Thursday, February 11, 2021

Basics Of Gravel Series Intro

The other day I was cruising social media, (dangerous, and depressing as it may be), and I noted several things that kind of slapped me upside the head. It got me to thinking about things I learned over 20 years ago and applied to gravel riding. It reminded me of things I learned from doing gravel road riding over the last 15+ years. I thought about how these are things so basic that I take them for granted. 

Then I realized that with the mass popularity of gravel riding, there probably are a ton of people that are brand new to anything unpaved. Maybe there are a lot of brand new cyclists due to the pandemic that have zero experiences with bike handling, set up, and riding tips. 

Then it occurred to me that I could offer my years of wisdom, knowledge, and that gained from others as well, here on the blog. I thought I'd dub this the "Basics of Gravel", or B.O.G. for short. I know that probably the vast majority of readers here are probably well experienced cyclists, and maybe a lot of you are also gravel cyclists with a lot of experience under your wheels. This series may not be for you, but I would encourage you, if the shoe fits, to chime in with comments to give me some way to pass on even more wisdom. 

So, with that, I will be tackling subjects like accessory mounting/water cage/water bottles, brakes- the different types and pad materials, service life issues, and the debate on 650B versus 700c wheels and why you might choose either. There will be saddle talk, clothing gab, and nutritional banter. All geared to the basic principles of riding, which in reality, apply across a lot of cycling. 

But I think my over all theme with this is going to be- "Don't over-think this. Just get out and ride!" That's the number one rule. Just ride. Sure, you'll get things wrong as a rookie, but riding is better than worrying about what wheel size to use and where your water bottles are mounted. It always trumps which clothes you wear and how you like to eat. Riding is going to be the over all theme to this. I definitely don't want this to become a didactic beat down which seems preachy. 

This will likely run a few posts, maybe more. If it goes well I may rerun it on Riding Gravel. We'll see. I'm not 100% on the details of how it will go, so hang on. This might be a bit messy to start with. Okay, with that, I will try to post once a week here and in the meantime, please give me some of your thoughts on this in the comments. This sort of thing has been done to death, I'm sure, by others, but I figured I would put in my two cents here. 

Thanks for reading!


Bob said...

Just a side note, completely out of context for todays post: in my opinion the current banner photo is your best yet in terms of photographic composition. My eye lands on the bike and the road draws me into and through the scene, telling a wonderful story of how you got there, where you're going, and what you were thinking and feeling at the time. Or what I image for you at the time as it relates to my own experiences. Bravo, well done!

FarleyBob said...

GT, I think bike handling on gravel is a huge question mark for new riders. I remember when I first started riding gravel I was very concerned about how the bike would handle on the loose surface, how I would manage fast downhills, etc... A primer on that topic might help ease a few minds and encourage people to give it a go! And once again, Thanks for all you do!

Guitar Ted said...

@Bob - Wow! THANK YOU! I really appreciate the comments you have made.

@FarleyBob - Great ideas to incorporate into the series. I will work on that.

teamdarb said...

Timely posting! I was out the other day with a guy new to cycling and one experienced. I noticed despite the differences in seat time they had similar issues throughtout the ride. One major one was actually component related i.e. grip tape and brake pad material or the type of rotor. It is one thing repeated about getting the bars up, but rarely of how the contact points grip tape, gloves, brake lever reach can inspire confidence and comfort. Even suggest taking a dive into the more popular brake hoods of today over the past back to the 90s. Sure we see 160mm or 140mm rotors factory equipped, and folks "upgrade" to larger sizing over material choice in current size. There has to be a blog or paragraph into up sizing vs upgrading materials. We all know too much bite can be bad, but can we negate the weight penalty with better materials and modulation education. I see the same educating post one the major items repeated, but maybe a dive into the minor items that plague folks after the ride. I have to stop here as typing on this device is a huge headache. Hopefully my message is clear.

Guitar Ted said...

@teamdarb - I hear ya, but honestly, I think what you are talking about is much more nuanced than where i am going. More of an "Intermediates of Gravel" series kind of thing, if you will.

I'm talking to those folks who really just need to get out there. It sounds like to me the folks you are talking about have already gotten their feet wet and are moving into the next level, if you will, of the riding experience. to those places where one can appreciate "more modulation" or understand what weight on a component does. Or what materials are better for certain components.

I am not saying there isn't a need to discuss those things, but those types of nuanced discussions are "next level" from where I want to start out at.

Stevenator said...

100% supportive of this BOG series. Looking forward to it.

Also, I listened to the Stamstad interview on the Riding Gravel podcast today. Great job! Fantastic guest too!

Guitar Ted said...

@Stevenator - Thank you!!

Scott said...

Hi GT. I think riding position and handlebar setup could be an interesting topic for people that are brand new to anything unpaved. Gravel bikes typically feature a more upright riding position (longer head tubes, higher stack, shorter stems). Yet I still see quite a few riders with handlebars rotated in such a way that effectively eliminates the drops as a useful riding position.
Then you have the related issue of aerodynamics (I'm thinking here in terms of body position, not aero bike frames/components). Gravel speeds tend to be slower than pavement speeds but I think (at least for those of us that ride in the midwest) it is important to have a go to position that is a little more aero when you are riding in high winds. Many gravel handlebars have a very shallow drop. This makes the drops more accessible but perhaps makes the drop position less effective in the wind? Then you have the tradeoffs of comfort for a "normal" two hour ride vs. comfort for an event/all day ride/100+ mile effort. Should riders consider this when cutting their steerer tube? i.e leave room to move a 10mm spacer above and below the stem so that you have the option to raise/lower your bars for certain rides or events. Or is it better to find a set it and forget it position?
The other interesting issue here flexibility/mobility. Most riders seem to have a very static mindset such as "I am not very flexible so..." However, I have found with a little effort I have become more mobile as I have gotten older and I am more comfortable riding with a larger saddle to handlebar drop.

I know that you have already provided a lot of valuable insights regarding handlebar design, setup, and lever positioning over the years and it might be nice to consolidate some of that info in your new Basics series.

matt said...

GT - You've probably already considered this but maybe include road surfaces in B.O.G. Dirt, hero gravel, freshly graded, freshly laid, etc. And encouragement to ride on the righthand side of the road. Dogs, traffic (Some gravel roads can be heavily used), what to do when dusted out, etc.

Stud Beefpile said...

Great content for the Riding Gravel Radio Ranch, potentially!