This week we take you Kansas! In the land of the Flint Hills nestles the Gravel City of Emporia, home to the Dirty Kanza. With off-road adventures abound there is no place like Gravel City Adventure and Supply Company to well equip you for your next ride or race, but more than just that, they take pride in creating a community.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Co-owner of Gravel City Adventure and Supply Co., Adam Blake. After meeting Adam at last year's Dirty Kanza his energy and passion for the cycling community was contagious. We clicked from then on and we're proud to have Gravel City Adventure & Supply Co. as a partner and our 2017 Dealer of the Year. Without further ado, let's dive in!
Cantu Cycling Wheels [CW]: Tell us about how Gravel City Adventure and Supply Co. started?
Adam Blake [AB]: Gravel City started as a way to support the sponsors of Dirty Kanza. They gave to us and we wanted to give back by stocking and selling their products. That was in a pop up store behind DK promotions. Quickly, with the addition of bikes, we outgrew our space and had to move into the current location. We expanded our offerings and created a true Gravel shop with full service on all makes and models of bikes.
CW: The cycling community is strong in Emporia for many reasons. What does building a community mean to you?
AB: Community is a primary focus for us. "Building community one adventure at a time," is our motto and we strongly believe in that. Building that community takes many forms and doesn’t just mean selling bikes. It means putting on socials, hosting clinics, expanding the customers usages for their bike, whether bike packing, gravel riding, commuting, or trail riding. Building a strong cycling community of all age and skill levels solidifies Emporia as a destination for people to come enjoy and experience.
CW: What do you enjoy about helping people find the right bike and equipment for their needs?
AB: It's all about finding the right value for people. I love when someone can come in and test ride bikes and dedicate some time to their search for “the right bike”. We believe we carry the right bikes for success in our niche and the right accessories to make your ride more enjoyable. Ultimately, I try and listen more than talk and act as a personal guide for all things gravel and cycling in general. The connection you make when you spend the appropriate amount of time with someone is invaluable. Making friends and bolstering the cycling community is where it's at!
CW: Tell us about your first gravel experience?
AB: Well I grew up in small town Iowa, so gravel was all around, but my first real gravel experiences, at least at longer distances, came from the Cup O’ Dirt. It is a challenge that encourages riders to participate in 100k and 100 mile gravel or off-road rides in search of the elusive (literal) Cup O’ Dirt.
CW: If you could take a 2-week long bikepacking trip anywhere, where would it be and why?
AB: Man taking two weeks off seems like a dream! I’d really like to explore Iceland. The topography and scenery seem like ones that were made up in a fairy tale.
CW: What big events are you looking forward to this year?
AB: First and foremost I’m looking forward to Dirty Kanza- "The World's Premier Gravel Grinder". The DK really brings our community together. People from far away and locally here in Emporia all banding together to cheer on riders and embrace gravel… there’s nothing like it. Beyond that I’m not personally participating in anything big, but I love to follow the dots on the Tour Divide. We have a few customers tackling that beast this year and it will be great to support them from afar. Bobby Thompson, one of our shop mechanics, is an avid gravel rider and will be riding in gravel events throughout the year.
CW: Favorite part of Dirty Kanza week?
AB: Just being in the shop, wrenching and selling. So much excitement and so much energy flows through our shop that weekend. They are long days, but the interactions we have with people (and coffee) keep us going. Making friends, telling tall tales, and watching the finish line as personal goals are accomplished…awesome.
CW: Where is your happy place?
AB: HA, I just answered this question to myself a few weeks ago out loud. It's DEFINITELY around a fire, with friends and my fiancé, maybe a root beer, eating dehydrated food from a bag. Can’t beat it.
CW: What has been your biggest bike adventure to date?
AB: On the bike, my best and biggest adventures have been centered around 3 day tours. Up to Chequamegon [Wisconsin] or here locally. With driving they take up about 5 days and usually that's about all I can manage to get out of the shop for. They’re not too daunting and nothing major, but fun and refreshing.
CW: What advice do you have for a someone who is interested in looking to start riding gravel or bikepacking?
AB: Visit your local bike shop. Try bikes out- you should be allowed to test ride (and for a little while). Try to focus on features that stick out to you and seem to resonate. Bikes are very feature packed, but if it isn’t something you’d use then it loses its value. As far as bags go: look for rental bags, we rent handlebar rolls and seatbags as well as some other camping equipment. Find a friend and go on an overnighter, somewhere close… try it out!