Same Great Gravel Taste! America’s biggest gravel race gets a rebrand.

People are poking some predictable fun at DK’s new name.

You’ll recall Lifetime parted ways with the event’s cofounder in June and committed to renaming the race. The original title’s racist connotations had grown intolerable, and the folks in Emporia and at Lifetime hunkered down for several months to do their work.

They went public with the results last week. DK is, from this point forward, Unbound Gravel.

A new look for an old race. (Image, unboundgravel.com)

And a good fraction of the gravel community went … Really?

If the new name with its leaping buffalogo and breathless announcement felt to you like the stiff work of a committee and a corporation in collaboration with a marketing firm, that’s probably because it is. And that’s OK.

I’ll admit I found it a little odd at first that they’d hang the race’s identity on a word describing what it isn’t. But I can see why—after all the chest-squeezing pressure they’ve been under for months—the word “unbound” would resonate with them. Hell, considering how tangled up, locked down and constipated my 2020 has been, I sure could go for some unbinding myself.

So crack a few jokes if you need to. Call Unbound Gravel unappetizing, unimaginative, un-whatever-you-want. Do it now. And get it out of your system.

Because the men and women behind this race are taking a meaningful step away from racism and toward more inclusivity in our sport. And we’d be jackasses to act too righteous, too anti-commercial, or just too damn cool to take that step with them.

Go, team! Treva Worrel, Kristi Mohn, Michelle Duffy, LeLan Dains (Photo, unboundgravel.com)

As someone who feeds a middle-class family through marketing efforts not so different from this one, I’ll tell you that even these big rebranding campaigns boil down to new packaging. And what’s inside the box—this 200-mile ribbon of ego-eating rock—remains beautifully unchanged.

The marketplace changes; the landscape doesn’t. (Photo, Linda Guerrette)

Grappling with this gorgeous, unforgiving course is what unbinds the race’s meaning from the package of its name. That was true for DK; it’ll be equally true for Unbound Gravel. The same toughness that sees us through the race will carry its organizers through a short stint of unfair, unkind, unbound heckling.

Not thrilled with the new look? Give it time. We have plenty. The long run is what brings us to Emporia anyway.

I bet folks made fun of Dick Butkus’s name, too–for a little while. (Photo, Chicago Tribune)
I hope the folks in Emporia pay as much attention to the post-name-change noise as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did. Keep living your principles and it’ll all sort out. (Photo, David McNew)

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