New to gravel any suggestions?

Yup, gravel dependent, but you are often “reading” the road, picking lines, and dealing with far more surface planning than road. And also as mentioned, hills on gravel roads are often steeper than paved ones. That means a bit more work on the climbs via effort and traction issues, and downs can be a bit more demanding and even scary for riders new to unstable surfaces and line selection.

Demand on the rider is greater that road in most cases.

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Me too. This is one reason I find sweet spot workouts and ERG mode so helpful. These climbs are still uncomfortable, but for me trainer time is a huge help.


I came to gravel the other way, mountain and fat bike before gravel. So the MTB skills transfer to gravel well. I started on 29x2.1 tires and have settled on 700x43s. I was thinking about going smaller until I read the studies from Rene Herse. I’ll be running 43 range between 32 and 36 psi most the summer. I weigh in at 175 lbs or 80k. Tire Test Results – Rene Herse Cycles


I agree, going too low introduces poor handling problems.

Tire pressure is the same for road, gravel, MTB, etc. Find the pressure that works best for you. I barely even let my XC bike go sub 20 PSI (front only) on 2.35 tires and I am 145 pounds. My road bike is around 50 PSI with 28mm (and tubes). Gravel bike is 43mm and around 30 PSI.

We probably need a dedicated newbie gravel thread, but here are some things I pooled that may be helpful:

Google Search, Beginner Videos


Thanks for the link. Very interesting read.

I like to find when I can feel the tire compress and then add a few lbs of air from there.

It helps to think of the tire as pneumatic (air) suspension, because that is exactly what they are. So the starting point for tire pressure should always be sag. A good sag target is 15%, which you can adjust from there. It’s much more reliable than the thumb test. It automatically adjusts for tire width, because the wider the tire is the less pressure is needed to get the same sag.

That said, the Silca calculator is good. It can give you a bit more specific recommendation based on several factors. But once you determine the right pressure, figure it what sag that translates to, even if just by eye. The sag test can be done on the side of the road or trail without any pressure gage, which is really handy after you fix a flat.

I ride to have fun, so if a descent is rough and beyond my skills to keep my head from vibrating, then I use a hardtail. Most of my gravel rides are now about ascending or riding horizontally on dirt, with the descents on pavement. If I have to descend on dirt, I’ll use the hardtail. But the skills from riding the hardtail really payoff when I do descend dirt on the gravel bike (e.g., proper mtb stance with weight over the bottom bracket and no weight on the hands, hinged at the hips, etc).

I recently got into gravel as well, and maybe got some good tips as someone who very recently got to experience a lot of new shit since it was all foreign haha.

It was a lot more new stuff than I thought for gravel…

  1. Have a good understanding on how to plug a tubeless tire
  2. Bring a pump, not only CO2 cartridge
  3. Get a tool that can handle taking off the chain if it gets stuck, as well as a space chain master link
  4. Take it easy in the corners
  5. A rear derailleur with a clutch is a must, don’t do my mistake and run a normal rear derailleur and then have chain sucks from hell…
  6. There is a lot more maintenance when you have been riding gravel

Thats probably all things that I would think are good to keep in mind, the rest are just stuff you’ll learn long the way…

I tried to ride gravel like I ride road, and I have just now started to realise that I kind of need to think of it as a completely separate way of riding… everything from planning routes, food, equipment, clothes etc.

It gets a lot more fun being prepared, and having the right tools etc. helps a lot :slight_smile:

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I recently did a 41 mile 4k ft climbing gravel ride on Rene Herse Oracle Ridge 700x48 knobbies. I felt super confident on the rough stuff since there was some mud, single track, and jeep roads. The tires were overkill on the smoother gravel and pavement, to the point where I think they cost me speed but I was ultimately concerned with just finishing!!

Now is see why chosing gravel tires is so complicated!! If you don’t know the route beforehand…is it better to have “too much” tire like I probably did? The organizers said to ride at lease 32mm Gravelkings…that would have been a disaster at my skill level and being a bigger rider.

I would rather have too much tire then not enough.

I raced a course in michigan and I used GK semi slick, on all the hills there was loose gravel, the winner of the race went with 32mm GP5000. Would I have done better with GP5000 I could have, but I also could have done much worse and crashed in the corners like a few people running that same tire set up due to loose gravel.

Sunday I test road the course I am racing saturday. I road the same GK semi slick tire. All the climbs have loose gravel, some sand, and one climb is mud. The semi slick tire is not the right tool for the race for me. My buddy was able to have no issues on all those climbs running a GK 38mm smooth tire. 2 other guys I rode the course with didnt have issues ok GK SK or Kendas.

For this race I bought a more aggressive tread design due to the down hills being more level 2 gravel and having large holes and bigger rocks. I am fine giving up some watts on the smooth roads to have traction on a hill and be able to be confident on the downhill.

To summarize, we all have different skill levels and running something a tad more aggressive to keep the rubber side down is better in my opinion.

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Sorry…one more question in case anyone’s still reading!!

Most of my gravel routes/events have alot of climbing, like 1k ft/10 miles. My road routes are much flatter. I’m doing SSBLV1 and wanted to add longer weekend rides is it better to do long z2 road rides, or gravel rides of the same duration that’ll be more spikey?

I need all the help I can get climbing but I know I have to work on my engine in general. Thanks!!!

From personal experience with a similar internal struggle: I got too focused on doing the workout exactly as designed. It would say Z2 and I did them on a trainer to make sure I stuck to that. While this works very well for building the engine it sucks for fun and building all the little skills you need for gravel (and even road). And in the end, with some self-control, it doesn’t make a bit of difference.

I now take some of longer sessions outside and I do them on the gravel bike and try to follow some ‘rules’ to make sure I don’t burnout by going to hard.

  • No metrics on the gps unit that might encourage me to speed up (for example I had to remove the speed because it would also show the little arrow that shows if you’re above or below the ride average)
  • 175w (middle of Z2) is my target for just pedaling along. Still playing with head unit to see if avg. watt from the last 5sec, 8sec or longer is best
  • Unless the hill is steep enough that I run out of gears (which on a gravel bike shouldn’t happen to often) my hard limit is to never go over FTP. Generally on hills <5% I stick to high tempo max. Just stay away from the MTB tracks/mud if you want to reduce the worst peaks.
  • Main focus skill-wise is on corners en loose gravel to keep my speed constant. Trying to stay in Z2 means I generally am relaxed enough and going slow enough to really practice good technique.
  • I generally experiment with the nutrition, bike or gear on these rides. Even if I screw it up or it doesn’t work, I can generally finish the ride anyway.
  • Bring along the Aftershokz Aeropex headset and listen to some music, podcast or audio books to help remind me this is a fun and ‘relaxing’ ride.

While it’s far from the perfect Z2 ride I do on the Kickr, the results felt the same. Slow onsetting fatigue in the legs, while the ‘engine’ felt like it could keep going.

In short: it might not be perfect Z2, but you’ll get 90% of the results plus you’re practicing all the skills you’ll actually need.


One thing that I think is more important than nailing the power, is to actually always pedal when outside. I noticed that you had a lot of cadence dips, and trying to eliminate those would probably make a big difference :slight_smile: Nothing is as perfect as on the trainer, but honestly, the trainer is good for efficiency, but it doesn’t always mimic real life riding.

I tend to have higher HR outside since you have to focus on balance and other stuff outside.

So for z2 rides, citing my coach, don’t complicate things :wink: always pedal and try not to stop too much since if you do coffee rides with 1-2 breaks you lose a lot of the adaptations of continuous riding (hence why trainer is so effecting there since there’s no coasting)