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.