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Gearing Up for Your First Gravel Cycling Event: A Comprehensive Guide

Gearing Up for Your First Gravel Cycling Event: A Comprehensive Guide

cycling across stream

Gravel cycling is an exciting, challenging, and increasingly popular discipline in the world of cycling. It combines the best of both road and off-road cycling, providing the thrill of exploring unpaved roads and trails. If you’re getting ready for your first gravel cycling event, you’ll need to prepare both mentally and physically. This guide will cover how to dress, how to choose a beginner’s cycle, what to eat beforehand, and the training you should do to ensure you have a fantastic first gravel cycling experience.

Dress for Success

When preparing for a gravel cycling event, you need to consider the weather, terrain, and your personal comfort. Here are some essential clothing items you’ll need:

  • Base layer: A moisture-wicking base layer will help you stay dry and comfortable during your ride.
  • Jersey: Choose a breathable and quick-drying cycling jersey with pockets for storing essentials like energy gels or a smartphone.
  • Shorts or bibs: Opt for padded cycling shorts or bibs for added comfort during long rides.
  • Socks: Wear moisture-wicking cycling socks to help keep your feet dry and prevent blisters.
  • Shoes: Invest in a pair of cycling shoes with a stiff sole and suitable tread for off-road use. Look for models that are compatible with your chosen pedal system.
  • Helmet: A well-fitting helmet is a must for safety. Make sure it meets your country’s safety standards.
  • Gloves: Full-fingered gloves provide grip and protection for your hands.
  • Glasses: Cycling glasses protect your eyes from dust, debris, and the sun.
  • Extra layers: Bring a lightweight, packable windproof or waterproof jacket, especially if you expect unpredictable weather.

Choosing a Beginner’s Gravel Bike

Gravel bikes are specifically designed to handle mixed terrain, featuring a more relaxed geometry, wider tires, and disc brakes. Here’s what to consider when choosing your first gravel bike:

  • Budget: Determine your budget before shopping for a gravel bike. Expect to spend at least $1,000 for a reliable entry-level bike.
  • Frame material: Gravel bikes are available in various materials, such as aluminum, steel, and carbon fiber. Aluminum is lightweight and budget-friendly, while steel offers a comfortable ride. Carbon fiber is the lightest and stiffest, but also the most expensive.
  • Tire clearance: Wider tires provide better grip and comfort on rough surfaces. Look for a bike with tire clearance for at least 38mm.
  • Gearing: Gravel cycling can involve steep climbs and descents, so consider a bike with a wide range of gears to tackle varied terrain.
  • Test ride: Before making a final decision, take the bike for a test ride to ensure it feels comfortable and suits your needs.

Fueling Up for the Ride

What you eat before your gravel cycling event can significantly impact your performance. Here are some tips for fueling up:

  • Eat a balanced meal 3-4 hours before the event, focusing on carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats.
  • Avoid high-fiber and spicy foods to prevent gastrointestinal issues during the ride.
  • Stay hydrated in the days leading up to the event, and drink water regularly during the ride.
  • Bring along energy gels, bars, or snacks to maintain energy levels throughout the event.

Preparatory Training

Proper training is key to enjoying your first gravel cycling event. Follow these tips to build your fitness and skills:

  • Start with a base of road cycling to build aerobic endurance, gradually increasing your weekly mileage.
  • Incorporate off-road riding to develop bike handling skills and gain confidence on varied terrain.
  • Add interval training to improve your ability to tackle climbs and recover quickly.
  • Practice riding on different gravel surfaces, such as crushed limestone, gravel roads, and dirt trails, to familiarize yourself with how your bike handles in various conditions.
  • Include strength training exercises, such as squats, lunges, and core work, to build the muscles needed for efficient cycling.
  • Rest and recovery are essential, so ensure you schedule regular rest days and listen to your body.


Preparing for your first gravel cycling event can be an exciting journey as you build your fitness, skills, and confidence. By dressing appropriately, choosing the right bike, fueling your body with the right nutrition, and following a well-rounded training plan, you’ll set yourself up for success. Most importantly, enjoy the adventure and camaraderie that come with gravel cycling, and embrace the challenges and rewards of this exhilarating sport. Now, check out Strambecco’s picks for some of the best gravel cycling events:

Or, browse through all of our great gravel cycling event listings.

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