One week (and a couple days later) my mud-splattered glasses are still sitting on my desk. My filthy gravel bike caked in dirt is still sitting in the basement. They’re reminders of how great the past few group gravel rides were…and I’m tempted to just leave them that way.
Thanksgiving was the first.
One of our Rapha employees organized a small group ride for anyone who was staying in town or celebrating solo. We met at the clubhouse at 8:30 a.m., and planned for about 50 miles over as much dirt and as little ice as possible.
I didn’t get to go home for Thanksgiving this year and I didn’t go home last year either, but only because there was no one to go home to. My parents celebrated in New Jersey with other family and my sister spent the holiday in South Carolina with her husband’s family. Christmas is when we all get together anyway, so I didn’t mind being with some of my adopted family.
Familiar roads turned into brand new ones as we wound our way slightly east then up north on the desolate dirt roads. We passed a few morning runners here and there, maybe a car or two, but it seemed everyone was either scared off by the cold, running a local turkey trot, or already elbow deep in mashed potatoes and gravy.
Note to self: cycle on major holidays.
It was bitter cold until the sun peeked through the clouds about 30 miles into our ride. We headed back into town via one painfully steep climb: Olde Stage Rd. It gets you right in the gut if you don’t pace yourself; the fun part for me is descending the other side. Getting down real low, hands in the drops, butt back behind the seat, cold tears streaming into my ears. There’s something special about it.
We pulled up to the only coffee shop open on Thanksgiving morning, got a couple Americanos for the table and left a healthy tip for the guys slinging shots behind the counter. It was the least we could do.
Our group split up from there. Some had a turkey to get in the oven and others—two guys and me—had a whole lot of nothing on the agenda. So we kept going. We headed up Sunshine Canyon where most of the roads were a mix of dirt and melting snow which made for the muddiest, most fun ride I’d had in awhile.
By the time we descended Fourmile and then Boulder Canyon (two fun and windy roads that lead back into downtown Boulder) I was covered from eyebrows to shoe covers in rocks and road splatter. And I couldn’t have been happier about it. My bright red bike was unrecognizable.
I ended up with almost 60 miles for the day with a full heart and plenty of room for food in my belly. So incredibly thankful.
The second gravel ride was just this past weekend.
A good friend left Rapha Boulder a few months ago and, while I’m very excited for his new adventure and new role at a kick-ass company, I miss riding with him! So we made plans to groad it up in the sunshine on Saturday.
It was another colder-than-it-looked kind of day so we met at the clubhouse around 9 a.m. to get some coffee and let the sun warm things up a bit. While we were hanging out and slowly getting our shit together, two other friends with bikes and no plans decided to join us.
I used to hate group riding; it made me nervous and self-conscious when I got dropped. But I’ve learned and come to accept that if I’m always the fastest in the group, I’m in the wrong group. It feels good to be challenged, and I’ve stopped apologizing (BARF) for being a bit slower. They wouldn’t have made plans with me if they minded. *remember that if you’re ever in the same situation or headspace*
Just like Thanksgiving, we headed a little east and kinda north. It’s just where the best dirt is at. If you climb too high you hit snow and ice which is no bueno even on a sunny day with fat(ter) tires.
Another one of our ex-Rapha employees works at another coffee shop, Moxie Bread Co., in Louisville so we took the long way out there, cruising the most luscious singletrack ever my bike as every laid tires on.
“Loose is fast!”
My buddy kept yelling this at me when I’d tense up over the technical sections. He means: let the elbows go a little. He means: get your shoulders out of your ears, take a deep breath, stick your butt out behind the saddle, move with the bike as it bumps along the rocks and in and out of turns.
This is another thing about riding with more experienced cyclists: they know things. Lots of them! They were new to dirt once, too, and they watched me ride and gave me some feedback. It’s invaluable.
We got to Moxie at about 11:30 a.m. and I was more than ready for coffee and a savory, scratch-made-with-love kind of pastry. They have this egg and cheese-filled pastry called a Kouign Amann (pronounced “queen”). Heavenly is the first word that comes to mind. It’s flaky and not too heavy so it sits nicely in the stomach when there are more miles left on the bike. We ran into some friends so we chatted a few extra minutes before heading back toward Boulder. Again, on the long and scenic route.
My toes were thoroughly frozen when I finally walked back through my front door four glorious hours later. I miss riding in the wintertime. Days are shorter and colder and it just as easy or enjoyable to ride on off and non-working hours. It’s rare that a warm day also lands on my one day off, so this one felt like a real treat.
Here’s to many more winter days and rides like these.