Some reasons for choosing gravel rather than road in winter
The adventurous and versatile concept of gravel makes this specialty a perfect option to disconnect from the road during the winter months. These and other reasons make it a very attractive discipline when the cold weather is hard, as opposed to the difficulties that we often associate with winter road cycling.
Gravel bikes are for winter
During these months it is difficult to keep your motivation high when you know that you will have to deal with wind and cold. Even more so knowing that the usual training sessions at this time of the year are rides at a steady pace in which you either do not warm up or you overdress and end up suffocating.
The problem with the cold and wind with the road bike is largely due to the fact that on asphalt, whether you like it or not, the average speed is higher, which in the end increases the sensation of cold, sometimes making riding on asphalt very painful.
We can avoid much of this suffering by opting for the gravel, a discipline that already implies a friendlier concept, beyond the idea of "going out to train" that usually involves the road bike. Even so, with the gravel, choosing the terrain well, we can do good training sessions that will differ little in their effectiveness to the road, especially if it is about accumulating kilometers at pace.
Besides, the gravel bike adds a bonus in these months where the form is far from ideal: it has a much wider gearing range than the road bike, especially if our approach to road cycling is more competitive and we are of those who use a 53/39 or similar. Meanwhile, with the gravel bike we often have very smooth ratios, even if we find ourselves on demanding slopes, which makes it easier to stay within the margins indicated for those long-distance rides.
The gravel adds some advantages over the road that can be more attractive during these months when it is more difficult to go out cycling. Starting precisely for that reason, for the attraction of pedaling in nature, away from the asphalt and civilization. At this time of the year, the solitude of the mountains and the silence of the countryside, at a time when nature almost stops, brings a sense of peace and relaxation that is unparalleled.
Then we would have to move on to the subject of meteorology. The cold that we suffer on the road bike is the result, in many occasions, of the thermal sensation that speed brings. On a gravel bike we move more slowly, so we suffer less in this aspect. Besides, it is common to pedal through places that are more protected by vegetation than roads, so we also minimize the effects of wind.
The problem can be encountered when it rains, especially if we live in areas with clay soil where the roads can become impracticable. However, as long as the terrain drains, gravel bike tires with a narrow section offer full grip on the ground, and if we choose compact dirt tracks, they remain passable in all conditions, even when ice or snow can make riding on the roads dangerous.
During these months, when training is not so specific: series, intervals and so on, the gravel bike can be a perfect option to improve one of the big gaps of many road cyclists as is the technique. Riding on the roads with the gravel bike helps us to explore bike reactions that we are not used to or that cause us fear on the road, such as a wheel losing grip or playing with the weight of the body to maintain traction on the climbs. Almost without realizing it, the gravel provides us with a learning experience that will come out later when we ride down a mountain pass or move in a peloton.
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