What and why of gravel cycling... #fitfarmer

 

What and why of gravel cycling... #fitfarmer

 

As a cyclist with a fleet of bikes I am often asked if forced to only pick one bike to ride what my choice would be. I have never struggled much to quickly answer my gravel grinder and until recent years received a puzzled look and the question “what is a gravel grinder?”

Today gravel and adventure bikes have their own category of bikes, geometry, and features beyond my wildest imagination compared to when I built mine 6 years ago. This category of bike has exploded in the last two years and for very good reason. They provide maximum versatility with minimal compromise. So what is a “gravel grinder or adventure bike” and what makes it unique?

Gravel and adventure bikes are basically the love child of mountain bikes and cyclo-cross bikes and therefore at times lean more to one direction or the other depending on their owners desires. Their adaptability makes them the perfect choice especially if you live in a rural area or farm as I do. They combine wider wheel clearance (allowing vast tire options), longer wheel base (for stability), more relaxed geometry than race bikes (slacker head angle/taller head tube/lower bottom bracket). Lastly all of these bikes feature disk brakes. Now I could go on forever about unique configurations and modifications however that is not the direction I want to go with this post. What is far more important than the features of the bike is the freedom they provide.

Of course I am bias toward anything that gets me away from people, crowds, and raging low tolerance motorists that is in my farmboy DNA. I don’t however think that I am the only one looking for solitude in cycling experiences and hence the growth of gravel grinding. Having the flexibility of one bike to efficiently ride pavement then detour onto any gravel or dirt road is amazingly liberating. I feel like every time I roll into some near ghost town on a gravel bike it is like a segment from the movie cars. While the rest of the world is zipping past on the interstate with skin suits and Aero bars I truly want my cycling experiences to be about stopping in at Radiator Springs for a piece of pie. Gravel grinding is all about not passing one Strava segment on an entire 5 hour ride, it is about riding beside not behind your training partner and talking while taking in new roads. The growth of gravel bikes is not about owning another bike (well maybe it is) but finding a new route every ride and not having to set a course beforehand.

I really could go on forever about the nuances of gravel bikes and the depths of the experiences I have had on them but the most important aspect is that there is no one formula or set up to optimize the experience. It is whatever you make it, convert a mountain bike with drop bars, put straight bars on a cross bike, or like I did have a custom steel stead built that had very little regard for weight and very high regard for feel. In my opinion the reason gravel grinding is so rapidly growing has nothing to do with the bike industry pushing it and everything to do with peoples desire to get away from the pace of today's world.