First Gravel Ride: Ridley X-Trail

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Amy Jones, long time road rider, reports on making the transition to Gravel in this account of her first ever gravel ride. Guide Ed takes her for a spin on our Ridley X-Trail rental on his favourite trails around Girona.

I’m slowing you down, joked Ed who was showing me the ropes on my gravel debut, 30 seconds later I became rather too well acquainted with the grass verge. Thankfully this didn’t set too much of a precedent for the rest of the ride and as we traversed every kind of terrain from road, to mud, to rocks and naturally, gravel I only hit the deck on one other occasion.

I had been aware of the growing trend for gravel and had thought how fun it looks for a while now, however I hadn’t got around to trying it out myself. Of course, the main barrier to trying out any new kind of cycling is acquiring the appropriate bike, but when you work somewhere that hires them out that’s hardly an excuse. So, with some (very little) encouragement, I took out a Ridley X-Trail from Eat Sleep Cycle and was all set for my first ever gravel ride.

We could have headed to the via verde for my first gravel experience, indeed, that would have been the logical move. However, not one to shy away from a challenge I decided I’d ride some of the long route of the gravel edition of the Rocacorba Gran Fondo. Things started off pretty mildly as we went around Banyoles lake until we headed onto a grassy path that was only wide enough to go single file and I got a taster of what was to come – adrenaline-filled sketchy moments that were simultaneously great fun.

Accustomed to harder, skinnier tyres it took a while for my brain to adjust to the fact that I could take that gravel-scattered corner faster, or bunny hop without the discomfort of coming clattering to the ground on 90psi. Once I had processed this, and put my trust in the bike I started to test the limits, and I loved it. There is so much amazing road riding around Girona but being able to take things both on and off-road adds a whole new level of fun and exploration.

I was surprised to find that I was at my most comfortable descending, rather than climbing – a dynamic that is the reverse for me on the road. For my first real off-road experience the Ridley quite literally guided me through the mud and over the rocks, transcending my actual ability. With all my green-ness in the gravel world I don’t exactly have the expertise or experience to give an extensive review of a gravel bike, but can definitely say that the Ridley was a great companion.

Mostly, I learned that when things feel wobbly just keep going, and if that isn’t a metaphor for life I don’t know what is.

Inspired by this ride? Rent your own gravel bike for your next cycling holiday to Girona, or bag yourself a bargain and buy yourself a sweet ride in our ex-rental bike sale.

Gravel Cycling Girona Ridley Ignite Bike

5 Reasons Why It’s Time to Try Gravel Cycling

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Let’s face it, once a roadie always a roadie. Or not? Read on to see why you should seriously consider gravel cycling as a new discipline to add to your repertoire of excuses to ride and reasons to go to new places.

1. Gravel cycling can be really fast.

If you are a roadie you are probably a speed junkie – hurtling down descents at uncontrollable speeds and trying to do the same up-hill. On the right gravel tracks, and with the right set-up you can pull upwards of 30 Km/ hr. The gravel bike you’ll want in this instance is basically a road bike with disc brakes and wider tyres, so you can still get aero, tuck into the drops for descents and lean into the corners, with the added joy of keeping those tyres the right way up!

2. Zero traffic

This has to be experienced to be appreciated. Imagine a road training ride without a single car, lorry, even pedestrian. Only the tweeting of birds and that lovely mechanical sound from your bike. Not only does it make for a far more enjoyable ride, it’s far safer too. You get points with your better half because you are partaking in a safer style of cycling.

3. Many more routes and combinations.

Have you run out of roads to ride? Come on, we all get tired of the same road leaving town or slog back home. Imagine taking away the need for your route to be tarmacked. Having wheels on your bike to enable you to jump up on the curb and skip through a park or around that dodgy roundabout (put your posh carbon rims to one side for once). You will see where you ride in a completely different light. From our Hub in Girona, we ride the gravel paths around Rocacorba, a famous road climb in the area. On road, there is one way up and one way down. You see the mountain from the same angle every time. On the gravel bike, you can duck and dive around the beautiful landscape taking it in from every angle. It’s unreal!

4. You may not actually need a new bike.

We all love a new bike and we hate to break the n+1 rule but we will. Around Girona, we ride many of the gravel routes on our Ridley road bikes. The trend in road already is wider rims and wider tyres. With a 28mm rim and nice wide tyre, setting the pressure right will have you hurtling down gravel paths like they are a road. For the more technical ascents and descents you may need more clearance for a wider wheel, so why not have a through axle set-up that you can change from road to gravel wheels. BOOM – 2 bikes in one!

5. You can still ride in a group

One of the drawbacks of mountain biking is it takes away the social aspect of riding together, which we love on the road. 2 abreast is not possible on a technical trail if you’re going up or down. But on many gravel trails, it is still possible. In Girona, large groups take to the gravel trails for their Sunday social rides.

We’re sure that if you try you too will get the gravel bug! In Girona, we have gravel bikes for rent and can show you the best trails. Contact us to find out more, or check out our Girona Gravel Adventure. 

Gravel Bike Girona

Riding Gravel in Girona: An Interview with Peter Gaskill

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Want to add some new adventure to your road riding? Perhaps you should get out on some gravel! But, you say, I love the quiet paved roads around Girona — why do I need to venture onto gravel? We asked Eat Sleep Cycle guide and gravel-Godfather of Girona Peter Gaskill for the low down on gravel cycling in Girona. 

Why ride gravel?

Well, gravel rides are on even quieter routes, and you’ll see that stuff in between those paved roads that you never knew existed. You’ll experience amazing views and abandoned farmhouses, you’ll follow small streams, and you’ll just go deeper into the Catalunya that you already love.

What skill level do I need to enjoy riding gravel?

For gravel riding you only need a moderate level of bike handling skills — it’s nowhere near as tricky as mountain biking. The skills are easy to pick up, and the new gravel bikes, with their wide low-pressure tires and disc brakes, make the transition easy and comfortable.

Can I mix road & trail?

A good gravel bike is equally at home on asphalt as it is on gravel, so you can connect your gravel adventure with the paved roads you may already know. And if you thought the number and variety of paved roads in the area are good, you’ll be amazed that there are even more gravel routes. You can choose from flat and easy unpaved roads all the way to high and narrow tracks. Your knowledge of the area will quickly expand as you discover new connections between valleys and the roads you regularly ride. Compared to mountain biking, you’ll find a gravel bike will take you farther into the countryside and cover a greater variety of terrain, owing to the bike’s comfort both on and off asphalt.

How can I find great gravel routes?

Ride with friends who already know the back roads or go out exploring with a good map and a spirit of adventure. Either way, you will be rewarded with that out-there feeling of being a little on the wild side. And the après-ride beer will be that much more satisfying!

You can rent a Gravel road bike from us & hire a Gravel bike guide for your trip to Girona in 2018! Or why not sign up to our Girona Gravel Experience and enjoy the best gravel routes in the region?