There’s gravel in them thar hills around Clinton, and a local cyclist wants to share it with the world.
Kelly Servinski, of the Tutti Hotel in Clinton, wants to promote the community as a “gravel cycling” destination. A former Squamish resident, he and Erin Yao relocated to Clinton in 2019 after Servinski was blown away by the swath of well-maintained gravel roads coursing through spectacular scenery: the right ingredients for what he calls a resurgence in gravel bike riding.
“Clinton is a mecca for gravel riding,” Servinski, 48, says. “It’s not a new form of cycling. This type of riding was done ages ago. Just like everything in life it has come full circle.”
Servinski says he sees the Cariboo as a destination for gravel biking, similar to what the Chilcotin was to mountain biking six or seven years ago. The sport is just as it sounds, with bikers hitting the gravel or Forest Service roads around the region for a short- or long-distance spin. Riders use a bike similar to a road bike, with drop bars and a lot of gears but bigger tires. While they could ride a mountain bike, Servinski says those are best kept for the mountain bike meccas of 100 Mile House and Williams Lake, as gravel riders don’t really need suspension.
The icing on the cake? Unlike mountain biking, which requires trails to be built and developed over time, “The gravel is already there. It’s a no-brainer.”
Servinski, a former bike salesperson for 11 years, says his favourite trip is a 240-kilometre loop to Lillooet via the Big Bar Ferry, although he could just as easily ride to 70 Mile House or out to Pavilion.
“You get a trip across the ferry, how beautiful is that?” he says. “Catch me on another day and I’m up on Big Bar Road or at the Chasm.”
While he doesn’t yet offer tours, he provides accommodation and is booked for the season, with some guests returning for the fourth time. The tagline for his company is “Gravel is the new gold.”
“We knew they would love it. The level of road maintenance is just unbelievable,” he says. “Some [riders] think they’re going to come up to a little village in the middle of nowhere and all the roads are going to be bombed out and they’re not.
“When people get to see what this area is in a cycling sense … it’s quiet and beautiful. We love the area, we truly do.”
The sport, which is huge in Europe, tends to attract people in their mid-30s to 60s. Although the majority are men, Servinski says a lot of women are finding it’s a great opportunity to go out with their girlfriends, and are “the strong fearsome go-getters.”
His aim, he says, is to market the sport and attract people to Clinton, and he’d like to work with local First Nations to tell their stories along the way. He says he’s been amazed at the support of the town, noting local ranchers have lent a hand to bike riders who were struggling to make it back home.
Cyclists, he adds, pick up after themselves and just enjoy the solitude of being on the bike. “We want the same thing as the rancher or the hillbilly guy. They want to be left alone, so do we.
“We just want to be a member of the community and this area. I see myself riding there until I have a heart attack on my bike.”