Saturday, March 27, 2021

The Cost of a Gravel "Experience"


Credit: Cycling Tips

A few years ago, Val, Penn, and I did the Gran Fondo Whistler. It was, I thought at the time, an expensive ticket: $225 to participate in a one-day ride. But despite being a cheap bastard by nature, I was able to justify the cost on the grounds that for my cash I was getting a unique “experience:” in addition to the usual supports (aid and snack stations) a section of the highway we rode was closed to car traffic, enabling us to ride on a road that otherwise I probably would have avoided. And when we got to Whistler, there was a party waiting for us: barbeque, live music, and an atmosphere of general festivity. We had a good time. It was worth it, and I’d recommend the “experience.”

That ride is all pavement, of course, but I mention it here because, in the world of gravel riding, big ticket events promising a special “experience”--in some cases charging the same kind of fees as a premier event like the Whistler Gran Fondo--are beginning to pop up more and more in western Canada. But when I look closely at what some of these gravel events are offering in exchange for their fees, I find myself asking some questions about what exactly constitutes a rewarding gravel-event “experience.”