Thursday, September 22, 2016

Time To Ride Gravel

Europa Cycle's own Lauren on the left riding with two of our customers.
here at Europa Cycle & Ski we like to explore all manner of fun and adventure on our bicycles. Paved trails in Waterloo and Cedar Falls, plus the surrounding area, add up to 100 miles or so. These are probably the most used and obvious of the ways one can do bicycling in the Cedar Valley. We also have our mountain biking opportunities. Places like George Wyth State Park and up at Ingawanis Woodlands, not to mention the Green Belt and some other areas where dirt ribbons can be ridden and explored. That's all really great stuff, but did you know that there is a cycling opportunity right at your fingertips that most rarely consider and that there are more miles of this than anything else in the Cedar Valley? Well, let me tell you about gravel roads then.

Gravel roads? Who'd want to bicycle on gravel roads? 

Fair enough question, but when you consider the opportunities to do gravel road cycling around here, and what the benefits are, you may end up thinking, "Why not bicycle on gravel roads!

Iowa has somewhere around 70,000 miles of gravel and dirt roads, at least one third more miles than we have of pavement. Of course, we all know how stressful and dangerous riding on even the secondary paved roads can be, and highways are usually out of the question. Really, how many miles we can safely use versus gravel and dirt roads is probably more like one half as many paved roads or less.  The cool thing is that out in the country, on gravel, there are barely any worries at all. On many a 40+ miler I have done over the years, it is rare to see over five automobiles during a single ride, and many times we never see any cars or trucks! Plus, these vehicles often are slower, make way for you, and the drivers actually wave hello!

I know! Amazing, right? 

You can enjoy the beauty of Iowa at bicycle speed in the country.
 The gravel roads can reveal Iowa's beauty and splendor like no paved road can. Check out the miles of wild flowers in the ditches during Spring, Summer, and Fall, or surprise a pheasant, quail, or grouse while cruising a gravel road. See quaint Iowa farms, homes, rural churches, and even a marina in the middle of nowhere! You'll never know what you can find out there in the country that you'd never see from your car.

Here at Europa Cycle and Ski, we're "gravel experts". Many of us enjoy riding gravel. Europa Cycle and Ski is also the birthplace of Trans Iowa, the 300+ mile long ultra-distance gravel road race now in its 13th year. In fact, the whole "gravel bike' scene can trace its existence in modern times back to Trans Iowa. Europa is also home to Guitar Ted,otherwise known as Mark Stevenson, who is part owner of, the first calendar of gravel road events in the nation, and a site where reviews, a forum, and more exist to support the gravel and back road scene in America and abroad.

So yeah......we know about riding gravel roads. 

Gravel road riding is fun, adventurous, and quite the experience and it is readily available to you in the Cedar Valley. You should check it out. For more on routes, gear, and bicycles good for your gravel road experience, look us up at the shop. And check out one of our latest rides in this report here.