Rose was presenting at SXSW EDU in Austin, Texas, so Gravel Bike Adventures decided to go on the road! Prior to the trip, we did a bit of research and reached out to a few bike stores to get some route suggestions and to rent bikes. Crickets… Then we found Russell at Cycleast.
Cycleast and it’s owner Russell Pickavance went above and beyond to make us feel welcome and taken care of (legitimately spoiled) in Austin. They were so responsive and generous with their time, equipment and resources- we were really blown away. Seriously, we really can’t say enough great stuff about them. If you are in Austin and need to rent a bike, or just want to visit a friendly bike store and grab a cup of killer coffee, GO TO CYCLEAST and we promise- you will not be disappointed!!
Additionally, we were thrilled to see that Cycleast is a huge supporter of the LGBTQ community. Cycleast sponsors Team Snacks, a team that seeks to be inclusive and inspire all non-cis men to ride bikes while also building a strong community in Austin, TX. We were respected as serious cyclists and treated as humans that deserved their time and kindness.
Cycleast has a great selection of Salsa gravel bikes (especially for two small women who’ve had trouble in the past finding appropriate sized bikes for rent)! Lucky us, we had the opportunity to ride the (super bad ass) Salsa Cutthroat Force 1 and the Salsa Journeyman for the weekend. We’d never ridden Salsa bikes before and it was a real treat! Although we aren’t professional product reviewers, we thought it would be meaningful to share our thoughts on the bikes.
In our opinion, both bikes offered a great deal of versatility. Whether you are doing a long Austin gravel ride or starting to venture into bike camping, these bikes are ideal. As road cyclists transitioning to gravel riding, these bikes still rode a lot like a traditional road bike, yet gave us much more confidence and stability on technical terrain. One of the features that we really appreciate is the frames ability to accommodate both narrow gravel tires or wider mountain bike tires. We live in a small apartment and we could envision getting these bikes and having two wheel sets so they could be our road/gravel/touring/camping bikes. t is easy to see how these bikes would be great for bike camping. The frame geometry allows for a ton of storage and has ready made eyelets for all types of mounting.
Laura rode the Salsa Cutthroat Force 1 and loved the lightweight carbon frame. Even though the front end is a little higher than her current bike she found it comfortable for 50 miles. The handlebars have a flair that she found enhanced stability over the bumpiest gravel sections. Laura loved the 29 inch tires which led to greater confidence especially down hill on gravel. The only complaint was that wider tires did slow the bike down on pavement.
Rose rode the Salsa Journeyman Apex 1 650 and found that it actually fit really well for someone who is barely 5’0″! Rose often describes a road bike as a Porsche and a mountain bike as an SUV. She found the Journeyman to be the perfect blend of both. It has the power of a road bike but the ability to seamlessly transition to tough gravel roads and trails.
Because of Rose’s small stature, it has been difficult to find bikes that allow for lots of bike packing storage. This was not a problem with the Journeyman. The frame geometry allows for bags in the frame, off the seat, and panniers of the front and back forks. The price point for this bike is amazing! At just under $1,500 this bike certainly felt like an advanced machine that could ride for many years.
Cycleast provided us with a perfect Austin gravel ride to introduce us to the city. The route included little known, unmarked trails as well as the more popular city trails.
Here is our review of the route:
Getting lost in a new city and remaining playful throughout the detours.
Trying out a new bike toy and loving it.
The beautiful East Boggy Creek Greenbelt gravel section made the terror of crossing the elevated railroad tracks worth it!
The gravel path that goes around Lady Bird Lake, a 7 mile loop that during the week had minimal foot traffic.
Veracruz Taco Truck at Radio Cafe made for the perfect lunch stop on a hot Austin day.
Shoal Creek Path added a unique gravel element in the middle of the city. The homes and views of the Colorado River on Scenic Drive were ridiculous!
Wind is no joke in Austin. 15 mile an hour headwind is difficult on a long day.
There were several sections that took us through strip mall parking lots which weren’t the most scenic.
The city was full with SXSW visitors which led to many people not understanding bike and pedestrian right-of-way etiquette.
Do this ride if you are visiting Austin (or live in Austin) and want a good tour of several city trails and neighborhoods with mixed road surfaces. Some of the trails were well used by pedestrians and tourists, so a weekday ride would probably be preferable to a weekend.
Radio Cafe is a great lunch stop and refueling station. The Migas Poblano taco from the Veracruz Taco Truck was the bomb!
There were times that we got a little turned around on the route so take a closer look at the Strava map before blindly following it.
We started this ride from Cycleast/Flat Track Coffee in East Austin, TX. They have a small parking lot, but there is also street parking on the neighborhood streets immediately surrounding the bike store.
Laura Karpinski and Rose Barcklow are the creators of Gravel Bike Adventures. Click on the About page to learn more about them.