Words and Images by Matt Porter
So this started off with the idea that we would do an early season century ride then we thought, “Why not make it 100 miles on gravel roads?” Great idea right?
A ride like this cannot just be completed with out some preparation and planning. The KICKR played a pivotal role in the prep for the Dirty Pecan ride. We rode countless hours on the KICKR using the ELEMNT to both track time, distance, and power data as well as to control the KICKR resistance. Most of the training rides consisted of longer steady efforts with a few threshold workouts fit in.
We chose the Dirty Pecan gravel ride which takes place in the spring every year in Monticello, Florida. Monticello is approximately four and a half hours from the Wahoo Headquarters in Atlanta. The ride consists of 75% gravel roads and 25% pavement. Gravel is not the best way to describe these roads as they fluctuate between sand and sun- baked clay. It seemed like a good idea to do an early season- long ride in Florida because there is great weather and little to no elevation change. This means that we could shed those leg and arm warmers and not have to worry about dramatic elevation changes that are power sapping to the legs.
Atlanta is like a black hole, the traffic creates such a strong gravitational pull that it is easy to just give up and head home. We were able to escape the city traffic in exchange for I- 75 south and miles and miles of billboards and rest stops.
The first thing to do was locate the nearest pizza and pasta eatery and enjoy a beer before we settled in for the night. Dinner was done and our bellies full of spaghetti and beer, we made our way to the event campground where we were greeted by a massive bonfire and riders anxiously awaiting the next day’s challenge. Amongst the campers and ride participants, there was a group from Atlanta, a group from Kentucky, and many more from Florida. Floridians kept going on about how nice the weather was for all of us north of Florida but how cold it felt to them.
The thing with Florida gravel; although these roads are better qualified as more dirt and sand than gravel is that they seem to just roll out across the landscape like a ribbon. There are many different forms that the roads take on, wet sand, hard pack clay, mud, and deep sand. I am sure there are many different ways to describe the terrain, but the take home is that it is constantly changing and what you were riding a quarter mile ago is now completely different. This was challenging because it was something that could not be controlled–leaving each rider at the mercy of the terrain and road surface.
There was plenty of joking and poking fun at each other’s choice of navigation. There were paper maps, the Wahoo ELEMNT, and various other GPS bike computers used. The ELEMNT was so consistent with its navigation on the Florida backroads that we never had an issue with navigating the vast landscape of norther Florida. This was the perfect test of the ELEMNT navigation function. It passed with flying colors.
We are already planning on returning next year and there was a brief moment where I considered doing the 150- mile version. The Dirty Pecan was so well organized and- filled with great people that returning is a no brainer. It was refreshing to be part of a ride that did not cost to participate and was centered around the connection between humans while enduring and ultimately achieving something truly difficult.