Over the past couple of years, we’ve started to implement optional dirt road sections on our cycling trips (and even one tri camp). Our cycling trip to Tuscany was the first time we gave the options for our whole group to ride sections of the iconic Strade Bianche (white gravel roads). It turned out to be such a cool experience for all of us that we want to continue to build options like this into our other rides in Europe and the US.
The Tour de Montana has an awesome dirt road option and in 2014 we had 100% participation on our 15 mile dirt section into Ovando, MT on Stage 5.
If you’ve never ridden your road bike on dirt roads, there are a couple of added elements to be prepared for. First of all, you have to be more attentive because you don’t have the same traction you do on the pavement. You need to think ahead and be prepared to brake earlier for corners and to brake smoothly. If you ride into a steep climb, it’s likely that you’ll need to stay seated on the climb to keep your weight over your rear wheel so you don’t spin out when peddling hard.
Secondly, most all of the dirt road sections we ride at the Cycling House are smooth and hard packed. That said, there is always the possibility for larger rocks or potholes to exist somewhere throughout a dirt section which can cause a pinch flat or worse. You’ll want to look up the road farther than you normally do so you can spot the possible hazard and change your line accordingly. If you plan on riding a lot of dirt roads then you should make sure you have good tires. Contact us for advice on tire selection and tire pressure. Always bring and extra tube and Co2.
The best part of riding dirt roads on your road bike is that you’re usually going to be on a rural road with little to no traffic. There is a feeling of adventure and solitude that’s not as easy to find on the pavement.
The next time you’re looking for a little adventure or just a change of scenery, find a dirt road near you and go ride it!