Mountain Biking How To — How to ride on gravel trails
I have been on rides across many parts of the US, Asia, and Eastern Europe. Given my experience – conditions in the US Southwest are somewhat unique – specifically they are unique in the fact that the trails are often made of relatively loose gravel. Many of the trails in Texas for example are covered with crushed lime stone and other rocks – and overall represent a relatively tricky surface for many beginners and less experienced riders. After several recent bike rides with my family, I decided to post this “HOW TO” summary to provide some guidance at least based on my experience of riding in those conditions for the last 5-6 years. So here we go:
- As you start on the ride, you need to relax and try not to tense your body. Being anxious you would tend to tighten your shoulders, elbows and arms and as you start riding the vibrations of the track will translate into your tense body and cause an early fatigue and potentially discomfort.
- Being tense will also potentially bring to less ability to maneuver fast along the track and may even cause you to lose control of your bike in some cases
- Focus on steering not only with your hands but also with your overall body especially with your hips. You may want to practice this first on a relatively flat surface — I suggest you do that around your house – on a safe street practice maneuvers where you use your body and hips to direct the bike.
- Make sure you look ahead on the trails and time the use of brakes. More so, please apply brakes OFTEN and in a GENTLE manner — i.e. control your speed on a frequent basis rather than via sudden stops. WHY? You will prevent going over the handlebars! Trust me – I have done that on more than one occasion as I learned to control my bike. The brake system on new mountain bikes – with hydraulic brakes – is so efficient in translating force of brake initiation to braking that you get a braking action very fast and that combined with the momentum of a fast moving bike will cause you to go over the handlebars…..So let’s avoid that by figuring out the physics of the movement – i.e. reduce speed by braking often and with a slight touch.
- Stay high on your bike and try to stand up above the saddle often especially when going over a series of larger rocks – that will reduce the likelihood of busting your tires and potentially also flipping off the bike.
All in all biking on gravel trails is not tough once you get used to it. If you pay attention to the pointers above and enjoy the rides!