Saturday, January 08, 2011

Trans Iowa V7 Update #10: Gravel Road Riding Tips

Gravel Road Riding Tips For Trans Iowa: Once again, this is aimed at the first timers out there, but ya'all might want to pay attention, since there might be some things I mention here which will help bring to mind stuff you may have forgotten about.

The last update, #9 on equipment choices, can be found here.

Please read and familiarize yourself with the Race Safety & Supplies section of the Trans Iowa site here.

I mention a few things there that are in keeping with my post here, so I will not cover those again. Here you will find some basic gravel road riding tips I have learned over the years and also things I have observed by putting on six previous Trans Iowas and from my other gravel road racing and riding experiences.

#1: Ride "Right": Just because you are in a remote, rural area, and just because there is little to no traffic doesn't mean you can relax on your road etiquette here. Ride on the right side of the road folks, especially going up a hill! Rural Iowans will expect that when they crest a hill in their automobile, that they will be on the right side, and so would anybody else coming the other way be on their right side of the road, thus preventing any accidental crashes at the summits of hills. That's how it works, so don't forget that, and don't try to push your luck out there. It could cost you your life.

#2: Don't Be A Hero: Trans Iowa is a long, long event. It isn't worth it to blow through stop signs, not pay attention at intersections, and to not wait for cars and trucks to clear out when crossing paved roads. Obey traffic signs! Stop at paved crossings and be very careful. Don't be a dick when going through towns and tick off the locals with your "get out of my way" attitude.

NOTE: If d.p. or I, or any of our volunteers report or see a T.I.V7 rider violating #1 or #2 above, you will be disqualified immediately and asked to stop riding. I won't tolerate riders being stupid, ignorant, or willfully breaking laws or rules of conduct. Period. 

#3: "Read" The Road: It is important that you recognize the difference between loose gravel, and smoother sections of the road. Obviously, you'll want to take the path of least resistance, but I am thinking of the fast down hill sections. The ability to look further up the road and "read" the conditions of the gravel will allow you to descend with more confidence and safety. This will become imperative at night. Don't outrun your lights, and ride within your skill level. That said, reading the road will be a handy tool during Trans Iowa. Getting out and practicing this on gravel ahead of T.I.V7 would be the best bet.

#4: Take Corners Very Carefully: Generally speaking, bicycle tires and speedy gravel corners are not things that go together without mishap. Be careful going around corners and you'll be fine. Criterium style cornering will be met with a case of severe road rash!

#5: Easy On The Brakes!: Similarly, heavy, sudden braking is a no-no on gravel and a recipe for going down. Gently squeezing the levers and giving yourself plenty of room to make a stop is advised. Keep drafting distances longer, unless you can implicitly trust the riders you draft off of. If one guy or gal in a draft line makes a small bobble or slips on loose gravel, you will find yourself in a big pile up. Also, keep a light touch on the brakes while descending at speed. Too much brake and you can easily lose control and stack it up heinously. (And it doesn't take much brake to be "too much" on gravel!) Don't draft on the down hills! Especially steep ones. (Getting a gravel chunk in the eye, or a face full of dust or mud is a distinct possibility)

#6: B Road Roolz: B Maintenance roads present their own set of rules. First and foremost is deciding whether to even ride in at all! If it is wet, your best bet may be to dismount while you are still on the gravel and test the road by walking on it. You'll know within a few footsteps if you could ride it out, or not. Better to have clagged up shoes than a mud packed, 70lb bike that you have to carry!

If the B Road has a ditch, you may be allowed to pass in the grass, but if it's like the one I have pictured here, you'll be obliged to walk the entire length of it. Trust me. You shouldn't try riding on a rain soaked B Road! If it is dry, you can pass, or maybe if the sun has gotten to it after a rain, you may find parts will be rideable, but it is best to err on the side of caution here. Added to this is the fact that road obstacles like embedded rocks, holes, ruts, and even random junk are waiting to toss you off your bike or ruin your tires and wheels, and it should become apparent that B Roads deserve your respect.

Next Update: More Gravel Road Riding Tips....


Apis said...

That B road seems just like the roads I grew up around in rural SW Pennsylvania. Also reminds me of Ashtabula county Ohio roads (except for the actual rolling hill in the distance).

Jay said...

good tips GT

Paul said...

All of these B road pictures are so misleading ! :). They look dry, ridable and fun. Then there are the spring rains! For riders that have never ridden Iowa's wet B roads it is best to not even enter them while riding. One of the hardest physical feats I have done is carried my mud filled bike a mile during Trans Iowa V2.

Steve Fuller said...

Dear New TransIowa rider:

Expect and plan for the B Roads to look like this:

Expect that it will suck twice as much as you think it will

Ari said...

That was a huge mistake last year getting the bike all clogged up. Think of that other now popular sport called Cyclocross. You are better off carrying your bike for a mile than not making that first checkpoint due to a clogged bike.
I really hated disc brakes while my friend opened there cantis and cleaned them.