Saturday, January 25, 2014

It's Just A Name

Not a problem for just any bike, right?
You know all about this if you come around here much. Gravel grinding: You've read reams about it here, but ya know- many folks have only just been made aware about the term, and that there are actually bikes and components being made for the activity by bicycle companies. It's "new", it's a "trend", and some people are offended. Some folks are making some outlandish comments to skewer the idea as being stupid or worse.

What a bunch of maroons.

Then there are some who "get it" as far as the activity, but still........that name! Check out Jan Heine's blog post about that here

What I find amusing about the article is how the term "gravel grinding" is found to be distasteful, yet the term "grinding up a climb" is used by one of the commenters and Jan himself refers to the "taste of the effort". I really make no distinctions there from "gravel grinding", (which has been a term used for this sort of riding long before marketers got a hold of it, by the way.) I would suggest that it isn't so much the term folks find distasteful, but rather it is the marketing, the "profiting" off of the term that turns people off. Which itself is a bizarre concept since just about our whole economy and political system is based off of marketing of one sort or another. In other words, move along, there is nothing to see here, and go ride whatever bike wherever you want.

The term "gravel grinding"- It isn't new at all.
 Then there are the bikes for gravel: 

For some weird reason these same folks get all up in arms about companies making "gravel grinder" specific bikes. I've been talking about what would make a "better" tool for the job here for years. And again- if you've frequented these digital rants here, you already know what I think. But for the uninitiated....

  • You can ride any bike on gravel-  yes. But that doesn't mean a specially designed bike for gravel should not exist, just like a special bike for time trials shouldn't exist, or a special bike for down hill off road trails shouldn't exist, and so on....
  • Cyclo cross bikes are........cyclo cross bikes! Yes- they can be ridden on gravel, but that doesn't mean a specific design for gravel should not be pursued. 
  • Just because someone doesn't believe a gravel bike should not exist doesn't mean a gravel bike cannot be done. People may not understand the need, or the reasons, but the same could be said of just about any niche of cycling. That doesn't make a gravel bike more or less valid. It just means people have opinions. 
  • Many companies are making cyclo cross bikes with minor tweaks and calling them "gravel specific" bikes. This does not mean that they are. Most are not even close. Most folks wouldn't know the difference. That's what these companies are banking on, and in the end, it doesn't matter, as long as they get ridden. This does not mean a gravel specific bike should not be pursued either. It just means marketing worked.....or it didn't. 
As I have said all along here- I know what I want in a gravel road bike. Some folks agree with me. Not everyone will agree, or care, about that. However; that doesn't stop me from pursuing the "better" gravel bike, and it shouldn't make any difference to anyone else unless they are interested in making a better tool for the job, like I am.

 The point is, it is just about tweaking "the bicycle". That's all. It isn't a big deal, but if you let yourself get swept away by the punters and marketers, you may think otherwise. Really..... they are  just ranting about a name folks. Nothing to get worked up about.


graveldoc said...

I've been reading your blog for the past several months. I've, also, been reading Gravel Grinder News for the past few years. I really appreciate the ideas you've shared about what you've discovered that makes a gravel road specific bicycle excel over other genres. I live in rural Southwest Missouri and have the opportunity to ride on varying types of gravel (both limestone and slick river rock)and dirt. I don't race but find the country side found while riding on gravel both peaceful and beautiful. I always learn something when I read your blogs. Someday, I hope to have a "gravel specific" bicycle but will make do well enough with what I currently ride. The tips I read about on your blogs have helped me to work in a few modifications on my bike to help me enjoy riding it on gravel. Keep up the good work and thanks!

Christian said...


What's the bike pictured with the Berthoud bag please?


Guitar Ted said...

@Christian: If I recall correctly it belongs to a fellow from Minnesota and it is a small custom builder brand that has a Rohloff hub based drive train. Beautiful bike for sure.

Christian said...

Cool. Thanks. Really nice looking.

Guitar Ted said...

@Christian: I tracked it down. It is a Curt Goodrich bike. The really cool thing about it was the custom circular aluminum shifter for the Rohloff hub that was mounted on the downtube where a downtube shifter would mount. Think large stereo receiver tuner knob from the 70's and you'll get the proper image!

Christian said...

Hey, thanks! He built bikes for Rivendell for a little while and has done some nice stuff. I love my Berthoud bag. And my dynohub. The only thing I have to say about gravel is I love riding it whatever it's called. Keep up the great blog.

Jay said...


Nathan said...

All I know concerning the "gravel-specific" bike business is that I am so excited to be able to sell someone a bike and tell them they can go and do whatever the heck they want with it, because the bike is built to take it.