Gravel riding is growing in momentum in Ireland and next month we’ll see the first event of its kind in the country – Lakelander Gravel Grinder.
The UNESCO forests of Belcoo in Fermanagh will open its roads to hoard of cyclists for the challenge gravel sportive on October 12th.
Keen to give it a go, but not sure how to go about it, we’ve teamed up with experienced gravel rider Darren Tapp for some top tips on how to survive this ride.
How beautiful is this place? Big Dog 100k Challenge. Little Dog Challenge 50k. Early bird entries open at https://lakelander.co.uk/.
Posted by Lakelander Gravel Grinder on Friday, 12 July 2019
Expert Opinion: Darren Tapp
Formally living in the UK, Darren Tap has been mountain biking since the 80’s. He’s been around the block from cross-country to downhill and grassroots racing to national and international races. Along the way he’s also raced for Yeti UK.
Moving to Northern Ireland, he soon became an early adopter of gravel biking with it taking him back to his early days of a ‘one bike does all’ fit. Knowing the gravel roads of Fermanagh – where the Lakelander Gravel Grinder takes place – like the back of hand, thanks to clocking over 100 miles each week, he’s a fitting expert opinion to help us get rolling…
It’s A Rally Not A Race…
Pacing yourself is a very personal thing, but for the Lakelander Gravel Grinder’s 100km Big Dog it’s important not to blast off from the start. It’s a long day in the saddle, over five hours – so even the fast boys will struggle to get it done under that time. Treat it as a great day out and take in the amazing views.
Find Your Climbing Balance…
The lack of rolling resistance on gravel makes it a lot harder than cycling on the road. The climbs are more like road climbs with a couple topping out at 20%. Riding climbs on gravel (at 12% plus) means balancing your weight very evenly. Too much weight on the front and you lose traction. Too much weight at the rear of the bike means the front wheel will come up. Keep your weight low and very central.
Pack Clever, Be Prepared…
I run tubeless tyres so I have a tubeless plug kit which consists of little sticky rubber strips and a tool for pushing them into your tyre for blocking up bigger holes that the tyre sealant can’t seal. I take three air canisters, one spare inner tube and some tube patches, a small multi tool, tyre levers and a chain link. I also carry it all in a water bottle storage bottle. A seat bag is also ideal. Like mountain biking, gravel riding is remote – so try to be prepared for the worst.
Big Volume Tyres…
Riding on different types of gravel makes tyre choice very hard. I run a WTB Resolute 650×42 (650b being a smaller size wheel) big volume tyres. The bigger the tyre, the plusher the ride. I also run tubeless. I would definitely recommend going tubeless to ensure less chance of a puncture. Tyre pressure really depends on your type of tyres, weight and riding style. I like to run mine at 25 to 30 psi, but I’m only 10 stone and very light on my bike.
These Shoes Are Made For Walking…
It’s far far easier to use mountain bike shoes with the cleat unset. If you need to walk off road it’s no bother with mountain bike shoes. The pedals are also much better at pushing out mud and dirt. We all know how hard it is to walk in road shoes on level ground. Walking on gravel would wreck your shoes and your legs. No one plans on walking when your out, but if you have to you can with mountain bike shoes.
Enjoy The Ride…
Gravel biking is an awesome experience exploring the great outdoors on roads less travelled with no traffic. Gravel biking takes you from your front door to some amazing places that a road bike could only dream of. Yes a mountain bike can do it, but the road miles on a mountain bike are hard work. Once you have been on one gravel ride, you’ll find it very hard not to do it again. The Lakelander Gravel Grinder will show you some amazing views of Fermanagh and places some people in the area have never seen. So take the time to take it in!
Many thanks to Darren for helping us out with this piece.
Do It! Lakelander Gravel Grinder
Go give gravel riding a crack with the Lakelander Gravel Grinder – Ireland’s first gravel ride. The cycle challenge is open to gravel bikes, cyclecross bikes, MTB and even e-Bikes. It takes place in Belcoo, Fermanagh on October 12, with 50km and 100km route options.
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