UNBOUND GRAVEL - The Ultimate Guide

Theia and I wrote a very long article on Dirty Kanza 200. It’s written for people looking to take on the 200 mile challenge. But you might find some good “pro” hints for some shorter events. Also, read my section of “How to play games 101”. Or if you want to read everything I went through and learned, hunker down and read the entire novel.


I really enjoyed your article. I find many survival tips for gravel are similar to endurance mountain bike events.
I am riding Rasputista in Vermont again this April. While a much shorter ride, than DK, some pre- planning is needed. Rasputista means mud season and Northern Vermont in April can be 25F or 55F with snow, ice and mud on the road.

  1. I too, use a camelback and and carry a small water bottle with skratch. Bigger There are no food drops so I carry a couple baggies with scratch to refill my water bottle.
  2. I use a top tube bag to put snacks. I also carry a PB&J. Open and cut up all snacks ahead of time.
  3. Ride in the ruts. If there is water running down a rut, ride in the middle of the water and rut. That is where the flattest part of the road/trail is. Riding on the sides of puddles on dirt/trails is actually more slippery as you are riding off camber.
  4. Shoe cover will fill with snow if you have to hike a bike. Wear wool or waterproof socks if you dont have winter shoes.
  5. Water on top of ice is SO slippery. Bikes dont do well on this.
  6. Second on the spare batteries for phone and GPS.
  7. Carry extra chamois creme. The single dose packets are butt savers! Bumpy roads/trails are not forgiving.
  8. Consider carrying some zip ties, duct tape and multitool with wire cutters. I have had to snip a broken spoke out in the woods. Broken spokes are sharp.
  9. For cold weather endurance events, dress in layers. I sometimes carry an extra pair of gloves and socks. I have gone through puddles deeper than my hubs.

For “roadies” going into gravel or mountain bike events, a lot more energy is expended for the same mileage. In coastal New England, our ground is sandy, with roots and glacial rocks. Our gravel events can be more like a monster cyclocross event than a road ride.

@dfriestedt Wow nice guide. I wish the events I have done had reports like this. Interesting about the wear and tear on the bike, navigation, and how you handled getting 300+ calories/hour in. A frame cracked! Glad you left the poisonous snakes to the end of the guide!

When I did STP 1-day / 200 miles, I ran a secondary battery pack in my top tube bag to my cycling Garmin. I wish the cycling Garmin’s had longer battery life. My triathlon Garmin has a battery life of 24 hours.

I have wondered what to do. I have been riding on the sides or in the middle of the path where the grass or less wear is to avoid the ruts. I’ll give this tip a try next time I am on dirt and gravel.

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For this reason I do best at gravel races. You need more power to hang with the group and the speeds are lower so the extra drag of my height is less of a factor. And the hills are shorter. You cannot hide from the added resistance of the gravel. you just need more power.

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