Words: Evan Wishloff
Photos: Stirl and Rae Media Haus
“I want to be a mega old guy who can still roll. I want to be 80 years old and still able to crush you.”
That is Kelly Servinski, a Swagman Ambassador, and the owner and operator of Tutti Gravel Inn, and he just might be the friendliest person on the planet. Unless you have an ego - then he wants to crush you.
We’re in Clinton, BC, a one-street town in Central BC that Servinski has dubbed the new Frontier of Gravel; the home of the best gravel riding in the world. It’s also where Servinski started Tutti Gravel Inn less than a year ago, which is a story in itself.
On a fluke chance, Servinski found himself riding in the area shortly before leaving for a riding trip to Italy. And the rest of it… well, I’ll let his words do the talking.
“I was in the middle of a ride, sitting down by the river, and found myself thinking I don’t want to go to Italy. I have everything I need here. So I looked at a few houses and put an offer in before my flight to Italy a few days later. We actually signed the paperwork while overseas on that trip. And now here we are, Tutti Gravel Inn.”
While this little town might not have much in the traditional sense, it does have its fair share of character… and characters, Servinski being one of them. His infectious excitement for the experience of riding gravel in the Cariboos is unmatched, so much so that I've dubbed him the Mayor of Gravel.
The Mayor of Gravel may also find himself the Mayor of Clinton one day - he seemed to know everybody by name, both in the town, as well as the ranches and farmhouses along the hundreds of kilometres of gravel routes he has scoped out for guests of Tutti.
As we passed ranch after ranch, farmhouse after farmhouse, and homestead after homestead, he seemed to know the story of every resident.
We came upon a farmhouse with more “No Trespassing” signs than I’ve ever seen in a single location, and Servinski says, “Oh that’s Tony’s place. He offered me some of his organic vegetables during one of my rides.”
Coming up to a junction in the road, I ask Servinski about hydrating during the heat of summer. “How do you bring enough water to get you through some of these rides?”
“It’s hard… I was actually out here looking for a place to bury a cooler where I could stash water for myself and guests. Then Dennis from over there let me in on a secret.” Servinski was gesturing to yet another private property. “I was riding by one day and this guy offered me water from an artesian well on his property. It’s ice-cold, even in the heat of summer, and he told me my guests can stop by to fill up anytime.”
Finally, there’s Robert, owner of the Sugar Shack, which is a fixture from Servinski’s Poutine Ride route. Robert is a loud, boisterous, friendly, French Canadian. He greets us, alongside his many dogs, loudly chastising Servinski for being lazy. See, usually, a poutine stop at the Sugar Shack comes as part of a ride well north of 100 km for Servinski. Robert isn’t impressed by Servinski’s winter riding mileage.
“Only 60 km...you lazy bugger!”
Yet, poutine was still had. A visit to the Sugar Shack is incomplete without.
Whether it’s 60 km in the winter, or mega-mileage 200+ km outings in the summer, Servinski is no stranger to the joy he finds when riding his bike. And he’s ready to share it with the world.
“BC is the gravel capital of the world, and Clinton is the mecca of it all,” he says.
And the Mayor of Gravel, a man of the people, is fighting to keep gravel riding fun, inclusive and friendly. Sure, if you’re looking for it, he’ll take you out for 200 km and attack you every step of the way. Like a boxer with no quit, he’ll go blow for blow on rides with almost 8,000 metres - yes, that’s right, 8,000 metres - of climbing.
But you need-not be intimidated by the Mayor of Gravel. He’s equally excited about the opportunity to ride with beginners, newbies and amateurs, giving them their first taste of riding on gravel with far more reasonable distances and routes. There's not an ounce of attitude or elitism in his body.
If you need any more convincing that the Mayor of Gravel is all about enabling fun for gravel riders without judgment, I’ll leave you with one more story.
I asked Servinski about the goggles he was wearing to fight back the brisk winter chill in the air.
“These biker bros started making fun of me for posting pictures with goggles on,” Servinski told me. “We get it, you crush IPAs, you have a dog, you drive a Toyota Tacoma, you have a tattoo… Yea, I’ve got ink too. It’s a bug bite on my arm. Gravel has no place for that bro-judgement here!”
Apologies to the IPA-loving dog owners who drive a Toyota Tacoma out there, but his point is that gravel riding is a judgement-free zone - the convergence of every discipline without any of the attitude. And Servinski wants to share it with the world.