Within the UK gravel bikes and gravel riding have grown in popularity over recent years. Gravel riding can provide a happy medium for cyclists who want a less technical ride than mountain biking or for those that prefer a longer ride without worrying about cars. Aside from that, gravel can be a great way to cover some longer miles and do some exploring. With anything, sometimes getting started is the hardest part to getting into something new, so here are a few tips to help you take the leap into gravel.
Having a gravel-specific bike is great, but really any bike can do. Point being, don’t sweat if all you have is your mountain bike. The important part is you’re out on the bike having a great day. We recommend the Giant Revolt, which is a gravel-specific bike.
This bike is great because it is capable of handling most multi-terrain adventures. It can tackle single track, roads, greenways, sandy roads, dirt roads, gravel roads, and even the rockiest of roads on this bike. Plus, it’s fit for bikepacking with its ability to hold racks, luggage and extra bottles.
2. CHOOSE A ROUTE
If you’re familiar with the area you’re riding in, that’s great. However, if this isn't the case, RideWithGPS, Strava, and Komoot are all great apps for discovering new routes. If it's available, Google street view can be a better way to nail down the surface.
If there is a local shop or riding club around, local knowledge is always a sure bet and folks will happily give some route suggestions. Starting off small is never a bad idea and can help get your gravel legs underneath you. Finally, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good; most gravel routes have some sections of road or trail that connect all the dots, embrace the variety and see what you can find out there.
Bring the usual riding essentials. Even though gravel is less technical than mountain biking, flats and other mechanicals do happen, so come prepared. We recommend a saddle bag, handlebar bag, or frame bag to carry any tools. Our H2Pro bags are perfect for bikepacking. A go-to tool right now is a plug for tyres. If you run tubeless tyres, a puncture can easily be fixed by throwing a plug in.
You can also fill your bags up with plenty of snacks. Having a handlebar bag or frame bag gives you the option to carry a variety of snacks that usually your jersey pockets limit you from carrying. Another handy thing to carry in your bags are extra layers. In the autumn, winter and spring sometimes the temperature calls for a jacket or extra gloves. The ultimate goal with gear is to be prepared to enjoy a long day in the woods, rather than think of gravel rides as another focused training ride to smash out.
4. TRY A RACE
One of the best parts of gravel is the community. Riders are all out there to help each other and enjoy a new route, so it’s a great way to meet folks, ride with total strangers and make some new riding friends.
Aside from that, the route is marked and you have aid stations for snacks, water and anything else you need. You can take any race however you want - take it seriously and put in a hard effort if that’s what you’re after, but know, too, that many riders are there for a casual day on their bikes and you’re more than welcome to join at that pace.
5. HAVE FUN
Don’t take gravel riding too seriously or worry about getting it perfect right out of the gate. Come as you are, with the bike you’re comfortable on, and go find some fun roads to go exploring on. Take your time, and enjoy taking the leap into gravel.