Drew's 11 thoughts about how to race gravel road races as prompted by Mr. Farrow

IIn response to Mr. Farrow

Here is my list of 11. I am not really sure it's 11 different ideas. I'm also pretty sure I wouldn't have written a lot of them down if he hadn't prompted me. I feel a bit like I'm sharing something I shouldn't. what do I know anyways?

1. Ride like a dog- They have no governor, no fear, just pure joy. When I take them to the trails they surge and fly without boundaries. I strive to attain such honor. Embracing this joy, which sometimes looks like aggressiveness, has made me faster.

2. Ride a whole lot- The more you ride the faster you go.

3. Ride slow- The old guys did it back in the day, miles and miles of "base". The 4 hr a week cyclists bible to success type bullshit is just that.

4. Avoid the gym (it's even more detrimental to the cyclist than running)- if you are in the gym you aren't riding. When's the last time you saw a dog in the gym? I weigh 190 lbs as it is! A few years back when I decided to get fit again I spent way too much time in the gym, I stopped about 2 years ago.

5. Slam that Stem- You must be comfortable, true... but ride the FASTEST bike you can. There is no excuse lamer than complaining about your "slow" bike, well, unless it's complaining about your super expensive, quasi-artisinal, unobtainium, slow bike. This doesn't necessarily mean the fast bike will be faster, rather that you won't have the option of blaming your bike. I learned this at the Royal 162. One could argue that my Look 585 with 30c tires wasn't the ideal bike... but I knew it was my fastest bike and that I had no excuse not to ride my absolute best. I also learned it in 2010 when my bike was slow and I had too many excuses.

6. Don't give yourself excuses- If they are available you will use them. This means preparation beyond belief. See various races that I've quit over the years. Think through every aspect of your fit, gearing, clothing, food, water etc.. pay careful attention to your maps and computers (redundancy when it comes to odometers is ideal).

7. Know when to fold 'em- Don't be afraid to quit and stop your losses. This goes against the overall ethos of these events. I am not afraid to quit. If you believe in yourself and your own toughness you can pull the plug without shame. Do so when the benefit doesn't outweigh the loss. I quit Dirty Kanza this year, i was able to take a wonderful trip to the Upper Pensinsula soon thereafter and race the Keeweenaw Chain Drive. I would have been wrong to keep racing. Don't care what other people think.

8. Embrace Winter- Nothing you do the rest of the year can train the excuses out of you as much as riding in the winter.

9. There is no such thing as toughness- It is all just in the training. The "it never gets easier, you just get faster thing"... it's true. I'm a wimp. My girlfriend pokes me in the ribs and I scream like a little girl. I avoid pain and whine about things when I'm hurt. When people tell me they don't have the "toughness" to do what I do on the bike I tell them the truth; the only reason I can do it is because it's not hard after the training.

10. Don't get lost- Riding the wrong direction quickly cancels out anything good you've done recently. The list of gravel races I haven't got lost in is short and I exceeded my expectations in all of them.

11. Eat- The more I eat on the bike the faster I go. This is so easy to forget and so important to remember. It shouldn't be number 11.

12. Blogging- number 12 'cause its not about riding. Ignore, spurn, insult others 8n your blog at your own risk... but don't be afraid to speak your mind.


  1. I'd disagree with 7 and 9.

    Agree with 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 10

    I'm still working out the bike thing, but I would agree.

  2. Drew, you should try Trans Iowa in 2012. The registration process starts in a week.

    The whole fast/comfort thing gets more important the longer the race. The one and only time I finished Trans Iowa I ran very skinny, fast tires and had COMPLETE numbness of my pinky and ring finger on both hands for a week. Sensation returned in a week but took about 6 months to get totally back to normal.

    Since that time I have changed to fatter tires and haven't had the same problem. Then again, I haven't finished a Trans Iowa since either...

  3. 7 is so true. if you hurt your self when ya just should of quit. you can do detrimental things to your season. ive learned this both in cycling, running, and down hill skiing. there is nothing shittyer than being sidelined for a month plus due to over exertion.

  4. Isn't this fun? I totally spit out my list in 10 minutes after seeing yours & C's. Too much thought and it's not true blue, if you know what I mean. #1 and #3 like many rules appear like opposites. But it's the balance and timing huh? I believe in the 4hr a week deal only after many long ordeals. I should clarify, 4hrs is fine for little xc races all Summer. Then it's epic form fall off and back to the long grinds and super fats.

  5. Yep Heath- thinking about them would make them false.

    I'm in super short ride mode right now myself. Maybe not even 4 hr weeks of training. I just do my commutes and race some cx.

    A lot of rules conflict- it's up to us when to choose which one applies.