Gravel Riding In The Southern Highlands
We got the lowdown from the team at The Fixed Wheel about the latest trend in the cycling world.
We’ve been hearing a bit about gravel riding lately and wanted to find out more about it. So we caught up with Col Wooderson at The Fixed Wheel Bowral to understand what it is and why it’s becoming super popular overseas and now here in Australia.
The good news? The Highlands is primed for it! We’ve got some awesome gravel rides right in our backyard.
Here’s what you need to know about gravel riding in the Southern Highlands.
1 // What is gravel riding?
It’s like a form of adventure riding, where most of your riding is done on fire trails, gravel obviously and dirt tracks. It’s less technical than mountain biking and less about speed than road cycling, so it’s actually quite a leisurely form of riding that suits a lot of people of different ages and skill levels.
2 // What’s so good about it?
It’s a more relaxed way to ride and you get to see some pretty amazing scenery and areas of the Highlands that really are only accessible by bike (or dirt bikes). I went on a ride with a mate last weekend. We were out riding for four hours and only saw three cars.
Gravel riding is also ideal for doing longer rides or even overnight and multi-day trips. So if you like to combine active exploring on a bike with some camping, then gravel riding is the way to do it.
3 // So how does a gravel bike set-up differ from a road bike or mountain bike?
The wider tyres (35mm – 50mm) improve comfort and grip. A gravel bike also uses disc brakes which provide better control and performance, which is what you need when you’re riding on a variety of surfaces, especially loose surfaces like gravel. They’re basically set up to give you a relaxed, riding position which means you can ride for longer.
There is also the provision on a gravel bike to load up with multiple bags if you’re going to head out for a long day of riding or overnight or longer.
4 // Do you need any extra gear for gravel riding?
You’ll need your regular safety gear such as helmets, of course. I use mountain bike shoes and pedals, not road shoes.
I’ve also got a few different bags that I use depending on how long I’m heading out for. I’ve got a Handlebar Bag and a medium sized Seatpost Bag for shorter rides and a bigger Seatpost Bag if I’m heading out on a camping trip. Seatpost Bags tuck in under your seat and can fit a fair bit of stuff.
If you’re unsure about what you need, come into The Fixed Wheel and we can talk you through the different gear.
We’d also recommend a GPS cycling computer like a Garmin to not only record your stats but also help with navigation. Especially important if you’re going off-road and hitting lesser known trails.
5 // So, where can we go gravel riding in the Southern Highlands?
We’re lucky we’ve got a lot of National Parks and State Forests around us. They’re usually a good place to start. My picks would be:
Meryla Fire Trail which is accessible via Meryla Road.
Penrose State Forest
Mount Jellore in the Nattai National Park
Out the back of Canyonleigh towards Marulan
Red Hills Fire Trail accessible from Nowra Road, Fitzroy Falls
There’s also plenty of fire trails off Wombeyan Caves Road, and Wingello State Forest was also good but that’s shut at the moment as it recovers from the bushfires that went through in the summer.
Come in to the store and have a chat with us and we’ll let you know what sort of trails and tracks would suit you depending on your skill level and experience. And tell you how to access them.
The Fixed Wheel is a full-service bicycle shop in Bowral and is under new ownership. The guys and girls in-store are all cyclists themselves with quite a collection of championships, race wins and real experience under their belts. They definitely know their stuff! If you're keen to start cycling, you want to try a different type of cycling or perhaps you're ready to go next level, start at The Fixed Wheel.