Just ride. I find myself saying that phrase a lot. I say it out loud to other people and I say it in my head to other people. Shit, I say it out loud and yell it in my head to myself sometimes. I just think it needs to be said on occasion…seems more so lately.
It’s easy to get caught up in the shiny-new-latest-greatest polished turd that our beloved Bicycle Industry is trying to convince us that we “need”. I mean they really package it very attractively sometimes. I am a sucker for it more often than not. I love new, shiny shit!
Well, the latest “latest-greatest” thing is the re-naming of something a lot of us have been doing for some time now; taking our cyclocross bike on mountain bike trails, or our road bikes on less-than-pristine paved or unpaved roads. The industry has a few different monikers for these bikes. They are calling them “Gran Fondo”, “Adventure Road” or “Gravel Grinder” bikes. I don’t really have a problem with this. It’s how the bike industry has to stay profitable and relevant. Ya know, if you aren’t growing, you’re dying…that kinda thing. But is this really growing?
I say yes and no.
Yes, because anytime we can attract someone to the sport that wouldn’t normally become an avid cyclist is a good thing. And if that individual comes over to the sport solely because the industry has told them it is now OK to ride your road bike in the dirt…I say hell yeah! Because it is fun-as-all-get-out riding a skinny wheeled bike in the dirt. Plus new riders in any cycling discipline helps grow the whole sport. In turn, keeping our IBD’s (that’s Independent Bike Dealers…FYI) alive and thriving…that’s important (small business yada yada)
No, because it’s also so exactly not real growth at all. These Gran Fondo/Adventure Road bikes are just a prettier package of the already existent cyclocross bike. Right!? Well? Aren’t they?! They are.
Bullshit, you say!
Let me explain myself. Cyclocross bikes for starters are built for adverse and downright ugly conditions. Right? Well, so are these new fangled Gravel bikes. OK. Cyclocross bikes have frame clearance for bigger tires. Surprize! So does the Gravel bike. The cyclocross bike has a slightly tweaked road geometry to be more comfortable and to compensate for a higher bottom bracket. Waddya know, the Gravel Bike geometry, although not quite the geometry tweak of the cyclocross rig, is also tweaked from full road race geometry to a more relaxed and comfortable “all-day” geometry. Next. the industry has been, for a long time, suggesting that cyclocross bikes are great for commuting. Which they are by the way! But wait, so are these Adventure bikes. But wait, there’s more…the current cyclocross bikes are now almost solely being spec’d with disc brakes. Well, the disc brake seems to be the key component requirement to push these Adventure bikes into their new category. Whoa. Yeah, see? Crazy…
My point…you ask…
This. As you can see, there is quite a large functional overlap between these two types of bikes. But there is one real difference between the “new” Adventure Road bike and the trusty, tried and trued cyclocross bike….gearing. The Adventure Road rig is going to come stock with a slightly taller gearing spec to do more open road/gravel riding. But that is a small thing to consider unless you are being competitive, and let’s face it, that is a very small percentage of us. And I really don’t think that the differences are enough to really garner a whole new category of bicycle. And it is actually my opinion that we don’t really need the “Adventure Road”,”Gravel Grinder” “Grand Fondo” bicycle at all. The reason being is this: EVERYTHING that an Adventure Road bike does can be done on a Cyclocross bike, seriously, everything. But on the flip side of that…you would be hard pressed trying to stay competitive racing a cyclocross race on an Adventure Road bike. I’m just saying.
Ok so? What’s all of this mean?
Not a whole hell of a lot. Just this: Do what makes you happy. Ride what makes you smile. Try to buy what you want and not what everybody else is buying (I know this one can get tricky, but stay strong, I believe in you and know you can do it.)
Now stop. Get off of the computer and go ride your goddamn bike. Seriously, Go. Ride. Your. Bicycle.
You’ll feel better.