Tech gallery: Working-class gravel bikes from the FoCo Fondo

Bikes look real different when the people riding them actually have to pay for them.

James Huang
by James Huang 03.08.2023 Photography by
James Huang
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Bike publications – ourselves included – love to showcase the race rigs of various pro riders. Not surprisingly, those things are chock-full of the latest-and-greatest: top-end frames, cutting-edge carbon fiber wheels, fancy flagship electronic groupsets, custom paint, aero this, ultralight that, you name it.

But those riders almost never have to pay for those bikes out of pocket, and even if they do, it’s never at full retail. 

So what do “regular” folks end up with when they’re on the hook for the bill themselves? What if they’re shopping the secondhand market and dealing with a limited supply? What motivates them to choose a particular bike, and what’s off the table?

I recently attended the FoCo Fondo, a popular gravel event in Fort Collins, Colorado that currently attracts nearly 2,000 participants not only for the picturesque mixed-terrain routes on Sunday, but also for the variety of family-friendly activities the organizers line up for the entire weekend. 

Instead of seeking out the shiniest and priciest machines in the field, I sought out a more random assortment of working-class rigs. I also asked folks why they bought what they bought, and why they got into gravel riding in the first place. 

Perhaps none of this will surprise you, but maybe some of it will. But regardless, it’s a good reminder that most of us aren’t dropping US$10k+ on our bikes.

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