Gravel Biking Tips
Gravel biking, also known as gravel riding, is best described as cycling on non-paved and unsurfaced roads over long distances. Usually the trails used by gravel riders are located in rural areas which offer beautiful sceneries when cycling. The thrill that the sports brings and the captivating landscape that someone gets to experience has made it become increasingly popular.
Here is our guide on gravel bicycling for beginners who are looking to get started and participate in the thrilling sport.
Why Gravel Riding Is Awesome
One of the things that I love about gravel riding is that it offers the peace and solitude. You can get away from the hassles of city life and honking cars. It is the perfect way to unwind and relax without any distractions.
Gravel roads are mostly spread across vast rural areas. They are filled with natural and beautiful sceneries. If you are a fan of natural beauty, gravel riding is for you. You can go alone or with some friends to explore all around you. Venturing into the unknown and exploring new places is exhilarating and challenging.
I would argue that gravel bicycling is the most entertaining form of bicycling. You don't need to worry about any cars or follow any city rules. All you need is the right gear, a few basic bike-maintaining abilities, and an adventurous soul.
There are several popular places all across the country for gravel riding. Chances are you might find a gravel rider along your path. One of the things I like about gravel riding is that the community is supportive and diverse. It contains people from different walks of life and backgrounds who like to share their stories and experiences. This is an excellent opportunity for a first-time gravel rider to make friends and polish their riding skills.
How To Start & Tips for Gravel Riders
Gravel riding is super fun and keeps you energized, but sometimes it might get tricky and daunting. For beginners, gravel riding can be intimidating, but you can make it easier. All you need to do is practice your cycling skills. Gradually start riding on unsteady surfaces like gravel, dirt, grass and potholed streets. Then, go for harsher and more challenging terrains like canal paths, bridleways, rocky hills and steep mountainous trails.
Here are a few useful tips:
Use a Gravel Bike
Most of the time a lot of people will try and customize their current bike to ride it in gravel. This often involves buying and switching tires. I've found that it's much easier to buy a bike made for off road cycling. Look for bikes that can fit bigger tires. A bigger tire will give you more traction and allow you to use a lower level of pressure, which can reduce the risk of a puncture. A tire with at least 25 mm width is perfect.
Gravel bikes are faster than others and built to provide stability and comfort. They are designed for difficult weather and increased carrying capacity.
It's always better to relax and glide over harsh terrains. Position your arms and knees to absorb vibrations. This will ensure a comfortable ride and help maintain proper balance. Uneven pathways will instinctively make you hit the brakes, usually when descending, but it can cause the tires to lose friction, so be careful with hitting the brakes.
Always check the weather forecast before going on a gravel ride. If rain is expected, carry the appropriate gear.
Keep in mind your phone battery and try to save it in case you need it later. If you're riding alone, tell someone about your whereabouts.
Always carry plenty of fluids and food items that provide plenty of carbs. If you really want to be cautious then carry a toolkit that contains spare tubes, pump, multi-tool, tire levers, extra derailleur hanger, duct tape and zip ties incase you need them for the bike.
Keep an Eye on the Road
With gravel riding, you're in for an adventure, not competition. It is easy to get your eyes off the road to appreciate the scenery around you, but this can cause you to get distracted and lose focus. Scan the path for any potential hazards like deep potholes or rocks.
Make Turns Carefully
Since gravel riding is about exploring and adventuring, sharp and sudden turns are expected. If you quickly turn the handlebars on a turn, the front wheel will slip and slide on the gravel. To prevent that, the key is to relax and smoothly turn.
A great way to ensure an effortless turn each time is to shift your weight and adjust your bottom accordingly slowly. The most crucial points to remember are gentle transitions and moderate leans.
Consider investing in a GPS
Gravel events call for venturing out and exploring the unknown but getting back before sundown is essential too. That's why a good GPS unit is recommended. You can download a map of the trail and get directions.
It pinpoints your location and shows you how far you need to travel. This way, you don't have to worry about wandering off the path by mistake and getting lost.
Gravel Riding Bikes
Technological advancements in the bike world have given rapid popularity to gravel bikes. Essentially gravel bikes are a cross between a mountain bike and a road bike, which makes it the best durable machinery for riding on any landscape, whether it's a gravel or a dirt path.
It is adaptable and versatile, making it capable of excelling both on and off the road. What makes it unique is its improved geometry, enhanced disc-brake technology, long-distance comfort and ample tire clearance.
Gravel bikes combine the elements of a road bike and mountain bike, meaning that their geometry is more impressive and improved. A larger frame and adjustable head angle are designed to give more command on high speeds over rugged terrains. An elevated head tube makes long-distance traveling much more relaxed and comfortable.
Also, gravel bikes have bigger tires, unlike a road bike, ranging between 28 mm and 55 mm wide. They ensure better road grip and provide a smooth ride over rough and bumpy surfaces. Furthermore, an absence of brake caliper on the rims means more clearance and space for bigger tires. The hydraulic discs also offer increased braking power, which provides a smooth ride in unpredictable situations like rain, dirt, snow and slippery surfaces.
Gravel bikes are lightweight and typically don't focus on suspension. They are equipped with connections for everything like mudguards, water bottle cages, eyelet and pannier racks. This is great if you prefer extensive traveling on a bike. Here are a few good options:
1. Tommaso Sterrata
Tommaso is a high-end bike brand with many years of experience. The Sterrata is a serious next-level bike. It is a commuter and tour-friendly bike designed for adventure and freedom. It comes with a fantastic set of features.
Weighing in at 25 pounds, this bike shares a similar geometric design to performance bikes. It consists of strong and wide tires, an excellent drivetrain, a light carbon frame, stable handling and efficient acceleration. It is excellent for both experienced and first-time gravel cyclists and is available in XS to XL sizes. Although it's pricey, it is available in a variety of colors.
Features and Specifications
- The compact aluminum frame is combined with a carbon fiber fork for durability and comfort. It contains various fenders and mounts, making it exemplary for touring, commuting and gravel grinding.
- The Shimano Claris groupset performs flawlessly, ensuring maximum speed. This wide variety of gears turns this bike into the perfect machine for commuters to ride on dirt, gravel paths or smooth, paved roads in any condition.
- The TC-30D wheels are resilient and aerodynamic. They offer much-needed toughness for all kinds of surfaces. The 28-spoke rims roll effortlessly and can carry the additional weight of traveling supplies without difficulty.
- The upgraded Avid BB5 disc brakes guarantee full command on braking power.
- The handlebars deliver great control when cruising or speeding.
2. Diamondback Haanjo 3
The Diamondback brand covers a vast selection of bikes to cater to different riding requirements and landscapes. One one of these bikes is the Haanjo 3, which can handle any type of road. It is designed to deliver remarkable balance, durability and comfort. Its geometrical design is meant to make a cyclist more relaxed for extended rides and tough roads.
This bike features extensive gear and equipment that is well-suited for exploring new routes on hills and mountains. It is lightweight, weighing in at 22 pounds, and is available in small to XL sizes.
Features and Specifications
- The aluminum frame maintains excellent balance for long-time comfort, and the aluminum fork provides precise steering without putting additional weight.
- It boasts the 2x9-speed drivetrain by Shimano Sora along with FSA cranks, which ensure steady shifting.
- It gives a wide tire clearance and can make room for 700x37c tires.
- The Tektro Lyra mechanical disc brakes and wider tires ensure more control.
- It comes with a high handlebar and a taller stack, so it puts a cyclist in a more upright position.
- It is built for carrying, so there is plenty of space for bags with bottle cages, fenders and racks.
3. Tommaso Sentiero
This is another excellent multi-terrain bike from Tommaso. Like the Sterrata, it is equipped with a wide gear, enabling a cyclist to tackle any surface and condition. Its exceptional geometry is meant to provide the utmost comfort and balance.
It can easily carry weight and provide an ideal braking performance on high speeds. Already fitted with racks, it is convenient for everyday commuting or lengthy adventures. Weighing in at 26 pounds, it's heavier than the Sterrata and comes in XS to XL sizes.
Features and Specifications
- The frame is made with compact aluminum and unyielding SST steel fork for the ultimate durability.
- The full Shimano Claris drivetrain ensures a stellar pedaling performance. It makes this bike superb for rough and unpredictable terrains and flat, concrete roads.
- Its 28-spoke rims are made to handle different terrains. The TC-20D tires are designed to give control and grip without slowing down on gravel or dirt paths.
- The Avid BB5 disc brakes are powerful. They are capable of stopping in lousy weather like snow, heavy rain or mud.
Gravel Riding Races & Events
Gravel races are mainly organized in the United States because of its extensive system of rural pathways spread over numerous states. Cyclists throughout the world compete on these paths in different cycling matches.
Although the United States is home to many gravel riding events, the Dirty Kanza beats them all. Often called the World's Premiere Gravel Grinder, it is an epic 200-mile long bike endurance challenge. It's a non-stop, gritty, solo, and self-supported race about knowing your boundaries and pushing yourself. Held annually in June in the Flint Hills region of Kansas, it starts and ends in downtown Emporia.
It began with only 34 cyclists and has now increased to up to 3,000 participants. Its appeal has spread worldwide. Australia, Belgium, Italy, Germany and France are also striving to organize events such as this one due to its massive popularity.
If you're looking for events near you then find them here: https://www.bikereg.com/events/Gravel-Grinder/
Being a cross between road cycling and mountain cycling, gravel riding gives a new meaning to the sport. It is ideal for thrill-seekers and adventurers, though it requires some preparation beforehand as the routes and conditions can be unpredictable.
If you want to ensure you have a fantastic time, remember to practice before going on long rides, carry supplies both for yourself and your bike, and be relaxed while riding. Gravel riding is a fun and thrilling sport that most people can enjoy so I hope you have a lot of fun.
Submitted by the author, Andrew, in May 2019. Originally published on Indoored.com.