By: Joel Fletcher
Living in the city can be hard to get the feeling of adventure on a day-to-day basis with your bike rides. We all love gravel rides and exploring new roads in the middle of nowhere but most of us cannot do that everyday. Lucky for you, most larger cities have what they call “unimproved roads” all over the city which are exactly what they sound like. They are mostly gravel with potholes and other obstacles that can be perfect for practicing your skills and having fun on your bike. These roads are extremely fun to ride, and can give you a small sense of adventure on your after-work rides during the week to tide you over until those long weekend rides come around. This map was made to show all of the unimproved roads across Portland.
Now, I know not every city will have a complete map like this at your disposal. If you don’t have a map like this to use, use this as motivation to start the process of mapping these roads. You can begin by searching “Unimproved Roads” in your city and your Department of Transportation will usually be a great place to start. It will provide you and the cyclists in your city years of enjoyment and plenty of new routes to ride.
Sitting down to plan your route will mean you don’t miss a turn and get the most out of your ride. I highly recommend this when riding a new route even if it is in a city you live in. Computer mapping is so good these days and will give you turn-by-turn directions and will allow you to save routes.
One of the benefits of riding roads like these will be giving you the opportunity to work on your bike skills. Unimproved roads will have potholes, loose gravel, corners, and other obstacles that will make you a better bike handler. Say you come across a road with a bunch of potholes, that is a perfect opportunity to work on your bunny hopping-skills.
Hot tip for practicing your bunny hops, place your hands on the tops of your handlebars instead of the hoods or drops for more leverage to get that front wheel up and over your obstacle.
Another benefit from riding unimproved roads and routes that are new to you in your own city are the things you get to see on those rides. Slow down and enjoy the little things like the flowers in bloom during Spring.
We all spend so much time on our bikes with our heads down staring at our computers, doing intervals, or trying to set that new KOM on Strava. Slowing down and riding some new roads in your own city will allow you to enjoy new things in your city that you might not notice on your everyday rides.
These routes and roads will not be meant to be your biggest training ride or where you set your highest power numbers but they are meant to be fun and help you explore some of the lesser seen areas in your city. These rides are a great break from fast group rides and racing. Take a step back, slow down, and enjoy your surroundings.