Sick of tarmac? Keen to get off busy roads? Longing to explore new routes? Maybe get a little dirty, while gripping drop handlebars? A Gravel Bike could well be the answer. Here are our top tips for Gravel.
Seek the Smooth
While hard-packed tracks can be ridden almost like tarmac roads, loose gravel corners, descents and climbs take a little more thought. A bit like riding or driving on slippery surfaces, such as ice or snow, make your braking and steering actions smooth and gentle to maximise your chances of keeping it ‘rubber side down’. Looking at the track ahead, pick out the smoothest route which will allow for the most trouble-free option. There are no prizes for searching out the rockiest terrain, although your dentist might thank you for it.
Riding reasonably surfaced quiet roads can allow your mind to wander and survey the landscapes and have a good look at your surroundings or even ‘zone-out’ a little. Riding gravel needs a more attention. Gravel tracks & trails can be constantly changing and unpredictable. Tracks can also feature random stuff to surprise you like water hazards, motorcross riders and wild animals.
Sit ‘n’ Grip
Steep climbs on loose gravel need a fair amount of grip. 30 – 40mm tyres often 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 and re-inflate at the top.
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 a gravel bike and a 29er Mountain bike. If you are regularly asking your gravel bike to pull-off MTB style maneuvers, you could be heading for the edge of you and your bike’s capabilities. Instead of 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.
Tracks and gravel trails tend to cover more scenic terrain, well usually more scenic than the rear of view of cars… Back through history when the roads we use today were tracks for horses, foot soldiers and people walking between towns, the route planners had more pressing issues than finding the most scenic terrain to travel, they often went for valley roads and straight lines – easier for marching on and safer for not getting attacked by bandits and highwaymen. Green lanes and tracks often get better views because they often took a route over hills rather than around them. Corpse or coffin tracks used to be used for carrying the dead to their final resting place, they often followed less travelled scenic paths (Land owners used to think being on a coffin track brought them good luck for following seasons crop yields). Gravel tracks can give a feeling of how things were in times long gone by. Canal tow paths and former rail track trails can be a relaxing place to ride, they are also a great opportunity to take in some industrial heritage history.
Our latest batch of aluminium gravel bikes (3rd generation Malt G2X) were great, they sold faster than any other bikes and got a solid 5 / 5 from our customers. However, the next batch are a good few months away, currently looking at October 2021. The good news is that we stock some great bikes for some of the worlds best manufacturers, check out our full range of gravel bikes here and framesets here.