We recently hosting another Gravel Chat with our four Jukebox Cycling gravel superstars: Alexey Vermeulen, Ashton Lambie, Adam Roberge and Dylan Johnson. They answered all of your tough gravel questions, and we’re sharing some of their answers on the blog. You can also watch the entire chat right here!
Here, we asked for their best tips for new gravel riders.
When it comes to taking on your first race, I think being confident in fixing your bike is key. Having a basic idea of how to fix your chain when it breaks, how to deal with shifting that’s gotten messed up, how to plug a tire or fix a flat—these can all be race-ending issues, and beyond that, knowing how to fix those problems gives you a huge sense of confidence and self-efficacy. And make sure you know what you need for your bike! At a race last year, I ran into a woman who was prepared... but with the wrong tube. The valve didn't fit through the the wheel. And those are things that can make cycling very difficult. If you are confident that you can fix anything you encounter—besides your bike breaking in half—then no matter what, you feel like you've accomplished something. I think that's bigger than a lot of races. If you had a normal day and finished where you expected to, that’s great, but often it’s not as meaningful as working your way through a tough situation. Learning how to fix a flat is probably one of the most valuable things you can do as a cyclist, and if you have to skip a ride to spend some time learning how to do that, it is so worth missing the ride just to get that dialed in.
Practice! Practice all the stuff that you’ll be doing on race day. Flat changing is a big one, but even things like fueling are things you should practice long before race day. When there's an expo at race day, it can be tempting to try this awesome new fuel that someone tells you about… but race day is not the time to mess around with new stuff! Just come back to the basics that you’ve been practicing over and over.
You’ll go through some trials and tribulations eat pretty much every race, and you’ll probably have moments where you don’t want to finish. But if it's not threatening your health or an absolutely ridiculous mechanical issue like your bike cracking, try to get to the finish. You gain so much confidence from crossing that finish line, and no matter how the race goes, you’ll have a good story to tell. In fact, the more stuff that goes wrong, the better the story!
If you’ve done the work—the training, the nutrition, figuring out how to eat and drink on the bike, figuring out how to fix things on your bike—be confident in what you’ve done. Bring that feeling into race day. It’s OK to be nervous, but remember you’ve put the work in!
Find people in real life or online who are training for the same thing, so you can compare notes and share knowledge. Being able to feel like you're a part of the group is so helpful. In pretty much every area, there are people around you who are also riding bikes. Go find them.