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Tarmac To Trail - Unlock bigger adventures with our Gravel Bike off road skills course

As well as MTB coaching and skills sessions, Trail Advantage runs a gravel bike skills session called ‘Tarmac to Trail’ session. This came about from past experiences over the years, coaching riders who had been predominantly road focused in off MTB riding.

Over the last 3 years more riders from both road and MTB backgrounds are becoming switched on to the flexibility and different experience the Gravel Bike offers. Being based in Sheffield, just on the edge of the Peak District, a Gravel Bike

is an ideal choice for putting in maximum miles on road and off road in the most efficient way. Admittedly there are compromises, wider tyres mean more drag on road sections, however they also mean a more compliant ride over the off road bridleways, however this opens up a new possibility, planning a route that uses some bridleways to link up road sections, best of both, plus it puts a fresh spin on some of the classic Peak District / Sheffield Loops.

Being able to switch between the different requirements of riding on road and off road during a ride and feeling confident doing both is key to a flowing ride
Being able to switch between the different requirements of riding on road and off road during a ride and feeling confident doing both is key to a flowing ride

If you're opening the gate to the start of a gravel section feeling apprehensive and tense, then your ride is going to be tense, this can affect line choice and reading the trail, it also means you're not really going to be maximising enjoyment of the fantastic traffic free views. Not reading the trail and looking at your wheel can also mean you’re been harder on your bike, as you clatter down the trail rather than flow. Much of the good technique adopted for road riding can feel counter intuitive when developing good technique for gravel riding on techier trails. Looking right down the trail, visualising your line, standing on the pedals, weight shift, cadence climbing whilst seated, body separation from the bike all make up a flowing ride.

A more dynamic approach to body position is key to keeping it flowing.

Our ‘Tarmac to Trail’ course will give you an insight into the core skills required to ride more confidently and enjoy the view on those off road sections. It also opens up more opportunity to explore, as you won't be held back by doubting your off road skills.

Gravel Bike characteristics

We appreciate that different manufacturers' criteria for a ‘gravel / adventure bike’ differ, however to help you get the most out of your session here’s a few pointers you may find useful.

The Sonder Camino from local company AlpKit

Frame sizing - Overall, frame geometry is slightly more ‘relaxed’, this gives more stability on ‘off road / gravel’ sections. Standover / clearance on the top tube is usually a factor to consider too, as this allows the rider to ‘move’ the bike into turns and on trail features more confidently.

Tyres - Smooth road tyres are not ideal, so some with a file tooth type tread or CX tyre are a good choice. A wide tyre (32c and above) also gives you a bit of cushioning and can be run at a lower pressure to give a bit more grip, (if you're running a tubeless set up this is where it comes into its own).

Bars - Most gravel / adventure bikes come with a flared bar, giving a wider , more stable position when on the drops. We will look into the benefits of this during the session. The session is also suitable for Gravel bikes with a ‘flat bar’ set up.

Brakes - Most gravel bikes come fitted with disc brakes, cable or hydraulic systems are available. A cable actuated hydraulic system is also an option from some manufacturers.

Trail Advantage offers the Tarmac to Trail course as a group course or we can tailor a 121 or bespoke group session that includes skills focus areas along a typical gravel route that incorporates road sections and bridleways. Keep an eye out for dates, or drop us a line to book a bespoke group or 121 session

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