5 Reasons Why You Should Always Carry GPS on Gravel Rides

Carrying a GPS device on gravel rides has become increasingly popular among cyclists in recent years. As more and more riders venture off-road, the need for reliable navigation tools has become paramount. While some may argue that a paper map and compass are sufficient, there are several reasons why a GPS device is a must-have for any serious gravel cyclist.

First and foremost, a GPS device provides accurate and up-to-date information about your location, route, and distance traveled. This can be especially useful when riding in unfamiliar terrain or when taking on longer rides. With a GPS device, you can easily track your progress and make adjustments to your route as needed. Additionally, many GPS devices offer turn-by-turn directions, which can be a lifesaver when navigating complex or confusing intersections. Overall, carrying a GPS device can help you stay on track and avoid getting lost on your gravel rides.

The Importance of GPS on Gravel Rides

Gravel riding has become increasingly popular among adventure-seeking cyclists. The freedom to explore new, uncharted territories is one of the main draws of this type of riding. However, with that freedom comes the responsibility of proper preparation and safety measures. One of the most important tools for a gravel rider to carry is a GPS device.

A GPS device can provide a wealth of information to a gravel rider. It can help navigate through unfamiliar terrain, track progress and distance, and provide valuable data such as elevation gain and average speed. This information can be crucial for planning routes, estimating ride times, and ensuring that riders are on track to reach their destinations safely.

In addition to providing valuable information, a GPS device can also be a lifeline in case of an emergency. If a rider becomes lost or injured, a GPS device can help rescuers locate them quickly and accurately. This can be especially important in remote areas where cell phone service may be limited or non-existent.

Overall, carrying a GPS device on gravel rides is a smart and responsible decision. It can provide valuable information and ensure the safety of riders in case of an emergency. So, before embarking on your next gravel adventure, make sure to pack a reliable GPS device and enjoy the freedom of exploration with peace of mind.

Choosing the Right GPS Device

When it comes to choosing the right GPS device for your gravel rides, there are a few important factors to consider. Here are some things to keep in mind:

GPS Device vs. Smartphone

While smartphones can be a convenient option for navigation, they may not always be the best choice for gravel rides. GPS devices are specifically designed for outdoor use and are often more durable and reliable than smartphones. They also typically have longer battery life and can provide more accurate GPS tracking.

Mobile Apps

If you do decide to use your smartphone for navigation, there are a variety of mobile apps available that can provide turn-by-turn directions and other useful features. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these apps may not always be reliable in areas with poor cell service or limited GPS coverage.

Upgrades and Compatibility

When choosing a GPS device, it’s important to consider whether it can be upgraded with new features or maps. Some devices may also be more compatible with certain operating systems (such as iOS or Android) than others.

Google Maps Integration

Many GPS devices now offer integration with Google Maps, which can be a useful feature for gravel riders. Google Maps provides detailed information on roads, trails, and other points of interest, which can be especially helpful when exploring new routes.

Overall, when choosing a GPS device for your gravel rides, it’s important to consider your specific needs and preferences. Whether you opt for a dedicated GPS device or a smartphone app, make sure to choose a device that is reliable, durable, and offers the features you need to navigate with confidence.

Understanding Route Planning

When planning a gravel ride, it is essential to have a good understanding of route planning. Route planning involves creating a route that takes into account various factors such as distance, terrain, elevation, and road conditions. A well-planned route can help you avoid getting lost, reduce the risk of accidents, and ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable ride.

Route Planners

There are many route planners available online that can help you plan your gravel ride. These tools allow you to create a custom route based on your preferences and requirements. Some popular route planners include Ride with GPS, Komoot, and Strava.

Plan Routes

When planning your route, consider the type of terrain you will be riding on. Gravel roads can vary in difficulty, so it’s important to plan a route that matches your skill level. You can also use online maps to help you plan your route. These maps can give you an idea of the terrain and elevation, which can help you plan a more accurate route.

Navigation Accuracy

When navigating on gravel roads, accuracy is essential. The terrain can be challenging, and it’s easy to get lost if you don’t have a reliable navigation system. GPS devices are an excellent tool for navigating on gravel roads. They can help you stay on track and avoid getting lost.


Maps are another essential tool for planning your gravel ride. They can help you get a better understanding of the terrain and road conditions. You can also use maps to plan rest stops and water refills along the way.


In conclusion, understanding route planning is crucial when planning a gravel ride. Route planners, maps, and GPS devices are essential tools for creating a safe and enjoyable ride. By taking the time to plan your route properly, you can ensure that you have a successful and memorable ride.

Leveraging Mapping Services

One of the most significant benefits of carrying a GPS device on a gravel ride is the ability to leverage mapping services. Mapping services provide riders with a wealth of information that can help them navigate more effectively and efficiently.

Maps are a fundamental component of any mapping service, and they provide riders with a visual representation of the terrain they will encounter on their ride. Mapping services like OpenStreetMap and RideWithGPS.com offer highly detailed maps that include information such as elevation, trail difficulty, and points of interest.

By using a mapping service, riders can plan their route in advance and make sure they are prepared for any challenges they may encounter. They can also adjust their route on the fly if they encounter unexpected obstacles or if they want to take a detour to see a particular point of interest.

In addition to maps, mapping services also provide riders with access to a wealth of data. For example, Strava allows riders to track their rides and analyze their performance over time. This data can be invaluable for riders who are looking to improve their performance or who want to track their progress over time.

Overall, leveraging mapping services can help riders navigate more effectively and efficiently, and it can provide them with a wealth of information that can help them improve their performance and enjoy their ride more fully.

Knowing Your Terrain

When riding on gravel roads, it’s crucial to know the terrain you’ll be covering. Unlike paved roads, gravel roads can vary significantly in terms of surface types and conditions. Knowing your terrain can help you plan your route, adjust your speed, and avoid hazards.

Gravel roads can be made up of different materials, including crushed rock, shale, sand, and clay. Each of these materials can affect the road surface in different ways. For example, sandy roads can be challenging to ride on, as the wheels can sink into the sand, making it harder to maintain balance. On the other hand, gravel roads made up of crushed rock can provide better traction and stability.

In addition to the surface type, the condition of the road can also vary. Gravel roads can be well-maintained, with a smooth surface and minimal potholes, or they can be rough, with large rocks and deep ruts. It’s essential to know the condition of the road you’ll be riding on to avoid accidents and damage to your bike.

When planning your route, it’s also important to consider the road’s grade. Gravel roads can have steep inclines and declines, making it challenging to maintain speed and balance. Knowing the road’s grade can help you adjust your pace and avoid fatigue.

To summarize, knowing your terrain is crucial when riding on gravel roads. Understanding the surface type, road condition, and grade can help you plan your route, adjust your speed, and avoid hazards.

Navigating Different Trails

When it comes to gravel riding, navigating different trails can be a challenge. With GPS, however, it becomes much easier to stay on track and avoid getting lost. Here are a few ways GPS can help you navigate different trails:

  • Trails: GPS is particularly useful when riding on unfamiliar trails. With GPS, you can easily track where you are and where you need to go. This is especially helpful when riding on trails that are not well-marked or maintained.

  • Singletrack: GPS can also be helpful when riding on singletrack trails. These trails can be narrow and winding, making it easy to get off course. With GPS, you can stay on track and avoid taking a wrong turn.

  • Ride with GPS: There are many GPS apps available, but Ride with GPS is one of the best for gravel riders. This app allows you to plan your route ahead of time and then follow it using your GPS. You can also download maps for offline use, which is helpful when riding in areas with poor cell service.

In conclusion, carrying GPS on your gravel rides can be incredibly helpful when navigating different trails. With GPS, you can stay on track and avoid getting lost, making your ride much more enjoyable.

Benefits of Elevation Profile

One of the most important benefits of carrying a GPS device on gravel rides is the ability to access the elevation profile of the route. This feature provides valuable information that can help you better prepare for the ride and make informed decisions during the ride.

Here are some of the benefits of using the elevation profile feature:

  • Better understanding of the terrain: With the elevation profile, you can easily see the elevation changes along the route. This information can help you prepare for steep climbs or descents, as well as identify areas where you can conserve energy.

  • Accurate distance calculation: The elevation profile also helps you calculate the distance more accurately. Knowing the exact distance of the route can help you plan your ride better and estimate the time it will take to complete it.

  • Efficient use of energy: By analyzing the elevation profile, you can plan your effort better and conserve energy where possible. For example, you can identify areas where you can take a break or slow down to save energy for more challenging sections.

  • Safer navigation: The elevation profile can also help you navigate the route more safely. By identifying steep descents or sharp turns, you can adjust your speed and avoid accidents.

In summary, the elevation profile feature on GPS devices provides valuable information that can help you better prepare for and navigate gravel rides. By using this feature, you can conserve energy, ride more efficiently, and stay safe on the road.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls

When it comes to gravel rides, carrying a GPS can be a lifesaver. However, there are some common pitfalls that riders should be aware of to ensure a safe and successful ride. Here are a few tips to avoid these pitfalls:

1. Puncture Resistance

Gravel rides can be tough on tires, so it’s important to ensure your tires have adequate puncture resistance. Consider using tubeless tires or adding sealant to your tubes to prevent flats. It’s also a good idea to carry a spare tube and tire levers in case of emergency.

2. Wheels and Tension

Make sure your wheels are properly tensioned before heading out on a gravel ride. Loose spokes or a poorly tensioned wheel can lead to a bumpy and uncomfortable ride. Check your wheels regularly to ensure they are in good condition.

3. Stopping Power

Gravel rides often require sudden stops, so it’s important to have reliable brakes. Check your brake pads regularly and replace them if necessary. Consider upgrading to disc brakes for more stopping power.

4. Avoid Addiction

Gravel riding can be addictive, but it’s important to know your limits. Don’t push yourself too hard, and take breaks when necessary. Stay hydrated and fuel your body with proper nutrition to avoid burnout.

5. Heat

Gravel rides can be hot and sweaty, so it’s important to dress appropriately and stay hydrated. Wear lightweight, breathable clothing and carry plenty of water. Consider adding electrolyte tablets to your water to replenish lost minerals.

By following these tips, you can avoid common pitfalls and enjoy a safe and successful gravel ride.

Contributing and Learning More

Carrying a GPS device on gravel rides not only benefits you but also contributes to the larger cycling community. By tracking your ride, you can share your route with others, helping them discover new trails and paths. You can also contribute to mapping projects, such as OpenStreetMap, by uploading your ride data and adding missing information.

Learning more about GPS technology can also enhance your overall cycling experience. Understanding how GPS devices work and how to use them effectively can help you plan better rides and avoid getting lost. Additionally, learning about different GPS apps and software can help you find the best tool for your needs.

Other benefits of carrying a GPS device include being able to track your progress and set goals for yourself. You can also use GPS data to analyze your performance and identify areas for improvement.

If you’re new to using GPS devices, there are many resources available to help you get started. Online tutorials, forums, and user guides can provide valuable information on how to use your device and get the most out of it.

In summary, carrying a GPS device on gravel rides can contribute to the larger cycling community, enhance your overall cycling experience, and provide valuable data for tracking your progress and setting goals. By learning more about GPS technology and how to use it effectively, you can make the most of your rides and improve your performance.