Riding a mountain bike on heavily-wooded single track has never been my forte. Oh, I admire those that do it well. To do so takes singular concentration and real handling skills. I tend to look around too much. The fun of riding for me is seeing things. Unfortunately, that also means missing narrow root paths, slick rock and other obscure obstacles lining the trails. Do that often and trouble is sure to follow. Give me some wide open spaces and the sun that goes along with them.
That doesn’t mean I don’t like taking to gravel roads though. Wide open spaces and plenty of sun – especially during that streak of 100 degree-plus days of heat and humidity that just ended. With my road frame in for repairs, Laura and I have logged many good miles on gravel of late. The rides are great for building our strength and handling skills.
The many paved routes out of Topeka are my favorites for road riding, but it is hard to beat the gravel roads out of Lawrence. No matter the direction, one of the best rides is the stretch along the Scenic River Road between Topeka and Lawrence. From Topeka, take 2nd street east. Paved to the Douglas County border, you can ride gravel to just outside LeCompton. After a quick stretch of pavement, the gravel picks up east of LeCompton and on to Lawrence. There are a number of very nice homes hidden away along those back roads. The horseshoe-shaped Lake View Lake and the small cabins that line the south edge always make me yearn for a home on a lake. During the heat wave, I actually thought about riding right into the lake to cool off. It would have been that easy.
During the summer months, with the roads fresh with new gravel, keeping the bike under control at speed can occasionally get tricky. Laura hit a really thickly-graveled section on a fast downhill that led into a tight right turn. With her rear wheel bouncing and spitting out gravel, she fought her bike all the way down and just made turn. Laura admitted later the rush of that decent tensed her for the rest of the ride which left her sore and weary.
Nevertheless, our time on the gravel has been a blast and reminded us that we need to hit the rocky roads more often. It will be back to the road for now. My road frame has returned from its repair. Hopefully the strength gained from the gravel rides will translate into just a bit more speed on pavement. Wishful thinking? I know.