Independent Gravel

GRASSROOTS & INDEPENDENT

FOR THE FUN OF IT

Independent Gravel founder and organizer Wayne Whitesides can be found most days in his front porch rocking chair, puffing on his old corncob pipe and weaving yarns about gravel’s glory days, before The Big Guys started buying out events. Must be going on what, five, ten years ago now. Feels like a lifetime.

Back then, he says as the young bucks roll their eyes and hit “submit” on their $250 lottery entries—back then, you could roll up to a ride with less than $100 in your pocket, and you’d get a cue sheet, a hell of a ride, a good meal and a hug from the promoter. You’d even leave with gas money to get home. Maybe you’d win a little cash, maybe not, but you’d make friends that you’d see again at the next one, in the next town, and they’d remember you and you’d have a beer together and eventually they’d become some of the people who knew you best in the world. That’s how gravel used to be, he says. Back then.

Of course, that was before corporations saw the potential. What if, instead of paying a few bucks here and there for a bunch of little rides, you could bring all the gravel cyclists to one huge event? With thousands of entry fees and big-time sponsorships, they could quintuple the cash payouts and still profit. It’d be like Burning Man for bikes—everyone would love it!

They were right. The rides became standardized and homogenized, but damn, were they exciting. The best riders, the best routes, the biggest fanfare. Massive payouts, massive groups to ride with. Major sponsors and major swag. Little local events can’t compete with momentum like that, which made it tough for riders, who’d have to choose between the local events they’d always loved and the siren call of these shiny new BFD brouhahas.

The good old days of gravel aren’t all that long ago, and some of the best events are still going strong. (Shout out to Bobby at The Mid South, where hugs are still included.) But it’s tough watching the money get sucked up and out of the cycling community, leaving behind a brittle shell of the spontaneous communal joy that once powered these events.

Wayne at Independent Gravel and with the help of his friends at the East Point Track Club and MTB Atlanta, are 100% dedicated to developing road, gravel, criteriums, MTB, cross, and track events that can compete with the big guys. Since 2017, we’ve been steadily building up steam, providing bigger and bigger payouts, major swag and huge energy, all at the grassroots level.

It’s not that outlandish once you factor in what you save when you don’t have to split the profits with corporate shareholders.

As radical as it sounds, we involve the local community and cycling community as much as possible, offer fair pay to the people who do the work, and make sure riders get back every ounce of value they put in—and then some. As our participation continues to grow, we’re committed to staying small and different. Because there’s more than enough big-and-samey in the world already.