Gravel, All-Road, Bikepacker, Adventure Bike….marketing terms for a somewhat nebulous and ill-defined target demographic into which bicycle brands have desperately been hurling new product development. Golly, I do like bike design but I hate the debate over what is the most appropriate name for the genre. It’s just like that one song, “you say tomato, I say f*** you”.
As if one term can reign in all the conflicting ideas and give a hierarchy to the products, yet that is the goal of the nefarious science known as marketing. I don’t really have the head for that kind of mysticism and etherealism; I’m more interested in the corporeal, the carbon, and the titanium. What is the product, where did come from, where is it aimed?
Three bikes have caught my attention recently. The Salsa Cutthroat, the Open Cycle UP, and the Cannondale Slate.
With a stable of successful house brands including Surly and Salsa (and sort of successful brands like Civia), QBP have been quick to capitalize on recent trends such as fatbikes and now that….you know….gravel/adventure thingie. This month Salsa introduced the Cutthroat….named after some sort of fish (gotta name a bike something, I guess). They call it a mountainbike for dropbars, a race bike for the Tour of the Divide, equipped with 2.4” 29er tyres. Well, there have been dropbar mountainbikes in the past. Famously, the legend that is John Tomac raced a dropbar mtb on the NORBA circuit fresh off racing road with the pro European peloton about 25 years ago, but drawing a direct lineage between Tomac’s experiment and the Cutthroat is strained at best. That’s probably because the term “mountainbike” is hard pressed to encompass both a 2-3 hour NORBA-style mtb race and an adventure-style race that may a week or longer, basically unsupported.