Gravel - The New Fixie
What does that even mean, right? First of all it’s all about bikes. Bicycles, to be more specific.
Now, fixies have always been the “cool” discipline of the cycling disciplines—no brakes, no gears, pretty much no rules, quite aggressive racing and the most chilled, close community.
Fixies have been around for over a decade, at least in the competitive format.
Now there’s someone new in town: gravel. Gravel’s not that new but its competitive format started in the last 2/3 years.
What is gravel and what does it have to do with fixies? Well, everything and nothing.
Things in common:
- A lot of the riders are the same ones that were and are still in the fixie scene. Because of the similar vibes of relaxed, yet competitive racing, a lot of the same people take interest in it;
- Everyone races together. Meaning that in the same group there will be people that are on their first ever race and people that race bikes for a living;
- Everyone is welcome as long as they have a bike. Any kind of bike. As long as you can take it to the finish line, on your own. These are very self sustained sports where the rider is completely in charge of taking him/herself to the start line and through the finish line.
- While a fixie race usually lasts between 15 minutes to an hour, a gravel race will go from 100 kilometers to 200 miles (even more than that but then that starts to get into bike packing 7 endurance racing);
- In fixie races you’ll have a few dozen people participating at one, maybe a couple hundred in the total of a day in the World’s biggest events. In the gravel discipline this multiplies. By a lot. It is very common for 1,000+ people to go through the start line at one single event;
- Obviously, fixies only have one gear and no brakes, as well as very slick tires to ride on tarmac. On the other hand, in gravel, the bikes still look like road bikes but have gears, brakes, and very wide tires for offroading.
All in all, they’re very different but very similar sports. And we’re very interested in it. So interested that three members of our team are registered for the next edition of The Rift, a 200 kilometer gravel race held late July 2020 in Iceland. The thing with these races is that because of its popularity, registration sells out in a couple of hours. We were fast.
There is a World Championship event but it isn’t very popular. Yes it is competitive but it is not the biggest event of the sport in the World. Arguably, Dirty Kanza is.
The most competitive race of the sport where several World Tour (Tour de France level) riders participate (amongst the thousands of amateurs). Most simply wish to finish the 200 mile, brutal race. Some average 32km/h+ while riding over rocks the size of tennis balls.
We’re not quite at that level yet (or ever) but our good friends at Rapha captured the essence of this beautiful event better than anyone could: