Saturday, February 29, 2020

More On Things That Irritate People Concerning Gravel Riding

More opinionating from yours truly today.
 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Thursday I posted about some of the terminology surrounding gravel riding and I gave my opinions on those. If you missed that, or want to refer to it, here you go. This post will be concerned with a few of the ideas and other things surrounding the gravel scene which seem to bother the people I asked about gravel terminology on Twitter earlier in the week. I will list each thing, make a comment, and move on. These things are not so much related to terminology as they are to things and entities, so I couldn't include these in a list about terms.

First though, I'd like to give a reference point to an assertion I have made for years concerning the term, "gravel grinders", which seems to irritate the heck out of some folks out there.

I have always stated that riding on gravel roads was referred to as "gravel grinding" long before riding gravel was "the cool thing the kids are doing now". The term wasn't invented by those kids, marketing departments, or "influencers" of the cycling scene. In fact, our grandfathers were calling it "gravel grinding" back in the 70's. However; no matter how many times I have related that Jeff Kerkove and I got the term "gravel grinding" from our area cycling culture in the ealy 2000's, not many people would believe it.

Well, low and behold. A Twitter user pinged me with a link to a Summer of 2004 Bike Iowa post which has a reference, right at the top, to a long held "gravel grinder" in the state. That's a solid example, but this was happening all over the Mid-West. I'm not going to tell you "I told ya so", but there it is....... Now onward.

USAC: This came up several times in answer to my Twitter question. Obviously there is still a lot of animosity toward the organization and what people feel it would do to the gravel scene. If they, as has been reported here and elsewhere, are interested in becoming a part of gravel cycling in the U.S.A., they have a 'long row to hoe' there.

Gravel Riding: To give this context, I am going to quote part of the Tweet I received here: "'Gravel Riding' itself. The fact that cycling media & a whole bunch of manufacturers were anxious to jump onto this & create a stupid trend just sucks the big one imo."

This is a problematic idea. If we are riding on gravel roads, what would you call it? "Just riding" isn't going to be a realistic answer here, so let's move on from that right away. Even people who have been riding on gravel for decades call it "something", (see above), so you are going to get served up a term regardless of what you think of having "no term" for this type of cycling. 

Secondly, and also in reference to my gravel grinding description, the cycling media and manufacturers did not create "this trend". It grew organically from the grassroots up. Now, you can accuse brands and marketers of taking advantage of that to make money. But, you know.......that is their job, right? Really, you cannot complain about them for ignoring you at first, and then get self-righteous when they try to make a buck off what we like to do after they address our needs. I, for one, am quite happy we have better tires, bikes suited for long days on rough roads, and gear acclimated to "not racing" on pavement. Your mileage may vary. 

Ted King, (L green arrow) from a Pro road racing background, won the '16 DK200

The Idea Of "Pro Road" Anything Crossing Over To Gravel: Again, the Tweet that pretty much sums this up is this one: "If not UCI or World Tour, it has to be “a former pro on a mission to _______”

Apparently y'all are not impressed by the former roadies turned gravel riders like Ted King, Peter Stetina, and the like. I get it. They are just riders like the rest of us. I think what it is that is bothersome is the hype the media, and some events, give to this idea of someone turning their back on Pro road and "turning to gravel", as if by doing this they are some sort of rebel.  Yeah..... That narrative doesn't seem to fly with a lot of you. I say don't blame the rider so much as the culture surrounding Pro racing and how the cycling pundits pander to that idea. As if by being successful in that you have reached "the holy grail" of cycling. 

That the author of that Tweet tied the riders to the World Tour and the UCI is also telling of how many in gravel cycling don't like that sort of thing, never did, and it is why they want to keep any odor of that sort of cycling out of their gravel experiences. Another take on this can be seen here on Craig Groseth's blog, which I have referenced here before. "World Tour" and "UCI" are terms that engender an idea of submission to a centralized organization with a single purpose for cycling to many gravel riders. It is pretty much the opposite of "grassroots" cycling, which is how this "gravel" cycling scene came about. 
The T.I.v6 header based on the idea of "Vitamin G".

Epic: Not really a "gravel specific" term, but a term that has been misused, over-used, and rendered pretty much meaningless due to that, in terms of any sort of adventurous activity. Cycling doesn't hold an exclusive on 'epic' either. Nuff said there. I think we all understand the over-hyping nature of many marketers and promoters. 

"Roubaix" In Reference To Any Gravel Event: (See "Paris-Roubaix" for context) Many events in the Modern Era of Gravel, (which I hold to be from 2005 onward), started identifying with the single day classic road race, Paris-Roubaix, early on. Conjuring images of cyclists battling the sections of cobbles in sometimes horrible conditions, these events were mostly held in Spring, which often brings rough weather in North America. Lately though, many gravel events boasting the "Roubaix" tag have actually been hit with far worse weather than their namesake. In fact, fans of the real Paris-Roubaix event have bemoaned the absence of such tough conditions in recent iterations of this old road racing classic. 

But how many folks even know what "Roubaix" is referring to? Not a lot, I bet. And furthermore, those who do "get it" should be able to look beyond the hyperbole, and either take part or pass on to events which have names more suitable to their sensibilities. In my opinion, this is a non-starter for something to be bent about. But, maybe that gets your goat, I don't know. One thing I do know is that Barry-Roubaix is the single largest gravel event in the U.S., so it must not bother a lot of folks to be participating in an event with "Roubaix' as part of the event name. 

Again, with well over 500 events, (in my estimation) across the U.S and nationally, I bet you can find an event any time of year without "that name" in it that bothers you. Be it "Roubaix" or otherwise. Go to those events and support them, and let others who are not pestered by an event's name have their events. There is enough to go around in 2020. Or better yet- start your own event.  Freedom y'all.

Random Bits: One commenter said "ruining". That was all. I take that to mean they are worn out by all this talk about what is going to "ruin gravel". If that was what was meant, yeah...... I can see that. I'm as guilty as anyone for propagating such stories, but being who I am, I feel I am kind of obligated to say something. (Okay....shutting up now!) Another random comment was "Alternative calendar". I am not really sure I have ever seen that term bandied about for gravel events, if that is what is meant here. So, I found that comment puzzling. Lastly, we have a term I actually used for Trans Iowa v6's page header on the T.I. site and which I had heard used a bit by some in the late 2000's. That would be "Vitamin G".

I had kind of let that one slip my mind, but a commenter on Twitter said it could have been a possibility for a really annoying term for gravel that they thought was only being used by them. And that sparingly. I agree. That could have found a life of its own and really gotten out of hand. Funny that never happened. Maybe by my using it for T.I.v6's header I helped kill that! Ha! Who knows?  

In the end, none of this stuff really matters when you are out there pedaling on a sunny day, enjoying the ride alone, or with a group of like-minded individuals. I mean, when was the last time you looked over at a riding buddy in the middle of a ride and said, "Don't you just hate the UCI?

Yeah.....probably happens a lot on group rides. Or how about when you are riding on a cool Summer morning, seeing the Sun rise, and listening to the birds sing. Do you look wistfully at the unfolding grandeur and think, "That stuff about gravel grinding drives me nuts." Yeah..... That's probably fairly common, right? 

The point is, you and I need to worry less about this nonsense, stay off the innergoogles,  and just enjoy riding more. Because we are giving this way too much energy. Energy we all could be using for cycling instead. 

Thanks for reading! 


MG said...

Amen, Brother...

Skidmark said...

In n.florida, I call it clay and rough roads riding: C.a.r.r. riding๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿšด๐Ÿป‍♂️๐Ÿ˜Š

NY Roll said...

I use #s as sarcasm. #inspirationalgravel and etc. I think what is and may be going on is you have those that are virtue signaling and others that are okay I see that, how about we just ride bikes? But at the same time we have an excitement about bikes as a whole due to gravel. So what do we do? Do we become curmudgeons and say not on my gravel? Or do we keep doing what we have done and let others find their path. I think that is more #adiltinggravel than anything ;(

BluesDawg said...

I have come to accept that what I called dirt road riding over a decade ago has become popularly known as gravel riding, although here in middle Georgia, it can be just dirt or clay roads, a sprinkling of light gravel here and there, or thick and steady gravel. Gotta have something to call it or else a two word reference becomes a sentence or two every time you speak of it.

Gravel grinding has never seemed like the right description of what we do around here. For a while it was in common use, based on what we were reading in magazines and online, but most people now say gravel riding or dirt road riding or mixed surface.

What always has and still does grind on my nerves is when someone calls a bike a gravel grinder. No. Just no.

S.Fuller said...

At the end of the day, I purchase and ride my bikes so I can ride them where and how I want to ride them. I love dirt, I love gravel, and I ride plenty of pavement. As long as people keep putting on events in scenic places, I'll keep going. I will say that I'm starting to look at what else is going on in an area besides "the event" as an out and back drive of over a few hours just to ride my bike isn't gonna cut it, unless there's a lot of seat time. Maybe we can take the term "gravel tourist" and NY Roll can hashtag that one. :)