and on the road I would certainly have needed more; and riding on gravel is more taxing. Duh!

Speed Is Your Friend

MOST of the time. We had put in a good chunk of time climbing out of Brunswick Canyon so when we hit Sunrise Pass Road we opened it up and flew down some of those long sweeping downhills.

Lesson #3 – Gravel and rocks are not tire friendly.

NOT that we didn’t know that but when I saw that Stan’s geyser shooting out of Chris’ rear wheel I knew a stop was eminent. It was pretty frickin’ cool though; watching and hearing that thing go.

Okay, I’ll just put this back on the bike and we can get out of this sun!

TOO much speed can make it harder to see some of those “sharpies.” That’s why, when out in gravel country, you need to carry a bit more gear than you might otherwise.

BETWEEN us we had:

  • Two (2) tires
  • Four (4) tubes
  • Four (4) CO2 cartridges
  • Two (2) pumps
  • Two (2) mini-tools
  • Okay, you get the idea.

HERE’S what I forgot:

  • Sunscreen
  • Stan’s (Chris did have this)
  • Stem remover (Chris had this too)
  • Rag (neither of us had this but I did have some paper towels).

Lesson #4 – Bring what you’ll need for the worst-case scenario!

Paper towels, for example, come in handy, and not just for napkins. They have myriad uses and they are more durable than TP if you get my drift.

AS for sunscreen, we should have brought some for sure. That was a bonehead move. What made it even more bone-headed (on my part) was that I didn’t hose down very well at the start.

DIDN’T even get the legs. Regretting that today. I wore a cap so I didn’t spray the top of my head. So when I wanted to take the cap off…Yeah, it stayed on.

To Pack or Not to Pack?

I went with the frame-pack and the CamelBak yesterday. That was good and bad. Good in that I could carry extra stuff, including the tubes and tire, and a sandwich. Bad in that the frame-pack rubbed on my legs a bit. Another 20-30 miles or so would not have been ideal.

THE CamelBak was especially good because I could drink water much more easily. Most of the gravel sections on this route were pretty technical (at least for me) so not having to pull a bottle to hydrate was groovy. On the bad side…the tube kept coming unseated from its dock. That was a bit irritating.

Lesson #5 – Test and adjust your gear before the big ride.

IT’S not like I didn’t know that. Still, being an experienced roadie, yet a neophyte gravelleur, means I didn’t account for the time that I would spend on the road, er trail.

NOTE to self: About ten (10) miles on hour is your average on gravel. This is not pavement! Got it, Mark? Good!

Sand Can Be Fun

Three hours in and still smiling. What a great day in the Pinenuts!

TO me, that sand is the funnest part of gravel riding. Not so much so at the end of a long day but still…I just love the challenge of staying upright. All that core work comes in handy here let me tell ya!

Lesson #6 – Gear down, pedal, and take as much weight off the bars as you can.

THEN just go with the flow. And remember that driver’s trick and turn into the skid. And did I say pedal, pedal, pedal?

Know Where You’re Going!

ESPECIALLY if you’re directionally challenged like I am. So either load the course on your computer, or have a guide (like I did), or both. Thanks ‘Toph! Old school (like a paper map) works too, by the way.

AND, don’t forget to let your person(s) know what you’re doing, where you’re headed and approximately when you’ll be back.

The Last Two Lessons?

  • Don’t take yourself, or the day, too seriously.
  • Hang on and just enjoy the ride.

THIS ride was really the first time I embraced that gravelleur mantra and so I laughed when in the past I would have whined; and I relaxed and sang along with the music when things looked too hairy or scary.

SO there you have it…Chris & Mark’s most excellent gravel adventure. I hope my takeaways come in handy. As always, though, it’s up to you to do your homework and be prepared.

ONCE you’ve done that, then go ahead, plan that gravel adventure. If you have as much fun as we did then my work is done! 😉

5 thoughts on “Thinking About a Gravel Ride in the Pinenuts? Here’s What You Should Know”

  1. I’ve thought about a frame pack and it usefulness for a long ride (as in a semi-supported road tour, where you need to carry everything you might need in a day, but not everything). I think you just convinced me otherwise. Rubs on the legs and makes the water bottle cages useless (or so it appears from the photo. I’m guessing chains don’t last long riding gravel all day.

    1. Yeah that’s why I went with the camelbak. My legs are wider than the average bear, by the way. Still, I liked the idea. Going to try different set ups til I get it dialed. Chains def. need extra attention. Some lube would be another good add for the pack!

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