Jane, Co-Founder of NorthRoad cycles, gives her insight to the first time hitting gravel on two wheels as she puts the new Adventurer Series One through its paces in the Pennines on a snowy Sunday in December
It's fair to say that my biking knowledge and experience aren’t evenly matched. I Co-own a bike brand, I HAVE to know the benefits of GRX over Tiagra, gravel kings over mountain kings and tubeless over tubes (contentious, I know). The practical, on the other hand, is easily 'borrowed' from those far better on two wheels than myself. Yes, riding into central Manchester nearly every day has definitely helped my 'roadie' skills but I have sneakily kept away from gravel other than the occasional loop of the local beauty spot or trip down the canal.
Today all that changed.
A trial by fire is a rather accurate description of today's gravel based activities and I only agreed to it as it meant I got to ride the Adventurer in the setting it was built for: real British gravel riding. Not the luxurious dry fire trails of California we are often sold by the giant American corporates. Over here we have mud, rain, snow and tuffets of grass. Quite the daunting prospect to a gravel newbie like myself. I just desperately didn't want to fall off and make a tit of myself and/or go so full on I'd hit a rock and lose my front teeth in an amazing over the bars flip (I am affectionately known as calamity - Geddit?).
Ian and I headed to Blackstone Edge on the Pennine Moors, riding south through snow and low clouds. After a long spate essentially stuck in 4 walls this felt like freedom on two wheels. Fresh air, barely another person in sight and what felt like untrodden ground beneath my tyres. Ok, it took a little while for me to stop gripping the bars so tightly and I might have had a few too many moments where I was concerned about mud on my new gravel shoes but despite my worries (teeth, broken bones, looking a tit) it all began to feel like fun. Bumps and bounces soon turned into flow as I rolled along the craggy paths and ridges, desperately trying not to shout 'Heathcliff' - I know, wrong county but the weather was so Wuthering…
It all began to make perfect sense. No cars, no cycle lanes that disappear to nothing only to appear again on the wrong side of the road, no smog - this is bloody great. I love walking trails like this so why wouldn't I love riding them? (Ok, yes head back to Jane's list of fears for details). Sometimes I had to get off when the trail got a bit “gnarly” - but this gave me a moment to remind myself to relax, loosen up the shoulders, and soak in the views. I have no doubt that many riders would “shred” through those sections and “clear some sick lines, dude”. I look forward to my progression, but for a first day, I’m proud!
Ian has built the Adventurer Series 1 for this exact type of playground for those on 2 wheels. A forgiving steel frame, confident geometry and carbon forks make the Adventurer a joy to ride off road. No harsh vibrations through my ever less tightly gripped arms, no twitchy steering (I can do enough of that myself) and delightfully no back ache. We rode for several hours, carrying loaded bikepacking bags as a test to see if we could tolerate tea made from melted snow. The Adventurer was flawless - don't tell Bow (my beautiful rainbow bike), but she's now in firmly just for the roads.
This gravel lark is definitely a bug worth catching - more adventures please!
P.S, Whilst we were doing this, the other half of NorthRoad Cycles was getting cold toes taking these wonderful photos. Can we have a collective “aww” for his poor tootsies please?
Ready to start your gravel adventure? Order your Adventurer here: