Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Less About The Rock And More About The Roll

Note: The following originally was posted to Gravel Grinder News on 8/17/14. I thought that since not everyone reads GGN, it might be good to share this post here as well. 

2015 Raleigh Willard Two
Less About The Rock And More About The Roll- by Guitar Ted

With the big trade show season about to unfold for the bicycle industry, we start to look forward to what might be getting unveiled for the gravel road riding cyclists amongst us. The bicycle industry has shown some interest in catering to this genre, but not without some backlash, and subsequently the mid-summer releases were less specifically about “gravel” and more about……well, we’ll get to that in a bit here. The point is, it is becoming easier to find off the shelf solutions for gravel and back road riding. Anything from tires, rims, and components all the way up to specific designs in complete bicycles aimed at gravel and back road riders.
2015 GT Grade
 Crushed rock roads are a mainstay across many of the states in the midst of the United States, but that isn’t the only form of back road/mixed terrain riding available, and certainly it doesn’t represent what is possible all over the country. In fact, many riders don’t even know what a gravel road is and why you’d want to “grind” one. Who could blame them? While many get stuck on the name, it isn’t the point, and it is definitely not the goal of many in the industry to promote “gravel riding” exclusively. That would be selling the whole thing short of its potential, in my opinion.
 The gravel scene is real, and it isn’t going to go away anytime soon, but it is only a facet of what I believe could be a revolution in cycling. It is really great to have the industry come to grips with gravel riding’s specific demands, but what works on gravel roads really works everywhere from just short of road racing right up to and including some single track riding. The bicycle industry is catching on to this too. Specialized and GT Bikes, to name two, have shown short videos featuring their new “all road” bikes doing pavement and dirt, with bunny hopping and spirited sprints part of the action.

Even some of these company’s marketing spiels are saying things like, ” this isn’t about racing, but just riding bicycles“, which is a breath of fresh air in an industry that has focused too long on European Pro road racing. While that sort of cycling is exciting, it isn’t what the masses are going to do, or should do, with their bicycles. Bike shops have been filled with fast, light, hard core, unapologetic road racing machines for too long, and the mountain bike market keeps pushing longer travel full suspension bikes that really aren’t necessary for a vast majority of cyclists.
However; as stated above, the industry still hasn’t come to grips with just how to market these bicycles. The term “gravel grinder” was latched on to early on, but that term has been registered as a trade mark, (not by us!), and besides, it is not well understood by most cyclists anyway. What to call it then?
This is the sort of “mountain biking” most folks could be doing.
Yes….this probably sounds like it is coming straight from a certain retro-grouches “blug”, but if you stop to think about it, an “all -road” type, country bike capable of mixed terrain riding is a lot smarter, safer, and more fun for the kind of “just riding a bicycle” that brought us into cycling in the first place. Getting out there, using a “general purpose” bike just to have an adventure, be with friends, or to get away from it all, is the basis for most riding we do.

This same sort of bike can be your commuter, your light touring rig, an errand runner, and yes…..be ridden on gravel roads. But let’s not get stuck on what a “gravel grinder” is, or why bikes should be designed “specifically for gravel road riding”. No, let’s make it less about the rock, and more about the roll. The riding, and having fun along the way, with a light, reasonably designed bicycle that is capable on a wide variety of terrain types and roads.

We’re not going to be changing our name anytime soon here, since the rides this site promotes and the bicycles and gear we talk about are going to be measured by how they help us “grind out the miles on gravel“. (“Gravel grinder”, now do you understand?) We literally have hundreds of thousands of miles of crushed rock roads surrounding our little headquarters here, so it makes sense for many of us. However; we aren’t so short sighted that we think everything has to be about gravel riding, and we think the bicycle industry should keep moving in that general direction as well.

1 comment:

youcancallmeAl said...

a very good column Ted!!