It’s getting to be epic gravel season again and many more of us have set our goals to take on the challenge of events like SBT GRVL, Crushar in the Tushar, Rooted Vermont, FoCo Fondo, Belgian Waffle Ride, etc. All of us have read countless articles about the “best things” for gravel in far too many magazines and online sources. And honestly, most of those articles are good and we recommend that you read them again and make a checklist as you’re packing for the next adventure.
This list is different. We’ve asked our coaches and clients about preparations that seem trivial but have a legitimate impact on their experience.
Here it goes:
Spare contacts or prescription glasses.
Being able to see where you’re going is guaranteed to improve your safety. On that note, eyewear with big lenses used to be out of style but now it's back and you get the added benefit of having more protection. A quick look at my pitted lenses after the 2019 Dirty Kanza 200 (Unbound Gravel) reinforced the notion that eye protection is key.
NEW TIRES with fresh sealant.
If it’s a big event, never try and make your tires go “one more ride.” It’s not worth the risk of ruining your experience at an epic event. For gravel rides, wider is better. Wider tires have more volume which allows for less pressure while absorbing more sock/ vibration and they roll fast if you get the right one. We recommend a 42 or 40c tire such as the IRC Boken 40 or the IRC Doublecross.
New bar wrap and gloves.
Contact points are key to protect. That’s why we stress the bibs, shoes and hands.
New shoes with stiff soles.
Flex is bad when you’re on an all day adventure ride. Just like hospitals and service industry stress footwear for long days on your feet, we do as well. Also, trim your toe nails. Duh.
NEW Bib shorts.
We recommend opening a fresh pair and suiting up in them for that first ride on an epic day (Unbound Gravel). Bibs do stretch and elasticity fades with each wear. As they become less snug they move more. Bibs that move cause saddle sores and a saddle sore can put you on the sideline for weeks. If you’re wondering, “I wonder if I need….” YES! You need new bibs. And spring for the nice ones. We generally don’t look twice at any garment in this category that’s under $200. After all, you get what you pay for and those tender bits are rather valuable.
You’re going to spend all day on dusty, dirty and/ or muddy roads. Your sensitive bits will thank you for this.
This revolutionary sodium bicarbonate lotion has withstood the rigorous testing of science and has shown (truly) to help fight fatigue and soreness. It's also the worst kept secret by the best athletes in the world across many different sports.
Confirm your repair/ flat kit is up to snuff.
- CO2 inflator without moving parts.
- Two 16g CO2 cartridges.
- Multitool with the following: 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8mm hex wrenches; T25 Torx; flat and Phillips screwdriver; chain tool, tire lever, 8mm box wrench, spoke wrenches.
- TWO spare tubes
- Spare rear derailler hanger
- Spare chain link, master link, pin
- Tire boot
- Tire plugs
- 2oz sealant
- Extra chain lube
CO2 is for quick fixes. But few things rival the luxury of having an infinite amount of compressed air.
Bottle cages… that never eject bottles.
We recommend the Arundel Bando. We've never, ever seen a bottle ejected from this cage. Ever. And this isn’t the superlight carbon fanciness so it’s not expensive.
Completely tuned and ready to rumble bike.
You’ve invested a large amount time, energy and money for this adventure. Do everything you can to make sure your bike is ready too. Walking sucks when you’re supposed to be riding. However, always ride your bike a couple times after a tune up before you head out for an epic day.
New Bar Tape + Plus
New handlebar tape helps absorb high frequency vibrations keeping you more comfortable. For anti-slip find some that has polyurethane. Triple or quadruple that finishing tape holding on your bar tape. You’ll have extra if you need it and it will still look good.
Off- road pedals and cleats.
You never know when you’ll be hike-a-biking. Make sure your pedals, shoes and cleats can all handle mud and sand.
It helps to minimize chances for pinch flats and when paired with wide rims and tires it’s nearly guaranteed you’ll keep air in the tire where it belongs.
There are obviously more items you can add to this list but these are some of our favorites. We tried to keep it to a few things that really help make your day and event a good life experience.
Want to know more about our gravel-knowledgeable coaches? Check them out.