Gravel Culture: Vitamin G
Gravel Union On
30 April 2020
Could we all do with a regular dose of Vitamin G? Armchair expert Olly looks into the benefits of regular exposure and the importance of making the most of what you find on your doorstep.
With the coronavirus pandemic currently taking over our lives, every qualified medical expert on the planet is probably working hard to come up efficacious treatments for anyone diagnosed with the condition or with a vaccine to help immunise everyone lucky enough not to have been infected yet.
But it struck me that even with the brightest medical brains in the world working flat out, they’re still missing something vital – what about Vitamin G?
Vitamin G? Gravel, of course. In a highly unqualified armchair-expert manner, I think the answer to our current planetary woes is a regular dose of Vitamin G. It should be said that there is zero scientific proof that regular gravel riding will either prevent you from getting Covid-19 or that it will help you recover more rapidly. Gravel riding is definitely not the panacea that we’re searching for, but there are enough benefits for it to be a worthwhile addition to a balanced ‘diet’.
The question is of course, how do we fit in sufficient Vitamin G for it to have positive benefits, yet stay compliant with government regulations on social distancing and not making unnecessary journeys? And the answer is – turn your gravel trail finding detective skills up to 11 and make the most of what you have on your doorstep.
Gravel means many things to many people – from a geological point of view (based on the Udden-Wentworth scale) gravel can be granular (2 to 4 mm diameter) or pebble-sized (4 to 64 mm diameter). From a less-scientific riders’ perspective, gravel can be any anything from hardpacked dirt to full on rock-fests. It depends where you live, what your riding background is and even perhaps what type of bike you ride – if you’re on a full gravel race rig with 38mm tyres, steep angles and minimal clearances then anything more than coarse sand will feel like gravel, whereas if you’re rocking a monster-cross set-up then gravel goes all the way up the colour graded man-made MTB trails (at least in my book anyway).
But in our current lock-down world, where the vast majority of us aren’t lucky enough to have Tuscany’s Strade Bianche or the endless hardpacked dirt roads of Kansas on our doorstep, we have to make do with whatever we can find. With the Gravel Union crew all working from home offices at the minute, our local gravel trails vary even from one side of the city to the other.
I have a section of gravel trail 380m from my house (and yes, I did just measure the distance). It’s not epic, or through beautiful scenery or even remotely a challenging ride and it’s less than 100m long, but it’s on my doorstep and even though I’ve ridden it hundreds of times I love it. I’ve ridden it on my gravel bike, various mountain bikes, a CX bike, even on my commute/shopping bike with a basket on the front and it’s always fun.
Look back a few months and you’d probably find most local sections of trail (whether ‘real ‘gravel, hard-pack or baked hard grass) would be empty and you would feel like you own it. Now (at least in the UK), everyone is trying to get in an hour or so of daily exercise close to their homes and this means dog walkers, joggers, families and of course other cyclists, out on every single trail (even the ones we didn’t think anyone else knew about). It feels like the whole world has discovered the joy of Vitamin G.
But it isn’t just the inner city trails that are now busy, the little scraps of trail found on urban margins are all being used too. Everyone is getting out and exploring what’s on their doorstep. This probably isn’t ideal from a socially distancing viewpoint (it’s not easy to always maintain a safe distance from other people when you’re on a narrow strip of gravel trail hemmed in between fences/house/hedges/walls), but it’s made everyone realise how important their local trails, but also see the benefits of getting in daily exercise.
A regular dose of Vitamin G can really help keep you mentally and physically feeling stronger. No matter where you live, you’ll probably be able to find something fun to ride close by too. Perhaps Vitamin G is something we should all be able to get on prescription?
Remember to #staylocal and #staysafe.
(Although it might not look like it, all these images were taken from within a few hundred metres of urban locations – make the most of what you can find locally!)