Gravel bike riding in the Gloucester region

A more social way to ride: Mike King, Tim Clark and Nick Fell enjoy the travelling the street roads around picturesque Gloucester. Photo Scott Calvin

A more social way to ride: Mike King, Tim Clark and Nick Fell enjoy the travelling the street roads around picturesque Gloucester. Photo Scott Calvin

When people hear the term 'gravel grinding', they probably don't think of cycling.

But according to a few mad keen enthusiasts, it's the latest craze and the Gloucester region is the place to give it a go.

According to Gloucester resident, Tim Clark gravel riding is a new trend in cycling that is taking off due to its relaxed and social nature.

For Tim, self-proclaimed former couch-potato, it was the activity that got him up and moving.

"Previously I was pretty lazy and enjoyed sitting on the coach, drinking beer," Tim admitted. "Then I thought maybe it was time to do something."

Tim is part of a group of fellow Gloucester cyclists who get together for a ride on Sunday mornings, exploring the beauty the region has to offer.

For two days in April, Tim took part in his first gravel riding event, the non-competitive Thunderbolts Adventure. He was joined by cycling mates, Mark Beech, Mike King, Nick Fell James and Raymond Saunders on the epic 227 kilometre journey from Gloucester up over the Barrington Tops to Moonan Flat and back again.

Riding on gravel roads around the Gloucester region can offer a range of environments to explore including crossing water courses. Photo Scott Calvin

Riding on gravel roads around the Gloucester region can offer a range of environments to explore including crossing water courses. Photo Scott Calvin

"I'd never even driven to Moonan because I always thought it was too far," Tim laughed.

But there's something about gravel grinding that inspired him to take part. Gravel riding is done on a bike which is a hybird of a mountain bike and a road bike, meaning tyres built for off-road with the agility and speed achieved on pavement.

Gravel riding, aka gravel grinding or adventure riding, is an increasingly popular form of cycling that combines elements of road and mountain biking, and consisting mostly of distance riding over unpaved roads.

Although there is a degree of fitness stamina required to gravel grind, for Tim, it was also a way of meeting new people in Gloucester after recently moving to town.

Tim is keen about encouraging others to become more active and believes this social style of cycling is a great motivator.

"My increased fitness means I can play for with my kids," Tim said.

"And it's also a way for me to explore this area."

And Tim's is not the only one, with many gravel grinders from the Central Coast and Sydney also flocking to the area most weekends.

Together Tim Clark, Mike King and Nick Fell explore a new area to ride in Bindera, west of Gloucester, which offers sweeping views of the area. Photo Scott Calvin

Together Tim Clark, Mike King and Nick Fell explore a new area to ride in Bindera, west of Gloucester, which offers sweeping views of the area. Photo Scott Calvin

"Gravel riding is becoming more popular in Gloucester," Tim said.

And why wouldn't they be. There are so many gravel roads to ride between Gloucester town and the Barrington Tops National Park, or Woko National Park, or Bulahdelah even.

It's a long list of places to explore, each with its own beauty, charm and sense of adventure. Even longtime resident and avid endure rider, James Saunders is uncovering new areas to ride.

"We recently came across a flood road on a property, which was in better condition than any of the other roads we had been on," James said. "I'd never been there before but I've been back since."

For Mike King, who has recently completed the Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast cycling from Perth to Newcastle to raise awareness and funds for children in dire situations, gravel riding is a change of pace.

"There is little traffic and you can have a lot of fun. Gravel roads take you through some picturesque areas. Gloucester is very blessed that way," Mike said.

Although Tim Clark, Mike King and Nick Fell enjoy the social side of riding, they aren't scared of a little competition to see who gets there first. Photo Scott Calvin

Although Tim Clark, Mike King and Nick Fell enjoy the social side of riding, they aren't scared of a little competition to see who gets there first. Photo Scott Calvin

Gravel riding in the region has been written about by enthusiasts on numerous cycling websites and magazines. In Cycle Magazine, Jack Lynch writes about the beauty of riding through the Gloucester region and how it vindicates his passion for the sport.

Gloucester has long been a hot tourist destination, with Church Street filling up most weekends and school holidays. People come into the region for any reasons from camping to snow-chasing, along with many motorcyclists stopping by on their through.

Nick Fell is not only new to the Gloucester area, but he's relatively new to gravel riding having only picked it up a few months ago. But it's an activity he thoroughly enjoys.

"It's very scenic and more challenging than just riding on the bitumen," Nick said.

Tim, James, Mick and Nick are part of the like minded group of gravel riders who ride every Sunday. Besides it being an excellent way to stay fit and explore the beautiful surroundings of the Gloucester region, it's also an excellent excuse for a bit of socialising.

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