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Gravel Cycling Tips for Beginners

Two cyclists in front of a lake with sailboats

Starting your first gravel bike ride opens the door to the exciting journey into a world where adventure, exploration, and cycling meet. To help beginners navigate this new terrain, here are essential tips from our friend the Gravel Cyclist, to ensure a smooth and enjoyable introduction to gravel cycling.

Cyclists riding through Big Water of Fleet Viaduct with 70 foot high granite arches

Master Clipping into the Pedals

Ensuring your feet stay securely attached to the pedals over bumpy terrain is crucial for when you are riding gravel. Practice clipping into the pedals in a safe, controlled environment to build confidence and muscle memory before your trip. We guarantee this will make your rides smoother and more enjoyable.

Two gravel cyclists and their dirty socks.

Choosing the Right Shoes

Footwear can make a significant difference in your gravel riding experience. The best shoes for gravel cycling are designed for off-road use and feature recessed cleats. They provide stability over mixed terrain and comfort if you need to hike-a-bike, enhancing your overall ride experience. See our top picks for gravel biking shoes at trekbikes.com

Woman riding gravel on the Girona Gravel bike tour

Climbing, Descending, and Cornering

Navigating the loose and uneven surfaces of gravel roads requires adept skills in climbing, descending, and cornering. Techniques like staying seated during climbs to maintain traction, braking prior to turns, and adopting a lower center of gravity on descents are vital for handling the challenges of gravel riding.

Navigating Dynamic Conditions

Gravel roads are known for their ever-changing conditions. Developing solid gravel bike handling skills is essential for safely navigating through rough patches, sand, and other obstacles you’ll encounter, ensuring a safe and enjoyable gravel cycling experience.

Staying on the Right Side of the Road

Even though traffic is often minimal on gravel roads, it can appear when you least expect it, so safe riding practices remain a top priority. Keep to the right side of the road at all times, but particularly when approaching blind corners and the crest of a hill.

gravel road through forest and hills

Understanding the Effort Required

Gravel cycling is more physically demanding than riding on paved roads. Recognizing that gravel rides require about 25% more effort and time compared to similar distances on pavement is important for planning and enjoying your gravel cycling adventures.


Gravel cycling for beginners is an exhilarating adventure that blends the physical challenge of cycling with the beauty of off-the-beaten-path exploration. By focusing on these key tips and preparing adequately, you’ll not only enhance your gravel cycling skills but also ensure each ride is both safe and enjoyable. Welcome to the diverse and captivating world of gravel cycling, where every ride invites discovery and adventure.

Gravel bike tours


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What is the Difference?

Ultimate Luxury:

Savor some of the most spectacular, 5-star properties in the world. Exuding luxury and elegance, these one-of-a-kind accommodations offer the chance to rejuvenate at award-winning spas, dine at Michelin-starred restaurants, and more.

Luxury:

Enjoy luxurious accommodations handpicked for a refined experience. From signature spa treatments to delicious local cuisine, you’ll be more than provided for; you’ll be pampered.

Explorer

These handpicked hotels provide relaxation and fun in a casual and comfortable environment. Delicious cuisine and great service mix perfectly for a memorable stay.

Combined

On select cycling vacations, you’ll stay at a mix of hotel levels, from Explorer to Luxury to Ultimate Luxury. Rest assured, no matter which level of hotel you’re at, our trip designers carefully select every accommodation.

Activity Level

Level 1:

Road: 1-3 hours of riding. Up to 25 mi (40 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Gravel: 1-3 hours of riding. Up to 20 mi (35 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Hiking: 1-3 hours of hiking. Up to 5 mi (8 km). Up to 1,000 ft (300 m).

Level 2:

Road: 2-4 hours of riding. 20-35 mi (35-60 km). Up to 2,500 ft (750 m).

Gravel: 2-4 hours of riding. 15-30 mi (25-45 km). Up to 2,000 ft (300 m).

Hiking: 2-4 hours of hiking. 4-8 mi (6-12 km). Up to 1,500 ft (450 m).

Level 3:

Road: 3-5 hours of riding. 25-55 mi (40-85 km). Up to 4,500 ft (1,500 m).

Gravel: 3-5 hours of riding. 20-40 mi (35-60 km). Up to 3,000 ft (900 m).

Hiking: 3-5 hours of hiking. 6-10 mi (9-16 km). Up to 2,000 ft (600 m).

Level 4:

Road: 4+ hours of riding. 40-70 mi (60-110 km). Up to 8,000 ft (2,400 m).

Gravel: 4+ hours of riding. 30-50 mi (45-80 km). Up to 4,000 ft (1,200 m).

Hiking: 4+ hours of hiking. 7-15 mi (11-24 km). Up to 4,000 ft (1,200 m).

What are your trip styles?

Classic - Reserve:

Savor the finer things as you relax in luxurious 5-star accommodations and wine, dine, and ride in some of the most unforgettable destinations around the world.

Classic - Signature:

Explore beautiful destinations by bike, enjoy extra inclusions, savor delicious local cuisine, and enjoy the perfect mix of accommodations.

Classic - Discovor:

Enjoy a casual cycling vacation with fantastic routes and comfortable accommodations.

Ride Camp:

Train like the pros in some of their favorite riding destinations.

Pro Race:

See the pros in action at the biggest cycling events of the year.

Cross Country:

Tackle an epic adventure that takes you point-to-point across mountains, countryside, and more.

Self-Guided

Enjoy a bike tour on your schedule with just your chosen travel companions.

Single Occupancy

Sometimes it’s more convenient and comfortable to have your own room while on vacation. We understand and that’s why we offer a Single Occupancy option. The additional price guarantees a private room all to yourself