Tuesday, September 13, 2022

The Evolution Of "Gravel"

Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned....."  

Today's post sprang from a couple of points of inspiration, so first I want to acknowledge that. My first point of inspiration is from Josh H. Scott of JHS Pedals fame. (Yes, a guitar effects company, which, by the way, I don't own any of their products, so this is not influenced in that way) Josh does ride and photograph gravel events though, so there is that.

The next part of my inspiration today comes from the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame, and what all of that has brought to the forefront. Yes, I am inducted into that institution, but I have to say that much of this post wouldn't have happened without what the GCHoF has brought to mind for many other riders. 

Okay, with that out of the way, what I wanted to say here is something I have felt was a thing, and I have tried to explain this. However; maybe you've had experiences where someone else says something and you go "AHA!" They formulate sentences and thoughts which you just knew, but couldn't express yet for whatever reason, until you heard "that". Here is "that thing" I heard:

"Things are not invented,

they evolve"

Josh H. Scott

 This was in reference to effects pedals for guitars specifically, but Josh also made a case for this idea overall. (You can watch his live YouTube on this subject here) I found that it perfectly explains my issues with many who criticize the existence of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame and who say things like," Well, actually it was so-and-so that was the first to do gravel events.

Like, we will never get to the bottom of that, and as I've always thought- that's really not important. What is important is that a lot of ideas were employed in making up an event (events) that came along at just the right time to set off a big wave of evolution in cycling. That's what the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame is trying to point out. Certain people were in a space, borrowing ideas from others, and implementing them in different, but yet similar ways, to influence the direction of a cycling genre'. 

Image by Celeste Mathias
When Jeff Kerkove and I set out to put on an event that would cross the state of Iowa in late 2004, we were not the first to think of a cycling event, nor a point-to-point event with bicycles, or even a gravel road cycling event. But we did borrow all those ideas from before. We put it together in a package that had not been offered like Trans Iowa, and we had the Internet to tell the story. 

Without any of that, and a WHOLE lot more that came before, we wouldn't have done what we did. We saw possibilities from other's ideas. (Adjacent  Possible) We sprang ahead from that and then others witnessed what we had done and in another instance of "Adjacent Possible" they in turn were inspired to do gravelly things on bicycles, and so on and so forth. 

Things evolved. They mutated, they grew, and now here we are, in 2022, and "Gravel®" is a Thing. Bicycles, accessories, and cultures are being made, formed, and are affecting the future of cycling further. It's out of my hands, and has been for a long, long time, and it is something I never could have imagined that it could be now. 

Back to the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame for a minute. Okay, my hope and desire is that this doesn't become either of these two tings: A "Who was First" hall, or a "Popularity Contest" hall. I would hope that the GCHof will become a place where we can go to see where we came from, where we are, and where we might be going. A hall where your questions about gravel cycling history can be answered. A story hold, a library of gravel, if you will. A place to hear tell of feats and events and places and people who helped "Gravel®" evolve to what it is now. 

The first class of the GCHOF (Image by Tobie DePauw)
So, that's about it, really. I just wanted to point out that all of this is due to all of THAT. I'm purposefully being vague because we tend to want to either worship the founder(s) or tear them down and build up our own ideas of "Who Was First". See, none of that matters when you understand that all of this gravel stuff probably would have happened anyway and that what really matters is that we have it now. 

Yeah....certain people were involved. They deserve thank you's and acknowledgements, but honestly, it could have been you. I was fortunate to have walked into a situation that made it a possibility for me to help evolve cycling in a way that ended up becoming pretty big. It just as easily could have been completely unnoticed. 

I was a part of the evolution. I did not create it. Others have done things within the sphere of gravel cycling which has built upon my contributions, and others contributions, to evolve this thing even further. I am humbled to be a part of that stream of creativity. 

Thank You: Thanks again to Josh H. Scott for the ideas he shared and which helped me make better sense of the gravel scene and my part in it for myself. Thanks to the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame as well for being there to tell the story of an evolution within cycling that has changed my life and many others over the years. 


NY Roll said...

Another way to look at gravel is gravel being revived or a rebirth. The original riding medium was gravel, and paved roads came around and the gravel weened out. the farm kid would pedal the roads to escape the house for a few moments of independence and find their friends. Seldom in this world do we truly create, and seldom is it done in a vacuum. All we are really doing is helping to make the wheel rounder in the end.

john said...

Very good good Dave.