You can’t avoid it, gravel adventure rides are the hottest ticket in cycling right now. And rightfully so! Savor the experience, avoid cars, and enjoy nature and exploration. Now that the days are getting longer and filled with sun in the Pacific Northwest, the adventure season is in full swing! The following tips will ensure a successful day in the saddle.
Make Sure Your Bike is Ready for a Day Away from the Shop!
Don’t rely on finding support or a shop anywhere near these rides! They tend to take place in remote areas and do not offer mechanical support. Be prepared! Check the chain and cassette wear, brake pads, cleats on your shoes, tire wear, and rims. A general look-over to ensure there are no new damages to the frame is highly recommended. Problems such as fatigue cracks or dents are rare, but can ruin your plans. Be sure you have allocated time to replace anything that needs to be fixed before the event. If you are unsure of the safety or state of anything on your bike, take it into a shop to have it checked out and replace items as needed. You’ll want to have a couple of rides on your bike after making any maintenance to be sure your bike is in solid condition.
It is important to have base level knowledge of how to fix common issues like flat tires and minor gear adjustments. On every ride you should have:
- Spare inner tube
- Patch kit
- Tire levers
- Pump and/or CO2
The longer the event, the longer the list of extra supplies will grow. If you will be on rougher roads, with sharper rocks, more tools/flat repair parts are crucial. Multi day event? Bring a spare tire, cables, chain pin/missing link. If you are part of a supported ride, some items may be provided to you, but ultimately self-reliance is the key. If it is a ride with a group, coordinate with teammates and friends to ensure everything’s covered – for larger more random items (like a spare tire), you can plan to share resources as needed and distribute the items across the group.
It’s okay if you don’t have the knowledge to do all possible repairs – if you have the right tools and equipment for a roadside fix, someone else may be able to come to your aid. It is good to have your cell phone with you for emergencies, but you may be without a signal so make a game plan that doesn’t rely on cell service.
Good skin and eye protection and appropriate clothing are essential. Check the weather but always bring more than you might need. You should have an array of arm warmers, knee warmers, base layers, wind vest/jacket, and clothing options along with you even if you do not expect to need it – better to have it and not need it than be left wishing you brought it. Wear your sunscreen! If you plan to be out for a long day, pack a travel-size bottle for reapplication. Sunglasses protect your eyes from rays and keeps stray bugs and debris out. Having a selection of lenses for different conditions is a great and be ready to swap as needed. Make a list and check things off as you put it in your bag. Don’t forget your shoes and helmet!
Don’t Ditch the Old School Map
When it comes to routes, you should have some decent knowledge of the roads you will be on. Look at a map before you go. Some people will print off a small map and bring it along. Know the names of the roads and what the turns are. It’s never good to just rely on support people or ride partners, – you may get separated during the ride or they may also be unsure of the route. There have been instances where even the lead car in races have missed a correct turn and taken riders off course, so it’s always smart to know where you are going and how to get back to the start. And again, don’t rely on cell service for the answer!
Being properly fueled is a priority for any ride. A good rule of thumb is 300-400 calories per hour and one water bottle per hour. This is going to fluctuate depending on the individual and conditions, but is a good starting point. It can be great to talk with a coach for more specific numbers to ensure you are fueled right for your event.. Eat foods on big events that you have tried out in training. You don’t want to wait until an important goal event to try a new product only to discover it gives you stomach issues. Many supported rides have aid stations,, however, the food may or may not be something on your “easily digestible” list. Pack a bit of backup in case.
This is ultimately the most important factor in ensuring successful rides. Nothing beats getting in some miles and structured intensity and rest periods to ensure you are setting yourself up for a successful event. Talk to friends and other riders about courses and what to expect, and get in touch with professionals when needed to make sure you are setting yourself up for success. This is a never ending topic and coaches spend hours setting up the right plan and approach for individuals and their goals. At the very least, you should strive to get in similar distances and course work before attempting a big ride to ensure you build up to it and know what to expect.
As always, if you have questions about your preparation, please feel free to contact us!
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