Unsure where to start with gravel? Check out our great gravel guide!
Get decent tyres.
The biggest tech leap in our opinion that has allowed gravel to really be a thing is tyres. Whatever anyone says about handlebar bags or moustaches the most important thing here is running a decent set of tubeless tyres. Gravel specific ones start at 32mm and go up to 43mm and probably wider. Cyclocross tyres are generally more racey and supple and although will likely be fine for a while but won’t give you the longevity of a gravel tyre. Start with a Gravel king if you don’t know where to start but be aware these are lethal in the wet (or damp) when “gravel” turns to into grades of mud. Stay tuned for the Blackmore Mud Scale which will be loosely derived from the much maligned Bristol Stool Scale.
Your partner probably doesn’t care where you are anyway and chances are even though they may nod, smile and appear to be genuinely interested when you tell them you found a really great new bridalway that goes past a field of cows that behind those eyes they’re really thinking about something else and don’t give even the faintest of shits. So take the opportunity and get lost. If you’re local you’ll eventually find where you are anyway. This new genre of riding does also lend itself to getting out the old OS map again and/or just using Kamoot or Strava’s heatmaps in order to find the most efficient way to ultimately end up in someones back garden.
Get lost. But not too lost.
You need spares.
Stuff rattles loose and things go into tyres which make the air come out of said tyres. You’ll need spares and you’ll need to know how to use them! As you’ll be riding a mix of surfaces you’ll need a spare emergency tube as well as tubeless repair kits (anchovies) and pumps or canisters (and of course snacks). The only other thing you need to then consider is how to carry spares. So hence the popularity of frame bags but a little tool keg or just an empty bidon dedicated to spares can also do a great job.
Things to carry things. Gravel.
Don’t ride mtb trails (too often).
You can. However more mellow downs will be more enjoyable. Also you won’t be able to stop and at some point you will exit out of the front door which is the worst way to go because braking with your face is the worst way to brake. Furthermore your kit won’t like you in the long term so take it for what it is. Stick to the bridalways. Unless you actually are John Tomac; in which case you can do what the hell you want.
You’ll be using mixed use trails. Let people know you’re there. Be nice. Say Hi! Bells are available and you can just shout at people (don’t just shout at people, you’ll seem crazy and it’s nasty). We have found over the years that whistling your favourite tune tends to get more of a happy response. We favour either the Benny Hill chase theme or the Imperial March from Star Wars. Both get a smile from horseriders, walkers, dog walkers and doggers alike.
First rule of gravel. Also of life.
You don’t need a lumberjack shirt or a handlebar bag.
The scene won’t reject you. There is no scene. Unless you live in Walthamstow or Banff.
It’s not a road ride Strava boy!
Chill out big rocks! Strava KOM’s are a bit easier but this is about the adventure, the journey and razzing corners (not skidding kids, not skidding). Razzing involves no brakes. Just tipping her in and letting the fur fly (formerly referred to as “Take the inside and let her slide” or "Foot out, flat out")! So leave the power meter at home. No one cares. Get off those pussy levers and tip her in!
Gravel comes in all shapes and sizes (and very much depends on the season).
Citing famous words of the funny little bar owner in From Dusk To Dawn we’ve got a whole range of “gravel”. From the decorative driveway gravel to the little bits of chewed up asphalt that is often used for these things to the bits of old patio and kitchen that the occasional farmer uses on the cheap to shore up bit of track. You will experience it all. In seriousness you do have to read the surface a bit before going full send because hitting the edge of a house brick and 40kph does no one any favours.
Got any more top tips? Drop them in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and if they’re good enough we’ll include them!