Ten top tips to attack gravel sectors on your road bike

Hannah’s TEN TOP TIPS for tackling gravel

Off road on road

Gravel road riding is very much trending at the moment! This is something that I first became involved with only five years ago. To be honest, I kind of didn’t have a choice because numerous 2013 National Road Series Tours had gravel sectors. As a result, my local weekend bunch riding group started adding sections into our long rides and I HATED it. I was by far the slowest. I rode so uptight and stiffly with sudden panic braking making for some pretty slippery moments.

Blockers Road Grind

My third gravel riding experience was a classic in Adelaide called Blockers Road. My boyfriend thought it would be a good climb to practice on…For your information, Strava details has Blockers Road as a 4 km climb at 6% but it has a few small downhill sections, a couple of decent corners including a steep hair pin and finishes at a whopping 12% for 400 metres. I cried. There were so many tactical components that I just did not have the confidence or skills for. I eventually got there but I didn’t plan to ever return.Perseverance

I kept at it and to be honest, I’m not sure when it finally all clicked. One day, it just did. I compare it to when I swapped my learning driving from an automatic to manual car. I was initially terrible and hated it and my hill starts were woeful, but one day, it just all came together and I’ve loved manual driving ever since. Just like that, I’ve become seriously obsessed with riding my roadie on gravel and dirt.Sharing the love

Known as a person who regularly feels the need to share things in my life that I love, I soon begun to spread the gravel love…
I deliberately planned the Rapha Women ADL adventure ride program to slowly add technical difficultly each ride. This way, people that attended every ride could develop their skills rather than being thrown straight in the deep end. I begun them on straight, very smooth unsealed roads with no hills/corners. I then added light climbing. Following this, descents, cornering and trickier sections were all added. Soon enough, many of these women shared my love and enthusiasm for off road road riding and they continue to conquer sections today!Barriers

The main barriers I hear way too often are:
1. My bike is not designed for this. Sorry but your bike can handle a fair amount ! I’ve now done a few thousand kms on good road bikes on gravel and not once had a puncture or any paint chips or worn my componentry out any faster of a rate.
2. I don’t have the skills. Like anything, you can learn. Ask someone experienced to take you out and let them teach you.
3. I’m too scared. Lots of things in life can come across scary when we don’t understand how to tackle them, but the fun lies in the challenge of conquering ! You probably won’t be good at it right away, but were you good at road biking as soon as you got on? probably not.

TEN TOP TIPS
So here they are, my top tips from thousands of km’s of experience.

 

  1. Relax your body and arms
  2. Look ahead up the road to pick your line
  3. Lower your tyre pressure by 15-20 PSI
  4. Choose wider tyres: 25-28 mm
  5. Choose more durable tyres
  6. Faster is often smoother with loads more control
  7. Break calmly and evenly
  8. Try to stay seated up hills to avoid rear wheel spinning
  9. Keep your weight back down steep hills and even off the saddle a little with pedals in 9 and 3 position
  10. Have fun! Stay calm. Don’t overthink it. Go with someone experienced.

Ok that was four at point ten but I just have so many tips to give! Thankfully my career doesn’t require a heap of maths 😉Take away messages

No more excuses, just go adventure because life is way too short to stick to what you already know.

 

 

Also read: How to become a confident criterium racer

 

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