|Slap the word "gravel" on it, and you're good to go. Image by Grannygear|
I remember ten years ago when I was thinking about building a custom gravel bike. Some tool a bit sharper for the job. But that said, I had been having a blast on a 2003 Karate Monkey on gravel for years up to that point. I had a Fargo 29"er, which I still have, that is my all-time favorite gravel sled. You don't need a gravel bike. I've said that for years. However; it has reached my ears that now people think that they do. Not only that, but many think it has to be carbon and that it has to be expensive.
My friend Grannygear just filed a report for RidingGravel.com where he covered the Sea Otter festival. It used to be a mountain bike festival, but this year it was a gravel and e-bike affair. So, they lose the "MTB" part of the name now. It just doesn't fit. But anyway, the bicycle industry was falling all over itself once again inventing reasons you need a 9K titanium gravel bike, or some doohickey labelled "gravel" that in any other era would have been just some pedestrian bicycle part or accessory.
Now on one hand, sure- I think this stuff is cool. But....I am a bike nerd. This does not bring in any folks who previously were not cycling. It just alienates them more than ever because the Industry is making everyone feel that they "are not doing it right" unless they buy all the stuff. Well, listen up, Industry- people do not need "the stuff" to do gravel.
My hope was always that gravel cycling be "all inclusive" of anyone on any bike. To that degree that people want to ride in rural areas, I feel that is the simplest way to put it. I get it- not everyone will want to try this. But I have always thought it was an opportunity to persuade folks too fearful to ride in urban areas or on paved highways and secondary roads for fear of being murdered by a motorist to get out and ride a bicycle. Too bad the Industry hasn't caught on to that. Now they are just converting roadies and mtb'ers, folks they already had in their pockets, to thinking they need a "gravel this-or-that". It's just really sad.
Well, that said, I do see hope here and there. N.Y. Roll leads a beginner's gravel ride every Monday in the area. I see the "Gravel Scouts" doing similar things in the Iowa City area. I aim to continue the Geezer Rides for beginners going forward. Many events are now offering "beginner distance" courses. So, the grassroots folks get it. C'mon, Bike Industry. Get yer head out. It's not about "the gear". It's about the people. Get the people involved and the gear will sell itself eventually.