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First gravel century - how far have you gone?

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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 : "Unbround Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

First gravel century - how far have you gone?

Old 06-22-20, 10:29 AM
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GrainBrain
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First gravel century - how far have you gone?

Just did my first 100 mile ride on gravel, total ride was 105 miles, probably had 5 miles total of pavement. Got lucky with the weather, a slim band of storms went through the night and softened up the gravel but it was just fine to ride when I started. It was nice not to have dust, and it dried out for added speed on my return home I also benefited from an overcast sky and mid seventies for a high temp, though the humidity was 100% for the first half.

I've ridden a lot over 100 miles but this was my first on only gravel, wasn't bad at all. My average speed was 12 mph, and I was just being really relaxed. Had plenty in the tank afterward.


A bit of geologic nerdery but if you look at the elevation profile I climb out of the "Des Moines lobe" when heading east, then reach the ridge and decend onward. I stopped on the ridge and looked back, it was quite a sight as the Des Moines lobe is so flat you can see for quite a ways!

I'd love to hear about your longer rides!
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Old 06-22-20, 12:39 PM
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Sweet! I tend to go too fast, too hard, or just sweat too much and get too hot. Still, I'm blessed that I can ride from my home in the burbs, be on gravel in a couple of miles and go as far as I want in some beautiful country. My longest ride was great until I got about 10 miles from home and a stick snapped my derailer off (Seriously??? WTF???) I rode it as a single speed for a while before realizing I was probably doing more damage than good, and I just called an Uber.
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Old 06-22-20, 01:09 PM
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I have a 200 km ride that is only about 1/3 gravel. But that's a lot. All 8500 feet of climbing is on gravel though. I have thought about increasing the amount of gravel riding on the route. I think it could be 50 percent, but it would be a lot tougher then.
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Old 06-22-20, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
I have a 200 km ride that is only about 1/3 gravel. But that's a lot. All 8500 feet of climbing is on gravel though. I have thought about increasing the amount of gravel riding on the route. I think it could be 50 percent, but it would be a lot tougher then.
Do you adjust tire pressures before/after your gravel section?

Ugh that's a ton of climbing on gravel. I was disappointed to see how "little" climbing I actually did, it felt like I did way more then 2500'. I was thankful for my 30x34 low, I used it often just to tractor up the steeper climbs. I didn't mind giving up a couple minutes, it let me hydrate.

I find that it's harder to stay on a hydration schedule on gravel since I'm more focused on maintaining control.
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Old 06-22-20, 02:41 PM
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Depending on the gravel, climbing can be a lot harder than on the road. One of the climbs on my 200k route has large gravel, about 2" across. That is really tough at 110 miles into a hard ride.

They haven't done any maintenance on the roads in our state forests this year, so there is a lot less loose gravel. Much faster.
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Old 06-22-20, 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by GrainBrain View Post
I was disappointed to see how "little" climbing I actually did, it felt like I did way more then 2500'. I was thankful for my 30x34 low, I used it often just to tractor up the steeper climbs. I didn't mind giving up a couple minutes, it let me hydrate.

I find that it's harder to stay on a hydration schedule on gravel since I'm more focused on maintaining control.
I've grown to like the Strava route builder over the past month for finding climbing (Strava is more accurate than other tools with elevation +/-), plus it also seems that Strava fixed their satellite overlay so it's as good as the others are. It's actually better in the hybrid mode that still shows road names + cities. So there's that, and it also works better for setting to prefer dirt to avoid paved roads, and it follows roads better.

Anyway, if you want to find climbing, particularly the really severe stuff in our part of the world (I live in Nebraska), here's a tip using part of the area you posted:



I use the satellite images to look for areas with lots of ponds, streams and runnoffs formed from rolling hills, then I start to look for roads that are not straight because that also usually indicates they altered road building in the area to avoid huge hills, or some other obstacle. Those not straight roads are often the wildest MMR / B roads too. I think 500-700 feet of climbing per 10 miles is nice with some harder sections mixed in, and maybe some breaks that follow valleys so it's not just endless hill repeats.

A hydration pack is also nice for this type of riding so you can drink while descending with both hands on the wheel.
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Old 06-22-20, 09:57 PM
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250km couple of days back; 140km gravel. Little different route from a week earlier with about 150km gravel.

Just taking it easy as not done many rides this length. Just exploring around; out for approx 14hrs. Working on fuelling etc.
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Old 06-23-20, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by GrainBrain View Post
A bit of geologic nerdery but if you look at the elevation profile I climb out of the "Des Moines lobe" when heading east, then reach the ridge and decend onward. I stopped on the ridge and looked back, it was quite a sight as the Des Moines lobe is so flat you can see for quite a ways!

I'd love to hear about your longer rides!

Neat ride and all, but I nerd out of maps so this was the more interesting part of your post.
Its always fun to see where overall geologic changes converge. Since Central Iowa is one such area, I love riding in it since I can see the changes. The driftless area of NE Iowa is neat too for this same reason, but man the hills are continuous and unrelenting there!
45-60' of climb is a sweetspot where the terrain is interesting and challenging, but I still have a ton of fun riding. I get that on most every gravel ride where I am because I usually ride areas that are west, southwest, and south of the metro. East and Southeast have great hills too, but I just dont get out there more than a handful of times a year due to convenience.
Point of this is- I work in the north metro and when I bring my gravel bike and ride after work, the terrain is hilariously totally different. The shelf that extends from Ankeny north past Ames and from the DSM River east to the South Skunk is shockingly flat. Its like Florida! I can do a 40mi bike ride on that shelf and get maybe 1000' of climbing in.
Central IA extending North is totally different from South Central Iowa, Northeast Iowa, Western Iowa, etc. Its neat to see the differences.




Oh, to answer your question- longest gravel was 85mi. I had actually signed up for a century race this year that was supposed to take place in early May but was cancelled- that was going to be my motivation to get a couple of centuries in early on for training.
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Old 06-23-20, 07:58 AM
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Originally Posted by GrainBrain View Post
Do you adjust tire pressures before/after your gravel section?

Ugh that's a ton of climbing on gravel. I was disappointed to see how "little" climbing I actually did, it felt like I did way more then 2500'. I was thankful for my 30x34 low, I used it often just to tractor up the steeper climbs. I didn't mind giving up a couple minutes, it let me hydrate.

I find that it's harder to stay on a hydration schedule on gravel since I'm more focused on maintaining control.
I don't, I set my pressure depending on what gravel will be on my route and just deal with it on the pavement.

For hydration, I like using a pack with a bladder to drink from, much easier to drink from the tube when on rough terrain rather than grabbing a bottle.

I've done multiple gravel centuries, nothing longer yet. Found a 150 mile gravel route nearby that I'll check out at some point this summer.
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