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Advice for a long steep gravel commute?

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Advice for a long steep gravel commute?

Old 12-23-20, 01:43 PM
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Advice for a long steep gravel commute?

Anybody here have experience doing longer commutes on gavel roads?

I'm moving to rural Colorado for a new job and will have about a 18 mi commute on gravel county roads through the mountains. Luckily it's almost entirely downhill to work, though there's a 1300' climb on the way home. Am I nuts for thinking I can do this regularly? I have a All City Space Horse and am used to pretty long rides but have never lived someplace with this much change in elevation before...
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Old 12-23-20, 03:48 PM
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18 mi rt, or one way? We have members who rack up 40 miles rt, day in and day out... fewer this year, but it's possible, especially if you are a roadie and you can turn it into your workout. It does spend a lot of your day, but you may have it to spend
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Old 12-23-20, 04:30 PM
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Fortunately you have a downhill ride to work so that one won't really be a workout, so instead of just 14-15 hours recovery from the ride home to the next ride to work, you will have closer to a full day recovery. That said, a couple days in a row of 1300 foot climbs does add up and being at higher elevation also extends your recovery time. I think multiple days in a row will be really tough especially if it's 18 each way and not round trip. Definitely could give it a shot some weekend just to see how the ride is and go from there.

I'd also have much concern with how to dress/pack for the low effort, high speed, cold morning downhill ride coupled with the slow, crawling, uphill warmer afternoon ride home. No matter what you are going to haul a lot of extra clothing home in your bags especially this time of year.
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Old 12-24-20, 08:46 AM
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I rode the Great Divide through Colorado last year. If the road is wide and well maintained like the ones I was on, you should have no problem doing the commute. Long-term, it's going to be hard on your bike though. More regular cleanings and liberal use of Locktite is recommended. And at this time of year, I strongly suspect you will want piping hot tea or coffee rather than ice water when you get to work!
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Old 12-24-20, 09:18 AM
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Thanks for the advice everyone. I might try to start off with twice a week and take it from there, or see if I can get a ride back with a co-worker a few days a week.
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Old 12-24-20, 10:52 AM
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For 28 years I commuted 18 miles round trip in Colorado Springs on pavement. Work was about 400 feet lower than home with about 600ft of total climbing according to Google. The ride in was always fairly easy, but the ride home varied from easy to impossible, averaging out at a very doable extra effort. About 40 minutes down to work, and 47 minutes up to the house.

With a tail-wind around 12mph the "uphill" nature of the ride home disappeared. above that I could feel the boost.

In the snow, on studded, heavily-treaded Suomi Nokian W106's it was much more difficult rising home, often taking 55-minutes to an hour, and sometimes up to 90 minutes if the snow was over 3".

You don't say where you are moving to Colorado from. If it is from a lower elevation, like me, moving to 6500-feet above sea level from 600 feet above in the midwest, you can expect it to take a couple of days to adjust to the altitude off the bike, and a few weeks to adjust to riding hard in the thinnner air.

I had no concept of what a challenge riding in such a hilly area would be when I moved here at 30 years of age, but my legs quickly adapted and a year later I rode up to Woodland park on dirt roads, about 18 miles and 3000 feet in elevation change, which took hours, but was worth it. At 49 I was off the bike for a year due to a non cycling injury and at 50 I was able to return to my daily commute after building up to it for a few months. And just last weekend, three weeks shy of 59 I rode up to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the steepest ride with the most climbing I had done in years, 10 miles and about 800ft total climbing taking 55 minutes, as I anticipated, but expected would take longer.

Gravel of course takes more effort than pavement, but if a mid-pack, non-training schmoe like me can do what I've done, and continue to do at my age, you should have a better than none chance of conquering your commute...just give it time and don't get discouraged. If like me, you are able to keep at it for decades, the payoff is the good health and stamina to enjoy life to it's fullest...whenever we're allowed to do that again.
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Old 12-24-20, 11:11 AM
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For that kind of elevation and distance I would think that an e-assist bike would be ideal. Prices of e-bikes have come down the past few years. Might be worth considering.
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Old 01-01-21, 08:42 PM
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I highly suggest that you do a practice run on a weekend before you try the ride on a workday. If there's a 1300 foot climb, the real question is how steep parts of the climb are. One of my scariest moments on a bike came a few years ago when a wrong turn on RAGBRAI took me (and quite a number of others) to a steep dirt/gravel road. About half way up, I needed to stand on the pedals for a bit of relief and despite furiously pedaling, I was sliding down the hill backwards. I'm sure that you're a stronger cyclist than I was then, but never-the-less, I'd do the test ride first.
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Old 01-01-21, 10:09 PM
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How is that road going to feel in the dark after a long work day with your bike loaded with crap or in the rain? Do a dry run or two to see how you feel. I had a hilly commute, some paved and some gravel, and always figured on about 10-12mph average, but I only had a 6 mile trip. At least you’ll get some miles in each week.
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Old 01-02-21, 06:34 PM
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Give it a go...preferably on your day off and the worst weather imaginable...nothing better than worst case scenario. I also like to know I can handle my commute both there and back, then there again in a single run...but I am obsessive about this. Truly. Commuting and lcf has literally cost me relationships. Whatever. I still do what I want how I want.
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Old 01-02-21, 06:57 PM
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On the plus side:
1) I am guessing there's little traffic to deal with on this country road
2) Downhill to work means you won't arrive sweaty
3) Once you have reached the strength to do this ride you'll probably be doing it fairly regularly and getting a ton of training in
On the negative side:
1) A time consuming commute. How will that fit into your life? Might be ideal, might be too demanding of time.

The National Weather Service page (or weather.com) will likely become your most used web site. Fortunately in Colorado we don't have a lot of precipitation, so you won't be dealing with too much rain. Still, predicting afternoon thundershowers (or HAIL) is probably the big challenge. There are apps that'll let you know what's up with that, maybe if you see a warning you can bum a ride home.
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Old 01-03-21, 08:37 PM
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Thanks for the advice everyone. This is my first time living really out in the middle of nowhere so it'll be an interesting experience. I figure worst case I can do it on good weather days a few times a week and drive the rest of the time. I had a similar length commute in Tucson but it was only about 600' elevation change and on paved roads, so it'll likely take me a while to get used to the difference. Should be worth it to be able to spend that much time on the bike though.
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