Cornering in gravel is hard. It’s a traction issue. On a road bike, your tires grab, sliding is bad, and you can really lean the bike over. On gravel there’s not really any major bike leaning. When the speed is high enough that you can lean the bike over, if you’re on gravel you’d just slide out.
The same fundamentals of road apply to gravel corning. Keep your weight on the outside of the bike, outside pedal down and weighted, brake before the turn. Feel the traction in the tires, hold the right tire pressure, know the fundamentals before you move on to pushing your limits.
To go as fast as possible while cornering on gravel you have to keep your upper body loose. Find the correct race line, outside, apex, to outside, while turning feel your tires grip in the turn. You have to be able to move your balance around to as you find the balance between sliding and traction. In road cycling, you have traction the whole turn and only on the very limits do you start to lose traction. In Gravel the line is blurred. You will be turning and feeling where your tires are in and out of traction and you have to be able to move the bike upright and leaned depending on where your traction moves.
At BWR specifically, you can win or lose the full waffle ride with cornering skills. There’s long lose descents around Black Canyon. All the single track sections can also represent time gained or lost depending on skills.
Blow is a shot of a Strava flyby with Adam Mills, Blake Anton, Ted King and Myself. Picture 1 is at the top of a shorter climb entering Black Canyon just after the aid station. The group is all together. The second picture is after the 10 minute descent. In just a 10 minute descent there’s almost a minute gap. Ted King and I have almost a minute on a split group. Never give Ted a gap, but being a minute down entering a 10 mile climb is a gap that will likely never be closed.
Practice makes perfect. Without crashing, take some hard turns. Also use your rear brake not your front. If you’re on the edge of your traction ability, when you tap the rear brake, your rear tire will instantly lose traction until you let the brake go. Skid around, make the rear come around a bit, learn what you and your bike can do before you have to test your abilities in a race. Get comfortable and try to have fun pushing your limits. If it’s not fun and speed scares you, work on changing that mindset to get in quality practice pre event.
Zack Allison earned his bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science at Colorado State University. As part of his education, he participated in many hands on exercise science practicum and internships, coaching many types of athletes, specifically cyclists.
Zack’s affinity for cycling started at the early age of 14 racing on the east coast. He quickly moved up the amateur ranks to race on the elite national circuit. This level of competition sparked his interest in exercise science, taking him to Colorado State University. While racing for his alma-mater and on various amateur teams he saw many podiums at the Collegiate Championships and Pro/Am events. Zack is currently living in Fort Collins, Colorado and has raced for Elevate Pro Cycling and currently races for Clif Bar.
Growing up with great mentors and coaches, Zack has a goal of paying it forward. He hopes to use his education and racing experience to bring success to Source Endurance and his clients.