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5 thoughts you’ll have during a gravel event

You'll question everything, wonder what technology you need to buy to make navigating these tricky courses easier and hope you can just stay on your bike

Gravel events are intense and a heck of a lot of fun. They combine novel course designs tackling a mix of surfaces, feature interesting and unexpected obstacles, and usually have a casual and very social atmosphere. Across Canada and the world, these events are exploding offering opportunities for avid racers and casual cyclists to test themselves. During a gravel event, a whole array of thoughts will likely pass through your head as your wanders away from the challenge of pushing the pedals and onto other things. Here are five thoughts you’re sure to have during a gravel event.

To navigate the course riders had to put their bike handling skills to work. Photo: Kent Keeler

“Is this even a road?”

An event sign indicates that you are turning left in 150 m. You peel your eyes searching for where the course is taking you. Riders ahead of you slow and the course clogs up as riders are forced to dismount to run around a rider stuck in mud unable to navigate the latest obstacle. You are about to hit the section. You brace yourself and moments before you enter the section you curse the sadistic course designer under your breath.

“I think I need wider tires/a different tread pattern.”

The event may start on pavement but that quickly changes as you twist and turn your way through the course each surface more uneven and harder to ride. Your tire slips out from underneath you then you don’t get the traction on your front tire forcing you to catch yourself with your foot before you topple over. You must be running the wrong tires. Maybe you need a new bike that fits 650b wheels so you can mount 2.1” tires or need a grippier more aggressive tread pattern. Then you get back on pavement and wonder if you need a faster rolling tire. Oh the dilemma.


“Can I even ride that?”

You probably don’t have a choice. You either have to walk your bike or try and ride it. Everyone around you is barrelling into the latest obstacle but you’re tempted to take it easy. Maybe it’s easier that it looks or maybe it’s worse. By the time you have a chance to figure out your approach, you are in the thick of it.

“Next time I’m going to bring a bar bag to carry more snacks”

Mid-way through the ride you begin to feel drained. You wish you’d brought more to eat to fuel the second part of this event. If you only had one more bar, one more gel and one more bottle of water you’d be good. Instead, you feel the bonk creeping up on you. You think you need to purchase a bar back so you can stuff it full of treats and avoid this next event.

“Do I need suspension for this?”

Everything is rattling. Your body is aching. Your tires are nearly bottoming out on these large rocks and big rutts. Don’t they make gravel bikes with suspension now you think? Someone goes flying by. You don’t catch what bike they are riding but to go that fast they must have the latest road dampening technology.