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A Ten Mile Rutted Downhill on my Gravel Bike?

Jennifer Klein | Published on 1/28/2021

Das Boot January 2021
A dedicated roadie for many decades, I got a mountain bike in 2015, and enjoyed it but scared myself too many times. So I swapped it for a nice Moots gravel bike when my mountain bike was stolen. Now we’re talking. It became my everyday bike for the urban potholes, hills and solo rides around Buckhead, with occasional gravel rides in South Carolina or Dirty Sheets, saving my race bike for times I needed speed. I had no idea what the bike (and I) could handle, recalling the trails and technical descents I had ridden on the mountain bike. And I was too chicken to figure it out.

Das Boot January 2021
Finally this year I’ve been stepping out. New gravel roads in South Fulton and western NC. Fun rolling hills at Murder Creek. But the Helen area? With a ten mile sketchy descent down Tray Mountain? Once other Sorella teammates committed to Das Boot, a gravel meet up with Georgia Rodeo Rally (no entry fee, no support), we gathered in the Helen GA parking lot. Of course I signed up for the ‘Long' version (that’s what I do...).

Das Boot January 2021
Just a few miles in and we’re heading straight up a dirt road called Scorpion Hollow. From there it was lots of muddy climbing, finding a line around washed out curves and rocks. I love climbing, no problem there! Good thing I like it. Sixteen miles of climbing, throw in some icy snow, then a peat bog.

Das Boot January 2021
Now for the part I had been dreading, the ten mile downhill to the finish. The night before I had Googled “how to descend on a gravel bike”, which came in handy. No big news, but good to put in the brain... feather the rear brakes, be Cool, Calm, and Collected, scrub speed before the turn, hands in the drops, look ahead, butt back and off the saddle...mainly I was trying to build confidence that the descent was doable as long as I controlled speed and didn’t freak.

Das Boot January 2021
So after a short break I headed down. Rutted is not strong enough to describe the road conditions -- worn sharp rocks, gullies, troughs running diagonally across the road. Titanium is a champ at absorbing shock if I do my part and let it flow. Talk about all senses alert, finding that balance between enjoying the flow and keeping control, while looking for the best line and avoiding the occasional Jeep trying to navigate uphill. A few times I grabbed the rear brakes too hard, and realized that could throw me over fast. Back to the mantra: feather the brakes, butt back, scrub speed before a curve. Glancing at my Garmin, only four miles to go. A creeping smile. I’ve got this. I roll into the parking lot like a champ.