Gravel cycling 101


Emils Liepins 2nd at Serenissima Gravel race

Emils Liepins 2nd at Serenissima Gravel race

Gravel cycling or gravel grinding is a sport, or recreational activity, where participants cycle bicycles mostly over gravel roads. In the 21st century, road biking on gravel roads, both for pleasure riding and racing, has gained in popularity. Many would point to the United States as the birthplace of gravel riding, with long, remote sections of gravel roads closing the gap between road biking, mountain biking, and cyclocross. Gravel riding generally describes the use of drop-bar bikes on roads and dirt trails, falling somewhere between road biking and mountain biking.

Bikes and courses for gravel riding range greatly, ranging from wide-tyred road bikes used on flat gravel roads, to bikes that are similar to mountain bikes used on courses containing technical trails. As in all aspects of cycling, the bikes specifically designed for gravel have no suspension, a long wheelbase, and frames designed for flexibility. Gravel bikes geometry, gearing, and tire clearance are designed specifically to meet the demands of riding on rugged terrain. Gravel bikes also utilize features from both cyclocross and road bikes, allowing better comfort over longer rides, and tyre clearances that allow for rides done under stormy conditions.

Road bike bars are excellent for aerodynamics, but stability and comfort are the keys for gravel riding. Where gravel bikes differ from road bikes is the bars are typically wider, geometry is adjusted for being more comfortable riding on gravel for longer periods and current gravel bikes will also have a 1x drivetrain, eliminating the front derailleur. Along with the tire clearance, gravel bikes are biased toward longer, stamina-based rides, so best gravel bike tires which are effective at long-distance cycling are going to perform the best.

There is definitely nothing wrong with riding a hardtail mountain bike, or even a stiff MTB, on gravel roads and trails, although you are probably going to feel the benefits of a gravel bike if you plan on taking much of your riding on gravel roads. You can choose to go on a road bike, cyclocross bike, or a certain type of mountain bike, and do some gravel riding.

Gravel biking, being a mix of road biking, cyclo-cross, and mountain biking, is becoming a new bike race discipline. Already, prior to the recent popularity of gravel bikes, some cycling tourists rode what we now call gravel bikes. Gravel biking straddles the divide between road cycling and mountain biking, combining the speed and efficiency of road biking with the ability and freedom of riding in loose, rugged terrain.

Gravel riding is known to add an element of thrill and a dash of danger to the bike-riding experience, thanks to the namesake rock-covered and loose terrain. With thousands of miles of gravel, asphalt roads, singletrack, and some of the prettiest scenery in the country all right in our backyard, gravel riding is about adventure that is accessible with human-powered pedals and two wheels. The best of the best feature dramatic landscapes and diverse terrains and routes to keep your legs kicking and mind exploring.

The breathtaking landscapes on the route make the gravel grinding experience one of the most visually satisfying cycling adventures. There is gravel racing too, and this too is divided up like a road race, but an off-road race, or an adventure race, where the focus is on the long-distance, rough-and-tumble sections. Gravel racing is the final category, and this is starting to feel more like road racing, but on longer distances and dirt roads.

Multi-terrain cycling or adventure riding may better describe this, since it is much more common to find routes linking gravel doubletrack, flowing singletrack, woodland fire roads, canal towpaths, farmside trails, and farm roads with sections of asphalt between, instead of longer sections of unpaved gravel roads — depending on where you are riding, of course. The term covers a broad range of surfaces, including gravel in varying sizes and textures, paved roads, forest roads, fire roads, singletrack (mountain biking trails) and dirt. Gravel courses are classified as categories 1 (smooth, firm, dirt that is friendly to a road bike) through to category 4 (deep potholes, rocks, and possible slides that are best handled by a mountain bike with a large-volume tire).

Gravel riding, especially racing, requires a different level of fitness, power, and stability that what you would have with purely paved roads. Gravel riding, also known as gravel grinding or adventure riding, is a growing and popular style of riding combining elements of road cycling and mountain biking, primarily involving long-distance rides on unpaved roads.  New people are joining gravel cycling daily, new adventures are being held, and new trails are being explored, and many of cyclings biggest names are offering a range which includes top-of-the-line gravel bikes, down to the most accessible gravel-specific budget options.

Whether you are a novice rider looking for a first bike, or you are an experienced racer looking for the next competition, we can help You to make the best experience of gravel cycling, making training gravel specific. Gravel cycling training with TF Coaching already helped 5 athletes successfully to compete in Gravel World Championship and many more to fall into love with this new and exciting discipline.




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