GRAVEL RACING TIPS
Whether you have been racing for years or are new to gravel racing, these tips below will come in handy!
GRAVEL ROADS ARE A LOT OF FUN
Gravel riding is a test of endurance and strength, but the attraction has little to do with either. The gravel roads on the Front Range are some of the coolest dirt roads to be found in the Midwest. There is almost no traffic, they are twisty, turny, and they tend to follow things like river beds or little-known tracks over hills that will sometimes feel like mountains at this high elevation. In our opinion, our gravel roads are the best roads around.
PUSHING VS SPINNING
Pushing a bigger gear in rough terrain can keep you from bouncing around and help with overall control. The top racers push as low of a cadence as they can in gravel racing. You might not be able to keep the gearing super low for a couple hundred miles, but avoid high-cadence spinning as much as possible.
Be smart and always scan ahead for deep gravel patches. You never know if a filled-in water crossing is 6 inches deep or 2 feet deep. Slowing down a bit more than usual on corners and descents might feel counterintuitive in a race, but you need to make it to the finish line if you want to succeed.
KNOW YOUR NUTRITION
Most racers fail because they get their nutrition wrong! Practice eating a lot of easy to digest foods packed with nutrition on long, hard training rides to prepare for the rigors of a gravel event. If you haven’t done a ride over 120 miles, you don’t know how your stomach is going to handle it. If you lock up and can’t get food to go in without it coming back out, it’s game over. As a general guideline, nutritionists recommend consuming 200–300 calories per hour during long races.
REMEMBER WHY YOU ARE RACING
Your chances of getting a flat is fairly high, so be prepared to change a flat without too much hassle. One thing you can definitely count on is the fact that you are going to get tired and it’s probably more accurate to say that you will be exhausted well before you cross the finish line. A race like the IDR200 is going to be extremely hard. But remember you get to ride your bike. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that you want to do this. While so many people have to be out working, you get to be out in nature on your bike all day. And on top of that, in the IDR 200, you aren’t simply riding for personal satisfaction of completing a monstrous challenge. You are helping a child and making the world a better place all at the same time.
WHAT ARE THE BEST TIRES TO USE?
Ask four gravel riders which tire is best, and you’ll get four answers or more. That’s because the right tire choice depends on your bike and riding style. The IDR 200 runs through the Front Range where the gravel tends to be softer and rounder and hence fast rolling. In general you want a tough tire — not a lightweight racer — that is as fat as you can get to fit your frame. You will get very tired as the day goes on, and the fat tire will help when you’re less careful in picking your line. It’s worthwhile learning how to boot a sliced tire (carrying a Park Tool tire boot doesn’t hurt either).
WHAT IS THE BEST KIND OF BIKE TO RIDE?
A gravel-specific bike is great but not necessary. Many gravel riders ride cyclocross bikes with a compact double on the front. A Mountain or Trail bike will work just as well, provided you have components that will last you through 200 miles! Disc brakes are also nice, but not necessary. Besides tires, the big issues are your contact points — you’ll want a comfortable saddle, extra padding on your handlebar, and supportive shoes for a long day of pedaling and occasional hike-a-bike. Riding these roads on a regular road bicycle or hybrid is certainly possible but will definitely increase the level of the challenge!