Text by Adrian Grant
Photos by Eric Levert / Crossroad Tremblant
Before entering the mainstream, gravel riding was very much an opportunity to “run what you brung”, whether it was an older hardtail or a road bike with 28mm tires shoehorned between the chainstays. Neither of these options were ideal. On long loops, any significant stretches of asphalt could turn into a slow and disheartening experience on a mountain bike. Meanwhile, road bikes, with their skinnier tire, could be downright treacherous when the pavement ended and dirt began. The advent of cyclocross bikes provided a better option, but with their aggressive geometry, short wheelbases, and only marginal improvements in terms of tire clearance relative to road bikes, they still weren’t a gravel cyclist’s panacea. What was needed was a non-competitive yet high performance bike, designed for both adventure and fun.
In response, the last five years have seen an explosion in the development of gravel-specific bikes. These include drop-bar frames with a more comfortable upright geometry for longer days in the saddle, and most importantly clearance for high volume tires (a minimum of 700x35mm up to 54mm or more (!) when equipped with a 650b/27.5 wheelset). This has allowed riders to push the envelope even further as to where one could conceivably ride a bike that, at its heart, was originally designed for pavement.
While gravel bikes are viewed by some as yet another special niche, created by a bike industry eager to exploit those looking for their next n+1, I see them as a practical and versatile solution to the problems the average cyclist faces every time they just want to go out for a ride. Specifically, gravel bikes offer an antidote to riding with heavy traffic. Because, let’s face it – cycling on roads with heavy traffic sucks. It can be a stressful nightmare of honking horns, high-speeds, and distracted drivers. And to be frank, the culture around road cycling can at times be intimidating, pretentious and unfriendly to the unshaven hoi polloi unfamiliar with “The Rules”.
In comparison, gravel roads provide opportunities to traverse remote and scenic landscapes, devoid of cars and other distractions, resulting in a relaxing experience. Perhaps that’s why the culture around gravel riding is generally much more mellow. Forget aggressive pace lines, wattage metrics and Strava times, and focus instead on having a good time! Whereas roadies may shun the use of saddle bags or other accruements, gravel riding embraces the use of top tube bags, handlebar bags and framebags to stash essentials like sandwiches, gummy bears and a can of your favourite IPA. Rest stops (or even better, pub stops!) are considered welcome opportunities to eat, drink, and socialize with your fellow riders, and not evidence that you need to harden up.
In short, gravel riding is road cycling’s chilled-out cooler cousin. The cousin most likely to offer you a beer rather than an energy gel. It’ll remind you what’s it’s like to be a kid again, when what mattered most was exploring new places, making friends, and having a good time. So go play in the dirt. Slow down, don’t speed up. Ride like you have nothing to prove, not to prove a point.
Go find your nearest gravel road. And just go for a ride.
SHOP OUR PRODUCTS
Fatbikes***The Torngat will be back in stock in early fall 2021 with an updated geometry and equipped with 27.5″ wheels. Be the first informed of the availability by subscribing to the newsletter. Any questions, please contact us.*** Isolated in northern Quebec, located in the Arctic Cordillera, the Torngats Mountains are frequented only by those who have the real will to face the elements of nature. We do not get there by chance. It is a mythical place that imposes respect. An highly inspiring destination for the Torngat fatbike! We have included in this bike the features needed to make it completely versatile. Among other things, the frame is belt-drive compatible, it has ans access for a dropper seatpost and is equipped with horizontal rear wheel dropouts. The Reynolds 725 high-grade steel tubing frame and the light, stiff carbon fiber fork accommodate the largest 26" tires available, as well as the 27.5 x 4.5". High performance and durable components from Race Face and a 12-speed SRAM NX Eagle group complete this machine. All you have to do is leave the house, get on the bike and explore the territory that is still unknown to you!1,349$ – 2,399$ (CAD)
PartsThru axle for the rear wheel. Bolt-on type (no lever), install with 6mm hex key.45$ (CAD)
- Chic-Chocs: For 12x197mm hub. 220mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.5.
- Torngat: For 12x197mm hub. 229mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.5.
- Anticosti: For 12x142mm hub. 174mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.75.
- Katahdin: For 12x142mm hub. 171mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.5.
ClothingA fully equipped fatbike ready to take off. Bikepacking pure and simple.30$ (CAD)
ClothingSlow Travel is the state of mind we approach during bike journeys. It is taking the time to live each experience in its entirety, focusing on quality rather than quantity.
- 100% Cotton
- Printed by hand in Montreal
PartsAlways a good idea to have a spare derailleur hanger when venturing a little further than usual...30$ (CAD)
Gravel Bikes***The Anticosti will be back in stock as a complete bike (framesets available at the moment) in Spring 2021. It will be offered in 700c version with a Sram Rival groupset. Be the first informed of the availability by subscribing to the newsletter. Any questions, please contact us.*** When you venture on the less traveled roads of the backcountry, sometimes, the beautiful road becomes much more bumpy than what was predicted. The asphalt becomes gravel, and the gravel literally becomes an off-road trail. It is for this kind of adventure that the Anticosti was created. The Anticosti bike is built with a bespoke selection of Reynolds 725 steel tubing, thinned where it is needed to reduce weight. A generous clearance allows you to install 27.5x2.1 or 700x45 tires with fenders. Finally, you will find all the necessary mounts to carry the equipment for a night in the tent, or for a more ambitious globe-trotting trip project. Do not let your current bike limit your desire to explore. Take the path you want with the Panorama Anticosti.1,199$ – 2,199$ (CAD)
PartsThru axle for the front wheel. Bolt-on type (no lever), install with 6mm hex key.40$ (CAD)
- Chic-Chocs: For 15x150mm hub. 184mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.5.
- Torngat: For 15x150mm hub. 184mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.5.
- Anticosti: For 12x100mm hub. 120mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.5.
- Katahdin: For 12x100mm hub. 120mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.5.
PartsAlways a good idea to have a spare derailleur hanger when venturing a little further than usual...25$ (CAD)