Getting Gritty: Gravel Cycling Tips
Gravel cycling isn’t new. Riding on rough gravel roads and two tracks dates backs to the earliest days of riding a bike, including racing. Today’s gravel bikes are simply better suited to the demands of riding dirt roads. Here are a few gravel riding tips to make your rides and races more fun!
Why Ride Gravel?
Riding gravel roads is a neat way to explore Northern Michigan and shake up your riding routine.
- Less traffic – Most gravel roads have little to no traffic, making it a safer option during peak traffic seasons and the busiest time of the day. Skip rush hour on the road and hit the gravel!
- More skills – It takes a bit more bike handling prowess to ride gravel, which makes it a great way to improve your overall bike handling skills and feel more comfortable on the bike.
- Something new – Gravel roads and two-track open up completely new routes that keep your riding fresh all season long.
- Great events – There are nearly 20 races in the Michigan Gravel Racing Series and plenty more stand-alone events, too. Even if you aren’t a diehard racer, gravel racing in Michigan is huge; explore new communities, meet great people and see what all the fuss is about.
Gravel Cycling Tips
There are some unique skills to riding on gravel and that’s especially true in Northern Michigan. While we have some beautiful gravel roads, they’re usually soft and sandy from late May to October.
- Ride wide – That sand makes wide tires way, way more fun. Fit your gravel bike with the widest tires you can fit in your frame. Not sure how wide you can ride? Bring it and the Brick Heads can see what works and make tire recommendations based on where you ride the most!
- Don’t rule out 650b wheels, either. Using a smaller wheel can allow for a slightly wider tire. Gravel bikes like the Trek Checkpoint can fit a 2 inch tire on 650b wheels for more floatation.
- Let the bike go – When you’re bouncing along on potholes and rock, it’s easy to tighten up. Locking your arms and holding the bars with a ‘death grip’ can make those bumps and jolts worse. Think of your arms and legs as suspension and let the bike do its thing. Remember, your bike wants to keep moving forward (thanks, physics) and absorbing bumps keeps momentum pointed forward!
- Don’t brake (too much) – As our Service Manager, Chris, is quick to say, “Your brakes just slow you down”. Gravel’s rough and lumpy surface makes it harder to accelerate and hold your speed, but you can use that to your advantage. It usually means you won’t need to brake as often to correct your line. Instead, let the gravel’s increased rolling resistance scrub your speed a bit for you.
- Traction, traction, traction – In addition to riding wide tires, remember that no matter how much rubber you put on the dirt, gravel is inherently loose. Try to spin a light gear and a quicker cadence to avoid slipping out on climbs. Smooth is always fast, especially on steep, loose gravel climbs.
Gravel Riding with Brick Wheels
Love drop bars and dirt? Yeah, us too! Stop in to see the latest gravel bike from Trek, Cannondale and MASI, plus a wide selection of gravel tires and equipment. Whether you’re new to gravel cycling or a gritty vet, we’ve got you covered. Shop online or get in touch!