Explore Trentino on a gravel bike
Riding a gravel bike will change your views on cycling
Sometimes asphalt roads go into the woods and become narrower. There are fewer people around, so they become more adventurous. Where do these roads lead to? As you are intrigued, you continue cycling on them. Traffic and cars are a vague memory. You occasionally cross other cyclists, coming from the opposite direction; you nod a greeting and smile at them. They warmly smile back at you. Bikers always greet fellow cyclists! Suddenly, the asphalt road becomes a gravel road that continues into the woods, but you can still ride on it. It makes you want to carry on to see where the road leads. What should you do? Can you venture along a dirt road with a racing bike? Should you succumb to the temptation, or is it best to go back?
The Trentino is full of forest roads and mule tracks that you can cycle on. If you have already experienced such a situation while riding a racing bike… if you have already had to give up the idea of attempting a gravel road adventure, you know what we are talking about. What are the advantages and drawbacks of a gravel bicycle, which has been devised and designed for cycling on dirt roads? And how much can you venture on gravel roads with a normal road bicycle?
It is widely accepted that racing bicycles ̶ especially older ones ̶ should be used with caution on unpaved roads, while the frame geometry and road bike drop handlebar of modern gravel bicycles, with lightly treaded larger-section tyres and a higher saddle, make these bikes more suitable. They are designed to allow cyclists to also ride along forest gravel roads and easy trails. The height of the central cycling movement is slightly higher than that of a road bike and the shorter pedal cranks allow cyclists to avoid obstacles such as rocks and roots. Finally, the gearing that is suitable for steep, rough terrain makes gravel bicycles ideal for long trips and great climbs.
Gravel bikes are easier to handle than a racing bicycle. The larger tyre section, besides making the bike suitable for dirt roads, also makes it more comfortable and easier to control. The bicycle frame, either in carbon, aluminium or steel, is very sturdy and comfortable. It is also generally equipped with fixtures for travel bags. Indeed, gravel bikes are also excellent for backpacking and light cycle-touring. Thanks to the “racing” type handlebar, which is slightly wider and stronger than the road cycling models, you ride in a slightly higher position on a gravel bike, while your weight is evenly distributed on the two wheels, favouring comfort and a feeling of safety, without forgoing overall favourable aerodynamics that help you avoid wasting precious energy.
You will certainly not regret not using a ‘normal’ road bicycle once the road starts to climb, even on smooth and paved surfaces. Quite the opposite! You will feel like pressing down on your pedals and trying to accelerate. The gears always allow you to find a suitable pace for cycling uphill and the disc brakes, used on nearly all these kinds of bikes, are perfect for long, challenging descents.
Versatility and ease of use are the key features of a gravel bike. If you are an adventure seeker and like venturing off to explore what lies beyond asphalt roads, this is the type of bicycle you need. Whenever you go on excursions, remember to always take a small emergency kit with you for possible bike repairs (spare tyre tube, tyre lever, multi-tool kit with some Allen wrenches for rapid adjustments and also a small spare pump or CO2 cartridge to inflate tyres), as this is advisable when cycling off-road.
On the other hand, what kind of adventure would it be without unexpected events?