Gravel Curious?

With our high-performance bikes and dedicated rides, gravel riding with Pearson offers the chance to see things differently. If you’re new to off-roading, Pearson is the perfect place to start (and finish). 

By Alistair Lawrence

Solo, or with friends. Gravel riding is a great way to find some valuable headspace.

If you’re a lifelong road rider, you might not see the point of gravel riding. Spinning the granny ring on unmade surfaces might be in vogue but why waste all that perfectly good tarmac? At Pearson, we don’t believe it has to be one or the other. There are few more committed roadies than us but at a time when a bit of isolation can, literally, be just what the doctor ordered, we also like to explore the roads less travelled. And one of the best ways to do that is to dispense with roads altogether.

In the 160 years since Pearson was founded, we’ve learned a fair bit about bike building and fitting. And by carefully tailoring that expertise, from frame geometry to hand-picked components, we’ve crafted a range of bikes perfectly suited to the demands of gravel cycling. Take All Mod Cons, our entry-level, aluminium machine. Not only does it feature a longer wheelbase for improved control – standard across the gravel range, as are bigger clearances for tyres up to 700x45 – it also comes with a broad range of gearing. Or Off Grid, a carbon beauty new for 2020 and among the most versatile bikes Pearson make. Its gorgeous ride is thanks to optimum geometry and a Shimano GRX groupset. Add panniers and you could (theoretically) be gone for months. 

A broad range of gears to help you up even the steepest of climbs.

Last but not least comes Summon the Blood, our top-end, titanium gravel bike. With the cleanest of lines, it also boasts electronic gearing and a tapered fork for exceptional handling. Pearson’s commitment to gravel riding extends beyond our bikes. This year saw the launch of Inside Out, a series of rides around south-west London created to show how cycling off-road is the perfect way to get out of (as opposed to off) your head. Held in collaboration with the mental health charity Action for Happiness, the rides are mostly free from traffic, enabling participants to slow things down, take in their surroundings and mingle – make that ‘exercise’ – with fellow riders.

Smiles all round. Feel the benefit of cleaner air.

The most recent ride was held on Saturday 12th September. Pearson’s man in the field that day was Sky journalist, Ian Collier. Joining Pearson’s rapidly growing community of gravel grinders, Ian discovered that not only is gravel riding a sociable affair, it can provide even seasoned cyclists with a new, some might say long overdue, perspective.

Inside Out: Why cycling’s arguments are back to front

A sense of achievement, pride, and elation [writes Ian], all these made up for my slightly sore backside after the three hours it took me to complete the Pearson Inside Out gravel event. I had managed to pinch Will Pearson’s very own fancy Off Grid gravel bike, and was taken by surprise as to what a purpose-made machine offered versus my old clunker of a mountain bike.

Invigorated, my confidence was boosted by my longest ride in years. It was while navigating the beautiful gravel trails Surrey has to offer (thanks to Wahoo, for complimentary use of their Roam GPS computer, another feature of Inside Out rides) that I wondered why I don’t get out on two wheels more often. It was then I realised how much my enjoyment of cycling had been diminished by the Covid-era bickering about bikes. Just a few minutes on a popular social media platform and you’ll find just how polarising cycling has become recently.

inside out gravel

Half my feed is taken up with rows over Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, close passes, congestion, cycle lanes, and wrangling between Lycra lovers and loathers. To be honest, a lot of people from all sides have lost some perspective. Cycling, after all, is meant to be fun. Whether in a group or going solo, it allows us to escape from our day-to-day worries and take in the world around us.

Which makes an Inside Out ride the perfect antidote. Starting and finishing at Pearson’s Sheen store, a small portion of the 52km route was necessarily on the road – but that only added to the sense of freedom when the 70 riders, in bubbles of six or less, hit the gravel tracks through woodlands and parks. 

Pearson Inside our gravel ride

And that’s my point. More people should try gravel riding because it’s so bloody enjoyable. It helps you get fit and can go a long way to alleviating much of the stress life throws at us. Gravel riding is challenging and rewarding and also offers the chance to meet equally adventurous fellow cyclists. (Five at a time, of course.)

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