Thoughts on singletrack in a gravel event

I recently participated in a local (small) gravel event that had some single track. After the ride, a few riders complained about its inclusion in the ride (“too technical”, “doesn’t belong”, “need more warning”, “should’ve given an option to avoid”…and my favorite sarcastic response: “great XC course with some roads in between”).

Riders seemed to come with the right “gravel” equipment (bigger tires, cyclocross/gravel frames/bars/drivetrains, etc), but many were ill-prepared and quite put-off by the narrow, rocky single track.

I gather in other parts of the US (and perhaps elsewhere) this isn’t as popular? But here in the northeastern US (PA, NJ, DE, etc), it seems to be very common to repurpose mountain bike courses to capitalize on the increase in popularity of this type of riding.

If the RD lets everyone know in the course description that there will be single track, rock on. It does separate those of us riding bigger tires, Maxxis Treadlites 2.1, from the roadies riding skinnies and trying to race fast gravel/almost road.


This is on the event promoter, IMHO. If they fail to give proper info about the course and related equipment demands, it’s on them. “Gravel” is a super broad term and most expect it to be based on a wider road-type design or at least double-track.

Adding a fairly technical section that is not typical of a “gravel” event should be identified. I’ve seen several events in our area include this type of info. Some even make tire and/or bike suggestions to people can choose appropriately (even if that means picking something below the recommendations).

Giving that info allows people to choose to participate or not (based on preference, technical skill, etc.) and choose the best gear they feel is right for them. Even with my relative good skill, I would be annoyed to have a “surprise” like that if I was expecting a typical “gravel” course.


Sounds like sour grapes from people that didn’t win. After all, you took in your stride on an mob.

Wasn’t a race. ppl (generally) weren’t there to win (other than some timed Strava segments). Most just wanted to stay upright and enjoy the day.

Yeah this is on the event promoter.

If you are going to put singletrack on the course, you have to make it pretty clear in the description.

Most gravel folks, except the top riders, prob aren’t expecting tech singles, even if they have the skill for it.

If it’s smooth and flat, or uphill, prob won’t be a problem. But if you have any decent downhill with exposure or rocks, I think it’s worth an abudance of caution to make sure people have a good time and come back the next year.


Sorry, my mistake. Well, if it wasn’t a race then I don’t see the problem.
I would have politely introduced them to the world of off-road where anything can be chucked at you and that’s why when it comes to dirt then an mtb is always well suited :grin:

I really like these new events where you are on the “wrong” bike for at least part of the course. It makes bike selection part of the strategy.

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Yeah this was definitely the “other” opinion that I heard immediately afterwards. It’s part of the fun. The (generally) two takes on essentially the same experience was what prompted me to post this question/comment.

Some riders in my area of the world are getting these bikes and seeking a sort of “mini Dirty Kanza” that is nearby geographically. Next thing you know they’re descending some loose, rocky, single track with the “wrong” bike.

And if I’m being honest, I’m of two minds. I would have much rather been on a hardtail for about 1/3 of that event. But…well, then there’s the rest of it.

I agree it just needs to be made clear to people considering the event.

If you want more stuff like that in your course go ahead there are events (or at least there were) like Iron Cross, Southern Cross that aren’t exactly a gravel event.

Unless told otherwise though I anticipate some form of “roads” for a gravel event. In any case riders need to know something about the course otherwise tire selection is a guess.

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I would say it really depends on the event. Gravel for sure can have single track but I think for an organized event you have to be careful.

There are events like Grinduro which have it and everyone knows it is a bike decision and at some point you’ll think you chose the wrong bike.

But, if you sign up for a gravel race, fondo, etc. and you’re riding 35c gravel tires and you come from a road or tri background I could see people being really put off by ending up on rocky single track.

Around here in colorado we often ride our CX bikes on singletrack as practice and I live in a rocky area. For me it would have been no big deal but for someone else they could have been way out of their element. We have a couple of road races that use gravel roads for sections of the course. I’ve heard a few roadies complaining that there is an entire season dedicated to riding drop bar bikes on dirt and that is called CX (this was before gravel was a thing) and I somewhat agree with them. I don’t race road but I can see being irritated by dropping in a section of course that is putting people in an awkward bike or tire situation for no good reason.

I thought variety and challenge was why we went gravel in the first place.

@Ed_Hall I agree but, to a degree. A good description is the respectable thing to do as there is a huge range of people riding these events. Not everyone wants to Everest, jump off a cliff air on fire, and post it on istagram for self validation. Many just ride on the week end and looking for fun events to do. Many have never ridden mountain bikes and shouldn’t be thrown into technical single track. It’s not safe. Either give another route or make sure the description is dead balls on.

I did a 6+ hour ride yesterday around Humphrey’s peak in Flagstaff yesterday on the gravel bike. The last part of the ride was a moderately technical descent on the AZ Trail. Not very tough with suspension but, on a full rigid bike after 6 hours, it wasn’t fun. The way you need to be in the drops through tech stuff just puts you in a bad position (IMO) to absorb the jolts. My neck is still really stiff today. Given the option again I’ll avoid that section.

definitely not opposed to an event that mixes singletrack and gravel, but yeah, I’d like to know up front if there are rocky sections. Narrow, twisty, is fine with the same bike that does the gravel, but if it’s rocky, then I’d want bigger tires than I’d choose for a “gravel” event