Tips and training
From bike set-up to advice on gravel riding, here’s what you need to know to prepare for Gravel Grit in September.
On the road, you’re likely to alternate between climbing seated and standing. On gravel, it’s a bit different. You have less traction, so you should keep your weight over the back wheel by staying seated.
On very steep climbs, you’ll need to balance this by lowering your centre of gravity through the upper body to weight the front wheel so you don’t pop a wheelie.
Rather than a death-grip on the handlebars, try to keep your upper body relaxed. Not only will this mean that your shoulders and arms don’t get as tired, but it will also reduce the likelihood of crashing from overcorrection.
Your bike has a magical ability to stay upright and self-correct; rather than trying to exert your will, go with the flow and let it guide you.
You have less grip on gravel so you should anticipate your braking to give yourself time to slow down. Look down the road so you have time to react to any obstacles, rather than just in front of your wheel.
Avoid applying hard pressure to the front brake in corners to avoid sliding out. Rather, gently feather your front and rear bikes to slow yourself down.
The key is smoothness. Almost subconsciously, you’ll steer more with the back of the bike rather than the front – rather than sudden changes of direction through the handlebars, practice weighting your outside foot at the bottom of the pedal stroke to carve around the corner.
Aim to avoid leaning over into a corner – instead keep yourself relatively upright to minimise the risk of sliding out.
You’ll be most comfortable on a gravel bike or a cyclocross bike, set up with a broad gearing range, disc brakes and wide tubeless tyres.
However, the 46km route option is also appropriate for a road bike. To modify a road bike for riding on gravel, you should fit tyres as wide as your frame will allow (usually about 25mm or 28mm). This will give you better comfort and grip. Also consider fitting some thicker bar tape to take a little sting out at the handlebar.
The longer ride options – 60 and 70km – include some much rougher sections and are appropriate for gravel and CX bikes (or mountain bikes, if you want to bust out the heavy artillery). There is some demanding climbing at steep gradients, so we’d advise either a compact crankset and 11-32t cassette, or wide-range 1x setup.
The surfaces of the ride vary from asphalt to sandy fire-road to rock, but depending on weather conditions it might get muddy at points. As a general rule of thumb, lean towards wider tyres at lower pressures, and experiment with what you feel comfortable with tread-wise.
If you are able to set your bike up tubeless to eliminate pinch-flats on rocky descents, this would be a wise move; just bring some spare tubes in the event of sidewall gashes.