Gravel is Dead

Sep 20 2017

Gravel is dead.

I’ll clarify.

Gravel is dead once you ride singletrack MTB.

Ok I’ll clarify even further.

Gravel was dead for me once I started riding MTB in the Wissahickon.

I normally did 1 or 2 25 mile all gravel rides a week on a late 70’s Columbus Zeta road bike. 6 speed. Downtube shifters. Started rolling on it with tubulars filled with sealant. Picked up some wheels after that plot ended. Small ring when I was lazy. Big ring when I was amped.

I liked the idea of using a road bike on gravel-the same way I liked the idea of riding a track bike on the street. Adaptation and original use. I never found it limiting and was able to ride it fast. Cross bikes are cool (but I hate running). I’ve never really been interested in gravel/adventure bikes. The marketing plan didn’t appeal to me.

So over the last 7 or 8 years I rode on Forbidden Drive, various smooth towpaths and chunky park paths.

I enjoyed the jittery quick hills and the awkward sitting down climbs. Enjoyed the sound of gravel.

Wide sweeping turns when you’re going to fast and the rocks shift as you lean into it.

I could climb up some rugged stuff. I liked it. It filled a cycling need for me. It got me away from traffic and sometimes pedestrians.

Rode in the sun, in the rain, in the sleat, in the ice in the snow.

When I didn’t feel like testing out winter roads I’d migrate into the park. I prided myself on being able to negotiate awful conditions on my old Italian bike.

But all of that being said, none of it compares to the trails that line the valley above the drive.

After I started to develop some skills in the trails the drive seemed boring .

I don’t even want to diss gravel because it is fun, but I have limited cycling time and I want it to be as enjoyable as possible. If I do a long ride I’ll try to include a section of it.

I’m not trying to start a thing.

Cycling is caught up with identity issues like a suburban US high school cafeteria in the late 80’s/early 90’s.

Are you a jock, a prep, popular, a nerd, a punk, a mod, a goth, a metal head, a skin, industrial, hardcore, hip hop, a raver, a skater?

Are you road, mtb, cross, gravel, adventure, messenger, fixed, rando, “Eroica” , touring, tri …

(and then go deeper into each main group and really segregate things into sub-groups)


People pick one of these things and build an identity around it. Some groups are allowed to blend into others. Other groups are exclusive.

I don’t fit into any of the groups. I don’t think most people that read this fit into just one of these groups.

I’d identify as a road cyclist first. I’m a new convert to MTB. Former devotee of the fixed gear. X Rider of gravel on road bikes. Messenger Damaged.

I rep for my team. GS Landlords.

No other identity matters.


You’d probably be better at your chosen discipline if you tried another one. Being a good road cyclist can make you a better MTB rider and vice versa. Having gravel experience will help you adapt to riding MTB. Riding MTB will make you a better gravel rider. Riding fixed gear will make you a better road cyclist. Riding gravel will make you a more better road rider. Riding cross will make you a better road rider, vice versa. ETC forever.

The bike is not important. It’s the rider.

Use your time wisely and make sure every minute matters.

(If anyone wants to do a 100 mile Forbidden Drive ride on road bikes I’m down to try. It’s about 10 times up and down. We can pretend it’s an original tour stage if it mentally helps you. I’m serious. would do this before gets to cold.)

(also if all of this fall weather talking is getting you hype, scroll down and pre-order the first part of our cold weather kit.)