From the Field: A Journey Into Gravel

From the Field: A Journey Into Gravel

Posted on by Linnaea Kershaw

From the Field: A Journey Into Gravel

Words and photos: Ben and Danielle Johnson

I look back on my first ever road ride. It must have been 15 years ago. My older brother was getting into it and I thought I’d like to give it a go. The only road near our home was a fairly busy highway. I hated it. It was an uncomfortable event with big trucks ripping by me every couple minutes. This experience left a sour taste in my mouth about road cycling and I didn’t give it another go until a trusted friend showed me some great roads seven years later. Fast forward to 2020, several bikes later and a few bike trips on other continents, and I find myself searching for roads less travelled. Or in other words, gravel cycling.

I have come to gravel cycling through a natural progression. Ultimately the quest for adventure led me to quieter and quieter roads, which in turn leads to a lack of pavement. But what if you’re just getting into cycling? Is gravel worth exploring? I would argue that it is one of, if not the, best place to start on a bike. There’s naturally less traffic as cars prefer tarmac. It isn’t nearly as technical as the gnarly mountain bike trail your pal said was “chill”. There are less strict rules to ride single file, making it more of a social experience with friends, only relevant of course in some kind of post-COVID world when we can ride in groups. And lastly, depending on your region's COVID restrictions and recommendations, it can be one of the safest and more responsible ways to get outside as there are less humans.

Danielle’s Journey into Gravel

My wife Danielle’s cycling journey into gravel looked a bit different than mine. She has some experience with road riding and has commuted to work but she never felt fully comfortable. 

“Riding on the road was never fully enjoyable for me because I could never fully relax. I was constantly anticipating another car behind me, or another door opening in front of me. I white-knuckled my handlebars the entire time. My transportation of choice was an older road bike, and I rode it to work every day. Although, I really enjoyed the freedom and ease of being on the bike, I couldn’t fully commit to the experience. My commute wasn’t a pain, but my saddle was! On top of that, the narrow bars and tires made me feel like I was only one more pot-hole away from a faceplant. 

When Ben convinced me to try gravel riding, I was a bit reluctant. I imagined adding another hour or two, and a few more pot-holes, to what I already knew of cycling, and I wasn’t convinced it would be any more enjoyable. He was persistent, and I eventually conceded. I am so glad I did; it has been a game-changer! Gravel roads are significantly less busy, so I have really enjoyed how relaxed I feel. I can breathe - except, of course, when I am charging up hill! I continue to enjoy the freedom and ease of being outside, and the backcountry roads we ride have taken us to some of the most beautiful areas. At times, I feel like I’m a world away only a few kilometres from my home. I would recommend it to anyone."

      

This transformation was all the more exceptional because she was riding a ten year old heavy mountain bike when she first started hitting the gravel last year. The light bulb went off and launched a new mission; to build her a gravel bike. Our priority was to have a comfortable and stable rig on gravel yet one that could still perform on the road and be able to handle bikepacking adventures.


We chose the OB1 frame from Thesis as it has the versatility we were after - carbon frame with endurance road geometry, clearance for both road and 650B tires and mounting points galore for bikepacking rack/bag options. 

“My bike! I feel like I’m riding through butter (if there ever was such a thing). The shorter wheels, wider tires and wider handlebars, make me feel like I could give any pot-hole a run for its money, and I haven’t once felt as though I will have a permanent saddle imprint on my behind. I was worried I wouldn’t have the amount of gearing as I did on the older mountain bike. I am much more interested in options going up climbs than hitting speed records on descents. I am glad to report that I still have the ability to spin the legs going uphill.“


 

 

 

Equipped with the 46/30 wide range gravel rings up front and an 11-36t cassette on the back there is still room for Danielle to be comfortable on the steep stuff. In a testament to her strength I have yet to see her jump into the granny gear but I’m sure it will be welcomed in the future when we are deep into a climb with a few pounds of bags strapped to our bikes.

Ultimately, if you are comfortable on the bike you will want to ride more often and ride further. We feel that this bike and its components are a big step in this direction. We hope this story inspires you to give gravel biking a try. Some local bike shops, or resorts, will have demo programs where you can try a bike out. This is a great way to get a feel for it. They also often have a good sense of the local gravel routes for all skill levels.

 

Bike Check: Danielle's Thesis OB1

- EA70 AX wheelset, 650b, with 47 mm tire
- EC70 AX handlebars, 46 cm width
- EA90 stem, 80 mm length
- 11-36t cassette

 

            

    

Much love and thanks to Linnaea and the Easton Cycling fam for the support and desire to share this story! Also kudos to Derek, Sean and Cycle Logic Kamloops for all the help putting this rig together. 

Follow our future adventures on Instagram @outsideandseek.

 

N.B. These photos were taken this spring near Kamloops, British Columbia. Here COVID restrictions recommend not riding within six feet of other riders that are not within your household, however we have chosen to ride only with people in our household hence the photos of my wife taken from me. I wish you all safe riding and I hope to be riding all together again soon!
Words and photos: Ben and Danielle Johnson

I look back on my first ever road ride. It must have been 15 years ago. My older brother was getting into it and I thought I’d like to give it a go. The only road near our home was a fairly busy highway. I hated it. It was an uncomfortable event with big trucks ripping by me every couple minutes. This experience left a sour taste in my mouth about road cycling and I didn’t give it another go until a trusted friend showed me some great roads seven years later. Fast forward to 2020, several bikes later and a few bike trips on other continents, and I find myself searching for roads less travelled. Or in other words, gravel cycling.

I have come to gravel cycling through a natural progression. Ultimately the quest for adventure led me to quieter and quieter roads, which in turn leads to a lack of pavement. But what if you’re just getting into cycling? Is gravel worth exploring? I would argue that it is one of, if not the, best place to start on a bike. There’s naturally less traffic as cars prefer tarmac. It isn’t nearly as technical as the gnarly mountain bike trail your pal said was “chill”. There are less strict rules to ride single file, making it more of a social experience with friends, only relevant of course in some kind of post-COVID world when we can ride in groups. And lastly, depending on your region's COVID restrictions and recommendations, it can be one of the safest and more responsible ways to get outside as there are less humans.

Danielle’s Journey into Gravel

My wife Danielle’s cycling journey into gravel looked a bit different than mine. She has some experience with road riding and has commuted to work but she never felt fully comfortable. 

“Riding on the road was never fully enjoyable for me because I could never fully relax. I was constantly anticipating another car behind me, or another door opening in front of me. I white-knuckled my handlebars the entire time. My transportation of choice was an older road bike, and I rode it to work every day. Although, I really enjoyed the freedom and ease of being on the bike, I couldn’t fully commit to the experience. My commute wasn’t a pain, but my saddle was! On top of that, the narrow bars and tires made me feel like I was only one more pot-hole away from a faceplant. 

When Ben convinced me to try gravel riding, I was a bit reluctant. I imagined adding another hour or two, and a few more pot-holes, to what I already knew of cycling, and I wasn’t convinced it would be any more enjoyable. He was persistent, and I eventually conceded. I am so glad I did; it has been a game-changer! Gravel roads are significantly less busy, so I have really enjoyed how relaxed I feel. I can breathe - except, of course, when I am charging up hill! I continue to enjoy the freedom and ease of being outside, and the backcountry roads we ride have taken us to some of the most beautiful areas. At times, I feel like I’m a world away only a few kilometres from my home. I would recommend it to anyone."

      

This transformation was all the more exceptional because she was riding a ten year old heavy mountain bike when she first started hitting the gravel last year. The light bulb went off and launched a new mission; to build her a gravel bike. Our priority was to have a comfortable and stable rig on gravel yet one that could still perform on the road and be able to handle bikepacking adventures.


We chose the OB1 frame from Thesis as it has the versatility we were after - carbon frame with endurance road geometry, clearance for both road and 650B tires and mounting points galore for bikepacking rack/bag options. 

“My bike! I feel like I’m riding through butter (if there ever was such a thing). The shorter wheels, wider tires and wider handlebars, make me feel like I could give any pot-hole a run for its money, and I haven’t once felt as though I will have a permanent saddle imprint on my behind. I was worried I wouldn’t have the amount of gearing as I did on the older mountain bike. I am much more interested in options going up climbs than hitting speed records on descents. I am glad to report that I still have the ability to spin the legs going uphill.“


 

 

 

Equipped with the 46/30 wide range gravel rings up front and an 11-36t cassette on the back there is still room for Danielle to be comfortable on the steep stuff. In a testament to her strength I have yet to see her jump into the granny gear but I’m sure it will be welcomed in the future when we are deep into a climb with a few pounds of bags strapped to our bikes.

Ultimately, if you are comfortable on the bike you will want to ride more often and ride further. We feel that this bike and its components are a big step in this direction. We hope this story inspires you to give gravel biking a try. Some local bike shops, or resorts, will have demo programs where you can try a bike out. This is a great way to get a feel for it. They also often have a good sense of the local gravel routes for all skill levels.

 

Bike Check: Danielle's Thesis OB1

- EA70 AX wheelset, 650b, with 47 mm tire
- EC70 AX handlebars, 46 cm width
- EA90 stem, 80 mm length
- 11-36t cassette

 

            

    

Much love and thanks to Linnaea and the Easton Cycling fam for the support and desire to share this story! Also kudos to Derek, Sean and Cycle Logic Kamloops for all the help putting this rig together. 

Follow our future adventures on Instagram @outsideandseek.

 

N.B. These photos were taken this spring near Kamloops, British Columbia. Here COVID restrictions recommend not riding within six feet of other riders that are not within your household, however we have chosen to ride only with people in our household hence the photos of my wife taken from me. I wish you all safe riding and I hope to be riding all together again soon!