Kansas is where gravel riding was born, and for good reason: we’ve got thousands of miles of easy-to-access, scenic and low-traffic gravel roads to ride. If you want to just hit the road, we won’t stop you, but if you’d like our recommendations for routes and some tips, read on!
Looking for a place to start? Our Strava and Ridespot pages have hundreds of routes, but here are some of our favorites:
45 miles Seven Sisters Hills and Lake Fagan
50 mi Mixed-surface gravel challenge
25 mi birdwatching
Gravel roads are scenic, peaceful, and often quite remote, which can bring some additional challenges. Have fun and stay safe with these tips!
-Stay light on the bike. Gravel riding isn’t mountain biking, but it shares some things in common. When on loose gravel, rutted dirt, dust or other especially sketchy surfaces, shifting our weight from handlebars and saddle to feet and pedals and riding with pedals level and heels down (so-called “attack position”) can help you maintain control of your bike. Maintain momentum in rough stuff, be aware of which brake you’re using and when, shift weight backward on the bike, and be ready to stop if you need to.
-Plan to go a bit slower than you would on the road. Gravel surfaces can be unpredictable, but one thing is for certain: you’re going to have more friction with the road than you do on pavement. Don’t bet on average speeds to be the same!
-Be prepared for mechanical problems. If your bike is in decent shape, you probably don’t have much to worry about, but if something breaks down, you might find yourself way out of cellphone range and on a road that nobody is going to drive down until tomorrow. At the very least, bring a way to fix flat tires and a multitool to help you fix basic mechanical problems. A chain tool and extra link, extra chain lube and maybe even more might be a good idea for long rides.
-Be prepared for physical problems. Gas stations and grocery stores are few and far between on Flint Hills rides, so bring more water than you think you need, more food than you think you need, sunscreen, maybe some rehydrating drink mix, and know your limits. If it’s a cold weather ride, bring the clothes you’ll need if you break down and have to walk. This is supposed to be fun, and dehydration, heat exhaustion, etc. are not fun!
-Have a plan, and tell someone your plan. A foolproof method for staying safe is to have someone else who can come bail you out if you don’t make it home on time. If you stick to a route and know when you should be back, a rescue is simple enough!
This isn’t meant to intimidate anyone, and there’s a very good chance your rides will happen without incident. Stay safe and have fun out there!