Drone shot taken on October 1, 2017.
Drone shot taken on October 1, 2017.

Gravel Grinding

Back in 2011 I bought a Focus Mares CX2.0 cross bike to do gravel rides when I didn't feel like mountain biking. A few years later, in October 2014, I replaced it with a Focus Mares CX 0.0. This was Focus' top of the line carbon cross bike with SRAM Force CX1 groupset. Somehow though, the bike lacked soul and didn't excite. I sold it a year later in December 2015.

I had my red Volagi RD road bike already at the time, so I bought a second frameset in all black to build it up with SRAM Force CX1 and a set of Enve/Chris King wheels I had retired from my 29er. In comparison to the two Focus cross bikes, the Viaje had room for much wider tires. I found my preferred tire width at 40-41mm. This bike got ridden until the end of July 2018.

Kinda funny actually, 2018 was the year where gravel grinding finally made it to Europe and every brand put at least one into their bike lineup and I got out of it. It's a great category of bikes, no doubt about that. In fact, I believe that many Swiss mountain bikers would better be served with a gravel bike rather than the MTBs they sit on, often with suspension front and back. While I enjoyed going hard and fast across the many gravel roads my region has to offer, I took gravel grinding out of my arsenal for mainly one reason.

Compiling my riding statistics since 2012 to date, the number of times I ride on the road has remained fairly constant over the last couple of years. The number of fat-bike rides has been going up every year (34% of my rides last year). Gravel riding and mountain biking are the two activities that directly competed against each other. Whenever I spent a lot of time on gravel, my trail riding hours suffered and conversely in the years my 29er saw a lot of single-track my gravel bike kept seeing the walls of our basement. Hence the decision to drop gravel grinding. I may come back to it someday and maybe not.

The 7 years on gravel have had a huge effect, though. Whereas my road bikes of days past had 25mm wide tires, my current road bike now sports 40mm wide rubber. So, whenever the pavement of a small mountain road vanishes, the bike doesn't have to be turned around. Gravel grinding has in that sense led me to allroad – basically the same bike with the same volume tires, just the knobs are gone.

This article was updated on September 27, 2020

Patrick

Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion; always on two wheels, no suspension and certainly no flipping motor.

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