A Letter to the Editor of VeloNews: “America’s Dirty Secret” by K-Dogg

Gravel Nerds – L: JOM, R: K-Dogg after 2016 Gravel Worlds.

K-Dogg wrote a letter (email) to the Editor of Velonews, concerning the August 2017 print edition of the magazine.

Velonews just doesn’t get it.

I was hopeful your August 2017 edition could help the explain the rising popularity of gravel cycling and the subsequent decline of road cycling.
Perhaps USA Cycling and the negative roadie culture could learn something from a sport that is more humble, where camaraderie happens among the competitors.
The Velonews August 2017 edition made a good first step by putting a nice gravel photo on the cover. Unfortunately, calling it “America’s Dirty Secret” lead it downhill from there. Way too much time was spent focusing on a tiny handful of cheaters. Nobody really worries about cheaters in our sport. The “dirty little secret” is that a gravel cyclist’s real competition is the terrain and weather, not other racers. Just finishing a challenging course is what motivates us and (weirdly) keeps us coming back.
I was even more offended with the “Dirty Souls” photo essay that reduced us to tacky “Freds”, complete with single speed clowns, rainbow stickers, “awkward silence” tandems and showing off “finishers medals” like goody bags at birthday parties.
If that makes me a gravel nerd then so be it. “So all you beautiful people remember there are a lot more of us than you!” – a quote from Revenge of the Nerds.
If Velonews still doesn’t get it I recommend they peruse GravelCyclist.com for a tutorial of how to have more fun outside on your bike without enduring Velo-Snobs.

Be sure to check out these related articles here on the site:
Gravel Nerd JOM suffering at the 2016 L’Eroica in Tuscany, Italy.
Gravel Nerd JOM with his 209km L’Eroica “finisher medal”, “passport” & vino.


  1. Avatar Mark Bates

    I agree completely with the letter. However, I don’t seek or need approval or even the understanding of “velo-snobs”. I have never, and will never, participated in a competitive road racing event. I do enjoy the occasional charity century or fondo, but prefer the atmosphere at events like the Hilly Billy Roubaix and the newer Gravel Race Up Spruce Knob (GRUSK). Competitive for a handful of gifted athletes, but everyone else is there for the challenge and fun of completing the course and meeting or exceeding a personal goal. Keep up the fine work you are doing at Gravel Cyclist.

  2. Avatar Bobk

    I only read VeloNews online. I didn’t see the referenced article. It may have only appeared in the print magazine. In any case, I heartily agree with your refutation. It makes me sad though, that cyclists are divided into all these different tribes. When it is clear to me that we have so many common interests to address such as bicycle infrastructure and safety. Also, as a long time reader of VeloNews online, I still get lots of useful info. and news on the latest bike tech., legal issues, and of course race results in the Euro and US pro peleton. Yes – there certainly are some bike snobs writing stupid articles in VN; but there are also others there who share our views on many cycling topics.

  3. Thankfully, the podcast on this topic is much better. I don’t know whether Tim Johnson read the issue before being interviewed for the episode, but I think he covers a lot of ground in a way the majority of gravel lovers would appreciate. I feel the VeloNews crew is pretty out of touch most of the time, but they seem to have come out of this with a more nuanced understanding of what’s unfolding out there.

  4. Avatar Ben Arians

    It’s interesting to compare Velonews’ disdain for gravel to Road Bike Action, which has almost become a gravel-oriented publication. Based on some letters to the editor I’ve seen, RBA has likely lost some subscribers because of the increased gravel coverage, which probably been more than made up for by a sizeable increase in subscribers who enjoy the gravel bent.

    • JOM JOM

      Neil Shirley was the editor at RBA until late 2016, and he is a big advocate of the genre. I’m assuming he had a lot to do with the magazine’s current direction. Mind you, I haven’t looked at a print magazine in years.

  5. Avatar BWepps

    I’ll gladly show the snobs my DK200 “Finisher” pint glass any time! ( I started out in this sport way back when as a “roadie” BTW. 😛

  6. Avatar Larry E. Brenize

    Well I have never read Velo News and even though I have a subscription to Bicycling Mag. hardly ever read it either. They have way too many adds in their to pay for their printing. They have $4000 – $5000+ bikes listed in there that they think makes you a better rider when truth be told it’s the engine that matters. Finally they had a Style Man in there for awhile not sure if he is still there or not. I ride my bike to the beat of my own drum and don’t have to have somebody tell me what is cool and what isn’t.

  7. Avatar CitizenAZ

    Gravel is good. I’ve riding my Bianchi San Remo on gravel roads since I can remember. The bike is still in good condition. Would like a newer one just like it. Steel is best for me. I liked the solitude of the gravel road. Now it’s a little busier. Still good.

  8. Avatar Joey Brown

    Well said JOM! I love riding road, gravel, and mtb. I gave up road racing long ago because of the attitude of the typical “roadie.” Road racing has been in a steady decline for some time now, while gravel events continue to grow. New road bike sales are none existent in most shops these days. We continue to see manufacturers bring out bikes more capable for gravel and often at all price points. The bottom line – the future is bright for gravel!!

  9. Avatar Larry E. Brenize

    Yeah I was out at Leadville Colorado recently getting altitude acclimated for Pikes Peak. The only bike shop in town Cycles of Life carried Niner bikes and I don’t think had one road bike or if they did very few..

  10. Avatar Carlos Flanders

    I race road and have been riding gravel since before I knew it was a genre. i’m far better at gravel than road, in that I can easily mix it up with riders who race road at a higher level than me.

    What I enjoy most about gravel is the camaraderie, a group of people willingly working together to go as fast as possible.

    I thought the Velonews issue did a decent job of exploring the Gravel racing sector. I appreciated the insights into possible cheating and pacemaking. Both Rebecca Rusch’s Barry Wicks’ interview gave interesting perspectives. As the sector grows these issues will be encountered more and deserve to be discussed.

    Some gravel rides I’ve done recently have had a different flavor, riders riding tactically, not contributing, and then attacking to deliberately drop others. Another ride featured a huge bunch of strong riders who were too scared to ride at the front and expend energy because there was a pro in the group who was far stronger than everyone else. Instead it turned into a nervous fight for position near, but not at, the front – with many taking unnecessary risks to hold position. Led to an ugly experience. When the pro did drop the hammer noone could hold his wheel anyway.

    I’d like to also point out that, to my reading, Bob Cummings blogs of his DK200 experiences are scary in their intensity of preparation and competitiveness in the race itself.

    And that’s fine. Others have different views of gravel riding and racing from myself. It’s good to hear what they have to say and appreciate their perspectives. Some I don’t like, some I do.

    I don’t know where gravel is going. I applaud Velonews for featuring the sector and contributing to the discussion. It’s a discussion worth having and I thought they did a fair job of doing it.

    • Avatar Bobk

      Hi Carlos – thanks for a thoughtful reply and comments. What is important to realize, is that many folks in the road racing crowd, also own and ride gravel bikes. Despite the negative comments of some of the folks from VeloNews; they share our view that cycling should be fun and social. We really all belong to one big family, with similar interests and passion for cycling.

      • Avatar Mark Bates

        Good Point! I like to look at gravel events as where roadies and mountain bikers come together. That’s exactly what you get at an event like the Hilly Billy Roubaix.

        • Avatar Larry E. Brenize

          Mark since you mentioned the Hilly Billy Roubaix in WV. How many techy sections would you say it has? I am hoping coming into the gravel riding in races is about the same as rando riding where lots of people ride together and have fun. I won’t be in the front racing but hope to be a mid pack ridier.

          • Avatar Mark Bates

            The Hilly Billy Roubaix course is very hard to describe. Lots of steep climbing followed by steep, sometimes extremely chunky descents on un-maintained, sometimes abandoned WV back roads. There are sections that will be extremely muddy in the driest of times with car-sized potholes. There’s an un-ridable stream crossing. And if it rains it gets even more interesting. Look up You Tube videos of Hilly Billy Roubaix add in Little Indian Creek Extension (LICE) to see one of the most treacherous segments of the course. The majority of riders are riding for the challenge. Only a handful are capable of mixing it up at the front. It’s a great event expertly run by a fantastic promoter named JR Petsko.

          • JOM JOM

            LOVE HBR. Ridden it twice, suffered a lot! Need to return… agree wholeheartedly with your comments about JR, such a nice bloke.

  11. Avatar steve in TLH

    regarding the K-Dogg’s comment, “…I recommend they peruse GravelCyclist.com for a tutorial of how to have more fun outside on your bike without enduring Velo-Snobs.

    i’ve been cycling on- & off-road for about three decades now & still enjoy nine outta ten rides. given my family/work/home circumstances, when it comes to cycling i focus on riding, maintenance of two bikes (road & off-road bikes) & that’s about all the time i care to put into cycling. i did not watch one single minute Tour de France or any other cycling on TV. i don’t take any cycling publications any more (maybe again in future, but not now).

  12. Avatar steve in TLH

    …to finish out: my only source of cycling news other than cycling buds & the LBS is this web-site! this is the only cycling web-site i’m inspired to visit. gravelcyclist.com cuts to the chase, delivers content that’s unbiased, straightforward, & is focused on what’s fun about cycling. know that GC.com inspires me to ride & spread the word/fun about cycling. keep up the great work here K-Dogg & team!

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