Field Mag may receive a minor commission from purchases made via affiliate links.
In an activity dominated with handlebar-mounted GPS computers, Gravel Adventure Field Guide offers an analog alternative for navigating gravel rides or bikepacking trips—one that doesn’t require batteries, chargers, or screen time. Admittedly old school, these pocket-sized, regional guidebooks are full of illustrated maps detailing what routes to ride along with insights into the relevant culture and history of a destination. As co-founder Juan A. DelaRoca puts it, all the “local information that matters."
Gravel Adventure Field Guide got its start in 2019, after a successful gravel bike tourism campaign promoting the emerging gravel bike scene in Trinidad, Colorado inspired DelaRoca and GAFG co-founder, designer, and illustrator Stephen Beneski to create their first guidebook covering the region. The project motivated them to seek out other underlooked, rural communities that would benefit from a one-of-a-kind guidebook of its own, leading to future iterations of the niche publication.
“We filled a void with this product. There was nobody creatively curating and promoting an outdoor recreation asset that many rural communities possess: unpaved roads,” says DelaRoca. “We thought there was an opportunity to create something that was a mashup of vintage National Geographic and DIY Zine.”
"There was an opportunity to create something that was a mashup of vintage National Geographic and DIY Zine"
The creativity behind each original guidebook leaps off the page with thoughtfully designed artwork, hand drawn maps (which do include links to corresponding GPS maps—the GAFG team knows computers are integral to cycling and reliable navigation after all). Each are accompanied by clever and whimsical short films by filmmaker Justin Balog. The look and feel isn’t just for show either, it’s part of a larger story that Gravel Adventure Field Guide is trying to tell.
“Our content educates, or reinforces, important themes like conservation, stewardship, and community development,” says DelaRoca.
"The spirit of gravel is found everywhere.”
When it comes to highlighting rural communities and finding the adventure within them, there’s no better way to do it than a human-powered adventure on two wheels. Like the terrain, the service in these areas might be unpredictable, but also pushes riders to tap into a deeper sense of confidence, improve their navigation and route planning, and discover something new.
To date, Gravel Adventure Field Guide has published six guidebooks highlighting overlooked regions in places like Southern Arizona and Southeast Colorado, and will soon launch a seventh book in their first-ever East Coast destination: Roanoke, Virginia. “With more folks seeking quieter and off the beaten path roads, many new places to ride become exposed,” says DelaRoca. “Publishing the Virginia’s Blue Ridge edition is a big win for us, because it shows that the spirit of gravel is found everywhere.”
As DelaRoca sees it, encouraging gravel riders to visit lesser-known areas is sustainable tourism in action. Not only can it reduce overcrowding in popular destinations, it also gives overlooked communities the boost they need to grow—and bicycle riders empty roads. But none of that will happen if people don’t even know a place exists or what it has to offer.
“A Gravel Adventure Field Guide helps fill that gap in knowledge. We give places a chance to tell their story in a way that creates socio-economic benefits,” says DelaRoca, who also has his sights set on international locations for future editions. “Hopefully, our business remains rooted in the grassroots vibe of gravel. It’s where the magic resides.”