Tell me about you and your bike – Olly

The UKgravelcollective has always been about ordinary riders doing what they like best, riding bikes. There are lots of features on the web about sponsored riders riding the latest bikes in exotic locations but the great majority of the people who contribute pictures and comments to our instagram page and facebook group are those who only have time to dash out after work in all weathers to ride or who’s epic adventure has to be planned meticulously in advance to fit around family life. So to champion these riders I thought a series about the readers and contributors to this community would be a cool thing to do. I asked via instagram if there were any volunteers for this and here is one of the first to respond. I hope to publish more during the coming weeks.

First up is Olly

Why that bike? Because of the bikes I own, this is the bike that works best on gravel! It started as a cyclocross build project so the tyre clearance is up to about 35mm, easily enough for gravel and it can deal with some singletrack too. It’s also my ‘deepest winter’ bike and my year round commuter. I built the steel frame myself, and it’s pretty cool to ride a bike you built. 

What does gravel riding mean to you? To me it means riding your bike wherever you want to. Despite what the industry tells you, you probably already have a bike suitable for gravel rides. You can buy a special new steed for your gravel adventures, indeed there’s nothing wrong with that at all, but most bikes are well capable. I see it as a return to bike riding of olden times, when all bike riding was gravel riding! Those bikes were all-purpose machines, not finely honed for specific terrain like they are today. I think gravel bikes are an updated nod to that early philosophy of a bike that will go where you point it, no matter what the surface is like.
It’s also is a very welcome blurring of the lines between the cycling cliques like ‘roadies’ and ‘mtb’ etc. There’s a little stuffiness in some parts of the cycling world and I think it’s important to remember we all just like riding bikes! 

where & when was your favourite or best remembered ( good or bad) gravel ride ever? I grew up in rural Norfolk and my paper round took in lots of gravel tracks up to farms and the like. They were always my favourite part of the round, traffic free and more interesting than village streets. I had a knackered early 90s mountain bike – well maintained these make excellent gravel bikes and are cheap to acquire!

If you could ride one place you’ve never been where would it be? The Alps feels like the ‘Wembley’ of cycling and I’ve never been riding there so something out there. Colle delle Finestre perhaps. Part paved, part gravel climb where Chris Froome effectively won the Giro d’Italia from nowhere in 2018. As inspiring a bike race as I’ve ever seen and would love to give it a go. 

How would you improve the gravel scene in your area? I think there is room for a clubs running more gravel rides, or even a specific gravel club perhaps. I think this will come as people get to know their local routes better. It can be a bit of a struggle finding routes to take in lots of gravel but with more people getting into it that will improve over time. 

Thanks for going first Olly and we echo your thoughts on any bike can be a gravel bike. you don’t need a specific bike to have fun.

Olly has his own interesting website, give it a look over at Steel Rouleur