The steady flow of entries for the inaugural Underberg Gran Fondo on Sunday 31 July underscores the snowballing popularity of gravel bike races in South Africa as the global gravel bike craze continues to gain momentum.
“Gravel is the fastest growing cycling segment in the world,” said well know rider, Absolute Motion coach and administrator Johann Wykerd. “The idea of just being able to ride a bike anywhere without too much fuss and technical equipment appeals to more and more people.
“Gravel events are growing exponentially all over South Africa,” he added “We can just look at the cycling calendar to see this happening. In KwaZulu-Natal the participation at gravel events also far exceeds that of traditional mountain bike events.
Wykerd said that gravel riding was gaining popularity as it was becoming more suitable as worsening motorways made everyday road cycling increasingly challenging.
“Gravel riding just make sense. In KZN specifically we see gravel as the only viable alternative to road cycling with the quality of our roads deteriorating,” said Wykerd.
“There is also a lot of innovation in the way gravel races are presented with many events offering one or more segment challenges in the event. This allows you to ride with your friends, race the segment and wait for your friends to continue the ride with them.
Wykerd said that the new Underberg Gran Fondo would have several of these specific race sectors. “We will have two segments at the Underberg Gran Fondo that riders can race if they so wish.
Wykerd added that part of the appeal of gravel races was the uniformity of the entry groupings, while ensuring gender equality in the entry and prizes.
“There are no age categories, so everyone takes part together,” said Wykerd.
He pointed out that e-bikes would be welcome at the Underberg Gran Fondo in the 90km event.