NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....
|Just call it a "gravel grinder" and it'll sell!|
Several years ago I started talking about what I thought would make a good bike for gravel riding. Remember- most folks were of the mind that cyclo cross bikes were all we needed. (Many still hold to this idea to this day.) Many would say, whatever bike you ride on gravel is a "gravel grinder bike". You do not need a specialized bike for this. (Said as they roll away on their very specialized road, mountain, or urban bike that has been sub-divided into so many categories of specialties that I cannot keep count.) Whatever.... These people are not using their noggins. Anyway....
I began to discern, dissect, and theorize on what it would take to get optimal performance from a bicycle on gravel roads. I asked trusted friends what they thought, and I bounced ideas off of some industry acquaintances. I was going to pursue the custom bike angle, because, you know, why on Earth would anyone else even care about this?
Along the way, a very bright and talented man I know also got the bug to do a custom design like this and he coined the idea we had "fat road". (Others have also used this terminology, we laid no claim to being original!) I liked it because it wasn't so specific as to exclude use on "any road". That's inclusive. That's getting a broader, more versatile mindset about this sort of design than "gravel grinder bike". But for convenience of conversation, I continued to use that term out of the thought that this wouldn't get anywhere anyway.
|Something truly different.....|
Yes, the marketing wonks are rebadging CX geometry and calling the bikes "gravel grinders". Even the very few bikes that are truly different from CX bikes and would do well on gravel, (or I should say, "better on gravel"), are called gravel grinder bikes. Why? Because gravel road riding really is catching on, which is cool, and the marketing guys want their business, which is alright, but the "snake oil" is getting deep and it stinks of "nothing new here". At least in some aspects of the ploys I have seen of late.
So- first of all, calling these bikes, (even if they are different), "gravel grinder bikes" is completely wrong. Here's why: What do you think of when I say "snow bike"? Okay? That conjures up a certain image- maybe of a cold, windy, snowy landscape where you would be shivering, uncomfortable, and rather be snuggling in with a significant other and, well......you get the picture! You don't ride in snow so why bother with a bike that does that, right? Now call it a "fat bike". What does that do to the previous image? It is a completely different way to think about a fat tired, all terrain bicycle, isn't it?
Calling these new, all road capable, "go anywhere there is a path that resembles a road" bicycles "Gravel Grinders" does the same thing that calling a fat bike a "snow bike" does to those wonderful, fun, capable machines. It pigeon holes them into a certain mindset that discounts them as a possibility for anyone looking for a road bike that can do anything.
|....or a rebadged CX bike.|
So when you read about all the "gravel grinder" stuff coming out of Interbike, just be wary. Just like you should be wary of all the 27.5"er and fat bike conversations you'll be reading about. There is a lot of marketing "hoo-hah" swirling around these facets of cycling and the industry is pushing hard for "the next big thing" since 29"ers are milked out now.
I will be commenting and reporting on my thoughts about Interbike 2013 and what I see as trends there on this blog and on Mountain Bike Radio over the coming days and weeks. Stay tuned.....
3GR: Yes- there will be a 3GR Saturday at 8:30am at the starting point of Gates Swimming Pool parking lot in Waterloo. (The construction on the highway is ongoing, so plan accordingly.) See you there!
Have a great weekend and Ride Your Bicycles!