I know I’m not alone when I say this: Some of my best ideas for writing about bikes come to me while I’m riding them.
That’s one reason why Julia Polloreno and Jess Cerra believe that their new project, a website called grav.elle, will serve as a reflection of what’s going on for women in the gravel world in real time. The two are always getting story ideas while out on the bike.
“When you’re connected to the content by doing it, it’s an easier driver to story ideas because you know what your audience is experiencing,” Polloreno told VeloNews. “So for us there’s no shortage of story ideas because we’re always riding.”
Grav.elle, which launches today, aims to be a resource for female gravel cyclists of all abilities and backgrounds. Although its content will primarily focus on the positives of riding gravel — advice and how-to’s, first-person accounts, nutrition, travel stories, and more — the impetus to start the project was triggered by an annoyance.
Polloreno says that she was reading an article about a new gravel race in Kansas when it occurred to her that there might be a place for something like grav.elle in the media landscape.
“It ended with, ‘so bring the wife and kids for a fun weekend of cycling,'” she said. “And it rubbed me the wrong way, like this is yet another example of bro speak, they’re clearly not even thinking about a large demographic of gravel cyclists. I sent a screenshot to Jess.”
Polloreno and Cerra met in California, where they both live, largely because of bikes. From 2010 to 2016, Polloreno was editor-in-chief of VeloNews‘ sister publication Triathlete and she often contracted Cerra, a chef and then-pro road cyclist, to write recipes and nutrition-based content for the magazine. Then, she attended one of Cerra’s women-focused gravel camps, sold her road bike, and went “all in with a gravel set-up.” The two remained in touch.
Polloreno says that the annoying language about the ‘wife and kids’ touched a nerve for both of the women.
“It seems like a subtlety,” she said, “but it speaks to a larger issue of not feeling included in this community. We thought, we should create something that is for female gravel cyclists that really speaks to our interests and makes us feel like we’re connected, and it’s not intimidating, and we’re getting a chance to talk about things that are important to us.”
And, the ‘us’ is meant to be collective. Polloreno says that grav.elle will feature a diverse range of content and voices. She relied heavily on Cerra, who is a tireless mover-and-shaker in the gravel world (we covered a few of her other projects in this piece about the Scuderia Pinarello), to help spread the word to some of gravel’s most influential females.
Alison Tetrick, Amanda Nauman, Sarah Sturm, Brooke Goudy, Amity Rockwell, and Devin Cowens are just a few of the riders who will write on the site, and their contributions will range from the personal (the impact of cycling on mental health) to the practical (bibs vs. baggies).
Polloreno said that grav.elle will evolve according to the interests of its audience. As women ride and race and participate in the world of gravel, she encourages them to reach out with ideas and observations.
“What they want this to be, what they feel like is missing,” she said. “This is Jess and me, so we can be really nimble. We’re truly steering the ship with this. It’s easy to stay up late and work on weekends for this because we’re so pumped to put this together.”