2021 UNBOUND Gravel winner Lauren DeCrescenzo; (photo/400 North Creative) In past years, there’s been a school of thought among the cycling community that gravel riding is little more than old-school mountain biking.
With rigid frames, larger tires, chunky terrain, and a decidedly more casual attitude compared to the professional road circuit, it’s not hard to see why. A few years ago, gravel cycling seemed like a niche discipline or something on the periphery of a sport dominated by the road, track, and mountain bike worlds.
But, as bike manufacturers began fixing wider tires to rigid frames with drop bars, complete with gearing that seemed more at home on singletrack, many people became disciples of the versatility of the gravel-bike platform. (Photo/Life Time Inc.) We are beginning to see gravel cycling enter an era of increased professionalization and specialization that is admired and respected as much as the other traditional disciplines. It has the backing of major brands who fork out a ton of cash to see athletes battle over unique, picturesque landscapes that hit differently than traditional road contests. They are grueling and dirty, and they often come with complicating factors that can make things interesting in a hurry.
There’s also the matter of insane mileage in some races that leave even pro riders scratching their heads, wondering whether they are up to the challenge.
Gravel races pepper every corner of the country, but a few have emerged as the top-tier contests, and UNBOUND Gravel is right at the top of that […]