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The Road Ahead for Gravel Riding

Joel Smith

Gravel riding has surged in popularity the past few years. And with it, the subset of the road cycling has evolved quickly.

To keep pace, gravel bikes are improving by leaps and bounds, new gravel-focused events are popping up daily, and the riding spots are near limitless.

It’s the perfect storm, but in a good way. Gravel riding, it seems, has a very bright future.

The Growth of Gravel Biking

The early growth of gravel can be traced to rider safety issues.

On the road, close calls with cars are the norm these days. Once-quiet backroads don’t offer the same solitude they once did. Add distracted driving (and the associated ubiquity of mobile phones), and it seems like all the wrong pieces are falling in place for road bikers.

Enter: Gravel riding.

Whether on a titanium or carbon fiber gravel bike, gravel riding offers a respite from the pitfalls of pure road riding. Cars are few on gravel roads, and the speeds those cars are driving is slower.

More importantly, a great number of unimproved roads are completely closed to automobile traffic, meaning you and your buddies have it all to yourselves.

Keep Up the Speed

Let’s face it, one of the main joys of road biking is the speed.

There’s no better feeling than mashing the pedals and feeling the bike accelerate with you. Or even better, smoothly descending a mountain road, and flowing quickly through the turns.

With their big tires and suspension, mountain bikes just can’t deliver the same sensation.

But with gravel? Gravel riding still delivers that feeling that everything you put into the pedals creates speed.

The Evolution of Gravel Equipment

Of course, with more people riding gravel bikes, more sales are being generated for bicycle brands (Alchemy included). The result is an increased focus on the equipment made to get you off-road.

The Ronin series of titanium and carbon fiber gravel bikes offer something unique for the segment. Both Ronin bikes feature entirely new ground-up designs, with a focus on delivering performance and comfort.

Each frame was designed to be vertically compliant but laterally stiff — the best of both worlds.

A lot of the small gravel features are also included on the Ronins. Each Ronin frame features a third water-bottle-cage mount, bento-box bosses, and clearance for 700x45mm tires.

How to Improve your Gravel Riding Experience

If you’ve spent time gravel riding, you’d see people are “doing gravel” in a lot of different ways.

There is the cross crowd, with narrower tires 38c or below tires, who treat every ride like a Strava KOM fight. Then there are the backcountry warriors, using gravel roads to go deep into the backwoods. And of course, there’s everything in between.

A bevy of gravel bike accessory and parts companies have come into the fold with new and interested products for the category. Here are a few of our favorites to take your next gravel ride to the next level:

Porcelain Rocket

  • Regardless of whether you chose a titanium or carbon fiber gravel bike, each Ronin features Bento box and fender mounts. Using these can be a source of individuality and pride for riders.
  • Alberta, Canada-based Porcelain Rocket is the go-to company for custom bespoke bags for your Ronin.

WTB

  • Wilderness Trail Bikes was one of the first tire brands to understand the needs of the gravel crowd. As a result, they have some of the best tires for the market.
  • The Riddler is a tire that’s fast but still offers great traction when things get dicey.

ENVE

  • ENVE is an easy brand to love. High-end, US-made products that nicely match the titanium and carbon gravel bikes made by Alchemy.
  • The company’s new G-series wheels offer a new level of performance for the gravel segment.

PNW

  • Pacific Northwest Components started off making products solely for mountain bikes, but the company’s new 90mm internally routed Pine dropper post uses everything they learned with mountain droppers in a clean, easy-to-use package.

The Future is Bright for Gravel Riding

As society evolves and cities grow, our natural inclination is to think that most roads will end up getting paved. But lucky for us, the data is surprising.

A recent government study provided that gravel roads can offer significant benefits over paved roads.

For starters, gravel roads are much less expensive to build. A two-lane paved road costs around $120,000 to build, whereas an equal length of gravel road runs around $18,000.

Additional data is showing that gravel roads lower car speeds, which decreases road fatalities and accidents in general.

This of course is music to the gravel rider’s ears. Fewer cars, driving more slowly, exemplifies the joys of the gravel experience. All of this adds up to a bright future for gravel riding.

Don’t miss out on your own slice of that future. Check out why our Ronin Carbon may be your gravel bike of choice in 2020 »

 

Alchemy’s Joel Smith has been riding mountain bikes for over 35 years. Starting out in the dirt on a converted Laguna-brand cruiser in the mid-1980s, his immediate love of the sport turned into a lifelong career. Smith raced both XC and DH in the 1990s (in the now defunct NORBA National Series) and has worked on nearly every aspect of bike development over his nearly 30-year long career.

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