First Time Gravel Ride, “I found it almost meditative!”

By Bill Plock

Meet Maigread, she is relatively new to cycling having joined the WeRide4 cycling team last spring, buying a road bike and hitting it hard racking up almost 2,500 miles in 2020. In 2021, she has already ridden over 2,000 miles. She is not totally new to cycling, she used to be a triathlete and has always kept in shape, but life got in the way for a few years and she recently rediscovered her love of cycling when she moved to Colorado last year. She is still figuring out the nuances ; which clothing, what nutrition, what routes, what sunglasses etc. So to the throw an obstacle or slide a bit or navigate some mud added to the challenge–and to the fun!

At the bottom of the article find information about Standley Lake, our route and a little history

Maigread at Standley Lake

Last week was her first ever gravel ride–and her normal big smile became even bigger riding on the single track around Standley Lake Regional Park. So big she couldn’t help but give a good ol’ hoot and holler of joy. She had no idea gravel/dirt could be so fun! So we took a deeper dive into her new found joy and she hopes others who have been curious about all the gravel rage will get out and try it.

Single track on the south “bluffs of Standley lake”

1. What were you most nervous about before you first “gravel ride”?

On my first gravel ride I was nervous about the most basic thing – not falling off!  Given the gravel terrain, I was concerned about my ability to keep my balance.

2. Did what you were nervous about end up being an issue?

No, actually I found it pretty easy (and fun) to adjust to rocks, branches and other things that came my way.

The Greenway Trail that runs north of Standley Lake towards Indiana

3. What did you love most about it

I loved being out in nature and to enjoy it without stop signs, traffic and other man-made distractions. Gravel allowed me to explore terrain that otherwise could only be reached by walking or hiking. I found it almost meditative!

4. What surprised you most? 

I was surprised that per mile gravel versus road is harder, expends more calories/energy. Given how fun it was it did not seem harder, but afterwards I had quite the appetite!

5. As a new cycling enthusiast describe the feeling of gravel vs. road

Riding gravel felt so free, much like on the road bike when you have a straight stretch of country road that you can ride without any distractions and little traffic.

6. Why would you encourage others to venture off road

I would highly recommend venturing off road and exploring. Gravel is a wonderful compliment to road biking and offers a chance to see experience more of Colorado in a new way!

Standley Lake Regional park offers mostly non-technical, fairly smooth riding. On the East and North side of the lake there is a fairly wide road/trail to ride. There are many trails below the dam that create small loops or exits into the neighborhoods and you can connect into the Big Dry Creek Trail system. On the south and west side of the lake the trails are more single track in nature. Note that you can’t go around the entire lake as the West/Northwest side is a protected Eagle Sanctuary (view the Eagle Cam here). You can exit the park on the west side and ride on 88th west to Alkire, north to 100th and get back into the park on the North side. Or just west of Simms, you can head north into the regional park on the Colorado Greenway Trail that actually goes through a massive dog park and ends a spectacular overlook just east of Indiana Street. My route of preference is to enter the park on the south, head east and north, go below the dam, climb up to the north entrance go past the welcome center staying on the trail and cross 100th and continue north. Link to our ride:

Standley Lake is the third largest body of water in the Denver Metro area. The dam was completed in 1911 and at the time was the largest earthen dam in the United States, possibly second in the world. Dignitaries including the Secretary of Agriculture took a special rail car from Denver for the christening. This from the history page about the park

After stepping off the train at the construction camp below the dam, the crowd ascended the massive earthen wall on foot. One reporter with the Denver Daily News (Sept. 8, 1911) described the view: “On top, the almost dry bottom of the lake spread out like a huge amphitheater. Clumps of trees in the bottom, from one to two miles distant, appeared like bushes, and out in the heart of the big hole a group of farm buildings rested peacefully where 100 feet of water will be reposing in a year or two.”

Strava route

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