Skip to Main Content

Tips for Surviving SBT Gravel

August 03, 2022

Tips for Surviving SBT Gravel

It’s almost here! After a bit of a delay (like the rest of the gravel race circuit), SBT GRVL is back! It’s only been around for a few years but this race, nestled in the ski town of Steamboat Springs, is fast becoming a favorite on the gravel race circuit. Why? High country cowboy vibe, super cool downtown energy, a great local community that embraces an active lifestyle… need we go on? If a new race is on your docket, we recommend checking out SBT GRVL.

And if you’re in for this year, we’ve got a few tips for you! Having been on course in its debut year, we’ve got five tips that will help you survive (and perhaps even thrive) on race day.

 

1. Don’t Get (Altitude) Sick!

The city of Steamboat Springs sits at an elevation of 6,732 feet. If you’ve ever done a race at altitude, you’ll know the lack of oxygen and change in air pressure is a “thing.”

For those not acclimatized to altitude, there are two schools of thought on how to approach a race like SBT GRVL: Either come in a week ahead of the race, acclimatize to the thin air (which allows you a few days to recover from the exhaustion that altitude can bring) and race, or come in the day before the event, before the altitude can sap you of energy, and just race.

Of course, the way every athlete reacts to altitude is different. Some may feel no effects, others are knocked hard with altitude sickness—which is a true concern. From insomnia the nights before the race, to race day maladies like nausea, headache, and coordination deficiency, it's something to keep an eye on.

The good thing is it’s usually easy to self-diagnose and easy to treat. Backing off the effort on race day (see pacing below) and putting a couple of Vitamin I (ibuprofen) tablets in your race-day bento box can help knock down high-altitude headaches.

 

2. Pace Well

This goes hand-in-hand with altitude. Because each breath brings in less oxygen, you’ll want to mete out your big efforts very judicially. That means, ideally, finding a good tempo, and sitting on it. When the gun goes off, it’s easy to want to find a fast group and go hard to stay in the group. But this is a race where the best move is to often start easy, ramp into the race, find your ideal heart rate limit, and sit juuust below it.

That may also mean letting a group that’s charging by go on up the road, and letting discretion be the better part of valor. Perhaps they’re Colorado locals and acclimatized to the altitude. But there’s also a good chance there are riders in that group over-extending themselves, and working too hard in the red zone. When the oxygen runs out for those riders, the heart rate spikes and they’ll be spit out back, likely coming back to you—or even the groups well behind you. Don’t be too greedy with pace at altitude— it can be your undoing.

 

3. Choose your Shoes

Well, not your shoes… your bike’s shoes. Regardless of if you choose green, blue, red or black course, much of the SBT GRVL courses feature a few paved sections, and a lot of groomed, smooth, hard-packed fire roads.

If conditions are dry (which is generally likely), that means a fast day—and a fast tire. Leave home the super-knobby, varietals that are great for grabbing rocks; you won’t need ‘em in Steamboat. Instead, go with a file tread, or a light tread with a somewhat solid center strip that rolls fast.

Puncture protection or not, that’s up to you; the rocks aren’t as sharp as the flint stones of Emporia, Kansas.. but that’s not to say there won’t be an errant rock that will find its way across your sidewall or through your rubber.

 SBT Gravel Tips

4. Go Aero

This may be a sticky one with some of y’all, but hear us out; there are LOTS of gravel racers that are strong solo riders… but not great in packs. Should they be disadvantaged due to their inability to ride within a group? For those riders, aerobars are a good choice, especially on the wide, open fire roads of SBT GRVL.

That said, there should be a good bit of decorum that aerobar riders ought to know. Chiefly: don’t ride in the aerobars while in a pack. It takes just one good bump while in the aerobars to shift your weight, catch an edge, and take you down… while also taking down the riders around you. Don’t be that rider. Use your aerobars when you’re solo, trying to bridge to a group, or power away alone. 

 

5. Bring It

Well, this tip really applies to ALL races. We’ve seen too many people that want to load like the pros: light. This is great if your goal is to win or just DNF and book a ticket for the next race.

But considering we’ve spent hundreds on a race entry, hundreds more on hotels, maybe hundreds more on airfare, time away from family to go ride for five, six, seven hours. Do we want to get a flat an hour in, and stand roadside for a ride because we don’t have a tubeless flat kit or a spare tire? Heck, do we know how to use it?

The point is: be ready for anything—and have the knowledge to fix anything—from a simple puncture or skipping rear derailleur (common) to a broken chain or a torn tire sidewall (uncommon). It may be a bit of added weight, but it’s better to have that spare tube, a chainbreaker multitool, a little bottle of sealant, and a pump so you can keep rolling toward the finish you trained so hard for.

The pros have the luxury of re-racking for the next race, giving them a complimentary entry. We don’t. As the Boy Scouts say: Be Prepared.

Going to SBT GRVL this year? Come by our booth to see all of our newest gravel models. We're looking forward to seeing you in Steamboat!

Shop Obed Gravel Bikes SBT Gravel



Also in Stories

Prepping for Unbound XL with Austin Sullivan
Prepping for Unbound XL with Austin Sullivan

February 29, 2024

So, you're gearing up for the XL, huh? Recently, I've had a couple of friends reach out about equipment and how to best prepare. I've responded to them individually, but I thought it would be more convenient to condense my advice into a single post. This isn't a completely comprehensive list, but it covers some key highlights to consider, even if you're starting at the Unbound start line for one of the shorter distances. Let's dive in.
From Sea to Sky: A Bikepacking Tale
From Sea to Sky: A Bikepacking Tale

October 05, 2023

The area above San Francisco has always been a place that keeps drawing OBED ambassador, Mike Pham, back. When it came to choosing his next bike-packing adventure the destination was a no-brainer...
A Look Over the Shoulder: James's 2023 Race Season Recap
A Look Over the Shoulder: James's 2023 Race Season Recap

September 21, 2023

OBED Exclusive

Size Guide

View our size charts below to see what size is best for you. After purchasing your new OBED, our product team will reach out to you to confirm your order and sizing information to be sure you have selected the optimum size.

If you're on the border of two sizes, the right size may depend on certain body measurements and your riding style. Feel free to contact us at any time regarding sizing questions - our product specialists are experienced with finding riders the right fit by cross-referencing your information with our fit database.  

If you're not transferring measurements from a similar bike, to get completely "dialed in" for maximum performance, we recommend you see a reputable professional bike fitter that can fit you to your new bike.

GVR / Boundary / Baseline / Borough Size Chart

 XS

5'1" - 5'6"

S

5'4" - 5'9"

M

5'7" - 5'11"

5'10" - 6'2"

XL

6'1" - 6'5"

 

Seclud Size Chart

 S

5'3" - 5'8"

M

5'7" - 5'11"

5'10" - 6'2"

 

* Sizing to be used as reference only