- Fursa is the Swahili word for opportunity – and that is what these African gravel riders are getting
- With an abundance of gravel roads, African riders should feature more strongly in global gravel racing events
- Four Kenyan riders are now scheduled to ride at esteemed gravel racing events in the United States
Gravel riding is a hugely popular trend in cycling and one you would expect African riders to dominate.
There is no question that Africa has the largest network of used gravel roads. And with African long-distance runners dominating organized athletics, it seems strange that most global gravel races don’t feature a stronger African line-up or riders.
The truth is partly socio-economic. In Africa, riding gravel remains an outcome of utility for most riders. Not a leisure or fitness activity.
A breakthrough initiative could see better African representation at some of the world’s most recognized gravel races.
From East Africa - to the USA
During Kenya's great migration gravel race, international talent scouts identified four local riders of promise: John Kariuki, Geoffrey Langat, Sule Kangangi, and Nancy Akinyi. They represent Team Amani.
The race provided an ideal opportunity for African riders to show their gravel riding ability. It routed a rugged 650km over four days, with a testing 8000m of climbing. Not that East African athletes ever struggle with the idea of dealing with gradient or altitude.
With the assistance of Wahoo fitness, these Kenyans will ride some of the most famous gravel cycling events.
The Amani riders will be part of the SBT GRVL in Colorado, Belgian Waffle Ride Asheville, and Vermont’s Overland event. America remains an epicentre of gravel riding and the Amani riders are keen to give a good account of themselves.
African has great travel roads - and riders
Gravel riding started with the desire to explore more. During peak lockdown, riders wanted to avoid groups and people, further enhancing the appeal of gravel riding on quiet district roads.
Many cycling brands have reacted to the demand for gravel gear with new bikes, wheels, tyres, and accessories - targeted specifically at gravel riding. It is very much the popular trend in cycling right now.
African riders are often at a competitive disadvantage with traditional competitive road cycling, due to the lack of safe tar roads and safe training venues.
Regarding gravel riding, the continent's low tar road prevalence is an advantage of sorts. And the Amani riders are willing to show that Kenya’s long-distance running legacy, can transition to gravel cycling.