Dumb question - how to find gravel (rides)

So this may be dim, but…

I’m thinking about dipping my toe into gravel riding to rediscover some of the sense of adventure I had when doing mtb-ing and cross in the 90s as a kid.

The problem is, where I live in the UK, it’s not immediately obvious where the gravel is… sure there are some local bridleways, a towpath network, and some managed woods, but all are busy and won’t be ideal for riding at any effort/pace. And yes, I know the answer to a degree is ‘go and explore’, but I wondered if there were any apps/sites that helped with ‘gravel finding’

My ideal aim is to replace my 2.5hr Friday road ride with a ‘groad’, where I could ride for 20-40 minutes to the gravel, ride there for approx 90 minutes, then ride back.

Happy to provide rough UK location details if that helps.

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You can try Komoot for route planning. It should be possible to tell it to plot mostly on gravel.

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Trailforks? It’s an app that is good for searching around for trails.

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Absolutely not offering anything useful, but when I read the title, my immediate thought was “Check your local DIY shop.” :sweat_smile:

Komoot is a good option, as suggested. You can select (I think) preferred surface type and it should produce gravel/hardpack roads suitable for what you’re looking for.

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I had the same issue a while back, Komoot is good I also found Strava’s route creation tool on the mobile app good if you’ve got a premium account. Set the filter the “Dirt”, “Any” elevation and make the distance pretty big, 80km-160km. This is helpful to identify where the gravel is rather use the route it spits out as verbatim.

Top tip though, if you have a windfarm near you head straight for that, there’s usually endless gravel tracks open to the public connecting the turbines. I’m lucky to have have one just down the road from me. Keep an eye on the weather though, they to tend to be… windy.

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You can also start by using bing.com maps as you can switch between road and OS maps. The OS option will show bridleways etc in your location or further afield. You should then go explore them and can create a loop.

:thinking: Tbh I’ve not tried komoot which gets good recommendations as above.

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Or this?
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Gravel_pits_in_England

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https://gravelmap.com/

Just checked and there’s definitely some coverage in the UK, I know the coverage is great in the US and hopefully you have the same luck!

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Depends where you live. There isn’t much of the US-type gravel in the UK, for example there are very few gravel roads. Often re-purposed old railway lines can be good, or in the NE there are more off road roads. Scotland too maybe. Otherwise, farm tracks and fire roads in large wooded areas. Most of it though will either be compacted soil (gravel long gone), tarmac, or, in the hills, very rough gravel that is probably better on a MTB.

Yes, and there are some of the long distance routes on bridle ways listed. As @splash said, lots of different surfaces, and will vary throughout the ride, perhaps more so than in other geographically larger countries.

Also quite a lot of what is listed is canal towpath, at least where I live. In my area (West Yorkshire) there are quite a few good off road biking routes but very little of it would be called gravel.

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Thanks all - plenty to research.

The towpath where I live actually extends for over 30 miles, but it is busy at the best of times, especially during lockdown…

I suppose I’m in the early stages of a feasibility study, for want of a better phrase!

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Thanks for sharing this. I’d never heard of this website and quite a few trails near home in Yorkshire!

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I’ve managed to link a few bits of road and a few bridleways to a town, nature reserve and a national trust place - took some doing but I now have several routes from that that i can link/adjust ad hoc on the fly. I can easily bash out 30 mile loops based on that alone…
When lockdown eases I’ll get further,
North Yorkshire (my mum lives there) is pretty good because of all the forestry commission land and the walking routes.
Think you have to do a bit of research and a bit of “let’s see where this goes…” Half the fun for me is finding routes to places that I hadn’t seen before.
It also helps if you follow or have any followers on Strava or open routes on Garmin - the partner of someone I know did a great rout the other day and looking at it it solved a mystery for me as to how to link a couple of points.
:+1: :grin:
have fun exploring and remember to share the path.

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God’s country. :+1:

A friend and I were out on a ride the other weekend and the canal towpath on our route was absolutely packed. I think I got more track standing practice than I did any riding along it!

Komoot is good for info on trail surface but I find it infuriating trying to put routes together on it. I think it’s strength is point to point routes where you stick a start and end in, let it pick a route and then amend as you wish. If you’re used to RideWithGPS where you build a route up clicking point to point you’ll struggle (at least that’s my experience).

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Follow your local council’s road resurfacing schedule. Then once the roads reopen, you’ll find more loose gravel than you deemed possible.

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I ask local bike shops for routes. They can usually share a few. Often with gps files.

I also use RideWGPS website and search on the keyword “gravel”

Good luck. I absolutely love riding gravel for the reasons you stated. Being alone in the country, low traffic, the feeling of adventure, etc., so much that I’m going to sell my Tarmac because I never ride it anymore. But, I’ve heard it’s hard to find real gravel in the UK (as others have mentioned above)

It kinda works with komoot too. You just have to rightclick and say “new endpoint”. But you are right, it seems designed for point-to-point.