A Ton of Gravel?

Bored recently because of the shit weather, I’ve been looking at some events for 2023. I’m already in The Mad March Hare Sportive and I’ve got my eye on a couple of Alpkit Gravel Series events in January and February but then things dry up a bit as we move into Summer.

Organisers are complaining about low entries which I think is a symptom of the cost of living crisis we are now in but they still want to charge silly money. I’ve been looking at gravel events as I haven’t really done one yet and fancy a dabble but they’re all £40-£45 which I struggle to justify when I’ve got to drive quite a long way North or South and back on top.

So my idea was to set myself a challenge for next Summer and maybe see if a group want to do it and make a day of it. One of my favourite rides in recent years was my Ton Around Brum in 2018. A 100mile+ ride around the outskirts of Birmingham. Great weather, a nice group. Perfect.

The original Ton around Brum

So I’ve tentatively come up with a 100 mile gravel route in the same vein. 100 miles around the outskirts of Brum with as much of it offroad as I can fit in. Now, to qualify as a gravel route, in my opinion you definitely need to ride more off road than on road but I think 65-70% is a reasonable amount of off road to be called a gravel route. Getting it above that is quite difficult living in an urban area as the tarmac is used to link up the offroad sections and some areas seem bereft of any trails to use too.

Version 1 of the route is done but it creates a few of dilemmas for me. Do I ride it first then ‘officially’ publish it? Which way round do I go? Clockwise or counter-clockwise? To me, clockwise is the more natural route to go but counter does have a tasty sting in the tail right at the end.

My route planning usually undergoes a few revisions before I’m happy with it so I’ll probably do that and ride some sections first before I finalise it and set a date. But here is a peek while I come up with a cool name for it


And finally, before I go. Gravel. That marketing term that the cycling industry has cleverly got us drunk on. The reality is, it’s just offroad. The UK has few actual, real gravel routes compared to the rest of the world and Europe. There are some decent ones centred around major forest operations (fire roads) in the UK and probably the South Downs Way and Salisbury Plain down south but the Midlands where I live is pretty sparse so we have to make do with linking various trails, paths and bridleways up. Personally, I’m not a fan of the wholescale use of the term but I do because it fits in with the message and type of thing I’m doing so I tow the line only for that reason. I know if I didn’t say gravel and just said offroad, everyone would be saying well that’s a gravel ride isn’t it?

It just proves how powerful marketing can be. Step forward the car industry. Godfathers at making us think cars give us freedom when the reality is traffic congestion and pollution. You don’t see that in the ads, only empty streets but we buy into it. It’s mad. Gravel is not new. John Tomac was riding drop bar MTB’s (think gravel bike with 650b wheels) 30 years ago and as long ago as 2010 I was regularly commuting and riding on my Kinesis Cross bike on and offroad with knobblies on. Just a ride back then. It’s a gravel ride now.

The first gravel bike?

Anyway. I’ll be back with more detail about my offroad not gravel ride around Brum soon.

(Aha! Maybe thats the cool name I need for it?)


2 thoughts on “A Ton of Gravel?

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