All Roads Lead Back to Peterborough
Pick up a current cycling magazine or visit any bike company website these days and riders can’t help but be overwhelmed by the buzz surrounding gravel cycling. The array of gravel bikes, tires, handlebars and shoes is exciting. Throughout North America and in pockets of Europe, riders are venturing out to places that were traditionally thought to be off-limits for road bikes. Riders are going farther and exploring more while pushing their skills and endurance farther than ever before. Quite simply, the discovery that riding gravel roads can bring more adventure and joy to the already deeply satisfying experience of cycling has rejuvenated the sport of road cycling.
Although the gravel cycling experience is regionally varied, the essence is the same the world over; cyclists are questing for new adventures while keeping a healthy distance from car traffic. These peaceful country roads and byways are finally being discovered by a new generation of riders. Cyclists in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada are deeply committed when it comes to riding road bikes on gravel roads. They’ve been taking advantage of these quiet back-roads for generations and like other communities that are grounded in gravel, they’ve evolved their own currency of experience. One member of Peterborough community who lives and breathes the gravel experience is Shimano Gravel Alliance member, Kieran Andrews.
A lifetime cyclist with a love of exploring, Kieran recognized early in life that a bicycle could take him away from the constraints of the rural family property and this led to a slow burning growth of passion for cycling in all its forms. Touring then racing in his early years followed by building both retail and travel businesses with cycling at their very core, Kieran has never strayed far from his early love of riding bikes. Kieran can be found at recreational master’s races, gravel events around North America, guiding clients in Europe or, most often, rolling along the quietest roads in Peterborough County.
5 Questions for Kieran
This is easy! For the past couple of seasons, I have been riding a Trek Boone, which is technically a cyclocross bike although I have made a few modifications to make it an ideal gravel bike. It’s great for the hard-packed, fast-rolling kind of gravel roads we have around here. A carbon frame helps to dampen vibration while disc brakes allow more clearance for large tires so this bike is really comfortable over long, long distances. I also use Shimano’s Ultegra RX rear derailleur which has a clutch system that virtually eliminates chain noise when riding rough roads. At the end of the day though, it is not so much the bike that I love but the places that a bike like this allows me to confidently ride that I get so excited about.
TALKING OF LONG RIDES… JUST HOW LONG?
Don’t get me wrong, I like all rides! Long, short… whatever I can squeeze into a day. That said, I do like the odd epic and last summer I chose a 280km route to Almonte that took in tiny gravel roads, some skidoo trail, and road allowances. It was a long day!
ANY ADVICE FOR AN ASPIRING GRAVEL CYCLIST?
Well, the first thing is to stop being afraid that you will damage your bike, because you won’t. Okay, with normal road tires you might be more likely to puncture but I personally believe that getting onto the quiet roads is well worth it. If you love the experience, then kitting your bike up with more suitable tires is an easy thing to do. With a capable bike and capable tires, all those little crossroads that you normally pass by, all the ones you have never considered riding, suddenly become intriguing. Just start exploring! Your life will be better for it, I promise!
IS THERE ONE STORY OR PERSON THAT CHANGED YOU AS A PERSON OR CYCLIST?
I have had a number of very influential people find their way into my life but oddly it is one sentence that has stuck with me for years. When I was an early teen and aspiring racer I was on a ride that was far too hard/long for me. An older Brit who could see that I was suffering rolled up to me in the group and said something like, “If you keep pushing down on those pedals it is amazing how far a bike will take you.” I don’t even remember this person’s name but his voice has always stuck with me. Most of the people I know I ride bikes with and most of the countries I have visited I have experienced on a bike. My life, my love, my business, they are all tied in some way to cycling… mostly because I never really stopped pushing down on the pedals.
Follow Kieran Andrews on Strava for more inspiration and route ideas.
If you like photos of people riding bikes in unlikely places, check out Kieran on Instagram.