This all started back in May during the Roanoke Stage Race p/b Roa-Stoked.COM. This Strava stage race had 2 road, 2 gravel, and 2 mtb stages in and around the Roanoke area. One of the gravel stages was an awesome loop leaving out of the Day Creek Day Use Area.

The loop: It starts on pavement and traverses northeast to Bobbletts Gap, a FS (Forest Service) road climb up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Then you drop down the north side of the parkway to a super snaky, undulating, gravel road with no name, which spits you out on a big, baby head rocks strewn, climb up to the Parkway again, and finally a descend straight back to the Day Creek Day Use Parking lot.

The first lap I had done on this loop was on my Super Jake, fitted with 40c Maxxis Ramblers. I thought this setup could slay all. I put down a good time but flatted on the last descent and realized throughout the loop that 40c gravel tires just wasn’t enough to really rally on the tech FS road descents. 

That was in May. Then Emily and I moved to Roanoke and the loop became much more accessible. So I wanted to give it another go… With another tire modification.

I had gotten my lusty Libre built up by this point and was eager to give a proper gravel bike a go on the loop. I also acquired some 47c Maxxis Ramblers, so I threw those on thinking that would be the ticket.

Long story short I ended up flatting twice! 

I had one more trick up my sleeve before I had to pull out the Hei Hei.

You see the Kona Libre is an extremely versatile bike. It has the capability to fit 700c road slicks and also big fat 650b meat eaters. With that said I grabbed a pair of Maxxis Pace 2.1 X650b tires and hit the loop again.

No flats this time but I was still struck at how much I had to hold back on the descents. When I think of descending gravel I don’t think of having to hold back because my setup isn’t capable of the terrain. I think about letting it go and getting sideways. However, these gravel roads are more like jeep roads with bigger rocks, water bar compressions, and they go on for a long time. 

Thus, a question presents itself. When does it make sense to ride a gravel bike or an mtb? I didn’t start this series with this question in mind, it found me. I just wanted to do this loop as fast as possible. I thought the drop bar genre would for sure be the bike to do it on, what with the pavement, bigger climbs, and relatively mellow terrain. However, it just may turn out that the fat tires of an mtb aren’t much of a trade off on the pavement when you consider how much faster you can rip them down a FS road.


Stay posted Day Creek Gravel Loop V4 (Hei Hei edition) is coming down the pipe soon!