Drop bars are not just available on road bikes and reserved for skinny fellas, shaved to within an inch of their lives and perched on tiny little carbon feather-weight bikes.
They are for big hairy blokes (and ladies) too…
I met Gary a number of years ago and ride with him regularly on mountain bike rides and I now blame him for me probably entering this next year!
Over to you Gary…
My first year of riding a drop handled bike since I was a kid, got to say I was really enjoying it, I’d been riding mountain bikes for years and I was finding that the riding was getting more and more extreme, although I enjoy the exhilaration of flying flat out down the side of a mountain I was missing the big day out countryside adventure, and I’d had a couple of near misses where the outcome could have been so different.
Couldn’t see myself as a flat-out roadie so after a couple of Chats with Jim (Independent Bike Works) I purchased the Lapierre Cross Hill 500 Gravel Bike, perfect compromise.
One of the reasons for getting this bike was having the ability to ride from my door, 90% of the time I was having to put my mountain bike in my van drive somewhere, get covered in the you know what come back home spend an age cleaning the bike only to repeat a few days later, it was wearing thin.
Best reason for myself for using a local bike shop is that you get immersed in a community of like minded people, wiggle hasn’t called me on a Monday and asked me if I fancied a ride at the weekend, Soon I got into riding regularly on a Thursday night with a few mates, apart from it being winter I was thoroughly enjoying it, the mileage and the speed started to creep up, did my first hundred miler in April, come close to having a snooze while riding on the closing stages of that one, signed on to my first road sportive in May, Cogfest great friendly event starting in Minchinhampton.
One of the bike shop conversations with Jim suggested that we ride to Stonehenge through the night to get to the stones in time for sunrise, what could go wrong, as it turned out nothing, riding across the Salisbury plane and arriving at Stonehenge at the crack of dawn with a bunch of mates was quite magical, although 115 miles of exercise put me off my breakfast when we got back (unbelievable).
Next big event was the Chavenage sportive, had a great idea to ride too this event and ride back when it was all done, after all the event was only 80 miles, there was some big ol hills early on in this ride which finished my legs off (that’s my excuse anyway) even a well filled ciabatta couldn’t bring my energy levels back.
More training needed, few guys I know from the mountain biking also ride road bikes with the Tetbury Velos, so I asked to join them, bit daunting this as they are some strong riders, no need to worry, great friendly bunch who ride some great routes through the Cotswolds and they stop for cake, what’s not to like.
Another 100 + ride with Jim into Oxfordshire and back, these 100 mile rides are great, good day out, seeing some great countryside which takes your mind off the fact that you are getting some great exercise.
On our Thursday night rides we did take on a couple of the gravel tracks around the lakes at South Cerney, which was great fun and got us thinking lets ride more gravel, so an event called the Gold Rush was entered, partial road and partial gravel tracks, starting from Salisbury racecourse and heading over to Shaftsbury, which has a delightful and famous hill called Gold Hill, that got me walking that one and then headed back towards Salisbury on a brilliant fast gravel road, the bug was caught.
What could be the next challenge, quick look on the internet and there it was, The Dirty Reiver, a 200km gravel ride in the Northumberland country side, breaking into Scotland and back, got at least 6 months to train for it, plenty of time. Anyway, winter came, the weather was terrible and a 100 other excuses why I wasn’t getting out on the bike to train for this event.
April the 21st was getting closer and closer, but no worries, I’d ridden over 100 miles before, it’ll be fine. The weekend of the Dirty Reiver was with us, Jim, Dave and myself headed up North, checked into the B & B then went down to the pub to do some carb loading, woke up the next morning at stupid o’clock so that we could get to the start line for 7.00am. The weather was great, a little cold but it was dry, perfect riding conditions. Off we went 800 + riders, this event was on some of the best gravel tracks I’ve ever been on, scenery was stunning, hills went on for what seemed like for ever, decents were fast, riders were friendly, brilliant. One thing I underestimated was nutrition, 89 miles in I just run out of energy, talked nicely to the guys at the feed station and got a lift back, perfect. I will be back to this event to finish the business.
It’s been a great year, the Crosshill 500 has been an amazing bike, it’s took everything I’ve chucked at it (which is a lot) I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the riding, getting fitter and it has improved the enjoyment on the mountain bike because I’m fitter.
Roll on this year and all its events, looking forward to the White Roads Classic.
Go follow Gary on Instagram
Visit his local bike shop – Independent Bikes
And maybe enter the Dirty Reiver for next year