Are you preparing for a gravel event like the Onbound #UnboundGravel (https://www.unboundgravel.com/) ?
Gravel racing can be a challenging and rewarding experience, but it requires a specific set of skills and training techniques to succeed.
16 proven tips
In this blog, I’ll provide 16 proven tips to help you get the most out of your gravel training and dominate your next race.
From building a strong foundation of cycling fitness to practicing proper nutrition, these tips will set you up for success on the gravel.
Let’s dive straight into it.
- Start by building a strong foundation of general cycling fitness. This can be done through a combination of road cycling and indoor cycling. Think more time in the saddle at a lower intensity builds endurance which is important for your success. Develop the feel for the long steady training.
- Incorporate strength training into your weekly routine. This can include exercises like squats, lunges, and leg press to strengthen the muscles you use when cycling (including gluts!). And, remember not to neglect rotational core exercises and exercises to strengthen the lower back.
- Train with power. Using a power meter can help you track your progress and ensure that you are training at the right intensity. Include a variety of intensity. Mix it. Keep it fresh and fun. Change the stimulus, which can help to develop your fitness.
- Practice proper bike handling skills. Schedule skill sessions. This includes cornering, descending, and technical riding. Get a feel for riding on trails, on different surfaces and develop your ability to look ahead and scan the trails.
- Get comfortable riding in a variety of positions. This will help you find the most efficient and comfortable position for different terrain and efforts. Create a course similar to the race course.
- Train with friends, a group and finding a coach can be very beneficial as well! Riding with others, working with a cycling coach can help push you to ride harder, to train right and improve your skills, both physically and mentally.
- Incorporate intervals into your training. Interval training involves short bursts of high intensity followed by periods of rest. This can help improve your aerobic fitness and power. V02max can be trained with longer intervals (3-5mins) and shorter intervals riding 6 to 12mins uphill for example alternating 20s hard 40s easy.
- Focus on endurance and fat oxidation by riding at a lower intensity (zone 2). Gravel rides can be long, so it’s important to build up your endurance through long, steady rides. The longer the event the more important it becomes that your body predominately use fat as fuel. Include some Restricted carbohydrate restricted (RCA) training may also help to fat oxidation ability.
- Include over-gearing, big gear low cadence drills (so called SFR’s) in your program. Riding off-road is quite different from road cycling, because of the very hilly terrain, the rider must be able to produce lots of force and overcoming high amounts of torque to make it up steep pitches.
- Practice proper nutrition. Make sure to fuel your body with enough carbohydrates, protein, and electrolytes to sustain your energy levels during rides. Develop a strategy. Find out what works for you and what doesn’t. Longer training rides provide us with a great opportunity to practice a version of that.
- Stay hydrated. Bring plenty of water and sports drinks on your rides to ensure that you stay hydrated. Drinking enough fluids is often the deciding factor in those long rides and races. Fluid intake rule of thumb: 50-70 Fahrenheit consume ca. 30 oz/hour, 71-120 F 40-60 oz/hour.
- Use the right gear. Invest in a good pair of gravel-specific tires and a comfortable saddle.
- Take breaks. Don’t be afraid to take breaks to stretch or eat during longer rides. Schedule recover days. Remember training is stress, recovery, improve.
- Train in a variety of terrain. Mix up your training rides by incorporating hills, gravel, and dirt roads.
- Use visualization techniques. Visualizing yourself successfully completing a ride or race can help boost your confidence and performance.
- Don’t be afraid to try new things. Experiment with different training techniques and find what works best for you.