Gravel riding has taken on new life in recent years, as people from across multiple disciplines of cycling have found their way off the beaten path and into this new world. Although holding many similarities to its cousins, road and cyclocross, gravel tends to be a whole different beast. However, with the proper preparation and training, big gravel events can be just as enjoyable as your summer Sunday coffee ride with the mates.
“Het zijn de uren in de broek die tellen”
In Belgian cycling, the saying goes “it is the time in the bibs that count.” For gravel, this is especially important. Although the distances are sometimes similar to Granfondo’s on the road, the pure rolling resistance of having to ride on dirt, crushed gravel, and other adverse surfaces will slow you down, creating a longer time in the saddle.
An easy way to be ready for your gravel event is to be ready to be on the bike for a large part of the day. A weekend ride of 5 hours with a stop in the middle for a snack (hopefully at your favorite café) is a great way to prepare the legs, mind, and chamois-area for the demands of 7-8 hours of riding at your next gravel event.
Know your foe
Gravel rides significantly different than pavement, no matter how well equipped your bike may be. There is more vibration on the long, rocky straightaways, there is less traction when going up steep climbs, and cornering can be a chore if you try and lean like you do on the road. Make sure you adjust your tire-pressure when riding off-road to absorb the vibrations and the quality of your ride will improve a lot.
Mixing in some sections of gravel to your normal rides will not only prepare you well for what lies ahead at Dusty Moon, but can break up long hours in the saddle. Local to the area around Peloton de Paris, we have the gravel paths along the Dijle, the cross-country tracks in Domein Hofstade, and, for longer rides, the trails in the Meerdalwoud south of Leuven, each with their own surface and terrain. You will quickly become accustomed to riding on these kinds of surfaces, and you may find that taking the road-less-travelled is sometimes more fun than the actual road.
Scout your route
When possible, you can combine these two techniques a few weeks before your next event, riding a few sections of the event on a long, easy training ride. Familiarizing yourself with what kind of gravel you can expect, as well as getting that “time in the bibs,” you’ll be well prepared to have a great day on the bike!