Gravel Cycling According to GRAVELSTOKE
How Dave Malwitz is turning his passion into a movement.
Southern California resident Dave Malwitz is striking while the iron is hot. He has riding the wave of gravel cycling and passing on that passion to others. His brand Gravelstoke has a growing following of like minded individuals who live to explore the mixed surface offerings that SoCal has to offer. He has launched a successful ride series as well as a line of clothing and cycling kits donning his brand. Here is his perspective of the state of Gravel cycling.
For the same reasons that I first fell in love with mountain biking back East in the late 90s, and road cycling out West in 2010, I have found a similar passion for gravel. The opportunity to escape, the thrill of exploring new terrain and the fun had with friends. There are no preconceived notions of what a gravel cyclist is, no rules about apparel and even the bikes in this space can vary greatly. The gravel experience is something truly unique, and one you have to experience as a rider to fully appreciate.
Gravelstoke was born out of this deep appreciation, and the desire to create a destination for those who share a similar passion. What transpired was a company dedicated to capturing the culture, lifestyle and trends that are beginning to define this category. Since then our trademarks have become quality content, events and goods specific to the gravel experience. The riders that make up the scene here in SoCal generally come from either a road cycling or mountain biking background, and their backgrounds will often predict the types of gravel routes they may enjoy most. While roadies will incorporate more tarmac and smoother dirt sections given their equipment choices, those coming from an MTB background piece together multiple trail systems with a focus on the best dirt.
While you may think gravel is peaking, I believe the trend will only continue as these bikes are proving to be incredibly versatile while offering riders an amazing experience on a variety of terrains. Gravel riding will vary greatly depending on what part of the country you are in. SoCal gravel certainly unique, and typically our rides incorporate roads, sidewalks, gravel paths, horse trails, fire roads and even technical singletrack. For us it is more of a mixed-terrain adventure that takes riders through areas typically not explored on other bikes. Areas that were once considered boring on a mountain bike or too sketchy on a road bike suddenly have this new unrealized potential.
While many bike brands have largely been surprisingly cautious with the trend, and have simply rebranded endurance road bikes or cyclocross bikes as gravel bikes, the category is definitely carving out its place in the market. By my own standards gravel bikes are expected to have clearance for at least 700x40c tires, and I personally wouldn’t even consider buying a gravel bike unless it could handle something up to 650Bx48mm. The trend with 650b wheels and tires is certainly notable, and while I admit being initially skeptical, the experience blew me away after a full season on “Gravel Plus”. With the same overall wheel diameter as wider 700c tires, running 650b allows cyclists to experience the same predictable handling while offering more flexible tire pressure options, superior traction and rider comfort.
The events themselves have surged in popularity across the country. While we host many gravel rides our featured event of the year is Hunt of the North. The concept was to create in inclusive event that would combine our favorite elements of gravel cycling into one memorable experience. Exploration, navigation, camaraderie and some of the best terrain San Diego has to offer. Not a race, Hunt of the North is a scavenger hunt style ride that takes participants to 5 predetermined locations on dirt throughout our region. We look forward to hosting our second annual gravel hunt on June 9, 2019 at Canyon Bicycles in Carlsbad, CA.
I’m excited to see how this trend continues to evolve over time, and look forward to introducing more riders to the gravel experience.
Dave Malwitz, Founder and Creative Director at Gravelstoke