October 20, 2021
Tutti Gravel Inn is a home away from home for gravel cyclists in the Southern Cariboo Region of British Columbia, Canada. The Inn is run by Kelly Servinski, a cycling industry veteran & his wife Erin. Together with their cat, Buzz, they have created something special - a warm home with access to the most pristine gravel BC has to offer.
In Central British Columbia lies the stunning Cariboo Region that stretches from the Fraser Canyon to the Cariboo mountains. Named after the caribou that once thrived there, the region boasts a diverse range of geography and rich history. For thousands of years, the region has been home to a number of interior First Nations, and is comprised of the unceded land and traditional territories of the Secwepemc and Stl'atl'imx in the south-central part of the region, the Tsilhqot'in in the east, and the Dakelh in the north. In the 1860s the Cariboo Gold Rush brought prospectors from all over North America, and other entrepreneurs who arrived to serve the growing towns and settlements.
Gravel cycling represents freedom. The ability to get outside, explore, and not be confined by well, literally anything. The Cariboo Region epitomizes that freedom with its wide-open vistas, ranches, rugged mountains, arid grasslands, and wild rivers all connected by endless dirt roads. If you are looking for immaculate gravel surrounded by natural beauty, look no further than the Cariboo Region of central British Columbia.
When Jay told me about a work/play trip he was planning to the Region and staying at Tutti Gravel Inn, I immediately invited myself. Thankfully, Jay was gracious in altering his plans for me to tag along.
We left Victoria at the crack of dawn to make sure we made an early ferry to the mainland. Once on the mainland, we stopped for an emergency pair of new shoes in Vancouver before hitting the Trans-Canada highway to the Cariboo. The majority of the trip from Vancouver runs along the Fraser and Thompson Rivers with epic views in every direction. At one point, we noticed a screen alongside the road that was placed to block views of Lytton, a small city that was hard hit by wildfires this summer. The burn and devastation are still very visible and quite sobering.
The forests turned to grasslands, and the trees were replaced by cattle and horses. As we drove into the village of Clinton (pop. 651) not knowing the exact location of our hotel, we stopped at a local store that apparently specialized in vintage wagon wheels. It felt like we had driven back in time.
We eventually found Tutti Gravel Inn (a hundred meters away) where we met owners Kelly and Erin. Welcoming doesn't begin to explain our first encounter with Kelly and Erin. They began chatting with us as if we had known each other all our lives and were long-lost friends. They told us how the Inn came to be, the history of the house, and their amazing story. We were enthralled. Both Kelly and Erin have that aura you sometimes get from people when they are truly content in life to have found their place and mission. In Italian “tutti” means everyone or all together and from the second we arrived, Kelly and Erin had made us feel like we were part of a community. A gravel community, the community of Clinton, their home.... all of it.
Tutti Gravel Inn is located in an 80-year-old house on the main drag of Clinton across from the local pub. The house feels like it has been preserved perfectly from a time long past but recently injected with new life and articles of cycling lore. The house is decorated with vintage bike gear which all makes sense once you see the bike above the fireplace mantle in the guest apartment. An 80s Ken Legge build that Kelly rode for 2 L'Eroica races in Italy (one he won).
The guest apartment can accommodate large groups and sleep up to 7 people comfortably - more depending on your needs, I assume. The apartment is large and spacious with everything you need for the perfect cycling trip and stay. A room to hang the bikes out of the way, a BBQ, repair stand, tools, wash rack, and even a horseshoe and fire pit. The best part is the Inn's Clubhouse that Kelly and Erin have taken great pride in. Amazing decor, a wood-fired pizza oven, and an espresso machine make it a place you never want to leave. Just sit and soak in the energy.
On our third night, Jay and I had the chance to talk a bit more with Kelly as he showed us his bikes. Kelly's passion is off the charts and for me, that was infectious. We chatted about gravel, cyclists, and the industry as a whole - something he knows a bit about as he was the Canadian Scott rep for over a decade. Kelly echoed a few ideas that have kicked around my head since I was a teenager - a slight disdain for industry trends, the rebirth of the hardtail, and more. It was a 90-minute chat that I didn't want to end. He then proceeded to lend us his custom titanium Landyachtz gravel monster for the next day's ride.
If there is a heaven for gravel cyclists, it would be in Central British Columbia. It has everything a gravel cyclist needs - BIG climbs, rolling hills, full-on descents with super fun and fast switchbacks, and best of all - almost no people.
This loop is a must. A 20-minute drive from the Inn gets you to a place to park and very close to Cougar Point Lookout. - one of the best lookouts in British Columbia. We visited in mid-October and (obviously) found snow at 1500 meters elevation which warmed up fast as we bombed down the 10k descent into the sunshine that lit the world gold. The climb back up to the main road is a 20km / 800m gain leg crusher. Be ready.
Close to the Inn is a small flow track called the Tin Can Trail. It has been neglected over the years but Kelly is working on bringing it back to life and building in some berms. According to Kelly, the record from the Inn, through the track and back is 6 mins. Good fun.
After your legs recover from those climbs on Highbar Loop you may be looking for some flat ground to fly on. This loop is a 50km shoot of scenic lakes, mountains, and forest roads. About halfway through the loop, is a restaurant that serves authentic Quebec poutine! Just remember you have to get back on your bike afterward. Park and take a couple of pictures at the Chasm entrance.
As we said bye and left Clinton, I realized that ‘gravel is the new gold' was so much more than a catchy tagline. Its homage to the people who came to the Cariboo Region in search of riches. Like those early prospectors, we might be searching for something rare as well - beauty, solitude, and adventure that can only be found on our bikes. Gold is a perfect metaphor for our time at Tutti. You can see it everywhere - how the sun lights the hills and in Kelly and Erin's energy, and passion. What they have created is something special and if you have an opportunity to experience it - don't think twice. Do it.
Barry has been cycling and creating digital products around the world for 20+ years. He was a design leader at IDEO, IDEO.org and Nike’s Innovation Lab.