7 key factors to gravel riding success

Gravel biking is an exhilarating adventure that takes you off-road and sometimes into uncharted territory. These adventure rides can have you out there in the saddle for hours on end. Many riders pack their bike with all sorts of bags full of essentials to keep the adventure going all day and into the night. Because of the long, epic days spent on gravel bikes, we often ask ourselves, here at Gulo, how can we make gravel riding more comfortable? Here is a shortlist of ways to make your next gravel ride a little less of a grind.

Position and Bike Fit

It’s always a good idea before any adventure makes sure you have the right bike set up. Having a relaxed fit and good position is key to being comfortable on your gravel bike. A neutral position with elbows bent allows your body to absorb the road vibrations more efficiently. A raised handlebar position from your typical road bike setup will give you more comfort for long rides on gravel and dirt.

Tires for Gravel

Choosing the right tire is at the top of the list when getting ready for your next adventure and to making your gravel biking more comfortable. Depending on the terrain and length of ride, you may want to pick a more aggressive tire, 40mm or more, to help take the edge off the bumpy road. Typically the larger the tire you use and the lower air pressure you can ride with will give you a more supple, softer ride. Inner rim width also plays a role. The wider rim you go with, the more air volume you achieve. More air means more comfort.

Wheels

Your wheel choice will play a large part in how much gravel/dirt vibrations get transmitted to your body. On top of tire pressure and tire size, picking the right wheels can make all the difference on an all-day gravel ride. The G1 Composite spoke, exclusive to the Gulo wheel system, offers unrivaled vibration dampening and also helps increase traction on the loose roads you may encounter. Carbon Fiber rims also help reduce vibrations and keep the rotational weight to a minimum. A typical aluminum wheel with steel spokes tends to transmit a large amount of road vibration to your bars and saddle.

gulo wheels

Handlebars

Another area that can help soften the rugged gravel roads is your bars. Double wrapping your bars can give added relief where you need it most, in your hands and arms. Adding gel inserts under your bar tape is an option too. Common on gravel bikes is the ‘flared’ drop bar. These bars allow for a wider grip on the bars giving you more control and handling on long descents and making for a more comfy ride.

 There are many variations of the degree of flare, so it’s best to visit your local bike shop and determine how much flare is right for you.

flared gravel bike handle bars

Brakes

Disc brakes are the norm these days, but our advice is to stick to hydraulics. These brakes typically have more power with less force needed to pull the brakes, and on descending long gravel roads, hydraulics are the more enjoyable way to go. The downside to hydraulics is if you do have a mechanic issue with the hydraulic brake line, it’s tough to fix on the road. While mechanic(cable) disc brakes aren’t as powerful or as smooth, they are still worthy of consideration if your two-wheel adventure takes you far from town.

Disc brakes are the norm these days, but our advice is to stick to hydraulics. These brakes typically have more power with less force needed to pull the brakes, and on descending long gravel roads, hydraulics are the more enjoyable way to go. The downside to hydraulics is if you do have a mechanic issue with the hydraulic brake line, it’s tough to fix on the road. While mechanic(cable) disc brakes aren’t as powerful or as smooth, they are still worthy of consideration if your two-wheel adventure takes you far from town.

Gearing

Setting up your bike with the proper gear ratio will be a key element to being comfortable when riding over various terrain. Some gravel adventures require a more broad gear range to tackle the steep inclines. A 10/42 cassette with a 38 or 40 tooth front chainring for 1x setups is a great start. If you run a 2x chainring setup, a good combination is 34/46 tooth chainrings. This combo will give you a little more room for a smaller cassette range since you have the option of either front chainrings. Fitness level is also something to keep in mind, as the bigger the gear you decide to use, the more of a grind it will be when the road turns upwards.

gears on a mountain bike

Best shoes for
adventure riding

When adventure riding on your gravel bike, it’s a good idea to go with MTB shoes or shoes with treads on the bottom around the cleat. Road shoes typically don’t have the rubber on the bottom of the shoe, making it very clunky for hiking with your bike or hopping off at the mid-ride store stop. Shoes are one of those small things that can impact your ride and can really help in making your gravel biking more comfortable.

At Gulo Composites, our goal is to create the best riding bike wheels on the market. And we think the best riding wheels are the kind that keeps you riding all day long. We back our wheels with a lifetime warranty and take pride in our customer service. Our G1 Carbon Spokes create a ride quality second to none. Reach out to us today at info@gulocomposites.com to inquire about our Gulo Integrated System.

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