Gravel Bicycle Ride in Castell, Texas

“31 Miles” Castell, 2020

Today I headed out west to the Texas Hill Country to do my first proper gravel ride. The route I took starts in the small town of Castell, and loops around to the south before ending back at the town for a total of 31 miles. I rode in the counter-clockwise direction, which pretty much starts out on gravel, and ends on paved roads. I think that worked out great, because at the end of the 31 miles, I was pooped, and hitting that smooth asphalt was welcomed.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/11, 1/320 sec, ISO200
“Gravel Ride” Castell, 2020

As I mentioned before, this is my first proper gravel ride on my bicycle. I used to ride roads like these on my motorcycle quite a bit and that actually gave me some good experience that translated well to the bicycle. For instance, when there’s a sandy part, it’s best to have a decent amount of speed so you can keep your momentum going, and when things get squirrelly, the best option is to give it some gas, or in the case of the bicycles, to just power through. You might think being in a granny gear would be good for sand, but no… if you are going that slow, you won’t have enough momentum. Better to be in a middle/low gear and push down hard!

But this route is really not too difficult as far as sand was concerned. I only had to get off and push twice, and each time was only for half a minute or so before reaching firmer dirt. For a newbie like me, this route was perfect. Not too easy, but not too tough either. About half way through, there was a pretty steep hill where I had to shift into my lowest granny gear. It was awesome! I have a triple chainring on my bicycle, and I keep it in the middle chainring 95% of the time, but I had to throw it into the low chainring in order to make it up that hill without spending too much effort. So much fun!

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/11, 1/160 sec, ISO200
“Shady Spot” Castell, 2020

One thing about this trail is that there’s plenty of washboard surface to deal with. You can usually find a smooth line but it takes a lot of attention, which means that it’s not a completely leisurely ride. You have to actually watch where you’re going! 😄 A couple of times, there was no smooth line through, or it was on the other side of the road and I couldn’t reach it quick enough, and I went over the washboard a bit too fast. I thought my bike was going to fall apart with all that rattling! But luckily she held together, and the only “damage” was that my top-heavy phone/holder would work its way downward with each big bump and I would just have to readjust it. 😊

My bike has a cheap suspension fork, which just about everyone says is junk and should be replaced. I think that is good advice if you are are using the bike for proper mountain-biking, but for the type of riding I do, the simple spring suspension is really nice. It doesn’t require maintenance, removes road vibration, and I don’t think there’s a lot of energy loss when pedaling. Modern gravel bikes have rigid forks, but I’m very happy with the simple suspension fork and appreciate the comfort that the 2.5 inches of travel provides. I’m sure my wrists are better for it after all the washboard today!

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/11, 1/3200 sec, ISO3200
“Big Dip” Castell, 2020

The nice thing about this gravel route is that there were no cars to deal with. For the first half of the ride, which was all gravel, I only saw one ATV. That meant I could ride anywhere on the road to find the smoothest line. It was great! Towards the end of the ride, where there were more homes, I saw maybe 4 or five trucks, which were all going at a slow speed and gave me a wave. I suspect most gravel roads have a similar lack of traffic which makes gravel rides so appealing.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/11, 1/480 sec, ISO200
“Granite Section” Castell, 2020

The remoteness was refreshing, but if you are riding this route, make sure to have some basic tools and a way to fix a flat tire, since you might not see another person for a while. I always carry a tube, patch kit, pump, first aid kit, and basic tools in my pannier, so I wasn’t too worried about getting stranded. If worse came to worse, you could always walk back and pick up your bike later.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/11, 1/400 sec, ISO200
“Gravel Ride” Castell, 2020

This loop goes to the south of Castell, but there’s also a north loop, which looks like it would also be fun. I’m looking forward to riding that in the future. Actually, there’s an event called the Castell Grind where you can ride the South Loop, or both loops if I understand the description correctly. It looks like quite the race! Not really my thing, but it’s neat that something like that exists.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/4.5, 1/2000 sec, ISO200
“Gravel Ride” Castell, 2020
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/11, 1/400 sec, ISO200
“Mango” Castell, 2020

If you are a newbie to gravel riding, and live in Central Texas, I highly recommend a visit to Castell. It’s a terrific ride! I enjoyed the solo trip, but I think it would be great with one or two friends, and pack a lunch to enjoy together halfway through the route. Next time!

Lunchtime Ride to the Park

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/6.4, 1/900 sec, ISO200
“Brushy Creek Lake” Cedar Park, 2020

We’re having some awesome weather here in Central Texas this week so I had to take advantage of it and go for a ride at lunch. We live near Brushy Creek Trail and I can cycle there easily from my house which is awesome!

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/5.6, 1/1100 sec, ISO200
“Kite” Cedar Park, 2020

The problem with the trail is that it’s too narrow for easy social distancing, and most people on the trail do not wear masks. I counted maybe 2 other cyclists wearing masks, and only 4 pedestrians masked up. I got pretty good at pulling the mask up from my chin to over my mouth and nose when needed, but towards the end of the ride, it was just easier to wear the mask all the time. I just wish others did too! So, I’ll probably not ride the trail much until we are done with COVID, or maybe I will double-layer my masks.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/8, 1/450 sec, ISO200
“Brushy Creek Lake” Cedar Park, 2020

Looking at the stats for this ride, it looks like the distance is 13.1 miles, which is a half-marathon! I guess it would be a good route to run in order to get that achievement. But impossible for me because of the social-distancing thing. I’ll only run on the wide neighborhood streets where I can ditch the mask and keep a good space between myself and others. Oh well…

I hope you had a good day!

Bicycle Name

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/5, 1/105 sec, ISO200
“Golden Hour Bicycle” Cedar Park, 2020

I gave my motorcycle and car names (Kiki and Sana respectively), and I wanted to give my Kona Blast bicycle a name. I’ve thought for a while now, and decided to go with Mango.

The original paint color is called “Mongo” so it’s pretty close, and the color is like the meat of a ripe mango. I also thought of naming it Papaya, which is probably more accurate color-wise and is interesting because my kids still call me Papa, but it just doesn’t roll off the tongue as naturally as Mango does.

Anyway, here’s my bicycle – um Mango – on the same bridge several years ago:

Photo info: Panasonic DMC-TS2, 7.8mm, f/4.3, 1/250 sec, ISO80
“Panniers” Cedar Park, 2013

I hope you had a good day! 😊🚲

Friday Night Ride

“Evening Shadow” Cedar Park, 2020

Since I don’t go out socially during the COVID-19 pandemic, a typical Friday night is spent with a bicycle ride and a beer. Not at the same time, of course, but hmmm… maybe I could fill a water bottle with an adult beverage, or throw a bottle of wine in the pannier and head to the park? An idea worth pondering. 😀

I hope you had a nice end of the work-week!

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/10, 1/420 sec, ISO200
“Friday Sunset” Cedar Park, 2020
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/2, 1/100 sec, ISO2000
“Friday Refreshment” Cedar Park, 2020

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