Gravel bikes are very different from road bikes. Riding on gravel requires a different set of skills and gears. This article contains the essential tips to improve your handling of gravel bikes.
Setting up a gravel bike differs from a regular road or mountain bike. The bike tires, handlebars, and gear ratio are all unique in a gravel bike.
Turning, increasing speed, and going up and down a slope also require different techniques.
Want to find out more? Keep reading below.
To start off, you need to know what the right gravel bike looks like. Gravel bikes must have accommodations for 38mm to 50mm tires. Anything less than this would not be considered a gravel bike. On top of that, there should be wider handlebars and a more balanced geometry.
Gravel bikes may seem similar to mountain bikes but are more stable. They are more similar to road bikes in structure and versatility. Going bike packing with a gravel bike will ensure versatility on any terrain.
Cyclocross bikes will be a better choice if you’re picking for speed. Gravel bikes focus on traction and clearance for tires that are tubeless.
For climbing bikes, the gear ratio should be 1:1 or lower to get more momentum.
Carbon fiber bodies are the lightest and most suitable for races. Aluminum is cheaper. Steel and titanium can be more expensive but are most durable.
Your gravel bike handling will be much more comfortable with the right gear and upgrades.
- First comes the handlebars. You can choose handlebar tapes for better comfort and grip. Feel your handlebars; if they’re not soft and squeezy, then you can opt to change them. You can also add handlebar paddings underneath if your old tape unwinds easily.
- You can also use makeshift handlebar paddings using old tubes. Some people swear by the double tapping method for added comfort.
- Gloves with gel padding can comfort the pressure points of the palm while riding. However, glove choice depends more on personal preferences.
- You can upgrade your regular seat posts to shock-absorbing ones.
- Suspension forks can also be replaced. Go for one that provides the best comfort.
- Opt for shorts with padding to get comfort on long rides. This can reduce pain in your lower back and bones.
Riding off-road gravel bikes are different from your road bikes. The turns should be made smoother.
You should stand up and reduce speed a little while turning. This will help with balance.
Don’t grip the handlebars too tightly. Ride the turn as smoothly as you can.
Cleat and shoes should be suitable to ensure a hassle-free ride. Gravel bike tracks are muddy, and you’ll likely get down to cross certain sections on foot. The cleats and shoes will get covered in mud.
Gravel shoe cleats should be flat and embedded into the sole, so you don’t pick up too much mud while walking.
You can try SPD cleats with SPD pedals to have a better match.
Gravel bikes need wide tires of at least 32mm to provide enough traction. The tread needs to be chunky to offer a better grip on gravel. You’ll ride better on roads but struggle on trails with a smooth tread.
The most important upgrade is to opt for tubeless tires. Tubeless tires don’t get pinch-flats because there are no tubes to crash against the wheel rim.
You can deflate tubeless tires up to 30psi, offering better grip on gravel roads. Liquid sealants can be used to seal up any cuts on tubeless tires, which is also convenient.
Keep your head up always while riding a gravel bike. Don’t fuss about the road and small rocks. Your gravel bike can easily run over any rocks and potholes. Focus on the way ahead and the safety of the line that you chose to ride.
Decide on a speed that seems controllable to you. The ride won’t be as enjoyable if you’re going too slow. While going too fast may cause accidents.
Climbing on sharp inclines can be challenging for bike riders. Riding on slopes is different on a gravel bike than on a road bike. You need to put your weight on the back wheel to prevent it from slipping.
The urge to stand while going up a slope can be high in regular bike riders. But a gravel bike is different; you must ride up by sitting down and balancing your weight.
Sitting down will ensure traction between your tires and the road. You’re on the right gears if you can pedal easily while sitting down.
Descending on a gravel bike is almost similar to descending on road bikes. There are very slight differences. You need to balance your weight by standing up. Keep your arms, legs, and hip squared and bent for balance.
Mostly use the front brakes and only use the back ones to prevent slipping. Always keep your eyes open and look ahead.
Jumping over obstacles is an advanced move but one you’ll enjoy once you master it.
The first step to this is to practice a wheelie. Once you’ve mastered the wheelie, use your hips to lift the back wheel up. Do this quickly to jump over rocks.
10. Keep up with Momentum
It is common to get scared of loose gravel while riding in a high speed. But instead of slowing down, maintain your momentum and try to flow with the bike.
Use disc brakes instead of calipers because they go better on gravel bikes. Brake very slightly using the front ones and only feather the back brakes. Sufficient practice will improve your riding.
Handling gravel bikes can seem intimidating. But you don’t need to be a pro to enjoy gravel biking. Follow these tips, and you’ll be handling your gravel bike like an expert in no time.