Investing in a gravel bike is a great first step for anyone who wants to add a little bit more adventure to their bike riding. They are growing every day as one of the most versatile options out there, and people seem to be very happy with their investment once they realize where they can go.
Once the bike is purchased, getting the proper gear is also essential. There are many optional options out there, but there are some essentials that everyone needs to look into.
Not only will it make riding that much more enjoyable, but it can also be something that keeps a person safe. Before jumping in everything though, here is an overview on gravel riding and why certain gear options are important.
What is Gravel Biking, and What Makes it Unique?
A lot of people look at gravel riding as an adventurous way to get exercise on a bike. Instead of working solely on speed, it is about the adventure of handling many different surfaces like a jeep.
Gravel is the main surface for us for obvious reasons, but these bikes can also handle dirt roads, pavement, holes, inclines, and more. In a lot of ways, it is related to a mountain bike, with the versatility to go a little bit faster than most.
A gravel bike for many people can be a perfect bike to use for generally everything. It is very easy to go just about everywhere, and not have to worry about switching out the bikes. Some use them as commuter opportunities, why others want to simply go off-road and see what they can find.
There are even a growing number of gravel races out there that have intrigued people who want ways to compete. It offers a very unique type of racing so that people can face a new challenge with each race. Road races do not have nearly the same level of diversity in tracks and setups.
Riders love the fact that the bike technology allows for a blend of a road bike type of frame, with much wider tires. Throw in some great brakes, and people feel very comfortable riding in this unique way.
Investing in Gear
There comes the point in time when every single person wants to invest in gear for the new bike. Not only do they want to look good while riding, but it makes sense to have the right amount of protection before hitting the road. These are the essentials to start with, but there are plenty of optional choices as well.
The most important part of any gravel bike is finding the right tires. After all, there is a reason why gravel bikes are unique in the first place. Great tires can make a big difference, but finding the right size is sometimes easier said than done.
Most people are going to buy their first gravel bike and have tires already included. While that is a good starting point, it might not always be the best way to go once people are a little more seasoned as a rider. With ranges going from 25 mm all the way up past 45 mm, this range can offer some very different types of riding.
On the smaller side of things, people are mostly going to stick to pavement riding with an occasional gravel riding opportunity out there. Commuters might feel like the smaller tires are great and easy to handle, and it might work perfectly fine. They are still fully capable of handling gravel, but just might not be comfortable if the entire trail consists of that.
In the middle range, people can start to move pretty easily with tires ranging from 30 mm to 39 mm. Wider tires allow for people to compete in events and move quickly without having to give up too much comfort and cushion overall.
Finally, anything that goes over about 45 mm is designed for the ultimate type of adventure. There is a lot of benefits to a very comfortable ride on these bigger tires, and they will last very long time as well. Try them out and see if it is as comfortable as everyone says.
Long rides on gravel means that people want to bring supplies with them so that they can be as self-sufficient as possible. To do that, putting bags and packs on the bike in a strategic way makes a lot of sense.
No one wants to try to stuff their pockets as much as possible and hope for the best. Not only will stuff fall out of pockets pretty easily, but it adds bulk in unneeded areas.
One of the best ways to carry stuff is to be as creative as possible with bag and pack locations. Top tube bags are very popular, as it is very easy to access most of the stuff in the bag while riding. Bags can be put in many different locations around the bike, and the small packs can start to add up with space.
On top of everything else, people can’t go with even more storage on their actual body. There are storage opportunities for people who want to wear a backpack or a vest that has some pockets on it. Just remember that storing gear is essential, but so is having room for water and food.
There are opportunities to carry a lot of things, but the weight starts to really hinder how much enjoyment people can have when riding. Just because there is an opportunity to bring a lot of things, does not mean that it needs to happen.
Riding a gravel bike is fun and adventurous, but it is also just as dangerous as any other bike out there. In fact, thanks to the geometry of a road bike and the versatility of a mountain bike, people can get themselves in some pretty sticky situations by taking more risks than they are capable of handling.
This all leads to the importance of wearing a helmet that not only fits, but is offering a layer of protection for any type of fall. The helmet needs to be lightweight to allow people to hardly feel like it is actually on.
It also needs to be fully replaced if there are any cracks in it whatsoever. Just one minor crack can compromise the effectiveness of the helmet.
Helmets come in many different shapes, colors and prices, so it really comes down to just how aerodynamic people want the design to be. Most of them are going to provide the same amount of protection, but there is such a thing as head fatigue if the helmet weighs too much. It can sometimes become just a bit too cumbersome as well.
Clothes can make a pretty big difference when riding a long distance. Gravel bike riders might not take it as seriously as a cyclist, but there are some specific clothing that keeps people as comfortable as possible.
For starters, no matter what time of year, the clothes need to be as aerodynamic as possible. The last thing people want to deal with is a bunch of resistance because their clothes are not built for riding. The tricky part is finding clothes for different times of the year, while also being as aerodynamic as possible.
Many gravel bike riders are wearing something very similar to a road cyclist. That means going with something lightweight on top, and pants that have proper padding for long hours in the saddle. Padding is not always necessary, but most riders end up feeling like they can go a lot longer with it.
To stay warm during the cooler months, layering is important. There are ways to keep the body warm so that it can function at a high-level. Not everyone wants to bring too many clothes, but it is better to be prepared than stuck in the middle of nowhere with the wrong clothes.
Try to bring at least one change of clothes in case something happens on a longer ride. People will have the opportunity to change out of wet clothes if something happens. Riding for hours in wet clothes can prove to be a huge challenge, and lead to a person feeling sick for days after.
Since gravel bikes have the geometry of a road bike in many cases, people like to clip in with the pedals. That means buying specific shoes that will allow people to be as efficient as possible with every single pedal.
For those just starting out, riding with clip-in shoes might be a little challenging at first. It is a different type of way to dismount, and it might seem like overkill at first. What it does is allow for an extreme amount of efficiency, as a person can use their legs not only pedaling down, but pedaling up as well.
Shoes made specifically for cycling tend to be a little expensive, but there are some excellent value companies out there. The most important thing is to make sure that the shoes are compatible with the pedals.
Some might want a clip-on option, while others want to use standard shoes and wedge them in. There is a bit more versatility with the standard shoes, but it might not be as secure of a fit.
Make sure to test out any new shoes and pedal set up before going on a long trip. In particular, practice on falling off and getting out of the clip-on part of the pedal. It takes some skill to fall correctly and not make things worse.
Riding long distances on a gravel bike means that every part of the body goes through some challenging times. Gloves are a great option for those who want to save their hands from developing blisters, or to protect them from the elements.
Even a relaxed grip on a set of handlebars is going to create blisters if a person rides too much. It eventually turns in the calluses, but one way to have enhanced grip is to go with gloves explicitly built for riding. This helps out a lot even when sweat starts to build up, as the grip can remain as strong as ever.
When weather is a bit difficult, gloves can also help keep the hands warm and capable of handling so many different things at once. It is a challenge for some people to stay warm and keep The hands dry during tough parts of the year, but it is worth it in the end.
Gloves are out there for all types of riders, and they usually are pretty inexpensive. It is best to go with gloves that do not cost that much, since they can easily be replaced when needed. Some ride 12 months out of the year, and they invest in different types of gloves for different types of weather. This is the best way to go for people who are particularly competitive about writing.
Any type of riding generally requires eyewear for people to feel as safe as possible out on the trail. That is because the eyes are in a very vulnerable position when going out at a reasonably high speed. They need to be protected from the elements as well as any harmful sun rays.
During the day, most riders will have a pair of sunglasses on to help with their vision. There is no such thing as special gravel bike eyewear, but something that provides full coverage and a decent amount of protection is usually a pretty good way to go.
Things get a little more challenging with eyewear when it is dusk, or even dark outside. There are certain shades of glasses that allow for areas to brighten up. This is great for those who ride in somewhat dark conditions, but still want to see everything as clearly as possible. It still protects if anything flies up into the face as well.
Finally, clear options are available for those who do not want to have to deal with any type of shade. Those riding at night do not need sunglasses, but they still need protection if something does go wrong. Gravel bikes can get up to some pretty high speeds, and it makes no sense to have the eyes exposed at any time.
Whether it is a dedicated GPS, or even using a phone with a mount on the bike, it is essential to have a way to navigate when riding on different trails. People who invest in a gravel bike want to make sure that they can go many different places, but it is easy to get lost when exploring a new area.
The benefit of having a GPS unit is that someone can download a course and all the directions instead of having to rely on an Internet connection. It just allows people to focus on getting back in time instead of running the risk of being outside for too long. The last thing anybody wants to do is find themselves having to figure something out as it gets dark and tough to get back in time.
If there is an internet connection, it does seem like a perfect opportunity is to use the GPS on the phone. This allows a person to stay connected to the rest of the world as well, so they can
reach out if necessary. There are way too many people out there who run the risk of being completely shut off if something does happen. Weather can put a damper on riding, or it can be an issue with a bike that is just too much to overcome without getting some help.
A typical GPS for a bike can also be used for other types of traveling. Something basic that has some standard mapping functions is going to cost a little over $100.
For a more premium solution that has outstanding tracking, people can expect to spend a few hundred dollars. Garmin and Wahoo are two of the leading brands out there for those who want to find something that fits in the budget.
This is the Biking GPS that I just bought from Amazon!
How to Know When Enough is Enough
Essential gear is always necessary to get the most out of any type of riding. There are different versions of essential gear, and it is going to add some weight to the overall ride.
Those who are going on shorter rides probably do not need to add much else to the mix. If it is a pretty simple in and out trail, a person will return in plenty of time. Only those who are going on longer trips should maybe look into some more essentials.
One thing that a lot of people like to carry with them is a bigger repair kit in case something happens to the bike. It can be very assuring to have the ability to make a lot of fixes on the fly. To help cut down on weight, only one set of repair tools are necessary for the entire group. Try to evenly distribute them all so that no one is carrying too much extra weight.
Along the same lines, extra clothes, camping options, and more are also worth looking into. Not everyone is going to think that is worth the investment, but it could come in handy when a person least expects it.
Gravel bikes allow people to ride longer than imaginable with other types of options. Those who are doing multi-day tours need to make sure that they have everything they need so they are prepared for the worst. Some of the stuff might never be used, but it is better to have it then to be stuck in a very tough situation.