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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like : "Unbound Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

My Body is Done with Gravel

Old 08-16-21, 06:49 PM
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Noonievut
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My Body is Done with Gravel

I've ridden 'gravel' for 6-8 years now, along with road cycling. I've had 4 gravel bikes and the current iteration is probably most comfortable (carbon, good fit, 42mm tubeless), but my body is throwing in the towel. The gravel roads I ride are not necessarily chunky, they're hard, have old gravel embedded and loose gravel on top, with a fair amount of bumps and pot holes. Even with PSI down to 30 and zero tension from me, I get worn down too fast to make it worthwhile. I can ride 80-100k on paved roads with my road bike or this gravel bike and feel awesome afterwards, but once I take the gravel bike on gravel roads, my body gets too sore too quick (can make it 50-60k before I'm looking for pavement). I have no idea how people do 200 mile races but to each their own.


Good thing is the bike is comfortable, fits well, and the tires pumped up to a higher PSI are fine on roads. Makes for a great winter bike when the road bike is on the trainer, and the weather is beckoning. Also, the two rail trails (crushed limestone) not far from home are completely fine (on the body), and I also have a couple of crushed stone/dirt double track trails in forests not far from home. I also have some light backpacking bags and overall enjoy the bike on mixed surface rides (paved, rail trails).


I listened to a couple of podcasts lately that touched on some severe issues the individuals had on long gravel rides (loss of feeling in certain parts, hands for a month+), those made me shake my head and realize that for me, I have zero desire to put myself through such a thing.


Maybe it's just me realizing this after all these years, but I feel like the gravel movement has led some of us to go find gravel roads, so we can justify the bike purchase. I don't have many gravel roads around, and those that are close by are as I say, not fun for me. I do have paved roads that after a 5 minute drive out of a small town, go through country roads and small towns...and leaving early in the morning as I usually do, means little traffic. I can try and make the point about safety, but where I ride, when I ride and how I ride just works for me.


Anyone else ever have such thoughts?
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Old 08-16-21, 07:44 PM
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No gravel near me so I have to travel for hours and sometimes days to get to it. Love it and the quiet, no traffic riding. Didn't justify a new purchase because of gravel, as my Kona Rove Ti is my everything bike. Sorry that you are feeing that way, but I love it. Maybe go for a light front suspension like the Lauf or shorten the rides. You might also consider why you are getting so worn out. Maybe extra inflammation from a medium to high carb diet (research lectins, ibuprofen, and other causes)? Just a thought.

Either way, you are still riding and enjoying! Go where you feel best and have fun.
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Old 08-16-21, 08:36 PM
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Full suspension XC 29r with 55mm tires.
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Old 08-16-21, 09:21 PM
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(1) Maybe ride mix of some grvel and road interspersed with pavement instead of 60+K of all gravel? Most of us ride Gravel for the better scenery and to get away from lots of cars, not to justify buying a gravel bike.
(2) Maybe some different equipment could help. I am in my 60s so have lots of aces and paind and limited flexibility. I ride a Lauf suspension front fork, a Redshift suspension seatpost and a Selle An Atomica seat. With this setup I have no hand numbness anymore, and essentially zero problens on regular 40+K gravel rides, so maybe some new equipment might improve your comfort. Rockshocks also just came out wit a suspension fork for a gravel bikes.
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Old 08-16-21, 10:26 PM
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Kinda almost the opposite for me. I was at the point where I could no longer ride my road bike as far as I would like and the traffic was not just bad but scary. So I slowed down and started riding back roads. They are quiet and have little traffic. Then I started noticing that the torn up pavement was just beating the day lights out of me and my road bike. Slowly I started fitting out my bike with touring stuff. Gradually over the years it looks more gravel than touring now. But for the most part my roads are paved but torn up.

So am I ridding a gravel bike? Not really. The gravel bike designation and riding route is now more defined. Oddly I find allot of the newer gravel bikes look very much like the first Mountain bikes... Ha

I don't see ya throwing in the towel, not yet. Looks like you are going to find better, more comfortable routes. I personally could not go back to road biking. I do not have the endurance for touring. What has become Gravel biking I am not capable of either. I cannot really call my bike a gravel bike but it certainly is not a road or mountain or touring bike. Its just a torn up pavement Frankin bike (and I refuse to use the word Hybrid)...
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Old 08-17-21, 12:35 AM
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Noonievut, gravel is "not" gravel. If someone says paved road (asphalt or tarmac, whichever you prefer to call it), the range of surface quality is generally pretty narrow, and generally not very rough- generally. If someone says cobblestone, technically a "paved" road, we all know what that means. But, gravel is a wild range...from single and no-track to smooth roads that have well compacted surfaces, with some truly gnarly big gravel, chunky gravel, muddy, and all sorts of other kinds of surface conditions in between. The problem with these gravel discussions is that we say "gravel," and we know what we mean, but that isn't necessarily what the listener is thinking due to their unique experience on gravel.

I ride some pretty gnarly sections, often in full regret as I pedal through...but they're short. I can't imagine doing it for a few kms, much less 50-60 or more! I'm with you though, the ease of riding on tarmac makes doing long rides (distance and duration) much easier.

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Old 08-17-21, 01:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Badger6 View Post
If someone says paved road (asphalt or tarmac, whichever you prefer to call it)
I'm not especially familiar with the uses of "tarmac" as applied to road surfaces, but at least where I am in the US, "asphalt" is not a catch-all for sealed paved surfaces. It refers specifically to asphalt concrete, the other two common phrases when specifying sealed road surfaces being "concrete" (referring to Portland cement concrete) and chipseal.
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Old 08-17-21, 01:25 AM
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Pavement is the catch all, and I specified the particular type of material because it is distinctly different from pavé, aka cobblestones. Tarmac is another word for macadam (crushed gravel aggregate mixed with tar, it is a shortening of the words "tar macadam", I guess this is unknown to folks who aren't civil engineers or European). Asphalt is crushed gravel aggregate mixed with bitumen (a petroleum distillation byproduct). Concrete is crushed gravel aggregate mixed cement. Technically speaking, tarmac and asphalt are different because of the base component used to bind it together.

All are generally smooth...but they do wear and suffer damage over time at varying rates. The life of a paved road surface is directly relevant to the material choice matching the environment it will be used in. Also, some roads are maintained better than others...but, the point is that paved roads generally fall within a much narrower range for surface smoothness and integrity than gravel. Gravel means different things to different people, directly relevant to their gravel riding experience.
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Old 08-17-21, 01:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Badger6 View Post
but, the point is that paved roads generally fall within a much narrower range for surface smoothness and integrity than gravel. Gravel means different things to different people, directly relevant to their gravel riding experience.
I totally agree. My objection was specifically to this...
If someone says paved road (asphalt or tarmac, whichever you prefer to call it)

...which implies that "asphalt" and "tarmac" are equivalent terms to "paved road." They are not, even if by "paved road" we're talking about modern sealed surfaces and excluding things like cobblestones.

I guess this is unknown to folks who aren't civil engineers or European
The etymology of "tarmac" is not unknown to me. Simply the common usage.
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Old 08-17-21, 02:06 AM
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Having young kids, my back, my knees and generally most of my body is/are in poor state. Having kids is a young man sport...

Several month ago, as I was going down a rocky muddy path (old Monarch's way), despite the 50-584 @ 28psi, the vibrations transferred through my arm locked my lumbars. I stopped rest and then carried on. As I got home, I ordered a redshift stem and since then, I have rarely experienced such discomfort (except when I first fitted the G-One ultrabite with 28psi - now 22/20psi).
A friend (15yrs older than me) experienced back pain too and added a redshift stem which helps a lot too.

As per the other thread, manufacturers are introducing suspensions to their ranges because there is a market for comfort and as seen with ortho implant, the population aged but still want to remain active so, equipment has to be somewhat performant but also comfortable.
Most of riders know they will not win the "Paris Roubaix" so they don't need super stiff performant machines, a good versatile bike which trades some performances for comforts allowing people to keep riding is a good thing.

So if people like gravel, single tracks, whatever terrain, rather than giving up because of some body limitations, customizing the equipment for their need is a good thing. Afterall, it is what people do with golf, car racing etc. so maybe be bike fitting should also consider that rather than just the position.

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Old 08-17-21, 04:31 AM
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HTupolev most folks aren't civil engineers like you and don't possess the knowledge to fully appreciate the nuance of the different material types. Saying paved surface is a decent heuristic for describing a road that isn't gravel to all but the most dogmatically pedantic. That you've never heard the surface of a paved road referred to as tarmac tells me you need to buy a plane ticket, pack your bike, and come to Europe...even if it isn't really tarmac, the road riding here is much better than the States.
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Old 08-17-21, 06:02 AM
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Try a steel framed bike before giving up on it.

I was shocked by how much harsher and more fatiguing even a compliant carbon frame was on a rough gravel road.

Rene Herse tires help a lot, too.
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Old 08-17-21, 06:51 AM
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Enh, you'll be back. FWIW, I've felt the same way you feel about gravel on my mountain bike many times--I'll spend a bunch of rides in a row on the mountain bike and just feel beat up, that's how I know its time for a road break. I swing between road, gravel and mountain biking all the time, and have done so for the last 15 years. I'll get tired of one and hang it up for a month or two then see it hanging on the rack and decide to hit the singletrack/gravel/road again and I'll get into it again.
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Old 08-17-21, 07:14 AM
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I find this topic timely as I just got back from a road trip where I alternated between a road ride one day and gravel riding the next. The gravel rides just beat me up. my hands were sore and numb, my back hurt and it just wasn't fun even with my Rene Herse tires. Yes, if I had a proper gravel bike and did this and did that it would help alleviate some of these problems but I just didn't find it as enjoyable as riding on the back roads that are paved. I wanted to enjoy it and even was looking for a gravel bike to purchase but now I can say I am finished. There might be the occasional ride but I won't be buying a gravel bike.

I don't see this as a loss, I like what I like and I am sticking to it. This doesn't mean I can't revisit the idea of gravel but right now, not for me.

On a side note I really enjoy watching the gravel racing on YouTube there has been some good stuff lately.
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Old 08-17-21, 07:22 AM
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most folks aren't civil engineers like you and don't possess the knowledge to fully appreciate the nuance of the different material types. Saying paved surface is a decent heuristic for describing a road that isn't gravel to all but the most dogmatically pedantic. That you've never heard the surface of a paved road referred to as tarmac tells me you need to buy a plane ticket, pack your bike, and come to Europe...even if it isn't really tarmac, the road riding here is much better than the States.
This back and forth on what is paved or what is a surface, or whatever was quite confusing.
I use the term 'paved road' for anything that a bunch of workers laid down with big machines and it needed time to dry/cool. I used 'gravel' for any unpaved roads that are made up of an ever changing varied mix of dirt, rock, and dust.

Clearly I am misusing the terms compared to what is industry proper, but it has never confused anyone Ive spoken with.
Interesting to learn...just not sure if I learned or what.
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Old 08-17-21, 07:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Noonievut View Post
Anyone else ever have such thoughts?
I have indeed. If it's much more than 20 miles gravel, I'd rather ride full suspension XC bike, or maybe 650+.

This ride was approx 10 miles road, 25 miles gravel, 5 miles rough doubletrack jeep trails, and I was wishing I'd brought the full suspension at times.

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Old 08-17-21, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Noonievut View Post
I've ridden 'gravel' for 6-8 years now, along with road cycling. I've had 4 gravel bikes and the current iteration is probably most comfortable (carbon, good fit, 42mm tubeless), but my body is throwing in the towel. The gravel roads I ride are not necessarily chunky, they're hard, have old gravel embedded and loose gravel on top, with a fair amount of bumps and pot holes. Even with PSI down to 30 and zero tension from me, I get worn down too fast to make it worthwhile. I can ride 80-100k on paved roads with my road bike or this gravel bike and feel awesome afterwards, but once I take the gravel bike on gravel roads, my body gets too sore too quick (can make it 50-60k before I'm looking for pavement). I have no idea how people do 200 mile races but to each their own.
I've felt this way about riding around within the city limits this summer. The cracking, loose pavement is about to make me go looking for a gravel bike to ride city streets!

And then I ride a bit longer and get out to the county, and the roads get better. What's wrong with this picture? Oh, yeah, the city put its road budget into paving parking lots and building new parking decks for some of the mayor's investments.

Maybe it's just me realizing this after all these years, but I feel like the gravel movement has led some of us to go find gravel roads, so we can justify the bike purchase. I don't have many gravel roads around, and those that are close by are as I say, not fun for me. I do have paved roads that after a 5 minute drive out of a small town, go through country roads and small towns...and leaving early in the morning as I usually do, means little traffic.
The other reason I might buy a gravel bike is that when we retire in a few years, we might move up to the mountains where there are gravel roads. I haven't persuaded myself the probability of that justifies the purchase. Yet.
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Old 08-17-21, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
...cracking, loose pavement is about to make me go looking for a gravel bike... I ride a bit longer and get out to the county, and the roads get better...I haven't persuaded myself the probability of that justifies the purchase. Yet.
Understood... My escape into the back roads of Central Texas was really my need to escape traffic. I no longer ride fast. I am a little unsteady when turning. I can no longer turn my head and neck fully to look behind me. My hearing and proprioception are off. But I like to ride. So its Torn Up Asphalt on the back roads, on my Frankin Bike. Happy, HAPPY, Joy JOY...
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Old 08-17-21, 09:58 AM
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I've stopped riding gravel because it can rattle my brain. I'm a TBI survivor. Yes, I can pick my gravel more carefully, go slower, use bigger tires and low pressure, etc. but I'm also an ex-racer. Going slow doesn't always happen. Plus gravel roads can have surprises like severe washboard at the bottoms of hills too steep to ride slow.

So, I'm accepting that my NFL lineman's battered brain is far better served riding hard surfaces.
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Old 08-17-21, 10:16 AM
  #20  
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For those who have recently(over the last month) said their brain is shaking all over the place- do you come off the saddle and absorb road imperfections with your legs and arms? I just dont remember the last time my head was shaking all around while riding.
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Old 08-17-21, 10:50 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
For those who have recently(over the last month) said their brain is shaking all over the place- do you come off the saddle and absorb road imperfections with your legs and arms? I just dont remember the last time my head was shaking all around while riding.
I have never experienced that either, and I ride my gravel bike on really rocky fireroads and singletrack pretty much the majority of every ride. I spent many years only riding a rigid MTB so maybe I'm just used to it, but as my son commented the other day as he was riding behind me, "why do you have a saddle, you never sit down?!" I'm 61 and do get aches and pains from time to time but if anything it'll usually be a stiff neck from long descents in the drops. All that said, I'm on 650Bx47 tubeless running around 18-20 PSI, which helps a lot. And for sure, I can really feel the difference when I have the pressure up even just slightly higher.
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Old 08-17-21, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
For those who have recently(over the last month) said their brain is shaking all over the place- do you come off the saddle and absorb road imperfections with your legs and arms? I just dont remember the last time my head was shaking all around while riding.
I've experienced it before, but its usually when I'm tired. My core relaxes, I go from bending at my hips to bending mid-back, my head kinda bends back to compensate and rests on my back/traps, then every little shock is transmitted to my head when I hit a bumpy patch. When I get that "brain rattle" feeling, its my reminder to tighten my core, bend at my hips (not mid back!), stick out my chest and bend my arms.
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Old 08-17-21, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Phatman View Post
Enh, you'll be back. FWIW, I've felt the same way you feel about gravel on my mountain bike many times--I'll spend a bunch of rides in a row on the mountain bike and just feel beat up, that's how I know its time for a road break. I swing between road, gravel and mountain biking all the time, and have done so for the last 15 years. I'll get tired of one and hang it up for a month or two then see it hanging on the rack and decide to hit the singletrack/gravel/road again and I'll get into it again.
So true! I've done all three over about the same amount of time. Though road has been my most frequent choice followed by gravel and then mountain.

Originally Posted by blakcloud View Post
I find this topic timely as I just got back from a road trip where I alternated between a road ride one day and gravel riding the next. The gravel rides just beat me up. my hands were sore and numb, my back hurt and it just wasn't fun even with my Rene Herse tires. Yes, if I had a proper gravel bike and did this and did that it would help alleviate some of these problems but I just didn't find it as enjoyable as riding on the back roads that are paved. I wanted to enjoy it and even was looking for a gravel bike to purchase but now I can say I am finished. There might be the occasional ride but I won't be buying a gravel bike.

I don't see this as a loss, I like what I like and I am sticking to it. This doesn't mean I can't revisit the idea of gravel but right now, not for me.

On a side note I really enjoy watching the gravel racing on YouTube there has been some good stuff lately.
I also love the gravel videos online. The "back roads that are paved" around me are numerous and absolutely enjoyable. I was almost avoiding them to go ride gravel because I had a gravel bike, which hasn't been making sense to me of late. I do like the rail trails though and they intersect nicely with the back roads, so still plenty of that type of riding with my gravel bike.

Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
For those who have recently(over the last month) said their brain is shaking all over the place- do you come off the saddle and absorb road imperfections with your legs and arms? I just dont remember the last time my head was shaking all around while riding.
Thankfully I've never experienced that, but when descending down a 20% grade on ugly, washboard gravel it gets pretty close. I stand as much as I can BTW.

Originally Posted by pbass View Post
I have never experienced that either, and I ride my gravel bike on really rocky fireroads and singletrack pretty much the majority of every ride. I spent many years only riding a rigid MTB so maybe I'm just used to it, but as my son commented the other day as he was riding behind me, "why do you have a saddle, you never sit down?!" I'm 61 and do get aches and pains from time to time but if anything it'll usually be a stiff neck from long descents in the drops. All that said, I'm on 650Bx47 tubeless running around 18-20 PSI, which helps a lot. And for sure, I can really feel the difference when I have the pressure up even just slightly higher.
I have also found that tire pressure makes a world of difference. I mentioned that I was at 30psi, and I know that if I drop that to 25 it does feel a lot more comfortable. However, that is when it gets squirmy on paved roads. And all my rides on the gravel bike are on mixed surface (not enough gravel roads to be even 60% gravel).

Originally Posted by trailangel View Post
Full suspension XC 29r with 55mm tires.
I had one of those and looking back, riding that on singletrack with rocks, roots, etc., I was actually more comfortable after a 2-3 hour ride. So different though, as I would stop often and chat with others, or after a tricky session stop and be thankful I survived it
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Old 08-17-21, 02:45 PM
  #24  
79pmooney
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
For those who have recently(over the last month) said their brain is shaking all over the place- do you come off the saddle and absorb road imperfections with your legs and arms? I just dont remember the last time my head was shaking all around while riding.
Crashes do my brain more damage so I am often seated for better bike control. (Plus even without further brain injury I've done so many crashes I have little desire to experience more.)

Now, those of you who have treated their noggins better probably ride those roads feeling nothing. You have the original issue tissue that holds your brain in place. I don't.
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Old 08-17-21, 02:47 PM
  #25  
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The right bike and equipment matters a lot. The wife and I started with a pair of Blues that topped out at a 40c tire. For running the Erie Canal, the Confederation trail and any dirt roads I ever came across in Upstate NY they were perfect. 60-80 mile days were fine. We switched to Poseidon since it could take a 29x2.1 tire, they were rougher with their aluminum fork and harsher in general. I added carbon posts with setback and carbon bars and they would have no trouble matching the Blue, I know since I've just ridden 60 mile Erie Canal days with the same saddle, wheels, and tires. But the Catskill Scenic Trail going through Grand Gorge was rough even with 2.1s; thick loose gravel bordering on just rocks was the easy stuff, not bothering to pull railroad ties and letting nature fill in the spaces was the worst part. 50mi was all I could stand but I also didn't end up with numbness or any other problems and doing 50mi on much nicer gravel and dirt was easy albeit slower than I'd have liked with the wider tires.
But it requires carbon posts, I like carbon bars and plan to add a spork III fork for more comfort, we ride 32 spoke wheels with more compliant rims that aren't designed solely around stiffness and rigidity the way some low spoke count rims do. Spend the extra on more padded tape and the right saddle is a must. Personally I hope to swap the frame again for a steel one but we'll see what happens, it is comfortable as is.
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