Riding on dirt and gravel roads can be a tremendously joyful and rewarding experience – but the first few times might feel daunting. Here are some tips:
- Remember your bike wants to stay upright. Develop a relationship based on trust with your bike. The mental game is half the battle.
- Your bike goes where you look. Scan the road ahead for obstacles (potholes, piles of soft gravel or dirt, rocks, etc) – but don’t dwell on them. Acknowledge – then look where you want to go. Seek the path of least resistance – but be mindful of your fellow riders or motorists.
- Lower your tire pressure. This allows your tires to deform slightly, giving you additional contact with the ground (traction) without slowing you down. If your tires are filled to the max, there’s not “give” and the ride will be bumpy and uncomfortable. A good place to start is at your tire specification’s lowest limit – and then add 5-10 psi. Experiment until you find the right pressure for you – one that provides traction and no pinch-flats.
- On bumpy terrain, position your feet in the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions to create a flat “platform” and slightly lift your bottom off your saddle. This will allow you to use your arms and legs as suspension so you can focus on scanning the road ahead.
- Momentum is your friend in rougher spots – but so is staying in control. Only go as fast as you feel comfortable and in control. Over time you will build the confidence to go faster.
- When climbing, sit & spin to avoid your rear wheel sliding out and losing traction. But make sure you also have weight on your handlebars or your front wheel might come up! Equitable distribution of your weight is key.
- When descending, stay in control. Scan for obstacles. Keep your bottom over your saddle to maintain control. Descend only as quickly as you feel comfortable.
- When going around a curve, use smooth movements to avoid sliding out.
- If you feel your wheels sliding a bit, don’t hit the brakes! Point your bike in the direction you want to go and guide your bike there.
- If you come upon a horse and rider, STOP. Turn off your blinking front light. Ask the rider if you may proceed. Only proceed when the rider has indicated you may pass or wait until the horse and rider are not on the road.
Here are more tips from around the internet:
- 5 tips for the first-time gravel grinder – Salsa Cycles
- Newbies Corner – Gravel Cyclist
- 5 tips for First Time Gravel Rider – BikeRadar
- 7 things you should know before your first gravel event or epic ride – Source Endurance
- 10 tips for riding gravel on a road bike – Map My Ride