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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.

Why Gravel? Need input

Old 05-03-21, 09:04 AM
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bennybenny
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Why Gravel? Need input

I like mountain biking, but hate technical/daring type stuff (I'm a wuss). But love mountain biking with wide tracks (2-3).

Like road biking, the ease. Hate cars, little nervous to go too fast (wuss). I am NOT a Roadie personality.

Very interested in gravel rides/races. Looking to get out of the city etc, BAD at repairing my own bike and tires.

What do you love about gravel riding/racing?

Can you turn your gravel bike into a cyclocross bike easily?

Thanks for input, thinking about gravel, just want to see what you love about it. Thanks.

Benny
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Old 05-03-21, 09:19 AM
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Originally Posted by bennybenny View Post
love mountain biking
Like road biking
Hate cars
So go for a ride on gravel on whatever bike you have now, and see if you like it.

Originally Posted by bennybenny View Post
Very interested in gravel rides/races.
little nervous to go too fast
I don't think gravel racing will be a good fit

Originally Posted by bennybenny View Post
Can you turn your gravel bike into a cyclocross bike easily?
I'd rather use a CX bike for gravel than a gravel bike for CX.

Last edited by Rolla; 05-03-21 at 09:23 AM.
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Old 05-03-21, 09:53 AM
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bennybenny
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I didn't word my question well. I'd like to start to 'specialize' in 1 type of biking, weighing the pros and cons of each.

Why do the gravel riders on here like it so much? (not that interested in bike input, but rather the why)
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Old 05-03-21, 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by bennybenny View Post
What do you love about gravel riding/racing?
RIDING
- The relative solitude. Im away from almost all vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, etc.
- The route creating. Im a map geek so creating new routes and seeing new roads is actually part of the fun.
- The personalization of equipment. Up until a couple years ago, you had to work and plan a good gravel drivetrain. Equipment has finally caught up, but there is so much available that it keeps the options and learning fresh.
- The route difficulty relative to similar paved routes. The paved roads out in rural areas tend to take more gently sloped paths, which leaves the gravel roads as the short punchy climbing routes where its up and down over and over as the roads rise then drop down to each stream and creek bed.

RACING
- They give me a goal/date to work towards. It helps keep me accountable and allows me to make sure I make time to ride(busy family life with active kids).
- They get me out into riding new places that I otherwise wouldnt see.
- They allow for some socialization for what is otherwise a pretty solitary activity. Its nice to mix things up from time to time.
- They make me push. Ill usually ride up to 3 hours on my own and while I can easily do more, I figure 30-45mi is the sweet spot for time allocation. Races get me to push hard for longer since they are usually 100K or 100mi.
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Old 05-03-21, 10:09 AM
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Perfect, thank you.
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Old 05-03-21, 10:37 AM
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I have to ride an hour to get to a decent mountain climb on the road, or 15 minutes to gravel. There is one road climb about 10 miles from here, but the traffic is fairly intense and there isn't much of a shoulder.
Most of the time there is a lot less traffic on the gravel roads, which is nice. It's just a nicer riding environment all around.

I probably wouldn't ride gravel as much if I had to drive an hour to get to it.
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Old 05-03-21, 10:37 AM
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Do you flat out a lot more or have other technical problems in gravel much more than say road?

At rides or races, are you generally on your own mechanical-wise? (not much of a fixer here if you can't tell).
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Old 05-03-21, 10:52 AM
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I like gravel riding mostly because it gets me away from car traffic, but also because road riding can get a bit boring.

You can definitely use a Cyclocross bike for gravel riding. Most of them can fit fairly large tires, but 33mm-35mm CX tires can also make excellent gravel tires.

I race CX, but I've never done gravel races. Most of them seem to focus on surviving really long grueling distances and challenging conditions, which is cool but I don't have time to train for that right now.
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Old 05-03-21, 10:56 AM
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Originally Posted by bennybenny View Post
Do you flat out a lot more or have other technical problems in gravel much more than say road?

At rides or races, are you generally on your own mechanical-wise? (not much of a fixer here if you can't tell).
I wouldn't say I have more mechanical issues on gravel than on roads. I rarely have mechanical issues in either format. But if you end up using smaller tires you might have more flats.

I have never ridden an organized gravel ride. There are some fairly close by. I think usually the bigger ones have aid stations if you can make it there. But you need to be able to fix a flat.
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Old 05-03-21, 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by bennybenny View Post
Why do the gravel riders on here like it so much?
The networks of DNR/logging/whatever roads in the foothills are gorgeous and generally off-limits to public motor access. If they were paved I'd still ride them.

From yesterday:



Originally Posted by bennybenny View Post
Do you flat out a lot more or have other technical problems in gravel much more than say road?
Relative to paved road, yeah. The chunk, the filth, the rattling, it's all harder on bikes.

It'll depend on the particular surfaces and the bike setup though. Groomed hardpack in the middle of nowhere can sometimes be less likely to cause flats than urban roads because humans haven't left lots of super-sharp stabby things laying around, for instance.
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Old 05-03-21, 11:33 AM
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Originally Posted by bennybenny View Post
Do you flat out a lot more or have other technical problems in gravel much more than say road?

At rides or races, are you generally on your own mechanical-wise? (not much of a fixer here if you can't tell).
Every race I have participated in has a very clear waiver of expectation for assistance. You are on your own because the races are so spread out and they are run locally. Its unrealistic to think a random amateur race on rural roads would have a strong infrastructure for mechanical issues.
With that said, other cyclists can and do help each other out. Also, a local popular race has an unofficial refueling location where a bunch of baked goods and water are available for participants. But again, the expectation has always been- you take care of yourself.
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Old 05-03-21, 11:37 AM
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I used to think there were only four (4) types of bikes; Road, Hybrid, MTB, and BMX. After living in Europe where auto drivers know how to share the road with bikes, riding in automobile traffic here in the USA is NOT my thing at all. Then I heard about Gravel bikes and immediately knew I wanted one. A month after buying a Specialized Diverge, I sold my $4k full-suspension mountain bike. "Underbiking" is just far more fun/exciting/challenging than "overbiking". I still have a hardtail MTB with dirt wheels/tires and a second set of road wheels/tires but my primary bike now is my gravel bike. I took both bikes out to a MTB park yesterday to do a back-to-back evaluation. Granted, at age 58 myself, I'm not likely to try full-on MTB trails on my gravel bike again soon - my hardtail is better for that - but I love the comfort, ease, speed, and adventure possible with my gravel bike. My MTB goes to bike parks and I just ride it in (big) circles. My gravel bike actually takes me new places AND unlike with a road bike, I can comfortably go nearly anywhere a bike could go without needing to walk through any rough sections I come across.

My hardtail with road wheels/tires just isn't nearly as comfortable or enjoyable to ride in the places that are natural for a gravel bike. If I had to own just one bike - a gravel bike OR a hardtail with two sets of wheels - it's a tough call but I'd have to go with the gravel bike as being the most fun for me. Of course, if one participates in MTB events, then a gravel bike isn't going to cut it at all whereas a MTB could participate in gravel bike events.

I totally get why gravel bikes have become so popular!
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Old 05-03-21, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
RIDING
- The relative solitude. Im away from almost all vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, etc.
- The route creating. Im a map geek so creating new routes and seeing new roads is actually part of the fun.
.
I've been away from bicycling for a few years, and those two reasons would be my top 2 for trying gravel.
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Old 05-03-21, 01:02 PM
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Originally Posted by bennybenny View Post
I didn't word my question well. I'd like to start to 'specialize' in 1 type of biking, weighing the pros and cons of each.

Why do the gravel riders on here like it so much? (not that interested in bike input, but rather the why)
Gravel riding is great for the reasons you already know: few cars, nice scenery, and it's not challenging from a handling-skills perspective. You can say the same thing about road rides out in the country though, so it's not the ground surface that holds the appeal, it's the surrounding geography. I also like that I can ride gravel on any bike I own (and yes, I do own a gravel bike).

Personally, I think specializing in a single discipline leads to boredom; I ride road, mountain, urban, CX, BMX, and gravel, and enjoy each of them for different reasons. Not doing the same ride twice in a week (or longer) keeps me engaged and excited about the next ride.
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Old 05-03-21, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by bennybenny View Post
Very interested in gravel rides/races. Looking to get out of the city etc, BAD at repairing my own bike and tires.
Fix that last part. Easier said than done, but do it. I took a hiatus from riding bikes seriously for about 10 years (I never stopped, but I damn sure stopped putting out big miles), and when I decided to start doing again about 8 years ago, I realized in very short order that I needed proper bike tools and mechanic stuff, so I bought a stand, and bought tools as I needed them. There are YouTube videos for every repair you may need to do at home, and even if you learn to do the basic stuff to day on the road, more involved repairs (BBs, headsets, building wheels, etc.) can happen so infrequently that it may just be easier to pay someone to do that stuff rather than invest in all the special tools. But, knowing how to adjust derailleurs, brakes, replace cassettes and chains, mount/demount tires (tubeless, if you're gonna do the gravel thing) is essential for staying mobile. I know it seems daunting, but it isn't once you get into it.

Originally Posted by bennybenny View Post
What do you love about gravel riding/racing?
I'm not exclusive a gravel rider, I ride the road, a lot, but I also live in a place with lots of bike infrastructure, so I can do a 200km asphalt only training ride on a Saturday, and ride on a road for 5-10% of it, the rest on dedicated cycle paths and bike lanes. But, gravel is a different kind of fun. Average speeds are slower, but the places I go are almost spiritual for me. I go into the woods alone when I train, and there it is just me and the path and the sounds of nature and the gravel under my tires, and it is deeply calming.

I like the racing scene as well, a lot less pretention than road racing. I don't do that anymore, I'm just too old, but it was a gigantic contest of measuring sacks....gravel is just not that way. There is real competition, but it's just not the same, there's no peloton, no jockeying for 150km to get into position for a 300m sprint. Sometime the winner is so done that by the time you get to the end, they're drinking a beer, and handing one up to you, and they've got a clean shirt on! But, who cares, the ride is why you did it, not the glory. Granted, my experience with gravel racing is entirely European, at some point I'll move back to the states, and maybe I'll race and maybe I won't. What I will say is the races here have so far been destinations and weekends of mass fun, centering on bike, food, coffee, and beer....all of it good. It's a scene I enjoy.

Originally Posted by bennybenny View Post
Can you turn your gravel bike into a cyclocross bike easily?
As already stated, a great gravel bike will not do well on CX. Geometry is wrong, and it'll be heavy. a CX bike can be used to ride gravel, but it may not be very comfortable when the distances start getting up over 50-60km, or 2 hours in the saddle. CX is to Gravel, what Crits are to endurance road racing, in my opinion. YMMV, but if you gotta choose one, get a gravel bike first (you'll get lots of opinions on this, I'll just say don't buy a bike that the manufacturer call a CX bike). Look for big tire clearance (somewhere around 700cx47 and/or 650bx2.1") and "relaxed" geometry.


Hope this helps.
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Old 05-03-21, 02:35 PM
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It sounds obvious but don't assume you'll have a good selection of roads to ride. A nearby National Forest would be great. On the other hand, rural roads can be home to meth trailer dwellers with big dogs running loose.
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Old 05-03-21, 02:44 PM
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Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
It sounds obvious but don't assume you'll have a good selection of roads to ride. A nearby National Forest would be great. On the other hand, rural roads can be home to meth trailer dwellers with big dogs running loose.
Do these meth trailer dwellers sit on the side of the road and threaten people?...or are they just sitting inside their trailer methed up and not bothering people who travel on the roads?
As for dogs, they are an annoyance for sure, but hardly a reason to not ride your bike on roads. Maybe if a dog chases and tries to bite you on multiple trips, call the police or just choose a different road. In a lot of the US, there is another gravel road 1 mile away.
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Old 05-03-21, 02:45 PM
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You sound like me. I come mostly from mountain biking, but never was into downhill, or anything super sendy. I gravitated towards rigid steel MTB's, including singlespeeds, and just preferred long flowy rides, tough climbs, and stopping to smell the roses. Had a road bike for a while, but hate riding in Los Angeles area traffic. So a "gravel" bike is perfect for me--I have a geared one that's more dirt focused (650B, knobby rubber) and a singlespeed that's 700C, narrower tires, classic rim brake cross-ish frame. I ride all the same dirt I used to ride my hardtail and rigid MTBs, but I find the gravel rigs way better on the road while I'm getting there. It's also kinda fun seeing some people's expressions out on the trail when they see you bombing down some singletrack on what they think is a road bike
EDIT: as for mechanicals, I see waaay more roadies fixing flats on the side of the road than gravel bikers out on the dirt (maybe because we're mostly tubeless by now in this style of riding, but I'd rather deal with rocks and goatheads than nails and broken glass any day).

Last edited by pbass; 05-03-21 at 03:04 PM.
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Old 05-03-21, 03:01 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Do these meth trailer dwellers sit on the side of the road and threaten people?...or are they just sitting inside their trailer methed up and not bothering people who travel on the roads?
There is one road near here that is very steep and rutted and doesn't get much traffic. There is a house about halfway up with a driveway that obviously gets more use than the road past that point. They have signs up saying it's a driveway, but they don't really disambiguate the proper route. One time we rode down the driveway and came around the house and the porch was covered with people telling us we went the wrong way. They were fairly nice about it, really. Putting the porch on the back of the house is a good idea. I think that was pretty much the only interaction I have had with people out in the woods.
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Old 05-03-21, 03:10 PM
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Never really intended to own a gravel bike. Slowly over the years I have found that I do not ride far. I do not ride in traffic. I do not race. I don't intentionally go on dirt and sand but often end up there for short distances. Most of the roads I ride are quiet and fairly torn up even though paved. So I have a Cherry 70s PR10 that's fast but hardly ever used. Yet my 80s ChroMo UNIVEGA with touring tires, bull horn handle bars, down tub shifters, compact crank, and 34T bailout gear gets used at least five days a week. And yes I carry tools, pump and patches.

So thinking back on all this I would consider a light weight Gravel Bike and an extra set of road bike wheels.
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Old 05-03-21, 04:43 PM
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I live in Los Angeles and I didn't realize I live by all these cool trails and fire roads. In order to get to these spots, I ride on LA's extensive bike route system. In fact I just look at the streets as a way to get to these off-road locations. It's almost a waste to ride on the streets and not be able to hop on a closed fire road where you can experience some of the most amazing views of the city. In fact I'm finding spots no one bikes, because it's not worth it for a MTB'er to drive to these spots and too harsh and steep for a roadie, yet perfect for a gravel bike. You can basically explore new territory when you re-frame where you ride your bike.
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Old 05-03-21, 06:58 PM
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I also suggest you ride what you have now before you buy a bike. That is if you have something suitable. We have great gravel roads around here and a lot of people just ride their mountain bikes on them.
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Old 05-03-21, 07:18 PM
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Originally Posted by bennybenny View Post
I like mountain biking, but hate technical/daring type stuff (I'm a wuss). But love mountain biking with wide tracks (2-3).

Like road biking, the ease. Hate cars, little nervous to go too fast (wuss). I am NOT a Roadie personality.

Very interested in gravel rides/races. Looking to get out of the city etc, BAD at repairing my own bike and tires.

What do you love about gravel riding/racing?

Can you turn your gravel bike into a cyclocross bike easily?

Thanks for input, thinking about gravel, just want to see what you love about it. Thanks.

Benny
(1) The people are low key an fun that I meet gravel riding.
(2) Maybe see 2 - 3 cars all day. On some rides we see more horses and Amish carts than cars.
(3) beautiful scenery that gets me away from the local same thing over and over rides.
(4) Fun to explore new overgrown or overlooked roads when scouting new routes.
(5) The bikes are WAY more comfortable than road bikes (if you get a good one)
(6) Not too much skill required to get into it as a beginner to intermediate rider.
(7) The new technology in gravel bikes is really fun to learn about.
(8) It is a niche sport that is fin to be part of rather than mainstream stuff.
(9) Gravel is pretty new and so is the equipment. It is changing fast and you can learn a lot about it and help newbies with all of the newbie questions.
(10) You and have fun at it as a novice all of the way up to expert. Even the novice part is pretty fun. We structure our group rides so the better riders ride a long loop and the newbies ride a short loop and we generally join up and ride together for the last few miles. That part gets really chatty across teh groups and the experienced riders do some coaching with the newbies.
(11) The experienced riders are generally very willing to help out novices to help enrich the sport.
(12) The events are REALLY fun. The better courses have their own personalities that can make the events really different but very fun with a lot of variety.
(13) Events can be from 35K up to over 200K. Some events even have options for very short and very long routes.
(14) Developing and sharing new routes is really fun.
(15) Old guys can have as much fun as young ones. Sometimes we old guys even get a chance to beat the young guys (though not often).
(16) Shares a lot of the spirit of randonneuring.
(17) I love the gravel hills, both up side and down side.
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Old 05-05-21, 03:18 AM
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Originally Posted by bennybenny View Post
I am NOT a Roadie personality.
This bums me out. Unfortunately I think it's common. Your road riding scene where you live might just suck. I know mine did. Glad I am currently living somewhere with a lot of diversity in the road cycling culture.

You have other great reasons to dislike road. But not fitting into the scene or what people define as a "roadie" shouldn't be one of those reasons, but I understand it. You do you. If riding a bike makes you happy, don't let the stereotypes and local vibes get you down.
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Old 05-07-21, 07:04 PM
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I like gravel riding because I'm a roadie in an area without many paved roads (well, ones that are safe to ride) Gravel biking is like road riding without the pavement and I love it.

One point of concern, if you are afraid of going fast on a road bike, gravel riding can involve the same speeds but on loose surfaces. The gravel races around here will be running speeds in the high teens/low twenties (MPH). Maybe look at the "event" side of things more than the "race" side?

No matter where or what you ride, I'd suggest learning some basics for bike maintenance and repair. Simple deraileur adjustments, changing a tube (yes, even if you run tubeless) and so on can really change a day. It might happen only very rarely, but being able to limp home is 99% of the time going to be better than waiting for a ride.
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