2017 Oklahoma Freewheel Gravel FAQ
What is gravel cycling all about?
Riding on gravel goes back to the creation of the bicycle. Before the car and the modern road system, there were dirt or brick paved roads built for horses and carriages. The bicycle offered a new type of adventure and was built to go anywhere.
Today, riding gravel, also known as gravel grinding, has become popular for many reasons. Just like in the beginning, riding gravel offers a new type of experience. The atmosphere of the gravel riding community is unique and tends to be more social compared to other types of cycling. It does not fall under any of the highly regulated cycling federations and requires no membership fees or licenses. “Gravel” refers to essentially any non-paved road: jeep trails; utilitarian public or private country roads for farming, ranching, or oil/gas companies; and even roads that have been decommissioned. It may be surfaced with gravel, mud, packed dirt, sand, surface rocks, or recycled asphalt chunks!
Like other sporting events, gravel cycling has those who choose to race and those who choose to just ride. One of the biggest differences I see between road and gravel cycling are the unknown and ever, changing, variables. Conditions can vary more when riding on gravel compared to riding a paved road. Due to the weather and the different types of gravel, there is never a guarantee that one will ride her or his bike the entire time. There have been many gravel events where the cyclists have had to carry their bicycles for miles due to mud and difficult terrain. This is all part of the “unknown” that appeals to many gravel grinders..
Just like other forms of cycling, riding gravel can take one on new adventures and to unexpected places. . It will test bicycle-handling skills and may revive lost passion for cycling, if needed. There is a very good chance that a first-timer will make new friends and be welcomed with open arms.
What is the difference between road and gravel cycling?
The difference between road and gravel cycling are numerous. While many gravel cyclist are now using gravel specific bicycles, most still use cyclocross and mountain bicycles. With the popularity of the sport growing, more bicycle manufactures are starting to create gravel specific bicycles.
Typically gravel bicycles have greater clearance for a wider range of tires and usually have beefier components. Many gravel-specific bicycles incorporate a mixture of road and mountain bicycle components. Just like road bicycles, gravel bicycles come in a variety of styles and are built using a variety of materials. Steel, aluminum, and titanium are most common with carbon fiber starting to really make its way into the field.
While many gravel bicycles are designed for speed or the one-day tour or race, the majority of gravel bicycles are designed for endurance and bikepacking adventures. This gives the gravel bicycle a more relaxed design that is meant to be comfortable for any adventure.
Do I need different tools and gear for gravel cycling?
Along with having a bicycle capable of taking on the rigors of gravel cycling, having the right tools and gear is a must. Please make sure to talk with your local bicycle shop when buying tools and gear for your gravel bicycle. There might be something different about your bicycle or something they feel you should carry due to the conditions in your area.
Some items to consider carrying when riding gravel are: a pump, spare spokes, zip ties, chain lube, and some type of brush or stick to clean mud off your bicycle. I would carry a spare derailleur hanger if your bicycle uses a derailleur hanger on your rear derailleur. Having a spare derailleur hanger will help you avoid calling the SAG wagon and keep you going on your adventure. You will also want to make sure you are carrying the correct size of spare tube and CO2 cartridges.
You will have water and food stops on OK Freewheel but you might not have that luxury while you are out training. Gravel cycling will take you on new adventures but can also put you in the middle of nowhere. Make sure you carry extra water and nutrition just in case you start to run low. Being prepared for anything is part of riding gravel and also part of the adventure. Self sufficiency is valued, but a fellow gravel cyclist almost always will lend a hand when needed.
Is there still support on the gravel route since it uses a different route?
The gravel route is supported just like the road route and will start and end in the same host towns. It will have the same number of water stops, unless the mileage is very different, and will use the same towns for lunch. We have an amazing group of volunteers who are assigned specifically to gravel support.
Can I alternate riding road and gravel?
Yes you can but you must make arrangements beforehand. If you are bringing two bicycles or two separate set of wheels, you are responsible for transporting them from town to town. We will help as much as possible but please understand that we cannot accommodate everybody who wants to bring two bicycles or two sets of wheels.
Additionally, you are required to let us know each time you change routes. This is for your safety. If you fail to let us know of any changes, you will be asked to leave the tour immediately.
Who rides gravel?
Anybody that has the proper equipment can ride gravel. Women, men, girls, boys, young, and old all ride gravel. Many cyclists ride gravel as a way to get away from the normal ride and to experience something new. More and more people are riding gravel due to the lower amount of traffic on the gravel roads. For many cyclists, the lower amount of traffic and the slower pace make for a more comfortable and relaxing ride.