Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Have We Lost It?

Has gravel grinding lost its way by getting too commercialized?
NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Lately I've noticed a lot of comments to the effect that gravel events have become "too big", or that the genre' has lost its way by becoming too commercialized. Even I have been personally accused of becoming a "sell out" because I review too many products and have joined with RidingGravel.com. I have decided that it is time to address this nonsense.

First off, let me say that wherever there is a "trend", people gathering, or wherever you find a lot of social activity centered around a certain type of event, there will be people that jump in to provide services, "a better way" to do something, or to make the activity more enjoyable. Most of these folks will want some reward for their services, ya know......like money. Try getting a beer at an event at most places, and you'll be asked for money in exchange for that beer. Try getting food at a restaurant and more than likely, you will be asked for money in exchange for your meal. Does that make eating out, or drinking beer a "sell out"? Or if you want to talk about cycling, ya know.......just forget about that, because it is too commercialized and you have to pay money to get a bicycle. Bah!

It may seem absurd to even have to write this stuff, but whenever I see folks accuse anyone of being on the take, or accusing any activity of becoming "too commercialized", I have to call BS. Why? Because those statements are absolutely absurd when you look at who is saying them for consistency in their philosophy. None of these folks are free from supporting, heck......even liking, activities, organizations, or other people that are highly commercialized, "on the take", and in may cases, out and out "sell outs". What separates the gravel events from much of this is where the hearts and passions of the folks are behind the scenes of these events. If you haven't spent time with many of these folks, as I have, you should before you pass silly questions like "has gravel riding lost it?", and other such crazy talk.

It isn't easy putting on events for others to ride in.
Here's another thing that may be obvious, but needs to be said- "If you don't like where gravel events are going (a) don't support them, or (b) put on yer own damn event and show us how it's supposed to be done."

Event creation, logistics, research, promotion, and production isn't necessarily all that easy, but if you want to be a Monday morning quarterback, and pick us folks apart that do the hard work, here's where I call BS again. If you are of the mind that these events are too "this-or-that", (whatever your beef may be), I am not even going to give you my consideration if you haven't put on an event yourself, or if you haven't been carefully considering things at events you have been at that feature gravel riding. Most of this chatter concerning gravel events getting "too big" is coming from voices that are not informed, considerate, or very insightful. But as I have always said, (from a phrase borrowed from Mike Curiak), "If you don't like how an event is run, maybe it isn't for you."

A third really obvious thing: There are a lot of free, small, "under-the-radar", events happening all over the place all year long. We have listed 270+ events on the RidingGravel.com calendar where you can find many of these. In fact, most of the events on the calendar are small, basic events that charge a nominal fee or are out and out free events. Many are charity/fund raiser events for great causes. Hardly a "sell out" in anyone's viewpoint. Oh......and we are adding new events monthly. Most of them events of this type.

Then there are those of you that are worried, curious, or just being "Debbie Downers" when it comes to all of this getting "uncool", changing for the worse, or going mainstream. Look.....the truth of the matter is that most folks don't even know what a gravel road is. The chances that this scene is going to get gobbled up and spit out by corporate America is about as high as seeing Martians on your next training ride. Ain't gonna happen. Especially seeing the folks I know toiling behind the scene.

That's my take.


Katherine Roccasecca said...

Oh, come on. Now that I've found gravel riding interesting and accessible, surely that's a sign of its downfall, right? :-)

Josh Lederman said...

Well said GT. One of of the beauties of gravel road riding is the diversity of events. If you want big there is DK if you want smaller try Odin's. The hardcore racers can charge off the front the mello conversational pace is further back. Take your pick. It's all good off the pavement.

MG said...

Amen, Brother.

youcancallmeAl said...

What i find humorous is the fact that the complainers complain about an event actually being an event. Nothing is stopping anyone from going for a ride on a gravel road alone or with friends. Take names and manage to "misplace" their entrance applications next year.

john said...

I know what you mean - it is like when the focus went from 29ers to gravel and we got all these "new" ideas, voices, events, feelings ... and of course a dose of criticism. What would we do without criticism?

Smithhammer said...

You mean I have to come up with something that most people have never heard of yet again, just to maintain my obscure hispter status?