By Joel Zanatta
The Cycling Lawyer

The gravel craze is sweeping the cycling world. But what is “gravel riding” and what is it about this new style of riding that is so attractive to cyclists?

It starts with the equipment. A gravel bike is purpose designed for performance on rough terrain. A good gravel bike is fun to ride on road, but it does its magic off road. Obviously the frame is designed to accommodate wider tires, but there are a number of more subtle differences between a bike designed for road versus gravel. Some of those distinctions include a longer wheel base, slightly modified components, and a burlier build.

But why are these new Frankenstein bikes so popular?

In recent months I have watched as droves of dedicated roadies have switched their slicks for off road rubber.

I recently got to spend some time riding gravel with Sebastian Salas, a top local cyclist, bike racer and co-owner of Enroute Café, a café and bike service studio in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood. While riding with Sebastian, I asked him what motivated him to pick up a gravel bike.

Sebastian explained that off road riding provides him all of the challenge of on road riding while providing time for reflection in a natural surrounding.

“When I ride on road I am working as hard as I can, but I’m also conscious of traffic, the rules of the road, pedestrians and other cyclists.

When I am on a remote gravel road there’s only the sound of my wheels on gravel to keep me company. Though the routes are challenging, they are peaceful and somewhat meditative.”

Never a truer word has been spoken. Gravel riding is the perfect complement to road cycling. Many of the road cycling skills can be honed on gravel. But in addition to those skills, gravel riding helps elevate cycling by bringing in nature, new routes, and new opportunity for adventure.

As Sebastian explains “every route involves exploration, a new climb, a new viewpoint or just a new opportunity to improve your love of the bike. It is fresh, fun and exciting.”

So if you have tired of your usual routes or if you simply want to ride in a car free environment, have a think about gravel as an option. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. And if you’re in Vancouver, check out Enroute Café and say hi to Sebastian.

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