#30DaysOfBiking 2012: Underbiking

Today is day #13 of the 2012 30 Days Of Biking challenge:

This photo illustrates an example of what is often called “Underbiking”, generally defined as riding a traditional road bike on surfaces where most people think would require a mountain bike.

In this case, I’m heading down a rocky minimum-maintenance road on my Puch Cavette II, a late-1970’s “ten-speed” with relatively skinny tires (27″ x 1-1/4″). It’s hardly the ideal bike for this sort of terrain. And yet, it works, and works well.

So many people who ride road bikes seem to turn up their noses at gravel roads, and wouldn’t dream of riding on a rutted-out road with bug chunky rocks like this. If a road is not paved, they consider it off-limits.

Yet I’ve learned the the limitations are more in the mind than in the bike. The bike will handle it. Can you?

I regularly take my road bikes on gravel roads, minimum-maintenance roads, gravel trails, and even some mountain bike trails (the recent Trailside Rest Area post was an example of this). In fact, I seek these places out!

As much fun as it is to ride paved roads in Kansas, there’s a certain sameness to it. Sure, some roads are concrete, some are asphalt, and others are chipseal, but these are relatively minor variations. I like variety!

Chris Kostman, from the “Rough Riders” club in California, covers the idea in more detail in Any Bike, Anywhere: The Rough Rider’s Way of Life and Mountain Bikes: Who Needs Them?

If you haven’t done so already, give underbiking a try. You might just be surprised at what your bike is capable of…

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About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web's premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

2 responses to “#30DaysOfBiking 2012: Underbiking”

  1. Thanks, I didn’t know there was a name for it, but I’ve been enjoying the local gravel roads on my road bike, equipped with fairly slick 32 mm cyclocross tires. Some of the roads are almost local highways, packed down smooth (except when the country reapplies a fresh load) and some are minimal maintenance and are closer to mtb trails. I just try to dodge the big rocks.

    I’ve been trying to find a way to commute to work, a distance of 27 miles one way, and since I can’t use the interstate, half of it would have to be gravel– but the gravel part is fairly smooth (as described above). The only reason I haven’t tried it yet is that I’m not a morning person and haven’t been able to get myself out of bed at 4 AM. I do plan to try it at least once, though.

    If it gets to be a regular habit that’s $50.00 per week in gas money I can spend on bike stuff. It will easily pay for tires.

  2. Randy Rasa says:

    A 54-mile commute would be a heckuva thing to do on a regular basis, but it sounds like you have a good route option that’d be fun to ride once in a while. 32 mm cross tires should work fine for you, unless there’s fresh rock (and that’s not much fun no matter what tires your running).