Gravel Culture: How to be a better gravel rider

Posted By Gravel Union On 11 December 2020

Every gravel rider has different reasons for riding, we’re a variety of body shapes and fitness levels and we all live in different parts of the world. So, can one book teach each of us how to be a better (gravel) rider? Olly investigates.

Hopefully you’ve seen the interview that we did recently with Guinness Round the World record breaking cyclist Mark Beaumont? We chatted to Mark about everything from diet to training to bike set-up to gender bias in cycling, but ultimately he wanted to talk about one main topic – ‘Endurance’, the book which Mark co-authored with performance specialist Laura Penhall, that GCN have just published.

If you, as a gravel cycling fan, were browsing in your local friendly bookshop and came across Mark & Laura’s book, you might look at the cover photography and think it wasn’t the book for you. “I’m not planning on riding around the world/I’m a gravel rider, not a road cyclist/Won’t the rider on the front crash if he rides along with his head down not looking where he is going” might be some of the things that would go through your mind. It went through our minds too, but this book is literal proof of the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”.

Although it’s not aimed specifically at gravel-riding fans, there is so much useful, thought provoking, inspirational content included within its 239pages that everyone (including us gravellistas) will find something of interest. During the interview we did with him, Mark said that one of his aims with the book was to make it approachable and non-elitist. The book is designed so that you can pick it up and read one chapter or even part of a chapter, before putting it down again and letting what you’ve just read really sink in. You don’t have to read all of it in one go and the combination of flowing prose and stunning imagery are such that it doesn’t feel like a text book – the visual style alone is so appealing it could almost be a coffee table book.

So, what did we learn from reading Mark & Laura’s book?

That no matter how many years you’ve been a cyclist for and no matter what disciplines of cycling you’re into, there’s always things you can learn.

- Simple things like remembering to drop your elbows when you’re riding with your hands on the hoods or the bar tops (as this forces you to drop your shoulders and to relax, which in turn helps reduce tension, aches and pains, and from a gravelly perspective, will help you absorb the vibrations from the terrain better, so you don’t feel so battered after a big ride)
- How critical the recovery phase of training and riding are – this is everything from eating properly after a ride, doing regular stretching/conditioning exercises and getting enough sleep.
- The importance of planning – this could be something really simple like leaving a copy of your proposed route with a loved one when you go out for a solo gravel night ride, right the way up to having a plan for all the “what if” scenarios you might encounter when gravelling your way around the globe
- That just because you’re a Guinness Round the World record breaking road cyclist, it doesn’t mean that you’ve lost the love of “just going for a ride”. Mark’s passion and enthusiasm for riding a bike (of any type) absolutely shines through.

Reading Mark & Laura’s book isn’t guaranteed to make you a better gravel cyclist. It might not make you a better cyclist of any type in fact. But if by reading it, all it does is inspire you to try and ride slightly further next time you’re out on your gravel bike, then it has done its job.

If you’d like to buy a copy of Mark & Laura’s book, you can find it here

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