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Jun 11, 2019

Zak Andrews Reports on Gravel Grinding

With the rise of gravel riding, new events are popping up everywhere. One of those events was the inaugural Iron Tour Gravel Grinder located in scenic Chester County, PA. This 64 mile route is in addition to several road options that made up the 17th annual French Creek Iron Tour. The route consisting of approximately 40 % gravel roads that explored the challenging terrain of the French Creek and Pickering Creek watersheds, which your registration helps protect as the proceeds directly support the missions of the French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust.

With a listed elevation gain of 6,525’ in 64 miles, almost 1000’ more than the 100 mile road course, I was preparing for a lung burning, leg breaking, brain melting day! The night before I had all my gear in perfect working order and jersey pockets loaded with gels. I was pumped to hit it hard and go for the win. After checking the website to see what kind of prize money was at stake, I came to find that is not the spirit of gravel grinders. Without the incentive to accumulate lactic acid up to my eyeballs I was able to enjoy the route and comradery of my fellow gravel grinders. To the point where I traded my gels for cookies, brownies, and pizza at the fully stocked and friendly staffed rests stations positioned at some to the protected lands along the route. The gravel roads where challenging but did not require any ridiculous bike modification to handle them. Any set up that can accommodate a minimum of a 30mm tires would not have struggled. I was at home on my cross bike and rolled the dice running inner tubes as I am a late adopter to technology, I even still have cantilever brakes. I think the fact that I was able to enjoy the ride and finish without needed the latest gravel specific tires and bike bags, highlights to appeal of gravel. It is a type of riding that you can make as hard or as enjoyable as you want. While there were groups up the road trying to drop each other on every gravel climb, we all finished back at the Kimberton Fire Company for burgers and beer. I am looking forward to next years event and would recommend it to anyone wanting to try gravel riding, as long as they don’t mind a lot of climbing!

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