Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Gravel History With Guitar Ted: The Challenge Tires "Gravel Grinder"

Challenge Tires' "Gravel Grinder" model.
Welcome To Gravel History With Guitar Ted! This will be a random series here on the blog where I will give you my take on the history of gravel riding and racing in the modern era.* 

There may be a "Ted-terview" or two where I speak with those from the early days of the Modern era of Gravel as well. 

 In this episode of "Gravel History With Guitar Ted" we will explore the story of Challenge Tires' "Gravel Grinder" model and an a mutual agreement to not seek legal action. 

Back in the Discovery Era  in these times of the Modern Gravel scene, we would often use touring tires for gravel road riding. I remember the Schwalbe Marathon series of tires as being one of the more popular choices due to that model being available in 40+mm sizes along with a very popular 38mm size.

The Marathon Extreme model also had a very tough puncture protection quality that was prized by gravel grinders especially for doing the race in Kansas then known as the Dirty Kanza 200. Its cut resistance was phenomenal, but if you did puncture, they were a bearcat to dismount and replace a tube in. This and they were pretty heavy tires as well, which put a lot of riders off. So it wasn't a perfect solution to our needs.

Gravel Grinder News header circa 2011
Along about 2011 or so, some tire manufacturers were looking into making a tire for gravel which, in all likelihood was sparked by the insider knowledge of Salsa Cycles development of a gravel racing bike at that time. One of those companies was Challenge Tire.

Challenge Tire was, and still is, a small company with few employees. Their niche was mainly cyclo cross and road racing tubulars and "open tubulars" which are Challenge Tires' version of their tubular tires in a clincher format.

Challenge decided to utilize their expertise in cyclo cross and use a model they had developed for grassy CX courses, fatten it up to 38mm, and rename it the "Gravel Grinder". Whether or not Challenge Tires was aware of my little site at that time, I don't know, but it soon came to their attention that there was a website using the same name. This could have gone pear-shaped, but fortunately, nothing of the sort happened. 

What did happen was that I ended up meeting the head of Challenge Tires operations at a Quality Bicycle Products "Frostbike" open house. We chatted, and ostensibly, I was only there for tire news, as I had heard Challenge was making a play to release a gravel tire. When the head man showed me the Gravel Grinder, he acknowledged that the name could be a stumbling block, since my website had the same name, unless, of course, I would be okay with that coincidence. He stuck out his hand, and stated, "There will be no legal ramifications to this situation from our side, how about you?", and of course, I said it would be fine and shook his hand. 

And that's how you get things done without lawyers getting in the way! 

Meanwhile, we had a lighter, capable choice in a gravel tire. Clement (Donnelly now) wasn't far behind, and the gravel gear choices only got better from then on out.


DT said...

I have a million tires, but if I was buying something new I think I would go with one of their tubeless open tubular getaway models. Expensive, but checks a lot of boxes

Guitar Ted said...

@DT - I have tested and reviewed Getaways. Two things I was turned off by- (1) Challenge insisted I use their sealant and no other brand. (2) The sidewalls weeped, or better put - sweated - out sealant in odd patches after about three months.

Otherwise they were great tires for racing gravel.