Gravel cycling, perhaps better explained as mixed surface riding, is one of the fastest growing forms of cycling. The sport is poised somewhere between road cycling and mountain biking. Most routes incorporate unpaved dirt and gravel roads, hence the term “gravel.” When the Pennsylvania Environmental Council wanted to advance a reginal understanding of the sport, they hired Cycle Forward to develop a report.
Dates: January – June 2022
Client: Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC, returning client)
Location: State College, PA
Outdoor Assets: Gravel routes throughout Pennsylvania
Project Type: Research, Outdoor Recreation Economy
Despite the surge in popularity in gravel cycling, PEC recognized a limited understanding of the sport and its place in the outdoor economy. PEC sought to create a conversation about gravel riding and, ultimately, to build agency and partner support for the growing sport. Wanting to tell “the story of gravel” and spur a dialogue around it, PEC hired Cycle Forward to write a report and participate in a summit that would identify statewide action steps.
Like many of Cycle Forward’s projects, this one started from a place of curiosity, learning, and information gathering. In producing the report, Amy interviewed gravel experts throughout the U.S. who could contribute to PEC’s understanding of mixed surface cycling. She spoke with event organizers, route planners, web hosts, and bike industry representatives to learn as much as possible about a cycling discipline that has yet to have much publicly available research associated with it. She collaborated with PEC staff members Helena Kotala and Zhenya Nalywayko to produce the report “Gravel: Another Great Cycling Opportunity in Pennsylvania.” PEC used the report to promote a statewide gravel summit, gathering advocates and land managers to discuss opportunities. Amy then worked with PEC to write a recommendations report following the summit. In a few words, the project approach was to research, learn, collaborate, and refine (with the end result being an actionable recommendations report).
In October 2023, PEC hosted a second summit with a larger audience. The group used the recommendations report to make decisions about next steps at a statewide level. A few expected projects in the near future include:
- Development of a statewide resource that will provide information on public land regulations, route creation and event planning best practices, and include a library of vetted routes
- Facilitating the coordination of land managers/other stakeholders and route creators (such as tourism promotion agencies interested in promoting gravel routes) to develop high quality routes that encourage responsible land use/stewardship and economic development
- Continuing to host a yearly Gravel Summit to encourage statewide (and beyond) collaboration
Image Credits: Helena Kotala