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Racing on gravel

Old 04-29-10, 08:42 PM
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Racing on gravel

I might be doing the Eugene Roubiax this weekend and it has a 1.5 mile part where its gravel. Anyone ever raced on gravel before have any pointers or tips? Im kinda worried I am going to eat it first lap.
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Old 04-29-10, 08:51 PM
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This explosion of races called "______ Roubaix" that have some pissant little gravel section is now way past absurd. Especially given that there are some races where fear of the dirt sections is entirely justified - because there are miles of them, and they are decisive. Battenkill is the premier example, and it is awesome. But there's this habit that organizers have developed of routing a tiny portion of their race onto a dirt road, which is apparently supposed to be awesome and hardcore and stuff but mostly just causes riders like you to freak out. And freaked out riders make mistakes. It makes me angry, because these little dirt sections do virtually nothing to make the race harder or more selective, they just cause a bunch of nervous riders to hit the deck. It's f**cking stupid.

Okay, that rant actually does have a bit of a point, which is that it's just not a big deal. 1.5 miles is nothing. Here's what you do: 1st, relax. 2nd, stay smooth. Don't make abrupt swerves, slam on the brakes, etc. 3rd, it goes better if you're moving faster. Really.

That's basically all there is to it. There's no "trick" to riding a dirt/gravel road, just be aware that the more loose gravel on the surface, the more care you need to take in changing your line. The worst thing you can do it tense up. Relax, stay loose, put the hammer down. It'll be over in no time at all.
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Old 04-29-10, 08:54 PM
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you have to keep pushing. focus on your direction, not what is directly beneath you. ignore the little slides, just keep your energy forward and pressure on the pedals. hold the wheels too. I hate when people leave gaps in gravel sections just because they are timid. I have to go around them.
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Old 04-29-10, 08:56 PM
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Only one thing to remember on a dirt/gravel road:
Keep f'ing pedaling.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWBE31s7hGQ

It's the dust that makes it miserable.

Last edited by saratoga; 04-29-10 at 09:02 PM.
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Old 04-29-10, 09:02 PM
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
This explosion of races called "______ Roubaix" that have some pissant little gravel section is now way past absurd. Especially given that there are some races where fear of the dirt sections is entirely justified - because there are miles of them, and they are decisive. Battenkill is the premier example, and it is awesome. But there's this habit that organizers have developed of routing a tiny portion of their race onto a dirt road, which is apparently supposed to be awesome and hardcore and stuff but mostly just causes riders like you to freak out. And freaked out riders make mistakes. It makes me angry, because these little dirt sections do virtually nothing to make the race harder or more selective, they just cause a bunch of nervous riders to hit the deck. It's f**cking stupid.

.
Actually I think it has more to do with the difficulty of finding good road courses that are light on traffic, and you can get permitted in a world of increased development, and more traffic.. If you're open to including some unpathed road, there are more options to put togehter a loop. Then you toss in the "Roubaix" bit for marketing.
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Old 04-29-10, 09:10 PM
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Originally Posted by saratoga View Post
Only one thing to remember on a dirt/gravel road:
Keep f'ing pedaling.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWBE31s7hGQ

It's the dust that makes it miserable.
And this year was really good conditions compared to normal.
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Old 04-29-10, 09:15 PM
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when I see the word "gravel" I think of course stones, not dirt. loose, bumpy, squirrelly etc. dirt is much better than gravel.

we have a course with a dirt section that sometimes gets "paved" with large loose stone. it's pretty far from dirt, and people break spokes and blow tires on it sometimes.
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Old 04-29-10, 09:27 PM
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Pedal through bumpy sections.
Pedal through turns (if you can)

Higher the cadence the better.
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Old 04-29-10, 09:31 PM
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just keep pedaling and don't tense up. it's not a big deal. try to pick out the squirrels who you don't want to be behind, but meh. 1.5 miles of gravel will be over in 5 minutes. doesn't matter.
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Old 04-29-10, 09:48 PM
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If you want gravel and dirt, race cross instead.
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Old 04-29-10, 09:48 PM
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Loose is fast and on the edge of out of control.

Keep calm, let the bike do what it wants to do. If you fight it, most likely you will end up on the ground. Its a little easier said than done since you will be in a pack of people
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Old 04-29-10, 09:50 PM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
Actually I think it has more to do with the difficulty of finding good road courses that are light on traffic, and you can get permitted in a world of increased development, and more traffic.. If you're open to including some unpathed road, there are more options to put togehter a loop. Then you toss in the "Roubaix" bit for marketing.
The one they did down here could easily have bypassed the dirt section. In fact, it was just a 1km spur off the route, rejoining a bit further down the same road it turned off of. Stupid. Pointless. If routing over a gravel road is truly necessary to get a route, fine. I suspect that it usually is not - how many suburbs have so little traffic that they're cris-crossed by unpaved roads?

I am perfectly content to ride on dirt or even gravel if it's not too big and loose, but it really freaks a lot of riders out. They just have no experience riding the stuff before hitting it at race speed. That just doesn't go well.
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Old 04-29-10, 10:14 PM
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if you can recon the section in advance that would be nice. I cost myself what would have been my first and only win early this year b/c I took the wrong line in a gravel section that I could have easily avoided had i checked it out in advance (i didnt because i was lazy) and finished 3rd.
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Old 04-29-10, 10:38 PM
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Originally Posted by grolby View Post
The one they did down here could easily have bypassed the dirt section. In fact, it was just a 1km spur off the route, rejoining a bit further down the same road it turned off of. Stupid. Pointless. If routing over a gravel road is truly necessary to get a route, fine. I suspect that it usually is not - how many suburbs have so little traffic that they're cris-crossed by unpaved roads?

I am perfectly content to ride on dirt or even gravel if it's not too big and loose, but it really freaks a lot of riders out. They just have no experience riding the stuff before hitting it at race speed. That just doesn't go well.
I just don't think it's necessary at all to do it. Battenkill is a class of its own in the US. The rest are just so racers can talk about how badass they are...

No me gusta. I'm not doing one of those races.
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Old 04-30-10, 12:04 AM
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OK. This is my personal opinion, but I found these things that helped me out when I did Tunis Roubaix this year ~30/45 miles is gravel/dirt/rock/sand in that order. My teammate and I went 1/2, so presumably this works.

1) Low cadence, push a big gear. - This lets you respond to slides/shifts. If the cadence is too high, and you slide, you can't use any leverage with your leg to control your balance.
2) You don't necessarily have to sit. During the rougher sections, I would kinda hover over my seat - if it isn't natural don't bother with this, again, it's about balance. If you're already hovering, you can shift your body weight very fast. If you're in the seat and you have to stand to control a slide, that instant where you stand will cause the bike to become out of balance even further, then you have to correct that too...
3) The opposite is true if you're cornering. In corners you want to sit so you really feel the bike a bit better. If it's sliding in a corner you may not feel it as well if you're standing.
4) If this is a loop and you're going over this a lot, your hands will ache - so get some decent gel. I roll with non-padded full finger gloves, and I regretted it.
5) Get to the front before this section. If it's narrow, you can easily have a big gap form on you by someone not able to maintain the speed - this will be determined by how rough the section is.
6) People (specifically cross riders and mtb bikers) are going to attack through the section, be wary of them.
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Old 04-30-10, 12:18 AM
  #16  
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Originally Posted by ridethecliche View Post
I just don't think it's necessary at all to do it. Battenkill is a class of its own in the US. The rest are just so racers can talk about how badass they are...

No me gusta. I'm not doing one of those races.
So it's cool for B'kill to do it, but nowhere else?
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Old 04-30-10, 12:45 AM
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Thanks for all the input guys I think I'll give it a shot. I'll go scout it out tomoorow to see what it's like.
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Old 04-30-10, 06:03 AM
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When it comes to loose dirt and gravel, I'm a big poosey. That's why I skip Webster (video linked above by Saratoga) every year.

If you're nervous as hell, do what I do when Webster comes up on the calendar and skip the race. You'll be doing everyone else a favor by not having your sketchy scared ass in the field.

It just had to be said.
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Old 04-30-10, 06:43 AM
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Gravel? gravel sucks. you'll hear fist-sized rocks bouncing off your downtube. it's really difficult to change your line on gravel, because your wheels start surfing instead of gripping. [i love dirt roads, but gravel is another thing]

pick good lines - pick the hardest, firmest looking area of road. sometimes it's in the wheel ruts, sometimes it's the raised middle. keep your weight back. don't muscle the steering - relax on the handlebars and let the bike keep itself going straight. bikes are pretty good at that.

be at the front.

know that, like in all races, you probably can't pick your own line. if you see a rut coming at you you can't swerve around it, because you're in a pack and somebody's right where you want to swerve. hope you're good at careful unweighting of the bike, or bunnyhopping.
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Old 04-30-10, 07:30 AM
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Our leland race had a ton of gravel (huge limestone rock). Combined with total exposure and big wind....it was miserable. There were a few miles of it ~3-7 maybe....can't remember the exact number ...per loop and my race was 3 loops. That was enough for me.

It sucks. for only a few miles though - don't do anything different. There will be attacks when you hit that section.
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Old 04-30-10, 08:11 AM
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yeah, at last year's Fawn Grove, apparently the town was so excited to have the race that a day or two before they thanked the promoter by dumping a whole bunch of fresh gravel on some of the roads to improve them.

there was one downhill s turn that saw many low-speed crashes because it was impossible to get a bike through it.
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Old 04-30-10, 08:16 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by kensuf View Post
When it comes to loose dirt and gravel, I'm a big poosey.
me too. especially on downhills with a turn at the bottom. i pucker up big time. uphill or big ring flat i'm ok, but the downhill stuff i'm not comfortable with, and i'm actually a very good cornerer/descender, just not on loose surfaces.

hey grolby - do you ever post without it being a rant on something? maybe you need more sleep or less caffeine.
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Old 04-30-10, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by ridethecliche View Post
I just don't think it's necessary at all to do it. Battenkill is a class of its own in the US. The rest are just so racers can talk about how badass they are...

No me gusta. I'm not doing one of those races.
a class of what? this is the first year they came close to posting accurate timely results, from what I've seen. It's a glorified bike tour. Your don't have 5 cat 4 winners at a race. That's just stupid.

And grolby it makes you angry? for real? You're kinda overly emo about a cat 4 race you can choose to skip.
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Old 04-30-10, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by gsteinb View Post
a class of what? this is the first year they came close to posting accurate timely results, from what I've seen. It's a glorified bike tour. Your don't have 5 cat 4 winners at a race. That's just stupid.

And grolby it makes you angry? for real? You're kinda overly emo about a cat 4 race you can choose to skip.
The course certainly is in a class of its own. The organization of the race is a mess. No question. But when it comes to great courses, Battenkill is way up there. I've ridden it, it's simply awesome. Yes, they should seriously downsize the entries - it's ridiculous and only makes the organization worse.

And yeah, I don't really see how it's "emo" to think that organizers shouldn't endanger racers without good cause. Battenkill makes the dirt roads a defining part of the race; they make it tough and selective. That's a trade-off. In the little pissant "_______ Roubaix" races, they throw in a mile or two of dirt and gravel that cause lower Cat riders to crash for no good reason. It's not about me. I'll ride that crap all day long. I've got miles and miles of experience on it. It's the riders who are inexperienced and nervous about it who are screwed by promoters who have to get in on the latest course design trend.

ETA: Not "for real," not in the sense that I'm literally angry about it. But I do disapprove, yes.

Last edited by grolby; 04-30-10 at 09:10 AM.
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Old 04-30-10, 09:06 AM
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uh, ok.
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