Now that I've spewed my gravel-bike rant (and subsequently adjusted the dose on my medication), it's time to face facts. This gravel-bike thing is here to stay, at least for a couple seasons until everyone's bought one, the trend is played out, and the marketing machine finds something else (don't believe me? remember trendy hipsters on fixed gears? yeah, they're even hard to find in Des Moines now, and it takes trends about seven years to get here.)
Given the fact that we're stuck with the category, I'm going to tilt at just one more windmill. The name. Gravel bike? Really? Sure, it makes sense out here in the flyover, where we have miles upon miles of gravel within easy reach. But who needs a "gravel" bike in the civilized world where all the primitive pre-roads have been slathered over with asphalt?
So we need a new name. Guitar Ted is taking a swing at it with his open-source naming project, but I have a simpler solution. Let's just take back the perfectly good name these bikes had about 30 years ago. Y'see, sonny (grandpappy settles back in his rocking chair), back then, we rode these things called "road" bikes. They fit medium-width (say 32-35mm) tires. They had long wheelbases. They had low bottom brackets. Now, some folks'll tell you that's what you call a "sport-touring" bike, but I say phooey! We didn't call 'em "sport-touring" bikes! They were road bikes! Because we rode 'em on the road! Any old road we chose!
And then, along came the mountain bike. And the next thing you know, the road bike was gone. Oh, there were things that sorta looked like road bikes if you squinted real hard, but don't be fooled. Those were racing bikes. The "roads" they were good for went around in circles, with corner marshalls at every turn to sweep up even the tiniest pebble. Pretty soon, folks forgot what a real road bike looked like. And so these impostors, these racing bikes, these Indy cars with two wheels and pedals, muscled their way in and took over a perfectly good name.
Here's the gauntlet I'm putting down: I'm going to call this everything-old-is-new-again breed of bikes exactly what we called them back in the day. They're ROAD bikes, people. When I see someone on one of those skinny-tired things, I'm going to call it what it is: a RACING bike. If that makes the owner feel stupid because he/she doesn't race, well, so be it. But this industry has already hyper-specialized itself enough. We don't need a new category. We just need to use the ones we already have correctly.