Heading Into Gravel-Grinding Heaven

Putting the Season’s Best Gravel Cycling Gear to the Test


Buying Guides By Photo by Chase Pellerin
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About 223 miles north of Midtown Manhattan, tucked away in the woods of the Green Mountain National Forest lies a haven of gravel-grinding and dirt-road cycling. The roads around the town of Ripton, Vermont are comprised of crushed rock, dirt, frost heaves, mud, salt, sticks and puddles. For most road cyclists, this probably sounds like your worst nightmare. But for those more adventurous souls, there are 246.1 miles of Forest-Service-jurisdiction roads to explore in the national forest. Exploring these roads requires a bike built for the job, a GPS, a lot of sweat, but most importantly, a kit worthy of the mud, grime and variable temperature. If you are one of those more adventurous souls, be sure that you have the best gear available to help you tick off all 246.1 miles.

The Gear for the Grind

Take On Vermont’s Dirt Roads in Style
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When I’m riding, especially on longer climbs and rides with a high level of exertion like we experienced in Vermont, I tend to overheat. Because of that, I need a modular kit of sorts, one that breathes well and can easily be removed and tucked into a pocket. Ornot‘s line of made-in-California cycling clothing fits the bill perfectly for spring temperatures in Vermont. The weather there can change drastically, routinely going from around freezing in the morning and then up into the 60s in the afternoon. The Grayskull Long Sleeve Jersey‘s gridded fleece allowed me to stay at a comfortable temperature, by allowing my sweat and heat to evaporate through the lines in the grids. I also found the wind vest to be a helpful piece in the morning when it was cold, but as the temperature rose, it was easy to shed and stash in a pocket. I found the Ornot line to be one of the better shoulder-season kits I’ve ridden in, as I tend to overheat in true winter kits but often get too cold in lightweight gear. Ornot bills the line as a winter kit, but in temperatures lower than around 30, I would recommend layering up. – AJ Powell

Top Row:
Ornot Grayskull Long Sleeve Jersey $130
Ornot Thermal Knickers 2.0 $165
Ornot Golden Vest $120
Middle Row:
Ornot Blue Line Socks $15
Brancale Winter Leather Cycling Gloves $200
Smith Overtake Helmet $250
Bottom Row:
Julbo Aero $130
Velocio Zero Bootie $69
Shimano RP9 $275
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A lightly layered, element-proof Velocio kit did the job on a muddy, pre-Spring day grinding gravel roads in central Vermont. Since I typically run cold on rides, I countered the “frigid” 55-degree weather with a thermal short, keeping my quads and other essentials toasty during descents without overheating and causing excess sweat while slogging through the muddy climbs. The leg warmers are made of a similar-weight material as the shorts, and they felt like a natural, yet non-lined, extension of the shorts for my lower leg. They also rose high enough on the thigh not to slip — a very helpful design for any of my long-legged brethren who struggle with slippage and the dreaded “quad gap.”

Up top, the light long sleeve paired with the Recon jacket gave enough wind and elements (read: mud) protection to keep me dry and happy, and the jacket zippered up or down easily as I went the opposite in elevation. Often the problem point for long-sleeve apparel is sweaty forearms, as the moisture tends to gather in that region and then can lead to cold, stiff wrists on flats and descents. The light long sleeve, though, did the good work of wicking that sweat away from the body and off into the aether, rather than keeping a water store to chill me later. – Matthew Ankeny

Top Row:
Velocio Light Long Sleeve Jersey $170
Velocio Thermal Bib Short $229
Velocio Recon Wool Long Sleeve $219
Velocio Leg Warmer $69
Bottom Row:
Giro Ultralight Aero Shoe Cover $35
Giro Synthe MIPS $270
Untapped Maple Waffle $11 (for four)