Riding your bike in the winter months is hard. It can be cold, wet, windy — often all three at once — and that’s before you factor in having to occasionally ride in the dark. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. Training throughout the winter is a great way to keep your base fitness ticking over, while also preparing you for next spring and summer and any exciting goals you’re looking to achieve on two wheels. What’s more, getting outdoors and stay active through winter is good for the soul. Here are ten ways to stay motivated through the winter, to help you through those moments when it can seem easier to stay in bed… Have a goal “The main thing for anyone is having a goal,” explains Matt Bottrill of Matt Bottrill Performance Coaching. “You’ve got to have a motivation. It could be something that’s happened to your family, your health, lose weight. Whatever that is, you need that goal. “If you’ve got that in place, every time you do a training session you’ve got a reason for doing it – you’re not just going through the motions. You then feel good about it because that stepping stone is working towards your big goal.” How to create a winter training plan Have the right kit Heading out into the cold is made a lot easier if you’ve got the right winter gear in your wardrobe. It can be hard to get motivated if you’re imagining the next few hours to be as cold as sitting in a fridge, and staying in bed is going to be a lot more attractive. Investing in foul-weather kit, whether that’s a good winter jacket or a pair of overshoes, will turn a training ride from unbearable into enjoyable, and will have you jumping out of bed and onto your bike Best winter cycling clothing: a buyer’s guide Buddy up to stay motivated through winter. Immediate Media Buddy up Struggling to get motivated to head out on your own? Find another rider who is keen to get some winter training in and buddy up instead of trying to tackle the elements solo. Not only will it make the miles whizz by as you chat away between cafe stops, but it’s a lot harder to not go for a ride when you’ve got someone stood on your doorstep all kitted up and ready to go. 10 winter training mistakes (and how to avoid them) Join the club run If you don’t have any local friends who are up for a bit of winter training or your cycling mates are now in hibernation until the spring, then it might be an idea to join a club run. Many cycling clubs run a range of rides at the weekend that vary in pace, while some offer early morning pre-work sessions in the week for the extra keen. How riding in a group improves your performance Try something new Even if you consider yourself a road cyclist, that doesn’t mean you have to live and die by the sword of tarmac. Winter is a great time to try off-road pursuits that will not only help with your training, but could also be beneficial to your overall riding technique, too. For those who want to stay on a drop bar bike, the high intensity and technical nature of cyclocross will keep your fitness up while improving your bike handling skills, while mountain biking is a fun way of sharpening up your riding. Equally, if you’re a mountain biker looking to improve your endurance, could you be tempted out onto the road this winter? Maybe even the turbo trainer could be your friend… Five reasons roadies need to try mountain biking Mix things up by trying a new discipline this winter. Mick Kirkman Join the Rapha Festive 500 Is your winter training just not, well, challenging enough? Try your hand at the Rapha Festive 500. The Strava challenge has become a legendary way for road cyclists to up the endurance (and test the patience of family members) over the festive period, with participants set the task of riding 500km between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Strava tips: 20 of the best Train inside Whisper it, but it is possible to train over the winter period without subjecting yourself to the harsh conditions that come with it. Even swapping one outdoor ride per week for an indoor one can revitalise your training plan and help keep you motivated. Plus, the likes of HIIT or sweetspot sessions are actually more time-efficient when done on an indoor bike, so there’s one more reason to train inside this winter. Indoor cycling benefits | 8 reasons why you should train indoors Book a training camp If you need a carrot to work towards when slogging it out through winter, there’s nothing better than a few days in the sun. There’s a reason why professional cyclists head to southern Europe in winter and spring — superb roads and (fingers crossed) great weather. Why not book a training camp or riding holiday in Mallorca, Andalucia or Tenerife? You’ll have something to train for, then. How to prepare for a training camp What better way to motivate yourself than the prospect of a few days riding in the sun? Russell Burton/Immediate Media Listen to music If you do opt to train inside this winter, there are things that can soon start to irritate you during a session – most notably the lack of visual stimulation that you get when out on the road. But there are ways of overcoming this. “I always listen to music,” says Bottrill. “I listen to dance music and I love the rhythm of it. I match my pedal stroke to the beat of the music. You can break it down to phases, so ‘this song is four minutes, I’ll listen to two songs and then I’ll look at the time’. It’s a great way of zoning out.” How to build a pain cave | 8 tips for creating the perfect indoor training space Give Zwift a go Another way of livening up your indoor workout is to use a virtual training platform, such as Zwift. It can turn your training ride into the closest thing to heading out on the road, without leaving the house. You’ll have the virtual world to keep you occupied, while it’s also possible to join a group ride, complete structured workouts or embark on a fully-fledged training plan. Zwift: everything you need to know Remember to reward yourself It’s all very well having goals and motivating yourself to train throughout the winter months, but you need to enjoy the rewards, too. “You need to reward yourself,” he says. “It will make you want to achieve it more.” So whether that’s an extra slice of cake at the cafe stop, or a new bit of kit in the new year, don’t forget to treat yourself along the way. 6 delicious flapjack and breakfast bar recipes to boost your riding energy
“I reckon you’re going to get lucky today. It’s been raining here for the last month, but today’s looking good.” Frankly, I’m not sure I was looking at the same sky as my host, Roger, at Ardwyn House B&B, as angry clouds bubbled away in the cauldron up above. Perhaps this is what passes for good weather in Llanwrtyd Wells, or maybe his expectations have shifted after what was a truly rotten early 2019 summer. Maybe we’d get lucky. He says the weather here, in the self-styled smallest town in Britain, on the southern tip of the Cambrian Mountains, is suitably localised; they could get snow in nearby Abergwesyn and not get a flake here. Wales’s secret: the Cambrian Mountains. Joseph Branston Roger’s words were still rattling around my brain when, with a turn of the pedals, drops of rain fell onto my sunglasses. As we turned onto a section of gravel before the first kilometre was out, the sky caved in and bitterly cold rain came tumbling out. Welcome to the summer solstice, mid-Wales style. Set for adventure There’s something less offensive about copping a soaking while bikepacking, as opposed to, say, the Sunday club run. The inevitability that it’s bound to happen? That this is an adventure and that getting wet can be filed in that draw? Or perhaps the biggest saddle bag you’ve ever had makes the best ass saver, shielding you from the muck-spreading that is riding a gravel bike in the wet, or the spare dry clothes stuffed into said bag, should you need them? Whatever the reason, I wasn’t as downbeat as I usually am while riding in the rain. The bones of today’s ride were devised by a local rider I got in touch with in 2016, when gravel riding was beginning to take hold in Britain. The ride never happened for various fails on my part, but I always kept the route in mind and it made sense to do it today, as part of a bikepacking tour, in an altered form. Dependent on terrain, gravel miles are double compared to road miles. Joseph Branston Back then I was still wet behind the ears when it came to the unique demands of gravel riding. The 100-mile route I’d requested – based on what I was used to on the road bike – was met with some words of warning. The 80-mile route we settled on in 2016 was, I’d come to realise, still too demanding as a single day’s ride for me (and photographer Joe, who was hauling around an indecent weight of camera equipment in his rucksack), particularly with the kit we were carrying, so we shrunk it down further to a pint-sized 36 miles. Still, in my growing experience of gravel riding, 36 miles with 1,200m elevation loaded with kit wasn’t insubstantial. Dependent on terrain, gravel miles are double compared to road miles A general rule of thumb – and this is very much dependent on terrain – is that gravel miles count double compared to the road. This new route had a bit of everything: fantastic, extended sections of genuine gravel roads, connected by rural, quiet tarmac roads (including the supremely testing Devil’s Staircase climb, which we’d accidentally stumble upon) and some tougher, but short, sections of more mountain bike terrain. Not a problem for the Scott Addict Gravel 20, which, in the six months I’ve been riding it, has shown itself to be a supremely versatile machine – I’ve ridden it, without modifications, in road gran fondos, gravel rides and now bikepacking trips and it really is a do-all bike. Travelling smart and light is important when bikepacking Joseph Branston Hidden beauty This part of Wales is one that might be easily overlooked, sandwiched as it is between the national parks of the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia. In 1965, attempts began to designate it as a national park, though these failed eight years later. Work is ongoing in securing it as an area of outstanding natural beauty. “If you pick up a relief map showing the National Parks and AONBs of England and Wales, you will quickly notice one large upland area that has neither; that’s mid Wales,” says the Cambrian Mountains Society, an action group set up to further the region’s cause. “If you’ve never been there, you might well conclude – and who could blame you? – that mid Wales is some kind of barren, dull wasteland that deserves no protection. But you’d be wrong.” The Devil’s Staircase spits at you, gaining 151m in 1.3km... it’s formidable They’re right, this is spellbinding terrain. Straight out of the gate of Llanwrtyd Wells, the route took us onto the rough stuff, and fast up to around 500m altitude. Not good news for photographer Joe, who, with his camera equipment in a rucksack, was hauling what felt like the equivalent of a small child on his back. He wasn’t moving fast, though this could easily have been the result of the gastrointestinal effect of him eating kippers for breakfast, swiftly followed by a peanut butter nutrition bar, a queasy combination that I felt determined to stay upwind of. This gravel track, and the hundreds of miles of similar tracks in this region, exists because of the huge industry of logging in the area. Not all of the roads are open to cyclists, or the general public. As a general rule, if there’s a sign that explicitly prohibits cyclists, we’d never recommend riding down it, though several locals we spoke to said they do and have never had any issues. One sign we saw said ‘Strictly no mountain bikers, runners or horse riding’ – does that mean we’d get off on a technicality in this new age of gravel riding? The sting in the tail is the aptly-named Devil’s Staircase. Joseph Branston Abergwesyn brought down the curtain on the first section of gravel and onto the tarmac, though this section of road, which stretches 20 miles all the way to Tregaron is so narrow, remote and desolate that you won’t care one jot. Come the Devil’s Staircase, however, and you might: it spits at you, gaining 151m in 1.3km making it a formidable climb on a lithe road bike, let alone a loaded gravel machine – and even more so when your photographer requests repetitions on its steep switchbacks. Just shy of the summit of the steep stuff, you swing a sharp left and get back onto the gravel. A relief for some, not for others, the gradient at least levels out, though you may have to mount a gate, which isn’t easy on the upper body after your wrestle with the Devil. At this point the climbing began to take its toll. While never long, they come thick and fast and such is the concentration and lower speeds needed for gravel descents, you don’t take the momentum into the next climb like you would on a road ride. Momentum was also cut by a never-ending series of cattle-gridded gates, which necessitated ungainly heaves of the Addict above my head and over the gate – all part of the bargain of gravel cycling. Refill stops: there are no shops or cafes on this route. Joseph Branston The sun – and a warm sun at that – was out by now and such was Joe’s thirst he was forced to refill his bottles in a stream. As expected there wasn’t a single cafe or shop to refuel and rehydrate on the whole route, so don’t travel light should you try this route out for yourself. By now we’d arrived at the northern reaches of the Llyn Brianne dam, which regulates flow of water into the River Tywi. We’ve been here before down its eastern tarmac side but today would negotiate down its more circuitous – and gravelly – western side, which strays higher and further away from the water. Construction on it finished in 1972, coming at a time of increasing water shortages in west Wales, and at 91m in height at 280.4m above sea level, it’s the highest dam in Britain. A hydro-electric station was added in 1997 – apparently, it’s a big tourist attraction and the modest sprinkling of cars was pretty much the sum of vehicles we saw during the entirety of our ride. The Llyn Brianne dam in all its glory. Joseph Branston From here to the finish in Llanwrtyd it was more of what had come before – and we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. We’re lucky to ride our bikes in all of the best places, but some rides still stand out. This was close to impeccable (any ride without a coffee stop doesn’t get 10 out of 10) but that serves us right for not packing a flask, we had the space. The Cambrian Mountains might not be a National Park, or an AONB, but it sure gets the seal of approval. Get the route Adventure Addicts Wales (This tour is private) Adventure Addicts Wales (2days) Grand Tour: guide to smart bikepacking The Scott Addict Gravel 20: “It really is a do-all bike“ Joseph Branston 1. Lighten the load While bikepacking isn’t about speed, travelling as light as possible always makes the ride more enjoyable, particularly on gravel roads. There is now a huge range of bikepacking luggage available, from the likes of Alpkit, Altura and Apidura. I had Specialized’s Burra Burra across the bike, and the Stabiliser Seatpack 10 is a highlight because you barely realise it’s there. Think about exactly what kit you need for your trip – over-packing evening clothing is a common mistake. If you’re camping, this kit will take up the bulk of your space (ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk is worth a look to keep your weight down. Be warned, low weight is generally proportional to high cost!) Staying in B&Bs is the ultimate way to travel light. 2. Plan your route, but stay flexible Sketching your route on apps such as Komoot is a must, but be prepared for unforeseen events on the road that you might not spot on your computer. Given the mixed terrain of bikepacking, your path may end up blocked – a river may be too high to cross, or a gravel road might be prohibited to cyclists. 3. Be prepared for bike emergencies Given the remote terrain that you might encounter on a bikepacking trip, be prepared to be your own mechanic. On a road bike you might be used to getting away with just a mini pump and a spare tube, but out in the wilderness you need the skills and tools to perform your own repairs, to bike and body. Chain tools and first aid kits are essential items. 4. Load your kit correctly Tents and clothing are best in the saddle bag, to give added weight to the rear. A front handle-bar bag is best to keep light, so something that doesn’t weigh too much and isn’t going to rattle around. The frame bag is best for items you need easy access to with water bottles in their usual place in a cage.
The ideal number of bikes to own is N+1, as the old adage goes – with N representing the number of bikes you already have. But does the new breed of highly-versatile, go-anywhere road and gravel bikes mean that, really, one bike is all you need? In the latest episode of the BikeRadar Podcast, Tom Marvin, Warren Rossiter and Rob Spedding try to work out if they need to buy more bikes… or sell a few. Otherwise, make sure you check out our latest gravel bike reviews or take a look at BikeRadar‘s roundup of the best gravel bikes available right now. How to listen to the BikeRadar Podcast If you want to download the BikeRadar Podcast to your iPhone, you can find it on iTunes. Alternatively, it can be streamed via Spotify and all the other usual podcast services. Has the gravel bike killed N+1? Andy McCandlish Previous BikeRadar Podcast episodes Episode 1 — Cycling Plus‘ Bike of the Year Special (Spotify/iTunes) Episode 2 — MBUK‘s Trail Bike of the Year Special (Spotify/iTunes) Episode 3 — The BikeRadar Podcast | How do £10k bikes even exist? (Spotify/iTunes) Episode 4 — The BikeRadar Podcast | SRAM versus Shimano, and more! (Spotify/iTunes) Episode 5 — The BikeRadar Podcast | Why do all bikes look the same? (Spotify/iTunes) Episode 6 – The BikeRadar Podcast | Is it time to ditch ‘The Rules’? (Spotify/iTunes) Episode 7 – The BikeRadar Podcast | Road tubeless — the what, why and how (Spotify/iTunes) Episode 8 – The BikeRadar Podcast | Purism be damned, this is why we love e-MTBs (Spotify/iTunes) Previous BikeRadar Tech Talk Podcast episodes BikeRadar Tech Talk Podcast Episode 1: Fork Offset — all you need to know BikeRadar Tech Talk Podcast Episode 2: Mountain bike suspension dampers BikeRadar Tech Talk Podcast Episode 3: Mountain bike geometry BikeRadar Tech Talk Podcast Episode 4: Linkage forks Bikeradar Tech Talk Podcast Episode 5: Wheel size
In the penultimate part of our Adventure Addicts series, confirmed roadie Sam Dansie heads onto the gravel for the first time. The fact that it’s at the country’s toughest gravel event, the Dirty Reiver, complicates matters… Gravel riding explained: Adventure Addicts part 1 How to have a gravel adventure: Adventure Addicts part 2 It was hard to know what hurt more. The palms of my filthy hands, which had been pummelled pink and raw, my cramp-infested calf muscles, or my back, which ached at the bottom and was excruciating at the top. Eight and three quarter hours into the Dirty Reiver and I finally made it to the crest of what felt like the hundredth hill. I’d seen a lot of single digit speed while climbing during the day, but the stubborn 7km/h I had seen for the previous 15 minutes was a spirit-sapping assault all of its own. Over the crest and a chance to sit cockeyed on my saddle. Let’s just say 182km on gravel does unspeakable things to a bottom unused to this sort of thing. Now I had a view of the descent. The dark stones seemed almost set, like a five-star section of Paris-Roubaix, and the road coiled around the next hill. Let’s just say 182km of gravel does unspeakable things to a bottom... I didn’t think things could get worse, but then I hadn’t come across a descent like this yet. It was too bumpy to sit and too fast to stand and halfway down, my saddlebag sheared off and bounced into the verge. I juddered to a halt 30m or so further on. I thought about leaving the bag where it fell. With slightly more than 10km to ride, 60 more metres felt like too high a price to pay for a multi-tool, a spare inner and a repair kit. But there was a gel in it and I did want that. I needed that. I dropped the bike, trudged back up the hill and sat beside the track and had my gel. God, I was fed up. Wild, wild world Man v nature: riders take on 200km of Kielder Forest. Mick Kirkman Kielder. Big forest. Lots of hills. Miles and miles of gravel roads. No wonder the Dirty Reiver is ground zero for gravel grinding in the UK. This sizeable pocket of the country is a remote forested wilderness with a big reservoir at its green heart. The event’s HQ is Kielder Castle at the northern end of Kielder Water. The castle’s not a castle, but a former hunting lodge built in the 1770s for the Dukes of Northumberland. It harks back to a time when the area was just heather, bracken and wind. In the 1920s, the Forestry Commission began planting the forest and in the 1970s the dam was built to provide water for the north-east industries. It’s an entirely man-made landscape. With 3,700m of climbing it’s on par with the Fred Whitton Challenge Prior to all this, it had been a lawless borderland infested with eponymous Reivers – the raiding parties who used the porous England-Scotland border to rustle livestock. Today, among Kielder’s numerous claims to fame are that the Water is the biggest by volume man-made reservoir in northern Europe; the forest is home to 50 per cent of the UK’s red squirrels; and that the night sky above it is so pristine and free of light pollution that the region has been designated a Dark Sky Park. It’s the biggest sky park of its kind in Europe. The Dirty Reiver takes a fraction of the open access trails used by the logging works and turns them into a well marked 200km course, though this year’s came in shorter because of a last-minute re-routing to avoid some bike-breaking trails. The route still held around 3,700m of climbing though, putting it on par with the Fred Whitton Challenge. But it’s exclusively on gravel. So it’s very hard and very long, and why, with less than 15km to go, I got out my phone to navigate a shortcut back to the castle. How to ride gravel: Adventure Addicts part 3 Best gravel riding routes in the UK | 6 rides recommended by Cycling Plus This wild landscape was in fact developed in the 1920s. Mick Kirkman A matter of survival Anyway, all that came later. At 7am, an hour before the start, the car thermometer registered -4°C. Hardy souls who camped in the teepee village put on to increase accommodation in this wilderness surely made early use of the top item on the Dirty Reiver’s essential kit list: a survival blanket. Other requisites included an emergency whistle and a first aid kit. The list also specified a good front light. Given that dusk fell at 8:10pm, just how long was this thing going to take? “Make sure that you carry essential spares and have the ability to undertake rudimentary repairs; parts of the route are remote,” stated the Dirty Reiver’s website. But at least the day was dry. A man queuing for coffee told me they had snow a couple of years earlier. A frosty start does not curb the riders’ enthusiasm. Mick Kirkman At the start, I was taken by the high number of gravel bikes. Bryan Singleton, the director of Focal Events, which puts on the Reiver, reports that when it was first run in 2016, cyclocross bikes were the preferred choice among the 600 debutantes. Four years on, the vast majority of the 1,000-plus field were on dedicated adventure machines. The Reiver also has a sizeable gravel bike expo to peruse before or after the previous evening’s pasta party. The exhibition is a testament, says Singleton, to the Reiver’s pioneering role in bringing gravel to the UK. Paul Errington, Focal Events’s co-founder who has now left the firm, had ridden Kansas’s hugely popular Dirty Kanza gravel race a few times and twigged that Kielder was the perfect place for a UK equivalent. Incidentally, my bike was a Scott Adventure Gravel 20 with a Shimano 105 groupset, so I felt I was swimming with the shoal. Road riding is all I’d ever done and my expectations were that the bike, with its slacker geometry and voluminous, lightly treaded Schwalbe G-One Allround tyres would feel sluggish and boat like. Wrong. It was a good deal lighter than I anticipated and on a road, it felt like a road bike. It was nippy and nimble, but also very smooth. I’d never ridden on gravel before, so judgement would be saved for later. Fast riders do the Reiver in about seven and half hours. Mick Kirkman The Dirty Reiver is not a race, but it is timed. Fast people do it in around seven and a half hours, and slow people do it in around 11. This year’s route was substantially different to the last few years. On a map, previous routes have been flatter along an east-west axis, this one was longer on the north-south axis. In fact, it went so far south it technically entered another forest – Wark Forest. Talking afterwards, Singleton insisted the gravel in Wark was “very, very fast”. I sensed Brian was a gravel connoisseur, someone who can discern notes of vermiculite among the fine gravel and knows about road metal – the hard-packed graded surface beneath the gravel. It was all just rocks to me. About the most sensible thing I did all day was take it easy at the start. Although it was cold and the legs were willing, I resisted the temptation to tag onto the back of some rocket in the first two hours. This gave me time to be at one with the bike and come to terms with the fact I would either be cycling very slowly uphill and freewheeling at terrifying speed down the other side for the rest of the day. This slow start also gave time for faster riders to lay down a fine white line in the road metal, which was free of loose aggregate and to which I adhered for the rest of the day. Kielder Forest is open to the public and anyone could ride a Dirty Reiver-like route any time they wished. Mick Kirkman Kielder Forest is open to the public and technically anyone could ride a Dirty Reiver-like route any time they wished. But the benefit of doing it on Reiver day is that the route avoids those parts of the forest where tree harvesters and hauliers are working. I saw one moving vehicle on the roads all day. My sedate pace allowed me to look around. Being a forest there are a lot of trees and lots of one species in particular: Picea sitchensis – sitka spruce. It’s the lumberjack’s preferred conifer. It is fast-growing and extremely tall when it thrives in wet, upland areas, which is what Kielder is. A sitka plantation is eerie. Light can’t penetrate, so at eye level it’s dark and still and very quiet. But a light wind – or even a stiff one, like the frigid easterly on Reiver day – moans through the trees’ upper reaches. Sitka follows sitka in this vast 650km square forest A plantation seems dead and alive at the same time. The other thing about a sitka plantation is that when you’ve seen one, you really have seem them all: perfectly spaced trunks, dark green fronds, the rusty red bed of needles are invariable. And then you come across an area that’s been harvested. What a scar. Sheared off trunks, the caterpillar tracks of the machinery that have bitten hard into the ground and the bleached dead remains of the branches and stumps that are slowly being encroached on by weeds. They say people would eat less meat if they understood intensive livestock production. I was left thinking people might go easier on loo paper if they knew what logging entailed too. Still, the endless fields of saplings –three and a half million new trees are planted each year – showed that while it had its ugly moments, at least it is sustainable. The best views come early and end at Kielder Head. Mick Kirkman The best landscapes came early. The views just before dropping down to the first feed station looked east over the majesty of Northumberland National Park. The roof of the route at Kielderhead, at 465m, afforded sumptuous views north west towards the wild Southern Uplands in Scotland. A curious sensation of the route is that it rolls on over hill and dale. Singleton said the organisation had been at pains to avoid doing tight little loops. “One thing we try to do with the Reiver is get it to feel like a constant flowing journey. We want people to go out there and feel like they’ve had an adventure; like every turn is a different vista and you don’t feel like you’re repeating the same old thing again.” They have made the most of their luxury of a large canvas. In the spirit of adventure, Reiver riders must be self-sufficient. The concession though were three generous feed stations. Participants were advised to make up a food parcel that would be transported to the second feed station just after 110km. I did, and voila, there it was: some squashed fruit cake and an energy drink. The organisation in general was super. A rolling route covering hill, dale and forest. Mick Kirkman If I made a good decision to start too slowly, it led to a questionable one 2km after the second feed station. Here, the 130km and 200km routes diverged. I should have opted for the former, but I was well sugared up and some light peer pressure from a friendly marshal – “Ha’way man, do the 200, there’s a good lad” – forced me to go right. Fifteen minutes later, grovelling up some interminable climb while I digested an ill-advised number of free jelly babies, the agonies began. The cold tickle that precedes cramp ran up and down my legs. My back ached and my heart rate had all the revs of a clapped out tractor. Each climb was a new torment. I cursed every chip that deflected the bike off the white line. The transformation into a stayer I had banked on never happened. Deep into the ride, when I looked forward or back in spots with a long view there was no one else. Keilder’s vastness had swallowed me up and the survival blanket was scant comfort. Nothing – not honour or a lost sense of achievement – was going to keep me going any longer than absolutely necessary I enjoyed a brief second wind in the 40 minutes prior to the final feed station, where indeed the gravel did feel fast. I told myself not to ruin my revival by eating too much, but there were delicious buttery new potatoes and sugary tea on offer and so, of course, I ruined it. So began the worst three and a half hours to the finish. I was too hot, then too cold. But mostly I was just creeping forward in pain. An addition this year was the Lauf timed stage, which came after 180km of riding. The fastest man and woman through the section would be rewarded with a pair of the sponsoring company’s suspension forks plus tickets and entry to more misery at The Rift, a big gravel ride in Iceland. The section was up a big hill on terrible gravel and down the other side. On the climb I had ample time to make up weak puns as I crawled upwards: ‘You must be having a Lauf,’ I thought; ‘If you don’t Lauf you’ll cry.’ I wish I remembered that one when my saddlebag sheared off. As I sucked up my gel I got out my phone to find a shortcut home through the spruces. Nothing – not honour or a lost sense of achievement – was going to keep me going any longer than absolutely necessary. But then this was Kielder, home to England’s remotest point, and of course I had no signal. Sam “swimming with the shoal” on his Scott Adventure Gravel 20. Mick Kirkman Though the final few kilometres were on Kielder’s smooth cinder bike paths around the reservoir, I stopped three or four times to give my wracked body a break. Eventually I made it over the finish line seriously wondering if I now had PTSD. Michael, the photographer tasked with capturing mine and the Scott’s triumphal arrival nine hours and 33 minutes after I had first left the place, was nowhere to be seen – he’d gone for a pee. The ignominy. He found me pushing into the queue for a beer and wrap and asked if I would mind re-staging the shot. I did mind, but assented on the bike’s behalf. Bar the saddlebag incident, it had been a flawless and sympathetic companion. If anything, I had let it down. The refreshments were a salve of sorts, as was the next morning’s massive, delicious, fit-for-a-Reiver breakfast at the guest house where I fell asleep in dusty, sweaty kit. But it would be a full four weeks before the thought hit me. Actually, I’d like to do that again. The Dirty Reiver is held annually in April, and next year’s is due to take place from 17 to 18 April. Check its website, The Dirty Reiver.
While the concept of gravel riding originated on the hard-packed dirt roads of the United States, exploring on bikes specifically designed to take you off the beaten track has captured the imaginations of riders the world over. In part four of our Adventure Addicts series, we set out to find six of the best British gravel riding routes. Britain may not have the extensive network of gravel roads found in the US and other parts of the world, but there’s still plenty of opportunity to head out into the wild, from the prehistoric Ridgeway route in the south of England, to the forest tracks of the Trossachs in Scotland. Gravel riding explained: Adventure Addicts part 1 How to have a gravel adventure: Adventure Addicts part 2 How to ride gravel: Adventure Addicts part 3 John Whitney’s Ridgeway The ever-changing terrain of the Ridgeway. Joseph Branston In austerity Britain the road network has lapsed into a pothole-strewn wreck, so picture what state the country’s oldest road, the Ridgeway, is in. Circa 5,000 years old, it’s at least got an excuse. The road predates the stone circles of Avebury, Wiltshire, which is its starting point in the west; in total, the Ridgeway stretches 140km, all the way to Ivinghoe Beacon in the Chilterns. It’s now a National Trail, open to cyclists all the way up to the river Thames – beyond that, there are fewer opportunities for two wheels, so our route ends in Goring-on-Thames. The Ridgeway is more popular with walkers than cyclists, and you’re still more likely to see mountain bikers than gravel bike converts. Without suspension and with narrower tyres, it’s always a thorough examination of gravel skills, and the ever-changing terrain will keep you on your toes. Navigating the Ridgeway will keep you on your toes. Joseph Branston Unless you’re one of those oddities who embraces wet weather, it’s best to ride the Ridgeway on a dry, bright day because the chunks of actual gravel are sparing and, on soggy days, it’s infamous for turning into a hellish quagmire of Glastonbury-on-a-wet-year proportions. If you’re interested in the ancient stones of Avebury, there’s plenty else along the trail for history buffs, including the Iron Age forts of Barbury Castle (where the National Trail and original Ridgeway diverge for a period) and Liddington Castle. Wayland’s Smithy burial tomb, just off the main track just beyond Ashbury, has 1,000 years even on Avebury’s stone circles, built in around 3,590 BC. Avebury has a National Trust car park, costing £7 all day. We’d recommend being self-sufficient as places to eat are few and far between along the route, unless you dip into nearby towns and villages. John Whitney is Cycling Plus’s features editor and new gravel convert 44.4 miles / 71.4km Get the route Ridgeway Sam Dansie’s Kielder Forest Kielder Forest has an extensive network of gravel roads. Mick Kirkman When a cycling event itemises a survival blanket and a whistle on its list of essential gear, it means business. Yet the oversubscribed 200km Dirty Reiver, four years old and more popular than ever, demonstrates that the UK’s growing legion of gravel enthusiasts want a challenge. The ride fulfils that want well by sticking to the limitless web of access roads in Kielder Forest, the UK’s second largest, and which carpets the remote low-hilled borderlands between England and Scotland. The roads are probably just uncomfortable if you’re in the back of a four-ton military lorry – besides being Forestry Commission, this is firing range territory – but 10 hours being bounced and pinged off angular rocks on a bike thrashes parts of the body other gravel rides can’t reach. Despite the highest point being 475m, the course also packs in around 3,800m of climbing, about the same as the Fred Whitton Challenge. Just let that sink in. The Dirty Reiver is not a race, but there is a timed sector, sponsored by Lauf, who make suspension forks. The prize was a piece of its produce and an invitation to experience more discomfort at The Rift, a big gravel race in Iceland. Those forks are probably great, but not even a hovercraft would have been comfortable on the sector, which was by far the worst-surfaced and came after 180km, when most of the field had already been humbled by the distance, climbing and aggregate. Ten hours of being bounced off angular rocks… fancy it? Mick Kirkman Kielder is hard to reach and amenities are scarce, but there’s a campsite and plenty of welcoming guest houses within a half-hour drive of the start. Be prepared to sign up early though, 2020 registration is already sold out. The Dirty Reiver’s roads are open all year round, but on the day of the event, the organisation makes a point of taking you away from harvesting and industry going on at the time. I saw one moving vehicle all day, but just note that it might not be that way at other times of the year. Sam Dansie is a contributor to Cycling Plus magazine and a Northumberland native 119 miles / 191.5km Get the route Kielder Sven Thiele’s London to Brighton This largely flat route is one of the UK’s most popular. Michael Blann I first rode this whole route in October 2017 but it came together bit by bit over the previous year, just exploring trails, using maps and routing tools such as Komoot, realising there are paths here and bridleways there and connecting it all together. The final half of the route, the Downs Link, is well documented, but the challenging bit was connecting that with our start at Hampton Court and it took some trial and error to hook it up. The route below is an almost entirely flat route along towpaths, old railway line, a bit of singletrack and gravel roads, though we do a hilly route with another 800m of climbing that goes over the North Downs, rather than skirting around. On Easter weekend, when we last did the flat route, we had the most glorious weather, and the surface was bone dry. I’ve ridden it in decidedly damper conditions and the weather makes such a difference. There’s a section around Guildford through farmlands that gets very squishy in the wet and you need the most grippy tyres you can find. When it’s wet, bumps are shaped and when they dry out they’re like skiing moguls. Ride along towpaths, old railway lines and gravel roads. Michael Blann Given the nature of the ride you don’t see much in the way of cafes or pubs along the route, so take the opportunity to refuel at Stan’s Bike Shack in Horsham. It’s a point-to-point route, so unless your legs are feeling good and you fancy a ride back to London from Brighton, you’ll need to get the train. It’s a very popular service with cyclists heading back to London, so there’s no problem getting the bikes on the train (at non-peak times), even if there’s a bunch of you. I’ve often considered riding home but once you sit down on the sea front and enjoy a few beers the urge to ride back subsides exponentially! It’s just over 100km from Hampton Court, which I think equates to 160km on the road. It’s a different way of riding, and as well as the pain you get in your arms and neck, the concentration that riding on these trails demands takes it out of you. One day I’ll ride home. I love the route, it’s one I constantly come back to and it’s a great showcase for what we have in the British countryside. Sven Thiele is the founder of event organiser and cycling club HotChillee. These days, when he’s riding, he’s likely to be on his gravel bike 64.6 miles / 103.9km Get the route London to Brighton Andy Mccandlish’s Trossachs A picturesque viaduct supplying Glasgow’s water. Andy McCandlish Blessed with endless miles of forest and estate tracks threading their way through hills and glens, the Trossachs are a gravel paradise. It’s so good that the locals here built a gravel extravaganza around it, the Duke’s Weekender. Named after the formidable Duke’s Pass that rises high above the town, this gravel enduro has a meagre 2km of road across its entire 70km route. There’s much more besides that too, so you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to a gravel deep dive. This ride is based in Aberfoyle, 32km north of Glasgow in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. With cafes, shops, a great pub (Forth Inn) and plenty of parking, it’s a perfect starting point to kick-start your adventure. Take note of the facilities because this figure-of-eight ride passes back through the town at the halfway mark, allowing you to stock up on supplies before you embark on round two. The first half makes use of National Cycle Route 7 north as it winds up through magnificent, towering mature woodland on forest tracks, topping out after a stiff 250m climb at the summit of Duke’s Pass. Staying on forest tracks and keeping your eyes glued to the wonderful views over the Trossachs ahead, you drop past the brilliantly-named Loch Drunkie to Loch Venechar for yet more speedy gravel trails along the waterfront. This picturesque route takes you past several lochs. Andy McCandlish In fact, the only short section appears as part of the climb back over the Duke’s to Aberfoyle, and even that is a beautiful and scenic road in its own right. It’s here that you also pick up the trickiest section of singletrack in the route – a challenging trail from the old slate quarry back towards town. Narrow and occasionally rocky, it demands attention, so make sure that you’re ready for it. After a quick (or not so quick depending on your legs) feed in Aberfoyle, you take to the open tracks again heading south for the second half. Highlights include the ‘Alp Duchray’ switchback climb up to meet Glasgow’s water supply flowing through a picturesque viaduct and a punchy section of singletrack by Rob Roy’s Cave on the side of Loch Ard. Andy McCandlish is a freelance photographer and gravel enthusiast who’s a lucky man indeed to call the Trossachs home 43.9 miles / 70.6km Get the route Trossachs Deborah Goodall’s North York Moors A route that takes in a magnificent moor panorama. Mick Kirkman I’ve been mountain biking in north Yorkshire for over 20 years and the arrival of gravel bikes has taken me back to those early days. It’s good to have to use your skills again, because modern mountain bikes are skill compensators. It’s about exploration, too, just going anywhere, and that exploration has led to us setting up our own gravel event, Yorkshire True Grit. We want to show off how great the gravel riding is here. I think it’s the sheer variety as to why it’s so special. One minute you’re in forests, the next onto the moors and back again – you can be looking at a panorama stretching 96km, or at the tree in front of your face. True grit gravel: a showcase in varied landscape. Mick Kirkman The route I’ve shared below has elements of the Yorkshire True Grit course, but we can’t share the whole route because it’s pieced together with bits of private road that aren’t open at any other time of year. Land access in Yorkshire generally isn’t that good and we work really hard to convince landowners that we’re not going to cause any damage or that there’ll be issues with grousing birds. We’ve moved our event this year to Hutton-le-Hole so that we can show off the eastern side of the Moors, but our original plan A route got a big fat, ‘No!’ from landowners. So we cooked up plan B, which I’m actually happier with now. We’ll take riders up Newtondale and Cropton Forests, which are unique due to being on hillsides, so you have these amazing vistas. It’s amazing gravel country, with fun, fast descents and grind-it-out hills. There’s no single tough section, its difficulty is with the cumulative effect of all the climbing. We save some of the punchiest stuff for the end because we want to make it a real test – for you to show your true grit! Deborah Goodall co-created the Yorkshire True Grit gravel event, which this year has moved to Hutton-le-Hole 45.9 miles / 73.8km Get the route North York Moors Nick Craig’s Peak District Hone your mountain biking skills on this beautiful route. Mick Kirkman This Hayfield route is not what I’d call a beginner’s route. Then again, this is the Peak District – there aren’t that many of them here! Nevertheless, this route starts off nice and gently on the Pennine Bridleway, on a section of the path that’s a disused railway line that once connected Hayfield and Manchester. There are a couple of sections early on that you shouldn’t cycle on and my advice, generally, is that if you’re in doubt, get off and walk. After a ride on a canal towpath, we turn off and begin climbing into the high peaks, joining back onto the Pennine Bridleway. It slowly morphs from gentle gravel riding that anyone could do to a point where you really need to think about your bike and equipment – it’s wide, tubeless tyre and mountain bike shoe terrain. I don’t think it’s that challenging, but, hey, I have been riding it for 30 years. I would do it on my cyclocross bike before even mountain bikes existed, and we’d jump off and carry our bikes over any bits that they couldn’t handle. For a newcomer, though, it will be undoubtedly tough. The Peak’s magnificent heather moorland. Mick Kirkman Gravel bikes have made the job much easier though, the control you get with disc brakes and what bike gurus can do with modern carbon fibre works like magic. During the easier early sections, it’s best to get into the flow of gravel riding. Once the terrain gets trickier, into the Peaks, it requires more mountain biking techniques, standing up on the pedals with knees and arms slightly bent, letting your bike move around. You need that to get back down to the Pennine Bridleway into Hayfield. Once there, you’re not quite done, as you turn off up a cobbled climb towards Kinder Reservoir. It’s really quite steep at its lower part: 1:1 gearing is essential, so a 34t chainset with a 34t big rear cog. Once you’re over that you’re into typical Peak District heather moorland. On the way back down, try to avoid the sheep. There are lots of them and hitting one is to hit a brick wall. Nick Craig is a former British cyclocross champion who was riding gravel decades before the bike industry got around to inventing it 16.3 miles / 26.2km Get the route Peak District
In the third instalment of our Adventure Addicts series, we sharpen our gravel skills with a masterclass from former British Cyclocross champion Nick Craig to help #groadies make a smooth transition from tarmac to trail. Adventure Addicts part 1: Gravel riding explained Adventure Addicts part 2: How to have a gravel adventure To echo Liam Neeson’s character in Taken, gravel riding requires a particular set of skills. If you’ve come from the road, then a lot of habits need to be unlearned (or at least tailored) for gravel. Mark Bailey, road cyclist and gravel-guru-in-training, takes the plunge. Mark Bailey and Nick Craig gravel riding in the Peak District. Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media 1. Cornering on gravel With sharp turns on loose stone, your road technique – go in wide, clip the apex and exit wide – won’t always work, because the outer edges can be the roughest bits. “It is better to choose the smoothest line and keep a nice flowing motion around the bend,” says Nick. Trim your speed before you reach the corner and try standing up. “Separating your body from your bike allows you to move a little to the side during the bend which will help your balance.” Load up your outer pedal by driving your heel and foot downward to secure more grip from the tyre, but don’t try to lean the bike like a Moto GP rider on such an unstable surface. “Try to stay relaxed,” he adds. “A tight grip just makes you fight the turn and you want to let the bike move in a smooth arc. And remember that gravel bikes come fitted with extra weapons, so make the most of them: my bike has wide handlebars which flare out at 12 degrees, giving me extra control when I’m gripping the drops on corners.” 2. Cleats and shoes for gravel Once you’ve taken the plunge and bought your gravel bike, you might want to consider which cleat and shoe setup you use. When riding gravel, you’re more likely to put your foot down and get your cleats caked in mud. You’re also more likely to have to get off and walk certain parts of the route. “Unlike road shoes which use bigger three-bolt (SPD-SL) cleats, mountain bike shoes use smaller two-bolt (SPD) cleats which are hidden in the sole of the shoe so mud isn’t a problem,” explains Nick. “You’ll also find it easier to clip in as the recessed gap guides your cleats into the pedals.” Being able to walk around hazardous sections of trail is helpful on gravel adventures, but road shoes will leave you waddling like a penguin. “With their flat soles, mountain bike shoes allow you to walk normally,” says Nick. You’ll need SPD pedals to match, but these also pack extra benefits: “Road pedals are single-sided but SPD pedals are double-sided which makes it easier to clip in.” The next day Mark tried a pair of Scott MTB Comp Lace shoes and found walking, clipping in and standing hill starts much easier, as did strolling over to the bar in the hilltop pub. 2-bolt mountain bike cleats, with matching shoes and pedals are a good option for gravel because you’ll likely get them caked in mud. Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media 3. Gravel tyre setup There’s one other kit issue to get right: your tyre setup. “Gravel bikes tend to run tyres from 32mm to 48mm in width so you have more traction,” explains Nick. The Scott Addict Gravel 30 comes with 35mm tyres, which work well for wet-behind-the-ears gravel riders. Tyre tread is also worth thinking about: a smooth tyre will roll well on tarmac but lose grip on gravel, whereas a chunky tread will power along trails but slow you down on the road. Your most effective upgrade, however, is to switch from inner tubes to a more puncture-resistant tubeless setup. With tubeless tyres, there’s less chance of getting a pinch flat because there’s no inner tube to bite against the rim of the wheel. Plus, you can add liquid sealant into the tyre which will plug cuts from thorns and stones. “Tubeless tyres also offer better grip. A standard gravel tyre typically runs at 45–70psi — still much lower than the 90–120psi of road tyres — but a tubeless tyre can go as low as 30psi so it really hugs the ground.” Tyre tread is worth thinking about on your gravel bike setup. Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media 4. How to ride faster on gravel Road cyclists moving onto trails for the first time should focus on analysing the path ahead. While years spent looking out for potholes will help you here, off-road it’s more about tracing your ideal line rather than simply spotting what is just in front of your wheel. “Lift your head up, identify which lines appear safest, and follow the line you’ve drawn in your mind,” says Nick. The faster you’re moving, the further ahead you need to look. “Find the right speed for you.” “Go too slow (common for first-time gravel riders) and you’ll be picking your way around stones which your new knobbly tyres can easily ride over, so you’re not making the most of your bike. Go too quickly and you’ll lose control. So find a healthy speed where you can look ahead while maintaining your control.” Write ‘Head up’ on a sticker and tape it to your stem as a reminder. 5. Gravel climbing technique Sharp climbs — whether on slippery canal paths or unstable gravel tracks — can be daunting, but there are a few tricks to get you up there. “Build good momentum so you carry that into the climb,” advises Nick. “As you climb, keep your body weight and hips over the back of the bike to stop your back wheel slipping.” “This doesn’t feel natural for road cyclists, but sitting down on the climb will help you maintain traction, and that’s where your new 1:1 gear ratio will really help. If you can stay seated and still pedal smoothly, you’re in the right gear.” To climb over uneven surfaces on a gravel bike, roadies will have to fight the urge to stand up. Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media 6. Gravel descending technique Descending on gravel or steep slopes requires many of the same skills as on tarmac, but there are subtle differences between the two disciplines. Getting out of the saddle can help you stay in control on gravel. “You want to keep further back on the bike to maintain stability, not lean too far forwards, but standing up allows you to make lots of tiny shifts in balance to stay in control,” says Nick. Keep your knees and arms bent and your upper body and hips square for optimal balance. Your front brake should do the majority of the work but feather the back brake to stop your wheels sliding. “Keep your pedals level to avoid them scraping the ground and lift your head up to see what’s coming next,” adds Nick. Descending on a gravel bike means unlearning some roadie skills. Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media 7. Bike-handling skills for gravel Road cyclists are accustomed to sweeping bends and open roads but on narrow forest trails you need some slick bike-handling skills. If you have to weave left and right in quick succession, focus on your body position. “This is when road cyclists will benefit from getting out of the saddle,” advises Nick. “Standing up helps you to distribute your weight so you can move around the bike and get better balance.” For a series of tight turns, drop your heel on your outer leg and commit your weight onto your outer foot, so the pedal is slightly tilted to the ground. “That helps to expand your tyre slightly for extra grip and lets you lean into the turn,” says Nick. “On tight turns it is about using your body for balance. Move around the bike to counteract the changes of direction.” You need to use your body and weight distribution a lot more to navigate the uneven terrain of gravel riding. Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media 8. Hopping obstacles on the bike When you’ve perfected your new gravel skills, it’s time to progress onto a step-up, where you lift your bike over rocks and gullies. This skill involves a mental leap, as well as a physical one, because road cyclists don’t like to leave planet Earth — even momentarily — but it’s a useful technique. “The trick is to hover above or just behind your saddle, then, as you apply power to the pedals, lean your weight back and gently pull up with your arms to perform a small wheelie and lift your front wheel onto the rock,” says Nick. “From there, just transfer your weight forwards and gently lift the rear wheel using your hips to allow the back wheel to follow.” Armed with this skill, you’ll be less afraid of rocks, and you might even earn a nod of respect from mountain bikers. Mastering the wheelie will help you to hop large obstacles. Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media 9. The best gearing for gravel riding On gravel rides, gears become even more crucial than they are on both the road and in cyclocross races. “Gravel gearing is much higher than on a cyclocross bike, because the fastest you might race around a cross track is 25mph, whereas you want to race your gravel bike on tarmac too,” explains Nick. “But the gears are also a bit lower than on a road bike: some pros push a big 53t chainring but you don’t really need that absolute top limit when you’re spending more time on mixed surfaces.” Mark’s Scott Addict Gravel 30 has a 50/34t chainring and an 11-34 cassette, while Nick’s Scott Addict Gravel 10 has a single ring 40t with 10-42 at the back. Such a spread of gears is “ideal”, says Nick, “because you can go fast on the roads but you also have a 1:1 gear ratio for when you need it.” A 1:1 gear ratio means that for every one revolution of your cranks, your back wheel will fully rotate once. “With a 34 front chainring and a 34 rear cassette you have that perfect 1:1 ratio to keep you nice and balanced and in control when you have to slow down on steep slopes and unstable terrain.” Armed with the right ratio, it’s then all about choosing the right gear and cadence. Nick recommends 70–100rpm, depending on the terrain. “On gravel and stone trails, aim for a big gear and a slightly lower cadence which will give you momentum and control,” he suggests. “On slippery trails, sand or muddy climbs, you want a lower gear and a higher cadence.” 10. How to keep up momentum The big new challenge for roadies is dealing with the instability of loose stones. “Your instinct is to slow down, but your momentum is what will keep the bike driving forwards and prevent your tyres slipping,” says Nick. “Think like Ian Stannard at Paris-Roubaix, riding at speed in a big gear and powering over the surface. Keep the pedals turning and try not to get bogged down.” “You want a firm but loose grip on the top of the handlebars. Hold tight but allow enough flexibility so your hands go with the terrain and don’t try to fight it.” This will help prevent a “death grip” which will strain your hands and shoulders and leave you feeling fatigued. “Centre your body over the bike and keep your arms and elbows flexed so you flow over the terrain and use your body as your natural suspension system.” Road riders will find disc brakes more responsive than calipers and they also work better in the dirt. “On gravel, always brake really slowly — gently pulling your front brake, then feathering your back brake — to avoid wheel slips.” Remember to bed in your disc brakes before you hit the trails. To do this, find a descent where you can hit around 10–20mph and pull hard on the brakes, without fully locking the wheels. Doing this a few times will help to ‘marry’ the brake pads to the rotors so the grooves make a better connection and work more effectively.
Computer navigation is great, but a paper map gives you your bearings like nothing else Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Canal towpaths are one of the tamer strands to gravel riding in the UK Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Farm tracks are a feature of the British countryside which open up to you on gravel bikes Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Roadie Mark Bailey explores narrow towpaths, bumpy bridleways, muddy climbs and stony descents Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Shifting weight is key to manoeuvring your bike over uneven, rocky ground Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Gravel bikes allow you to explore more than roads Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Keep an eye on your map’s contours, otherwise this might happen Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Gravel riding will test your limits Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media In the second instalment of our Adventure Addicts series in association with Scott Sports, roadie Mark Bailey joins former British CX champion Nick Craig in his Peak District playground to learn the way of the gravel. Adventure Addicts part 1: Introduction to gravel riding Why road cyclists should try gravel riding Humans are creatures of habit, but can also thrive on change. With that in mind, I’m in the Peak District for an introduction into gravel riding, a trip designed to help me escape my usual road-riding routine and explore narrow towpaths, bumpy bridleways, muddy climbs and stony descents in pursuit of a wilder off-road experience. But, like all the best bike journeys, this one begins in a cosy kitchen, with an Ordnance Survey map spread across the table, a military-style debate over kit and the buzz of a new adventure. Roadie Mark Bailey explores narrow towpaths, bumpy bridleways, muddy climbs and stony descents Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media The kitchen belongs to Nick Craig, a former professional cyclist who lives in the old mill town of Hayfield, which sits just beneath the iconic gritstone cliffs of Kinder Scout. Having won three national cyclocross titles and four national mountain bike titles, he is the perfect guide to gravel riding. “Road cyclists will find gravel riding a lot of fun because gravel bikes open up a whole new world of interesting places to ride,” he insists. When I first read about gravel bikes – which combine race-ready road frames with thick tyres and disc brakes, liberating you to tackle tarmac and trails on the same bike – I was intrigued. As a road cyclist I love epic 100km rides and the thrill of speed, but I instinctively seek out scenic spots and quieter backroads. To fuse adrenaline with adventure – blasting along a road at 40km/h then darting off-road to explore some trails – sounds like something that I could quickly embrace. Canal towpaths are one of the tamer strands to gravel riding in the UK Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Scott Addict Gravel 30 I’m riding a Scott Addict Gravel 30. Its 35mm Schwalbe G-One Allround knobblies are a whole 12mm wider than my road tyres, and its confidence-boosting Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, should give me all the stopping power I’ll need. What’s more it has an adventure-ready 11-34 rear cassette, which, since the biggest sprocket on my road bike is a 28, feels huge in comparison. Scott Addict Gravel 10 review How to plan a gravel ride The bike may be ready, but I have no idea how to plan a gravel adventure, which is why Nick and his OS map are here to help. “As well as normal roads, you can ride on gravel trails, bridleways, mountain bike trails, disused railway lines and towpaths,” explains Nick, tracing our planned route with his finger. “You just connect them up to make your own route.” Whereas road cyclists are limited to riding the pink and orange road lines on an OS map, gravel bikes enable you to explore the dotted green and orange bridleways, footpaths and byways, as well as any trails running through the green and brown smudges of moorland, forests and mountains. You can also explore unsurfaced roads, Forestry Commission tracks and easier mountain bike trails, which are graded green or blue. New gravel riders can use route-planning tech such as Strava and Garmin Connect, which list many off-road trails, as well as the OS Maps app which includes aerial 3D imagery. The Komoot app harnesses the input of local riders to provide a detailed analysis of routes, elevations and profiles. “Komoot is great for off-road routes because it shows all the local trails which make gravel riding so much fun,” says Nick. “But I find it best to combine maps and websites to work out the best routes.” Computer navigation is great, but a paper map gives you your bearings like nothing else Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media What to take on your first gravel ride Before we head out, Nick talks me through the kit required for gravel riding. Road cyclists can wear all their usual clobber: with the thicker tyres, you don’t need extra padding in your bib-shorts, and you won’t ride anywhere which requires knee pads or a full-face helmet. You have to carry the usual back-up kit of tyre levers, inner tubes, tyre plugs, a multi-tool and some food and drink. In more remote terrain it’s best to also pack a compact chain tool, spare link (Shimano Speed Quick Link and SRAM Power Link both offer tool-free assembly) and repair patches. Mountain bike shoes and pedals, and a tubeless tyre setup, are the two major kit upgrades you can make and there’ll be more about this in next month’s instalment. Keep an eye on your map’s contours, otherwise this might happen Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Gravel riding in the Peak District When we start riding through the sun-drenched lanes of Hayfield, I immediately forget I’m riding a gravel bike. The geometry is almost identical to my road bike and the 35mm tyres, which feature tiny dimples, purr smoothly on the road. The bike feels racy and agile, just like a road bike. “I ride the same setup on the road and on trails,” says Nick. “But a newcomer might want to drop the saddle 5mm to feel more comfortable on the terrain.” Of course, you can always install a new-fangled electronic dropper seatpost so you can change your position while you ride. Without much warning, we suddenly veer off the road and onto the Sett Valley Trail. The scenic track follows a disused railway line and forms part of the Pennine Bridleway National Trail. The road cycling devil on my shoulder starts worrying about falls and punctures, while the gravel cycling angel on my other shoulder reminds me that my bike’s chunky tyres can handle it. “It can take a while for road cyclists to adapt their mindset,” says Nick. To prove the point, he darts off the track. Just when I think he’s about to plough into a tree trunk, he disappears onto a hidden trail and emerges back onto the main path a few seconds later. “When you get used to them, gravel bikes change your whole perspective,” he says. On a normal road ride, I stay alert for potholes and wet leaves but on a gravel bike I’m soon ploughing through puddles and bumping over stones. After a short time we reach the old cotton-spinning town of New Mills. Shifting weight is key to manoeuvring your bike over uneven, rocky ground Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media Gravel riding tips 1. Don’t venture too far I’d assumed we’d be out in the hills all day but Nick says for the best gravel experience it’s better to aim for variety. “It’s usually good to find places on the edges of towns and cities because that’s where you get all the interesting canal paths, bridleways and old railways, as well as the typical trails mountain bikers would follow. That’s when you’ll get the most out of a gravel bike and really see what it can do.” 2. Stay seated on steep climbs We take a sharp turn and emerge on a muddy uphill trail. I’m in too big a gear, which leaves my back wheel slipping. “Reading the route up ahead is important so you can prepare for what’s next,” advises Nick, who reminds me to stay seated on steep climbs to weigh down the back wheel. I try it and successfully wriggle up the slippery track. 3. Use your weight to stay in control The first major obstacle of the day looms into view: a steep-sided canal bridge. The thought of bombing down the other side, however, leaves me terrified. “Standing up over the saddle will allow you to use your body to counter the terrain,” advises Nick. It’s against all my road-cycling instincts to stand up on a descent, but those chunkier tyres make it possible. I keep my weight towards the back of the bike and feel much more agile and in control. “Think about how a cat walks gently on a roof, carefully adjusting its weight and balance,” says Nick. “Those subtle shifts are what you are aiming for.” 4. Keep a high cadence Having survived the steep ramp, I’m annoyed when a few moments later I tumble sideways on an innocuous muddy slope in a park. “A smooth and steady cadence is always best on unstable terrain so you don’t create excessive torque and cause wheel spin,” says Nick. 5. Use the momentum A key lesson I’ve learned from watching Nick all day is the importance of momentum. As a road cyclist, I instinctively get nervous at the sight of any hazard up ahead and I’m quick to brake or swerve. “On gravel, speed is usually your friend,” says Nick. “When your wheels are rolling you have better traction and grip.” When we encounter our first gravel section, I toy with different speeds: as soon as I slow down I start sinking into the stones, whereas at speed the bike dances over the gravel. 6. Work on your core We swing onto a stony path to climb the ominously-named Mount Famine. I watch, fascinated, as Nick makes countless micro-adjustments as he rides up the trail, picking his way around boulders to find the smoothest path. The wider handlebars of a gravel bike make this much easier, but a few planks and sit-ups at home would really help because your core muscles get taxed much more out on the trails than on the road. 7. Choose your kit well As my saddle bag bounces around chaotically, Nick points out some of his own Syncros gadgets: a bottle cage with an integrated multitool slot and a saddle bag which screws directly into the saddle, which both serve to keep you light and well balanced on the trails. From the top of Mount Famine we enjoy sweeping views of the moorland terrain, which is neatly carved up by stone walls into a vast patchwork quilt of browns and greens. I realise once again how thick the silence is up here, far removed from the traffic down below. 8. Know your limits A few mountain bikers pass by and say there are some crazy descents we could try nearby. But it’s important to know your limits. Unlike them, I’m not on a chunky downhill bike with full suspension. “When you are planning your route, keep an eye on the contour lines to make sure it’s not too steep,” advises Nick. “There are usually different ways to get down a mountain. But you can always get off and walk for a section if you need to.” 9. Descend with confidence I knew the long and bumpy descent into Hayfield would be the hardest part of the day and it doesn’t disappoint. As a road cyclist, the sight of small rocks and loose stones has all my synapses blinking on red alert. Nick gives me a few pointers: keep your head up to help identify the smoothest route down, and try not to go so slow that you lose your balance – easily done if you are feeling nervous. I successfully trundle down the stony path but when I reach a section of thick mud I unclip and walk. 10. Enjoy the versatility We emerge onto a main road and I realise how peaceful our ride has been so far. After the tranquillity of the trails and canal paths, riding next to cars feels strange, although it’s nice to see how easily these versatile bikes switch from grinding over gravel to slicing along tarmac again. Gravel riding will test your limits Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media What you’ll learn from gravel riding Gravel biking is about testing – but also recognising – your limits. And being able to connect different trails by walking a few segments is what liberates you to reach places you wouldn’t otherwise visit. When we arrive back in Hayfield for some toasted teacakes at Millie’s Tea Rooms, I am amazed to hear that we have only cycled around 25km, despite being out on the trails for hours. But in that short loop we’ve enjoyed a kaleidoscope of rugged peaks, dazzling green valleys, peaceful canal paths, adrenaline soaked gravel dashes, muddy falls, and lots of spontaneous debates over which path to take next. Planning your route is crucial, but making impromptu decisions along the way is all part of the fun. Gravel cycling is one activity where to say “get lost” is an invitation, not an insult. This article was produced in association with Scott Sports. Navigation and mapping assistance courtesy of Komoot.
There are plenty of gravel paths to enjoy if you know where to look Scott Sports Gravel riding started in the US with fire roads bridging the gap between other disciplines Kramon Scott / Scott Sports Despite sharing similarities with cyclocross bikes, gravel bikes offer more comfort Kramon Scott / Scott Sports Gravel enthusiasts will say that loose rocks, sand and roots are all part of the adventure Jochen Haar / Scott Sports The rise of the gravel-specific bike helped the discipline become a firm fixture Kramon Scott / Scott Sports Gravel bikes are versatile and can take on all kinds of terrain Jochen Haar / Scott Sports In the first of a new six-part gravel and adventure series in association with Scott Sports, we look at how gravel riding became a fixture of the cycling community, speak to the people leading the charge, and show why you should give it a go. Gravel bike vs hardtail vs CX bike at Grinduro Scotland What’s faster for gravel? Volume vs grip Where did gravel riding come from? Gravel riding started in the US with fire roads bridging the gap between other disciplines Kramon Scott / Scott Sports Gravel riding began in the US where long, remote stretches of fire road bridged the gap between the worlds of road, mountain biking and cyclocross. The more remote and technical terrain allows riders to hone their passion for racing, exploration and adventure. It’s a change from the usual focus on speed and science for some, and a respite from the roads for others. Many started out on modified road, cyclocross and mountain bikes, until the bike industry took note of the boom and began creating gravel-specific models, helping gravel to gain a foothold as a new global discipline. Rides no longer ended when the roads did, because gravel bikes were built to withstand some rather ferocious terrain. For Max Burgess, who organises ‘gravelventures’ with his clothing and travel company Podia.cc in his adopted home of Poland, and elsewhere in eastern Europe, “it’s about freedom – that sense of adventure that comes with being able to go anywhere.” Where can I ride gravel? There are plenty of gravel paths to enjoy if you know where to look Scott Sports The US is perfect for gravel riding, with a third of its 4.1million-mile road network being unpaved, but you can find genuine gravel experiences anywhere if you know where to look. In the UK, you have to dig deeper and work harder to find them, stitching together bits of road, bridleway, towpath and non-technical mountain bike trails. But what the UK lacks in unpaved roads, it makes up for with potholes. So a gravel bike, with a chunky rubber set-up, might actually be a better bet than a dedicated road bike. In truth, we’ve been enjoying gravel-riding adventures in the UK for more than a century, which makes the current trend something of a throwback – only now with a trendy name and state-of-the-art bikes that are up to the job. Do I need a gravel bike? Gravel bikes are versatile and can take on all kinds of terrain Jochen Haar / Scott Sports Yes and no. Gravel bikes are niche. They’re not as equipped for tarmac as a road bike, nor for the dirt as a mountain bike. They’re the ultimate n+1 bike. On the other hand, the gravel bike is versatile, and it might be the only machine you ever need. If you’re not a road racer then a gravel bike, with a narrower tyre width, can handle any sportive or road ride with your club, with added comfort. Likewise, if you’re not a dedicated mountain biker and just fancy adding some adventure to your rides, some thicker rubber will do the job off-road. Sven Thiele, founder of cycling events company HotChillee, has seen a rise in this approach. “What I see emerging is people getting one nice frame, and two sets of wheels and tyres – a narrow, slick tyre for the road and some 38-42mm for gravel,” he says. “I started as a road rider but I’d say 85 percent of my riding is now done on a gravel bike. The beauty is that you’ll be riding somewhere and think ‘let’s just see what’s down there,’ and it gives you the chance to do that. I’ve ridden a 204km team time-trial on the road on my gravel bike – I just took the knobblies off and put the slicks on.” Is a gravel bike the same as a cyclocross bike? Despite sharing similarities with ‘cross bikes, gravel bikes offer more comfort Kramon Scott / Scott Sports Gravel bikes and cyclocross bikes do have a lot in common, but there are crucial differences as well. Cyclocross is a sport, so the bikes are designed for racing. That means a lower, more aggressive riding position, sharper steering, and higher gearing. The geometry is less endurance-focused, so most organised gravel events would prove uncomfortable. The tyre clearances aren’t as generous, since the UCI has a 33mm maximum rule for competition, and you’re less likely to have mounts for mudguards and racks. Since gravel bikes aren’t restricted to racing, a lot of these needs are met. Do I need a gravel bike if I have a hardtail mountain bike? Gravel enthusiasts will say that loose rocks, sand and roots are all part of the adventure Jochen Haar / Scott Sports It’s true that a mountain bike with front suspension is going to be more comfortable on unpaved roads, but hardtails aren’t as versatile as gravel bikes. If you’re taking on paved roads between unpaved stretches, you’re going to feel the lag on the hardtail, whereas the gravel bike will feel much more efficient. Plus gravel enthusiasts will tell you that what you come up against off road — loose rocks, sand, water or roots — is all part of the adventure. Burgess embraces that uncertainty: “with a 100km gravel ride you’re going to get a mixture of gravel, tarmac and some sections where you get off and push, and I don’t think such distances are possible on a hardtail.” For Deborah Goodall, one of the organisers of the Yorkshire True Grit event in the North York Moors, gravel riding takes her back to the early days of riding her rigid mountain bike. “If I went out on the same tracks and paths on my current mountain bike it wouldn’t excite me because the bikes handle it too easily,” she says. “But with a drop-bar gravel bike, you get to the bottom of a descent, look back and think ‘I can’t believe I’ve just got down that’. Maybe it just makes me feel younger!” What equipment do I need for a gravel event? The rise of the gravel-specific bike helped the discipline become a firm fixture Kramon Scott / Scott Sports Tubeless tyres are a must, since you’re likely to be prone to pinch flats off road. In fact, tyre choice is even more important for gravel riding than road, and you should always research your route to make sure it’s rideable. Tyre widths can vary from 32–50mm with varying degrees of tread. Carry tools and spares, including chain tools and links – heading away from civilisation has its perks, but it’ll bite you on the bum if you’re ill-equipped for a mechanical. Burgess is a fan of Tubolito inner tubes for when his tubeless setup fails – the bright orange tubes can save around 100g on standard tubes and take up half the space, while being stronger to boot. Having a route planned on a GPS device is invaluable. Apps such as Komoot are helpful because they make suggestions based on its users’ experience, meaning you can build a ride around the best gravel sections, climbs and coffee stops. Burgess uses Komoot to plan his gravelventures: “you can choose gravel-specific routes, and I like the way it breaks each route down into different surfaces so you know what you’re looking at.” Of course, nothing stops you combining the GPS with the ever-useful paper map when it comes to long trips in the wilderness. Start with an event There’s an increasingly impressive mix of races and audax-style, time-limited endurance events these days, so you’re spoilt for choice. UK gravel events 2019 Here are some of our hot picks of UK-based gravel events this year. Surly Dorset Gravel Dash 25–26 May Swanage, Dorset 100 miles Find out more about the Surly Dorset Gravel Dash Yorkshire True Grit 21–23 June North York Moors Multi-distance Find out more about Yorkshire True Grit Gritfest 22–23 June Cambrian mountains, mid-Wales 130km Find out more about Gritfest Grinduro Scotland 13 July Isle of Arran 85km Find out more about Grinduro North America gravel events 2019 Here are some of our hot picks of US and Canada-based gravel events this year. Dirty Kanza 1 June Emporia, KS 563km Find out more about Dirty Kanza Dirty Alta 20 July Canmore, Canada 196km Find out more about Dirty Alta Hell of the North Texas 21 July Paris, TX Up to 260km Find out more about Hell of the North Texas Middle Creek Gravel Grinder 11 August Stevens, PA Up to 82km Find out more about Middle Creek Gravel Grinder Ochoco Gravel Roubaix 24 August Prineville, OR Up to 193km Find out more about Ochoco Gravel Roubaix Gravel events elsewhere For some great events outside of the UK, be sure to check out Thiele’s HotChillee, which hosts gravel events in South Africa and Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, as well as monthly rides in the UK. Over the next five parts in this series, we’ll be delving into the world of gravel and adventure cycling, showing you where to ride, the technique and skills involved, and finding out more about event experiences and bikepacking. This article was produced in association with Scott Sports. Navigation and mapping assistance courtesy of Komoot.
and to faciliate a single way to get the caption from --> There are plenty of gravel paths to enjoy if you know where to look Scott Sports and to faciliate a single way to get the caption from --> Gravel riding started in the US with fire roads bridging the gap between other disciplines Kramon Scott / Scott Sports and to faciliate a single way to get the caption from --> Despite sharing similarities with ‘cross bikes, gravel bikes offer more comfort Kramon Scott / Scott Sports and to faciliate a single way to get the caption from --> Gravel enthusiasts will say that loose rocks, sand and roots are all part of the adventure Jochen Haar / Scott Sports and to faciliate a single way to get the caption from --> The rise of the gravel-specific bike helped the discipline become a firm fixture Kramon Scott / Scott Sports and to faciliate a single way to get the caption from --> Gravel bikes are versatile and can take on all kinds of terrain Jochen Haar / Scott Sports In the first of a new six-part gravel and adventure series in association with Scott Sports, we look at how gravel riding became a fixture of the cycling community, speak to the people leading the charge, and show why you should give it a go. Gravel bike vs hardtail vs CX bike at Grinduro Scotland What’s faster for gravel? Volume vs grip Where did gravel riding come from? Gravel riding started in the US with fire roads bridging the gap between other disciplines Kramon Scott / Scott Sports Gravel riding began in the US where long, remote stretches of fire road bridged the gap between the worlds of road, MTB and cyclocross. The more remote and technical terrain allows riders to hone their passion for racing, exploration and adventure. It’s a change from the usual focus on speed and science for some, and a respite from the roads for others. Many started out on modified road, ‘cross and mountain bikes, until the bike industry took note of the boom and began creating gravel-specific models, helping gravel to gain a foothold as a new global discipline. Rides no longer ended when the roads did, because gravel bikes were built to withstand some rather ferocious terrain. For Max Burgess, “it’s about freedom – that sense of adventure that comes with being able to go anywhere.” With his clothing and travel company Podia.cc, he organises ‘gravelventures’ in his adopted home of Poland, and elsewhere in eastern Europe. Where can I ride gravel? There are plenty of gravel paths to enjoy if you know where to look Scott Sports The US is perfect for gravel riding, with a third of its 4.1million-mile road network being unpaved, but you can find genuine gravel experiences anywhere if you know where to look. Here in the UK, you have to dig deeper and work harder to find them, stitching together bits of road, bridleway, towpath and non-technical mountain bike trails. But what we lack in unpaved roads, we make up for with potholes. So a gravel bike, with a chunky rubber set-up, might actually be a better bet than a dedicated road bike. In truth, we’ve been enjoying gravel-riding adventures in the UK for more than a century, which makes the current trend something of a throwback – only now with a trendy name and state-of-the-art bikes that are up to the job. Do I need a gravel bike? Gravel bikes are versatile and can take on all kinds of terrain Jochen Haar / Scott Sports Yes and no. Gravel bikes are niche. They’re not as equipped for tarmac as a road bike, nor for the dirt as a mountain bike. They’re the ultimate n+1 bike. On the other hand, the gravel bike is versatile, and it might be the only machine you ever need. If you’re not a road racer then a gravel bike, with a narrower tyre width, can handle any sportive or road ride with your club, with added comfort. Likewise, if you’re not a dedicated mountain biker and just fancy adding some adventure to your rides, some thicker rubber will do the job off-road. HotChillee founder Sven Thiele has seen a rise in this approach. “What I see emerging is people getting one nice frame, and two sets of wheels and tyres – a narrow, slick tyre for the road and some 38-42mm for gravel,” he says. “I started as a road rider but I’d say 85 percent of my riding is now done on a gravel bike. The beauty is that you’ll be riding somewhere and think ‘let’s just see what’s down there,’ and it gives you the chance to do that. I’ve ridden a 204km team time trial on the road on my gravel bike – I just took the knobblies off and put the slicks on.” Is a gravel bike the same as a cyclocross bike? Despite sharing similarities with ‘cross bikes, gravel bikes offer more comfort Kramon Scott / Scott Sports Gravel bikes and cyclocross bikes do have a lot in common, but there are crucial differences as well. Cyclocross is a sport, so the bikes are designed for racing. That means a lower, more aggressive riding position, sharper steering, and higher gearing. The geometry is less endurance-focused, so most organised gravel events would prove uncomfortable. The tyre clearances aren’t as generous, since the UCI has a 33mm maximum rule for competition, and you’re less likely to have mounts for mudguards and racks. Since gravel bikes aren’t restricted to racing, a lot of these needs are met. Do I need a gravel bike if I have a hardtail mountain bike? Gravel enthusiasts will say that loose rocks, sand and roots are all part of the adventure Jochen Haar / Scott Sports It’s true that a mountain bike with front suspension is going to be more comfortable on unpaved roads, but hardtails aren’t as versatile as gravel bikes. If you’re taking on paved roads between unpaved stretches, you’re going to feel the lag on the hardtail, whereas the gravel bike will feel much more efficient. Plus gravel enthusiasts will tell you that what you come up against off road — loose rocks, sand, water or roots — is all part of the adventure. Burgess embraces that uncertainty: “with a 100km gravel ride you’re going to get a mixture of gravel, tarmac and some sections where you get off and push, and I don’t think such distances are possible on a hardtail.” For Deborah Goodall, one of the organisers of the Yorkshire True Grit event in the North York Moors, gravel riding takes her back to the early days of riding her rigid mountain bike. “If I went out on the same tracks and paths on my current mountain bike it wouldn’t excite me because the bikes handle it too easily,” she says. “But with a drop-bar gravel bike, you get to the bottom of a descent, look back and think ‘I can’t believe I’ve just got down that’. Maybe it just makes me feel younger!” What equipment do I need for a gravel event? The rise of the gravel-specific bike helped the discipline become a firm fixture Kramon Scott / Scott Sports Tubeless tyres are a must, since you’re likely to be prone to pinch flats off road. In fact, tyre choice is even more important for gravel riding than road, and you should always research your route to make sure it’s rideable. Tyre widths can vary from 32–50mm with varying degrees of tread. Carry tools and spares, including chain tools and links – heading away from civilisation has its perks, but it’ll bite you on the bum if you’re ill-equipped for a mechanical. Burgess is a fan of Tubolito inner tubes for when his tubeless setup fails – the bright orange tubes can save around 100g on standard tubes and take up half the space, while being stronger to boot. Having a route planned on a GPS device is invaluable. Apps like Komoot are helpful because they make suggestions based on their users’ experience, meaning you can build a ride around the best gravel sections, climbs and coffee stops. Burgess uses Komoot to plan his gravelventures: “you can choose gravel-specific routes, and I like the way it breaks each route down into different surfaces so you know what you’re looking at.” Of course, nothing stops you combining the GPS with the ever-useful paper map when it comes to long trips in the wilderness. Start with an event There’s an increasingly impressive mix of races and audax-style, time-limited endurance events these days, so you’re spoilt for choice. Here are some of our hot picks of UK-based gravel events this year. Surly Dorset Gravel Dash 25–26 May Swanage, Dorset 100 miles Find out more about the Surly Dorset Gravel Dash Yorkshire True Grit 21–23 June North York Moors Multi-distance Find out more about Yorkshire True Grit Gritfest 22–23 June Cambrian mountains, mid-Wales 130km Find out more about Gritfest Grinduro Scotland 13 July Isle of Arran 85km Find out more about Grinduro For some great events outside of the UK, be sure to check out Thiele’s HotChillee, which hosts gravel events in South Africa and Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, as well as monthly rides in the UK. Over the next five parts in this series, we’ll be delving into the world of gravel and adventure cycling, showing you where to ride, the technique and skills involved, and finding out more about event experiences and bikepacking. This article was produced in association with Scott Sports. Navigation and mapping assistance courtesy of Komoot.
Improving a great performance is a difficult, but not impossible, task. We affirm this by aiming higher – writing the latest chapter in the legend of Oiz. It’s been 12 years since the first Oiz was conceived – a full-suspension XC platform giving performance addicts the fastest, lightest and most technologically advanced bicycle possible. A […] The post Orbea Updates Oiz Cross-Country Bike appeared first on Mountain Bike Action Magazine.