In Print: Ask Beardo|Greasy, grimey, grinder guts


Portrait of Yours Truly by Stephen Haynes

I get a lot of email from readers. Fan mail, really. Marriage proposals, requests for autographs, that sort of thing. But some folks ask me about their bicycles and I’m always happy to help. Click on through for some I thought I’d share:

Dear Beardo,

I want to get into this gravel grinding I hear so much about. Do I need a special bike for this?


Unger Obsterfeld

Unger my man,

Yes, you do need a specific bike. Specifically: one that fits you and is in good working order.

Also, let’s also kill the gravel grinder nonsense term. That sounds miserable, kinda like a lost scene from “Cool Hand Luke”: imagine Luke and Dragline chained to a huge machine and forced to walk in slow circles while pushing a huge lever. Babalugats stands in a truck, shoveling rocks in the top, while Luke and Dragline struggle mightily to turn those rocks into the pea sized gravel slowly filtering out of the bottom of the machine.

“What… we’ve got here, is failure… to communicate…”

People have been riding road bikes on unpaved roads for as long as the bike has been around, obviously, as bikes pre-date modern paved roads. Anyway, as roads got better, most modern performance road bikes became lighter and faster. Smooth roads and light riders meant skinny tires worked fine, and pretty soon the default road bike was solely suited to smooth pavement.

Don’t despair though: unpaved roads don’t discriminate. Your mountain bike, touring bike, cyclocross bike, city bike, just about any adult bicycle is going to be fine on some dirt. Even that skinny-tired road bike will be fine with reduced speed and enough air in the tires prevent pinch flats.

But should you become one of the people bitten by the dirt road bug (or any road, or all road, really; any term other than gravel, dude), a bike built specifically for that use would probably make you happy. There isn’t any set formula for these bikes, but in general, most of these bikes combine cyclocross and road racing bike geometry to create a bike with room for big tires, and stable enough geometry to ride all day and bomb down unpaved roads at speeds that may be unwise.

Editor’s note: Beardo’s no Luddite; in fact, he just got dial-up and has his own email address: He loves bikes and movie references. Ask him anything, ANYTHING, and he’ll answer you. Be forewarned.

Read this and more in the latest Bicycle Times, Issue 29, available here or at better book stores around the world.



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