Everything You Need to Know to Master Gravel

Everything You Need to Know to Master Gravel

Gravel remains mostly undefined, which is exactly the point. One person might imagine quiet, slightly crunchy roads. Another may see challenging, steep, cratered-out, boulder-pocked trails. Both are correct. Which means, it helps to know what you’re getting into, especially when choosing your gear.

Gravel courses range from Category 1 (smooth, hard, road bike-friendly dirt) to Category 4 (deep ruts, rocks, and potential landslides, best handled with high-volume mountain bike tires). Click through for deeper descriptions and tire recommendations for each category.

Gravel riding is brilliantly simple, but a few specific techniques will help you enjoy the ride and push your performance. Practice them whenever the terrain gives you the opportunity.

On rough descents, you’ll need even more stability and shock absorption. When descending, move your hands into the drops, elbows still bent and relaxed. This lowers your center of gravity. Shift your weight to the back of the seat, and bend your legs to use them like springs that absorb the bumps and allow the bike to continue tracking in a straight line. On really rough terrain, hover out of the saddle to give your bike even more freedom to move beneath you. Visit this section for a full list of tips that will help you descend with more confidence.

Before any event or adventure, there is the little voice inside that asks, “Can I really do this?” That doubt is not lost on the event directors who create courses. When you ride Crusher in the Tushar, there will be moments when you promise yourself that if you just finish, you will sell all your stupid bikes and take up paddle boarding. But then, you cross the finish line. Your endorphin-flooded brain starts fantasizing about doing it again.

Gravel requires extra effort. You need to train your brain the same way you train your body. When all else is equal, the riders with the most grit — a psychological trait that makes someone work harder, longer, and more often without giving up — will be most successful on gravel. Fortunately, it’s something you can learn.