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How much harder is gravel riding vs road? ("Equivalence multiplier")

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

How much harder is gravel riding vs road? ("Equivalence multiplier")

Old 08-30-17, 08:38 PM
  #26  
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
a 30mi gravel ride is like a 50mi road ride for me. Thats based on how I feel afterwards.
+1

I did a 60 mile ride with 2100 elevation gain last weekend and felt great afterwards as always. I did a 37 mile gravel ride with 1800 elevation gain and let me tell you, I couldn't wait to get home and roll out my muscles.
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Old 09-10-17, 10:49 PM
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I just rode a few miles on a very loosely packed gravel (road base) with washboards, and let me tell you, it was a major difference. I reduced speed by about 30-40% and it was a lot more work. I couldn't believe how smooth the paved trail felt after a while on that stuff!
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Old 09-12-17, 10:16 PM
  #28  
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Originally Posted by dgodave View Post
I think a long difficult ride is a great thing.

But I cant see the point at all of setting out deliberately on a giant mud-slog... let alone paying for it.
Especially with minimal support.
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Old 09-12-17, 10:32 PM
  #29  
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I just came across an example of a road where the difference would probably be a factor of two.

The Shot: Contador's longest goodbye | VeloNews.com (Angliru, Stage 20, 2017 Vuelta a Espana)

This as gravel? The subject of this shot would have had to sit at a huge cost to his climbing abilities. (I know. I recently did a ride here west of Portland with those kinds of grades and gravel. I climb like that guy. well not as fast. It was brutal.)

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Old 09-13-17, 06:29 AM
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I will keep it simple. Around here, 50 miles of gravel feels like a century+ on pavement. I have done both. No century on pavement EVER felt like 50 miles on southern Iowa gravel has to me. 50 miles of this crap down here wipes me out! Just try to get your cadence going steady and smooth up a steep hill with your front end bouncing all over the place from all the rocks. It is physically taxing.

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Old 09-19-17, 08:34 AM
  #31  
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Originally Posted by dgodave View Post
I think a long difficult ride is a great thing.

But I cant see the point at all of setting out deliberately on a giant mud-slog... let alone paying for it.
I am the newbie to gravel riding/racing. Just came back from the Pony Express 120 in Marysville Kansas. I was highly under trained for the event so I dropped back to the 75 miler. I rode it in 6 hrs. 35 minutes with a total time of 7 hrs 10 minutes or something like that. I can ride a 100 miler road event in 6 hrs. no problem. On the Lands Run ride I heard 2 locals out there finished the ride but then had $300 - $600 in repairs to their bikes after the ride. Not for me.

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Old 09-20-17, 06:12 AM
  #32  
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This REALLY depends on the road surface. Paved roads are for the most part very similar But gravel roads range from hard packed dirt equal to black top to very loose sand over hard pack mixed with large gravel that can be more than twice as hard or even 3-4 times as hard as paved roads.
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Old 09-25-17, 01:23 AM
  #33  
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Here is something nobody has touched on yet.

road versus gravel

At least not from what I read in the posts.


In general I am saying this.

Most road bikes are lighter than gravel bikes unless you really pay some big bucks for your gravel bike. I bought the Raleigh Tamland 1 this year because of the Corporate discount I found on this site. I wasn't sure if I would like/love it or not.

Fast forward to yesterday. I did a brutal gravel race yesterday @ Honesdale Pa. about 26 miles due East of Scranton and yes the course had some brutal hills/climbs. My gravel bike weighs at least 5 lbs. heavier than my road bike. I walked at least 5 hills yesterday and I have been riding since 1992 and only remember walking 2-3 times ever on my road bike.

Yesterday's ride on the gravel bike was probably at least 5 times harder riding that course than what it would have been on my road bike.

A thought to ponder.

Zman

Last edited by Zurichman2; 09-25-17 at 01:27 AM.
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Old 09-25-17, 07:35 AM
  #34  
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Yesterday's ride on the gravel bike was probably at least 5 times harder riding that course than what it would have been on my road bike.
That doesn't really make any sense. Are you saying the extra weight made it so hard or the tires or something else? The 2017 Tamland 1 is listed as 24.23 pounds, that's not exactly a heavy bike and even with the biggest tires the frame fits it wouldn't be significantly slower than a road bike.

I'm having a hard time believing that it was that hard and that there are gravel hills that are easier to climb on a road bike with road bike tires. Anyway, you did the Maple City Century? https://www.bikereg.com/35202

Looks like a lot of climbing but mostly hardpacked dirt?
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Old 09-25-17, 07:56 AM
  #35  
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Originally Posted by Zurichman2 View Post
....Yesterday's ride on the gravel bike was probably at least 5 times harder riding that course than what it would have been on my road bike....
There's no way adding 5# to a bike makes the same ride 5X harder.

Maybe your tires were flat?
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Old 09-25-17, 07:57 AM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
That doesn't really make any sense. Are you saying the extra weight made it so hard or the tires or something else? The 2017 Tamland 1 is listed as 24.23 pounds, that's not exactly a heavy bike and even with the biggest tires the frame fits it wouldn't be significantly slower than a road bike.

I'm having a hard time believing that it was that hard and that there are gravel hills that are easier to climb on a road bike with road bike tires. Anyway, you did the Maple City Century? https://www.bikereg.com/35202

Looks like a lot of climbing but mostly hardpacked dirt?
I weighed my Tamland 56 cm frame and yes it weighs 25.1 lbs. My road bike weighs around 20. You can feel a big difference when you pick the bikes up. Most of the riders there yesterday were riding their road bikes with wider tires because of the course being hard packed or really expensive gravel bikes. Yes it was that hard as I looked down at my computer a couple of times and the climbs were at least at 10% grade. I am saying the extra weight made it that hard. I could catch some of the riders on the downhills as they had to be careful to pick their way thru the road and I could just let mine rip.

Zman
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Old 09-25-17, 08:01 AM
  #37  
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Originally Posted by dgodave View Post
There's no way adding 5# to a bike makes the same ride 5X harder.

Maybe your tires were flat?
I run tubeless and so was running 40 rear and 35 front so no my tires weren't flat. Maybe what I should have said it made it seem 5 times harder. The roadie guys had no problems on the climbs with their roadie bikes.

Zman
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Old 09-25-17, 11:44 AM
  #38  
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Getting a road link and changing your low gear from 34/32 to 34/36 is going to be a bigger improvement than trying to chase 5 pounds - if you want to stop walking hills. But that's part and parcel of gravel racing, sometimes you just walk.

It sounds more like you were just outclassed by fitter, stronger riders who were limited on the descents which allowed you to catch back on. Having to walk hills others were riding is pretty strong evidence of this. 5 pounds doesn't make you have to walk, being over-geared, under-fit or poor technique is responsible.

I've done numerous races on my drop-bar hardtail where I would repeatedly pass the entire field of cross bikes on rough descents only to get passed once the road flattened out or turned upwards. Looking at the final results I would see these riders finish ahead of me by 20-30 minutes. They didn't finally drop me cause I was on a heavier or different bike (my year-over-year times were similar), they dropped me because they were very fast and came to race with teammates.

Gravel racing is just like road racing, fast guys are fast on whatever bike they ride. The terrain makes it so there's a little overlap from time to time but when the pace picks up it's no comparison. Earlier this year I was laughing with some MTB guys about how they blew by the pros on road/gravel racing bikes (Lance Armstrong/George Hincapie/etc.) who showed up at Southern Cross. On the first rough descent the MTB guys had put several minutes into the pro group but eventually were caught, passed and left behind. The MTB guys finished something like an hour down but were joking how they almost stayed away and won. "Another 2 hours and we'd have clinched it."

Anyway, my point is that I think you should get some more experience under your belt before declaring such a small weight difference is responsible.
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Old 09-25-17, 12:03 PM
  #39  
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
Getting a road link and changing your low gear from 34/32 to 34/36 is going to be a bigger improvement than trying to chase 5 pounds - if you want to stop walking hills.
Yep. For most bike+rider systems, 5 pounds has less than half a typical gearing step worth of effect on pushing the rider's torque thresholds. My gravel bike weighs a whopping thirteen pounds more than my lightest road bike, but the gravel bike's much lower granny gear means that I'm actually significantly less prone to bottoming out the gearing on steep climbs.

Last edited by HTupolev; 09-25-17 at 12:07 PM.
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Old 09-25-17, 01:42 PM
  #40  
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler View Post
what multiplier would you apply to your "typical" gravel rides to get an approximate equivalent in either time/distance/effort/average speed to a paved road ride?
I might go half as far in the same amount of time. & so, my avrg speed is cut approx. in half. since I always work as hard as is comfortable, there is no difference in effort

so, gravel riding, for me, is not "harder". but I don't go as fast. hope that makes sense
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Old 09-26-17, 11:27 AM
  #41  
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To combine thread topics, the variability in gravel's "equivalence multiplier" is exactly what has me thinking about a power meter for my gravel bike.

Coming from road and riding with just speed and heart rate, I came to gravel with a certain set of learned and expected MPH-to-BPM ratios. Obviously, these did not hold up well and at first I would get extremely frustrated that a large perceived effort was resulting in much lower speeds than I expected. I remember distinctly on one of my first rides on real gravel (not just packed dirt) stopping in disgust half way up the first hill, within a half mile of the car still, and cussing out my bike, believing there had to be something wrong with it--tire rubbing frame? gummed up BB?--that was making it so hard to go so slow. I've unlearned some of this, but when encountering different types of conditions the speed-to-PE ratios will vary. That is why I think getting a PM could be beneficial. It helps you ensure a consistent effort, regardless of conditions and the speed or PE they produce, and can take away some of the frustration that at least I've experienced riding gravel.
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Old 10-10-17, 12:08 PM
  #42  
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Earlier in this post, someone mentioned that 60 miles on dirt feels like 100 miles on gravel/dirt. It feels that way to me too.


I always ride slower on dirt despite the same effort and the dirt roads beat me up more.
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Old 10-10-17, 01:55 PM
  #43  
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Originally Posted by blazin View Post
To combine thread topics, the variability in gravel's "equivalence multiplier" is exactly what has me thinking about a power meter for my gravel bike.

Coming from road and riding with just speed and heart rate, I came to gravel with a certain set of learned and expected MPH-to-BPM ratios. Obviously, these did not hold up well and at first I would get extremely frustrated that a large perceived effort was resulting in much lower speeds than I expected. I remember distinctly on one of my first rides on real gravel (not just packed dirt) stopping in disgust half way up the first hill, within a half mile of the car still, and cussing out my bike, believing there had to be something wrong with it--tire rubbing frame? gummed up BB?--that was making it so hard to go so slow. I've unlearned some of this, but when encountering different types of conditions the speed-to-PE ratios will vary. That is why I think getting a PM could be beneficial. It helps you ensure a consistent effort, regardless of conditions and the speed or PE they produce, and can take away some of the frustration that at least I've experienced riding gravel.
Even with a power meter I can tell you from experience road to gravel just doesn't translate. On the road I never used to look at my normalized power, always the average. Well, as I came to learn average power on gravel is worthless. It's all about the NP. Perceived effort is so much harder on gravel. Like you said about the hill, there are times where I'm on what seems to be a pretty good surface and it just feels like I'm working sooooo much harder than I should be for the speed I'm doing. In the same vein I've pretty much thrown out average speed too. It's just so slow and variable that it doesn't matter. Long live the power meter!
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Old 10-11-17, 05:30 AM
  #44  
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For me, Iíve found that very well groomed gravel is roughly 110% the effort of pavement. On jeep trails in the mountains, itís perhaps 175% the effort. However, thatís not reflected in average speed. On pavement, I can average 19 mph solo for long rides. On very poor gravel/jeep trails, itís about 9 mph. Much of this reduced speed is because I just canít let my gravel bike rip on nasty descents.
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Old 10-13-17, 08:10 AM
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I did 57 miles yesterday. about 15 was on the mc clory which was tacky and soft in spots. Not at all hard and dry.
On pavement I was easing along at 16 plus with a nice low hr. On the mc clory at a 1% grade I couldn't manage more than 13.5 mph while watching the hr creep up and up and up. I opted for pavement on the return.

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Old 10-13-17, 01:42 PM
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I'm from NE Kansas, the Flint Hills, and our typical 30 mile gravel ride with 1500 ft of climbing makes me feel like I've done a 60 mile road ride with 3000 ft of climbing.

Never ridden gravel anywhere else in the country so I can't comment on the differences between the surfaces, but I am definitely wiped out after a gravel ride around here.
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Old 10-13-17, 03:29 PM
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Originally Posted by johngwheeler View Post
I know this is a very general question to which this answer is probably "it depends", but from your own experience, what multiplier would you apply to your "typical" gravel rides to get an approximate equivalent in either time/distance/effort/average speed to a paved road ride?
There is a reason they sell HR monitors and power meters.

Even the same gravel road can vary so dramatically from day to day depending on how wet it is, what other traffic is using the road, how recently it was graded, etc, that there is no good comparison. But an hour of zone 4 HR or power is an hour of zone 4 HR or power, so the comparison can be made. But some days that hour will be 8 miles of slogging through molasses, and other days that hour will be 20 miles of hard pack.

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Old 10-13-17, 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
I just came across an example of a road where the difference would probably be a factor of two.

The Shot: Contador's longest goodbye | VeloNews.com (Angliru, Stage 20, 2017 Vuelta a Espana)

This as gravel? The subject of this shot would have had to sit at a huge cost to his climbing abilities. (I know. I recently did a ride here west of Portland with those kinds of grades and gravel. I climb like that guy. well not as fast. It was brutal.)

Ben
What a great series of pictures. Contador is working hard, but he's beaming because everyone on that hill is pulling for him. On paper, a long ride like Paris-Brest-Paris would be draining and demoralizing by the end, but there are so many townsfolk along the way, cheering at all hours, that you think "well shoot, I can probably do this" and so you keep pedalling.
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Old 10-15-17, 09:46 AM
  #49  
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I'm usually more wiped out after doing gravel rides regardless of distance more than road rides.
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Old 10-15-17, 10:31 AM
  #50  
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
a 30mi gravel ride is like a 50mi road ride for me. Thats based on how I feel afterwards.
That's my ballpark number as well. Not quite twice as hard but harder for sure.
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