It can’t have escaped your attention that ‘gravel’ is a bit of a ‘thing’.
There are gravel bikes, and gravel helmets, and gravel shorts, and gravel bars, and gravel seatposts, and gravel tyres, and gravel events, and guides on how to ride on gravel, and gravel wheels, and gravel shoes, and trips to Scotland to ride gravel bikes… and probably gravel chamois cream and gravel gels.
Is it all marketing and hype to sell us more products?
So, as the great capitalist wheel of the cycling industry turns, devising ways to get its hands on our ever decreasing reserves of disposable income, what’s the next thing we are going to be convinced we need to buy a bike for?
You’ve heard it here first…
Shit Road ™
Hear me out. The UK doesn’t really have miles upon miles of gravel roads in the ilk of the USA. (Yeah, yeah, I know we have some.) In the spirit of BREXIT, of being more British™, to prepare for all the staycations we are going to have to take when trips to Europe become less feasible, we need to brand up an alternative. Enter the Shit Road™. What Britain does have is 13,400 miles of shitty Sustrans track, rutted canal towpaths, strange urban bridleways and other surfaces that have been long neglected and will continue to be. With the right mindset, even a particularly potholed stretch of Cheshire lane can be rebranded Shit Road™.
And while I’m pretty blase about taking whatever bike I’m on over whatever surface my route presents me with – thanks to childhood summers of riding ancient army bikes on potholed gravel forest roads – some people like having the ‘right’ bike. Shit Road™ is inclusive because as long as your bike is shit (or better) it’s the bike for the job. Of course, the Shit Bike™ might not be a compelling product to any bicycle brand with self-respect, but stranger things have happened. (Incidentally, have you heard that Sports Direct have purchased Evans Cycles?)
Surprisingly, while I’ve been mulling over how to sell the Shit Road™ concept, a major British cycling brand is already getting in on it. Last weekend Rapha sent riders along Manchester’s urban canals, the River Mersey, the Middlewood Way, and the Trans Pennine Trail. Boys and girls in the distinctive grey and pink RCC kit smashed it along some of the finest bits of the National Cycle Network, mixing it up with anglers and locals on a weekend stroll, following a Prestige-ous route that sounds like it was pretty damn Shit Road™.
So get on your Shit Bike™ and go find some Shit Road™, because, thanks to years of austerity and Sustrans green lighting, there’s definitely some just around the corner from you.
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Next week, bikepacking.