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What is gravel riding?


Gravel Riding – marketing hype or the real deal?

Is Gravel a “thing”?

Short answer is we think – Yes!

Gravel riding is the new buzzword in cycling, flooding social media and anywhere remotely bike related lately, and gravel events are sprouting up everywhere. But what is it and what does it mean?

If there is one positive spin from the pandemic, it introduced a whole new section of the population to cycling and bike riding exploded in popularity. There is something for everyone!

To broad brush cycling / bike riders, I think it’s fair to say the non-cycling public sees two groups. Road riders – groups of lycra clad people who block the roads and cafés or armour plated dare devil mountain bike riders. Oddly enough, within the cycling community you usually found you were one or the other. 

Gravel Riding blurred the line between road and mountain bike and we think combined the best bits!

Gravel first started being a ‘thing’ in the mid-twenty-teens in the USA and Europe, with hard core challenging events designed to push the limits of endurance and ability. But it backed it up with a party atmosphere at the end of the event … even the “winners” could be seen enjoying post event beers! The die was cast.

Growing popularity of these events drew more people. Most registering didn’t have the experience or intention of competing, so the events evolved with new categories to cater for diverse abilities. We were lucky enough to be exposed to it in 2018 in France, and started our QLD gravel riding in 2020.

So what’s different about Gravel riding?

The biggest WOW for me – is during my first Gravel Ride, my eyes were opened up to a completely new perspective to the landscapes around our village in France. After 10 years of massively enjoyable road riding – which I still love – I thought I knew our region pretty well. However I was rudely awoken to the fact that enjoying the quiet, sinewy and smooth tarmac roads that criss-crossed, dipped and climbed across the landscape, I’d been viewing the region I love through a very narrow window. There was so much more to enjoy!

I was hooked! And excited!

Returning to Australia for the summer the change in perspective was no different.

A big part of loving gravel starts with knowing where to go and what to expect. This is where Boundless Gravel comes in.

It’s not just about being out in the country. A Gravel ride opens up countless possibilities on any and every multi-surface type you can imagine! You can explore Brisbane forests, bike ways, parklands and everything in between, even discover hidden areas in your own suburb.

Gravel riding won’t always be a smooth ride, the ride no longer ends when the tarmac does – gravel riding is about exploring the unknown and the unexpected and will challenge your skills, and that’s a big part of the appeal. That and sharing all those good vibes and emotions with mates IS what Gravel riding is all about!

Gravel roads can be unpredictable, challenging, and gnarly. It’s not uncommon to encounter uneven rocks, tree roots, soft gravel, sand and steep climbs and descents that will test your skills and your nerves. It can be an emotional roller coaster (there is a post we have planned to cover that preparation) – from adrenalin to joy, from hate to love!

But whoa up there!!! That’s just Mountain biking right?!? Well, no because we’re not riding technical trails or jumps etc. Also a “gravel ride” might not even have gravel! Think of it as any unpaved surface that falls between slick tarmac and helter-skelter single track! It’s like using a Toyota RAV4 to go four wheel driving instead of a Landcruiser. You’re off road, but not hard core.

So who is Gravel Riding for?

What is immediately obvious is Gravel is for everyone. The Gravel culture is inclusive and welcoming.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re coming to gravel with a background from road riding or mountain biking, you’ll find riding gravel, is, well, different. It combines the best of both road and MTB riding.

As a ‘roadie’, you’ll discover gravel is harder than it looks in all the cool Instagram posts! The challenge, joy and thrill is from learning and developing the skills of riding the different terrain.

Mountain bikers will find it’s “easier” on a MTB, but strip away the weight, complication and geometry of an MTB and you’ll find being on a gravel bike is plenty of fun.  Despite the obvious lack of technical jumps/drops/rock gardens etc. as well as the endurance factor, being challenged through riding the varied terrain on a bike with “road” dynamics is a whole new way to enjoy the outdoors.

Because Gravel riding uses a drop-bar bike on unpaved roads and trails, fitting somewhere between road riding and mountain biking, the main difference is average speeds. For us Gravel is about “Smiles per Hour”, swapping high average speed targets for discovery and adventurous time in the saddle.

With VéloRoo’s Boundless Gravel collaboration with Pedal Brisbane we want to give our thoughts about the key gravel topics, how you can best prepare for enjoying the world of cycling and in particular Gravel. We will break it down into the following categories;

  • Gravel bikes
  • Gravel gear
  • Gravel skills and mindset
  • Training for Gravel
  • Ride training

The unknown, the unpredictable, and the unexpected are waiting for you to discover, join us for the ride and do it with a bunch of like minded crazies!

So, are you ready to take on the ultimate bike adventure? Grab your helmet, jump on your gravel bike, and get ready to experience the world in a completely different way.

Our next topic will be a deeper dive into different gravel ride grades. Yep, we think it’s a thing! 

Posted in Cycling news

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