Something happened today. Something that made me realise what it means to be a part of a community, a collection of like minded individuals who share knowledge and experience with one another for their mutual benefit.
One year ago, I went on my fist gravel ride. I have been hooked ever since.
It has grabbed my interest and excited me in the same way as road racing did in the early eighties, and mountain biking did later on that decade. But gravel riding feels different. It has a community feel that the other disciplines never did. Road riding is, by its very nature extremely competitive and driven by big money sponsorship. Mountain bikers may seem closer to their off-road gravel cousins, mucking about on bikes with a group of mates in the woods. Though these small groups rarely reach out to other groups in the same inclusive manner as gravel groups do today.
Gravel riding is more than just riding bikes. Its a community, a movement, a collective gathering of like minded individuals drawn together by a love of riding on unpaved roads or tracks and a desire to share adventures with others. I believe this sense of community has come about for a couple of reasons.
Gravel riding has close links with bikepacking, adventure riding, and ultra endurance events. These types of events, whilst often competitive, have an ethos of camaraderie and aren’t really a win at all costs sport. Being out there and “doing it” is just as important as winning or losing. Groups like The Racing Collective put on “races” that have no medals, podiums or prizes. The kudos from fellow competitors is reward enough for their often gargantuan efforts. It is more about doing it for the hell of it, or for the love of it , or just because we can.
The second thing is its slightly underground nature. Its not a mainstream discipline and is still young enough to not really be known outside of cycling circles. Its the first cycling genre to grow up with the aid of social media to help “spread the word”. Social media has helped gravel riding to grow, to gather people together for rides and social events. To spread ideas and recommendations for gear and routes. Plenty of cyclists have heard of it, many don’t understand it and dismiss it as a marketing fad, or the latest trend. For those that “get it” its a real discipline that’s here to stay. I am split between wanting to spread the word and get more people out gravel riding but at the same time keep it small enough to retain that community feel.
There are so many amazing people doing amazing things, mostly for free or in spare time, that are contributing to making gravel grinding and adventure style riding such an exciting place to be right now. Please dont loose that, it is a special thing that you have contributed towards.
Keep it Real.