Gravel Culture: Predicting the future with the Gravel Union crystal ball

Posted By Gravel Union On 8 January 2021

If we learnt anything from 2020, it’s that trying to predict the future is all but impossible to do with any sort of accuracy, but that if you’re going to attempt it, then you should talk to industry experts. So we did, and this is what they see when they gaze into the future….

Ludi Scholz - off-road category manager for Liv bikes

Gravel is fast growing and we are seeing many different interpretations from many brands. I can see some of the more niche experiences merging to create a clear need for us to think more about our offering, but I can’t say much more than that!!!

Mark Beaumont - record breaking adventure cyclist

I’m really hanging on the coat-tails of gravel riding – I was a late converter. I found it, like a lot of people, in the last couple of years, but I’m absolutely loving it and being part of it. I think we’re going to see a lot of people building gravel into their repertoire of riding – we’re going to get a lot of road riders riding gravel as well. I think at the sharp end of gravel, that’s really exciting in terms of performance, but I think the mainstay of gravel is going to be very much about adventure, about travel, about where it can take you. I personally want to take the freedom of bikepacking on a gravel bike and go to some really beautiful and interesting places.

Marc Seekircher – product development manager at Bergamont bikes

Gravel as a trend can't be stopped. The megatrend will surely split up again into specialized sub-groups - into the rather high-end, light and fast bikes, quite close to a road racing bike or a cyclocross bike, and separately the bikes that can do almost anything, with far more comfort than the race-heavy category and then of course the bikes with maximum tire width, power supply and endless installation options for self-supported racing.

Paul Errington – UK gravel event pioneer

Image courtesy of 3T

The groundswell in popularity of gravel riding has managed largely to silence the cries of “it’s all just marketing spin” and gravel bikes have become the go-to bike in many people’s collections. Nomenclature aside, the bikes are now hugely adept, just as at home on the road as they are on twisty singletrack. I think the future will see manufacturers offering more choice of set up and componentry to allow riders to tailor their experience to suit. As for events and usage, we already see diversity in how riders are interpreting this platform from low-and-tucked speed freaks to fully loaded wanderers … Gravel bikes are now produced with the same variety and choice as mountain bikes, allowing event concepts to go in many directions. So, in short - the future is more choice and choice is never a bad thing.

Tom Richey - founder of Ritchey Bikes

There’s a lot of ideas that I’ve wanted to do for years and years (and years). One project I’m working on right now is probably a 40 year old concept – these ideas were probably fantasy jobs but I’ve been waiting for the technology [to catch up]. There are now the materials in existence that make projects possible that weren’t available 5, 10, 20 years ago and that’s really exciting to me in terms of product development. Certain materials would allow us to create the next generation of concepts that haven’t previously been possible. That’s what I’m always on the lookout for and trying to figure out from a materials design perspective.

Frank Greifzu – product manager at Cube bikes:

New concepts pop up and there is no ban on thinking in the gravel world. Major suppliers offer gravel suspension forks, brands show up with full-suspension or soft-tail frames, tyres and handle bars sometimes exceed the widths of an average 1990s mountain bike. More people will take a fancy to bike packing which has its own specific requirements to the whole bike. It is great to see all these fancy subsegments thriving. We as CUBE will focus more on the moderate majority of gravel pilots. Riders who want to get away from traffic and appreciate the feeling of independence and freedom. A bike category that throws a bridge between commuting, training laps and trail riding. Switch from work to party mode wherever and whenever you want.

Janosch Wintermantel – marketing manager at Scott bikes for road, triathlon and gravel bikes

I believe that gravel will become way more than a trend. Personally, I believe that a big chunk of road riders will switch to gravel in the next ten years.

What do the Gravel Union team predict?

Seeing as we spend every minute at work thinking about gravel riding, you would hope that gives us some insight into where things are going! On a big picture scale, the gravel scene is going to keep growing. Recent world events have shown many cyclists that they need to make of what they have on their doorstep and a gravel bike has been the perfect tool for this. From a more detailed perspective, we see greater tyre clearance as being a driving force behind product design – we predict 45mm will be the new entry point and clearance of 50mm+ will become more common – the ‘monstercross’ effect is here to stay. We also predict a return in popularity of 2x drivetrains – perhaps controversial, but we think there’s still plenty of life in the front mech yet! Finally, the gravel events market will continue to diversify – we think there will be complimentary streams – one based around the ride local/minimum impact/fit-it-in-when-you-can ethos and one based on a festival feel with riding, music, exhibitions and a huge feel-good factor.

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