On receiving my new ´gravel´ bike in September of 2021 I recalled that my first such machine was my road going Eddy Merckx (Columbus SLX) fitted with 25mm tourist tyres (they barely fitted) and my first mountain bike was a cyclo cross Orbit (Reynolds 531c) equipped with straight bars.
Now, in a new year (2022) I can say that having a modern carbon bike fit for the 21st century has been a game changer for me. It´s fast and features a wide range of gears and carbon wheels fitted with modern gravel tyres which all tolled have taken up much of the slack in my fitness. Furthermore, and importantly instead of having to scrub off speed over a longer braking distance as with rim brakes, I can now maintain greater momentum into and out of corners by lightly applying my disc brakes and losing speed upon a sixpence (almost, and I avoid skidding). I no longer seem to be playing catch up after every turn whilst riding with disc equipped ride partners.
Despite the wonders that my Handsling bike represents and the enjoyment of riding it, it is still nice to threshen up your riding by mixing it up a wee bit. So, this day, I elected to ride old school, and I took my Specialized aluminium Crux out of storage. This model of bike was a popular choice with the cyclo cross community a little while ago and Zdenek Stybar won a World Cup round at Lievin in 2012 with a pink painted Crux – his supporters donned themselves also in pink but he wore white being the World Champion.
To further take me back in time to my road bike gravel adventures and my lifetime love of the Roubaixesque I rode with narrow slick treaded Gravel King road tyres.
I opted to ride the 40km plus version of the Gö Strade Bianche with the addition of a second hill.
The weather gods had been sharpening their knives and then attempted to kill me with a death of a thousand cuts.
I had ridden into the face of the storm and by ride end I could no longer change gear as my hands were stiff from cold and wet! My camera wasn´t happy either and stopped working waiting to be warmed up later.
The annoying thing about the ride is that with just a few kilometres to the Gö velodrome and the end of the reworked Gö Strade Bianche 40km plus route, I made a navigation error, simply because I was too cold to think.
The last time I felt in a similar discombobulated fashion was at the 2010 Paris Roubaix Sportive when a huge rainstorm descended upon us and as I exited a flooded Arenberg Forest I accidently punched myself in the face.
Although I avoided the roughest gravel it was exhausting especially on the mind requiring a huge amount of input from me to control some major wibble-wobbly-Slippy slidy front and read traction. The Gö Strade Bianche is a tour which includes sectors of Göttingen´s ´weiße straßen´ (being brown at this time) and farmers roads where on the latter the slick 28 (front) and 26mm (rear) tyres excelled.
My biggest benefit on the trails which are currently sodden by rain is that the Crux is an excellent cyclo cross frame and when equipped with narrow tyres it allows for mega huge mud clearance unlike my road bike which regularly clogged up when on the rough stuff. In fact, I did much of my early scouting of the Gö Strade Bianche on a road bike when I first came to live in Germany.
The Strade Bianche is a professional road race based in Tuscany and my intention was to create a fitting tribute to road bikes on gravel, even if its madness to do so.
I will be back to the comforts of my new machine for my next gravel ride!
Garmin Connect: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/8065964084
Gö Strade Bianche 43km Tour
22 Gravel sektors – 17km (approx/ca)
Farm roads-cycle paths/Landwirtschaftstraßen-Fahradwege: 20km
Public roads/Öffentliche Straßen: 6km
2 Hills/Hügel Max 7+% and 19+%