Top Gravel Biking Tips from Liv Racing Pros
New to riding a bike on gravel? Just caught the gravel biking bug and want to get better, faster and more confident on unpaved roads, paths and trails? Check out these awesome tips from our Liv Racing gravel athletes!
Bike Setup Tips
Choose the right tires.
“Back in New England where I grew up, "gravel" riding was not that different from road riding. You could take your slick tires on the non-paved roads without issue. The dirt was well-graded and there were not really any rocks to create worry about flats. When I moved to Arkansas my first foray into gravel was an unexpected unpaved road on my road route – I exploded my poor slick tires! Here the gravel is chunky, sharp, loose, and brutal on tire casings. Depending on where you are riding, you may opt for a skinner, low-profile and faster tire (even a 28mm slick tire) if the gravel is more like smooth dirt, or you may need a 40mm knobby tire if your gravel is more gnarly and requires more cornering grip and flat protection.” -Crystal Anthony
Lower Your Tire Pressure.
“Not only will lower tire pressure give you a more comfortable ride, it will also provide additional traction and confidence, both while climbing and descending. With a tubeless wheel/tire combination, you will be able to run significantly lower pressure than you think, so go out and experiment. Tire pressure depends on rider weight and terrain, so start around 35PSI and work down from there (I typically run <30PSI). A few PSI can make a big difference in the handling and feel of your bike.” -Serena Bishop Gordon
Make sure you have the right bars to feel comfortable getting into the drops.
“I personally use wider drop bars that flare outwards. Road bike bars are great for aerodynamics but for gravel riding, stability and comfort are key. Descending in the drops can seem intimidating at first. ‘Can I reach my brakes? Wow, I feel really close to my front wheel and the ground,’ were some of my first thoughts when attempting to ride in the drops on gravel. Then I realized the brakes are actually easier to control from the drops and the extra weight on my front wheel can prevent washouts.” -Kaysee Armstrong
Know your water options.
“Gravel riding can lead to some VERY long adventures, either planner or unplanned! It also often takes you away from civilization and access to gas station water stops. It's always important to be self-sufficient and either research local knowledge about water stops (sometimes there are random water pumps or access points) or bring a water filter so that you can refill from streams or lakes.” -Crystal Anthony
“Carry a well-stocked repair kit. Gravel riding leads to awesome, off the beaten path adventures, which means having the tools for simple (g)roadside repairs, and knowing how to use them, is critical.” -Serena Bishop Gordon
A list of essentials:
- Spare tube (or two)
- Tire levers
- Pump and/or Co2 inflator
- Tire Plugs / Tire Boot (a dollar bill or Clif Bar wrapper will also work)
- Chain tool and quick links
- Map (either paper, on your phone or Garmin)
Be prepared for dogs.
“In New England, while I might encounter the occasional aggressive dog, it was not a general concern when gravel riding. However, in Arkansas, being chased and attacked by dogs is one of the foremost concerns for gravel riders. Giving loud commands, spraying with water bottles, using a dog horn, or in severe cases using pepper spray are all ways to fend off vicious dogs.” -Crystal Anthony
Gravel Riding Skills and Tips
Try Seated Climbing.
“Staying seated while climbing on dirt, gravel, or sand will keep your weight centered over the bike and give your rear wheel additional traction which is increasingly important as the pitch tilts skyward and the riding surface is loose. This, coupled with the correct tire choice and pressure, will help you climb like a billy goat!” -Serena Bishop Gordon
Remember to Breathe.
“Look where you want to go, don’t look where you don’t. Also, trust the equipment to do what it was designed to do, and remember to breathe and have fun!” -Ayesha McGowan
Counterbalance in corners.
“Think about applying pressure to your outside foot and inside hand to maintain traction on downhill corners. For example, on a right corner I apply pressure in my right hand and left foot while also allowing my right knee to guide me in the right direction.” -Kaysee Armstrong