Do you know that sound of your tires rolling over a dirt road? Can you hear it now, that gentle, steady crunch of rocks pressing in and around smaller rocks and sand beneath your tires as you roll on for miles? It becomes a nice, calming white noise allowing your mind to travel far beyond the miles passing you by, sending you off into a land that is completely your own. You are free to be who you are. You are free to meditate and clear your mind, or you are free and inspired to solve all of you life’s problems in one bike ride. You are on an adventure and making new memories.
My favorite experience riding on gravel is that of several people riding along in silence. All you hear is that delightful sound of gravel crunching beneath you, the occasional ping of a rock ricocheting off your tire and cutting through the tall grass in the ditch. Better yet: the ping quickly followed by a metallic crack from the rock colliding with the rider’s bike next to you. Or better even still: that ping followed by your riding neighbor’s cry of pain from the rock nicking them in the shin, also followed by laughter from all. All you feel is freedom and joy (and a little shock, if you happen to own the shin that just took a beating.).
Then you find yourself at mile 60. Your saddle starts showing your butt who’s boss. Your hands start going numb and nearly fall off your handlebars from all the vibration. That peaceful dream land starts to slip away…
“So, what DO I need to make my first gavel ride more comfortable?”
Well, a bike that fits you is an ideal place to start, but I think the accessories really make a big difference in your ride.
Tires: Get some nice, wide tires installed on your bike. The wider tires allow for a lower air pressure required in the tire. The softer pressure makes for a softer ride over all those rocks. It makes a nice difference if you’ve got some gravel-friendly tread on them as well. Take a look at Panaracer’s Gravelking tire (yes, it’s in stock at County Cycles!). It offers some light tread to help you grip the dirt as you roll while also aiding in flat protection.
Gel Under Bar Tape: They make strips of gel you can stick on your handle bars and wrap regular tape around them. It works great and it is easily customizable to your extra padding needs, plus, you can use any bar tape over it, so you don’t need to compromise your color scheme! We have a couple options in the store, some more squishy than others. Come in and feel for yourself! There are several types of bar tape out there that are nice and thick as well. My favorite is Fizik’s 3mm Performance bar tape. Not only is it thick and squishy everywhere, but it is also a soft, faux-leather feel that is nicely grippy. You don’t need to worry about your hands slipping when you start sweating. We have it here in black. A nice, classy black.
Shorts: Riding shorts are an obvious one, but I cannot stress enough how useful these are. Even if you have a saddle that fits you well, adding a pad under your butt helps a lot. We talked about butts back in February, so you know how important a good saddle is. Unlike a super squishy saddle, shorts can offer you padding in all the right places without getting too chunky where it doesn’t need to be. Shorts will hold padding close to your body. It is also flexible and stretchable so it will move with your body instead of blocking movement or causing chaffing. You can explore all the styles we have in the store and take a look at the different types of padding offered in them. There are baggies, regular shorts, and bibs for both men and women specific bodies. Ladies, don’t let those bibs scare you! They are designed to make your bathroom needs easily manageable. We have several options for you to explore in the store. Every body is different, so come try some on and find what’s right for you!
All this is a place to begin your gravel adventures. After you ride a few routes, you’ll discover what other needs or wants you have. If you are an experienced gravel rider and want to add to your ride or change your experience, we have plenty more here to help with that. You know where to find us!
Ride on, my friends!