Ride on a Dirt Road
I grew up with a bike on a dirt road in rural Vermont. It was in the days preceding “play dates” and “soccer moms” and the thousands of miles today’s parents put on minivans, transporting children here and there on a schedule that’ll make your head spin.
Beginning at the age of six, my bike represented freedom. Early on, we had restrictions, of course. We were limited to a half-mile in either direction, but those limits were quickly expanded and soon we were traveling to and from our friends’ houses in the village (3 miles away) and beyond. (We never did tell Mom and Dad about the times we’d head out for Hall’s Pond – 7 miles distant – at age eight, riding with a friend on the rear rack carrying fishing poles and worms to catch yellow perch on summer afternoons.)
By the time I was in seventh grade, I had a bike (and the legs) that could climb the “big hill” coming back from the village. (Because of that hill, it was a 10 minute ride to town and a 30 minute ride back.) I’d regularly head for my friend Peter’s house and we’d cruise Main Street on our banana seated Stingrays, “popping” wheelies and, well, just being kids on bikes. Those memories have only sweetened with time.
Since leaving home at age 18, I’ve been a paved road rider for all of my adult life, enjoying the efficiency of the skinny, high-pressure tires on a smooth surface. My commutes, day-rides, and long-distance tours rarely involved any gravel under foot. After moving to this land in Tunbridge, not far from the home of my youth, I no longer had a bike that was dirt road capable. When I wanted to ride I was faced with loading my bike in the back of the truck and heading to the paved surface of Route 110 in the village. From there, I have some very enjoyable loops, but it’s not the same as being able to ride away from the front door.
That all changed this past weekend. The freedom to ride the dirt roads is back!
It was great fun opening the box containing my new Surly Ogre. Gleaming new parts awaited assembly and a chance to get dirty. After building it up, I took the one-time opportunity to shoot some images of the bike in a clean and pristine condition.
The Ogre is described by Surly as a touring bike – one intended for rough road riding. I was not interested in riding trails or conditions that might make one choose a full-fledged mountain bike. I didn’t want suspension or 26-inch wheels, but I wanted a bike that can be slowed on the many steep descents that surround me (disc brakes) and a geometry that can confidently navigate loose gravel and the rutted road on which I live.
I wanted gearing that can get me up the hills yet still move along at a good pace when riding the five miles of pavement along the way to the co-op in South Royalton.
I wanted pedals that hold secure, but I don’t feel the need for clipping in. Studded platforms grip well.
Finally, I wanted a touch of leather rather than contacting the bike on vinyl and rubber surfaces.
After shooting pictures of my shiny new dirt-road-rider, I climbed aboard, headed out through the meadow and onto the gravel.
Ah, this bike makes me want to strap on a fishing pole or do whatever else an adventurous kid might do on a hot summer’s afternoon. Freedom to ride.