Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Gravel Grinder Gear: What To Do In Mud
#1: Walk, Don't Ride: The biggest mistake one can make gravel grinding is to think that they can ride a wet dirt road. It's best to test the surface by walking on it first before you roll your bike into a giant mudball weighing 70lbs. You'll end up walking either way and carrying your bike at race weight is much easier on the back than carrying one stuffed with mud. Other options may include riding along the grassy margins, in the ditch, or even in the fields adjacent to the road. (Although you should be aware that trespassing can be an issue in instances such as this.) Finally, if it isn't a route required as part of an event, why not turn back and find a better route on harder surfaces? Save the dirt road for a drier day.
#2: Muddy Gravel Roads: For the rides on destroyed gravel roads, weather damaged roads, or on roads engorged with recent rains, you have a chance at actually riding these bits. Wider tires are naturally better, but not a necessity. Basically, cyclo-cross type tire clearances are a must. Try using a bit lower pressure in the tires to aid in float as well.
#4: A Note On Drivetrains: Gravel road riding wreaks havoc on drivetrains in dry conditions, but the wear and tear factor goes up exponentially in wet weather. For this reason, many seasoned gravel afficianadoes will use a single speed for conditions such as this for training. In an event, where you may not have a choice to use anything but your geared set up, it isn't a bad idea to have a wet conditions lube in your kit to periodacally lube and clean the drivetrain with. In a pinch, squirting your drivetrain with straight water may effectively get you down the road.
#5: Post-Ride Maintenance: From personal experience I can tell you it is best to clean your bicycle immediately following a wet, muddy gravel grinder. Leaving the job till the morning will increase the difficulty of the job ten-fold and will allow rust to set into chains and cables. A clean bike is a happy bike!
Hopefully these tips will aid you in your pursuit of gravelly good times!