My Favorite Gravel Gear

When it comes to gear for riding gravel, I have used a lot of different products over the years and some I have abandoned while others have become a staple for every ride.  Below I will highlight some of my favorite gravel gear.

Garmin Edge 1000

The Garmin Edge 1000 has helped me explore many new gravel routes that I have planned out on RideWithGPS and others that were recommended by friends.  Loading GPX and TCX files into the unit is easy and they keep me on course without ever missing a turn.  With a long battery life and customized settings, I can set it up the way I like it and not have to worry about it dying in the middle of a ride.  The 3-inch high-resolution color touchscreen display is easy to read in a variety of lighting situations.  If I don't have a route in mind I can input a distance and choose from up to 3 round-trip ride options while out on the bike.  The Garmin Edge 1000 takes out all the worry of navigation and lets you enjoy the ride.  Available from Garmin, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $499.99.

SaltStick Caps

SaltStick Caps are new for me but when put to the test at the Almanzo 100 they performed perfectly.  They were recommended by a friend to relieve or diminish cramping on long rides with significant elevation gain.  They are an electrolyte capsule containing sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium that helps keep balanced electrolyte blood levels.  This combination helps minimize cramping, fatigue and heat stress.  With all of the wind and climbing at this year's Almanzo 100, I didn't experience any leg cramping which had been a problem for me at previous Almanzo races.  Not having to deal with leg cramps on big climbs was a huge plus for me.  They definitely work.  Available directly from SaltStick in 30 count ($13) and 100 count ($22) bottles, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops.

Banjo Brothers Large Frame Pack

The Large Frame Pack from Banjo Brothers is a newer addition to their frame pack line.  Made from Heavy-duty 1680 Ballistic Fabric it is a tough bag with waterproof zipper access from both sides.  This pack is big enough to hold your tool kit, spare tube and food for a long day out on the gravel.  It can also accommodate hydration bladders up to 100 fluid ounces (3L) if you prefer to carry water on your bike instead of your back. The easy open zippers provide quick access to food so you can continue your ride without stopping.  Available from Banjo Brothers, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $39.99.

GeigerRig Hydration System Packs

The difference between GeigerRig Hydration Systems and other hydration packs is that they provide a pressurized spray to drink.  Pressurize the pack before a ride and simply bite on the valve to deliver water.  This makes hydrating much easier, especially if you are out of breathe after a sprint or big climb.  I have the Rig and Rig 500 and pick the appropriate pack for the distance and conditions of a ride.  When I want to travel light and don't need storage in the pack I will use the Rig.  For longer rides where I may need a little pack storage to peel off and store layers or extra food, I will use the Rig 500.  Staying hydrated is key and I found that I will drink more to replenish lost fluids using the GeigerRig pack because of its convenience more than just water bottles alone.  The Rig and Rig 500 both come with a 2L hydration engine and are available direct from GeigerRig for $115 and $135.

Banjo Brothers Cue Sheet Holder

The Banjo Brothers Cue Sheet Holder has long been a favorite of mine and many other gravel cyclists.  I used it the last two years at Almanzo and it worked flawlessly.  By laminating the cue sheets and rounding off the corners they could be changed to the next one easily while riding.  If you don't have a gps device or are doing a ride/race where the course is revealed at check-in with cue sheets for navigation, you're going to want one of these.  It mounts to bars and stem quickly using Velcro straps, zip ties or twist ties.  Available from Banjo Brothers, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $7.99.

Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbag

I put the Mountain Feedbag from Revelate Designs to the first major test at Almanzo and loved them.  I mounted two of them on my stem/bars and filled them with a variety of gels, snacks and SaltStick Caps for a long day in the saddle.  The drawcord closure was easy to open one-handed while riding and their convenience made sure I was refueling throughout the day.  The mesh side pockets are perfect for stashing empty gel packs and wrappers.  The lower tension strap that wraps around the fork crown made sure they stayed in place with very little movement, even when digging into them to grab something to eat.  They are even big enough to hold a water bottle.  The Mountain Feedbag comes in a variety of colors and is available from Revelate Designs, Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $39.


I have been using TOGS thumb grips for almost a year now for Winter fatbiking, mountain biking and gravel riding and they quickly became a favorite.  I use them mostly when riding gravel as they provide climbing leverage and an alternate hand position on the bars for those long rides.  Unlike drop bars, straight bars don't offer a variety of different hand positions so it's nice to be able to change things up without the use of bar ends.  Pictured above is the carbon hinged model which installs quickly without removal of the grips.  They are available from TOGS for $35.  TOGS also has a Dupont Zytel ring version in a variety of colors for $23.


Buck Hill Launches Mountain Bike Skills Clinics

Buck Hill in Burnsville will be offering several mountain bike skills clinics this Summer.  These camps, workshops and training sessions will be tailored for children, high school athletes, women and men. Sessions begin in June and July and offer a discount for early registration.

Mountain Bike Skills Day Camp for Kids "are designed with an emphasis on achieving safe, injury-free riding through the establishment and continuous refinement of core skills."  There will be an Intro to Mountain Biking/Basic Skills camp that will be offered twice (June 20-24 or July 11-15) and a Intermediate Mountain Biking/Gravity Intro that will also be offered twice (June 27-July 1 or July 18-22).  Cost is $125 per session ($135 after early registration deadline) and the suggested age for riders is those that are entering the 4th grade in the Fall.

Macho Mondays Mountain Bike Skills Camp for Men "will teach you the physical and mental skills on how to ride balanced, efficiently, fast and smooth."  If you're a guy that wants to develop your skills to become a more efficient and confident rider, then this is the camp for you.  There will be two sessions for the camp (June 13, 20, 27 and July 11, 18, 25).  Cost is $65 per session ($75 after early registration deadline).

Downhill Divas Mountain Bike Skills Camp for Women is taught by women, for women.  This camp "is designed for riders who need guidance in building confidence and skills."  Beginner and intermediate riders will be taught core mountain biking skills during two available sessions (June 15, 22, 29 and July 13, 20, 27).  Cost is $65 per session ($75 after early registration deadline).

High School Hot Laps Mountain Bike Race Training is for those that want to "get a Jump on the High School Race Season with summer coaching at Buck Hill."  Sessions (June 14, 21, 28 and July 12, 19, 26) will be held on Tuesday nights from 6:00 pm-8:00 pm.  These Hot Laps sessions are taught by trained coaches and will be open to all High School athletes looking to develop their mountain bike skills.  Cost is $65 per racer/per session (3 dates per session) ($75 after early registration deadline).

Mountain Bike Yoga will teach participants how it can help them "release tension and increase mobility in the hips, legs, back and shoulders, increase awareness of the muscles and body parts needed for biking, develop balance and core strength needed for mountain biking and free your body to make biking more dynamic, pleasurable and fun!!"  There will be two sessions (August 21 and September 11).  Cost is $40 per 3-hour session ($50 after early registration deadline).


Penn Cycle's 25th Season of Thursday Night at the Races Starts May 5th

Penn Cycle's long-standing tradition of mountain bike racing at Buck Hill returns in 2016 for the 25th season.  What started out with 45 riders the very first night a long time ago has grown and evolved into something truly special.  "Whether you’re a first-timer or local hero, these weeknight races continue to rank as the best bang for your entertainment Buck by every mountain biker in the world."  Thursday Night at the Races brings together beginner, intermediate and advanced mountain bikers for some great racing and good times.  This family friendly event is also a great opportunity to get the little ones into mountain biking with a free kid's race after the adult races.

"You won’t find a more family friendly, cycling event anywhere and I am really proud of what we have put together and continue to do so on Thursday Nights." - Pat Sorensen, Penn Cycle President.

If you've never raced before, this is your chance to give it a try.  The Beginner class race starts at 7:15 pm and only costs $5.  For the intermediate and advanced racers, $10 will gain you entry into the Advanced, Recreational or Fat Bike class races that start at 6:30 pm.  Registration for the races runs from 5:00-6:15 pm.

2016 Buck Hill Race Schedule

Series 1:  May 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th, June 2nd and 9th.
Series 2:  June 16th, 23rd, June 30th, July 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th.

If you're still not convinced to join in on the fun this year, watch the video below for a week by week recap of the fun, thrills and competition of the 2014 races.

After the races, the adults take to the kid's course on kids bikes.  Watch the hilarity ensue as Pat shoots for the win in the longstanding rivalry with Charly Tri.

Image Credit: Gal Alon

This is a great opportunity to test yourself in a race setting on a challenging wooded course at Buck Hill.  For Minnesota High School Cycling League racers, here's a chance to get in some early practice for the upcoming season.

After the races there will be loads of door prizes and food and drink is available all evening long. For additional details you can visit the Penn Cycle Thursday Night at the Races page or call the Bloomington store at 952-888-1427. A little rain may not always cancel the races, so give them a call if weather becomes an issue.

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