When did you learn about gravel riding?
What is the one word that is all over the bike world these days and has spawned a new style of riding and bikes? If you guessed GRAVEL you are correct. I don’t remember exactly when I heard this for the first time, but it must have been around 2016-17. It is right about the time I think that I started to explore bikepacking, bought my current Specialized Sequoia and really started engaging more with bikes again after a long hiatus.
I grew up in the Northwest region of Ohio, let me say there is NOT a lot of gravel to be found there. And to be honest, when I lived in Ohio, gravel was not something I even really knew about. There are plenty of straight flat roads that are perfect for a go-as-fast-as-you-can ride, or a leisurely 50 mile ride without much effort. In addition to mostly paved roads, It is a flat region. On one recent ride I gained under 500 feet of elevation over 30 miles. When I visit to see family like I am currently, I forgot how flat it is. That is not to say riding is horrible here, or that there are no hills. Because that is not the case altogether. I thoroughly enjoy cycling from home down the Maumee River, stopping for an ice cream cone in Grand Rapids and coming back.
Western Mass gravel grinding is fun!
Jump to 2017 and now, I call Massachusetts home where there is plenty of gravel and dirt roads. And who does not like a sometimes dirty, messy or just plain sludge covered ride? Finding a nice crunchy packed dirt, ie gravel, road is easy to find. While you may not be able to ride a fully packed dirt route for all of the way if you plan on getting in some serious mileage, it would be easy to get a good 50% gravel/ paved route planned. Most of the rides I take or show clients and prefer these days include some stretch of gravel. It is easy to find nice riding routes in Western Massachusetts, so I don’t often drive too far to go out on an adventure. Some of the best that I have come across are in Franklin County. The area around Conway, Ashfield and Hawley all have really nice gravel roads. They are fast, often well cared for and beautiful! There are several off the beaten paths roads near Baptist Corner or Barnes road that pass by the golf course. Any trip to this beautiful corner of heaven requires a stop at Elmer’s store for a snack or post-ride refuel.
Enjoy a river view
Other routes will follow a river or stream, and others will take you through forests and farmland. One such scenic gravel road is Pine Meadow. This lovely smooth road stretches along the Connecticut River, takes you past a local hop farm and eventually all the way to Northfield. Additionally, there are some really nice gravel roads heading up to Shutesbury, specifically Pratt Corner, Sand Hill or Montague roads. On early morning rides before there are many cars you can’t beat a ride on a gravel road. I am sure there are plenty of other roads to explore and plan on finding some new ones this summer.
If you are coming to this area, or want to put it on your calendar, I am here to help you plan a successful trip. Frontier Cycling can offer suggestions, help plan a route, or take you out on a gravel adventure. We will get dirty together and stop for a cold frosty craft beer.