So I feel like the kid in the 1950s pot commercial; I rode gravel once and now I’m hooked and my whole life has been turned upside down. I just can’t see the road the same. I now see cars and replace them with trees, signal lights are now steep hills, cement streets are now dirt paths… Everything has flipped and I love it.
I had tried cross and it was plenty fun. Not like every day fun, but fun once-in-awhile-fun. I will/must/don’t want to admit how bad I am on a mountain bike. On a road bike is where I was the most comfortable. Gravel does not come natural for me even if I’ve tried most of what cycling has to offer. For me it’s not the descents because I’m not all that confident in my skills. It’s the views as I suffer and drag my 200 pound butt up these climbs that normally lead to some hike-a-bike situations. The climbing can be brutal but like the Instagram inspirational quote with a majestic background says, “It’s just a hill, get over it.” If you can, then you will get a new perspective; your eyes will open to everything you’ve missed on a road bike or a mountain bike.
On a road bike you ride with your eyes wide shut. That’s the appeal for me, a lot of it is just not thinking and just going; you can zone out on a climb and even forget about the views. On a mountain bike you are more aware but there is still a level of letting the bike do it’s job and going for it. The closest thing to riding gavel (on a rigid bike with drops), in my opinion, is riding a fixed gear bike. On a fixed gear bike you have to be aware of everything around you. From the cars to the road conditions, the signal lights to the pedestrians, you are on full alert all the time. Not having real brakes will do that to you. Gravel is somewhat like that, you have an idea of control but it’s more controlled chaos then precision.
The real beauty of gravel [(…and I get a ten-cent commission every time I type G R A V E L)- Gravel] riding is that it’s not just about riding, hiking is also a big part of the experience. On a road bike you can take another route, on a mountain bike you have a lot of gearing and a more capable bike, so when you get to a section that’s above your pay grade you either push yourself or hike-a-bike. You go on a ride and you really don’t know if you are going to be able to ride every section of it. How much of a route you can manage changes as you improve and get more confident/stronger. I tend to fall more on the climbs than the descents. I’ve also done a lot to improve my gearing.
Nonetheless, gravel is my new obsession. So much so that this summer I am planning a Summer Adventure Gravel Series (SAGS) around the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California. The adventure part is that there will be no routes given out. We will have to stay together, this will help avoid douchebagery. This is not a race. This is not about being first, fast, or better. This is about the people next to you, the landscape that surrounds you, and the route in front of you. Aside from maybe the Cannondale Slate [(with a gearing upgrade) no pun intended] there will not be a perfect bike for every situation. After, I hope we question our bikes but not our time in the saddle. I’m currently doing recon for the S.A.G.S ride- details will come.
This is a followup to our earlier gravel bikes article. Once we made it onto the show floor at the Mandalay Bay convention center, it was time to capture pics of some other hot new gravel bike models (and an old favorite).
First up is the Raleigh Tamland, new for 2014 and in two models:
(Editor’s note: a reader corrected us on the photo we had described as the Tamland One, when it was actually the Roper. I only got a poor background shot of the Tamland One, so simply imagine a different color scheme from the above bike — sky blue with yellow and white accents — and a slightly different component spec.)
The Tamlands sport a Reynolds 631 steel frame, slightly longer chainstays and a lower bottom bracket shell than typical cyclocross bikes. They’re lookers…but I can’t remember what differentiates one from the other. They’re so new they don’t yet appear on Raleigh’s website, and I neglected to take detailed notes. I believe it has something to do with the component spec, with the Tamland Two having Ultegra rather than 105 (but don’t quote me).
The updated Roper also has the gravel-grinding goods:
Next is the Co-Motion Pangea…billed as a monstercross/offroad global touring machine with 26″ wheels and a ton of clearance for fat rubber:
Here’s the Surly Straggler, described by the company as a disc-braked version of their very popular Cross-Check. It comes in a very lovely shade of metallic violet:
Finally, the granddaddy of them all, the Bianchi Volpe. Introduced in 1996 as a touring bike, the Volpe has slowly evolved into Bianchi’s “do everything” bike — a prime candidate for commuting, beginner ‘cross racing, gravel adventures, and more. The Volpe is still equipped with rim brakes rather than discs, but we wouldn’t be surprised at all to see discs in a future model. It does come with every mounting option a commuter would want…rack mounts front and rear, fender eyelets on both ends. The Volpe is one of my favorites in the Bianchi lineup:
What do you think — are gravel bikes the new “ultimate commuter platform”? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this burgeoning segment of the bicycle market.
You may have heard of a popular new segment in cycling circles…the class of bikes known as “gravel bikes” (also referred to as gravel-grinders, gravel racers, etc.). This class of bike seems to offer commuters the best of both worlds: the efficiency of a road bike, coupled with stouter construction and the ability to fit wider tires, racks, and fenders.
This really isn’t that new of a concept, though…the “monstercross” category has been around for a few years, but is only now coming to the forefront with the popularity of events such as the Almanzo 100 or the 3 Peaks USA.
We’re going to get a lot more details of new bike models in the coming days, but here are a few we spotted at the Outdoor Demo:
This is mostly a mid-priced disc cyclocross bike, but with fender mounts front and rear. It is priced around $1600.
Van Dessel Whiskey Tango Foxtrot:
My favorite part of this bike is the phosphated raw frame finish…clearcoated for protection. The frame/fork/headset retails for around $699, and complete bikes start around $1199.
This is Van Dessel’s monstercross offering, but designed with versatility in mind. Go singlespeed…add a derailleur…or even go wild with a NuVinci CVT. Here’s last year’s bold model with the NuVinci installed:
Tomorrow at the indoor show, we are going to track down the Raleigh Tamland, the Surly Straggler, the new Niner RLT9, and whatever else we can lay our eyes on. Please stay tuned!