Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Taking It Back To The Fun

2016 saw me experiencing the Flint Hills in a totally different, and more fun,way.
There is something about going out on a bicycle to see the "how far", "where you can go", and "what you can do" that is very appealing to me, and by the way, is not at all connected to competition. You maybe can call this "touring", or you might call it "adventure by bicycle" like one company has done, or you maybe could just distill it all down to one simple word- fun. 

To my way of thinking, "fun" on a bicycle, as described above, is why I got hooked on bicycles in the first place. It wasn't about being faster than the next guy, it wasn't about the latest lightweight gizmo, and it certainly is not about gaining notoriety on social media. No! It was simply a joy in riding around, searching, looking, and experiencing the terrain and the things alive on it and in it. That pretty much sums things up in general terms for me.

Now, before I go any further, I want to explain very clearly that competition has its place. I even enjoy competing in events on occasion. But I also want to make it very  clear that competition falls way down the ladder of reasons why I take to the gravel and ride. I also want it to be very clear that what I am about to share goes for me only. I don't speak for anyone else here, so please let that sink in a moment.

Just sittin' around and having some fun out on a gravel ride this past Summer. From the GTDRI by Rob Evans
Someone online the other day accused me of being "all patriarchal" about some of my views pertaining to the gravel scene. Well, I am a male and I've been around this scene, some say influencing it, for well over a decade. So, yeah, I'll own that. You can see that as a negative or whatever. It is what it is, and so I'm going to put this out there as one of the people others say has a word or two to share that might have some weight to it. You can decide on that ultimately.

Anyway, I feel that chasing races and somewhat manufactured experiences is getting kind of old. Not that I won't ever pin a number on one of my bicycles again, because I plan on doing that, but I won't do that a lot anymore. Why? Because I'd rather have more "fun". I'd rather do more rides like the GTDRI, the "Geezer Ride", 3GR, and whatever else others do out in the world that isn't about paying someone a bunch of cash and racing.

Just being a bunch of Geezers in 2015.
There are free to enter races, sure. I get that and I like that way of doing things. I'm not averse to paying for an event though, but in some cases I've just had to say "no mas!". Enough is enough. Chasing the race scene is cool from the people aspect, but I have found that you no longer even have to do the race to get in that aspect of things. I have also found that getting together with a group of like minded individuals, be that one other or many others, seems to be a lot more enjoyable, creates a lot more "good times", and can be done on a shoe string budget. Besides that, these experiences on rides I have either put on myself or have been on with others seem to create their own special "vibe" that no event/race I've ever done has possessed.

Then there is this whole thing about "getting the value for the dollar spent" , which from where I sit, has taken precedence over the "why I ride in the first place" aspect of gravel and gravel events. So, you know, if you spend this, in my opinion, exorbitant amount of money, the attitude seems to be getting to be, "what's in it for me besides the riding?" And to be honest, that's on us, the riders. I know it is really popular to blame the event promoters for "selling out the scene", but if people keep buying, who really should we be pointing our finger at? I say, look in the mirror.

And maybe that's okay with you. I get that. But again, it isn't why I am riding gravel.

So I Tweeted out the following the other day:

 That got a ton of responses. Some direct from Twitter, but I also was contacted by e-mail from a "like-minded" individual who shall remain nameless at this point. Needless to say, I felt that I was not the only person with feelings that the gravel scene, in particular, has been loosing its way when it comes to its "real reason to be", which isn't racing and a bunch of other hoo-ha attached with it.

Take the linked event in my Tweet, the SWIG Tour. You can ride it, you can race it, but the general vibe is that of a guy who wants to share in what he believes is a great place to ride. He feels the views and the roads are too good not to share. I can get behind an idea like that.

Then yesterday I Tweeted the following based upon responses I had gotten from the first Tweet and my further thinking about this: 

So this Tweet got an even bigger response. Now as I stated at the top of this post, I am speaking here only for myself, but it is very clear that others out there are thinking along the same lines. How many folks are getting this vibe, I have no clear idea, but from where I sit, it is more than I thought. It's apparently more than a few of you out there.

So, as I say in the Tweet, I am not sure where this all is going, but it is going! Already there are plans for rides, special "stuff", and more surrounding this groundswell of "just riding". I know that as far as I am concerned I would like to recreate something like my "DK MY Way" ride out in Nebraska where "Odin's Revenge" used to be ridden. Probably as a long weekend, three day deal where we ride out and back to Gothenburg for three loops of the old courses we used to ride.

I want to get the old 3GR ride up and going again as a regular local gravel grind. I also want to do a Geezer Ride, or two, or three. But however it goes, I want to experience more places and people in casual riding atmospheres instead of every big ride being one of being under the gun to race and all that entails. We'll see how that turns out...

More on this subject later as things develop.


Erin said...

Amen to all of this!!! I've done precisely one race event in the past 10 years. 2 weeks later I spent a weekend in Moab with some buddies riding amazing trails on our own schedule for less $$$ than the race that was on a sucky course. That contrast was the end of my "pay to have fun" days. Now I organize trips for anyone that wants to ride and have fun without spending a fortune. If anyone complains about the trip/trails/food, they get to organize the next one.

graveldoc said...

I like what you're saying, here. I'd sure try to make it up your way for another Geezer Ride sometime, Mark.

Phillip Cowan said...

There's bound to be some overlap between Rando and Gravel(capital G). I would guess there are people out there doing both. I'm surprised that none of the RUSA people has come up with a "Gravel Permanent" where the emphasis is on camaraderie and making the time slot rather than winning. There would be no prizes and no official winner. Oh sure the jackrabbits will always take off in search of bragging rights for the fastest time and that's OK but most people would be there to challenge themselves. Such an event would be pass/fail and anyone who makes the slot goes in the book.

Guitar Ted said...

@Erin- Your experience sounds a lot like my revelation that my XC racing in the '90's was a big waste of time. Paying for an hour- maybe an hour and a half of unfulfilling riding when I could ride all day for free?

And your "If you complain, then YOU get the job" idea is gold!

@Steven Butcher- I would love to be able to find and grind some gravel sometime down your way as well!

@phillip Cowan- That idea and observation is interesting. Wondering the same thing now as well. Ironically I ride sometimes with a fellow who was in charge of the Iowa Rando scene here who now does a lot of gravel riding. I could always tap his knowledge of the rando Permanent idea and maybe have a go at something akin to that on "Gravel".

Tim said...

In a world filled with competition I find the serenity of gravel to be a necessity. Whether others are present or I go solo, riding for adventure and spiritual insight fills me more than looking at my time and pace. Thank you for the posts, Ted!

Greg said...

Your first two paragraphs echo my exact feelings about why I ride. I agree about the rest of it as well, never been much of a competitor - just love to ride.

Arky said...

Totally agree with you: Which is why I don’t understand why you seem to be so critical of RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI is a celebration of new and old friends, food, and places experienced on a bike. Or am I mistaken?

Guitar Ted said...

@Kenny Ness- My distaste for RAGBRAI stems from my dislike of traffic jams, for one thing. Kind of antithetical to what I am talking about here. Or maybe saying "too much of a good thing" makes more sense to you? I could explain further, but RAGBRAI is a COMPLETELY different animal from anything else in cycling. So much so it stands out as its own thing. I have very unique reasons for how I feel about it as a result.

Arky said...

Fair enough. But I urge all of us (me too) to not become the guy who says “My style of cycling is the only valid style”: That makes those who do that no different from the racers with their snouts in the air. I love the inclusiveness of gravel riders that value having fun on bikes. I hope we continue to welcome new people. I like having fun on bikes other ways too.

Also, I’m sure there are people in Emporia, KS who dread Dirty Kanza: I’m sure glad they put up (and in fact welcome) us.

Happy trails. Preach on.

BluesDawg said...

Amen, Right On, Hayul Yeah! I've been enjoying participating in and sometimes organizing this kind fun gravel riding in middle Georgia for the past several years on some great dirt and gravel roads with some of the best people I've ever known.

coop6 said...

There actually are gravel permanents. I rode part of one out in California that was super cool, and I've been invited to ride some in Texas. They do exist.

Marc Pfister said...

The Rocky Mountain Cycle Club (Colorado's randonneuring club) has at least two gravel Permanents set up, and has taken over running the AntiEpic (which is still timed) as part of their Triple Crown series.

I would certainly be up for an OdinFest based at Potter's Pasture.

Steve Fuller said...

I do get where you are coming from for sure. I was planning on "year of not racing" this year, but I got talked into a couple of things by people who are close to me. That said, I'm planning on more "wandering" and bikepacking adventures in Iowa after those pursuits are complete.

blooddoc23 said...

I wish Odin would bring that ride back. That ride out in Nebraska was fantastic!

Rydn9ers said...

Keep me in the loop if the Odin's idea gets any traction, please.

Guitar Ted said...

@Rob E- Will do. I have a couple of interested folks here already. I may have to make this happen!

Michael Lemberger said...

Hmmmm...a casual Odin's you say? Tell me more.