Gravel Crash on Flat Turns

I’m coming off of a couple of crashes and I’m trying to diagnose what I’m doing wrong. They both happened on flat turns with marble-sized loose over hard gravel. My front wheel washes out leaving me going down pretty quickly to my side.

I’m trying to figure out if it could be related to:
– Braking
– Front/back weight distribution
– How far inside/outside I’m weighting the turn
– Setup – Focus Mares CX with Panaracer Gravelking SK (43c Front / 38c Rear)

Practicing is proving tricky because it seems that the limit comes very abruptly – hence crash #2. Any insights would be appreciated, as the racing in my area is full of fast gravel switchbacks with little or no camber. Thanks!

Typically an issue of leaning your body instead of the bike combined with weight being too far back leading to lack of traction on the front end. Happens to me on the MTB sometimes as well, definitely a mental hurdle to get over.


I’m going to take a guess and say you were pretty tensed up when you crashed?

I find riding off road needs a looser style, letting the bike float a bit whilst constantly shifting weight back to front, sounds more complex than it is.

I’m lucky I have the exact type of gravel I can practice on to let front and back slide around and I feel quicker (and strava segments show) that learning to slide a bit is quicker.

I could only describe being loose as having a lighter grip and touch on the bike and let it do it’s own thing.

I’ve ridden road and mtb for years and recently found gravel is somewhere in between. If you ride a mtb you need to exaggerate you body language when tackling obstacles and watch your lines, I have even gone a far as taking my inside foot off and sticking it out motocross style, it gives some confidence but is just slower.

Try riding with really relaxed grip and see how that affects everything else.

For the record I ride 35mm fairly knobbly tyres so tyre size should be fine


Yes! The race was the Pisgah Monster-Cross Challenge and I had just picked my way through a hairy descent with some nasty ruts going down a 15–18% grade. I may have been a little tense :slight_smile:

What tire pressure do you run?

Let god show the way:

Note the body position and front wheel direction.

And when he was racing on 7-Eleven team and MTB. He kept the drop bars. Note his backside position relative to the saddle and bike angle. (note, Tomac won Silver at World Champs Downhill with this setup in the 90’s)

This is a clearer shot showing body position (not JT…this is Leigh Donovan)

These shots all have one thing in common, which is body position.

Off the saddle
Hips turned into the corner
Eyes ahead, not at the wheel or just in front
Body forward to weight the tyre

Road cyclists and roadies moving into gravel need to learn these techniques, especially bike/body separation. Expect to fall if you ride sitting on the saddle. The faster / tighter the corner / more technical (rough) the corner, then the more separation and body movement will be needed.

Eyes up and forward, body turned in, bike separation:

Loic Bruni totally emphasising body movement here…his backside is so far away from the saddle and his body turned in so much another direction, he’s in another country compared with the bike.

@Jonathan is always talking about these techniques on the podcast, and the pics illustrate what he is saying.


@handynzl Thank you for hunting down these images—I always hear the terms, but it’s nice to have someone give specific examples.

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Are there any fun, low-risk drills for practicing this kind of bike-body separation?

With respect to the front wheel washing out, here is a take that I never heard before:

The analogy with skiing really resonates with me. What do you peeps think?


Figure eights in the parking lot with decreasing radius.

Chicanes, with the left / right change of direction at closer and closer distances as you progress.

Then build in more speed.


My favorite instructional vid for this. Helped me heaps when I first hopped on the MTB.

I also like to imagine a pendulum (or plumb bob) hanging down from my center of mass and through the pedals/BB. It should sway gently from side to side as you weave through turns. I can see the imaginary line in all those awesome shots @handynzl posted above.

My biggest problem when starting out was taking weight off the front end on scary turns that I was sliding out on. Big mistake.

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Ya’ll didn’t grow up on gravel roads and bmx’s and it shows, or so goes the meme. Get well soon.

Figure 8s on a grass field is probably a better place to start with lower consequence. Chicanes on a field, fig 8s on a baseball diamond etc

There’s a big difference between being a stiff newbie going through corners slowly with traction until it’s suddenly lost, and a seasoned one rear wheel sliding through them at high speed. Different techniques are applied with different speeds, bikes and surfaces, and this can of course change from moment to moment. Make sure you’re talking about the same thing. OP’s accident reminds me more of someone riding on asphalt and then washing out on poor surface in a corner because of poor technique, than of a skilled gravel rider back wheel sliding like in the pictures shown here.

If I needed help, I’d upload a video of me riding through corners, so that everyone knows what they’re dealing with.

I focus on getting more weight on the front wheel. The best way to do this is to get out of the saddle. You can also do while seated, but need to lean more over the bars. Also look for “good” spots on the road to overweight the bike and get more turning done.

You could also just be going too fast for the conditions.

@bclarkson – I really like the shift in posture that this video shows—he’s describing exactly what happens to me when I tense up—All my weight goes back and my knee comes behind my ankle. Makes a ton of sense.

@Rosscopeco – really good visualization and explanation of the dynamics of movement that happens through a corner.

@headstart mentioned tire pressure, which may have been a little high, but I think addressing the fundamentals are really where my problem lies.

Thank you all for the great replies. Luckily I’m ok with no major injuries but I’d like to continue to improve on what is definitely one of my limiters. I’m a good climber but ended up losing lots of time because of my skills on the descents.

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Has anyone asked this yet, are you in the drops for these traction-testing turns? If you’re on the limit of your technique/traction, you probably should be in the drops. That’s basis for drop bar equivalent of MTB lowering center of gravity, hip hinge and weighting front tire.