Gravel Bike Tips and Tricks From Team Smith
Gravel biking is one of our favorite ways to get out on two wheels and it isn’t hard to see why. Combine the beauty you get from being out on trails with mellower descents, and the fun you get of being on a road bike with fewer cars and you get a typical gravel day. Our favorite thing about gravel is you can use the gear you already have so getting started or shifting to this discipline isn’t quite as tough of a jump from mountain bike to the road or vice versa.
Here at Smith HQ we have a lot of team members who love riding gravel. Some are just getting started, others are experts, and we even checked in one of our sponsored athletes who races gravel professionally. We asked them for their best tips and tricks so that we can share their expertise with you.
Rider Name: Rach McBride
Describe your riding style or set up in one sentence:
My riding style is go hard, race with grit, and keep going until my body literally won’t let me anymore.
Bike: BMC Kaius 01, HED Emporia GC3
Helmet: Ignite (aero gains!)
Eyewear: Purple Wildcats
Current Tire Setup: Panaracer SK (front) and SK+ (rear), 40mm, tubeless
Favorite (or always necessary) Piece of Clothing: Full-finger gloves, I like to keep the skin on my hands 😉
One piece of advice for someone getting started with gravel or off-road riding: Find nice locals to show you the choice routes and also remember safety first when you’re out in the wild!
An essential bit of gear you’re surprised you take with you every time: A hand pump – I don’t use CO2s except in races. Even for long 100-mile+ races, I bring a hand pump as well. I don’t want to get stranded with a flat just because I ran out of fancy compressed air!
How to prep for those long days and changing conditions: Bring extra food in case your ride takes a bit longer than expected, a rain shell or emergency blanket in case the weather turns, and a mini first aid kit in case you or anyone else needs some medical assistance! I have a partial frame bag that easily carries all the essentials.
The MTB-er Taking a Breather
Rider Name: Jaden
Bike: Canyon Grizl CF SL 6
Current Tire Setup: Terravail Cannonball 700c x 47
Favorite Piece of Clothing: Voler Cargo Bibs
T-shirt or Jersey: Tech Tee all the way
One piece of advice for someone getting started with gravel or off-road riding: Don’t sweat all of the rules and frameworks that road riding brings to the table, gravel is a place for experimentation and self-expression.
An essential bit of gear you’re surprised you take with you every time: My Silca Mattone seat pack that has everything I need to fix a flat.
How to prep for changing conditions: Bring a flat kit, don’t be afraid to put a bag on your bike to house a jacket, some snacks, and other things that you might end up needing like a light!
Rider Name: Lauren
Describe your riding style or setup in a few words:
I prefer gradual climbs followed by a fast and fun descent.
Bike: Specialized Diverge
Current Tire Setup: Specialized Pathfinder Sport
T-shirt or Jersey: T-Shirt
One piece of advice for someone getting started with gravel or off-road riding: Go with friends, or get tips from people who gravel bike. It’s important to get a rundown of etiquette while you’re out there. I’ve learned a lot by going with different groups of people with different riding styles.
An essential bit of gear you’re surprised you take with you every time: So many snacks, always a tire repair kit, and lights for when it gets dark.
How to prep for changing conditions: Depending on the time of year, I will bring an extra layer to put on.
The Party Pacer
Rider Name: Jake
Describe your riding style or setup in a few words: My riding style can be described as “Party Pace” – I am riding for the views and fresh air, not to break any records.
Bike: Canyon Grizl
Eyewear: Shift Split
Current Tire Setup: Schwalbe G-One Bite 45mm
Favorite Piece of Clothing: I am a huge fan of both my Ripton Jorts and Club Ride Quest riding shirt.
One piece of advice for someone getting started with gravel or off-road riding: Take it slow and bring tools and repair kits! Bonus tip – practice using your tools and repair kits at home so you know how to use them when the time comes.
An essential bit of gear you’re surprised you take with you every time: I always bring front and rear lights with me no matter the time of day I’m riding. I am always surprised by how dark it can be on shadier trails!
How to prep for changing conditions: Some gravel bikes come with many mounting points for bags and gear. Take advantage of them and mount/strap bags to your bike so you always have the space to carry extra clothes, lenses, snacks, water, tools, and anything else you may need for changing conditions.
The Well-Rounded Rider
Rider Name: Zach
Describe your riding style or setup in a few words: This bike is built to be the mountain biker’s ideal do-it-all gravel and touring rig. My style is 40% Party Pace and 60% Shred.
Bike: Crust Evasion
Eyewear: Shift Mag XL
Current Tire Setup: Schwalbe G-one 27.5 x 2.25”
Favorite Piece of Clothing: Maap Alt_road Ride Tee
One piece of advice for someone getting started with gravel or off-road riding: Bring a tube!
An essential bit of gear you’re surprised you take with you every time: Pocket gummy bears (Haribo).
How to prep for changing conditions: Pack a clear lens in the kit for when the ride goes late.
What are some of your favorite tips for gravel biking? Let us know in the comments below.