Gravel Culture: Add some Adventure to your Commute
Gravel Union On
19 October 2020
There aren’t many good things to have come out of this pandemic, but there is one very obvious improvement noticeable in our towns - more dedicated space for cyclists. Commuting by bike in busy urban areas has always felt like a gamble with fate. Dicing with stressed and sometimes angry motorists and impatient bus drivers led me several years ago to start exploring off-road routes to the office. Now, with the introduction of more safe routes for fans of two wheels, all manner of possibilities to “funk up” the commute have now been opened up.
Hopping off the direct route along a road and onto a bridleway or sneaky trail helps breaks up the monotony of the daily grind. It makes a trip to work and back feel like an adventure. A twice daily dose of excitement and exercise. What better antidote to the daily grind!
Our generation loves to label things. So, let’s call this Adventure Commuting. It’s nothing more than changing your route for a tougher, less predictable, more varied one. Those bridleways and back roads that you’ve got into the habit of avoiding are everywhere – all you’ve got to do is decide to take them. Start off with a plan – a simple one for the first ride – and then increase the distance or plot new routes as you get more confident. Grab a local map or use one of the countless online tools like komoot to explore the abundance of opportunities hidden away behind the hedgerows lining our roads.
What makes Adventure Commuting fun is the challenge of finding new routes, extending your distance and still making it to work on time… Just! Perhaps if you value your job, it would be prudent to save the exploratory rides into the unknown for the ride home….
Everywhere hides an adventure
No matter where you live in the world, there is likely to be several unpaved routes you can take. The road less travelled could just as well be the canal paths and alleyways of Manchester, London or Eindhoven. Or the byways and old rail trails of Newcastle or other old mining districts. And if you choose to brave the weather all year round, you’ll be rewarded with some stunning scenery and memorable experiences. Far, far more than you would sitting in traffic on some trunk road.
Ride what you like
Rather than point you down the road to the local bike shop, I’ll make the outlandish suggestion that whatever you ride right now, is the perfect Adventure Commuter. Obviously, some bikes will handle off-road and muddy conditions better than others. But so long as you have something reliable and know how to keep it maintained, you’ll have fun no matter what you ride.
The most obvious choice for a do it all bike is a gravel bike (What else would you expect from Gravel Union?), but a hardtail mountain bike can be just as much fun for some urban adventure.
Just get out there
With Autumn casting its wet and dreary spell across the northern hemisphere right now, you’ll have more excuses than ever to dismiss the idea of Adventure Commuting. But with a positive attitude and the right kit (waterproofs and mudguards are your friend!) you’ll find there’s really nothing to it, and the rewards are huge.
As with so much in life, the hardest part of any adventure is taking the first step. So, take that first step today and replace that daily inconvenience with a daily adventure.