Advice for women getting into group rides and gravel tips from Unbound Gravel 2021

Advice for women getting into group rides and gravel tips from Unbound Gravel 2021
“I only race for myself” - Crystal Kovacs
As we return from Unbound Gravel and have time to reflect on the weekend I still sit smiling…..heck I’m smiling all the time when I think about that time in Emporia.  This last weekend was one of the best I’ve ever had on the bike!  I got to show a friend our gravel family, spend time on my bike, lead a group ride and meet new friends.  Oh, and I got to hug my old friends!  Success!

I will probably never podium at a major event.  For that matter, I’ll probably never be in the lead peloton or know how that even looks.  You see, I don’t ride for any reason other than to better myself and help others.  I ride for me….let me say that again.  I ride for myself, the race is within me and against only my own time.  
Each event has it’s own sponsors and favorite stops for us.  That said, one of the sponsors I always love to see is Chamois Butt’r.  I knew going to Unbound that I couldn’t wait to see the founder Steve Mathews and the crew!  Chamois Butt’r always takes great care of me and my happy bits on and off the bike!

One of the highlights of Unbound Gravel was leading a group ride for the  “All bodies on bikes” campaign with Shimano.  I would love to highlight some of the topics that I talked with others on the ride: 
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What’s in your preparation every time you ride?  I never leave home without my Chamois Butt’r.  I use it on every training ride and every event.  Keeping my body happy is the best way to happy on the bike.   I typically use Eurostyle as I like the feeling.
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How do you find new routes?  I LOVE adventure so finding new routes for me is fairly simple.  When I ride in a new area I will go to Ride with GPS and look at routes that are already published.  I might ride the same route or maybe I piece together the parts that work for me, find new roads and change it to work.  Don’t get stuck in a rut that you can only ride the same road everyday.  You’ll burn out quickly mentally….go explore.  Your local bike shop will have routes that are of various difficulty levels if you ask.   
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How often do I ride? This question is kind of hard to answer.  I ride/workout five days a week.  When prepping for a long event I will ride all five days but if the event is shorter I’ll mix in running, yoga, cross fit or a TRX workout.  The end goal is to keep the body moving for those days.  I have found mixing in cross training keeps my mind active and uses different muscles.  I also travel for a living six months a year and this allows me to workout from a hotel gym.
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How do I meet people?  Self admittedly I am not the best at this when I am at home.  My time on the bike is my time.  I typically ride alone when I am home.  When I am at an event I love to do group rides.  The rides give me time to talk to others, meet new friends and hopefully see friends I haven’t seen in awhile.  If you are afraid of finding a group ride at home ask questions.  If speed is your worry find a no drop group ride…..they are designed just for that reason.  Your local bike shop is a wealth of information in this also.  
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Why do I go to events if I can’t win?  Probably this is the most asked question from people who have never been to a gravel event.  The top 3% are really racing…..in large events like Unbound they are pros and it is a battle to the top.  For the remaining 97% of us we are out riding….the race is within us.  Maybe our goal is to beat last years time, maybe this is our longest ride to date or maybe we just want to finish.  No matter what the goal we are out there working hard in the sun to make it happen.  I think that this is why I love gravel, it doesn’t have to be a race to the finish for a medal….that’s not what it is all about for the majority of people that are there. 
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What do I bring for mechanicals?  Well I’m not a mechanic….I said it out loud.  I was told once to pack everything that I need and if I can’t fix it someone will be able to talk me through it out there BUT if I don’t have it, I’m done.  For Unbound 25 I had a spare tube, 2 CO2 cartridges, Wolftooth Encase Bar System for a multi tool and bacon strips, tire levers, and pump.  I had everything I needed to fix a flat should it happen.  When I have ridden the 100 mile event I had multiple tubes along with additional tools. 
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Reflecting back on Unbound is something that I will do for days.  Not every day do I get to show a friend what our passion and past time is.  It was fun to see it through someone new eyes…..to see her take it all in but not know what was next.  
If you are on the fence about whether to try an event or not….please try it.  You will not find a more inclusive and fun group!  
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I'd love to see you in the Girl’s Gone Gravel Women's Gravel Group on Facebook - a forum I use to meet new riders and share tips and encouragement in a welcoming community. Or, if you have more questions, feel free to DM me on Facebook or Instagram @ crystal_k_kovacs.
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SHOP CRYSTAL’S FAVORITE CHAMOIS BUTT’R: Chamois Butt’r Eurostyle 
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JOIN THE WOMEN’S GRAVEL GROUP ON FACEBOOK HERE

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