Over the years, gravel bikes have gained popularity, especially for those who would like to conquer rugged terrains. It is designed for places where your road bikes cannot go. They are more than just mountain bikes with drop handlebars. Gravel cycling offers the opportunity to explore off-the-beaten tracks while also building your endurance and confidence.
New to gravel riding? We got you covered! Keep on reading and learn from some of the tips we’ll share. It won’t take long before you can ride like a pro!
What is a Gravel Ride?
A gravel ride also called adventure ride and gravel grind is a cycling category that combines elements of road biking and mountain biking. It is all about distance riding on unpaved roads, mostly in rural settings. This type of riding adds thrill to the entire experience while letting you discover scenic sites.
10 Tips and Tricks for Gravel Riding
To do gravel cycling like a pro, below are some of the most important tips you need to know.
1. Start with the Right Bike
A gravel bike is a niche, significantly smaller when compared to road bikes and mountain bikes. Nonetheless, many manufacturers are introducing bikes specially made for gravel rides. It has a relaxed geometry, which can help ensure your comfort.
Another common feature of gravel bikes is that they have big tires. The added size will be beneficial in tackling rough roads and absorbing impact. They also have a huge clearance, which will raise the grip from the clearance. Most tires in gravel bikes will have widths ranging from 32mm to 48mm. You should also learn how to install tubeless tires since they will resist punctures better compared to tires with an inner tube.
Most of the gravel bikes will have drop handlebars. If you are unaware of the bike handlebar types, a drop handlebar means that there is a straight midsection and both ends slightly curve toward the cyclist.
It is also common for these bikes to have additional mounts for water and other gears that you have to bring with you
2. Dress for the Ride
There is no such thing as gravel ride wear. However, you should be comfortable with what you are wearing. It is a matter of personal preference. From head to toe, make sure that you have proper biking wear.
Depending on the weather, you can opt to wear cycling shorts or pants. However, we recommend wearing pants made of thin and flexible material. This will offer protection for your legs, especially in case you crash.
Speaking of protection, the right helmet is also a must-have. Regular mountain bike helmets will be enough. It should fit properly and must be made using lightweight but durable materials. It is also a must to have strategic vents, which will improve air circulation to keep you comfortable throughout your ride.
3. Learn the Art of Cornering
Similar to mountain bike cornering, cornering a gravel bike is one of the most important skills you should learn. In most cases, you won’t be able to lean your bike when you are riding on gravel. You cannot also engage your brakes swiftly or turn aggressively, so you should be more cautious when cornering.
Before you reach a corner, slow down your bike. Gradually separate your body from the bike by standing up. Doing this will give you a wiggle room to move and will also let you maintain control of the bike when turning.
When cornering, you should lean the bike underneath you. Leaning is what will make the bike turn. Apply more pressure on the tire to improve traction. You can also consider dropping and weighting your outside foot or pedal, which will help lower your center of gravity.
4. Be One With The Bike
Consider the bike as an extension of your arm or the rest of your body. Except when you are cornering, it is best to stay seated and be one with your bike. When there is loose and slippery gravel, there is a higher likelihood that the bike will slip. You can easily lose control if you are not sitting.
Remain seated and planted, especially as the ride gets bumpier. This will make it easier to center your body weight.
The immediate instinct of most riders is to stand up on the bike when the going gets tough. However, this can do more harm than good. Staying seated is better because it will let you control the bike.
5. Engage the Brake Smoothly
Braking is another important technique you need to master as you learn gravel cycling. The best bike to use is one that comes with a disc brake. They are more responsive compared to caliper brakes, and hence, you can expect better stopping power on dirt.
Engage the brake slowly and smoothly when on gravel. Gently pull the front brake and feather the rear brake. This will prevent the wheel from slipping.
Before you head out for a long gravel ride, check the conditions of the brake. From brakes rubbing to squeaky brakes, spot potential problems and fix them. Riding on gravel can be tough, so you need to have perfectly working brakes. Also, when there are problems, you can be exhausted quickly.
Use the brakes at the right time. It is best to engage the brakes when you are in an upright position and rolling in a straight direction. This is when the tires have the best traction, which will make it require lesser effort to stop the bike.
6. Keep Your Momentum
When riding on gravel, you will encounter loose stones, and this will make you unstable. A lot of times, you will find yourself slowing down or even stopping when there is a distraction. However, even if your instinct tells you that you should go slower, fight the temptation to do so. You need to keep your momentum as this will prevent the tires from slipping and will keep you moving forward.
To maintain the momentum, keep the pedals turning, making sure that you exert enough effort. Keep a firm grip on the handlebars. Look straight to where you are going. Straighten your back. Think of it as a race, and that you are in no position to go slower. Especially if you are going uphill, all the more it is important to build and keep momentum.
7. Hop on Obstacles
During gravel riding, if you ever encounter an obstacle, it is unnecessary to stop. In most cases, you can hop instead, although, this is easier said than done. To do this properly, you should know how to bunny hop on a mountain bike as the steps will be pretty much the same.
Hopping on a gravel bike is a technical skill that takes time to practice. It includes both a physical and a mental leap. To hop the right way, you need to hover behind the saddle. Push the pedals with enough power. Gradually shift your weight to your back then pull up your arms to move the handlebars and front wheels. To land safely, transfer most of your weight forward using your hips. The back wheel will follow, and before you know it, you are already past the obstacle.
8. Choose your Lines
Gravel rides require more attention to the lines where you are going. The terrain is rough and challenging, so you need to be more cautious about the lines to take. Scan the road surface and be quick to decide on where you will be taking the bike. Spot areas where you might end up compromising the traction of the tires.
To choose good lines, look for smoother areas with lesser rocks and other common distractions. It should have a wide and smooth arch so that you can turn smoothly. Aside from smoother surfaces, the grounds should also be harder. The softer the terrain is, the higher is the likelihood that your wheels will be stuck. You can also lose momentum and end up in a crash.
9. Get Out of the Saddle When Descending
Earlier, we talked about how it is best to stay one with the bike when gravel cycling. This means that you should stay seated. However, there are instances when it is best to stand up, such as when you are descending.
By getting out of the saddle when you are going downhill, it will be easier to stay in control. Stay further back on the bike when doing this, which will make you more stable. If you lean too forward, your weight will shift in front, and there is a chance that you will end up toppling. Bend your arms and knees slightly. Keep your upper body and hips square. Lift your head and look straight to see what is coming next and decide on what your next move will be.
10. Stay Relaxed
Staying relaxed while gravel riding is one of the best things that can turn you into a pro from a newbie. Although, that transition will not happen overnight! When you are not relaxed, you will have a tight grip on the handlebars compared to how you would be normally holding it. Death-gripping the handlebars can add unnecessary tension to your arms, which will make the ride more exhausting.
To ride gravel properly, stay relaxed, and make your movements smooth. Whether it is pedaling, braking and turning, being smooth will let you move swiftly. This also calls for avoiding shifting your weight often and making large body movements.
The best way to stay relaxed is to anticipate what will confront you. Also, you need to keep on practicing to stay calm even if the terrain is rough.
Q: Why is gravel riding so popular?
Gravel riding is popular because it combines road and mountain biking while letting the riders enjoy a thrilling experience on unpaved roads. It is also scenic, depending on where you are going. The ride is also comfortable and safe, especially when you are using the right type of bike.
Q: How do you ride a gravel bike?
To ride a gravel bike, you must maintain the right posture and stay seated even if you come across a large bump. Keep your eyes on the road and stay relaxed. If you are going on a climb, build momentum before you head up. If you are descending, go further back on the bike to stay more stable.
Q: Are gravel bikes any good?
Yes, gravel bikes are good. They are a cross of road and mountain bikes, almost similar to a cyclocross bike. These are versatile and multi-surface bikes, which will make it easy for you to transition from paved to unpaved surfaces. It is a great choice if you are unsure how the terrain will be during your ride.
Q: Are gravel bikes fast?
Yes, gravel bikes are fast. However, it isn’t as fast as a road bike. One of the reasons for this is because of having heavier components that are capable of tackling even tougher terrains. At the end of the day, however, the speed will depend on how you ride and the ground conditions.
Q: How do you ride loose gravel?
To ride loose gravel, try to maintain a constant force so that you will not lose momentum. Practice proper steering to have complete control of your bike. Find the right hand position in the handlebar for improved balance and control. Learn how to gradually modulate your brakes for more powerful stopping power.
Globo Surf Overview
Gravel bikes are filling the gap between road biking and mountain biking. With gravel riding, you will find it easy to conquer unpaved surfaces without compromising safety and comfort. This niche is slowly growing in terms of popularity, especially amongst adventure riders.
If you want to experience gravel cycling, consider the things mentioned above, such as choosing the right bike, and equipping yourself with proper safety gear.