Gravel Bike Racing Prep Guide




Gravel Bike Racing Prep Guide

Posted By: Ben McCoy
Posted In: BT Culture, BT Cycling Club

Adam Turman at Meisville Grinder image

Mr. Adam Turman – Fellow #GENTS rider, Speedhound bikes flag flier, and former #BTriders member.

As we get ready for the 2014 AlmanzoWest Side Dirty Benjamin, and more I’ve dusted off the Gravel Bike Racing Preparation post I wrote last year as part of our #BTriders initiative and updated it.

It’s important to note that I am still not racing. One again, I’m riding with a group of friends, some of which are new to endurance bicycle events. So this guide will be overkill for the truly competitive. But for noobs (and #GENTS), this should give you a pretty comprehensive checklist to work from.

Please note: This is STILL not official or professional advice. This is just my plan based on my personal experience and/or advice I have received from others.

Bike Set-up

I’ll once again be riding my Speedhound OnlyOne – a damn fine gravel / sport touring bike; but regardless of the bicycle you choose, make sure you can ride it comfortably for at least 50 miles.

Pro Tip: If you can ride 50 miles, you can ride 100.

I also highly recommend bringing your ride in to your local bike shop to have it looked over (if not tuned-up) before your first major event. Just remember to give it a good test ride between the shop and race day to make sure everything works like you want it to.

Pro Tip: Bring the shop a sixer to get a good fixer.


Once again I’ll be sporting some sort of knobby cross / gravel tires. Last year I rode 700×35 Continental Cyclocross tires with great success; but so far this year I’ve been liking the 700×32 Ritchie SpeedMax tires that were handed down to me. I’ve also heard good things about the Kenda Happy Mediums.

Pro Tip: Wider tires are more comfortable, but also require more energy from the rider.


This year I’ll continue to rock my family of Banjo Brothers bags – including the frame bag and phone wallet. However, I will likely downsize their saddle trunk in favor of the large seat bag. I’ll also be adding a top tube bag for easy access to whole food snacks like dried fruits and nuts (as well as trash – DON’T BE A LITTER BUG!).

Pro Tip: Take at least one good test ride with your bags fully loaded to experience their effect on your balance and endurance.


In addition to my bags (and myself), my bike will carry the following items:

  • Computer – I highly recommend a Garmin GPS device
  • Cue sheet holder
  • Tire pump
  • Water bottles


The bags (and my jersey pockets) will be filled with the following items:

  • Smartphone
  • Snacks – See ‘Food / Fuel Planning’ below
  • Extra water bottles
  • Extra clothing – See ‘Bike Clothing’ below
  • Sun screen
  • First aid kit
  • Fix-it kit – See ‘Fix-it Kit’ below


Riding distance is tough, so I advise sacrificing fashion for comfort – or more to the point, learn to love lycra. Come race day, I’ll likely be wearing (or packing) the following items:

  • Cycling jersey
  • Big shorts
  • Cycling cap (2)
  • Wool cycling socks (2 pair)
  • Sun sleeves or arm warmers – Depending on the weather forecast
  • Gloves (2 pair)
  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses
  • Rain jacket, wind jacket, or wind vest – Depending on the weather forecast
  • Shoe covers or toe covers – Depending on the weather forecast

Fix-it Kit

For mechanical issues, I’ll be bringing the following items:

  • Additional tubes
  • Tube patch kit
  • Tire levers
  • Pump
  • Multi-tool
  • Lights – Front and rear
  • Extra chain

Should anything more than my tires fail, I’m out. However, some riders recommend bringing things like spare derailleurs, extra tires, and other mechanical replacements. And after tearing through a rear derailleur myself over the course of last season, I don’t blame them. Just remember that the more you bring, the more you have to carry.

Food / Fuel Planning

Eating is the name of the game – especially late in the game.

This is not rocket science. It’s what I learned during the 2012 Westside Dirty Benjamin when I bonked. Thank gawd for friends. But I learned that having a variety of food and supplements is quite helpful, as my body simply refused to keep ingesting the same thing for 100+ miles.

Pro Tip: Take at least one good test ride with your preferred snacks to make sure you can easily consume them while riding your bicycle.


  • McDonald’s – Pride aside, it’s become a team tradition
  • Coffee
  • Banana



  • Water – Lots and lots of water
  • Energy drinks and/or electrolyte supplements
  • Gel shots and/or chews
  • Granola Bars
  • Dried fruits and nuts
  • Mandarin oranges

Post Race (Recovery)

  • Protein-rich beverage
  • Beer
  • DINNER!!!

Final Thoughts

In closing, I offer some advice I received via email from Chris Skogen prior to last year’s Almanzo. Here’s a summary of his tips.

  • Come prepared – Anything can happen over the course of 100 miles. Come prepared to fix your own problems. Bring an extra tube, tire levers, a pump, and a multi-tool. Flashing lights are also a good thing – one red, one white.
  • Hydration is key –Bring enough water to sustain you for at least 45 miles, consider using an electrolyte supplement, and ‘drink, drink, drink.’
  • Don’t forget to eat – Extra food will come in handy if you remember to eat it.

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