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How to Estimate Gravel Racing Pace?

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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.

How to Estimate Gravel Racing Pace?

Old 01-14-15, 02:41 PM
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How to Estimate Gravel Racing Pace?

I'm entered for the DK200 this year and I'm trying to come to a reasonable estimate of a "goal" pace. I don't expect to win my class, but I would like to have an intelligent and meaningful goal to motivate me during the race. Unfortunately, I live in middle Tennessee -- the land of zero gravel roads -- so I don't have a way to establish an "average" gravel pace for me.

I can do 200 miles on pavement pretty comfortably at 16.5 to 17 mph on 28c road tires. How do you think that should correlate to gravel on 38c tires? Will the gravel and width issues take me to 15 mph average? 14? What have your experiences been?
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Old 01-14-15, 03:42 PM
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My average speed is typically 3-4 mph slower on gravel (42c tires) relative to pavement (25c tires). That is for good, dry conditions on a hardpack gravel road. My paved rides average 15-16 mph, and I usually average about 12 mph on gravel rides with similar amounts of climbiing.

If it is muddy out, my average will drop to 10-11 mph slower than a pavement ride. My average will also be about 10-11 mph if the gravel is really loose. I don't know what the DK gravel is like, as I haven't ridden it.

It would be a good idea to take a weekend gravel trip prior to the DK - I'm sure you can find some nice gravel roads somewhere in Tennessee or up in Kentucky to ride - or come over here to SE Missouri for some top-notch gravel. You'll then get a better idea of the kind of pace you can maintain on gravel, and also get an idea of things like tire pressure and technique for fast decents on gravel (two things that are VERY different from paved road riding).
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Old 01-15-15, 08:24 AM
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I'd say 2-4 mph slower is probably a good guess. That seems to be my average on gravel vs. pavement.

I just registered for it too. I would guess, based on everyone I've talked to and everything I've read, after a certain point it just becomes a matter of keep pedaling, pace be damned.

I've ridden some of those roads - depends on the time of year because sometimes the county comes in and lays down fresh gravel, but usually it's not terrible. Some of the route is on minimum maintenance or private roads, which means dirt.

The owner of my LBS won the DK several times and says a good rule of thumb is 1 mile gravel = ~1.5 miles of pavement. I might increase that factor a little bit to account for the approx. 10,000 feet of climbing. So I'm thinking of it more like a 300-350 mile ride, for training purposes.
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Old 01-15-15, 08:43 AM
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Good question FlashBazbo. I too will be there this year and as of today I have very little experience on gravel. Fortunately for me we have lots of gravel riding in my area and I plan to get as many big rides under my belt prior to the DK. It's going to be interesting for sure.
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Old 01-15-15, 09:46 AM
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Power meter? It's a bit silly to recommend a speed for a race that is mostly rolling hills.

DK200 is no joke and you really ought to do some test rides leading up to it, even if it means driving an hour or two to get in some gravel. Not so much for your fitness, but to test and dial in the gear (including bags, spares, tools, tire pressure, etc). This is especially true if you don't ride off-road regularly.

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Old 01-15-15, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by FlashBazbo
I'm entered for the DK200 this year and I'm trying to come to a reasonable estimate of a "goal" pace. I don't expect to win my class, but I would like to have an intelligent and meaningful goal to motivate me during the race. Unfortunately, I live in middle Tennessee -- the land of zero gravel roads -- so I don't have a way to establish an "average" gravel pace for me.

I can do 200 miles on pavement pretty comfortably at 16.5 to 17 mph on 28c road tires. How do you think that should correlate to gravel on 38c tires? Will the gravel and width issues take me to 15 mph average? 14? What have your experiences been?
Two words: Hickman County.
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Old 01-15-15, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by flargle
Power meter? It's a bit silly to recommend a speed for a race that is mostly rolling hills.

DK200 is no joke and you really ought to do some test rides leading up to it, even if it means driving an hour or two to get in some gravel. Not so much for your fitness, but to test and dial in the gear (including bags, spares, tools, tire pressure, etc). This is especially true if you don't ride off-road regularly.
This is very sound advice. If you're not comfortable/confident riding on dirt/gravel, it can really impact your average speed.
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Old 01-15-15, 03:28 PM
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My typical smooth road pace in rolling hills is 14-16 mph. When I ride gravel in similar areas, the speed drops to 10.5-12.5.
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Old 01-15-15, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by grolby
Two words: Hickman County.
I will have to check out Hickman County. I've never been there. But I plan to do some road training up and down the Natchez Trace and that should get me into the neighborhood.
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Old 01-15-15, 04:32 PM
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Great comments. To clarify . . . I plan to ride based on a combination of heart rate and power. Riding by speed would be stupid. Having said that, at the DK200, a lot of planning depends on how long you expect to be on the bike between checkpoints. Average speed will dictate how much hydration a racer needs to carry, how many batteries/how much lighting on the last leg, etc., etc. A three-hour leg could be handled with a couple large water bottles. A five-hour leg will require a Camelbak or a couple more bottles. Getting a good idea of time on the bike can impact how you ride it -- and how much weight you have to carry. It's an interesting balance.

And, as I said before, a goal pace can help motivate me to stay at a good strong pace and keep from taking it easier than necessary. They post your time, not your power trace.

I spoke this week with a 2-time finisher and I was shocked at his training regimen. His longest ride before the event was 120 miles (with three centuries) and he never touched gravel before the event. Probably not a training plan to be recommended, but it got him to the finish. At age 60. Slowly.

I spoke to another participant - a Cat 1 road racer - who trained harder but was a DNF.

The DK seems to be an event for those who plan well and ride smart.

Last edited by FlashBazbo; 01-15-15 at 04:40 PM.
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