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So far it’s a solo ride.

The Periphery: On riding gravel with Bora tubulars

Anthony Little |

The newest not-so-new craze in road cycling: “Adventure Riding”, “Gravel”, “#roadbikesoffroad”, et al. What is this subtle backlash against "traditional" riding and racing that’s propelled wannabe bike messengers who once adored fixies into the mainstream of cycling culture? Where did the intense whiskey and Classics season adulation come from? Why are they so inclusive? And why the hell do all the guys have beards? Have the hipsters really cracked my dear counterculture?


I’m as guilty as they come, the veritable harbinger of the mustachioed masses. While I’ve always been a terrible mountain biker, the allure of whipping a 15lb road racing bicycle up singletrack on slicks is something I’ve caved to on a regular basis, like snagging a fistful of cookie dough when my mom wasn't looking, or blasting Black Flag's "Rise Above" when my parents weren't home. As original as I like to think I am, there’s been a whole shitload of folks “#adventuretraining” since time immemorial. Chat with your local pro or elite honch, and chances are they’ve been venturing onto the dirt on 23mm tires since their first 28-hour base week. Boredom and grey January skies easily overcome sense, and breaking the rules has a certain appeal. My fascination with the feeling of skittering over shitty dirt roads on skinny tires is akin to taking a ‘67 VW Beetle to 90mph. It’s the same reason I have an aging, finicky, carbureted Italian motorcycle. Everything is relative, including speed.


Now, there's an entire market segment devoted to doing what folks like myself have done forever (and still regularly do) on carbon tubular wheels shod in fragile race rubber, but this isn’t without its consequences.


Road bikes with disc brakes, fender mounts, and big tire clearance have wedged themselves into many brand lineups. As much as stodgy luddites and luddites-at-heart like myself would like to deny it, they’re not leaving. And they're actually really fucking good. As disc systems mature, we’ll see bikes traditionally occupying the “Endurance Geometry” category drift more and more this way. Some already have. No, not everyone needs clearance for mountain bike tires and awful excuses for handlebars (beard sold separately), but a bike that’s capable of fitting a bigger tire (perhaps even knobby) with the control of disc brakes and stability of road geometry is a very tempting prospect as a second ride. One that Mosaic Cycles is already meeting with their new “G” series of bikes. This is the future beyond the pure race bike, the cyclist's equivalent of an Audi RS4 Avant, and I’m thinking a fender-equipped GT-1 might occupy a space in my life for a winter of training in Northern California. All we need is a 32c racing slick up to snuff. Hear that, Vittoria?


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I recently relocated to Marin County from Utah, by way of Southern California. Is it better here? Stupid question. But, the Bay Area Blues are real if you’re a semi-OCD recently-retired bike racer. To wit: It’s difficult to stuff a five-hour ride into Marin’s roads, simply because they’re so diverse and novel. Plenty of recent theorization from people far smarter than I points to monotony and habit speeding up the perception of time, while variance and change causes it to slow to a crawl. An example: The usual long loop in my former locale was a 5.5hr 100-mile deathmarch with excessive amounts of climbing in a near straight up-straight down affair. It was a ride I could do in a fitful sleep. To accomplish the same sheer volume here is a true feat of mental aptitude and physical fortitude, thanks to the scenery and ever-changing terrain. Here’s to trying.


Shot with DxO ONE




The dishwasher cycle (or maybe toilet bowl, I’m not sure) of American Division III bike racing spins on, one that I've been dipping my toes into for the better part of half a decade. It’s late in the racing year, which means some small domestic teams have probably stopped paying riders (at least the ones who drew a “salary”) after burning through their budgets, and the scramble is on for some racers to find out how reliant on beans and rice they’ll be next year. I’m happy to see that one of the hardest working and most talented guys out there (and reigning Tour of the Gila champion), Rob Britton, has landed a job with a squad at the top of the D3 heap. Good luck on Optum, sir, we're collectively excited to see what you can pull off on their annual spring trip to Portugal.


And finally, a quick introduction, if you've made it this far. My name is Nate. I'm new here, and I possess an extraordinarily short history in the cycling industry, as well as in the professional sport of road bicycle racing training. There's always so much more to learn, and so little time to be educated. No, I don't have any tales from Europe (can we talk about South America or the Caribbean?), and my history in the industry has mostly encompassed laboring for large entities that most local shops and small retailers consider "evil". They're mostly right. It's refreshing to be in a place where we can execute on shared passions instead of following those of someone else, like how to finance their new Panamera, or how to become the largest private landholder in the United States. Here's to doing everything because it's the right thing to do, it's what we want to do, and it's because we love cycling, its culture, and its people. Thank you, and I sincerely hope you stick with us.

Want to tell Nate how wrong he is? Shoot him an email at

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