How to get started on Gravel riding!
Summer is here and the great outdoors is calling. What better way to explore than on two wheels. New member of the cycling family, the Gravel bike offers freedom, versatility and comfort as an alternative to more serious bike racing, being the perfect way to spend a fun afternoon riding along the gravel roads of your homeland or a long weekend traveling along the coast. The range of the Gravel bike is wide. In this months blog we join moomoo head designer and gravel explorer Timo Saabas as he takes us for a ride over his favourite routes!
Do I need a separate gravelbike?
A gravel bike lies somewhere between a traditional road bike and a cyclocross bike. They are more robust and durable and are designed for long riders over all terrains. Gravelbikes tend to have a less aggressive geometry and are more comfortable to drive. The riding position is more upright than that of a road bike or cyclocross bike, but with the drop handlebars, you still have the feeling you are on a road bike. A larger fork spacing than usual allows the use of wider tubeless tires, which makes off-road riding much more comfortable. The gravel bike does not a beat a road bike when riding on the road and likewise in off road terrain a MTB is always faster, but with a gravel bike you can easily switch between conditions at any time, offering significantly more freedom than a mountain bike or road bike. If you are the type rider who likes riding on all terrains and only have space at home for one bike, then gravel is a great option for you!
Where to ride?
Lahemaa National Park
Estonia’s oldest national park offers a very diverse landscape and a good road network for planning your gravel route. We recommend taking the coastal roads with excellent sea views from the Juminda and Pärispea peninsulas with occasional detours along the numerous hiking and forest roads for a change of scenery. Enjoy riding past old manor homes and you can pass by many peaceful fishing villages. Lahemaa offers many beautiful places and opportunities for stopping, making a campfire and camping, see for example the Purekkar camping area. If you want to explore a bit off the bike then we recommend going through the coastal route of the Käsmu hiking trail and discovering the Hara submarine base. There are plenty of shops and eateries, and you will also find comfortable accommodation (especially during the summer) if you do not want to take your food and accommodation with you throughout the trip.
Muhu Island and Eastern Saaremaa
Muhu and Ida-Saaremaa can be considered a lesser explored destination that is not well discovered by (gravel) cyclists. On the island of Muhu, the magic of gravelbiking comes out – when you turn off the road, you will soon find yourself in a juniper pasture, village streets lined with ancient stone walls or coastal alcoves. The coastal forest and coastal meadow trails in the north part of the island from Kuivastu to Koguva are a must see to gravelbikers heading to Muhu. Try your dexterity on the Muhu Paris-Roubaix Strava section or Võiküla cobblestone road and have lunch in a nice outdoor café in the center of Liiva. Many accommodation establishments, such as the Vanatoa Farm Hotel, are concentrated around the historic village of Koguva, where you will also find opportunities to experience the local culture. It takes one long day of riding to get around the island. If you want to see more, then add an extra day to experience a similar coastal landscape in the Kõrkvere-Kübassaare area in Eastern Saaremaa!
Dome landscape of south-eastern Estonia
If the previous two recommendations were rather flat coastal areas, then as a final recommendation, we will direct you to discover the border areas of Latvia and Russia. As this area is quite large and needs more time to discover, you can try to make a section of the RMK Aegviidu-Ahijärve hiking trail (starting from Ahijärvi). This route is characterized by a very diverse, winding and hilly landscape, which very quickly offers new exciting views. Long ascents of the domed landscape (eg ascent to the top of Paganamaa) or sometimes difficult terrain (eg visiting the southern tip) are paid for by pleasant long descents. Hiking on the banks of the Piusa River or exploring the surroundings of Estonia’s deepest lake from the Rõuge Pesapuu lookout tower is definitely a pleasure. We recommend experiencing the Seto culture, going through Saatse boot and visiting the Vargamäe visitor center.
What to take with you and put on the bike?
The choice of luggage and clothing depends on the nature and length of the trip. Short trips of less than 10 km to the café could be as light as possible with luggage and comfortable, while not being too sporty. You can even ride in comfortable jeans and a gravel shirt, which also looks good on the bike. For home keys and a phone, buy a small frame bag for behind the handlebars, so they won’t bother you in your pocket while riding.
For trips of more than an hour, you could already wear cycling shorts or special gravel bib-shorts. With a pair of special moomoo gravel bib-shorts you can make use of the special integrated pockets, allowing you to ride without pockets on your shirt. Taking less pressure off the upper body area and allowing you to enjoy the ride more. A single water bottle is also a must.
For trips of three hours or more, you should bring more drinks and, in addition, snacks / meals to put in your pants pocket or frame bag. Of course, if you have planned a few stops on the trip, you can handle lighter luggage. Although the gravel shirt dries quickly and takes sweat away from the body, take into account the changes in the weather and cooling down for longer journeys;
For multi-day hikes, you will need more equipment to carry, especially if you are traveling independently. Then you need an extra handlebar and saddle bag to accommodate clean clothes for the evening (if possible, combine with comfortable riding clothes), toiletries, first aid and cutlery, essential bicycle repairs (pump, tire repair, etc.). When choosing little-used items, we recommend optimizing them for small size and lightness, and bring with you only the ones you need, which can be used enough. Do not carry a heavy tent or hiking boots, instead use, for example, a hammock tent and a compact sleeping bag with light sandals. Heavier bags should be attached as close to the frame as possible. If your journey takes you beyond civilisation, it would be wise to include a first aid kit to your bag and a battery bank to charge your electronics (phone, lights, computer). The written recommendations are subjective and we believe that experience teaches the best. Accommodation services are useful used (you win in comfort and the weight of the bike) or some of your car companions can take things to an evening stop.
Gravelbiking means different things to every rider, but its charm is definitely freedom. The freedom to decide for ourselves, to plan and to be independent and free from the things that afflict us. Discovering Estonia on an unrestricted bike offers the ultimate pleasure or at least a pleasant change to the usual trainings or travel restrictions that prevented you from going overseas. Being on the gravel, you are free to forget to put Strava to work, notice things and think of thoughts that cannot be written in watts. Happy riding!