I'm just back from the Berkshires, where three friends and I rode the Eagle route (50 miles) in picture-perfect weather on Saturday. Our common reaction: that was hard! In a debrief over pizza and beer, we came up with three tips that will help you have both a challenging and enjoyable day on October 1:
- The Raven (aka 30-mile route) will be the best choice for most riders. How many times have you heard the expression, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity?” For PMC Unpaved, it’s not the mileage, it’s the vertical! The Raven route has close to 3,000 feet of climbing and that’s enough for most people, especially in 30 miles. If you registered for the Eagle route – as more than half of you did – consider riding the Raven instead unless you’re A) in very good shape and B) an experienced off-road rider and C) on a gravel bike.
You won’t need to change your PMC Unpaved registration from the Eagle to the Raven, just turn right at Mile 15 (a well-marked intersection where the two routes split) and you’ll be on the Raven route.
- Your tires are probably too skinny and overinflated. The PMC Unpaved routes are 40-50% unpaved so, for almost half your ride on Saturday, you’re going to want traction and cushioning on these surfaces. 32-33 mm tires are the minimum width you should bring; your body will thank you for riding something even wider. (Three of the four of us were riding 40 mm tires last weekend.)
And rethink that tire pressure! Road cyclists in particular are inclined to over inflate, so we highly recommend using the Silca Pro Tire Pressure Calculator and following its recommended pressure.
- Descend within your comfort zone. It can be alarmingly easy to pick up speed on the unpaved descents – on both routes – and it will take longer to slow down or stop on loose, rutted surfaces. Watch this short video, “How to Descend on a Gravel Bike”, for some valuable advice; trust me, it’s worth the 8-minute investment. Remember, it’s each rider’s responsibility to remain in control, to behave predictably for other riders, and to help everyone get home safely.
Bonus Tip: Download the GPX file for your route and use it on your GPS bike computer (e.g., Garmin, Wahoo, Hammerhead) or smartphone. Yes, the route will be well marked with signs, but knowing how soon turns are coming up, or what your mileage is so far, will give you a better experience. Here’s the PMC Unpaved page with the two routes; click through to Ride With GPS for either route, then you can export the GPX file to whichever device you use.
See you on PMC Unpaved weekend,