Andy Kessler - 29-Jan-2020
I promised you two travel blogs for this month. I know the title is a bit misleading but I let me explain... we have to make a little detour first.

Last week I read that the UCI will now organise gravel races. Ok I can see that they have to change something as they are starting to struggle a bit in classic road racing. They see that more and more pros are leaving the road circuit and go gravel racing. So guess why. Because they are fed up with this whole circus and want to do something more fun and have a beer after a race.

So what's happening next UCI come's and limits tire clearance ? Have a look at the the interview with Geoff Kabush after the Grasshoper race that he won by making up 3minutes in the last downhill. Thats exactly what gravel racing is about. Guys riding hard but also guys having fun after the finish line!

Ok sorry, I will try to close the loop before you are bored. The nice thing about gravel is really that it is no category. I kind of hate the word gravel as it does not really express what you can do with such a bike. If it would not be used already I would call it "freeride" because the only really important fact is that it gives you the possibility to ride where you want.

All the rest is only you. It can be on the road like our last BOTM or a bike packing off-road adventure trip where you really need those 2.4 tires that a WI.DE. can fit.

So mission accomplished - loop closed and you can enjoy our guest blog which is really worth reading not to speak about looking at those stunning pictures.

 1400+ km through Cuba on a OPEN WI.DE: One wild ride by Marion and Frederik 

La ruta es malisima! Alta y dura, muy dura!

Many times, we looked into locals’ eyes, widening in amazement, when we told them where we were going or coming from. Almost immediately, they would start gesturing wildly, indicating high mountains and insisting that the street was very bad – or – that there was no street. We would smile and stumble something along the lines of “We like to be in nature. With these bikes, we can ride off road and we have a tent. Cuba is beautiful.” 

This Christmas, we took 3 weeks to ride from Santiago de Cuba, in the island’s Southeast, to Vinales in the Northwest, riding mostly off-road and through the mountains to really experience the country and its people. And what an experience we had! You can prepare and plan, think of risks and possible countermeasures. However, big adventures come with surprises, wonderful opportunities and challenges. We found ourselves pushing and carrying our bikes up grueling mountain dirt ‘roads’ for hours, not seeing any humans (let alone tourists), wading through mud and thorn bushes, and working all our mechanical skills (good that we brought all that repair kit). We made friends with warm hearted people with an inspiring love for life along our route. 

We got invited to camp with remote farmers, dancing and sharing rum and fresh food next to lush coffee and fruit fields. Farm workers, school kids and women crossing our way would help us push the bikes up particularly steep hills, offer us cold water, coffee, and food, or share their houses with us for us to take a break and fix the holes in our tires (the thorn bush became our number one enemy…). The openness, compassion and generosity of the Cubans deeply impressed us. On their end, the Cubans were impressed with our plan to cycle from the islands south to north, mostly off the main roads. They hardly could believe that anyone would be up for that and were very kind in their encouragement to keep us going (“You are heros in Cuba.”). And – they loved our OPEN WI.DE bikes, cheering, waving and sneaking photos of the set-up! Off the tourist hot spots, bikes are inaccessible to many Cubans and those lucky ones who possess a bike mostly don’t have breaks, let alone gears.  

And it’s true – with the wide Schwalbe Rock Razor tires (59mm)and 12x SRAM Force eTAp we had a great set-up for this trip. The OPEN WI.DE bikes were super stable, agile, comfortable and fun to ride in the rocky, steep mountain ranges and fast and sporty for days when we wanted to do 120+km on smaller roads to reach our next destination. We continue to be impressed with the incredible versatility of the bikes – they truly are the perfect companions for adventures that involve a variety of conditions and allow you to stay flexible and follow your heart when deciding how to choose the route and spend the day. Back in NYC, we couldn’t wait to get on our bikes again for some of those fun winter rides. With the Bikepacking bags off and WTB BYWAY TCS 650B (47mm) tires on, our OPEN WI.DE feel fast and sporty, yet comfy and agile to tackle the winter terrain. 


For those who are interested to support fellow bike lovers and make biking more accessible in the world: We discovered the NGO BIKESFORCUBA who collect donations of used bikes and components and make these available to Cuban kids in junior school. They coordinate the transport of equipment. Perhaps a great way to make space at home for your new bikes and support a rider?

Comments & Questions

That is going to be fun when UCIs old farts try to catch the lost sheep by categorizing a category that is no category. I enjoy riding my "gravel" because I am totally free to ride what I like and do not have to stick to silly rules about socks and jerseys. And the off-road bikers are much more friendly than most of the fossilised road racers. No offense ??
Post #1 of 13. Posted by Olek on 31-Jan-2020 03:51:38 GMT in reply to blog [0<--20057]
UCI are just going to totally ruin a 'happy place' with their ridiculous rules and sanctions. They should be forced to stear clear and just concentrate on ruining Pro cycling with silly rules like sock length etc. How can anything be classed as fun if the UCI want enforce rules and regulations limiting what equipment you can use. If I want to compete in a 'gravel event' on my Open U.P and another competitor wants to use a hardtail MTB that's his/her choice, I ain't complaining, UCI keep your nose out of business that isn't of your concern..... Rant over!lol
Post #2 of 13. Posted by Stephen Markham on 31-Jan-2020 03:52:15 GMT in reply to blog [0<--20058]
I always thought "All-road" was the best term for this; on-road, off-road, gravel road, dirt road … make-your-own-road!
Post #3 of 13. Posted by James Lucas on 31-Jan-2020 03:59:49 GMT in reply to blog [0<--20059]
Yep, that sums it up much better!
Post #4 of 13. Posted by Olek on 31-Jan-2020 04:32:00 GMT in reply to post #3 [20059<--20060]
I prefer it too, although, is singletrack really a road?
Post #10 of 13. Posted by Gerard Vroomen on 05-Feb-2020 11:31:18 GMT in reply to post #3 [20059<--20075]
We should start a movement to keep the UCI out of gravel. Gravel is about riding the way you want, how much you want and where you want. We do not need any regulation whatsoever. That is why the young pros are so attracted to it. Everything that has to do with gravel is "hors de catégorie"!
Post #5 of 13. Posted by Andrew Terker on 31-Jan-2020 08:05:44 GMT in reply to blog [0<--20061]
Well, all you have to do is keep them out of YOUR gravel riding.
Post #11 of 13. Posted by Gerard Vroomen on 05-Feb-2020 11:32:24 GMT in reply to post #5 [20061<--20076]
You're right, Gerard, but I am surprised about how emotional I get about this issue. Our lives are regulated in so many ways by governments and organisations; being an iconoclast on a gravelbike (on the best bike there is, of course!) riding everything from tarmac to single trail on one bike is one of the few places in life that I can totally be who I am. I know that a lot of other people feel that way, too!
Post #13 of 13. Posted by andrew terker on 06-Feb-2020 00:42:47 GMT in reply to post #11 [20076<--20079]
It's like when your special niche community gets discovered by some huge corporation who just wants to monetize (ie. ruin) it.

I sincerely hope that the various gravel races around the country and the world just say "No thank you" to the UCI.
Post #6 of 13. Posted by Nick Miranda on 31-Jan-2020 09:36:09 GMT in reply to blog [0<--20062]
Upon hearing of UCI wanting to hold gravel Worlds, Lachlan Morton had a brilliant response. He basically said gravel already has its Worlds, it’s called Dirty Kanza, and everybody gets a chance to play.
Post #7 of 13. Posted by Robert Williams on 31-Jan-2020 09:44:06 GMT in reply to blog [0<--20063]
With regards to the new lottery system at the DK, unfortunately, not everyone gets a chance to play. I agree with everyone though, the UCI will only impose silly, archaic rules that serve no real purpose. Gravel doesn’t need the UCI and it is my sincerest hope that organizers of DK, Land Run etc. don’t sellout.
Post #9 of 13. Posted by Greg on 02-Feb-2020 12:18:53 GMT in reply to post #7 [20063<--20067]
I actually see a bright side to the UCI trying to interfere with gravel racing. The problem with Road Racing is that ASO really runs the show with their monopoly of the premier races and Le Tour. In the case of gravel the premium events like Dirty Kanza, BWR, Land Run, Crushar in the Tushar don't need the UCI and can tell them to go pound sand. As gravel grows along with the public's interest and teams like EF Education proving their is a business model it may finally be possible to get ASO to the table.
Post #8 of 13. Posted by Neil Ashton on 31-Jan-2020 18:51:27 GMT in reply to blog [0<--20064]
The other bright side is that by the UCI addressing gravel, many roadies will now learn that there is such a thing as gravel riding and that it really is a great place for roadies to be. So the announcement by the UCI is great, as long as nothing comes of it :-)
Post #12 of 13. Posted by Gerard Vroomen on 05-Feb-2020 11:33:58 GMT in reply to post #8 [20064<--20077]