Essay: This is Unlearn Pavement

By Bobby Wintle. Photo by Jason Boucher.

It has existed for much time. Much more time than we are able to understand. This is Unlearn Pavement.

It was already here. Underneath. In the thick of the brush and trees. Where forgetting the busy becomes easy. Where only listening to your beating heart and deep breath in perfect rhythm matter. We just had to stop looking to find it. To stop pushing so hard. To let it show us all that we have paved over. It’s in those places, forgotten, that we begin to realize what we are made of. What we are made for.

Confusion stops. Clarity begins. The next vista or valley is all that is ahead. We are “unlearning.” It is about time.

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It’s 2 a.m. and my 1-year-old daughter Emory can’t get back to sleep. It’s become almost routine to load her up in the car and drive into the night until her cries turn into deep, calm breaths. It’s 2011 and we’re new to Stillwater, Oklahoma, and the surrounding area. My wife Crystal and I moved here to build and open a shop called District Bicycles and we haven’t had much time to venture out and explore, let alone ride our bicycles.

The car keeps driving west, and Emory is still wailing. Still in town the hills start to get bigger, steeper, and the road a bit rougher. Down a steep road a T comes into sight. Left or right. I choose left. Emory starts to let up. In the limited sight ahead of me illuminated by the headlights I’m not sure if I believe what I see. Rugged, steep, endless dirt roads and hills. The edge of town has immediately turned into a gravel mecca of roads never spoken about in the cycling world.

Was this happening? Would the roads get better the farther I drove? One mile in on these deep red roads and Emory finally falls asleep. It was time to turn back and tiptoe into our one-bedroom apartment walking ever so slowly as to not wake the ever-so-precious sleeping monster.

The next morning I had no choice. I got on my bike and headed west.


The gravel and dirt roads southwest of Stillwater are a mix of sand, rock, red dirt and hills. This is where Land Run 100, our 100 mile gravel race, and the idea of Unlearn Pavement was born. When everything is taken away and only the core is exposed we have something very simple. Something that allows each person the opportunity to begin to find out who they really are, and what they are capable of. This is the heart of Unlearn Pavement.

The community here has been deeply affected by this idea that less is more. It has brought us together and given us a common thread among us to describe how each of us feel about the gravel and our time spent on it. Mile by mile, pedal by pedal, we are unlearning. We are understanding that nothing is more important than the relationships around us, the way we interact with our surroundings and environment, and experiencing all of that on a bicycle.

Riding on gravel is where this idea was born and where it continues to grow and take on its own identity. Unlearn Pavement is a time, a place, a moment experienced through the understanding that nothing under this blazing sun is new. Sometimes it is better to take away rather than to add. Getting back to the very reason of what attracted each of us to riding a bicycle is what is most important. Everything else is filler.

Go get lost on your bike. Find something worth your attention. Find yourself and your limits that you never knew existed. Welcome to Unlearn Pavement.

Share what Unlearn Pavement means to you with the hashtag #unlearnpavement on social media. Find Bobby on Instagram at Unlearn Pavement



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