Cal Jelley from Evil Bikes didn’t really understand what gravel was, or why you would choose to ride it instead of heading out on his MTB. Then he got the chance to join a promo shoot for Evil’s Chamois Hagar gravel bike and suddenly everything became clear.
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. The USA has thousands of miles of dirt roads and smooth singletrack criss-crossing the country, prime for the pedaling, primed for adventure. And this bike, or 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, Dirty Kanza 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.