Gravel racing has been booming in popularity in recent years, but really, it’s the kind of riding that Peter has always loved as a mountain biker, and that Molly has reluctantly embraced as a (former) cyclocross racer. Over the years, we’ve figured out some good gear options, and we wanted to share a few favorites!
The Snacks – Bring different options
We all love snacks… In fact, whether we’re eating to ride or riding to eat is often the question. Peter has been liking these Gluten-Free Waffles lately, while Molly has been finishing off pre-packaged crepes she brought home from Spain. But we always have a few emergency gels (like these Tastefully Nude ones from Gu). A frozen Snickers bar tucked into your bar bag at the start of the ride will be great a few hours in. And if you’re out all day at a casual pace, consider going with more real food savory options like roast potatoes with salt and pepper wrapped in foil!
The Bike – Trek CheckPoint
Peter is biased but this is the best bike he has ridden. With tubeless tires, wide rims, electronic 1x drivetrain and the bump-smoothing ‘Iso-Speed Decoupler’ it has the makings of everything a good do-it-all bike needs. When looking for a gravel bike, think about your priorities: Do you want comfort or speed, or a mix of the two? What do you consider ‘grave’? (For Peter, gravel can include stuff that looks an awful lot like super technical singletrack…). Do you want to race cyclocross or do you want to bikepack in addition to just riding gravel? Do your homework before investing in a bike! (And if you’re not super tech-inclined, talk through with a bike shop what gearing you want, and whether electronic shifting makes sense for you.)
The Water – A lot of it + a plan
Watch Your WATER – If you plan to get way out there or minimize support. Water tablets might be wise as a backup just in case you end up filling from a hose or spring or sketchy bathroom taps (they are iodine tablets usually so relatively low risk for short term use and effective). We each use two big bottles plus a hydration pack for days when we know we’ll be out for at least three hours since that can easily end up doubling on a gravel adventure. For hot days, consider filling your hydration pack halfway and freezing it the night before, then fill it up the rest of the way in the morning (just make sure you don’t freeze the water where it will get stuck in the hose!). The same applies to bottles: Freeze half of your water, so it chills the rest and gradually melts.
- These are the filter tab ones I have used in running FKTs
- I also have this bottle that filters most ‘bad stuff’ out
- I carry it in my ‘Camelbak chase vest‘ (which is sweet too! )
- When filtering water or in general, Molly almost always adds a nuun tab for electrolytes and because it helps get rid of iodine or any other gross taste in filtered water!
The Handlebar Bag
The Road Runner Burrito Handlebar Bag is a game-changer. We were both pretty ‘meh’ on bar bags a couple years ago, but after seeing one too many pictures of myself (Molly) with bulging jersey pockets, I realized I really needed more storage for spare everything. That’s been great as a coach, but also as a gravel rider when there aren’t places to stop all day and you need tons of space for snacks. These awesome bags are made in the US and are much more roadie-y than bikepacker-y.. meaning they don’t look out of place on a gravel bike, and don’t feel like overkill.
I won’t belabor this point because we listed a bunch of our favorite options last week here, but when you’re putting in big days on the bike, sunscreen likely will wear off before your legs wear out.
Again, I’ve written a book on it, but seriously, gravel is SO MUCH BUMPIER than road, so expect to need a bit of extra friction fighting. We really like the consistency of classic Chamois Butt’r — keep things simple and don’t overthink this.