But that doesn’t mean we don’t have the same web of roads. We do, and they’re out there. They’re just usually dirt or gravel.
Obviously a mountain bike is one way to try the fire roads, old logging skid roads, cart paths in the gold country and Sierras, and cattle roads that spill across the Western landscape. But if you want to ride some roaming mix of pavement and dirt, it’s entirely possible to do it on a road bike. Preparation is key.
Be prepared to flat, even though you often won’t. Carry spare tubes, but critically, a patch kit. Some rides you might just have bad luck and puncture all of your spare tubes, and you don’t want to be stranded on some beautiful gravel alpine road, as nice as it may be. Patch kits will allow you to salvage your ride, no problem. In the same vein, forget CO2 cartridges. I have heard sad stories of riders walking miles through the forest because they didn’t have enough CO2 cartridges to keep fixing flats. Carry a frame pump capable of pumping to 110psi – small and large frame pumps continue to get cheaper and more effective every year. Invest in one.
The remoteness of some dirt and gravel roads also means that you need to plan your food and water more intelligently. Bring more fig bars than you’d usually eat, just in case, and upgrade to the largest bottles that can fit on your road frame. Sometimes I will even stick one or two bottles in my jersey pockets.
Ride with a buddy, its safest and more fun to explore unknown parts with a friend, and now there’s no excuse to pine for the road network of the Old World, go see what the American West has to offer.