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Why is Gravel Riding Such a Thing?

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Why is Gravel Riding Such a Thing?

Old 01-11-22, 11:54 AM
  #51  
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Originally Posted by CAT7RDR View Post
Just when you thought it was sage to buy a gravel bike then the Adventure and Monster Cross bikes come along.
I am glad marketing is not part of the equation.
Monster Cross was a term before the current gravel boom. It was basically a cross bike that could handle a huge tire. The term didnt really take off, but it definitely existed before major bike brands jumped on the already moving gravel train.
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Old 01-11-22, 12:31 PM
  #52  
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Originally Posted by cubewheels View Post
We have similar quality of roads here. The best solution I had was using helmet mirror. Helps me decide whether to dodge that huge crack or giant pothole or asphalt wrinkles or let my bike eat it.

It helps to have a gravel bike with wider tires in situations you can't dodge or brake for huge cracks or potholes because there's fast approaching traffic tightly from behind. A road bike with skinny tires can be damaged if you let it go over big cracks at high speed.
I use bar end mirrors on most of mine. Back in '85 I was hit by a drunk driver that came up on me from behind. Took about 10 years to fully recover from that. So mirrors have been a big part of my cycling life since then. And enough lights to put a redneck truck driver to shame....
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Old 01-11-22, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post

- Gravel riding wasnt created by bike marketing groups. It was not pure marketing at all. Small groups of cyclists were doing something fun and challenging(mostly endurance gravel races), it got popular, and bike brands saw there was demand. Those brands didnt create the demand.

.
My only interest in cycling in the 90's was road and track racing and training --- but the team i rode with in the offseason would ride gravel on our mountain bikes on our long weekend rides. We didnt have an official name for the activity -- just offseason mountain bike dirt road riding.
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Old 01-11-22, 02:05 PM
  #54  
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Excellent responses all around. Many good answers and maybe a couple of dubious but they have definitely shone a light on ‘why’. Appreciate the responses.

As an aside, I have 32s on my Bianchi endurance bike which I trail ride about 10% of the time. It is nice to get away from vehicles and have peace and quiet while still maintaining a more decent pace than on my MTB but the jostling gets old. Perhaps with wider tires at lower pressures would take care of my annoyances, OR get a purpose made gravel bike.
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Old 01-11-22, 03:25 PM
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I think the trope that "gravel bikes are just a marketing ploy" is short-sighted and ignorant. Sure, bike manufacturers want to sell bikes, but there's more going on here than just ad copy. If you think otherwise, you've evidently never experienced bikepacking, gravel racing, or adventure touring. Ad copy won't get you and your gear over Bennett Pass, and neither will a road bike.

Refining the machine to best accomplish these specific types of riding is far less of a marketing ploy than a carbon fiber road bike is.

Last edited by Rolla; 01-11-22 at 03:31 PM.
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Old 01-11-22, 03:38 PM
  #56  
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Originally Posted by rsbob View Post
Excellent responses all around. Many good answers and maybe a couple of dubious but they have definitely shone a light on Ďwhyí. Appreciate the responses.
Itís no a novel question around here. Iím pretty sure Iíve posted photos in at least one other similar thread.

Please help me understand gravel riding?

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Old 01-11-22, 03:42 PM
  #57  
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
This sort of response gets me to both laugh and roll my eyes at the same time. It is both jaded and uninformed.

- Gravel riding wasnt created by bike marketing groups. It was not pure marketing at all. Small groups of cyclists were doing something fun and challenging(mostly endurance gravel races), it got popular, and bike brands saw there was demand. Those brands didnt create the demand.

- Bikes being ridden on gravel have been around for a long time. Yes touring bikes from back in the day could be used, but that isnt what I am referencing. Early 90s hybrids were an early example since some tires were also made in 700c with knobs. CX bikes filled the void for some time too. My first gravel frame was a Univega '90s hybrid frame that I converted to drop bars. My second gravel frame was a Black Mountain Cycles Monstercross that the owner designed in the late '00s(before the evil bike marketers supposedly started the fad).

- Early 2000s gravel races were filled with people riding all sorts of stuff- drivetrains were cobbled together between road and mtb since it was still 9sp or lower. I mention this because bike brands didnt create the demand for alt drivetrains, it already existed and the brands designed options that were more integrated and purpose built.

- What is really funny is that after claiming gravel is created by bike marketers, you then state they are practical. So its pure marketing, except for the fact that its actually practical. Huh?


The incorrect narrative that marketers created gravel will never go away because there are far too many skeptical and jaded people in cycling(I am one). But it is still worth actually pointing out reality when the narrative pops up.
My comments didn't land the way they were intended. I'm thinking large scale, you're thinking small scale. I don't doubt what you're saying. I didn't say marketing folks created "gravel" out of a vacuum. They watch the industry just like anyone watches the industry they work in. If they see a trend that appears to have legs and can justify investment then they jump in and expand the market for everything it can take. An analogy. As a kid in Wisconsin in the early 70's I'd never heard of mountain bikes. I had no idea that some SoCal locals were riding Schwinn cruisers down a small mountain. As a kid I rode my bike where ever I wanted to. If that happened to be a dirt trail or gravel road..never thought about it as long as the bike moved. As a working adult in the late 70's (the pre-internet era) I heard more and more about "mountain bikes". It became a craze and in '83 I bought my first one. Still have it. Nice bike. I was perfectly happy riding a very nice road bike at the time, but a craze is a craze. I owned a bike & I bought another. That's "marketing". The general public can't buy a mass produced item, due to a popular craze, unless that item is produced and distributed. Some guys and girls riding cruisers in CA wouldn't have helped me in WI. The broad-scale gravel bike "thing", and broad scale demand for it, as it exists today was brought to the masses initially by marketing. And folks that already had road bikes and mountain bikes stepped up and bought another bike. I know I did, more than once. We can agree to disagree on that if you like...doesn't matter..

Also..I didn't intend to imply that gravel bikes were a fad or had no practical use. Just the opposite for me. I think they're the best thing that's come along in bikes. Perfect do anything bikes with a comfortable ride. What's not to like? I've got plenty of road bikes, but any n+1 for me from this point forward will be a gravely-type ride of some sort...whether designed for the purpose or converted from and older bike. When friends ask what bike to get, you can guess my answer.
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Old 01-11-22, 03:44 PM
  #58  
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Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
I know several mountain bikers who look at gravel riding as a godsend -- a way to experience the fun of off-road riding without having to commit to the rigors and challenges of technical singletrack. Some of them are older, some are women, and some are just tired of driving their bikes and gear to a trailhead.
I see, sort of as a semi-retirement from mountain biking then! I could see myself in that category in a decade or two for sure. I was just thinking that gravel bike are more closely related to road bikes than mountain bikes. A modern mtb trail bike is light years away from a road bike, while a gravel bike is basically a road bike with wide tyre clearance. Personally I still prefer pure road or mtb singletrack, but I could get into gravel biking in the right circumstances.
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Old 01-11-22, 03:58 PM
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Originally Posted by fishboat View Post
My comments didn't land the way they were intended. I'm thinking large scale, you're thinking small scale. I don't doubt what you're saying. I didn't say marketing folks created "gravel" out of a vacuum. They watch the industry just like anyone watches the industry they work in. If they see a trend that appears to have legs and can justify investment then they jump in and expand the market for everything it can take. An analogy. As a kid in Wisconsin in the early 70's I'd never heard of mountain bikes. I had no idea that some SoCal locals were riding Schwinn cruisers down a small mountain. As a kid I rode my bike where ever I wanted to. If that happened to be a dirt trail or gravel road..never thought about it as long as the bike moved. As a working adult in the late 70's (the pre-internet era) I heard more and more about "mountain bikes". It became a craze and in '83 I bought my first one. Still have it. Nice bike. I was perfectly happy riding a very nice road bike at the time, but a craze is a craze. I owned a bike & I bought another. That's "marketing". The general public can't buy a mass produced item, due to a popular craze, unless that item is produced and distributed. Some guys and girls riding cruisers in CA wouldn't have helped me in WI. The broad-scale gravel bike "thing", and broad scale demand for it, as it exists today was brought to the masses initially by marketing. And folks that already had road bikes and mountain bikes stepped up and bought another bike. I know I did, more than once. We can agree to disagree on that if you like...doesn't matter..

Also..I didn't intend to imply that gravel bikes were a fad or had no practical use. Just the opposite for me. I think they're the best thing that's come along in bikes. Perfect do anything bikes with a comfortable ride. What's not to like? I've got plenty of road bikes, but any n+1 for me from this point forward will be a gravely-type ride of some sort...whether designed for the purpose or converted from and older bike. When friends ask what bike to get, you can guess my answer.
So are you buying a gravel bike just because of the "marketing" or because you actually think they are a good idea? From your post above it seems like the latter to me. For me pure marketing is when you are persuaded into buying something that you wouldn't otherwise. What we are really seeing here I think is a genre of bike filling the large void that existed between road and mtb. It was almost inevitable really and I don't think it was dreamt up by any marketeers.
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Old 01-11-22, 04:01 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski View Post
a gravel bike is basically a road bike with wide tyre clearance.
That might have been true ten years ago, but it's a vast oversimplification now. Between the geometry, drivetrain, brakes, posts, suspension, and braze-ons, about the only thing they have in common these days is a drop bar -- and even those are different.

Look closer.
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Old 01-11-22, 04:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
I think the trope that "gravel bikes are just a marketing ploy" is short-sighted and ignorant. Sure, bike manufacturers want to sell bikes, but there's more going on here than just ad copy. If you think otherwise, you've evidently never experienced bikepacking, gravel racing, or adventure touring. Ad copy won't get you and your gear over Bennett Pass, and neither will a road bike.

Refining the machine to best accomplish these specific types of riding is far less of a marketing ploy than a carbon fiber road bike is.
+1. Over the years Iíve been incorporating more and more gravel roads into otherwise road touring routes. In doing so, Iíve seen a lot of cool stuff, often in complete solitude. Fortunately, my Surly LHT is suitable for a lot of unpaved roads.
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Old 01-11-22, 04:33 PM
  #62  
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I prefer to call my bikes "monster cross" or " all terrain bikes"...I hate the term "gravel bike" because it's all marketing BS.
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Old 01-11-22, 04:34 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski View Post
So are you buying a gravel bike just because of the "marketing" or because you actually think they are a good idea? From your post above it seems like the latter to me. For me pure marketing is when you are persuaded into buying something that you wouldn't otherwise. What we are really seeing here I think is a genre of bike filling the large void that existed between road and mtb. It was almost inevitable really and I don't think it was dreamt up by any marketeers.
Pure marketing means various things to various people. I'm old enough (with a Scottish heritage) that someone convincing be to buy something (of any consequence) I wouldn't otherwise is a pretty rare event**. I buy them as they are what I'm looking for. The rigid mtn bike I bought in '83 has always been a gravel bike for me as I've never to too interesting in single track. It's always had tires on it that are closer to big road tires than mtn.

I agree in the large void thing. Road and mtn bikes are more specialized(small s). "Do everything" well-performing bikes are bound to be popular with lots of people. I have friends that have nice road bikes. When a group of us decide to ride mild off-road, they don't have a bike that can handle the surfaces we ride on, so they stay home. Enter the gravel bike..road, lousy potholed roads, gravel roads, mild off road..a decent gravel bike can handle all of them well-enough (we're all beyond the ultra-performance mirrored Oakley sunglasses, fluorescent kit...stage..not that there's anything wrong with that). As I mentioned previously, I don't think marketeers dreamt up gravel bikes out of a void, nearly everything is a derivative of something else, but they did (initially) blow out the "idea" of gravel bikes to the masses and create/communicate the initial broad-scale demand. That's their job. At this point it's been self-sustaining for quite a while. (I spent 30 years of my career working in product development with marketing people. This isn't a new topic for me.)

(**which is why most of consumer marketing targets much younger people..they're easier to convince, even though older folks have more money)
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Old 01-11-22, 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
That might have been true ten years ago, but it's a vast oversimplification now. Between the geometry, drivetrain, brakes, posts, suspension, and braze-ons, about the only thing they have in common these days is a drop bar -- and even those are different.

Look closer.
Okay explain to me why Look are selling the same 765 frame as both an endurance road bike (765 Optimum +) and gravel bike (765 gravel)? I realise you are going to make different component decisions, but they are basically the same bike with different tyres and gearing. Same goes for OPEN with their UP/UPPER. They can be dedicated gravel or road bikes as you please. The same can't be said for mountain bikes. The geometry is completely different.

Even my 2 endurance road bikes are virtually gravel bikes. With the right tyres they would fit right in on a gravel path.
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Old 01-11-22, 04:46 PM
  #65  
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Originally Posted by rsbob View Post
I remember when cross bikes first came out...
How old are you?! https://www.primaleurope.com/blogs/n...-of-cyclocross

All kidding aside, I came in here to learn the answer because the first time I heard of a "gravel bike" I figured it was just a marketing term for a cyclocross bike. It seems I was wrong, but I'm intrigued by any excuse to buy one more bike.
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Old 01-11-22, 05:03 PM
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The versatility of gravel bike is the reason one of my friends has gone to the one-bike stable. He swaps out the 40-mm gravel tires for 25-mm road tires when he rides on the road. We do a ton of gravel rides together in early and late season, and it's a lot of fun. It's certainly a different kind of riding and enjoyment than riding road--more relaxed, less focused on speed and power, more stops and more photo ops. Our gravel rides usually include a fair bit of single track through forested trails, and being able to run lower pressure on wider tires makes a huge different in being able to ride through some more technical sections with relative confidence. Sure you could probably do it with 25-mm tires too, but that's not gonna be much fun.

Many of our roadie friends ask the same question as the OP, and many have since bought their own gravel bikes, and none have regretted the decision.
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Old 01-11-22, 05:12 PM
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It wouldn't surprise me if most of us here grew up riding at least a little single track, whether we thought of it as such, just to get to certain places we were going. Gravel and single track were a natural part of the bicycle riding experience. If nothing else, I remember some alleys were still gravel. "Ten speeds" were great but not so fun on the sporadic loops generations of kids wore into empty lots and wooded areas found around the city.

Somehow I managed to erase my edit. Anyway, a beautiful bike which follows the theme here is this F Moser: F. Moser Motard | The Spoken

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Old 01-11-22, 05:14 PM
  #68  
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Originally Posted by PeteHski View Post
Okay explain to me why Look are selling the same 765 frame as both an endurance road bike (765 Optimum +) and gravel bike (765 gravel)?
Before you generalize the entire category based on a sample size of one, do some reading.

Here, let me Google that for you:

https://www.bikeradar.com/advice/buy...-vs-road-bike/
https://road.cc/content/feature/road...el-bike-283601
https://www.welovecycling.com/wide/2...ts-difference/
https://feltbicycles.com/blogs/news/...yclocross-bike
https://www.bikeperfect.com/features...u-need-to-know
https://goingfitunfit.com/gravel-bik...e-differences/

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Old 01-11-22, 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
I prefer to call my bikes "monster cross" or " all terrain bikes"...I hate the term "gravel bike" because it's all marketing BS.

Right -- I mean, just look at the "marketing BS" these guys are racing 200 miles on:


Last edited by Rolla; 01-11-22 at 05:27 PM.
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Old 01-11-22, 05:22 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
At the risk of oversimplification, there seem to be a few classes of reasons:

1. Rider is afraid of traffic on roads.
2. Poor quality pavement on local roads.
3. Plentiful gravel roads near rider.
4. Lower traffic volume on gravel roads.

Almost nobody wants a gravel bike because it's hot and they want a new bike that's "in," so obviously marketing isn't driving the demand for gravel bikes.
I'll take #3.
Why ruin a roadie when all I ride is gravel?
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Old 01-11-22, 05:24 PM
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All I'm saying is that gravel bikes have 99% road bike dna vs 1% mtb. I realise gravel bikes have their own specific components, but they are basically endurance road bike frames with wider tyre clearance and a lower set of gears.

Now I'm starting to think it really is a marketing thing if people are convincing themselves that gravel bikes are something completely different. I could convert my Giant Defy into a fairly competent gravel bike with relatively little modification. But I would be wasting my time trying to convert my Canyon Neuron into a road or gravel bike.

PS. It was a sample size of 2 and the latter is probably the most iconic gravel bike of the last decade!
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Old 01-11-22, 05:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
As usual, if don't personally do it, you criticize it. It's your schtick.

Here, look at the "marketing BS" these guys are racing 200 miles on:
I put that troll clown on ignore a few weeks ago and would highly recommend it, lol.
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Old 01-11-22, 06:14 PM
  #73  
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Why was mountain biking such a thing? 95% of mountain bikes were never ridden anywhere but on the pavement. I loved mountain biking, but never understood how it took over the entire cycling industry. For years it was hard to find a good road bike in a bike shop, nearly all their inventory was mountain bikes. Today its the opposite, my local shop has lots of road and gravel bikes, but hardly any mountain bikes.
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Old 01-11-22, 06:22 PM
  #74  
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Originally Posted by 50PlusCycling View Post
Why was mountain biking such a thing? 95% of mountain bikes were never ridden anywhere but on the pavement. I loved mountain biking, but never understood how it took over the entire cycling industry.
I think those people simply felt intimidated by a typical road bike with skinny tyres, harsh ride, aggressive geometry and the associated lycra! A mountain bike was simply more comfortable, more casual and easily accessible. They didn't care about speed.
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Old 01-11-22, 06:30 PM
  #75  
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I've been a road bike rider for 50 years, on city, country, and mountain paved roads with skinny tires (150,000 miles since I started counting in 1982). I tried gravel 4 years ago, even riding L'Eroica in California. I used wide tires and relaxed geometry. I decided that the experiences between road and gravel are so different that we are talking about two different sports. I can appreciate that some people enjoy one type of sport with its skill set, and others enjoy the other sport with its skills.

For me, I have always ridden for the rhythm of a smooth, fast cadence. On gravel, I found one needs a whole different set of skills: constant attention to the changing road, constant changes of cadences and riding position, repeated accelerations, etc. I seemed to be fighting the road much more often. And the constant noise of the gravel was quite annoying. For me, gravel is anything but a peaceful ride.

During my 50 years of road riding, I have never felt particularly unsafe. I know that there is risk, but I don't feel it's any worse today than 50 years ago. I'm not really aware of drivers acting in a dangerous or menacing manner; in fact, I often notice just the opposite: polite, safe passing, etc. I hope I'm not jinxing myself, but I've never had an accident with an automobile.

I'm aware that where I live colors my enjoyment. Colorado generally keeps up its roads and maintains a lot of bike routes, lanes, and trails. Drivers are used to a lot of cyclists. Not everyone has these benefits. And I'm aware that I'm an old guy who doesn't like change. And I know that different riders enjoy riding for different reasons. So, it's all good.
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