Back yards; we all have them and, if we are lucky, we all love them. These are the places that we have spent our lives exploring, the places that we have spent years riding while season after season passes by. I am not talking about the space behind our homes. No, I am talking about the big BACK YARD …which for cyclists pretty much means anywhere you can reach in a day’s ride from home.
Recently I have become somewhat obsessed with the idea of the shared back yard cycling experience. Honestly, as much as I love exploring on my onesie, I know that best way for me to experience a new location is to allow myself to be draw forward by the passion of a rider who has spent years exploring their local roads. And, yes, if a visiting cyclist wants to experience the best of my home roads they should search out a person like me to show them around.
When the Shimano Gravel Alliance crew recently descended upon Loudoun County, Virginia it was one of our members who took us out exploring. Phil poured his heart into building us a route that hit up the best roads, a crazy river ford, historical battle fields and a fantastic hill-top brewery. Following Phil we did not have to do anything but pedal, chat, and take in the sights.
Although small in scale our Virginia ride reminded me of a project that I had worked on earlier in the summer. Together with a good friend and event promoter we put together a casual sportive to encourage riders from far and wide to come to my back yard. I wanted people to experience this place that I love so much; to experience it as I do. Inspired by the simple joy of sharing my local roads and cycling scene we created a little festival of gravel-riding goodness that visitors raved about. Memories of that event came alive for me again in seeing the same joy in Phil’s eyes as the Gravel Alliance stoke grew and grew in Loudoun County. The dots, as the saying goes, were connected.
Sure, I love the peaceful nature of exploring on my own but there is something very special about the shared experience of riding bikes together. My hope is that in some small way I can influence riders to share their local experience as well as reach out beyond their own back yards to experience new places.