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When Were Bikes First Called Gravel Bikes?

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like : "Unbound Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

When Were Bikes First Called Gravel Bikes?

Old 04-10-21, 04:07 PM
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When Were Bikes First Called Gravel Bikes?

When was the term "gravel bike" first used? What bike was the first to be called a gravel bike? I'm relatively new to cycling (been riding a bit more than three years) and I know that gravel bikes are a relatively new category, but am curious as to when the term was first used. I'm also aware of gravel races. Did those races pre-date the introduction of gravel bikes? Perhaps gravel bikes were developed specifically to compete in gravel races, but I'm speculating and don't know. Were there gravel bikes ten years ago? Were there gravel races ten years ago? Just curious about the history of the term "gravel" in cycling.
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Old 04-10-21, 05:59 PM
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No idea when it was first used. I'm sure many would like to claim coining the term, but it'd probably be wrong and it really doesn't matter.

Gravel races were around before the current gravel popularity began.
Trans Iowa started in 2004 I think. DK started in 2006. There were gravel races before these, from what ive read. There were gravel races in the 90s.
And old cyclists will shake a fist at clouds and declare that they rode tubulars on gravel 40 years ago, as if they expect us to congratulate them.

I am pretty sure Salsa claims they created the first production gravel bike. That's like Specialized claiming the created the first production mountain bike. Its not entirely untrue, but it definitely isn't true.

Early gravel races were ridden with mountain bikes, cyclocross bikes, monstercross bikes, and pretty much whatever someone had that could get the job done.
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Old 04-10-21, 08:54 PM
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Back in the stone age.
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Old 04-10-21, 09:07 PM
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The propper term as I understand it is an Allroad bike and Jan Heine from Bicycle Quarterly coined the term to categorize the bikes he rides that are designed for great performance on both fire roads he rides in the Cascades and the paved roads used to access them.. I am guessing by 2004/5 or so, but not sure. The phrase never caught on much though and the mutch catchier name of Gravel Bike took over by around 2010 roughly.
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Old 04-11-21, 12:08 AM
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Donít forget about the 1989 Specialized Rock Combo


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Old 04-11-21, 12:42 PM
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Bikes: Co-Motion Cappuccino Tandem,'88 Bob Jackson Touring, Co-Motion Cascadia Touring, Open U.P., Ritchie Titanium Breakaway, Frances Cycles SmallHaul cargo bike. Those are the permanent ones; others wander in and out of the stable occasionally as well.

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Very cool! That definitely was a leader, well before the name existed...
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Old 04-11-21, 09:08 PM
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Bianchi Volpe
Diamondback Overdrive
Bianchi Project 1, 3, and 5
Trek Multitrack 7XX series
Univega ViaActiva and other versions
Schwinn Crosscut, Crisscross, and Crosspoint

All these in the 1988-1994 range were made for 700c frames that could take at least a 38mm and some up to a 43mm tire.
They were marketed as do-it-all bikes. Commute, tour, ride singletrack, explore.
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Old 04-11-21, 10:39 PM
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Bruce Gordon called it a "Rock 'n Road" bike back in 1988!




The history: https://vimeo.com/19554917
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Old 04-12-21, 06:33 AM
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Thanks to all who provided some interesting information. I think of my "gravel" bike as designed to ride on unpaved roads, and I use it that way. But I'm still curious about the word "gravel." What was the first bike to be identified by that term? I do think a term like "Allroad" is more descriptive of the capabilities of these bikes.
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Old 04-12-21, 07:13 AM
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No idea when the name started. Given that most races in Europe, including Grand Tours, were held on gravel/dirt roads up until the 70s, it's hardly a new idea. Tom Ritchey has also talked extensively about the "gravel rides" (although it wasn't called that) in the 70s in California and Colorado: https://www.gravelstoke.com/gravel-c...chey-on-gravel

Personally, a lot of the hipster gravel bikes I see these days seem to be seeking to replicate the Grant Petersen-designed 1993 Bridgestone XO-1:


Although, earlier, similar bikes are posted above.
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Old 04-12-21, 09:51 AM
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Wasn't "gravel grinder" the initial marketing term?

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Old 04-12-21, 11:18 AM
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Mountain biking started on dirt roads and as people kept using them for more difficult terrain they changed. So it's not surprising that gravel bikes are similar to '80s mountain bikes. When I see those early guys riding on huge rocks it always impresses me. We used to go out on smooth singletrack and think we were doing something special.
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Old 04-17-21, 05:35 AM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen
When I see those early guys riding on huge rocks it always impresses me. We used to go out on smooth singletrack and think we were doing something special.
I started mountain biking in the early 90s and the bikes back then kinda sucked. My first real MTB was a rigid 1992 Cannondale SM700. 2.1x26 tires with no grip. Ridiculously stiff frame and aluminum fork that beat the hell out of you. Narrow little bars not much wider than a road bar. Giant saddle always in the way. Pedals with toe clips, very tricky to get into on any trail. Brakes that didn't really work. Riding smooth singletrack WAS a challenge on that thing. Anyone nostalgic about riding vintage mountain bikes on trails needs to actually give one a try, they sucked for their intended purpose. One thing I will grant them, old mountain bikes are very durable and useful as hybrids/recreational/utility bikes. Just don't take them offroad.
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Old 04-17-21, 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by DorkDisk
Wasn't "gravel grinder" the initial marketing term?

Thanks! This goes a long way toward answering my initial question.
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Old 04-21-21, 05:05 PM
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I remember quite clearly the first time I encountered the term gravel bike, and it was circa 2008 or 2009, either from Sea Otter or NAHBS coverage. And associated with, Iím pretty sure, the original Salsa Warbird. And yes, we did laugh, because it was obviously just a cyclocross bike with disc brakes and a lower bottom bracket. It seemed a bit silly. But we were wrong about the appeal of it as a category. The rise of gravel bikes was also helped a lot by I think a general increase of interest in ďadventureĒ style recreation in popular culture - think Spartan Race or Tough Mudder vs a 5k. And the rest is history as they say.

Originally Posted by dwmckee
The propper term as I understand it is an Allroad bike


Originally Posted by dwmckee
and Jan Heine from Bicycle Quarterly coined the term to categorize the bikes he rides that are designed for great performance on both fire roads he rides in the Cascades and the paved roads used to access them.. I am guessing by 2004/5 or so, but not sure. The phrase never caught on much though and the mutch catchier name of Gravel Bike took over by around 2010 roughly.
Jan Heine is certainly a character and he sells
some nice tires. But I wouldnít regard him as an authority on gravel bikes per se. Heís long been a proponent of old-style road bikes from about the mid-century period in Europe that were designed for the kinds of road surfaces that were common in that time and place. While these bikes share some features with gravel bikes, thereís no familial connection - gravel bikes evolved from cyclocross bikes, which evolved from the road racing bikes of the post-war period. Very much not the audax and randoneeuring machines that Heine admires so much.
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Old 04-22-21, 10:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Hiro11
I started mountain biking in the early 90s and the bikes back then kinda sucked. My first real MTB was a rigid 1992 Cannondale SM700. 2.1x26 tires with no grip. Ridiculously stiff frame and aluminum fork that beat the hell out of you. Narrow little bars not much wider than a road bar. Giant saddle always in the way. Pedals with toe clips, very tricky to get into on any trail. Brakes that didn't really work. Riding smooth singletrack WAS a challenge on that thing. Anyone nostalgic about riding vintage mountain bikes on trails needs to actually give one a try, they sucked for their intended purpose. One thing I will grant them, old mountain bikes are very durable and useful as hybrids/recreational/utility bikes. Just don't take them offroad.
My first MTB was a Bridgestone with rigid fork, 72 degree head tube, 41 in wheelbase. Good times!
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Old 04-26-21, 11:02 AM
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Originally Posted by DorkDisk
Wasn't "gravel grinder" the initial marketing term?
Yup. I first heard the term "gravel grinder" on this board... probably 10-12 years ago.

People have been shoving knobbies onto road bikes for 100 years, but no one called them "gravel bikes" until very recently.
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Old 04-26-21, 11:12 AM
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In 1966, if your Schwinn Typhoon came with a 2 speed coaster brake, we called it a gravel bike as it was easy to ride in gravel vs the single speed. The Gruppo Ghiaia DeLuxe added an extra $8
  • L15 26" Deluxe Typhoon, coaster brake.......$44.95
  • L15 26" DEluxe Typhoon, 2or 3-speed........$52.95

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Old 05-03-21, 12:47 PM
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I grew up on a gravel road. Every bike was a gravel bike.
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Old 05-04-21, 09:25 AM
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Originally Posted by cb400bill
Donít forget about the 1989 Specialized Rock Combo
That stem - it burns my eyes! Oh, the humanity, the geometry!
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Old 05-04-21, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Fulltime1wd
I grew up on a gravel road. Every bike was a gravel bike.
Except, we (Upper Midwest) never called them gravel roads. They were just dirt roads, or unpaved.

It's funny, but I was thinking this morning of how silly the term "gravel bike" is. They're really dirt bikes, but that name got taken by motocross, I guess.

Originally Posted by Motorazr
That stem - it burns my eyes! Oh, the humanity, the geometry!
Hey, Ned liked it, can't be all bad.

Last edited by Chinghis; 05-04-21 at 10:06 AM. Reason: collapsing two responses
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