One of the largest growing cycling trends in the United States over the past ten years has been gravel road riding. With large events, such as Dirty Kanza & Grinduro, it is becoming even more enticing for many people to hit the dirt roads. There is no better time than now for you as a cyclist to do that as well.
Why Ride Gravel/Dirt Road?
With an increase in focus on cycling safety and driver awareness, many people are opting to head to the less trafficked roads. Whether this is for peace of mind, enjoyment of nature or a little added thrill, it is a great option.
Gravel roads are also a great option in winter. When weather temperatures drop the wind chill on a bike, riding at 20+ mph can be nearly unbearable. Riding on gravel roads can, in some instances, decrease your average speed by 2+mph with the exact same amount of work effort. This means you can still get an amazing workout and stay a bit warmer.
A Little Different Skill Set
Many times, gravel roads are not as well maintained because they see little to no traffic. This means that you need to be better prepared for what may lie ahead of you. For many, this means equipment and we recommend you consult your local bike shop to provide you with the specifics of what is needed for your area. Once you have the knowledge and gear you need, here are some skills that will be very important for you to consider on your adventure into gravel grinding:
- Watch your line – Much like riding on a mountain bike, you need to be thinking about your next move. It is important that you are sighting 10-30 feet up the road. You should be looking for the smoothest surface, sand, larger pieces of gravel and any other object you might want/need to avoid.
- Keep your weight back – If and when you find yourself in sand or deep gravel, it is best to keep the handlebars lighter by shifting back on your saddle. This will allow your front wheel to track more effectively through any ruts or bounce over any large rocks.
- MORE POWER – Just like Tim the Toolman Taylor, (google it, youngins!) you “need more power” when it comes to sand. Applying added power when you get to sand helps to keep the front end of the bike lighter, much like sliding back, and helps your bike track through the deep stuff.
- Braking bumps – These rough wave like formations in the dirt can sometimes be so bad that your eyes begin to blur or make you think that your headtube may separate from the rest of your bike. Remember to relax, stay off the front brake and ride it out. Some of these sections can be feet others can be 20-30 yards. Keep a level head and look for the smoothest portion or road.
Now, it is time. There is so much exploring to be done and fun to be had! Get out there and get dirty.