Get a 10 in your gravel cycling and bikepacking
Gravel is here to stay and bikepacking is increasingly becoming a unique way to experience new destinations. Here’s how to manage your cycling skills if you want to combine both.
When you load your bike with bags or panniers and fill them up, the steering changes quite a bit compared to that of the weightless bike. Inertia increases a lot, acceleration suffers, but the big difference is noticeable if you try to stand up on the pedals and how the bike reacts in curves. Follow these 10 recommendations:
1. We start with road safety. The bike is now wider and clumsier. Be careful when maneuvering between cars or on technical trails with tight passages, as your panniers or boots can bang anywhere nearby. Always maneuver with enough space, open the entry wedge a little more in tight areas.
2. When braking, remember to reserve a few extra meters to stop the bike, so don’t rush the distances. It goes without saying that in this style of cycling we will pedal with a less aggressive attitude, but especially for cyclists who have a more sporty cycling background, it is not bad to adopt a more relaxed attitude. The same will be true for accelerations, because with these bikes, especially when trying to overtake, times are much longer. Do not forget that a bicycle loaded with luggage can easily weigh 10 or 12 kg more.
3. With saddlebags, all your previous criteria change. With a loaded bike, hills are at a higher level. Familiarise yourself with new reactions and forget what it is like to cycle unladen. You have to adapt and that’s not so bad, because when you climb a slope with little grip, you will be surprised by the great grip and traction you will have on the rear wheel.
4. In this sense, remember to put a little more pressure on the tires, especially at the rear, to compensate the weight increase. Otherwise, you risk pinching the rear tire and puncturing it. There is currently an endless supply of super tough tires specific to travel, tubeless and puncture prevention systems such as foam protectors that prevent punctures if a stone pinches the tire against the rim.
5. Distribute the weight well. As far as possible, try to balance the weight as much as possible between the front, middle and rear of the bike. Before loading the bike, it’s important to consider what you need to have on hand and how much weight you need to carry. It is best to keep the heaviest items in the middle and lower part of the bike, then at the back, leaving the lighter items you need on the road at the front (mobile phone, food, sun cream, a raincoat, etc.). Firstly to make them easier to access and secondly not to affect the steering behaviour.
6. When you stand up on the pedals to tackle steep climbs or change pace to get over a more difficult area, you will see that it is not easy to balance the bike sideways while pedalling, as with an unweighted bike. That’s why you should move from side to side, leaving the bike more stable in the middle.
7. It is very important that you always pack your luggage tightly inside your bags. Firstly, there are millions of vibrations that the bike receives when riding the roads, and if the load is loose it is very easy to damage delicate objects inside. Then, if the load moves around inside the bags or they sway, it will affect the quality and precision of your cycling continuously.
8. Do not overlook the detail that if the panniers move because they are not fixed correctly, they will scratch your bike and the components on which they rest. That’s why it’s always good to take a little time to readjust the load and the correct attachment of the bags. However, it’s not a bad trick to protect all items between the panniers and your bike frame with cling film or tape before putting the panniers on your bike.
9. As the tyres are always a little harder to compensate for the extra weight, on fast sections of gravel or loose sand, you’ll find that the bike doesn’t grip well. Also keep in mind that you are riding a heavier bike with higher inertia. In these cornering situations, if you have to adjust your speed already inside the corner, the brake that will help you stay on the road is the rear brake. Natural instinct invites you to dig the front wheel, but to find more steering grip, if you apply a little more power to the rear brake without actually locking up the rear wheel, you’ll find that this rear lock sends more weight and grip to the front wheel, so you’ll always have more steering control.
10 – You’re on holiday, so don’t rush. Climbing is now a real pleasure to enjoy the scenery and immerse yourself in a personal encounter, always without losing focus on driving. Climb seated and with high cadences not to fatigue your muscles.