Sunday, June 25, 2023

The GTDRI Stories: Gravel Changes

An early February ride selfie.
 "The GTDRI Stories" is a series telling the history, untold tales, and showing the sights from the run of Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitationals. This series will run on Sundays. Thanks for reading!

The entire gravel scene kind of shifted into another gear in 2015. The shift from grassroots, low/no-cost events, simple event productions was being surpassed by highly polished productions and ever increasing field sizes with an equivalent rise in entry fees.

The bicycle industry was catching on as well by this time. There were more "gravel" specific products like bicycles, tires, and some apparel. Writers in the field of cycling were starting to give more credence to gravel as being a serious sport. Ex-Pro roadies were starting to eye events like the DK200 as possible ways to extend their competitive careers. The gravel scene was no longer in the hands of the common people any longer. It was now going to be monetized and made into a money-making venture. Both on the retail side and the career side. 

The Carbon Warbird, introduced at the 2015 Frostbike show in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 Now event directors at a few races were starting to think that they could make a living off their events. Sponsors were getting to be more high-profile as well. This brought on sponsorship for highly talented riders which spurred on more interest both in the general rider categories and from the industry. 

Meanwhile here I was doing things like I had been doing for ten years already. As more people and companies discovered this "new style of cycling", I could only roll my eyes and remember that many of us had been getting criticized for years for being "beardoes" on rides that "weren't real races". Now those same people were "discovering" this "new" thing. Ha! 

But what continues to amaze me is that some media outlets and writers were saying "gravel is the new cycling trend" for the next eight years after that. It's almost as though we didn't exist for nearly twenty years now. It just blows my mind.....

Anyway... The immediate effect of all of this in 2015 was that interest in rides like the GTDRI was increasing as well. I was getting more interest in the ride, and I started to see increases in participation. Where the ride averaged less than ten people a year previously, after 2014 it averaged 12+ people a year. That's not huge in terms of numbers, but it does reflect that participation was on the upswing overall in gravel events. 

My Odin's entry card for 2015

Speaking of participation, 2015 maybe was my peak in terms of gravel events that I participated in. I rode in the Gents Race, the tenth DK200, Odin's Revenge, Gravel Worlds, and in my own GTDRI, along with several "3GR" gravel group rides and two "Geezer Rides". 

Gravel was changing at a rapid pace, and my GTDRI event was kind of becoming a weird thing since it wasn't really a group ride, an event as most people would define that, nor was it for a specific purpose. I think this and the name were reasons that I didn't get a ton of people wanting in. That and I did not promote it willingly outside of my blog. Although I know it was promoted on a few event calendars. 

None of that really mattered to me though. At this point I was just wanting to enjoy a day riding gravel with friends. The GTDRI did that for me, so I was fine with it not growing into whatever it was people thought these grassroots gravel events should turn into. I saw what was happening to events like the Almanzo 100, which saw some amount of turmoil internally and externally due to certain entities wanting to make it more open to commercialization and others wanting to pull back from that, all the while growing numbers of participants to eye-popping amounts considering that it was free to enter.

The WTB Nano 40 debuted in 2015 signalling more interest from cycling companies in gravel riding and racing.

I was glad that I didn't let any of the commercialization aspects happening back then affect the GTDRI. I kept it as it had been from the beginning in 2006. It was easy to put on, required few logistics, and its success or failure was defined by each person's own experiences on the ride. Not by how much money was pulled in, who of the top riders would show up, or if it got in the online publications or on social media. 

It was fun, but as far as 2015 went, that GTDRI was more of a quest, at least for me. I wanted to put that "thing" that had happened in 2014 to rest once and for all. There was more to it than that, but the main driving force for me was to take my Tamland and ride the entire loop. That was it, pretty much. 

Next: The lead up to the tenth GTDRI.

No comments: