What’s In A Name?

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet”

While poking around one of the more popular cycling message boards, I came across a thread where readers were encouraged to post photos of their gravel grinders. As expected, many of the photos showed ready-made gravel rigs from the major–and not so major–manufacturers. There were also plenty of bikes that, while not officially marketed as gravel bikes (by the manufacturer),still saw plenty of unpaved action. One bike’s photo really stood out, because the owner didn’t consider it a true gravel bike for the simple reason that it lacked disc- or cantilever-brakes.

I carefully studied the bike in the photograph. It had a steel frame/fork, and was fitted with sturdy wheels shod with chubby, semi-knobby tires. The gearing looked suitable for the hills that often accompany unpaved roads, and the controls were set up for spirited-yet-comfortable riding. And the brakes? Long-reach sidepulls. All in all, it was a pretty sensible combo, and not unlike one of my own personal bikes (that’s ridden on- and off-road).

What exactly defines a gravel bike? The brakes? Geometry? Tire clearance? What about the simple notion that the bike–any bike–is ridden on gravel or dirt? Show up to an organized gravel event and you’ll see bikes of all shapes and sizes, each being happily ridden on terrain that doesn’t match the photos found on the manufacturers’ websites and in glossy sales brochures.

Isn’t this site called, GRAVELBIKE, though? Yes, but take a look at the tagline–ride everything. Dedicated, specialized (small ‘s’) gravelbikes are a blast to ride, and definitely fulfill very real needs for many riders and racers. Not having a specifically-anointed bike shouldn’t stop you from exploring different terrain. Is it a requirement than your fancy new endurance bike only be ridden on the smoothest of paved roads? Does the owner’s manual say that your 29er cannot be ridden to and from the trailhead? Labels should be guidelines, not limitations.

Free your mind, and your bike will follow.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all of GRAVELBIKE’s readers, advertisers, and supporters.

May the road rise with you.

Tour de Fronds

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder

The Tour de Fronds is one of the most beautiful cycling events in Oregon. The Tour is your choice of scenic rides on low-traffic roads in Southern Oregon’s beautiful Coast Range. From your saddle enjoy views of old-growth forests, wildflowers, waterfalls, rivers, streams, and mountain vistas.

Click or tap here for additional information.

Cabin Fever

This year I set a goal for myself to not ride indoors (besides, does one actually ride indoors?). I told myself that I’d be a hard man, unafraid of snow, ice, and sub-zero temperatures. Weather-be-damned, I would exceed last year’s total mileage. Today, however, I almost caved in.

Bundled-up in enough layers to make me look like the Michelin Man, I ventured into the garage in search of my turbo trainer. After rummaging around for a few minutes, I finally found it behind a box of Christmas decorations. Looking at the dust-covered trainer I tried to remember when I used it last. Doing the mental arithmetic, I realized that I hadn’t ridden the trainer once in the 13 years I’ve lived in Colorado. After a few moments of introspection, I placed the trainer behind the cardboard box where it had spent the previous 13 years.

Trainer. It’s a strange word. I gave up racing long ago, so it’s not like I’m training for an actual competitive event. I ride for utility and sheer enjoyment. If it takes me a few minutes longer to get to work, well, so be it. And if my Strava ranking drops from 942 to 943 for the Demoralizer segment, I’m OK with that, too. I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.*

*A Zen Proverb About Bicycling

A Zen teacher saw five of his students returning from the market, riding their bicycles. When they arrived at the monastery and dismounted their bicycles, the teacher asked the students, “Why are you riding your bicycles?”

The first student said, “It is the bicycle that is carrying the sack of potatoes. I am glad that my back has escaped the pain of bearing the weight.”

The teacher was glad and said, “You are a smart boy. When you become old you will be saved of a hunch back unlike me.”

The second student had a different answer. “I love to have my eyes over the trees and the sprawling fields as I go riding,” he said. The teacher commented, “You have your eyes open and you see the world.”

The third student came up with yet a different answer and said, “When I ride I am content to chant ‘nam myoho renge kyo.'”

The teacher spoke these words of appreciation, “Your mind will roll with ease like a newly trued wheel.”

The fourth student said, “Riding my bicycle I live in perfect harmony of things.” The pleased teacher said, “You are actually riding the golden path of non-harming or non-violence.”

The fifth student said, “I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.”

The teacher walked up to him and sat at his feet and said, “I am your disciple!”