by Ben Welnak
"Gravel grinders" have become extremely popular throughout the country. While many have been riding gravel roads on bikes that they have modified for gravel roads for years, recently companies have been producing "gravel-specific" bikes, gear, and other accessories, such as framebags and other packs.
The latest Bicycle Retailer Magazine highlighted gravel riding in a recent article titled, "Two wheels roll fast on gravel roads." The article discusses the rapidly growing niche market of cycling. In it, Mark "Guitar Ted" Stevenson, creator of Gravel Grinder News (www.gravelgrindernews.com) discusses his inability to keep up with the demand for information about riding gravel roads, including tires, what gear, races, etc. Stevenson then created a calendar which has grown exponentially over the last two years and now the list is well over 100 events.
Many cyclists question the need for another style of bike and note that they should just be lumped together with all road bikes. Manufacturers don't seem to agree and see the developing trend. They have jumped in and started manufacturing gravel-specific bikes. Gravel Grinder News recently posted several discussions about Interbike and noted new bikes by Raleigh and Colorado's Niner Bikes. Niner's first move away from mountain bikes made a big splash around the cycling media. The Niner RLT 9 is a bike that is made to be a do-it-all rig. The Niner notes "Is it a 29er? A monster-cross machine? A Gravel Grinder? Yes." Salsa Cycles has been producing bikes to cater to gravel riders for years, including their gravel race-specific Warbird released last year. Specialized, Giant, and Kona also have jumped into the gravel game.
Colorado has been slow to adopt "gravel grinding," but has hundreds of miles of roads just within a two hour drive of Denver. That doesn't include the hundreds of miles throughout the rest of the state. The Colorado Endurance Series (www.coloradoes.wordpress.com) lists three races, the AntiEpic Gravel Grinder, the Durango Gravel Grinder, and the Dirty Double Fondo. The AntiEpic is located between Denver and Colorado Springs in April. A new series called "Front Range Gravel" has just started up and we've received the following press release.
If you're looking for accessories to store your stuff and keep you going, a Denver company, J.Paks Adventure Cycling Frame Paks (www.jpaks.com), creates handlebar bags, packs, frame packs, seat packs, and a variety of custom gear that is tailored for longer bikepacking and gravel riding adventures.
If you haven't tried a ride out on the gravel roads, a good way to start is to grab your mountain bike or put some wider tires on your road bike and try it out. Each road has its own characteristics - some are smooth and hard-packed and can be ridden with larger road tires while others are chunky and will require something a little beefier. The great thing about this style of riding is that determining the right bike is learned only through riding. A lot. What could possibly be wrong with that?
Information about Front Range Gravel:
Front Range Gravel - October Gravel Rides
Front Range Gravel is a series of gravel rides on the Colorado Front Range. They follow routes of some lightly-traveled gravel country roads between Denver and Colorado Springs.
They are unique, grassroots rides that bring cyclists together to experience a totally different Colorado riding experience during our beautiful fall weather.
For the inaugural year, the Front Range Gravel series will consist of two free rides; the Pedal 50 on October 5th and the Greenland Gravel Grinder on October 19th.
Both rides will be based out of Pikes Peak Brewing (www.pikespeakbrewing.com) in Monument, Colorado.
Feel free to bring your gravel-specific bike, your mountain bike, or any bike you want - just get out and ride! The course information will be posted and riders will get cue cards to the morning of the rides.
Thanks to Pedal of Littleton (www.pedalonline.com) for supporting Front Range Gravel to help it get off the ground in it's first year.
To sign up to be part of either or both races, email firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate which ride you'd like to do.
The rosters are limited to 100 riders, so hurry!
We are also seeking contributing sponsors, so if you're company is interested in getting involved, please email email@example.com for more information.