Monday, March 03, 2014

So- Just How Big Is This Gravel Thing?

Gravel Country
I seem to be a person who is considered to be someone who knows something. Either that, or I am the only person fool enough to open my mouth when asked these questions I get asked. I cannot say which it is really, but apparently some folks want to know, so I tell 'em. So, here's the thing I get asked a lot lately: "Just how big is this gravel thing, really?"

I can't say I am the authority on gravel events, but I happen to compile a calendar of these sorts of events over on Gravel Grinder News. I have a counter on my site, and it tells me that for this year I have about 160 events, maybe more, (I have to weed out some dead wood from last year), and I've been adding new events every week to the tune of about 2-3 events a week for the last three months. Consider that I had 112 events listed in early 2013 and it becomes obvious things are expanding.

There is the possibility that 30 more events will re-up, but you never know. I have to say that many folks don't do the utmost in terms of informing the public in a timely or thorough manner. I wade through a lot of dead web sites, Google searches, and Facebook sites that have been left idle instead of updated. But that's my issues with the scene, and a bit off topic.......

That's the event side. But there's more to it. There is interest shown in terms of numbers. Participation numbers, that is. Some events are easily topping 1000 participants now. Barry-Roubaix, Dirty Kanza 200, and the Almanzo events all are way over 1000 folks for each of those. Other events easily reach their caps, and still other events and group rides, not showing up on my calendar, happen all the time. Their are a lot of the latter, as I come across news of them in my web searches. Participation numbers are waaaay up!

WTB's new Nano 40
Then there is the hardware side. The companies talking "gravel" have increased exponentially since three years ago. Five years ago virtually no company even acknowledged the category. Call it "cashing in on a trend", or call it "smart business", it doesn't matter. The fact is that this is happening. Now.

So, yeah........about that question. Maybe I am not the best guy to ask. Maybe I don't know squat, but when I look at the evidence, I see that something is happening, I see it getting bigger, and I see business happening on the hardware and event side because of it. You can judge it for yourself. I think it is pretty hard not to say that it is bigger than maybe many people think, and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

I will say that as far as my events go, enthusiasm, numbers, and attention that the events attract has done nothing but increase. I fully expect to see a record turnout for Trans Iowa. I think last year's GTDRI was the biggest by twice the previous number, and this year's event has already got folks marking their calendars, which for me is flattering and not something I was ever thinking would happen.

So, if you pressed me for an answer, I'd say, "It is pretty dang big, and only getting bigger."


Ari said...

When is that tire coming out? I still ride those Mutano Raptors that I love so much. I am glad they came out with these tires.

Guitar Ted said...

@Ari: There are 5 sets coming out of the very first batch made to Trans Iowa as part of WTB's commitment to sponsor the event. My understanding is that these will be here just barely in time for the event.

Wider distribution/better availability probably won't happen until Summertime. I have a strong suspicion that this tire will be sold out for the first several months it is available. Lots of interest in this model!

MG said...

I dig... Count me in.

Michael Lemberger said...

I'd actually like to see more rides like GTDRI, where the emphasis is on just riding. But that's me.

Davids1174 said...

I was surprised to see the Reynolds catalog has a gravel recommendation. You know when parts are getting rated for gravel it must be pretty popular.

Matt BK said...

We're looking for more gravel events over at Northern Plains Athletics, for anyone who can help get the word out. Great thoughts.