Gravel Grinder Racing: What You Need to Get Started

Look at the bikes you own. Do you have a mountain bike, a cyclocross or road bike? If the answer is yes, you already have a bike that can be used on gravel roads.

A cyclocross bike is closest to the new gravel breed and is used by a lot of gravel riders and racers as their gravel bike of choice. A cyclocross bike is designed for racing in extreme conditions like rain or snow, so they usually have plenty of tire clearance to allow you to fit the larger tire size needed for riding over gravel. A cyclocross bike is a good choice if you have a few bikes in your stable to choose from.

Mountain bikes can also be used and don't need a lot of adjustments to serve as a great gravel bike. Road bikes pose the biggest challenge when adapting them for the gravel. Due to limited tire clearance, the kind of tire that you can fit is going to be limited. But if this is your only option, there are tires on the market that you can buy to make it work.

More: How to Try Cyclocross on a Budget

The Importance of Tire Choice

The one investment you'll probably want to make to get your bike ready for the gravel is a set of gravel-specific tires. What tire you choose depends on the surface you'll be riding on the most. For hard-packed dirt roads, for instance, you'll need something just slightly tougher than a standard road bike tire. On the other hand, if you want to ride over big rocks or on trails, you'll probably shred any tire not designed to be ridden over these surfaces.

When it comes to fitting your road or cross bike with tires for gravel, you'll want to use the biggest tire that your frame and brakes will allow. It isn't unheard of to fit a 700x30 tire on a road bike, which should let you ride over most surfaces. There are quite a few companies that make gravel tires that range between 700x30 and 700x42. To find a tire that fits your frame and suits your needs, talk to your local bike shop or find someone in your area who rides gravel grinder races and see what they're using.

Choosing the right tire will improve your handling over gravel surfaces, be more comfortable than nonspecific gravel tires and keep you from flatting as frequently.

More: Why Road Cyclists Should Try Cyclocross in the Offseason

Be Prepared Before You Head Out

Before you head out the door, there are several things you should keep in mind. First, since you'll be riding on gravel and not smooth asphalt, the chances of getting a flat increases, so make sure you are prepared by having extra tubes and the necessary tools.

Since you'll be on the back roads, you're not likely to run into many convenience stores. Make sure you're carrying as much food and drink as you'll need for your entire ride. If you're going on a long ride, a hydration pack may be necessary since there probably won't be a place to fill up your bottles. Finally, remember that riding your bike is supposed to be fun. Keep it fun and enjoy the new adventure!

More: Cyclocross: The Perfect Winter Sport

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