Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday News And Views

Out here, we ride on gravel
Often times I find it sad, ironic, and downright stupid how folks get things either twisted, or just don't understand what it is they are talking about when it comes to cycling. Also, I know some of the pundits out there are just trying to attract attention for their writings so (a) their employers get more "hits" and/or sell more issues, and that (b) many folks are just being negative to troll up reactions. Most of the time I let stuff like the following go, but I figured that in this case it was either blatantly a troll, or maybe the author really thinks this stuff. Either way, here's my reaction to this "Bicycle Times" issue #29 article under the heading of "Ask Beardo The Weirdo". 

Under the thin veil of answering a reader's question, "Beardo" says this about gravel grinding: "Also, let's also,kill the gravel grinder nonsense term". and then follows that up with some movie related gibberish which leads to this,"People have been riding road bikes on unpaved roads for as long as the bike has been around." 

Ha! It's always the same ol' ruse whenever someone wants to criticize "gravel grinding" and related hardware to do that with.  The "Just ride any bike" crowd, and that ilk seems to be a group that smacks of self righteousness and is so short sighted as to think that bicycle specialization is somehow evil, bad, or undesirable. I mean, if this is the case, go ride a Madone at the next cyclo cross race in Portland. Right? Because "people have been riding road bikes on unpaved roads for as long as the bike has been around." Yeah....that'll work!

"Beardo" then makes a salient point. That being that any bike can be ridden on a gravel road, but he adds that "even that skinny-tired roadie bike will be fine with reduced speed and enough air in the tires to prevent pinch flats." Right. Obviously Beardo hasn't ridden much of the over 69,000 miles of gravel roads in Iowa. Not saying it cannot be done, but I am saying there is a much better tool for the job. Just like riding a road bike in a cross race isn't impossible, but it isn't going to be all that fun either. See what I mean?

There is a better way for gravel, so why is that such a bad thing?
Then he goes on to finish by stating that "...a bike built specifically for that use, (gravel road riding), would probably make you happy." Thank you Captain Obvious.

So anyway, back to the whole thing about "gravel grinding", which I think a lot of folks think is a marketing term made up by the bike companies to bilk you out of money in your wallet for a bike that is unnecessary. (Although even Beardo feels one would "probably make you happy".)

Nothing could be further from the truth. It wasn't made up by companies, or marketing wonks, it was coined by roadies. Road cyclists that trained on gravel roads during the early season to get better fitness, test themselves against the winds, and to "grind out the miles". This type of riding came to be known by these road cyclists as "gravel grinders". They rode the old steel bikes with tubular tires and friction shifters. Generally they rode in the Spring before the roads were maintained, so pinch flatting wasn't as bad an issue. Anyway, that's where the roots are from of gravel grinding and where the term came from.

When we started these grassroots events in the Mid-West, we called them "gravel grinders" due to that history. The idea spread, and magazine writers that don't understand the term spout off about it. But you don't have to be misinformed in kind.

Finally, I'd like to wish all the Dirty Kanza 200 riders a great time and a fantastic ride. It's a beautiful course where you probably won't see any road bikes, due to the flinty rocks, but you will see plenty of gravel grinders!

Keep the rubber side down and have a great weekend on whatever kind of bike it is you ride.


Unknown said...

The "road bike" this man refers to is in fact a reasonable facsimile of a modern racing bike, as pushed by bike companies for the past how many decades. To me, "gravel grinder" and "ride any bike" conjure an image of the same machine. A comfortable jack of all trades, with wide tires and a full complement of gears. It is also implied that said bike would be rock solid reliable and durable. A "comfortable" geometry will translate to a stable rig in loose conditions. There are a few bikes out there that meet these criteria, and there always will be.
In its struggle to become a genre of cycling, gravel grinding risks being caught up in the marketing hubbub, but it is obviously more than that.
Specialization is for insects.

Guitar Ted said...

@Eric Fussenegger: I tend to agree with you on the bike part, but I think you are missing my point on the term "gravel grinding".

Even Beardo suggests that the bikes be called "all road, any road...." and I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. As a "genre of cycling" I'd rather see that then to have "gravel grinders" become a category of bikes. Again- that isn't my point here though.

My point here is how many folks don't understand what a gravel grinder, (event, ride), is and get all negative about the name. I feel as though folks react this way, (much as they do to the term "enduro" in mtb), because they feel it is a disingenuous term invented by corporate types.

In their efforts to discredit the term/category they make ridiculous statements the likes of those found in Beardo The Weirdo's column in Bicycle Times.

Make sense?

MG said...

Amen... It's always funny when someone doesn't really get it, but they still feel the need to spew their 'opinion'. While you can ride a road bike on gravel, when so much better options exist, why would you?

Beardo needs to bring his road bike to the Midwest and see how it works for him, because he's clearly lacking perspective.

Did you also notice, in that issue, on the TOC, they called the Surly ECR a "Salsa ECR"? I just about blew coffee out my nose when I read that... Good editing.

Unknown said...

I did completely miss the point about gravel grinding as an event, and I agree with you.

youcancallmeAl said...

It seems to me that it's a simple matter of different folks referring to two different activities. Your emphasis being on Gravel "events" while his on simple riding an all round style bike that can be ridden on gravel roads as well as busy paved roads.And, as usual, the manufacturers can hardly wait to convince the ordinary joe that he needs the same bike that the racing fraternity needs.

Guitar Ted said...

@youcancallmeAl: I can see your point, but if you read the article, it is obvious that Beardo is aiming at both the bikes and the events.