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What Is A Gravel Grinder? How To Train & Prepare For A Gravel Grinder Race?

What Is A Gravel Grinder? How To Train & Prepare For A Gravel Grinder Race?

If you are fond of biking, you don’t necessarily need to stick to the same routine over and over again. Sometimes you can try doing things differently to make your rides adventurous and fun. In this case, you can take a break from the traffic and engage in gavel grinder racing.

Gravel grinder racing has become common among many biking enthusiasts because it combines off-road adventures and endurance challenges. You don’t need any investment to engage in a gravel grinder race since you can use what you already have.

I prepared this guide to give you some tips on training and preparing for a gravel grinder race. Let’s get into it!

Read: Should I Buy A Gravel Bike? 5 Reasons You Should Buy A Gravel Bike!

What Is A Gravel Grinder

For beginners, you might not be conversant with a gravel grinder. This is essentially a race that involves various surfaces like dirt, single track, gravel, and asphalt. This biking niche is gaining popularity recently, and there are so many events you can pick.

The riding distance can range from 50- 150+ miles, and the routes can involve rough, rocky, or dirt roads. Luckily, you don’t require a custom-made bike to engage in a gravel grinder race. You can experience joyful moments by simply making some adjustments on your current bike. 

How To Train For A Gravel Grinder Race

Gravel grander races involve staying on your bike for many hours. It is great to train and prepare in advance to get the most from this activity. Training for a gravel grinder race is similar to training for mountain bike, endurance, or road bike events. However, there are a few different things you need to know.

Endurance:

Building endurance will be essential if you are not certain whether you will cover the chosen event's particular distance. You have to train hard and cover longer rides gradually. On top of that, you should also know that you need to drink and eat the right food regularly to build a greater ability for longer rides.

In your training plan, include progressively longer rides to help you improve aerobic fitness and build endurance. You want to have enough endurance to complete these races because they are fun.

Uphill And Downhill Training:

Riding uphill can be quite challenging, especially if you are riding off-road on different terrain gradients. Your riding technique will determine the distance you can ride uphill, so it is great to choose the right pace.

One technique I would recommend you to try when training how to ride uphill is to engage in difficult riding than the actual race. You can do your training using an indoor trainer or off-road, depending on your liking. Engaging in that interval training will help you become fit and ride faster.

Cycling downhill is fun, but it can also be daunting for the first time. You need to get the right technique and practice more to improve your downhill riding skills. Training more will also help you save more energy when going downhill.

Saddle Time:

You need to prepare well since you will spend most of the time on your saddle. You should also understand that rising off-road is not similar to riding on road, even if you cover the same distance. This is because the course difficulty varies.

It is right to train on the time compared to the distance. You can take two hours to ride on the road and more than 3 hours when riding off-road. Luckily, it is easy to train the saddle time on any road type and gradually build your target. If your event takes place in six weeks, you can spend 2-3 hours riding on your first weekend.

Before the event, do research and find out how the course looks like. It will help you prepare a will to handle even the most challenging rides.

Bike Handling:

You expect the courses in gravel grinder events to be technically challenging. The best way to improve your bike handling abilities is to practice on local gravel roads. You can train and see how your bike reacts to gravel, and you should not have the vent pressure when training. Alternatively, you can train on mountain bike trails that work well with your bike.

Speed:

If you can handle long rides comfortably, it is also great to work on your speed. After training on endurance, strength, and climbing power, you can spare some weeks to train your speed.

In this case, you can incorporate long climbs and sprints in your ride compared to endurance pace.

Include shorter and maximum sprints of about a minute and a longer threshold for about 5-15 minutes. Using a stationary bike can be beneficial. You also want to include specific components of the race. For instance, if your race includes many climbs, then do long and short hill training. If your course involves rolling terrain and short climbs, then interval training and sprints will help you prepare well.

How To Prepare For A Gravel Grinder Race

After getting the right training, you should also know how to prepare for the race. I have gathered some tips below on how to prepare for a gravel grinder race.

A) Gear and Bike Selection:

It is important to have the right gear for your gravel race. Prepare well because you might find the next town is 20 or 50 miles away.

While you can choose a gravel-specific bike for the event, using the bike you already own is also an option. It is great to have a bike you will know and find comfortable riding. Many bike types will do well on gravel. If your bike rides well on rough surfaces and is reliable enough to cover long distances, it will be great for gravel riding.

Always work with what you know. I know you might be tempted to optimize your current bike for gravel at the last minute. Sometimes these last-minute swaps can be risky. You might not know the chances of downsides when trying something new. If you need to make some adjustments on your bike, do it way before the event so you don’t get frustrated on your way.

B) Selecting tires:

The type of tires you choose depends on your liking. Additionally, some events might favor certain tire types. In most events, 700x42 or 700x38 semi-sleek tires give you both speed and comfort. If you need to ride faster, you can choose 700x35 or 700x32 tires.

C) Fenders:

Fenders are great for gravel riding, but I wouldn’t recommend full-coverage fenders. These fenders might look nice, but they can pack a lot of mud which can end up locking your wheels. If you need fenders on your bike, choose clip-on, which will also give you better mud clearance.

D) Clothing:

You should have protective clothing like eye protection, a helmet, and comfortable cycling shorts. You should always know how to dress for the weather. If your events are during spring and fall, the temperatures can start from freezing and reach 75 degrees. In this case, you should dress in layers and subtract the layers as the day continues.

E) Food & Water:

You should know yourself well by determining the amount of food or drink you take. This will help you plan wisely for your race. For instance, you should know the amount of water you can drink per mile depending on the temperature.

It is also great to east something after every 10 miles. You can eat candy, energy chews, granola bars, bananas, waffles, or anything else you love. Additionally, it is crucial to eat when you are training. Trying to digest something new during the race can make your rides uncomfortable. Therefore, ensure you train well for easting, similar to the way to train for the rides.

F) Carrying Your Bike To And From The Race:

This is another essential thing that many riders overlook. You need to know how you will transport your bike to and from the gravel event.

Conclusion

Engaging in a gravel grinder race can be a great way to explore and have fun with other riders. These events are fun, and with enough training and preparation, you will enjoy the ride. If you are considering trying a gravel grinder race, you have the right tips on how you can train and prepare well for the race. Implement these tips, and you will have the best moments of your life.

  • Updated May 1, 2021
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