Dirty Kanza
Photo credit: Patrick P. Evenson

Legacy Reborn: Storied Gravel Bike Race Pedals on With New Name

Responding to concerns over the cultural inferences of its original race name, Life Time Fitness announced today the new title for the 15-year-old ‘DK’ gravel series.

In 2021, scores of riders will take part in the first-ever Garmin UNBOUND Gravel race seriesAlthough it will mark the 16th year of grinding across the rolling Flint Hills of Emporia, Kansas, by bike, it will be the inaugural event under the new moniker.

Formerly known as the “DK,” the race series and its parent company, Life Time Fitness, came under fire from people in and outside of the Kaw Nation. They alleged — and Life Time later agreed — the name represented a derogatory slur against the Kaw people.

For months over the summer, the race held no official name, even as the pandemic ultimately forced the cancellation of this year’s event. So, with the race’s festivities a year away, Life Time enlisted local businesses and tourism boards, cycling media, Tribal Leaders for the Kaw Nation, and more to arrive at a title to reboot what it calls the “World’s Premier Gravel Event.”

“Our team agreed that we wanted a name, logo and colors that embody the Flint Hills of Kansas,” said Michelle Duffy, Director of Off-Road Events Marketing at Life Time. “The word UNBOUND most literally means to be free. It represents the free-range cattle, wild mustangs and native bison in the prairie of the Flint Hills, who move freely and live wild. It’s synonymous with our participants who experience a sense of freedom on the gravel roads outside of Emporia, in those moments ‘unbound’ from anything else.”

UNBOUND Gravel Bike Race

Beyond the name change, Life Time noted further actions related to the UNBOUND event — and others in its 30+ event platform — to further diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

The brand committed $95,000 to a School Food Program as part of a multiyear partnership with Emporia Public Schools. Life Time said it will also donate 15% of all race merchandise sales to DEI initiatives surrounding UNBOUND Gravel.

The 2021 Garmin UNBOUND Gravel series comprises five events over 4 days, beginning on June 5. Races range between 25 and 350 miles, with entrants selected based on a lottery system. Those who had confirmed registration for this year’s event will receive advanced deferral registration on November 16. For more info, check out the UNBOUND Gravel race page.

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Adam Ruggiero

Adam Ruggiero is the editor-in-chief of GearJunkie and a fan of virtually all sports and activities. From biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming — if it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.