Gravel Culture: Gravel snow biking
Gravel Union On
15 February 2021
It is only once every so many years that the Netherlands sees any snow. It is even more unique when that snow is actually a thick layer that survives for multiple days or even up to a week. When a sudden period of frost and snow hit our country last week, it gave a lot of people some welcome distraction from lockdown and living under curfew. The whole nation jumped on their ice skates looking for the nearest pond or canal or started hiking through our snowy towns. But what about those bikes?
It kind of looked like that on the first day - a lot of cyclists including me were in a bit of a shock about what to do with this beautiful but challenging change of scenery. Cycling through a thin layer of snow isn’t the biggest challenge, but what if a snowstorm goes full-Scandinavia on your country? Can you even ride a bike through 10 to 30 cm of snow? A lot of people on gravel bikes - including me - were about to find out!
That first day riding in the snow - if you can call it that - was a big fat fail cycling wise. I was hoping to ride 50 to 60 kms, hitting my favourite gravel spots up in the nearby national park. The fresh snow however was so thick, that even getting to the end of the street took forever and I ended up riding and hiking just little over 5 km, only to get myself a cup of hot chocolate “to go” in the nearby city centre before I gave up and went back home.
Not totally thrown off course and still very much appreciating the beautiful and unique snowy surroundings, I went on a second and third ride, two days in a row. Having learned some valuable lessons from my first day in the saddle, I released some pressure from my tyres. I also rode on a lot of the now more flattened and compact parts of snow, created by local cars driving through the snow the days before. I kind of got a sense of what Scandinavian cycling in winter would probably look like. But I guess I’ll have to double check that one with fellow Shimano Gravel Alliance members Henna and Ena.
Last Sunday was the last day of true winter before the big meltdown and I went on yet another ride in the snow. I wanted to set the record straight and ride through the nearby national park Veluwezoom, where I had failed the first day to do so. Using the successful gravel-snow riding techniques I learned the rides before, I managed to find my way through the still thick layers of snow and enjoy the park in its full snowy glory.
My GRX gear had worked great in all these harshest of conditions and my gravel bike had shown itself a versatile bike in yet another new way. I also saw confirmed once again that party pace does indeed win the race! You don’t have to ride far to have a great time… especially when nature provides you with a special and rare show like the one we had last week. The beauty and silence of a snowy world made me realise once more that riding your gravel bike is a great idea all year through.
If you would like to see the details of Erwin’s winter wonderland ride, you can find them on his komoot profile here