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Cycling 101:
Top 10 Gravel Riding Technique Tips

By Chelsea Smith

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Chelsea HandlerAbout the author: Chelsea Smith is the editor and content creator at Cycling Hacker with another five years of experience in health and fitness. 

She's crazy about all things cycling and spends most weekends exploring mountain biking trails in her home state of Utah. Her love for the outdoors came from growing up in Utah Valley. 



You might be thinking that riding gravel sounds easy enough, but to be honest, this is the farthest from the truth! There is a lot at work, and it is not just about you or your bike. You need to have discipline, a skill set, and a lot of patience. Of course, you will require a bike that’s up for the challenge as well.

If you are on the search for a new one, Cycling Hacker’s guide is a decent place to start. Your role is to handle preparations, and ours is to share numerous tips and techniques to make your gravel riding adventure smooth and rewarding. Let’s get down to the list.

1. Go with the Right Gear
Regular riding and gravel riding are two separate things entirely. Normal riding is somehow carefree and smooth. This point means that you don’t need to do much – a good bike is enough. But gravel riding is a different story.

Gravel Riding Bike

Image: Bjcoving from Creative Commons

You will need to ensure your bike setup is up for the task of riding off-road. You also need to consider your clothing and other equipment, such as mountain bike shoes, gloves, bottle cages, and so on.

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2. Practice Makes Perfect
You might want to trek the dirt and gravel without prior experience. Yes, that is one way to get started. However, take your time, and go slow. Practice your rides, and observe what makes gravel riding something else. Also, remember that you are not on a smooth surface anymore, so get ready for bumps and obstacles along the way.

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3. Keep Your Eyes on the Route
Cycling enables us to see a lot of things around us. Every cycling session is a promising one, where you get to discover new places and sights. And that is okay – for regular cycling, that is.

For gravel riding, you have to look at where you are going. Doing so is a discipline you must master. Never be intimidated by obstacles, such as rocks and logs. Because if you do, you are guaranteed to hit one. Just keep your calm, and focus on the route, line, or trail.

4. Momentum and Speed Helps a Lot
Riding gravel can be hard at times. You might think about slowing down once you see small rocks, branches, loose stones, and other things. But you will be surprised that once you accelerate and reach a certain momentum, nothing will stop you.

Speed and momentum are the key points when it comes to gravel riding. They are the factors that will keep your bike propelling forward and prevent your tires from messing or slipping up.

5. Brake Control
Take note that you have to use your brake at a slow pace if you are on gravel. Doing so will save you from any wheel slipping. You can do this by pulling the bike’s front brake calmly and slowly. Then feather out with the rear brake. It also helps to check out your brakes now and then.

6. Hopping On and Over Obstacles
Hopping sounds impossible for some riders. But regardless of your point of view, you will have to learn about it eventually, especially since hopping can prove to be very helpful when you come across gullies or relatively big rocks and turned logs.

One way to hop is to get above the saddle and set more power onto the bike pedals. The next thing you should do is to lean back and pull the bike with your arms. The result is a wheelie that lifts your front tire onto the obstacle. Lift the rear wheel through the use of your hips. Doing so will let the back wheel follow suit.

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7. Gravel Riding Is Not All About Fashion
No, sir. Some riders like to flash their gear, clothing, and accessories once on the road. Do not be like one of these people. You are traveling further away from civilization. That means fewer people during the trip.

You do not need to equip such fancy-looking gear so you can make a statement. Instead, wear appropriate clothing, and consider the weather conditions, too. Go for comfort and maneuverability and not for style.

8. Stay Loose and Relax
We could not stress this point as much as we please. Staying loose and relaxed is easier said than done. Chances are that you might feel a bit tense once the bike starts moving and hitting all sorts of things under you. Think of the bicycle as an extension of yourself. The tension your body creates will pass onto the bike, resulting in an uneasy and twitchy ride.

From that point onwards, things can go south fast. If such a moment happens, it would be wise to stop. Collect yourself, and take a break before getting back to the gravel and dirt.

9. For Climbing
Climbing gravel paths can prove to be a daunting task, especially for beginners. A decent technique to help you climb is for you to focus all of your weight on the back of the bike. All of that weight will prevent your bicycle’s rear wheel from slipping.

10. For Descending
Great, you’ve made it to the top! Now the next issue is how to get down? Possibly the best method to handle the slopes is to bend your knees and arms and keep your hips and upper body square. Doing so will let you achieve a form of balance as you go down.

Gravel riding

Image by Garen M. from Creative Commons

To Conclude
Gravel riding is a form of cycling mastery. The more you fine-tune your skills, learn control over the bike, plus a decent amount of practice, the better you will become.

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