This past weekend, I met some friends to ride some of the gravel roads south of the town of Chappell Hill, Texas. There were seven of us including my friend Kevin who just recently purchased his first gravel bike and was excited to try it out on these roads. We followed a 52 mile route that we’ve done many times that resulted in almost 2,900 feet of elevation gained. The route leads us to the Lindemann Store in the small town of Industry. It’s one of the few stores in Industry where we can to buy food and water for the return trip to Chappell Hill. The only other place to stop on the route is in Kenney but that’s to close to Chappell Hill. Industry is located at the halfway point of the route so it’s the perfect place to stop.
We arrived in Industry after about 1h40min of riding and I had only consumed part of one 21 ounce water bottle which contained my homemade hydration mix. We each bought different things but I got a bottle of spicy V8 and a bottle of water. I finished what was left in my bottle and drank the V8. Then, I filled the empty bottle with water and ice. The remaining water, I drank and poured what remained in the bottle over the back of my neck because it was so bloody hot. The only negative thing about the Lindemann Store is that the entrance and area where we park our bikes is exposed to the morning sun and it was blazing. It was there that my Garmin computer registered the highest temperature of the ride: 100.4 degrees F. After a few minutes we were back on the road. There’s no point in dawdling as the longer you wait to leave, the warmer the temperature during the ride.
The heat on these gravel rides can just suck the life out of you. That’s why this was the first gravel ride I’ve done since June 22, when we did a gravel century on these same roads. On that day, we rode all the way to Fayetteville and back to Chappell Hill for a total of 100 miles at just under 7hrs of riding. I have had no desire to ride gravel since then until asked to ride on this day by my friend, Eliot.
Why does it feel hotter on gravel compared to any than any other ride? Good question. As noted by the elevation gained, it’s fairly hilly and as you grind up these climbs which range up to 10% grade, your speed is slower so you don’t get the cooling breeze that you may normally get while rolling on pavement. Also, the white-colored crushed limestone gravel reflects the sun right back towards you as you pedal along. So, this route is pretty exposed. A shaded route would make a world of difference.
The ride was much more spirited than I thought it would be. I had invited Kevin because I thought we would have a somewhat leisurely pace. But one of the guys, training for something or another, kept going off the front. That’s all it took to make a few of us chase. Most of my cycling for the last couple of months has been mostly training rides so I used the opportunity to see how effective my training has been and it seems to be paying off. While I did get to the point of fatigue faster than the fastest guys of the day, my power, heart rate and cadence numbers were all trending upward. So, all in all it was a great ride and I was happy to get back on the gravel bike. I need a bit more preparation of the El Camino Gravel Race in September.