Living in the same town, riding the same roads day in day out, week in week out, year in year out, can become a bit monotonous. I’m a life long roadie, who has only dabbled in full fledged off-road activities a few times. What was once a faint echo is now ringing in my ears. The call of the mountain bike; it is getting louder with each phase of the moon. While the reality of a new bike is still sometime in the unforeseeable future, I’ve been able to keep my rides fresh thanks to the joy of underbiking.
The wrong tool for the right job
If you are unfamiliar with the term, underbiking is when a rider utilizes a bike that is unfit for the ride in question. An example would be riding a cyclocross or mountain bike at the weekly road group ride. For me, it’s riding a road bike on trails better suited for an off-road bike.
My first real foray into underbiking was when a friend of mine invited me on a ride in which he showed up on a cyclocross bike. He was running fat tires with low pressure, and I knew I was in for a good time. I was on my Cannondale CAAD10, and was less than prepared for the adventure before us. Our route took us up and over, down and around, a mixture of fire roads and single track that left me with a grin from ear to ear. Yes, I punctured more than once. But I learned that my aggressive race bike could handle some extreme terrain. I also learned I was better than I thought at handling a bike in poor conditions.
On the way out
Unfortunately, it seems with the prevalence of gravel bikes, underbiking is going the way of the triple crankset. I admit, I’m looking into options to outfit my cyclocross bike for more extreme terrain. There is a limit to the gearing I originally built the bike with. If I want to explore more technical trails, I’m going to need much lower gears. As much as I hate to say it, I’m looking to convert my ‘cross bike to a gravel grinder.
Even with the converted bike I have in the works, I will continue to ride my road bike places that present challenges. This last week I rode 7 dirt sectors on a ride. This amounted to at least twenty-five percent of the route. The washboard sections were particularly challenging, and again, I punctured more than once. I will gladly trade a couple of punctures for the chance to push the limits of my bike and my ability. Safety is always first, but fun should be a close second. So get out there and ride in some dirt. Have a great ride, and as always, keep the rubber side down!