So this new gravel riding thing. The latest buzz word from the cycle industry, or is it? well maybe the industry has jumped on the bandwagon in the same way they jumped on the Fatbike popularity wave. In the end the industry need to sell bikes to survive so you can'tr blame them for going for every niche currently hip with the pedalarty. and lets face it producing a bike with clearance for 35mm+ tyres is a lot easier and involves fewer new standards than a 170/190mm rear end fat bike frame.
So an all new discipline in cycling, not as sharp handling as a CX bike and more crotch clearance than a CX bike as there's probably going to be less shouldering going on. throw in some rack mounts and mudguard eyelets and a bit more tyre clearance then the UCi ruling 33mm and Bobs your uncle. But is it new?
I've built a sort of gravel bike, in essence to me a gravel bike has 35mm plus tyres and a non twitchy head angle so i've put 35mm tyres which cost me £3.99 each on a rigid forked steel hard tail MTB. it's not got a drop bar or a dopper post, it does though have a wiggly moustache like carnegies bar which i've had lying around for a while.
I've ridden it on tarmac, ashpalt, gravel, mud and sand and even though there's not much in the way of knobbles on the rubber it's been a real hoot. a massive difference from my fat bikes 4" tyres and it's taken me a while to adjust. thing is though my body has used muscle memory because it feels just like riding a MTB from the late 80's/early 90's. super sketchy on descents, that slightly out of control underpant filling teeter totter sketchiness that leaves you grinning when you realise you're going to get away with that off camber corner that a modern MTB has rendered boring and run of the mill and i've used finesse for once to eek out the maximum amount of traction from the skinny tyre whist avoiding pinch flats. it's been like going back to MTB school and i love it. the only good thing is that disc brakes are so much better than rim brakes so when things do get lairy there's a chance you can survive!
So i guess it proves there is nothing new in cycling, just rehashing of old ideas but for once it's worth it. I urge any one, those veterans who were there at the beginning of "ATB" (because i think All terrain Bicycle is a very good description of gravel bikes) to those who have only ever ridden a trail MTB it will make a difference to your riding, even if it's to appreciate your 160mm, dropper post endowed trail weapon more. but be carefull you might get to like riding on the edge and travelling back in time