FINDING THE PURPOSE OF DUAL-PURPOSE
Like thousands of other SoCal cyclists, the 10-mile climb up Glendora Mountain Road (GMR) has long been a favorite attraction of mine. Never too steep in any one section, the serpentine road offers a steady fitness challenge and one that serves up some spectacular views of the metropolis we’re so earnestly trying to escape. The fact that it has been used for the Tour of California on multiple occasions lends it a fan base beyond the local yokels.
In addition to the speed freaks in their tuner cars and the leather-clad throttle twisters, every ascent I’ve enjoyed has also included a parade of shuttle vans that are filled with mountain bikers headed to the trailhead up top. For most of the paved climb up, you can look to your right across a wide canyon gap and see the singletrack trail that the mountain bikers descend on. Looks fun.
Knowing that I had a variety of upcoming pedal events requiring some serious fitness, I needed to start expanding my rides outside of my ordinary 40-mile efforts. On this particular day I decided to head to GMR, but lacking any road-specific bikes at home, I had to settle on my trusty Turner Cyclosys gravel bike to make it happen. There’s nothing like pushing 40mm semi-tread tires for 60 miles of pavement!
“Near the end of the trail there was a beautiful, seductively serene canyon to ride through. Bound only to a road bike, I never would’ve encountered this treat. Yes, that was the purpose of a dual-purpose bike.”
Upon reaching the top of GMR, there are three options—flip it and ride back down, keeping riding to Mount Baldy on the Glendora Ridge Road (like the Tour of California does) or ride down the backside to Highway 38. On this day I decided to add a fourth—why not try the singletrack that the mountain bikers ride? Having no real idea what to expect or where the trail led, I was unsure at best. But, really, I had the perfect bike for it, and what better way to truly celebrate the purpose of a dual-purpose bike than to jump into some wild adventure that the paved road could never provide?
Just as some other road rider was coming up to overtake me at the unofficial finish line, I peeled off onto the dirt fire road where I’d previously watched so many mountain bikers gather with their long-travel downhill bikes and full body armor. With little more than my DeFeet arm warmers to provide a protective shield in case of a fall, I hesitantly clicked into my pedals and started rolling into the unknown. There were some technical sections and a few rock gardens, but thankfully nothing I ever had to unclip for. And this, I wondered, was what the mountain bikers got all dressed up for?!
By the time I got to the bottom of the nearly eight-mile descent, a front puncture was the only mishap I endured. Near the end of the trail there was a beautiful, seductively serene canyon to ride through. Bound only to a road bike, I never would’ve encountered this treat. Yes, this was the purpose of a dual-purpose bike.
AS FOR THE OTHERS
I have to admit, for as long as we’ve been championing the rise of the gravel bike movement, I have been bewildered by the level of animosity and outright contempt that so many avowed road riders have displayed towards the category. To me, a gravel bike was as much a road bike as any other; it just had a few tweaks that made it possible to be ridden—and enjoyed—off-road.
However, on a recent Montrose group ride, one possible explanation came to me. By chance, the bike I was riding was the same Alchemy Hyas project bike that I rode at Dirty Kanza in 2016. Sure, it was a purpose-built gravel bike, but here I was riding among a group of over 100 road bikes for 45 miles of pure pavement.
Like the chain-smoker with emphysema who chides people for being active or the mountain biker who curses someone on an e-bike because he easily passed him on a climb, are gravel critics just bitter that they’re suddenly stuck on a single-purpose road bike that leaves them stopped in the tracks of their friends who can happily keep on pedaling when the pavement turns to dirt?
I mean, really, here was one bike that was just as capable of completing the Montrose ride in the lead group as it was rolling across the finish line of the 100-mile half-pint event in Kansas. How many of the grudge-holding roadies who own a road bike that can fit 25mm tires can boast of the same price/use value equation? They can’t, hence (I guess) their bitterness and anger.
Although we report on all things gravel throughout the year, this issue (page 78) offers a dedicated section on the latest in the world of dual-purpose bikes and products. Is our purpose to spoil the moment for ardent roadies? Of course not. We’re merely trying to be inclusive of those who have embraced a new way to enjoy the drop-bar experience. As with every issue of RBA, there is still plenty of road-worthy info as well (so please spare me the “why don’t you change the name to Gravel Bike Action?” letters).
The bottom line? We like riding bikes, drop-bar bikes specifically. We spend more time riding road bikes than any other. Our embrace of dual-purpose bikes isn’t to alienate road-only enthusiasts, but to embrace a segment that has exploded in popularity. It’s not about what type of tire you choose, or what terrain you choose to ride on—just choose to ride.