We park up as snow starts to fall, paper-like, from dark heavy looking sky. Harts Pass runs up from the Mazama Store, an old school gas station in Washington State that serves great coffee and cake along with what I presume is less tasty fuel from its over 50 year old pumps. We’re up here to capture the zones you can get to on our sleek, slack and all black gravel invention and as we pedal off from the car to start filming, with the snow now falling substantially, I’m hoping that finally I will understand what gravel is…? Coming from the UK where people race cyclocross in school playing fields in the middle of winter, spinning out in the mix of grass and knee-deep mud, huge grins on their faces, or grind out hundred-mile road rides over moor and dale making sure not to nod or smile at any passing cyclists, it’s hard to see where gravel fits in.
In the US it’s easier to understand, and as we pedal further away from the vehicles and follow the old gravel road as it winds into the mountains, I did start to understand what this strange new bike could be all about, and the Evil Chamois Hagar approaches the world of gravel from an angle I can easily grasp. The USA has thousands of miles of dirt roads and smooth singletrack criss-crossing the country, prime for the pedaling, primed for adventure. And the Chamois Hagar, and this genre of bikes it seems, are built for adventure, built to go further, carry more, explore.
With all of this in my head I started asking our athletes more about the gravel scene as we shoot and ride and ride and shoot. The more we speak of events like Grinduro, Unbound, and The Silk Road Mountain Race, the more I see that gravel is whatever the rider wants it to be. Racing, adventure rides, commuting, making your local mellower trails a whole lot more fun, gravel covers it all with a smile on its face and maybe even a beer in its hand.
Snapping back to the bike and the trail, I start to feel how our MTBs have bled DNA into the Chamois Hagar and I can put my feet into a turn and accelerate out of it just like my trusty mountain bike. Then I can sit and spin out 35km of beautiful Methow double track flanked by sunburnt-grass fields before dropping back into the singletrack, pushing for speed and feeling like I might be starting to understand what this gravel thing is all about.
Text by Cal Jelley. Images by Cal Jelley/Evil Bikes