Researchers are studying 'The Spirit of Gravel' — no, really

Olympian and Sports Psychology student Haley Smith hopes to learn what draws people to gravel, the key pillars of the discipline and its impact on people's health and well-being

Scenes from the 2023 Unbound Gravel
(Image credit: Snowy Mountain Photography)

After nearly two decades, America's fling with gravel racing has blossomed into a full-fledged, international love affair that's even reached the pinnacle of professional bike racing: the recognition of the UCI and its awarding of a rainbow jersey.

What had started as unofficial off-road adventures among small groups of friends is now a way for former road or mountain biking pros to extend their careers. And with this influx of 'roadies,' funding and professionalization, many believe the so-called 'Spirit of Gravel' has come under threat. But what is this 'Spirit of Gravel'? What even is gravel?

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Anne-Marije Rook
North American Editor

Cycling Weekly's North American Editor, Anne-Marije Rook is old school. She holds a degree in journalism and started out as a newspaper reporter — in print! She can even be seen bringing a pen and notepad to the press conference.

Originally from The Netherlands, she grew up a bike commuter and didn't find bike racing until her early twenties when living in Seattle, Washington. Strengthened by the many miles spent darting around Seattle's hilly streets on a steel single speed, Rook's progression in the sport was a quick one. As she competed at the elite level, her journalism career followed, and soon she became a full-time cycling journalist. She's now been a cycling journalist for 11 years.