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The Gravel Warrior Trail: 68km of Crunch through Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows & Maple Ridge

Route #1

click to explore route

Sometimes a loop just isn’t long enough, and so you have to decide whether to lap the loop or add another loop to it Figure 8 style so that one lap of the combined loops suffices for the ride.

Gravel vs Road Riding from a Training Perspective

Gravel Riding, also known as Gravel grinding or adventure cycling, has gained significant popularity in recent years. It involves riding on unpaved roads, gravel paths, and trails, typically on a bike designed for off-road use. While gravel riding shares some similarities with road riding, it offers distinct benefits and challenges that make it appealing to cyclists looking for a different experience and enhanced workout gains.

Physical Challenge: Gravel riding presents a more demanding physical challenge compared to road riding. The uneven and rough terrain, varying surfaces, and occasional obstacles such as rocks, roots, or potholes require a higher level of bike handling skills and increased physical effort. Riding on gravel necessitates constant balance and control, engaging more muscle groups, including the core, upper body, and stabilizer muscles, which are not as heavily utilized in road riding. The added effort and constant adjustments for maintaining traction and stability increase the overall intensity of the workout, resulting in improved cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength.

Increased Resistance: Riding on gravel surfaces introduces additional resistance due to the looser terrain, which can include loose gravel, dirt, or even mud. This increased resistance forces cyclists to exert more power through their pedals to maintain momentum. The need for more forceful pedal strokes helps to develop leg strength, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. The greater resistance also provides a higher level of muscle engagement throughout the pedal stroke, leading to improved muscular endurance and power output.

Balance and Bike Handling Skills: Gravel riding requires a higher level of bike handling skills compared to road riding. The constantly changing surfaces and potential hazards demand quick reactions and precise control to navigate effectively. This emphasis on balance, handling, and maneuvering provides an excellent opportunity to refine bike handling skills, which can be advantageous in various cycling disciplines, including road riding. The improved bike handling abilities gained from gravel riding can enhance overall confidence, safety, and performance on the road, making road riding feel easier and more enjoyable.

Mental Stimulation: Gravel riding often takes place in scenic and less-traveled areas, immersing cyclists in a more natural and adventurous environment. The sense of exploration and discovery, combined with the need for constant vigilance on challenging terrain, can be mentally stimulating and refreshing. The engagement required to navigate unfamiliar and sometimes technical trails can provide a break from the monotony of road riding. This mental stimulation can help alleviate boredom and keep the mind more engaged during rides.

Reduced Traffic and Safety Concerns: Gravel riding routes typically have fewer vehicles and less traffic compared to roads, minimizing the safety concerns associated with sharing the road with cars. This reduction in traffic-related stress allows cyclists to focus more on their workout and enjoy a more peaceful and serene riding experience. The absence of traffic distractions and the ability to ride in more remote areas can contribute to a greater sense of freedom and a stronger connection with nature.

Many road cyclists also find gravel riding beneficial as a training tool for road cycling. The increased physical demands, improved bike handling skills, and enhanced muscular strength and endurance gained from gravel riding can translate into improved performance on the road. By incorporating gravel rides into their training regimen, road cyclists can challenge themselves, introduce variety, and benefit from the specific training adaptations that gravel riding provides.

While gravel riding offers unique advantages, it also requires appropriate equipment, such as a gravel-specific bike with wider tires for improved traction and stability, as well as proper safety gear and maintenance practices. Additionally, beginners to gravel riding should gradually progress in terms of difficulty and terrain to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Smaller Laps vs a Longer Loop

As much as I love the PoCo Trail (blue loop left side above), since it’s only 25km around, I have to lap it three times to get my workout in, and that’s still what I do when there’s drizzle or rain because its route add-on (blue loop right side above) lacks tree cover and is not the place you want to be when it gets wet and cold. The PoCo has plenty of tree cover, so lap it I will when it gets too wet to expose myself completely to the harsher elements.

My preference for doing one long loop in cycling rather than laps of three shorter loops, based on the perception of variety and completion, can be understood through various psychological concepts and theories.

Novelty and Variety: Humans have a natural inclination towards novelty and variety. Engaging in a single long loop allows cyclists to experience a greater sense of exploration and discover new aspects of the environment. This novelty can help maintain interest and motivation, as it presents a constant stream of unique experiences.

Sense of Achievement and Completion: The psychological concept of “chunking” suggests that individuals tend to perceive tasks as more manageable when they are divided into meaningful units. Completing a single long loop provides a sense of accomplishment and closure, enhancing the feeling of fulfillment. This contrasts with shorter loops, which may feel repetitive and less satisfying due to the frequent repetition.

Flow State and Immersion: The concept of flow, proposed by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, refers to a state of optimal engagement and immersion in an activity. Engaging in a continuous, uninterrupted ride on a long loop can facilitate the experience of flow, as it allows cyclists to become fully absorbed in the task at hand. This immersion can enhance focus, enjoyment, and overall well-being.

Psychological Priming and Goal Setting: Starting a ride with the intention of completing a single long loop can act as a psychological primer. By setting a specific goal, cyclists create a mental framework that guides their perception and evaluation of the experience. This priming effect can positively influence motivation, commitment, and enjoyment.

Environmental Psychology and Sense of Place: The specific route chosen for a long loop can have a profound impact on the psychological experience. Environmental psychology emphasizes the influence of physical surroundings on human emotions and behavior. Riding through diverse landscapes and changing scenery can evoke positive emotions, enhance a sense of place, and contribute to the perception of variety and fulfillment.

Individual preferences may vary, and some cyclists may still find enjoyment and motivation in laps of shorter loops.

The Gravel Warrior Trail

‘The Gravel Warrior’ is my trail name for this route shown in the map — clicking on it will allow you to access the route via Garmin Connect. If you’re a carless urban dweller, it’s easy to get to the route via the SkyTrain from the East terminus of the Millennium Line (theLafarge Lake/Douglas stop) — just cut through Town Centre Park going North to David Ave, then go East to the Coquitlam River bridge, which is where this Garmin-archived route is showing its Start and End points.

If you’d be approaching the trail by car, you can find numerous dyke and trail access points along the route on Google Maps or whatever open source hippie anti-capitalist corporation-critical alternative to Google Maps you prefer : ) like Duck Duck Map and Quack It or whatever.

The route you see is approximately 80% gravel/dirt and 20% road, where the road sections have generous shoulders or protected lanes and provide a strong sense of safety from the 3% of drivers who are legally under the influence at all times plus all the other idiots driving who should not be.

South edge of Pitt Meadows along the Fraser River dyke trail
Somewhere on the trail
Somewhere on the trail

Along the Route

In this section I’ll cover some highlights along the route, some practical and others more experiential in value. For narrative sense, assume we’re starting at the Start Point (David Ave & the West bank of the Coquitlam River) and going counter-clockwise as suggested by the route’s end points.

‘Downtown’ PoCo

After you go through the two underpasses (Lougheed/Hwy 7 and Kingsway/train tracks) and cross the footbridge to the East bank of the Coquitlam River, you are in ‘downtown’ PoCo, which has the most amenities along the route, being a town centre. On Marpole are Cassandra Cake for English tea, cinnamon buns and coffee, and Patina Brewing, a brewery which has a full BBQ-themed food menu. A little deeper into the centre is a Starbucks and Matteos Gelato. It’s a centre, so it’ll be easy to find most things you might need.

Little Beer Signs (PoCo)

Beer signs are different from bear signs, or signs of bear. Starting at Taylight at the South edge of the PoCo trail along the Fraser River, you’ll see little grass-staked placards to visit the craft breweries in the adjacent industrial areas. Beyond the bridge to Pitt Meadows (which is towards the end of the Gravel Warrior Trail loop) are signs for Tinhouse and Northpaw. Boardwalk brewing is in this same area and they also have a full but smaller menu compared to Patina.

Osprey Village (Pitt Meadows)

Your next little junction of quaint civilization is Osprey Landing on the South dykes of Pitt Meadows, just West of the Goldern Ears Bridge. There’s cutesy places to shop, get spa’d, snack and nice wooden benches in Waterfront Commons Park to reapply your sunscreen etc.

Generic Stripmalls (Maple Ridge)

If you need a pub or Starbucks or some other commercial business, there are some generic strip malls at 203 St. & Lougheed Hwy (Hwy 7).

Cheesecrafters (Maple Ridge)

Golden Ears Way becomes 128th Ave becomes Abernathy Way. Right before 128th metamorphoses into Abernathy is Golden Ears Cheesecrafters, which has cheese, coffee, gelato, a sandwich bar, nice washroom facilities and other nicky nacky snackies to buy.

Maple Ridge Park

Before you turn to head back West is Maple Ridge Park, through which flows the Alouette River which is a great place to soak yourself, but you can also soak yourself in the included water park for kids. There are picnic tables, fragrant toilet shacks, and faucets for refilling water bottles.

Humble Roots & The Ranch

Nice places to stop for a bite on 132 Ave are Humble Roots Cafe and Deli (which is both vegan and carnivore friendly in its selections) and The Ranch Pub and Grill, which is located in an equestrian facility. Just after The Ranch, you turn right (North) on Park Ln to access the North Alouette Regional Greenway Parking lot for accessing the trail head.

Watch Out for Bears (Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadows)

Keeping bear spray in your bag would be a good idea, because there’s a looooooooooong stretch of empty and sparsely populated dyke-land where your chances of encountering a large black bear are actually quite nice.

Golden Eagle Golf Course Detour

When you get to Neeves Rd, if you find yourself craving a golf course pub patio with great views, take a detour North where it becomes Rannie Rd for some reason when it crosses McNeil Rd. You’ll see a sign for Golden Eagle Golf beckoning you right (East) and just follow it to a great patio with decent golf pub food.

Back in PoCo with its Beer Signs

When you cross the bridge back over to PoCo from Pitt Meadows, you’ll be quickly invited to three breweries on the North side of the Hwy 7 bridge and their loosely affiliated, sometimes there, randomly parked food trucks. At any of these breweries, you can also order great pizza from either the very nearby Emilio Finatti’s Pizza (thin/medium crust) or a little further away, San Remo’s (thick crust, deep dish).

The Prairie Ave Bear Avoidance Cut

The Gravel Warrior Trail route suggests taking Prairie Ave West rather than continue on the PoCo Trail, which gives you a little surface variety with paved cycle lanes and a lot less chance of encountering bears along Hyde Creek should you decide to continue on gravel instead. Whether you take the Prairie Ave or Hyde Creek route, you will end up at the same place, where you get to go back into the woods at Patricia Ave and Wellington St.

End Point

Cool, you’ve completed the Gravel Warrior Trail! From the David Ave bridge over the Coquitlam River, head back down to Coquitalm Centre and get on the Skytrain home or explore the pedestrian-friendly shopping areas just North of Coquitlam Centre Mall.

The Gravel Warrior Trail: 68km of Crunch through Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows & Maple Ridge was originally published in Cycle Sage on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

This post first appeared on Making Electronic Music, Visuals And Culture, please read the originial post: here

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The Gravel Warrior Trail: 68km of Crunch through Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows & Maple Ridge


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