NICOLE MALLET: A New Gravel Adventure

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There’s a common saying, “do something every day that scares you”. I like to scare myself, although not daily now. I’m getting too old and sensible, so once or twice a week is enough.

The bridleways of the lake district aren’t usually enough to scare me, they just give me a grand day out on my mountain bike and an opportunity to take in the scenery. However, take the 160mm of travel away and replace it with a rigid frame and drop bars and then yes, the odd rock garden was enough to scare me!

An average rocky trail becomes a techfest and being on the drops makes you feel unnervingly close to the floor with little space for movement or escaping out the back!

The Day

My friend Bex and I brought our gravel bikes out to explore. Our desire to get out on the bikes was at an all time high since it was the weekend and it was SUNNY! For the past few months rides have been wet and cold and a race back to the cars, and although it’s ALWAYS enjoyable regardless of the weather, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to ride in the sun. Cross bikes open up longer rides for us; they are lighter and easier on the roads and up hill so we always manage to get more miles in.

The Route

Choosing a route in the Lakes is easy; there’s so many bridleways easily accessible near roads making it a dream for making up new routes on the cross /gravel bikes. The route we picked was a collection of well-known bridleways used by mountain bikers and commonly known and mapped out for riders as "Classic Lakeland" rides.

They aren’t super technical on a mountain bike but not something most people would probably think of doing on a gravel bike, and admittedly we didn’t see much gravel, apart from a few connecting forest paths and fire roads... We knew that we would be pushing our limits when we planned this route – with no shortage of large rocks, we dubbed the route ‘Cyclo Gnar’ on Strava in the end - but we were up for the challenge!

To give you an idea of how testing it might be on cyclocross bikes, we met a few mountain bikers during the day, and every one of them asked if we were lost, okay, off-route, or just a little bit crazy?! The route was a test of our off-road skills and fitness on both ascents and descents.

Road sections that would have been soul destroying on our usual weapons of choice were blissful moments of calm on the skinny tires.

The Reward

What a grand day out! It was a much faster pace than usual due to the road and access road sections being less of a drag. I tested my nerve – and probably Bex’s too – as it turns out the odd ‘moment’ was needed to remind myself I have no suspension! It certainly tested our skills too and gave us a super workout. To go fast and still be in control you have to move around a lot more and let the bike move underneath you too whilst keeping a strong attack position. Oh my can I feel it! My abs feel like I have done 1000 sit ups; a satisfying pain and reminder of such a super day out.

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