Gravel riding is becoming increasingly popular and quickly becoming the fastest-growing market. With the increase in ridership comes a lot of new excitement, but, at times, it comes with a few new bumps in the road. We’re not going talk about how to ride on gravel, as that’s been written about a good bit. Bicycling Magazine does an excellent job of it here >>> And, since many of the same rules apply from road cycling, it wouldn’t hurt to get a refresher from the League of Bicycles here >>>
However, neither article talks about how that knowledge translates while riding with a group. Again, riding in a group on gravel is very similar to riding with a group on the road. The North Georgia Cycling Association does an outstanding job of talking about that NGSA here >>> In fact, they do such a good job, I could just stop here… Seriously, it’s pretty spot on. So just read it. I’ll insert a few additional reminders and words of wisdom here.
The article from the NGCA was written for large “Peloton” style riding; however, much of the same goes for smaller groups, even groups of friends.
- In short: Be predictable, Don’t overlap wheels, Stay steady with the group – don’t yo yo around, pedal smoothly, and stay relaxed, but focused.
- Ride two abreast. Ride as if you don’t know who’s coming around the corner because you don’t. It doesn’t matter if you are on gravel less traveled. Chances are good that around that corner is a car heading towards you. And honestly, it’s just polite. Be good stewards to the people who live and commute on the roads you are riding.
- Rotate off the front. This is where you get to work on riding in a gravel peloton. Ride at the front until you want to pull off, confirm with the person next to you who is now also pulling off, then WITHOUT SLOWING DOWN announce you are pulling off in the opposite direction as the person next to you. Make your announcement with a noticeable elbow shrug, or a pat on your leg, or just point out to note you are moving out, then move out from the front and THEN start to slow down and move to the back. Really this is the one thing the NGCA article doesn’t talk about. (Maybe edition 2.0) In a fast peloton, the rotations happen much faster, or if you’re not feeling as great as the others, still rotate to the front and then move to the back. But always taking your turn, even for a short period as this, keeps the group together, riding as one, and more importantly, safe!
- Climbing and passing on a climb. This is where I see the most issues on gravel. When legs get tired, most inexperienced riders in a group just stop pedaling or slow down drastically. You can not do that when you have other riders around you. Refer to the NGCA article; they do a fantastic job explaining both climbing in a group and being steady. At the same time, if you are passing a slower rider, you need to anticipate that they may be fading and give them space, which means you need to have an awareness of who is around you so you’re not moving into their space.