As for many, buying a new bike is not a decision I take lightly. With two boys in college, a major house construction project and the pandemic’s uncertainty threatening our household income, the opportunity to buy a gravel bike in 2020 was chewed on for some time before I jumped.

And oh goodness, I am so glad I did.

Samantha (all my bikes have names – yours should too – you spend enough time with them) did not see a lot of action at first. As races came back on line in 2021, I was focused and determined. And, honestly, my first couple of forays were disappointing. Everything where I live on the side of a volcano appeared to be straight up and straight down. I longed for the rolling, vista-filled roads I’d seen in all the videos. But my first three rides were bleed-out-the-eyeballs going up and terrifying coming down. When others waxed poetic about gravel riding, my eyes glazed over. 

But on my “season break” in July (which somehow still involved multiple long rides each week) I stuck exclusively to gravel riding and mountain biking. I learned how to download other people’s Strava rides to my Garmin. I figure out how to use Strava routes. And I got lost…a lot.

I have rarely enjoyed myself so much on a bike. And that is saying something, because I love riding. I climbed through endless pear orchards and topped out in waving, golden wheat fields. I watched the progression of the cherry and peach harvests accompanied only by soaring hawks and turkey vultures. I could ride three hours and only see two cars. I saw coyotes and deer and all manner of farm animals. I thought about old friends, made plans and promises and resolutions and mentally marched through happiness, frustration, joy, longing, wistfulness and awe. But mostly I felt a profound gratitude – just so grateful to be out there on my bike riding in a beautiful place.

My attitude towards gravel biking did a 180 and I’m looking forward to a 2023 which includes some gravel races and a 5-day odyssey across the middle of Oregon. I tell my athletes to “try new stuff” all the time; I’m delighted I did the same. I won’t be surprised if there is a new Obed under the Christmas tree for my husband so he can come along too. I’ve been delighted with the comfort and handling ability of my Obed and he has take Samantha out for a few rides on his own. I can’t wait to share the adventure.

Juliet Hochman is a LifeSport coach and leads our TRiCLUB and Women’s Rockstar initiatives. A rowing Olympian and triathlon and duathlon age group world champion at both the sprint and 70.3 distance, Juliet works with athletes of all backgrounds and disciplines.