Here we explain what to expect from Struggle Borderlands Gravel route on Sunday 3rd September so you can set up your steed accordingly.
Get Your Gravel Bike Set Up For The Terrain
Gravel riding opens you to a whole new world of cinder tracks, forest paths, moorland bridleways and much more.
To gain maximum enjoyment and performance when escaping from the asphalt, you need to consider the correct bike set-up for the terrain under your tyres.
Nowadays gravel bikes have progressed by taking cues from the MTB world; making gravel riders capable of exploring unchartered terrain like our Borderlands Gravel route.
The first 20km of Struggle Borderlands Gravel is the toughest, with some short, steep climbs featuring tight bends on grassy paths along the Swale Trail and loose gravel shooting tracks leading up and over the moors. Lower gearing options will be the difference between riding or hiking these first few ascents.
It wouldn’t be a Struggle without some challenging climbs, but thankfully most of the bigger ascents are on small, single-track country lanes with hard ground, offering some respite from loose gravel.
1x or 2x
While many gravel events feature miles and miles of flat fire tracks that you can speed down with road bike gearing, Borderlands isn’t that!
"If you’re questioning your one-by, fear not. We’ve ridden the route on both a Scott Addict one-by (with 10-44 cassette) and a Scott Addict two-by (11-34 cassette) and never really used the big ring!"
There's flatter terrain on top of the moors and down into the Wensleydale and Swaledale Valley, but you wouldn’t be at a disadvantage without a big ring!
This is simple! Disc Brakes all day! Whether you ride on a gravel, MTB or cross bike, you’ll need the confidence and control of disc brakes while descending down shooting tracks with loose gravel. We don’t recommend rocking up on a rim-brake bike!
Wide tyres will allow you better control when climbing and descending on Borderlands' loose gravel tracks and (potentially wet) grass and mud.
When considering the bike you’ll be riding you need to ensure your frameset has clearance for wide tyres. If you’re considering using a cross bike it needs to allow you to run at least 35 mm tyres - if not wider! Our recommendation is 45mm tyres.
"We took friends out on the Borderlands Gravel route. One showed up on a cross bike with skinny tyres. We soon swopped that for a MTB for hire from Dales Bike Centre. The other rode the route on 35 mm tyres. They got around the route but were slipping on the muddy sections and wished for wider tyres on the loose descents."
Alongside tyre width, tread is also important. Consider the Schwalbe G-One Bite Performance tyre; it offers deep lugs that are widespread to improve grip on loose gravel and sheds mud easily.
Shallower tread with a closer tread pattern might allow for a faster ride but only on hard-packed and dry tracks and trails. Don't forget, we're in the Yorkshire Dales, not Girona!
Wider tyres allows you to run lower pressure, offering more control, comfort and rolling resistance; even as low as 40psi. However, too-low pressure may cause poor handling, potential punctures, and require extra effort.
Tyre pressure is personal and also depends on riding style and rider weight. Therefore we recommend practicing what works for you. However a starting point is a tyre pressure calculator.
Flat and fast courses allow riders to use their road pedals and shoes as they’re not often dismounting.
However, there’s plenty of sections in the first half of the Borderlands Gravel route where you need to be ready to unclip if required.
"Getting back on the bike on loose gravel needs speed and ease, therefore SPDs are essential. Trust us, we’ve tried it on road shoes and pedals and won’t be doing it again!"
If you are newer to off-road riding there’s no harm in using flat pedals and trainers. In fact we recommend that over road shoes and pedals.
If you really want to max-out your gravel bike set-up for Struggle Borderlands you might want to consider a few bonus tweaks:
You could add a flared handlebar to offer you more control. Shortening your stem will also help with steering on awkward twists and turns and will allow for a more comfortable position on bumpy ground.
As well as speed and control, nutrition is just as important in ensuring you complete Borderlands in the best shape possible.
Consider adding a top tube bag to allow easy access to bars and gels. Ensure you have two bottle cages on your bike. The route features one feed stop at 50km, and you should really get there having drunk two bottles of energy drink.
Finally, ensure you have space on your cockpit for a GPS device. While the route is signposted at junctions, its important to be able to navigate self-sufficiently when cycling in remote locations.