Tools of the Gravel Riding Trade: Essential Equipment for Adventure Cyclists

First and foremost, a proper gravel bike is essential for this type of riding. These bikes are designed to handle the rough terrain and provide a comfortable ride on long distances. They typically have wider tires, a more relaxed geometry, and a sturdy frame to handle the demands of gravel riding. Other important components of a gravel bike include a reliable drivetrain, disc brakes, and a comfortable saddle.

In addition to a quality bike, there are several accessories that can make a big difference in your gravel riding experience. A good set of tires is crucial, as they provide traction and stability on loose gravel. Other important accessories include a hydration system, such as a hydration pack or water bottles, a tool kit for quick repairs, and a GPS device or map to navigate unfamiliar terrain. With the right tools and equipment, you can tackle any gravel ride with confidence and ease.

Understanding Gravel Riding

Gravel riding is a unique form of cycling that combines elements of road and off-road riding. It is often referred to as adventure riding or gravel grinding, and it involves riding on unpaved roads, trails, and gravel paths. Gravel riding is all about exploring the outdoors, getting off the beaten path, and experiencing new terrain.

One of the main benefits of gravel riding is the ability to explore new areas that are not accessible by road bikes. Gravel bikes are designed to handle a variety of terrain, from smooth gravel roads to rocky trails. They are typically equipped with wider tires, disc brakes, and a more relaxed geometry than road bikes, making them comfortable for long rides on rough terrain.

Gravel riding has become increasingly popular in recent years, with events like the Dirty Kanza and the Gravel Worlds drawing thousands of participants from around the world. The Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame and Gravel Grinder News are two online resources that provide information about the latest gravel events, gear, and news.

When it comes to riding gravel, there are a few key things to keep in mind. First, it’s important to choose the right bike for the terrain you’ll be riding. A gravel bike with wider tires and disc brakes is ideal for most gravel riding. Second, it’s important to be prepared for changing weather conditions and to carry extra gear like a rain jacket, spare tubes, and a multi-tool. Finally, it’s important to ride at a comfortable pace and enjoy the scenery.

Overall, gravel riding is a fun and rewarding way to explore new areas and challenge yourself on the bike. Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or a beginner, there’s something for everyone in the world of gravel riding.

Essential Gravel Riding Tools

When it comes to gravel riding, having the right tools can make all the difference. Here are some essential tools that every gravel rider should have in their kit:

Tubes and Tire Repair

Flat tires are an inevitable part of gravel riding, so it’s important to always carry spare tubes and a tire repair kit. A compact multi-tool with a chain tool is also a must-have, as it can help with quick fixes on the go.

Tubeless Setup

Many gravel riders opt for tubeless tires, which require a different set of tools. A tubeless setup typically includes tire levers, sealant, and a tubeless-compatible pump or inflator. It’s important to have these tools on hand for any necessary repairs or adjustments.

Saddle and Handlebar Bag

Gravel rides can be long and require a lot of gear, so having a saddle or handlebar bag can be a lifesaver. These bags can hold everything from snacks and water to spare tubes and tools. Look for bags that are durable and waterproof to keep your gear safe and dry.


Navigation is key when it comes to gravel riding, so having a GPS device can help keep you on track. Look for devices that are rugged and waterproof, with long battery life and accurate maps.

Overall, having the right tools and gear can help make gravel riding more enjoyable and less stressful. By being prepared for any situation, you can focus on the ride and the beautiful scenery around you.

Choosing the Right Bike

When it comes to gravel riding, choosing the right bike is crucial. A good gravel bike should be comfortable, versatile, and able to handle a wide range of terrain. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting a gravel bike:

Frame Material

Gravel bikes come in a variety of frame materials, including carbon fiber, aluminum, steel, and titanium. Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to choose the one that best fits your needs. Carbon fiber is lightweight and stiff, making it great for racing, but it can be expensive. Aluminum is affordable and durable, but can be less comfortable on rough terrain. Steel is comfortable and durable, but can be heavy. Titanium is lightweight, comfortable, and durable, but can be expensive.

Tire Clearance

Gravel bikes need to be able to accommodate wider tires than road bikes. Look for a bike with at least 40mm of tire clearance, but ideally closer to 50mm. This will give you more grip and stability on loose surfaces.


Gravel bikes typically have a more relaxed geometry than road bikes, with a longer wheelbase, slacker head tube angle, and more fork rake. This helps provide a more stable ride on rough terrain. Look for a bike with a geometry that feels comfortable for you.


Gravel bikes can come with either disc brakes or rim brakes. Disc brakes offer better stopping power and work better in wet conditions, but can be more expensive. Rim brakes are more affordable, but can be less effective in wet conditions.

Other Considerations

Other factors to consider when choosing a gravel bike include the drivetrain, handlebars, and overall weight. Look for a bike that has a wide range of gears to help you tackle steep climbs and descents. Consider handlebars that offer multiple hand positions for added comfort on long rides. And try to choose a bike that is lightweight enough to be maneuverable, but still sturdy enough to handle rough terrain.

In summary, when choosing a gravel bike, look for a comfortable frame material, ample tire clearance, a relaxed geometry, and effective brakes. Consider the drivetrain, handlebars, and weight as well. With the right bike, you’ll be able to rip through gravel and tooth-rattling terrain with ease.

Riding Gear and Accessories

When it comes to gravel riding, having the right gear and accessories can make all the difference in your comfort and performance. Here are some items to consider:


  • Helmet: Always wear a helmet when riding, and choose one that fits well and meets safety standards.
  • Jersey: A comfortable, moisture-wicking jersey can keep you cool and dry on hot days.
  • Shorts: Look for shorts with a chamois or padded liner to reduce discomfort on long rides.
  • Gloves: Gloves can provide extra grip and cushioning, as well as protect your hands in case of a fall.
  • Sunglasses: Protect your eyes from the sun, wind, and debris with a good pair of sunglasses.


  • Hydration pack: A hydration pack can hold water, snacks, and other essentials, and keep them easily accessible while riding.
  • Saddlebag: A saddlebag can hold tools, spare tubes, and other items you may need in case of a mechanical issue.
  • Lights: If you plan to ride in low-light conditions, consider adding lights to your bike for safety.
  • GPS device: A GPS device can help you navigate unfamiliar terrain and keep track of your ride data.
  • Multi-tool: A multi-tool can help you make adjustments or repairs on the go.


  • Comfortable: Look for shoes with a comfortable fit and good support.
  • Water-resistant: Consider shoes that are water-resistant to keep your feet dry in wet conditions.
  • Lightweight: Lightweight shoes can help reduce fatigue on long rides.

Overall, investing in quality gear and accessories can enhance your gravel riding experience and keep you comfortable and safe on the trails.

Safety and Preparedness

When it comes to gravel riding, safety and preparedness should always be a top priority. Here are some essential tools and tips to keep you safe and prepared on your next ride:

Safe Riding

  • Always wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear.
  • Be visible with reflective clothing or lights, especially if riding at dawn, dusk, or at night.
  • Follow traffic laws and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Ride within your limits and don’t take unnecessary risks.


  • Carry a repair kit with essential tools such as tire levers, spare tubes, and a multi-tool.
  • Pack enough water and snacks to keep you fueled throughout your ride.
  • Bring a map or use a GPS device to ensure you stay on course.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather and bring extra layers in case of unexpected changes.

Safety Tips

  • Always ride with a buddy or let someone know your route and expected return time.
  • Check your bike before every ride to ensure it’s in good condition.
  • If you experience a mechanical issue such as a broken chain, know how to fix it or be prepared to call for help.
  • If you’re riding in a remote area, consider carrying a personal locator beacon for emergency situations.

By following these safety and preparedness tips, you can enjoy your gravel rides with confidence and peace of mind.

Nutrition and Performance

Proper nutrition is crucial for optimal performance during gravel riding. The right balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat can help you maintain energy levels and improve endurance. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Carbohydrates: Carbs are the primary source of fuel for endurance activities like gravel riding. Aim to consume 30-60 grams of carbs per hour during your ride to maintain energy levels. Good sources of carbs include energy bars, gels, and sports drinks.

  • Protein: Protein is important for muscle repair and recovery. Aim to consume 20-30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of finishing your ride. Good sources of protein include lean meats, eggs, and protein shakes.

  • Fat: Fat is a secondary source of fuel for endurance activities. Aim to consume healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and avocado to maintain energy levels during your ride.

  • Hydration: Proper hydration is key for optimal performance. Aim to drink 16-20 ounces of water per hour during your ride. You can also consider adding electrolytes to your water to replace lost minerals and improve hydration.

  • Gels: Energy gels can be a convenient source of carbs during your ride. However, be sure to read the label and choose gels with a balanced ratio of carbs and electrolytes.

Overall, by maintaining proper nutrition and hydration, you can optimize your performance during gravel riding and enjoy a more comfortable and enjoyable ride.

Unbound Gravel and Other Events

Gravel riding has become increasingly popular in recent years, and with that popularity comes a growing number of events to choose from. One of the most well-known events is Unbound Gravel, formerly known as Dirty Kanza. This event takes place in Emporia, Kansas, and offers a range of distances from 25 to 350 miles. Unbound Gravel has become an iconic event in the gravel riding world, attracting riders from all over the world to test their skills and endurance on the challenging Kansas terrain.

But Unbound Gravel is just one of many events available to gravel riders. There are numerous other events that offer similar experiences, including the Rebecca’s Private Idaho, the Belgian Waffle Ride, and the Crusher in the Tushar. Each event has its own unique characteristics, but they all share a common theme of adventure and exploration.

Participating in a gravel event can be a great way to challenge yourself and experience new terrain. These events often take riders on routes that are not accessible by traditional road bikes, providing a unique opportunity to explore the countryside and push your limits. Whether you are a seasoned gravel rider or just starting out, there is an event out there for you.

In addition to the physical challenge, gravel events also offer a sense of community and camaraderie. Riders come together to share their love of the sport and support each other on the course. Many events also include post-race celebrations, giving riders a chance to relax and connect with fellow gravel enthusiasts.

Overall, gravel events like Unbound Gravel and others offer a unique and exciting experience for riders looking to explore the world on two wheels. Whether you are looking to push your limits or just enjoy a fun ride with friends, there is no shortage of options available.

Technology in Gravel Riding

Technology has been rapidly advancing in the world of cycling, and gravel riding is no exception. The use of technology in gravel riding has made it easier for riders to navigate, track their progress, and stay connected with the cycling community.

One of the most important pieces of technology for gravel riders is a GPS device. These devices allow riders to track their routes, distances, and speeds. They also provide turn-by-turn directions, which is particularly useful when exploring new routes. Many GPS devices also come with features such as heart rate monitoring and cadence tracking, which can help riders monitor their performance.

Another useful piece of technology for gravel riders is a bike computer. Bike computers provide real-time data on speed, distance, and other metrics. They can also be used to track progress over time and set goals for future rides. Some bike computers even come with built-in GPS, eliminating the need for a separate device.

In addition to GPS and bike computers, there are also a number of smartphone apps that can be useful for gravel riders. These apps offer features such as route planning, turn-by-turn directions, and social networking. Some apps even allow riders to compete against each other in virtual races.

Overall, technology has greatly enhanced the gravel riding experience. With the help of GPS devices, bike computers, and smartphone apps, riders can easily navigate new routes, track their progress, and stay connected with the cycling community.