5 Top Tips – Beginners Guide to Gravel

Longing to get off busy roads but still want to cover a lot of ground? Would you like to check out new routes and get dirty but also stay with drop handlebars? A Gravel Bike could well be the answer. Here are our top tips for Going Gravel.

Keep It Smooth

While hard-packed tracks can be ridden almost like tarmac roads, loose gravel tracks take a little more thought. A little like riding on slippery surfaces such as ice or snow, make your actions smooth and not sudden to maximise your chances of staying upright. Looking at the track ahead, spot the smoothest route which will allow for the most trouble-free pathway ahead. There’s no prizes for searching out the rockiest terrain, although your dentist might thank you for it.

Look Ahead

Riding reasonably surfaced roads can allow your mind to wander and survey the landscapes and have a good look at your surroundings or ‘zone-out’ a little. Riding loose gravel needs a little more attention. When terrain is constantly changing and unpredictable, look at the track a few metres ahead and adjust your riding line accordingly. Off road tracks can also feature random stuff like water hazards and wild animals – stay alert!

Climb Seated for grip

Steep climbs on loose gravel need a fair amount of grip. 30 – 40mm tyres don’t have a huge amount of grip from their contact surface area. Maximise grip on loose climbs by staying seated and putting more weight over the rear wheel. For long, loose climbs it could be worth stopping and dropping some air pressure from the rear tyre.

Brake Earlier

Less grip means it’s a good idea to minimise the work our tyres need to do. Cornering and braking at the same time on gravel can result in a dramatic loss of traction, get used to braking early, scrubbing off speed before starting your turn.


Despite all the marketing hype, even gravel bikes have their limits. There is a fine line between your gravel bike and an MTB. If you area regularly asking your gravel bike to do pull off MTB-type maneuvers, you could be heading for the edge of you and your bike’s capabilities. Instead on stretching the boundaries and channeling your inner John Tomac, pull back a notch and take it easy. Try to ride your bike in a more relaxed frame of mind and just enjoy being off the roads and away from traffic.

Tempted to get Gravels in your Travels?

Here are some of our favourite Gravel bikes at Merlin Cycles.


Merlin Axe Gravel (as featured in pics above)

6061 Double Butted Aluminium Frame

Carbon Fork

Tiagra 10 Speed

Schwalbe Tyres




Blue Prosceco Al

6000 series Aluminium Frame

HM Carbon Fork

Tiagra 10 Speed

Complete with Panniers

Racks & Mudguards

Gravel / Tour / Adventure Ready



Merlin X3.0

6061 Aluminium frame

Carbon Thru Axle Fork

Tiagra 10 Speed

Fulcrum Wheels

Deda Finishing kit

Made for Merlin in Belgium



Merckx Strasbourg 71

6069 Alu Thru Axle frame

Carbon Thru Axle Fork

Shimano 5800 11

DT Swiss Wheels

Deda finishing Kit



Blue Prosecco EX Ultegra

HM Carbon Frame

HM Carbon Fork

Shimano 6800 11

Aerus Quantum 30 Wheels

Hayes CX Comp brakes




Blue Prosecco EX Di2

HM Carbon Frame

HM Carbon Fork

Shimano 6870 Di2

Vision Metron 40 Wheels

FSA carbon bars

Shimano RS805 Hydraulic brakes



Thanks to Merlin’s Coach and Spatzwear creator, Tom Barras for tagging along for a gravel ride on the Merlin Axe – photos above.


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