How To Ride Gravel
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How To Ride Gravel

October 23, 2019

– Riding gravel is brilliant. Getting away from tarmac,
getting away from cars, and just generally adding
a little bit of spice to your riding. It is, however, worth trying
to pick up one or two tips, just to really help you
get the most out of it. (rock music) If you’re coming from a lifetime
spent riding on the road, then let me prepare you with one key fact, riding on gravel is harder. Now, it’s simply just a
case of greater resistance from the surface and
therefore it does mean you end up going slower. It doesn’t mean that
gravel riding’s not as fun, far from it, in fact, it is
often far more exhilarating, but, you do need to be aware of it for one very important
reason, and that is that when you’re planning a gravel
ride, you won’t be able to go as far as you would do
on tarmac in the same time. Perhaps 65 or 70% of the distance, although it does very much depend on what type of gravel road you’re riding on. (electronic music) Ah, yes, because not all
gravel is created equal. You will quickly learn to
recognize the different types that there are. Pea gravel, slippery on corners and when braking, otherwise fine. Sand, moist and compact – fine, dry – difficult to corner,
deep – best avoided. Grit, grippy, good. Rocks, not much grip, chance of punctures, avoid where possible. Each type has different
characteristics to ride over, but the golden rule is to always look for the firmest and smoothest
gravel that you can ride on. It’s going to be faster, it’s
going to be more comfortable, and it’s also going to give you more grip when it comes to things
like cornering and breaking. Now, it might be that the
whole road is like that, in which case you can
treat it just as you would a tarmac or pavement road. However, when the surface
is inconsistent or loose, you’re going to need to adjust your riding style to accommodate for it. (electronic music) Always scan ahead to make
sure that you’re riding on the best surface that you can. Generally, it will be
the path most traveled, whether that’s by cars,
or bikes, or even feet. The more traffic that rolls over it, the more likely the surface
will be polished free of loose stones, giving you
more grip, and more control. Now, as well as looking out
for sections with more grip, you’ll also be more
likely to spot hazards, like holes or, indeed, rocks. Now, in terms of actually
where you want to look, avoid looking to closely
towards your front wheel, because that way, you’re not
going to have enough time to react to anything that you do see. However, in terms of an exact distance, it varies, depending on how fast you go, so instead of thinking of
it in terms of an absolute, why not think of it in terms of time? So, look two seconds ahead
of you down the trail, and that will mean that you
don’t have to remember too much, when you’re going really fast, but it will give you enough time to react, change lines, and slow down. (dance music) The knock-on effect of
looking for the smoothest, grippiest sections, is that
you might actually not be able to take your usual line through corners, like the racing lines, starting
wide, clipping the apex, and then going wide on the exit, and that’s because you may well
find that you have to cross a really loose section of gravel just when you’re cornering
really, really hard, meaning that either the
front end will wash out, or it will leave you
running wide on the exit. So, instead, the alternatives are, perhaps, to cut all the
way through on the inside, that would certainly
be the simplest option, or, more advanced, would be
to actually unweight the bike as you’re going over the
really loose section, meaning that when your weight
compresses back through it, you’ll be maximizing the
traction that you have at your disposal. The same principles apply when climbing, except that instead of needing
grip to turn or to break, we need grip to help us
actually keep moving forwards. Avoiding the looser sections
is a great place to start, but you’re also going
to need to think about your actual technique on the bike. The difference in grip that you get between climbing in and out of the saddle is really, really significant, so avoid climbing out of
the saddle where you can. Instead, you want to keep as much weight over the rear tire as possible, although you may find
that on super steep climbs your front wheel starts to lift. If you are struggling to
keep the front end down, then just bend your elbows to get your chin as close
to the bars as possible, and then shift your weight
forward on the saddle. We haven’t touched on equipment yet, but I do find that climbing
is one of those instances where I’m really glad of having
a bit of tread on my tires. I actually don’t mind cornering,
even on complete slicks, but when you’re trying to
get a little bit of grip to move forward, then
something on your tires will definitely be of benefit. Even if it’s just a
file tread like I’ve got on these Continental semi slicks. (electronic music) Ooh, it is going to take
you a little bit longer to slow down on gravel, there is a very real risk that you either get a rear wheel skid, or, in fact, a front wheel skid as well. Now, we always advise against breaking during cornering when on tarmac, and on gravel it’s even
more important than that. You will quite quickly find
that your back end can step out, give you a little bit of over steer, or, worse still, that your
front end washes out as well, so, the golden rule
about breaking on gravel, is do it in a straight
line and do it carefully. Actually, who are we kidding? Sometimes it’s great to
get the back end out, skids are cool, skids are
definitely not for kids. (dubstep music) Please skid responsibly,
only skid in areas that are not ecologically
or geologically sensitive, remember to replace all
gravel after your skid. We’ve touched on one aspect
of equipment already, your tire choice, but actually lowering the pressures inside them
will also give you more grip as well as improve your comfort. However, you might want to
consider fitting bigger tires if the trails that you’re
riding are particularly rough, otherwise you’ll find yourself quite susceptible to punctures. Running tubeless is always a
good option on gravel as well. Another aspect to
consider is your gearing, we touched on it at the beginning, that riding on gravel roads
does tend to be slower, and you’ll also find
that actually the climbs are probably going to be steeper as well, because they’re not on
well-made, well-governed roads, so, to combat that, you might want to fit a larger cassette at the back, so up to a 36, maybe even a 42, and also consider running a super compact chain set at the front. So, this one is a 48/32, but
you can go smaller than that, 46/30, and maybe even
a 28 in a ring as well. Now, this whole video has
been about riding on gravel, and with good reason, more and more people
are buying gravel bikes, there’s a burgeoning gravel racing scene, but you shouldn’t feel
that you are limited to just riding on gravel. Far from it, in fact,
any surface is fair game, be it hard-packed dirt, or
grass, and, of course, pavement. Although, I will say,
if you get super gnarly, and yes that is actually a word, you would probably be better
off on a mountain bike. Anyway, back to gravel, those golden rules that we’ve talked about in
this video do hold true, no matter what type of
gravel you’re riding on. You should always look ahead,
look for the smoothest, fastest, and grippiest lines, and be prepared to actually
change your riding technique from what you would do on tarmac, be that cornering, or
breaking, or climbing. Do make sure that you give
this video a big thumbs up, if you’ve been enjoying riding on gravel, and get involved in the
comments section, as well. Tell us what other gravel
content you would like to watch. And, if you’re in the market
for another video right now, why not check out something
a little bit different again, bikepacking in Morocco.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Thanks for this just switched from a mountain bike to a gravel bike nice to have some tips on how to ride it

  2. your analysis of gravel surface mirrors riding on a snow covered paved road. There are several types ranging from Easy Peasy to Deadly. Great video. About 6 months to go before winter riding — Merry Christmas!

  3. We have great fun gravel roads here in Southern Missouri. I'm finding my biggest hurdle is going up a steep hill being clipped in. When I get to the place that I can't keep it going, I've got too much pressure on my pedals to get my foot unclipped. Suggestions?

  4. I've been thinking about converting my "hybrid" bike (Canyon RoadLite) to gravel, any suggestion ?

  5. Oh, thought it said baking. Couldn't quickly understand what that had to do with riding. Must be overtired.

  6. That road with all those big rocks is more for mountain bikes in my opinion. I would be constantly worrying about a picture if I was on those tyres.

  7. Hey what is going on… Si is riding a 2x system instead of his beloved 1x! No mention of 1x and how amazing it is!? This can't be GCN! He he love it and almost feel that gravel for cyclocross riders who don't want to buy a mountain bike but still want to be out in nature away from it all… All the techniques seem so similar. Keep em coming boy!

  8. "How to get the most out of gravel riding", or, key skills for riding safely on the UK National Cycle Network. (Though frankly we're lucky to even get gravel sometimes.)

  9. We have the same tires 🙂 loving the 42's quiet on the road, great on hardpack,
    not that great when going down a hill with thousands of loose rocks pretty sure i was going to die if i did that hill above 10 kph.

  10. How to buy your first gravel bike? What to look for? Disk brakes? Canti? Vbrake? Etc thanks for all the content! Keep it up

  11. Nice POC shades. What, no 1x? Compass herringbone tread tires work well on most gravel. Nothing really works on marble-sized pebbles short of dirt bike tires.

  12. Recently went from a hardcore enduro rider to a lover of gravel bikes. Perfect time fore gravel bike week! Love the content keep it up!

  13. Road kit, road shoes and pedals, road glasses, road gearing, check! Lets go….a mite ridiculous…

  14. I got a worried when I found out that I was going 50 km's in the dark on gravel last fall this spring I dented my rear rim on the same stretch during less dimm light?

  15. This is kind of random off-comment, but I just want to give a hats off to your camera and editing people. I love your content but I really love the way it's displayed on the screen. Makes me smile. Thanks!!!

  16. I notice I need to pick my line up ahead from a further distance than on my mountain bike. It's even more critical if there are two or three riders in front and you can't see your line.

  17. Really enjoying the gravel videos! Would be good to see a video on tyre choice, and what happens when things get muddy (especially in the UK where there is more mud than gravel). Are there any good mixed terrain tyres that can still roll fast, and how much does tyre width affect speed and comfort on different surfaces

  18. I enjoy these videos for some reason but I always wonder if anyone actually learns anything from them? Is there anyone who doesn't know all of this intuitively?

  19. One thing I missed is the use of protective gear. I never cycle my favourite trails without my knee and elbow protectors. I have learned that the hard way.
    And I have changed my brake balance and almost exclusively use the rear brake. Problem here in Western Australia is that a we have a lot of gravel which are like marbles so round: like riding on ball bearings. Younjust look at your front brake and there you go. But boy, do I love my Silex 400 on these tracks…..

  20. hmmm…. let me get this straight. I should want to ride gravel but I should look for the smoothest, hardest, grippy gravel… I found it! It's called asphalt! I'll just stick to riding on the roads of my metropark!

  21. Well…. this just makes me want to take my road bike OFF road. BUUUT the sensible voice is saying that will end up in hospital and the bike shop…. hey… excuse for a new bike? seems good to me.

  22. Best thing about gravel riding is not worrying about someone running u over cos you can’t get cars down the trials ?

  23. Can we have a presenter bike check where you guys show us all your bikes and then do some tricks/stuff not meant for that bike?

  24. Really looking into getting into gravel riding and doing bikepacking. Your videos have been really helpful

  25. One thing I've picked up when descending on loose stuff is to keep on pedalling, even if you've got the brakes on – never freewheel. It seems to help the tyres keep their grip. Which surprised me. Am I weird or is that good advice?

  26. If you see an obstacle, like a rock, Don't look at the rock and think you will avoid it . Look where you need to go to avoid the obstacle/rock. On the road I hit a rock doing 35 mph. The reason i hit the rock is I watched it instead of looking at a way to avoid the rock. Looking ahead far enough is only part of it. You need to be deciding on the line of travel also two seconds ahead

  27. Great skidding etiquette there Simon! I was doing a bit of that myself on Saturday, always more fun when you're millimetres from complete disaster, but then make the corner!

  28. Why you are so funny just your little inflections in your voice you're muted sarcasm brother you are hilarious

  29. It's the changes in road conditions that I love with gravel biking. Grass, mud, tarmac, pea, bricks, cake. Different skills, never boring.

  30. would love to have a video about concerns of toe overlap when turning all the way to the left, tire hitting the toe of the shoe. Thanks!

  31. Si, you appear to be sitting a little deeper on your gravel bike compared to your road bike. Do you change your setup concerning setback and saddle height for gravel compared to the road? Thanks.

  32. Going on with my current project: steel frame, 26" wheels, Schwalbe Marathon 1.5 tires, 38×11-34 ratios with STI levers, maybe a little suspension on the front and that's about it. When it does come to fruition, I wonder if it will replace the proper road bike completely.

  33. How about a GCN Does Science episode where you compare slick vs non-slick gravel specific tires from a major brand. Off the top of my head: Panaracer GravelKing SK vs Smooth or Maxxis ReFuse vs Rambler. I ask this because I've heard that a slick at the right pressure works great on the loose bits but giving you the added benefit of a faster rolling tire on the pavement.

  34. Good video! Especially it looks easier to understand. Does it need to change the height of handlebar from road position? Most of gravel bike still look aero more on website. But it doesn’t need that i think. Was this from their own bike setting? Could you compare about the difference of handlebar position? It will be good if other guy would leave comments for my questions

  35. I'd like to know, for descending, butt off seat and slightly off toward the back. Been practicing this, in particular, to avoid the rattling of glasses on my face and all that shaking business.

  36. I grew up riding one bike on all the surfaces. The technique just comes naturally now wherever I ride. And owning a bike I don't have to baby has always been a priority. With all my friends riding and buying road bikes I recently upgraded to a cyclocross bike. The geometry works great for me on long rides on pavement, and I'm riding on gravel parking lots and across other terrain where everyone else is walking their skinny tire bikes.

  37. "…if it gets super gnarly… you'd probably be better off on a mountain bike.", he says. Seems like a decent XC would do the same for all previously mentioned conditions as well as the "super gnarly" ones. Still not totally convinced that this transitionary bike form is really necessary. Cool, yes. Necessary, probably not.

  38. Will I be restricted on what size tyre I can put on my road wheels? Clearance shouldn’t issue as I have a disc bike.
    Thank you

  39. the local road in Toronto has scattered pot holes is there anything wrong with riding a gravel type bike for road cycling ?

    The seller told me it’s a ideal choice seeing it that road bikes will ware and tear from all the pressure exerted on bumpy uneven concrete/ tarmac

  40. Amazing that even GCN, when they present 'gravel' which is 'alternative' if we compare to the classics road, mtb and cx show always big brand as TREK, SPECIALIZED, CANYON, ORBEA etc..but never the brands who initiate the movement as well as bikepacking, I mean brands like Surly, Salsa Cycles, Kona bikes etc…

    Gravels bikes have tyre clearance till a minimum of 42 mm..Gravel tyres begin at 38mm not 33/35 as shown in the video

  41. Nothing scars up the landscape and creates more soil erosion is when you ride next to the two track road making it a three track, four track and more. If you can't ride in the established 2 track, you have the wrong bike for the conditions. This applies to motor vehicles as well.

  42. How did i miss this one Si? Great presentation and it sure looks like a lot of fun! I do remember my first exposure to carbon wheels, my wife and I were on our tandem on a trip to Montreal, Canada. We were crossing the St. Lawrence when a roadie pulled along side when we are a gravel road. He had 88mm Zipps and the racket they made did not inspire confidence to me! I noticed you had carbon rims on the bike you were riding. Does that really hold up?

  43. Awesome gravel bikes .. but I use my mountain bike all places .. I've just put some continental traffic reflex tyres on .. hard in middle .. great tread great all rounder great on road but my riding is pleasure not speed .. love canal towpaths ..

  44. The amount of 'best avoid' surfaces points to a light XC mountain bike, with narrow tires – narrow, but still wider than a gravel bike's – being the better option for most adventurers. Racers, sure, go buy those gravel bikes, but regular riders? Get a mountain bike, then go ride the sand roads, the large gravel roads, etc. that the gravel bikes best avoid.

  45. I started with a Jamis Trail X Comp mountain bike and switched to a Jamis Allegro Sport because it was lighter and slightly faster on the crushed limestone of the rails-to-trails here in Pennsylvania. It’s still not as fast as I’d like and I’m upgrading this spring to a Jamis Renegade Exile. I love riding the crushed limestone because it’s mostly level and you can really get cruising with minimal effort.

  46. This video obviously made for the roadies, mtb people don’t need to “know how to ride on gravel.” Riding a bike isn’t that hard no matter where you are. It’s as easy as riding a bike.

  47. Gravel is THE road riding for mountain bikers. I absolutely love 100K+ gravel grinds for literally every reason specified in this video; off the main roads, away from cars, sliding around corners like a big kid.

  48. I'm a kid and I skid. I use my brakes so my head don't ake. I sometimes get out of the sattle so can can go to Seattle. I use my big ring so I don't ping. I use treads so I don't hit those peds.

  49. I take the less grippiest places of the corner just to hammer my rear brake and try to drift ? absolutely worth it

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