Gravel riding is a new and exciting way to experience the outdoors on a bike. It’s a great way to cover long distances, challenge your endurance, and practice your bike skills. And best of all, you don’t need any crazy trails to enjoy it.
Gravel biking is just what it sounds like: riding a bike on gravel surfaces, and at its core, mixed terrain. Gravel riding can incorporate roads, paths, and any unpaved surfaces that lie between asphalt and technical single-track trail.
Gravel biking it’s an efficient way to cover great distances while also challenging yourself with a unique experience. Gravel riding embodies exploration, adventure, and adaptation to different terrains and elevation changes.
Here are some basic tips and things to consider to get started with gravel riding:
1. WHAT BIKE TO USE?
If you want to start gravel riding, any bike will do, but preferably a mountain bike. Essentially, a gravel bike is a happy medium between a mountain bike and a road bike, making it ideal for riding on a variety of surfaces. While you don’t need a specific gravel bike, here are some guidelines to consider if you’re willing to invest a little time and money:
- Wide tire clearance for fatter tires (better for dirt and mud)
- Easier gear ratio, sometimes with a single front ring
- Disc brakes (better for wet and dirty conditions)
- More relaxed geometry for a comfortable ride
- Drop handlebars (wider and more comfortable than traditional road bike handlebars)
2. BASIC BIKING KIT
Gravel riding is all about having fun, so don’t worry about spending a lot of money on gear when you’re first starting out. Later, if you find that you’re loving it and want to keep riding, here are a few things that can make your rides more comfortable and efficient:
- Tires: The better the tires the better your ride will be. Tubeless is definitely recommended.
- Padded Bike Shorts: These will make your ride much comfortable and you will be able to ride longer.
- Bike Jersey: With the right materials it will keep you cool and comfortable. Back pockets makes for easy access to quick snacks or needed items. A tech-T will do the trick.
- Bike Gloves: To prevent any blisters and palm injuries.
- Clipless Pedals and Shoe Clip Set Up: Pedals and shoes will improve your technique as well as make you more efficient on the bike, especially when going uphill!
- Bike Bag or Hip Pack: To carry your snacks, first aid supplies, and bike repair kit (see below).
- Water Bottle or Hydration Pack: Be sure to bring enough water for your longer rides.
- Repair Kits: Multi-tool, small pump, tire patch kit, tubes, duct-tape and zip-ties, break pads, tubeless repair kit, chain repair kit, extra spokes, extra derailleur hanger.
- Mudguards (Nice, but not necessary)
- Bike Light and GPS Device: It’s important to be prepared.
- Extra Layer: Critical for colder months and to be prepared for unpredictable weather.
3. EXPLORE ROUTES
Roanoke is a great place to start gravel cycling, with a variety of routes to choose from, ranging from easy to challenging. If you’re new to gravel, start small by riding in our parks, greenways, and trails. Once you’re comfortable, you can head to the woods and try a jeep road or a combination of trails, roads, and dirt roads.
Using route recommendations like Komoot are a great way to discover gravel cycling routes and places to ride. Find great gravel routes through Roanoke Outside, or check out Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge’s Gravel Adventure Field Guide.
As with everything in cycling, gravel riding is better with friends. More and more groups and clubs are offering gravel rides these days, and riding with others will vastly improve your ability and knowledge. Also check your local bike shop for the latest gear and routes.
4. TRY A RACE!
Gravel racing is a great way to challenge yourself, try new routes, and experience a new challenge in a safe and supportive environment. With stunning scenery and a range of difficulty levels to choose from, there’s something for everyone at a gravel race.
We are very excited for our inaugural Happy Valley Grit Gravel Race at Carvins Cove in Roanoke, Virginia on December 10, 2023. Prepare for a day of excitement, challenge, and gravel grinding as you explore the scenic splendor of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to be part of this inaugural journey. Register today and start your gravel biking adventure!