How do aid stations work?

Aid station on the 2020 Glenwood Gravel.
Aid station on the 2020 Glenwood Gravel.

A self-described “total noob”, i.e. someone new to gravel riding, reached out and asked a completely legit question, “explain it to me like I’m 5–how do the aid stations work?”

This is a great question and I’m glad you ask. Aid stations are an opportunity for you to stock up on water and food and sometimes give you access to restroom facilities. We’ll have several coolers of water, a few with an electrolyte drink, some gel packets you can throw in your pocket, and some bananas as well. Take what you need. All of this is included in your registration. But, there are few things you should know:

  • These kind people at the aid station are volunteers. Be kind and generous with them. If you ask them nicely, they will help you with whatever they can. Be mean and I give them total permission to kick you off the race (it’s in the rules). Don’t be mean, that’s not how gravel races work.
  • You need to have your own bottles for water. All modern bikes have mounts on the down tube and seat tube for water bottle cages. You’ll want to have those cages setup with bottles for your own use. Some people wear a backpack with a water bladder in it for the race. That’s fine too.
  • The 100km races in the Iowa Gravel Series have 2 aid stations, the races with 50km distances only have 1 aid station.
  • Sometimes there’s a bathroom at the aid station, but sometimes there isn’t. We’ll mark on the route where you can find restroom facilities.

Generally when I get to an aid station I will get off the bike. I’ll put my bike down on the ground (somewhere out of the way of foot traffic) and I’ll walk over to the table with my water bottles and wait in line patiently for my turn. I try not to touch my water bottle to the cooler, just like I wouldn’t put my mouth on a water fountain. And, I only take food that I know I will eat. Basically, just try to be considerate of others. If I was racing, I probably wouldn’t use an aid station. I would plan all my nutrition out on my own.

Speaking of nutrition…

We are super excited to be working with Hammer Nutrition again to help us with providing gels and electrolyte drinks. They have been an amazing sponsor for us and we look forward to providing their great products to the Iowa Gravel Series racers.

What other questions do you have about the aid stations? What have you seen done well? Any horror stories we need to be warned of? Let us know in the comments!

4 thoughts on “How do aid stations work?”

  1. I too am new to this. You call it a “race”. Is it really a race to see who comes in first or is it ride at your own pace?

    • It’s both! Yes we have a podium for the first three finishers in the men’s and women’s division. But, vast majority of folks will just ride. No requirement to race. Goal is to have a great day in the saddle!

  2. Thanks for the write up!

    What about packing our own aid bags, as in, ok to swap nutrition with someone whose waiting for me here?

    • Lots of people pack their own food with them in small backpacks, camelbaks, or in the pockets of their jersey. If you wanted to have a drop bag at one of the aid stations, that might be tricky. But, the Wednesday before the race I do send out the map and the aid stations are marked on there. You could drop a bag near the aid station.

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