Gravel racing tips & tricks
Gravel racing continues to explode, and FasCat has a slew of gravel training plans for you to follow, whether you want race-specific plan like SBT GRVL and any one of the Belgian Waffle Rides, or a more general flat gravel or hilly gravel race plan. Here, though, we want to share some tips on getting your bike dialed ahead of time, travel tips, course recon tips, hydration and nutrition strategies, and more.
Listen to the full podcast for all the tips, or check out the text below for just a few of the key takeaways.
DIAL IN YOUR TIRES
Tires are the number one gear topic for gravel racing, and you can get into the weeds with analysis. We recommend that you pick a tire that works for the majority of your terrain and events, and then get really familiar with it. Train on it, ride on it, take fast corners on it, mess with the pressure and note how the feel changes.
Remember these two things:
- the fastest tire is the one you are most comfortable with
- the slowest tire is a flat one
Yes, a tire's rolling resistance can be measured in a lab, but what about your comfort level as you come hot into a corner? That is arguably more important. Spend time getting familiar with your tires.
At FasCat, we generally like a tire with a file-tread center and some shoulder knobs for grip. A 35-40mm tire is the sweet spot for most events. Rougher terrain? Go bigger. We suggest that you err on the side of a little more sidewall protection and a tougher tire (with fresh sealant!) than trying to go too light.
DIAL IN YOUR TRAVEL
Getting to an event can be fun, and it can be stressful. Take the stress out of the equation by planning ahead and practicing. That's right - if you are flying to an event, practice breaking down and building up your bike before your trip.
Mark you measurements on your bike with a silver Sharpie. (Just a small dot will do.)
If you're flying, remove your rotors and your rear derailleur, and your chain if you have a quick-connect link.
Have a plan for your race-morning breakfast. Find out when the hotel breakfast starts, and supplement accordingly.
KNOW THY COURSE
Best case scenario is pre-riding parts - or even all! - of the course. That's not realistic for most of us, most of the time. But you can and should do your homework ahead of time, studying the route online, looking at the weather, and learning where the aid stations are and where the pinch points and critical parts likely will be.
Think about where on the course you can eat and drink. If the first hour or so looks to be hectic — or aid stations are minimal — consider bringing a hydration pack so you can drink while keeping your hands on the bars.
Make a cue sheet for yourself. It doesn't need to be complicated - just aid stations and critical points. You can tape notes on your stem.
If you can only ride the day before, preview the first 5-15 miles. This is a great time to make sure your bike is good to go, too, and that your tire pressure is dialed.
GET YOUR HYDRATION AND NUTRITION DIALED
We'll use the P word again here: practice!
All our gravel plans have long simulation rides. Use these to practice eating and drinking a lot, in addition to racking up the training time.
Consider variety in what food you will bring. Palette fatigue is real, especially in long events. Check out what the race will (or will not) provide on course.
Do you need a hydration pack? A top tube bag for food or hydration mix?
Do your homework and practice on your long weekend rides.
PLAN YOUR CLOTHING
Guess what we're going to say here: do your homework, and practice!
For the event, look at the weather ahead of time, of course, but bring lots of layers and options so you can choose on race morning.
And on your long rides, practice using what you might use in the event. Pockets are helpful, whether you're in a skinsuit or running cargo bibs. If you have multiple layers, where are you going to carry those later in the day when you peel them off?
For more tips, check out the full podcast, or these past episodes:
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