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Can somebody please explain gravel riding to me?

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

Can somebody please explain gravel riding to me?

Old 02-22-21, 05:19 PM
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Pavement is the new gravel.

In my region, the quality of paved roads has been deteriorating for many years. And some counties are converting asphalt roads to gravel because it's cheaper than re-paving. So it's nice to ride a bike that can handle a rough surface but is still reasonably sporty on pavement. There's no official marketing category for that kind of bike, so we borrow from the categories that are out there such as gravel and cyclo. For this reason, demand for gravel bikes may exceed the actual level of interest in riding on real gravel roads as an end unto itself.
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Old 02-22-21, 05:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Litespud
I see gravel riding as non-technical off-road - mud, grass, fire roads, even gravel, I suppose
some rails to trails have the crushed gravel that's compacted on the surface. I don't think you would want to ride a road bike on it.
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Old 02-22-21, 05:32 PM
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some gravel trails I ride on near me. What's nice about a gavel bike is I can ride 30+ miles one way on the road to get to the gravel and then another 30+ miles on the road to get back home.

While a mountain is way faster down hill and probably some other conditions as well I would not want to ride a mountain bike on the road for more than a mile or two.




forum members gravel photos
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Old 02-22-21, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by epnnf
Obviously I've never done it, or even seen it. It sounds like riding on gravel is only slightly safer than riding on marbles. I assume you use around 3 inch bombproof tires, but it would seem to me the tires/bike would still take a beating. And you do it for ... fun?
I’ve toured fully loaded on all kinds of unpaved surfaces with 37c tires. Always less traffic and often more scenic. In 2019 I rode Gold Pass from St. Regis, MT to the ID border. 15 miles of gravel. Ruling grade close to 9%. Encountered 3 vehicles. Two of those were close to town. Quite fun. The road on the ID side of the border is paved. Made for a great descent. Amazingly scenic. Could not have experienced it without doing the gravel climb. Totally worth the extra effort.
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Old 02-22-21, 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Pratt
We have a lot of unpaved roads in Vermont (>50%) mostly pretty well smoothed out. Real, unconsolidated, gravel is much as you imagine, a less than delightful surface on which to ride. Mostly I find that on rail trails. If it has been dry for a long while, the trails can get loose and dusty, or sandy, or gravelly, or rocky, depending on their construction and usage.
I can attest to those roads. I traversed them riding fly to pie 2 years back. It was a real challenge as I was riding my folder. Most scary parts were the descents. Really had to balance speed with not swerving sideways. Fortunately my 20 inch commuter tires were wide enough to make it work. Now I know what gravel riding is.
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Old 02-22-21, 11:46 PM
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Put each foot on a different pedal and then move one leg forward followed by the other leg and keep doing that while on a gravel surface. Wider tires are handy but you don't need 3 inch solid tires to do it. 32 on up is the most ideal but I have ridden gravel on narrow tires and survived.

It does look like the Kona you own is a flat bar gravel bike with gravel tires. You could do it quite easily and you will probably enjoy it if you enjoy the above motions on the road.

Marbles are completely smooth and round and typically of one size. Gravel comes in different shapes and sizes and is very rarely one unified spherical shape.
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Old 02-22-21, 11:50 PM
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On a rode bike you dodge cars and trucks and on gravel you dodge bears and mtn lions, or even rattle snakes. Pick your poison.
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Old 02-23-21, 12:22 AM
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Originally Posted by epnnf
Obviously I've never done it, or even seen it. It sounds like riding on gravel is only slightly safer than riding on marbles. I assume you use around 3 inch bombproof tires, but it would seem to me the tires/bike would still take a beating. And you do it for ... fun?
Just Google it and you can read or watch videos. If you don't like the idea, then don't do it.
Same applies to mountain biking, dirt jumping, road biking, triathlons, etc. Your criticism of questioning why it is fun could apply to any cycling discipline. Heck it can be applied to most any hobby.


My state has over 70,000mi of unpaved roads. They are quiet, challenging, and lead to neat sites along the way. If I ignored all that, I would miss out on 90% of whats available.
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Old 02-23-21, 06:24 AM
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Gravel is the stuff you now ride on with your cross bike or mountain bike.
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Old 02-23-21, 07:45 AM
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Originally Posted by epnnf
Obviously I've never done it, or even seen it. It sounds like riding on gravel is only slightly safer than riding on marbles. I assume you use around 3 inch bombproof tires, but it would seem to me the tires/bike would still take a beating. And you do it for ... fun?
how do you think people have been riding bicycles on un-paved roads for over a century? "gravel" means different things in different places, just like "mountain biking" is done in places that have no mountains at all. the term "gravel" is a loose one that refers to riding a variety of surfaces beyond smooth tarmac roads. it's not that hard to understand.
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Old 02-23-21, 07:46 AM
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It doesn't need explanation. You either want to ride a drop bar bike on surfaces other than pavement or you don't. This topic has been done several times before by other people who felt the need to express the superiority of their chosen style of riding(or bike) by this same style of asking for an explanation of why anyone would choose such an inferior style of riding(bike). You're late to the game.
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Old 02-23-21, 07:53 AM
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Originally Posted by rsbob
On a rode bike you dodge cars and trucks and on gravel you dodge bears and mtn lions, or even rattle snakes. Pick your poison.
Although ironically, a participant in the GDMTB race was struck and killed by a pickup truck while on a gravel road maybe 5 years ago.
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Old 02-23-21, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by bruce19
Gravel is the stuff you now ride on with your cross bike or mountain bike.


There, you got the reaction you were hoping for.
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Old 02-23-21, 08:22 AM
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Wait, so it can be a gravel ride even when there is no gravel? Seems like you'd need another bike for that.
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Old 02-23-21, 09:38 AM
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Thread moved from General Cycling Discussion to Gravelbiking.
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Old 02-23-21, 09:56 AM
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Thread moved from General Cycling Discussion to Gravelbiking.
I eagerly await other threads in general that hit on other topics also being moved. So anything about nutrition, ebike, maintenance/mechanic, older bikes, long distance rides, etc will be moved too.

Its interesting to see what is and isnt moved.
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Old 02-23-21, 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr


There, you got the reaction you were hoping for.
I try to please.
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Old 02-23-21, 10:57 AM
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#1 benefit (where I live) is no traffic, no traffic noise, easy to hear vehicles when they do overtake you from behind and they are going slower, and no traffic.
#2 is nice scenery you can enjoy because the traffic/truck noise isn’t overwhelming your senses.
#3 no traffic.
#4 challenging surfaces, trail and lane choices that keep it interesting.
#5 no traffic.
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Old 02-23-21, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr
I eagerly await other threads in general that hit on other topics also being moved. So anything about nutrition, ebike, maintenance/mechanic, older bikes, long distance rides, etc will be moved too.

Its interesting to see what is and isnt moved.
Report the threads that you think would be better served by being moved and the Mod staff will take a look at them. Pretty easy, really.
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Old 02-23-21, 12:47 PM
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Vast swaths of Pennsylvania are only reachable on gravel. And the stuff that's not is likely to be just like riding through a suburb.
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Old 02-23-21, 01:38 PM
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I don't really get it either. Fixing flats and silicosis is not my cup of tea

I do ride on gravel from time to time becasue I have to in order to get to certain nice smooth and fast roads.
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Old 02-23-21, 01:40 PM
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laughing at this thread. why do people paddle boats when they can just ride on dry land? why drive a car when you can walk? why read a book when watching TV is doesn't require all that pesky reading? ask stupid questions: get stupid answers.
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Old 02-23-21, 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by jfmckenna
I don't really get it either. Fixing flats and silicosis is not my cup of tea
I do ride on gravel from time to time becasue I have to in order to get to certain nice smooth and fast roads.
If you're flatting more on gravel rides than road rides, you're doing something wrong or there's something wrong with your tires.
Silicosis is (almost) always a result of chronic exposure at work, typically associated with concrete cutting, mining, steel fabrication, construction, drywall installation, glass manufacturing, etc. I'm no doctor but I've not heard of a case of silicosis from gravel riding.
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Old 02-23-21, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by bOsscO
If you're flatting more on gravel rides than road rides, you're doing something wrong or there's something wrong with your tires.
I don't think I'd agree there. Or at least, it depends on the regional particulars. Gravel riding often features a very high variability of surface types, and erring toward tough tires to deal with the nastiest spots can mean tangible compromises elsewhere. Going with tires that are inevitably going to take a beating in the bad spots isn't necessarily "doing something wrong." And the paved roads in some areas are kept clean and well-maintained, resulting in very low paved flat rates.
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Old 02-23-21, 02:19 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen
Vast swaths of Pennsylvania are only reachable on gravel. And the stuff that's not is likely to be just like riding through a suburb.
Happy Valley, huh? Love that place.

I'm sure we've shared some road between SC and Lewisburg. Bald Eagle SF, Poe Paddy..
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