Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Just Who Are The Gravel Grinders?

What kind of folks ride these kinds of roads?
While riding to work yesterday, ( I tend to get some ideas while riding!), I was wondering, "Who are the 'gravel grinders' anyway?"

I mean, what type of riders do this sort of thing? What riders would be attracted to such an activity? For many years, most cyclists, (not to mention non-cyclists), would give you that "you're crazy" look if you said that you were out riding gravel. Well, that is if they just didn't come right out and say it to your face, which a lot of people have to me.

I guess I could maybe give you- the reader- a version of  what I think a gravel road rider is, but I am one. It's maybe not my place to even say what a gravel road rider's profile is, if there even is a "profile" for one.

Oh, I've been asked about this before. Folks wanting to know about Trans Iowa, or speaking to me about "Gravel Grinder News" . But for this post, I wanted to let you decide: Who Are The Gravel Grinders?

So, if you've got your version you'd like to share, hit me with it in the comments section. Thanks!

 Special Note On "300 Miles Of Gravel": 

  300 Miles of Gravel Trailer from Jeff Frings Photography on Vimeo.

I have been getting several requests/questions about how one can get ahold of the film project by Jeff Frings about Trans Iowa V7 called "300 Miles Of Gravel" .

The answer is- You can't get it. .....................well, not yet anyway. 

Let me explain a few things: First of all, I and all the riders and volunteers in Trans Iowa V7 have no connection with the sale or distribution of the film. We were in it, but we do not own the rights. We were "compensated" for our inclusion in the project by Mr. Frings by getting a free copy of the completed film in digital file format.  Mr. Frings also opened up a small window for those wanting to have the film by making a list, (compiled and sent to Mr. Frings by myself), and snding those folks a copy of the film as well.

Beyond this, my only information regarding the film comes from Mr. Frings who told me that he "may offer the film for sale" at some undetermined point in the future.

So, while I am greatly flattered and appreciative of the interest I am finding out about out there for this film, I can not get you "hooked up", and have no influence on whether or not "300 Miles Of Gravel" will ever be distributed for public consumption/viewing. 


Max said...

Gravel road riders are adventurers. I think that many cyclists seek out more "interesting" routes because they generally take you away from traffic and cover terrain that is more fun/challenging to ride. It's also just a matter of people that like to ride off road adapting to their surroundings. If there are miles of gravel roads, then why not ride them? That's my take anyways.

Ari said...

They are people terrified of skinny tires and high pressures.

Doug G said...

Yea just a matter or more options, generally, nicer scenery, less traffic hassles. Usually just a more relaxing experience than riding on the roads. That and I like the sounds of my tires on gravel.

Trail Monster said...

"That and I like the sounds of my tires on gravel." Sums things up pretty good. No music other than the sound of gravel been pulverized into dust.

Four hours in, you have already surpassed the roadies vision of a ride, 6 hours in you have been up more hills than a typical mtn bike course, 12 hours in and your self doubt arises, 14 hours and your mind has overridden your body, 18 hours, your emotions have swung from high to low to high so many times you can't cry, laugh, smirk. 20 hours .... I dunno yet, because I have never ridden that long to find out....but I will...becuase the gravel calls like gravy on a pile of mashed potatoes....

andrew rosenberg said...

i grew up on gravel, getting off the paved roads to get to one place or another, i even remember riding railroad tracks as a 16 yr old. gotta get to somewhere by any means necessary, i ride gravel for the memories of that childhood, complete the cycle.

Roy Rhodes said...

I prefer the road less traveled.

jkruse said...

they appreciate versatile bikes without gimmicks and the comfort/functionality of larger tires. gravel grinders are not racer-wannabes--they just love riding bikes and discovering new and difficult terrain ignored by others.

john said...

Well, naturally - because they are there.

Tim said...

I concur with many things already stated, especially the reference to "high pressure". I realize that it referred to air pressure, but I enjoy the low pressure I'd gravel. I don't race, I endure and go inside of myself to see what lurks inside. So far, I can live with what I've discovered. I also enjoy the group of riders who find meaning in sharing gravel adventures. I have yet to feel from any gravel riders that I shouldn't be on the roads or that my speed isn't sufficient. Finally, I ride gravel because I can afford the entry fees.

rideonpurpose said...

The anti-roadie comments are so weird!

Until we paved everything gravel roads were just roads... in a lot of the world they still are.

There are just as many geeks on gravel as there are on the road as there are in triathlons etc. etc..

I like gravel because it's the closest we can get to the type of road courses I love to watch the pro road racers ride on around the world.


Guitar Ted said...

@rideonpurpose (Drew), The fact that you think there are "anti-roadie" comments on this thread is just as weird to me. I just read through the whole thing and I just don't see anything negative against "roadies".

There was one comment using that term, and there wasn't anything really negative about it, at least to my reading of it.

Anyway, you have a point about gravel roads, but you also realize, (I know you do), that folks these days think riding on gravel is odd. Many cyclists, and non-cyclists, for that matter, do not remember the past, or even know about it, for the most part.

And as far as "geeks" go, if you mean by that that there are "fanatics" of the genre', I would agree. But no one was really even going there with the comments until you brought that up.

Unknown said...

Gravel grinders are out there for more than the race...hopefully.


rideonpurpose said...

What it comes down to is this...

Why is a "gravel grinder" anyone different than any other person who likes to ride bikes?

By trying to identify as something else it just seems like it leads to looking for some other group to differentiate from by showing disdain of... THAT is how a few of those comments read to me!

What's the need to be more noble than 'roadies', more cool then triathletes? Just ride and enjoy it all!

The most striking thing to me is that you never hear those types of comments from the fast roadies themselves, or any negative attitude at all. Honestly, when I first was getting started riding a couple years back I heard so many terrible things about 'racer types' and 'roadies' that it blew my mind when I realized they were pretty much the only group that DIDN'T act like they felt the need to put everyone else down.

rideonpurpose said...

Tim- You don't think everyone who rides in every bike race is in it for more than just the race? I don't think there is enough money in cycling where even the real pros aren't doing it at least partially for love of riding a bike.

Guitar Ted said...

@rideonpurpose (Drew) So, what you are saying is you are not any different than anyone else? (You are like every other cyclist?)

If so, I feel sorry for you. (And to be truthful, I think you are very different from a lot of people, which I think is great. I don't think that is a "put down". )

Again, your opinion is yours, and its cool, but the experiences I've seen out there are not anything like what you are portraying them to be here in your comments. As a matter of fact, until your comments about "roadies" came up on this thread, I personally have not ever heard that sort of commentary on "roadies" on any gravel grinder I've been on. if anything, the folks I've ridden with, and have watched ride as an event director, are more accepting of all sorts of people, (because- you know- we are actually all different and a lot a like, which is the paradox of the human existence), than many other groups I've found myself in over the years.

But- maybe your experiences are different than mine. I know one thing- the folks I've experienced doing gravel grinders are not anything like your descriptions in your last comment here. (But that- of course- is just my opinion on the matter, eh?)

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Vito said...

I don't race a lot, but I ride a lot. I have a road bike, but a great disdain for tempting fate with automobiles. I love single track, but absolutely love riding the gravel forest roads of northern Minnesota more than anything else. I like riding with friends, but keep my northern adventures to myself. I've been referred to as a soul rider. I think gravel people in general are soul riders.

GranvilleGravel said...

I have been interested in this very question for quite some time. Not just what makes a "gravel grinder" but also what makes up self-described roadies, dirt baggers, etc. While I am just as apt as the next person to wax philosophical about the essence of each category, I have been thinking of a more scientific way to understand the differences -- are the differences based in our riding habits? The type of bicycles we own? The places where we live? Our attitudes about cycling? Some combination of all the above? Seems like it is easy to have intuition about these answers, but to actually measure them might be an interesting exercise. I do data mining and statistical pattern detection algorithms for a living ... seems like a good application of the same techniques could shed some light here too. Any thoughts?

Guitar Ted said...

@GranvilleGravel: I suppose certain metrics could be tracked according to region, roads available, types of bicycles, and what not. However; there is that "intangible' that I don't know you could really put a finger on as well.

But, that said, a study of who/why/what/how of gravel grinder riders might prove interesting from a marketing perspective. As for the riders- I don't think it matters much.

For sure though- we'll probably see some sort of crude attempt at quantifying these things by some company, (if it already has not happened), since the marketing dollars and research and development into tires, wheels, and complete bicycles aimed specifically at gravel grinding has already started.

BluesDawg said...

I do a lot or riding in rural central Georgia and often, when I would map out a promising route, some of the roads would turn out to be dirt roads, or gravel if you prefer. I didn't really enjoy riding them on my skinny tired carbon road bike, but I was curious where they went. So I built myself a dirt road bike (Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross) and started riding them. Now I can ride all the back roads without worrying about whether or not they are paved.

Jeff said...

For those with questions about 300 Miles of Gravel, you can either check
or contact me via the email link at www.jefffringsphotography.com
It should be available on Amazon soon.

rideonpurpose said...

I'm not all that fast, but as I've gotten faster this has become more noticeable.

I didn't notice it when I was riding the Almanzo on my 26" mountain bike 4 years ago and killing myself to finish in 8 hours.

I did notice it at many events over the last year.

This stuff doesn't bother me on a day to day basis or anything, but sometimes I think it's worth mentioning it too. Getting it out there in the conversation, you know?

There is a difference between people riding, having fun, doing their best, enjoying the day at whatever pace and effort level suits them and assuming everyone else is doing the same VS. those that ride slow griping about 'roadie' or 'racer' types ruining things on the internet or after the race. As I've said before, "never underestimate the fun that others are having no matter what pace they are riding at". I think one unintended consequence of this is that there have become a whole class of riders who don't really know any 'roadies' but are pretty much against them. I hope this attitude doesn't stop anyone from participating in events.

Guitar Ted said...

@rideonpurpose (Drew): Well, that's a sad state of affairs, if it is true. Again- I don't see it around here. (The "attitude" you are referring to.)

I also do not see this "online griping" that's mentioned here either.

As for your fears of a "whole class of racers" that are "anti-roadie", well one only needs go back to the earliest days of modern mountain biking to find the roots of that attitude. I can remember this being a topic when I got into the sport in the late 80's. Point being, this attitude concerning roadies wasn't born from gravel grinders, if it is there, as you claim.

Historically, the "roadie" comments often were in reference to an attitude, a way that certain riders carried themselves and interacted with others, which was seen as a negative by those who were affected by having had contact with said "roadie" attitude.

Is it a real thing? Certainly there is an unfair element to these beliefs, if they are there in gravel events. But maybe there is a grain of truth to them as well.

I do not now. I am not seeing this sort of thing, so I can not comment further.

LvilleTex said...

The open road. Trees, goats, cows, creeks, wind, crunch, space. Paved roads invariably have more cars, more pressure, Yes, more pace. Gravelling lends to a sense of freedom that I personally don't find training on the road bike.

Mind you, I'm not a "racer" and don't race for results. I just love to ride and, even more, I love to ride in the effing boondocks, where there is a lot of gravel.

rideonpurpose said...

I agree... and I kind of feel like it's similar to the mistaken way that a lot of people of my generation have used the word "gay"...

Let's stop.

I'm in no way going to start naming names/places that I've seen it this year.

In a way I also think it's less pronounced down there in Iowa. I love the way the Iowa scene is much more one big family.