Top tips for gravel riding
In a recent post, we presented the idea of trying something new in 2020. One idea was to pick up gravel riding as you're new on trend bike pursuit for the new decade. Riding on gravel is some of the best fun you can have on a bike and as the discipline grows there seem to be more and more chances to ride on the crunchy stuff. Tow paths, bridleways, gravel sportives and events, there’s never been a better time to get out into nature.
Gravel riding is a little harder than road riding, so it’s important to keep that in mind when you’re making your ride plans. You use more effort on a gravel track compared to a road section so you can’t go as far as you might on a road ride – you’re usually looking at about 60-70% of your average ride length. Don’t let that stop you though, on gravel the sense of adventure trumps speed and time. And the more your ride, the fitter you get and the longer your adventure can last!
When you get on to the fabled paths, it is important to keep scanning ahead. Don’t stay glued to your stem like Chris Froome, instead scan the route so you can choose the best line, making sure to avoid obstacles and larger rocks. Remember, you go where you look, so looking for the right line is crucial.
Another subtle difference between road and gravel riding is getting your weight distribution correct. This involves staying low over the grippy stuff and sitting further over your back wheel when going downhill. You also need to be able to move about in your saddle when the trail gets tricky and stay seated when climbing so you get the power down and prevent your back wheel from slipping.
When traction is low on loose gravel, rule number one is ‘don’t brake on the corners!’. Make sure you slow down before the corner, choose your line and let your momentum take you through without reaching for the brakes. If you do brake on the turn, you risk front-end washout or back-end oversteer, which could bring you up close and personal with the cold hard ground. You also run the risk of getting pinch punctures. But we’re not going to tell you what to do, gravel riding is all about having fun, so get your skids in where you can.
A good skill to get under your belt is proper cornering technique. The road technique of going wide into the bend, cutting the apex and then coming out wide, may not always work. Over time, trail runoff will deposit the nastier bits of gravel on the outside line. Weight distribution helps here too, so lift yourself off the saddle slightly, choose the smoothest line and put your pedal to the floor, sticking a foot out for balance if necessary. It’s important to keep the bike relatively upright – too much leaning could result in wipeout.
You may feel it’s better to go over the loose stuff slowly, but it is so much better to tackle a gravel stretch at speed, keeping the bike driving forwards and preventing wheel slip. Think of a rider at Paris-Roubaix gliding across the cobbles at speed or a track rider speeding up to get the momentum into a bank. Practised and nurtured on many rides, all the tips above will make you a better bike handler over time.
Our gravel range is defined by our Diverge models. With plenty of clearance, gravel specific geometry, hydraulic disc brakes and 1x setup, these bikes eat up gravel and are perfect for riding, racing and touring. We also have the Turbo Creo e-bike range if you want to go further for longer.
Shoes and cleats
Choosing mountain bike shoes or specific cyclocross/gravel shoes is the best option here. These are great for when you need to use your feet as these are easy to walk about in, with recessed SPD cleats making it much easier to clip in and out.
Tyre choice and pressure
Our Pathfinder tyres are our gravel specific model and they just love gliding over and biting down on the dusty stuff. Lowering your pressure will also make for a smoother, more comfortable ride, while opting for a tubular setup greatly reduces the risk of punctures. Depending on your chosen terrain and how far out into the wilderness you’re heading, you can always stick on a wider tyre with a more aggressive tread.
Now you know how to ride on gravel and what kit to get, we’ll hand you the reigns. Start your gravel adventure at one of our stores and check out our gravel range for yourself.
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