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Living Unbound

Garmin Unbound Gravel Race Director Ben Sachs offers tip when buying a gravel bike and what you must always carry

Each summer, the Flint Hills come alive with bike riders when Emporia hosts the world’s premier gravel event, Garmin Unbound Gravel. We talked with Race Director -- and Manhattan native -- Ben Sachs, and he offered advice on buying a gravel bike and what you must always carry when you ride. 

Where must you start when looking for a gravel bike?

I always look for durability and reliability. That’s why I like steel bikes. They’re a little heavier, but they’re strong and durable. The first thing to decide is whether or not you want drop-down handlebars or flat handlebars. If you’re doing anything longer than an hour and a half ride, then going drop handlebars are the way to go. It allows more riding positions throughout the day, so you can move around and not get cramped into one position.

After that, look at tire clearance. You want a tire in the 1-3/4” range, or around 40MM. That’s ideal for gravel roads. Anything smaller and you’re likely to get pinch flats. Anything bigger and it'll slow you down a bit. Also, strangely, you'll get a lot of flats as well.

What’s one must-have accessory when you ride?

At the very least, a pump, an extra tube, tire levers (for removing the tire from the rim), and a multi-tool (Allen keys, etc.) are the four things you need for sure. Otherwise, you better have a phone with good reception out in the country!

Garmin Unbound Gravel 2022, June 4th, downtown Emporia, KS. Learn more at

  • Ben Sachs winning the Vintage Division at the 2021 Gravel World in Lincoln, Nebraska
  • Flint Hills Gravel Road
  • Gravel roads
  • Fully loaded adventure bike
  • Cannondale gravel bike
  • Modern day Gravel bike