Gravel Grinding is a form of cycling that has rejuvenated my love for bike riding thanks to the amazing people that I get to ride with and thanks to, more importantly, the selfless promoters that sponsor the free events.  The best aspect of these races is the low-key, fun nature of the rides and the fact that no one is making money from those of us who enjoy a relatively competitive edge to a long day in the saddle.  I think we would all agree that respect and gratitude is due to the promoters for the considerable time, effort, and energy they freely give back to our community in putting on these races.


However, we must put an immediate stop to a potential change in our sport.

I ask each of my fellow Gravel Grinders to speak out against the Pony Xpress race.  The promoter of this event is trying to steal our enthusiasm by charging outrageous fees on what should be a free event.  If we do not stick together and boycott this event, it has the potential of turning gravel grinding into a for-profit activity, much as road racing, mountain bike racing, and cyclocross racing has unfortunately become.


When I first started road racing twenty years ago, local clubs put on events and charged resonable entry fees.  No one minded paying because the money went directly back to the clubs' operating expenses.  No one person nor company made any real profit.  Unfortunatly that is no longer the case.


Let us band together to stop gravel grinding from turning into a business.

Do not pay the entry fee of the Pony XPress, do not attend the event, and spread the message that gravel grinding is free for everyone.  Race the free events, thank the promoters, and welcome the sponsors.


Thank you for reading.

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I'm with you I hope gravel grinding stays free, but if the Poney Express is the future then I will once again stop going to those events. I enjoy the freedom of riding my bike without the commercialism of paying to join in with other like minded people.
I boycotted the Ring the Peak event last year becuase they added sponsor rest stops. Sorry but this event is an self support endurance event which is what attracted me to participate.
Thanks to people like Ben The pormoter of the antiepic and riding gravel events we will continue our freedom to enjoy these rides.
P.S. but don't forget to support the sponsors of these events on normal methods, like buying a few beers at Pikes Peak Brewery before or after the ride or a pack from JPaks.
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There are paid gravel events and there are free gravel events. You can choose to do both, either, or none. The free events are little more than group rides in most ways: they're self-supported, mostly self timed, and the course is provided as-is.

Most paid events I've taken part in and most promoters I've talked with (especially within the mountain biking and gravel worlds) have fees for a few things: aid stations, awards/schwag, and insurance/permits. I have no idea if the races you mention need insurance or permits, but I do see aid stations on the list along with awards for the full distance route. Those things take it a step beyond just a group ride and they charge a fee for it. I think that's perfectly fine. Having a fee on a race doesn't mean that promoter is going home with extra money in their pocket and it doesn't mean free events will stop existing. People will still want to enter these events and that has little drag on free events. They still have the comradery of finishing a challenging ride, navigation on less traveled roads, and the same level of self support in many cases.

If an event is too expensive, then people won't participate. Some people will, but not as many. Same thing happens in mountain biking, cross racing, etc as event prices keep going up each year. The spirit of a race/event isn't determined by a price tag (or lack thereof).
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Guitar Ted
First of all, I promote a free event, (Trans Iowa), and I have attended and ridden in both paid for and free events on gravel roads.

I would like to comment on the following quote:

The spirit of a race/event isn't determined by a price tag (or lack thereof)

I've spoken with a lot of gravel road riders and promoters, and this thought is not correct. (Note, I did not say it was good or bad, just not right.)

The "spirit" of any event is a nefarious thing to nail down exactly, but as far as I can gather, charging a fee or not automatically changes expectations, (the previous commenter says as much), and thus the way one approaches these events necessarily is different.

"Good" diffrent or "bad", I won't say. You decide with your attendance and money, but as far as anyone making money off gravel events, that is up to them to decide what is right for them. Riders then vote with their money/attendance or not. I have no problem with it personally. Each individual should be "free" to choose what they want to promote or where they want to ride in an event. Having different types to choose from is a good thing. Live and let live. There are plenty of events of all types to choose from.
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Adam V
I would like it if there were more gravel events near me, (Western Washington state)free or for a fee, so far I've done 2 last year and this years grand fondo in Ephrata, which is a ways away in eastern Washington, the promoters put on a great event, I'm signed up for one in June, though they are all on the eastern side of the state. There is some sag support, a aid station well stocked with food and drink, it is a mass start, though entries are capped at 200, and Ephrata sold out this year as well. The promoters say it is a ride and not a race, but for many or perhaps most it is a race, it is a mass start event, it is timed, results are posted, your given a # to wear, and you have also planned trained and paid for the event.
To me these events are something to train for and look forward to, I'm already driving close to or more than 3 hours, and getting a hotel room nearby, a reasonable $65 entry fee is not that much, try finding a running marathon that is well planned and organized for $65 or less. Free events are great also though there are none around here.
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I think there are going to be people who want paid races (and stocked aid stations, sag support, etc..) and people who want the free events (and the "you're on your own" risks of that).  

I enjoy the free events, the people organizing them. I plan to do a little more volunteering to help with some semi-local events as well, to help make those free events possible.  But really, I suppose some people don't feel like they can do a gravel century without support. I also don't think we can expect anyone to put on a free event and lose their own money on providing those things. There is room for everyone. 

PS Adam V- where ya from? I'm a ND import from SW WA, I can't believe there aren't more events out your way! 
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Adam V
I'm in Kirkland other side of lake wa from Seattle. Vicious cycles is the promoter of the eastern wa grand fondo series, will be 4 events, Ephrata in march , last weekend one in golden dale out near Yakima one in Leavenworth in June that I'm doing then one in Winthrop which I'm thinking about, all the events are about 80-100 miles in length and well organized, I think this is there 3rd year.
I grew up lived around Sultan growing up and know some of the back gravel roads around there but lots of it is logging roads and some of them end up getting blocked, or de-commissioned not just gates but allowed to just grow back to not a road and tank traps and or huge log piles put at the end. When you find some of the routes that actually go some where and have connections it's pretty cool, but the gravel is sometimes quite rough out there as well as steep, the gravel in eastern wa is so much smoother and better maintained from what I've ridden out there.
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I'm doing the Pony Xpress, and I'm happy to pay the fee - just like I'm happy to pay the fee for Dirty Kanza. And just like I'm happy to send only a postcard for Odin's Revenge and Gravel Worlds (but still give the organizers some cash). Water stops alone are huge if I'm going somewhere (a) I'm not familiar with and (b) that doesn't have convenience stores along the route.

Sorry to hear you don't think these rides are worth you time. I guess the beauty of the internet is that you can let everyone else know how unhappy you are about something you don't want to do.
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