Gravel, rocks, grit, sand, mud. What is it about riding on skinny tires over trails covered in these substances that interests me so? It's not a particularly enjoyable exercise to be honest. Even on a cross bike the vibrations created by rolling over these surfaces are translated directly to every tender part of the body that you can imagine, and maybe some that you can't. Additionally - spills, near spills, flats and chain hops are frequent occurrences caused by the unstable nature of unpaved roads.
A recent excursion into the rock laden dirt roads north east of the beautiful Chico/Paradise area of Northern California was a perfect example of the wonderful awfulness of riding such trails. Heading out of the Bidwell park area of Chico I traveled down the paved park bike path until the end of town and then onto the dirt and rock covered Fenced road for over 8 miles to the end of the ridge overlooking Big Chico Creek. At the end of the canyon I couldn't help but notice 3 vultures circling over my head and, thinking they may have known something I didn't, I decided to head back down the hill into town for a final tally of over 18 of the days 38 miles ridden on some of the most bone shattering trails I've had the pleasure of experiencing.
This area offers some of the best cycling I've ever done, and the variation of road types is part of that allure. If you've never tried riding on roads such as these I urge you to do so as soon as possible. It's an experience like no other on a road bike and I truly believe makes you a better rider when back on the smoothly paved modern roads that make up the lions share of our weekly miles. The lure of dirt is a strong one, and if you're not careful you may find yourself scouring google earth for mines of unpaved gold in your neck of the woods.