Gravel Culture: Motivation
Gravel Union On
1 June 2021
There is a certain irony that I’m lacking the motivation to write about a lack of motivation.
I’m not sure if you’re feeling like me? You love gravel riding, you ride purely for the sheer joy of it, maybe with a few events thrown in now and then, but mostly for the pure joy of getting out in nature and enjoying the scenery.
Yet somehow you feel a bit stuck at the moment, which seems daft. The days in the northern hemisphere are almost at their longest, those after work rides with mates and trips away at the weekend are once more allowed and the restrictions are starting to be lifted. The cafes are back open - you’re even allowed inside - all those mid-ride snack stops and treats and destinations can be plotted back into your routes. Still, I feel a bit stuck with it all. I live in a beautiful place with trails for every occasion, there’s loads of other riders nearby to hook up with and go and “play” with. I’ve had my vaccine and outside is pretty safe. So, what’s the issue?
I feel like I’ve ridden all the local trails over and over. I want to go exploring - find new ground, new views, enjoy the random chatter as you travel. I want to not have to think about planning the route and instead go and enjoy someone else’s back yard with friends and go back to events.
I can’t tell if it’s a fatigue from the pandemic (and yes, I know it’s still here) or the ridiculous weather May has been treating us to here in the UK. I’m still in winter kit on most rides with a warm jacket stashed in a frame bag. Events are creeping back, granted. Overseas travel still feels a long way off and I feel like I’ve forgotten what hot sun and dust feel like.
I’ve battled with my own head about all of this. If there’s nothing to stop me but myself, then I’d better get on with it. In the same way that I write lists, then add in a few extra bits that are easy (or that I’d already done that day) to make the list feel more achievable, then maybe I should do the same with riding motivation? Tick off a few smaller trips that I’d been meaning to do, but just not got around to?
Greeted by yet another rainy day, we decided that it was a good idea not to get our heads blown off up a hill but instead head over to tick-off The Preston Guild Wheel. It’s a lap of, well, you guessed it, the town of Preston in the north-west of the UK. The route is fully sign posted and way marked all the way, although I did find also dig out a gpx file and added it to komoot just in case. It’s not a huge loop, just 40km of low-stress riding, most of it traffic free.
We pulled up into the carpark in Preston Dock. The rain was hammering down on the windscreen, but we were there, so we’d better just get on with it, so off we rolled. I can’t say it was the most inspirational of routes - I’d expected some history geeking, with notice boards and maybe some trail side art but sadly none were to be found. Starbucks provided a canopy and coffee. It was exactly gravel riding, yet we still managed to get caked in filth and had to sit on plastic bags for the drive home. This however wasn’t the point - we’d been out, had a good giggle, seen lots of new things. OK, so we had mostly seen new housing estates being tacked on to the edges of the city but hey, it was a good brain boost.
Fueled by the need for some trailside art, next day we thought we’d just go for a jolly down to Blackpool Prom. We started in Thornton, then rode to Fleetwood Docks before heading all the way along to Lytham Windmill and back. Collecting up all the sculptures along the way. The trouble was, after an “adventure” the day before, my head was on “oh-what’s-down-there” mode. I scan the maps and satellite images of the Fylde coast quite a lot looking for places to ride when I’m over there to see my partner. Convinced that we must be able to sneak across a gap along the River Wyre to avoid some roads, I pointed at a narrow little dead end road and asked where it went. “Oh, that’s just the tip, it smells” was the reply.
Off we turned down said track and sure enough, the Sunday recyclers were out in force, but the track led on, revealing a nature reserve by the river estuary. For a refreshing change the sun was out. I spied another track, leading toward the silty mud of the shoreline. Sunlight danced on the water, ducks and seagulls bobbed about. Looking about, the rotting hulls of a few old trawlers with their bows jutting skeletally up caught my eye. New things! I found a path, well, more of a muddy sheep track, but it went down to the boats. There’s something really rather beautiful about their decay. One was full of water with swallows nesting under the gunwales. Much nicer than trail side art.
We rolled on, again, surprisingly grubby, considering the lack of gravel. We had chips at Cleveleys, strolled on the pier, had ice cream at Notarianni-ices, rode along the sand to the windmill and then headed back.
It wasn’t fast, or epic, or gnarly or anything other than just the simple pleasure of seeing the world by bike and reconnecting with it all again. Smiling in the sunshine. Maybe that’s all it takes sometimes.