Let’s face it. Bicycling is a dangerous way to travel in nearly any city. Cars whizz by at high speeds. Oblivious pedestrians walk right in front of you. Meanwhile, you’re struggling to balance on your bike, while avoiding obstacles like fire hydrants and huge cracks in the pavement. It’s no wonder that gravel grinding has become more popular.
Gravel grinding may sound like something that BMXers do for extra points at a competition, but really, it’s just the sport of biking on unpaved and gravel roads. Instead of battling traffic on city streets, bikers pedal down quiet dirt roads, dealing with the occasional car.
Some veteran bikers insist that you need a special bike for gravel grinding, while others say that any street bike will do. A bike built for endurance should be just fine. A slim racing bike probably won’t be robust or comfortable enough for you to enjoy a graveling experience. You probably will want a comfortably padded saddle.
The bike you choose probably should have some eyelets for mudguards and definitely should have some capacity for carrying stuff. After all, you may be traveling miles away from the nearest convenience store. Having some water along with a small first aid kit for scrapes and such is a must.
Photo: @ch_ch via Twenty20
Another piece of gear you might want to consider is dog repellent. Some folks allow their dogs to wander these roads freely, and dogs tend to hate bicycles for some reason. So, carrying dog repellent wouldn’t hurt.
Some states don’t have too many dirt or gravel roads anymore. But Texas has plenty, and they crisscross the state. No matter where you live in Texas, you’re probably close to a gravel or dirt road that offers decent riding. Listed below are three routes to get you started.
1. Bastrop: Between Bastrop State Park and Paige, TX
This route is about 35 miles long and only has a gain of 472 feet. One of the most destructive fires in Texas history struck this area about a decade ago, and you may still see traces of it. Antioch Cemetery is on the trail as well. This cemetery has marked graves going back to 1882.
2. Palestine: Along El Camino 105 Route
Photo: @ch_ch via Twenty20
Unlike the Bastrop trail, this one is a 107-mile loop that goes through woods, including Mission Tejas State Park. In the park, you can take a detour and go fishing, or maybe see a replica of the first Spanish Mission in Texas. This trail is a fairly intensive workout. You may want to go with a friend because cell service in the area is spotty.
3. Castell: Keyserville Road
If you’re looking for a route that’s a little less of a challenge, try this approximately nine-mile stretch in the Texas Hill Country. You can start or end in Castell, a tiny 400-person town with great fishing and a general store that serves outstanding barbecue. The road can get sandy, but otherwise, it’s a lot of fun.
If you have more of a competitive urge, you can ride in the Castell Grind. The Grind is a timed event that usually takes place in April.
Gravel grinding is a terrific way to spend a beautiful Texas afternoon. It’s also much easier and safer than trying to bike through the city. On a day with a lot of sun, why not explore a dirt road near you on a bicycle? A whole new path to adventure may be revealed!