Out of office on? Bike checked and ready to roll? Before you hit the road, you might want to read up on our summer graveling tips. Whether you’re planning a cycling staycation or preparing for a long-haul bikepacking tour, Shimano Gravel Alliance rider, Finland’s Henna Palosaari will help you enjoy this summer’s gravel rides to the fullest.
Tip 1: No plan is the best plan
When you’re planning your trip, leave some room for the unexpected. A coffee pitstop might turn into an overnight stay. Or you may just want to take your ride a few miles further. Define Point A and Point B – and explore the adventure in between. Here in the Nordics, you’ll need to do even less planning since it never gets dark during the summer months, so you can ride your bike all night long, if you like.
Tip 2: Refresh like a Fin
Finnish summer culture is all about a day spent alternating between the sauna and lake swimming. Sauna, swim, repeat, basically. I suggest replacing the daytime sauna with gravel riding in the summer heat and including as many beaches as possible along the route. Finland is the land of 600,000 lakes, so incorporating a swim isn’t all that challenging here. But wherever you are, a bit of research before you ride will ensure you find a few refreshing beaches or lakes to stop and recharge! Why not max out the experience by graveling to one of the multiple public saunas to enjoy a genuine daytime sauna and swim before continuing your ride.
Tip 3: Learn a few tricks
Summer is the ideal time learn some new moves. On a scorching-hot day, a long ride might not be the best thing. Why not practice skidding, wheelies, or check out some other videos to learn a few handling tricks. Trying, failing, and trying again will make you grin like a kid. And you’ll improve your overall control over your bike while you’re at it!
Tip 4: Ride, sweat, eat, repeat
It can be easy to forget to eat in the summer heat. Muesli bars are fine during a long ride, but sometimes it’s literally cooler to stop for an ice-cream or a refreshing drink. After all, food is an important part of gravel culture. Racking up miles on a hot day means you’ll be burning quite a bit of energy. Pitstops with a spoonful of sugar may prevent exhaustion – in the most delightful way. Most towns have a local ice cream shop where you may be lucky enough to find a real Italian behind the counter for some delicious gelato.
Tip 5: Lightweight layers forever
A good cycling rule: never tempt the weather gods. While getting caught in the rain may have its own attractions – along with a pina colada, of course – passing showers can be a menace. Rain can cause you to cool too quickly on descents or after working up a sweat. I always take a lightweight layer to throw on if needed. If you’ve got a little frame bag, you can stow it away out of sight.
Tip 6: Navigate in style
It’s not about looking cool. It’s about being able to see – and a little bit about looking cool while you’re at it. I care about my eyes, which is why I always wear sunglasses in bright light, dusty gravel conditions or when the insects are out in force. I suggest you do the same. My shades match my favorite navigation equipment: the Suunto Vertical Solar. It gives super clear mapping and keeps its charge thanks to the sun!
Tip 7: Ride in a t-shirt
Sling on a technical but not techy t-shirt for the ultimate ventilation while riding. It’ll keep you cool and set the tone for a laidback day on the bike. As it will slightly flap in the wind, you will feel totally in the moment. And isn’t that what summer is all about? Just remember to wear sunscreen!
Tip 8: Shift your focus
Have you heard the one about how smiling relaxes you? It is a widely held belief that you can drastically decrease your perceived exertion simply by smiling. Shifting your focus is a great way to work through the miles. Another pro-tip: Instead of thinking about pressing your feet down into the pedals, think about lifting them. And, yes, smile!
Tip 9: A clean bike is a happy bike
Another thing that will help you to keep your smile in place is by checking your bike thoroughly pre-ride. Is there enough air in the tires? Does your chain need lube? How’s your shifting? Have you charged your Di2? Do you have spares and a tubeless repair kit for your adventure? Tick, tick, tick. Right, off you go!