An Insider's Guide to Gravel: Gravel Riding Resources from the SDG Team, Part 1
The weather's fine and it's time to get out and ride some gravel. We've got the connections to help you get started riding gravel. It can be intimidating learning to ride gravel roads, but there are plenty of resources available when you're ready to learn about gravel grinding.
We asked the experienced gravel riders from our SDG-Muscle Monster team about the best ways to start gravel riding and where to find information about gravel riding.
- Gravel Cycling: The Complete Guide to Gravel Racing and Adventure Bikepacking by Nick Legan. This is a book on our coffee table at home and a gift directly from Nick Legan himself. Legan covers all the gear, bike setup, riding tips, course previews, and outfitting strategies you need to enjoy gravel cycling with confidence. He profiles 18 favorite one-day gravel races and 8 epic multi-day bikepacking adventure routes which is a perfect sampling of bucket list events to aspire to in the future. Legan shares colorful stories of the origins of gravel cycling in North America and its rapid spread throughout the world.
- “This is Gravel” TV Show and “Gravel Vibes” Podcast on Gravel Guru. Producer Matt Fowler and contributor Bobby Thompson are a couple of the nicest people from Emporia, Kansas that you’ll ever meet. I’ve had the privilege of knowing these two through their media work in America’s gravel capital and I’ve enjoyed contributing to their productions as often as I can. Gravelguru.com is an excellent resource for their videos and podcasts on a wide range of gravel topics.
- Groadio Podcast on the Wide Angle Podium Network. As a host on the Groadio podcast, I’d be remiss not to mention this one. Groadio focuses on all things gravel racing. I join Bill Schieken and Zach Schuster to talk gravel racing, gear, race profiles, recaps, preparation, and all things gravel bike riding. We primarily focus on the pointy end of gravel racing with discussions around the events within the discipline and nuances of the racing.
- Although recently discontinued, VeloNews.com’s Fast Talk podcast series is full of useful and scientific based training tips and information. Luckily, the Fast Talk podcast library is still available at Velonews.com. I recommend ignoring the advertisements for WHOOP straps and listening beyond the sponsor content. Many of the expert guests and racer interviews on the Fast Talk podcast can help you differentiate between fact, fiction, and the ridiculous old school training lore that a lot of cyclists just can’t seem to shake.
- The single greatest resource a newbie gravel rider can learn is to be self-sufficient when it comes to maintaining their bicycle. Take the time to learn your way around your bicycle. Use YouTube as a resource to learn how to change a tube, setup your bike tubeless, turn your bicycle into a single-speed should your rear derailleur break or stop working. If your bike is equipped with Shimano Di2, you better learn the steps to take it out of crash mode, or you’re in for a long single-speed ride back home. I’m constantly amazed at the amount of “experienced” cyclists I ride with that still can’t figure out how to fix common problems while out on the trail. Gravel is not road cycling. The wear and tear on your bike is much greater. You can’t as easily call for an Uber when you’re graveling out in the middle of nowhere.
- If gravel riding is your introduction into cycling, go out of your way to learn cycling etiquette. Yes, there is such a thing even off the beaten path. Not all cycling etiquette is limited to snobby roadie rides. Much of it is safety based and when followed and done correctly, can also save you a lot of energy. Seek out the most respected local and salty road or gravel rider in your area and soak up his years of experience and knowledge. If he or she is well respected in your cycling community, then follow their lead. Pay attention to the little things like where and how they position themselves in a group when they’re not on the front doing work. Also use this person as a weatherman. If he or she is riding on the left hip of the rider in front of them, then that must mean the wind is coming from the right. Be a copycat. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Old dudes like that.
- Everything I know about gravel I learned from Jason Siegle, Dave Sheek and Matt Freeman. This could be a specific plug for CTS coaches, or it could just be a general recommendation on coaches and more experienced mentors.
- I'd also like to recommend cycling camps, specifically CTS gravel camps. Yes, I'm biased and they aren't free, but investing to learn from the best is a smart move for those who can afford it.
- The Gravel Ride podcast is a wealth of knowledge from conversations within the gravel community. Craig Dalton interviews race promoters, gravel enthusiasts, and industry veterans in the many shows already archived on his site. There are hours of learning from this podcast if you haven’t already discovered it.
- Dirty Kanza - Website: Past tips from Panda and Sheek on DK. Regardless of looking for tips on DK these are tips for all gravel adventures. Amanda’s 4th and 5th tips are key. Sheek’s 5th suggestion is key to being able to adventure further.
- The Niner Blog houses some of the best resources for a beginner gravel rider:
- The Gravel Cyclist: It is raw, real, and fun. If looking for events this site has the best calendar. Plus it is always fun talking with this “Trend Setter.”
- The Bike Shop CX Podcast. While this show is focused on the nuances of equipment in cyclocross, it’s also a wealth of knowledge that translates over to gravel as well. Bike Shop CX, hosted by Scott Dedenbach and Mr. David Palan, examines cyclocross tech and support with detailed explanations. If you have questions about your gear, you can send them in and listen to the explanation of how to fix your problem. They also have a few episodes surrounding the Michigan Coast to Coast gravel event which is 200 miles across the lower peninsula of Michigan, their home state.