Here to stay?
We take a closer look at the past, present and future of the ever-expanding discipline that is gravel riding.
The Origins of Gravel Riding
Despite common belief, gravel riding is not a new discipline. Born on the endless gravel fire roads stretching the length of California, riders have been waving goodbye to the tarmac and traffic to explore the paths less travelled for decades.
Before the social media-fuelled gravel boom, a small collective of diehard cyclists had perfected the art of adapting both road and mountain bikes to excel over long distances on mixed terrain. Similarly, a handful of niche brands have been instrumental in the discipline's success, quietly developing such bikes long before the bigger names joined the party.
The Global Gravel Scene
An influx of events across the globe has been another key development in the scene. From the Silkroad Mountain Race and Grinduro series to grass-roots level local events, participation and interest are growing rapidly. Professional riders from near every cycling discipline have also dipped their toes into the gravel calendar, further increasing its popularity and exposure.
The Versatility of Gravel Bikes
Versatility is the keyword. While everyone would love to have space and the disposable income to own a bike for every conceivable application, it simply isn’t realistic. Designers have acknowledged and supported this with their latest bike releases. From forks with adjustable rakes to the option to run different wheel sizes, the newer gravel designs have been tailored for adaptability and versatility.
Constructed from a multitude of materials including aluminium, steel and carbon fibre, these rugged bikes have evolved to suit different rider types under the gravel umbrella. Littered with mounting points, huge clearances and sporting a playful, comfort-orientated geometry, brands such as Rondo and GT cater to the adventurous type.
Similarly, road specialists including Cervelo and Pinarello have stayed true to their racing pedigree, incorporating aerodynamics and performance led features into their off-road offerings - the perfect solution for the seasoned road rider looking to explore a little further afield. This philosophy has extended far beyond just bikes though apparel, component and accessory manufacturers have created a multitude of lines, each utilising purpose-designed features to help them excel out in the wilderness.
The Future of Gravel Riding
So what does all this mean? With so many key brands, athletes and media outlets devoting their time, effort and energy towards the gravel scene, we can confidently say that it’s not only here to stay but set to become a huge part of cycling culture as we know it. So whether you’re an experienced road rider, life-long mountain biker or new to cycling, gravel riding is a great way to venture further, ride faster and hone those core bike handling skills.