HomeLifestyleWhy Gravel Racing? | Experience Life

Why Gravel Racing? | Experience Life

[MUSIC PLAYING] Hey, everybody. Welcome to this mini episode of Life Time Talks. I’m Jamie Martin. 

And I’m David Freeman. 

And at the moment, we’re actually excited to have group members from our athletic occasions group right here with us to speak about gravel racing and the rise on this off-road sport. David, I’m going at hand it over to you to welcome our friends. 

Yeah, we obtained Michelle Duffy. She’s the director of our advertising and marketing model and content material technique at Life Time athletic occasions and has led large advertising and marketing efforts off-road races at Life Time for a number of years. And we’ve obtained anyone else that’s particular. Jamie, who else we obtained? 

Yeah, Kristi Mohn is right here with us as effectively. She has constructed and formed the unbound gravel race since its inception and joined the Life Time group in 2018, when Life Time acquired that occasion. Kristi has additionally been actually integral in launching the DEI initiative and efforts inside the athletic occasions group. Each for unbound and different athletic occasions that Life Time runs. She can also be the co-founder of the Ladies Gone Gravel podcast. Thanks each for becoming a member of us at the moment. 

Properly, howdy. 


Hi there, we love having a fellow podcaster on with us. That’s superior, Kristi. 

No strain, proper? 

No strain in any respect. By no means. All proper, we’re going to leap proper into this subject as a result of, you recognize, we now have heard and been studying, and clearly, we all know as a result of we’re half Of Life Time that gravel racing is on the rise. So we need to, before everything, simply set the stage for everyone. What’s gravel racing? And the way is it totally different from different types of biking? 

Properly, I feel gravel racing is fairly merely outlined as using your bike on off-road blended terrain surfaces. So mainly, once you use the time period Gravel, however it actually implies off the street, off the asphalt, off the pavement. It’s been round for a really very long time. However the kind that we appear to see at the moment, actually in all probability began taking form in 2005-2006. And I’d say unbound gravel was one of many main occasions in that area of serving to to develop the off-road gravel scene. I feel we’re seeing such an increase in recognition for a number of causes, a few that are the center of the nation is simply full of gravel roads, they’re simply so accessible, they usually’re all over the place. And it’s fairly straightforward to get out in your bike and discover these. 

Secondly, I do really feel just like the street isn’t as protected because it was. Drivers are sometimes distracted and never essentially taking note of what’s in entrance of them. And so being on off-road surfaces tends to lend your self to a little bit bit extra of a security setting from the angle of your fellow man on the market in a a lot greater automobile than your bike is. 

After which third, I feel it’s only a fairly– like I stated, it’s fairly accessible. You possibly can take any bike on it, there’s the tools wants, though you may spend a ton of cash on in gravel biking, you can too simply– I all the time prefer to say, “Any bike is a gravel bike”, so you may simply, form of, get on the market and discover and it’s an effective way to discover terrain round you. 

I like that introduction. Thanks for grounding us with that. I simply need to take you again all the way down to reminiscence lane. Do you bear in mind the age you have been at once you first discovered methods to journey your first bike? 


Oh, yeah, I used to be in all probability six. And I bear in mind particularly asking for a Schwinn bike with the banana seats and the massive ol’ handlebars that got here up like this. I obtained that for Christmas once I was in second grade, and I do not forget that bike very particularly. And I additionally bear in mind the sensation that I actually had, like using that bike and feeling like I may go wherever. Like, in fact, that wasn’t precisely true. However in my thoughts’s, I as a child, I used to be like, I can go additional than across the block. And I believed that was actual, I can journey myself to softball follow. It simply was a second of particular freedom, and I very a lot do not forget that. 

That’s superior. I imply, going again to what’s gravel racing, after which going again to your childhood and the way you, form of, got here into using bikes. You stated 2005 it began to select up, it began to– everyone wished to change into a part of this. So over the previous, what, 18 years, we’re now in 23. What do you assume trigger such a draw to this sport? 

The group that surrounds it’s simply completely phenomenal. , you may convey your pals, you may convey your children, you may convey your partner, everyone can come and play for essentially the most half. And I feel, I’m actually happy with the work that we’ve achieved at Life Time in making the area much more inclusive and ensuring individuals really feel welcome to come back and be part of us at a begin line and expertise the end line and whether or not you’re using or simply spectating. There’s an area for you in gravel writing. 

Michelle, I need to toss it over to you for a second. You’ve been with Life Time for about 5 years, you helped to launch our inaugural Grand Pr-ix race collection. When Life Time began getting concerned in additional of those off-road races, why do you assume that was? What have been you and the group noticing, that was like, we’ve obtained to get extra on this area? How was that? How did that evolve? 

Yeah, I feel, we have been– Once I got here into this position for since 2011, we’ve had the Leadville race collection occasions they usually actually grounded us in our success and understanding the success primarily based on group, and occasion just like the Leadville path 100 mountain bike race in Colorado doesn’t exist with out the backbones of that group. And whereas that’s historically a mountain bike race, I feel that tradition interprets into what we’re seeing within the profitable gravel occasions across the nation. And so they could have stunning gravel roads and terrain that you simply’d by no means in any other case see if you weren’t in your bike. 

However they do present accessibility they usually do include actually robust communities, whether or not that’s the local people during which the occasion takes place, or the group that gathers via the bike and understanding that, I feel, Life Time has achieved a extremely nice job, our group. Particularly on taking the time to take part, taking the time to open our arms to that sport. I didn’t journey bikes, once I took this job. I rode a motorbike, I had a motorbike, however I didn’t lean into biking, till we began to construct our portfolio, deeper into the area and it required, taking the time to actually perceive what the game’s grounded in, to ensure that us to seek out success. 

How will we purchase these occasions and simply leaned into rising this as massive because it may very well be, and, form of, steering away and forgetting what actually uplifts these occasions, I don’t assume that we’d discover as a lot success. I don’t assume, that we might have been in a position to launch new occasions and promote them out, with out prior possession, and not using a group that’s had that occasion for 10 years previous to Life Time coming in. And I feel, that’s one thing that not simply Life Time, however the gravel group as a complete actually leans into, the place is it positioned? How can I assist? The group volunteers, native companies, all of that form of helps to construct the expertise past the bike. 

I like what you stated there. I imply, you must lean in at sure time limits, in case you’re connecting and serving individuals on this area. So that you began using extra often and getting concerned. So my subsequent query goes to be for each of you. I’ll begin with you, Michelle. What’s the longest distance you’ve lined on a motorbike? 

Kristi has me beat on this one. I’ve achieved like 120 miles. 

In a single setting? 

Yeah. However you haven’t requested Kristi but. 


OK, OK. Kristi, you’re up. What you bought for us? 

Properly, I’ve achieved, I’ve really competed and accomplished our 200-mile occasion. So I’ve achieved the complete 206 miles, after which additionally did it wasn’t in in the future, however I did the Ho Chi Minh Path over in Laos over the course of eight days, and that was fairly. That’s fairly intense. 

Yeah, you assume, proper? 


So, I imply– 


I used to be in method over my head. 

I do know inside what you each stated this phrase inclusive. And that is one other massive factor that we’re large on right here at Life Time, ensuring everyone feels welcomed, supported to totally take part. So, what’s the youngest age that you simply’ve really seen take part at these occasions? And in addition, essentially the most veteran age, senior age, like so, what on each ends of the spectrum? What have you ever seen? 

Dang it, that’s an excellent one. I’m going to guess our youngest has been in all probability round seven or eight, and that’s in all probability within the 25 mile distance. I feel our oldest has been up within the 80s, 84, or 85, someplace in there. Is that proper, Michelle? 

Yeah, we’ve had individuals of their late 80s take part at a few of our occasions after which some occasions even have youth like children races. So we’ve seen Little Tykes on bikes, and that’s all the time actually enjoyable. However one thing that actually stood out to me final yr was standing in the beginning line of considered one of our occasions right here in Emporia, Kansas, and watching this in all probability seven or eight-year-old, like take off to go do the 25-mile occasion, and it was simply so tremendous, tremendous cool. These, Kristi, you stated earlier, the bike was a automobile that gave you some sense of freedom, and simply think about being seven years previous and attending to roll out of a city on a motorbike, like your dad and mom would by no means allow you to simply go, run, or clearly, you may’t drive a automotive. So how else would you be capable of journey that distance in a protected setting that your dad and mom know and belief? So I believed that was actually cool. 

Properly, a few issues that you simply’re alluding to right here as effectively is like, it doesn’t must be a 200-mile race. It may be a 25-mile race, and this actually has confirmed to be a sport the place it’s like, extra persons are getting concerned from all totally different walks of life. It’s not that they’re beginning younger, they’re ranging from– possibly they’re of their center age and simply beginning. So there’s actually begin small, however begin any time. There’s actually no limits on when you may take part. So are you able to converse to a little bit bit about that facet of it? 

For certain. I imply, I feel one of many issues I don’t like listening to is, “I’m simply doing the 25”, or “I’m simply doing the 50.” All of these distances are legitimate, they usually all include their very own challenges. And I feel that it’s one of many coolest issues that we now have, is that you would be able to be lined up with a extremely robust professional rider, and simply be, form of, coming into this and beginning to discover it and nonetheless be capable of do it and take part. And it’s simply– it’s one of many issues that I feel is the most effective half in regards to the gravel biking, simply on the whole, is that we attempt to accommodate totally different skills. And that may additionally imply totally different time commitments. Like, do you will have time to coach for a 200 mile? That takes loads of dedication and loads of time. So in case you don’t, then we now have different choices for you. That also– you may nonetheless take part and be a part of it. 

Yeah, I need to return to the group piece. And the inclusive piece. That was large. I do know we simply talked about age proper now. If you’re beginning to see totally different individuals present up on the beginning line, and I do know you’ve head up loads of the DEI initiatives. Are you able to share with us what you will have begin to see over the previous few years, because it involves evolving on this area and seeing all totally different shapes, sizes like all form of creed coming into this area. Are you able to share with us a little bit little bit of what you’ve been seeing? 

Positive. I imply, I feel it actually got here all the way down to a realization for me a number of years in the past, the place what I understood was that individuals though the area was inclusive, we would have liked to ask individuals, we would have liked to be sure that they knew that they have been welcome. And in doing so, we now have obtained extra, undoubtedly extra diligent about our strategy to that. And as we’ve grown and discovered increasingly, I feel one of many issues that Life Time has achieved rather well is use actually robust companions that we are able to belief to assist us herald all of these totally different features, whether or not it’s physique form, whether or not it’s pores and skin coloration, or no matter it’s, we’ve discovered actually stable companions to assist us assist them like they’ve entry to our platforms we’re in a position to give them, whether or not it’s an entry to a race or no matter it could be, whether or not it’s internet hosting coaching rides for them. It’s actually about discovering these companions locally and serving to them do the work to be sure that they perceive that the teams of folks that they journey with each day are welcome at our occasions. 

And that’s actually helped us develop the inclusivity in an extremely robust method that can survive this motion and this ardour that we’re seeing within the trade round DEI. We’re rising the subsequent group and it appears totally different than the one which’s at present been at a standard bike begin line. And I feel that’s actually thrilling. 

If I’m remembering accurately and proper me if I’m fallacious, from a fact-checking standpoint. However I had learn a New York Instances article that talked about when athletes discovered that, for example, there was a nonbinary class for the primary time in UNBOUND. And if I’m remembering that was simply a few years in the past, however it made an enormous distinction within the race. 

Are you able to converse to that piece of it? 

Yeah, we really rolled out a nonbinary class in 2020. However then with our good friend COVID, we didn’t get to host our first yr of occasions with nonbinary classes. So that actually got here to fruition in 2021 throughout the Life Time portfolio in UNBOUND Gravel was the primary occasion that occurred that yr, that we had a nonbinary podium. And by making simply that one class out there, accessible, and it created change inside the trade. 

Not solely did it open the doorways for people which can be nonbinary, however it additionally held different occasions accountable to must do the work themselves as effectively to hear, and to comply with go well with. And whether or not these occasions have been prepared or not, they needed to keep in an area. So it push the problem for them. And I feel that’s nice. I feel holding others accountable is a part of the work that we’re doing as effectively. We’re offering platforms. We’re offering accessibility. And we’re encouraging others to comply with go well with as an trade chief. 

This previous yr, we went from a one particular person on the rostrum in 2021, Krisit, to having a full podium within the 2022 200 and 100 occasions. So we noticed large progress there. And we noticed skilled athletes which can be nonbinary come to occasions like Huge Sugar and Wealthy McBride particularly, skilled triathlete that had by no means been in a position to compete in triathlons as nonbinary, was in a position to come to Huge Sugar Gravel and stand on their first nonbinary podium, and change into a champion there. And that was an enormous win for Wealthy, for us, and for the trade as a result of I feel after that we noticed the web page flip. 

There’s a statistic that I feel is basically vital to know. You talked about how accessible gravel racing is. I feel it was a New York Instances article as effectively. And I do know we’re doing a narrative in EL arising on gravel racing as effectively. However one thing like 2.2 million miles of unpaved roads within the US. That’s in response to the US Division of Transportation. And that’s so fascinating as a result of it actually does make it extra accessible for extra individuals. And I feel that’s an vital factor for individuals to notice. 

However with that in thoughts, there has additionally been this progress on the skilled aspect of the game as effectively. And I do know that, Michelle, you have been actually integral in rising our Grand Prix race collection. So I’d love for individuals to know a little bit bit about what that’s, and what it’s doing for this sport. 

Yeah. In 2022, we hosted the inaugural Life Time Grand Prix, which is comprised of a collection of already established Life Time biking occasions. And it was a couple of years in the past that we, one, began to acknowledge a change in tide. Whereas gravel using has been round for so long as a bicycle has been a automobile, gravel racing actually started within the early 2000s. But it surely wasn’t till round 2015/16 that we began to see skilled cyclists come to those occasions and expertise them for themselves. 

Since that point, in 2015 until at the moment, we’re seeing a rising tide in skilled cyclists which can be making a livelihood off of using their bike off street. That’s very totally different than it was simply in 2018 or 2019 the place it was nonetheless newsworthy if an elite bicycle owner was coming to a gravel occasion. And now we now have lots of of elite stage cyclists which can be coming to those occasions with sponsors bringing 300 manufacturers to our expos. 

And we actually took a step again, and we now have this superb portfolio of occasions. However then wanting on the followers that these athletes could have, the followers that these occasions entrance of pack could have, that’s nonetheless missing. And if you concentrate on the USA biking tradition, it’s been tarnished for the reason that Lance Armstrong period. 

And the way will we regenerate that? How will we work out methods to elevate a few of these athletes to the purpose the place in case you have a look at particular person sports activities like monitor and subject and Ashton Eaton, gymnastics and Simone Biles, golf and Tiger Woods, tennis and Serena Williams, they’ve a hero that stands on a pedestal and that individuals need to emulate. They comply with the game. They comply with the particular person. They fall in love with them. 

So how can we, utilizing the property that we now have, each create a life altering expertise for an on a regular basis rider that’s merely making an attempt to get to the end line of their first 25 mile occasion on a $200 bicycle and in addition feed the game by creating followers of the elites which can be doing this as a profession transfer, each for the elite athlete, ourselves, after which our sponsors which can be arising, exhibiting up, and offering experiences for our athletes? 

So we launched the Grand Prix. And it’s an utility primarily based initiative the place skilled athletes from world wide apply to be part of it. They arrive. They race six of our occasions. This yr we’re really transitioning to seven occasions. And so they’re competing for a $0.25 million greenback prize purse. 

I like it. And I do know there’s a documentary that’s out round this, a docuseries I ought to say. And so we’ll be capable of level to that too from this episode’s touchdown web page after we get to that. 

Completely. And the opposite key factor across the Life Time Grand Prix is that there’s 100% fairness. We took the identical quantity of girls as we did males. Our prize purse is 50/50 break up male to feminine. And our media protection is 50/50 break up male to feminine, each on at our occasions. However then as we speak about this docuseries, we’re taking a non-traditional strategy right here the place we’re making an attempt to point out you beneath the lens who these athletes are as individuals and the episodes. 

It’s a six episode collection and paperwork not simply how the race unfolded however who’s the human that’s Haley Smith, the now champion of the Life Time Grand Prix? And it goes from male to feminine to male to feminine deliberately in order that we are able to actually dig in to who these persons are. 

I can’t wait to see the complete factor. I’ve seen the trailer and I used to be like, that is going to be nice. The very last thing I need to simply toss over earlier than I hand it off to you, David, is again to you, Krisit, one factor that I’m listening to from all these athletes, we now have really athlete Sarah Sturm goes to be on the quilt of Expertise Life arising, actually excited. I’ve heard Haley Smith’s story a bit. And there appears to be this little bit a typical thread in a few of their tales about how gravel racing has introduced again some pleasure to their expertise of biking. And I feel let’s simply, earlier than we enroll, earlier than David asks you guys a couple of fast fireplace questions, inform us a little bit bit about that, the enjoyment that you simply’re discovering in your athletes, whether or not they’re newbie or execs. 

I feel within the day and age that we’re in, there’s a lot divisiveness. And the great factor, the little little bit of magic we now have in gravel is that even there could also be some points that we prefer to struggle about which can be enjoyable and humorous however in the end, all of us are right here for a similar purpose. And we’re all right here to cheer one another on. And so I feel once you’re in a group the place there’s simply that a lot assist, you simply can’t assist however smile once you’re on the market in your bike. 

And for an athlete like Sarah or Haley, they get to do that for a residing. And we’ve made it potential. That’s simply actually cool, and it’s tremendous enjoyable. And there’s undoubtedly strain in there. There’s undoubtedly stress, however it’s undoubtedly totally different than different types of biking. And I’m hoping we are able to hold it that method. And I’m hoping that 2 plus million gravel roads world wide don’t begin getting paved. 

All proper. David, over to you. 

I don’t need to name it a sizzling seat query. This a query that actually can help you go a little bit bit deeper in your mindset. I’m all the time large on mine as a result of I really feel like, clearly, any and all the pieces that we do it begins there. And understanding that you simply each have rode 100 plus miles, and I shared this story on one other podcast that we had. I feel it was with [INAUDIBLE]. I can’t bear in mind. 

However I did a century journey earlier than, and I shared how once I obtained round mile 80 that mentally I used to be on this place of like I really feel like each mile marker is arising slower and slower. So what I need you all each to share is your private expertise of essentially the most difficult journey that you simply might need had and what you ended up doing in these moments to get via it. 

So I journey the tandem lots with my husband. It’s form of a factor we do, the tandem on gravel. And we’ll take part in occasions on it. And this previous summer season, we rode gravel worlds, the unofficial gravel world which takes place in Lincoln, Nebraska. And usually, we’re completely in sync, and we simply grind away after we’re on a tandem bike. 

The place he’s within the entrance and he’s chargeable for just about all the pieces. And my accountability is to only eat and pedal. It’s a must to exert simply as a lot vitality. It’s a must to pedal on the similar cadence as a result of these bikes are entering into tandem. However we made a late resolution to 10 gravel worlds and I had not been using in any respect this summer season, so I went via a bonk within the excessive warmth of Nebraska again nation one may name it. And I put my tunes on and actually go searching me. 

And I feel that’s the important thing for me once I’m having a difficult journey is obstructing all the pieces else out. I discovered that to be my solace even on my greatest rides is wanting round me as a result of why else would I be out in these valleys and hills of rural America if it wasn’t for my bike? And discovering the peace and gratitude in that, understanding that it’s accessible to me. Whereas I used to be in Lincoln that point that’s actually how I discovered my soul. 

I made the choice to maneuver to Emporia, Kansas via work and thru assembly the individuals, my coworkers, my now husband, as a result of being in on the gravel in these rural communities has supplied a lot solace for me even when the journey is tough. So discovering that point, placing within the earbuds, and looking out round is basically what will get me via. And I like to only dig deep, so there’s that too. 

Like it. Thanks for sharing that. Krisit, what you bought? 

I obtained a little bit little bit of time to consider it whereas Michelle was answering. However once I was on that journey in Laos, I broke my wrist on the start of the second day. And actually being within the again roads of Nebraska feels such as you’re in the course of nowhere till you’re actually in the course of nowhere in Laos and there’s nowhere to go. And I had no option to proceed using. That was the one possibility. However in that second what I additionally realized was that I had chosen to be there. 

And I actually took the identical type of gratitude standpoint of like, I’m fortunate. My life is permitting me to do that. My physique permits me to be able to doing this. I’m so lucky to be right here and I must give attention to that versus the truth that it’s a battle and each mile looks like it’s going by an inch at a time. So I feel similar to Duffy, discovering a spot to only be appreciative of all the pieces you will have once you’re struggling is a fairly particular place and you’ll take that and apply it to anything. 

Thanks all for sharing that. I prefer it due to our listener is having the ability to perceive in these moments of battle or no matter it’s that they could be going via these phrases that y’all simply shared can now resonate with them or in all probability get them via the subsequent time they may have some bother happening mentally of their life. So I recognize y’all sharing that. 

You guess. 

And we’re going to wrap up this episode on that be aware as a result of I feel it’s a extremely excessive place for us to finish. And we need to simply test in with each of you. Are there locations individuals can comply with you, keep linked you on social or simply the Life Time athletic web site? The place do you need to level individuals? 

Yeah, we’d love in case you guys adopted together with the Life Time Grand Prix social channels. The deal with is simply that. Rising followers of a sport doesn’t essentially imply you should be on a motorbike; it simply means you want to have the ability to see your self in those who you’re following. And so I feel we’re going to have the ability to share some tales that individuals can actually resonate to via that channel. And we’d like to have listeners comply with alongside for that journey this yr and our second inaugural yr. 

Superior. And we are going to hyperlink to the docuseries, the totally different Instagram handles, and all that in our present notes. So thanks each for taking outing of your schedules. I do know race season is arising. Individuals are going to be on the roads, and in all types of race types arising right here shortly. So thanks for all of the work you’re doing to make it extra accessible for extra of us. 




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