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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, 02:46 PM
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epnnf
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Can somebody please explain gravel riding to me?

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?
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Old 02-22-21, 02:49 PM
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Eric F
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"Gravel" = Unpaved.

Gravel bikes are very similar to cyclocross bikes, which have a long history of tolerating some significant abuse.
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Old 02-22-21, 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by epnnf View Post
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 see gravel riding as non-technical off-road - mud, grass, fire roads, even gravel, I suppose
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Old 02-22-21, 03:02 PM
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I think of it as road riding but with occasional ruts and washboards. A little slower, more scenic for my area, and almost no traffic.

A modern gravel bike will go pretty much anywhere you could have mountain biked in the early 90s.
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Old 02-22-21, 03:04 PM
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Well lookie here https://www.bikeforums.net/cyclocros...-recreational/
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Old 02-22-21, 03:06 PM
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It’s bike riding. On gravel.

God, I can’t wait for warm weather.
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Old 02-22-21, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by epnnf View Post
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?
What are the gravel roads like in your area? Sometimes uncompacted large-aggregate gravel can be a little bit like what you're describing...



...but in most areas this is fairly uncommon. Oftentimes the big chunks are compacted, or held in place by smaller aggregate or organic material. "Gravel riding" is also a phrase that used pretty broadly to refer to all kinds of road riding that may include unpaved surfaces, so things like dirt and grass roads are included in the discussion as well.

Aside from potholes, this gravel road was smoother than most paved roads in the same area:



What "gravel riding" means is also highly regional. People in different places build unpaved roads in different sorts of terrain for different reasons, and they have different material available to build it from. The rural unpaved road network of Iowa is quite different in a ton of different ways from the various mazes of mountainous logging roads in Washington.

But no, the point of gravel riding is not to bounce around on marbles. That's something that incidentally happens, sometimes. Mostly I ride gravel because there are lots of fun gravel roads to ride in my area, often with excellent scenery and views.

I can't ride this awesome road without riding gravel:

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Old 02-22-21, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by epnnf View Post
Obviously I've never done it, or even seen it.
You've never seen a bike on an unpaved road? That's a sheltered life you live.
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Old 02-22-21, 03:08 PM
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Not much true gravel in my area. Mostly SCE/Fire roads of packed dirt/clay and lots of hikers and dogs. Not really worth the bother in my view. Much better prospects of paved roads that are less traveled and scenic.

I envy those that have scenic forested areas to ride off-road.

Last edited by CAT7RDR; 02-22-21 at 03:15 PM.
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Old 02-22-21, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by epnnf View Post
It sounds like riding on gravel is only slightly safer than riding on marbles.
It is a lot like walking on gravel. Usually no problem.
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Old 02-22-21, 03:16 PM
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Originally Posted by CAT7RDR View Post
Not much true gravel in my area. Mostly SCE/Fire roads of packed dirt/clay and lots of hikers and dogs. Not really worth the bother in my view. Much better prospects of paved roads that are less traveled and scenic.

I envy those that have scenic area to ride off-road.
To be clear, gravel riding does not mean off-road, which is otherwise called trail riding. People certainly take gravel bikes on trails, but as noted above, “gravel riding” simply means riding on unpaved roads. The Adventure bike subset of Gravel bikes is aimed at more extended unpaved use to include trail riding.
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Old 02-22-21, 03:28 PM
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The gravel riding I've done has been on rail-trails in southeastern PA. and northeastern MD. Those were crushed limestone, fairly fine, and no riding on marble effect at all. When first put down, and hadn't settled in (rode some just after it was put down), it could be a little loose, but settled in quick and was similar to riding hard packed dirt after that.
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Old 02-22-21, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
And here;

Please help me understand gravel riding?
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Old 02-22-21, 03:32 PM
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It’s about bears:


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Old 02-22-21, 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
It’s about bears:
Except the bears are hibernating, so now it's about escape.
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Old 02-22-21, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
It’s about bears:
"In the middle of winter, the trees are bare, and the bears are hibernating..." Name that tune.

Last edited by Reflector Guy; 02-22-21 at 03:53 PM.
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Old 02-22-21, 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by freeranger View Post
The gravel riding I've done has been on rail-trails in southeastern PA. and northeastern MD. Those were crushed limestone, fairly fine, and no riding on marble effect at all.
Around here, the rail trails are nice and smooth, hardpacked limestone screenings and 25c tires are fine on them. There is one more-rural trail I am aching to ride on though, and its well known for being rugged, full of ruts, washed-out sand, loose gravel, thick weeds... I'll want a different bike for that one.
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Old 02-22-21, 03:53 PM
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There are a lot of dirt roads in rural areas that make for super fun riding, especially if you have a bike that's made to do them safely at speed.
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Old 02-22-21, 03:55 PM
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We have quite a few levee roads where if you ride in the truck tire ruts it's as smooth as asphalt, but the edges can get pretty loose. And then there are the washboards... It's just a great way to mix things up.
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Old 02-22-21, 04:07 PM
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gravel

23 imm tires dont work so well on unpaved roads so I am sure people started to put on fatter tires to make riding country and dirt/gravel roads a little easier and started to call them gravel grinders.......but recently I overheard people , who just bought brand new gravel bikes , talking about finding some deep fresh gravel to ride on and hone their skills.So maybe riding on marbles is becoming a thing.
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Old 02-22-21, 04:11 PM
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Riding bikes like they did 90-120 years ago, using better equipment.
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Old 02-22-21, 04:13 PM
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Originally Posted by epnnf View Post
It sounds like riding on gravel is only slightly safer than riding on marbles.
I find that safety is influenced more by traffic than riding surface.

Originally Posted by epnnf View Post
I assume you use around 3 inch bombproof tires
You can if you want to, but 48mm does the trick most of the time.

Originally Posted by epnnf View Post
but it would seem to me the tires/bike would still take a beating
Bikes and tires are built to withstand far worse than gravel.

Originally Posted by epnnf View Post
And you do it for ... fun?
Yes. And exercise. And transportation. And competition. And camaraderie. And all the other reasons you ride a bike. Is the idea of multi-surface riding really that revolutionary to you?
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Old 02-22-21, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by bOsscO View Post
Except the bears are hibernating, so now it's about escape.
I let out a loud “Yesssss!” so he would stop and pose for me. He hadn’t seen me until I did that.

And they will be out of their dens soon.
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Old 02-22-21, 04:23 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
It’s about bears:


How big a tire does it take to ride over a bear?

Come to think of it, the second or third closest I've been to a bear was on a paved road. I stopped on a downhill as soon as I saw it (maybe 15-20 yards away), and it just kept ambling toward me. I knew better than to turn around, so I started scuffing my shoes against the road and huffing. It just kept walking. Finally I let out a low growl from about 10 feet away; the yearling bear looked up, turned left, and ambled off the road -- disappeared within about 5 feet of the edge of the pavement. Don't have a clue how it did that; hid behind the first tree maybe? I didn't wait much before I took off.
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Old 02-22-21, 05:12 PM
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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.
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