If you have been anywhere around the off-road community or social media over the last few years, you have seen the name Gravel Kings pop up. From being involved in desert clean-ups to sponsoring races and drivers, there is more to this group of friends turned family.
Starting in the desert, the group of friends took an excitement for something new and turned it into something bigger. They took their passion for off-road and have turned it into a group that helps the off-road community in every aspect.
The First Trip Out
We all have our first off-road trip stuck in our heads. No matter how old you were, where it was, that memory is implanted and with us for our entire lives. For many of us, the off-road bug is caught on that first trip out and never goes away.
“Gravel Kings started as a group of friends hanging out that got bored one week, and being slightly impulsive, decided to go off-roading last minute," Max Schlosser of Gravel King explained. “By the of that week, we had managed to arrange everything we thought we would need for this late planned adventure. Between all of us, we had a rough set of skills and little clue on where it would lead us after the weekend.”
“That first weekend, we ended up starting out without knowing where we were going. We knew we would head out to the desert, but where exactly wasn’t known to us at the time. It wasn’t until we stopped to fill up for gas at a truck stop and asked someone who was also heading out to off-road.”
“He told us that the weekend action was out in Dumont Dunes. We thanked him and finished gassing up along with a quick Google search we then had a route on how to get there. Off we went, on the road to Dumont Dunes, not really knowing what we would find when we got there.”
For those that do not know, Dumont Dunes is a recreation area that encompasses 7,620 acres of public land. It is located about 40 miles north of Baker, California, where OHV sand dune enthusiasts challenge themselves against the big bowls, steep climbs, and flowing transitions.
Over the course of their first weekend out, they got stuck multiple times in the dunes, had mechanical issues, and dealt with sand being blown up by the wind. Despite all the negative that happened, they all enjoyed the trip. They spent the time when they returned watching more off-road videos and planning their next trip.
“The second trip out was back to Dumont, but it wasn’t nearly as busy as the previous visit,” Schlosser said. “It gave us a chance to a chance explore and have a bit more fun than our previous visit. We came more adequately prepared than our first trip, but we shot some video to try to do something creative with it.”
“Every week that we went out, we shot more video. We would come together after the weekend and pitch ideas for music for the video while our cameraman was tasked with putting it all together. Our videos started as a way to show our other friends what we were doing off-road, but we decided to start trying to build our group’s identity and put our own spin on our videos.”
The passion for off-roading grew with every trip out to the desert, and the passion for what they could do grew as well.
“The third time we went to Dumont and were locked inside due to high winds and blowing sand,” Schlosser said. “We decided we needed a change of locations in the middle of the night and picked Stoddard Wells. The lack of blowing sand and wind made the trip a lot better for everyone.”
“Stoddard Wells became our go-to place. Every chance we got, we were out there having fun and exploring. We would invite our other friends to come to meet up with us and share the experience. We noticed many people parked in the same spots every time we went, so we would talk with them, ask questions, and learn along the way.”
Growing Into Something Bigger
Like any of us off-roaders, the more you go off-road, the more you want to keep going and scratch that itch. It was no different for the group of Gravel Kings.
“When we couldn’t get out during the week, we would sit down and watch off-road videos together,” Schlosser said. “Around then is when we saw Terra Crew’s video with Ty Leon and his blue Ranger flying through the air out in the dunes. That video made us think about what we wanted to do as a group and do here in the desert. It set some goals and inspired some ideas.”
“Fast forward a few months, we had our first truck without much clue on how to work on it properly. We enjoyed every bit of it, and then a change started within the group as everyone wanted to move away from UTVs.”
“We ended up locating a shop that would take a look over the truck and address any issues we had. Partway through, as they addressed issues, we decided we wanted to run our first race. Things were adjusted on the truck, and we prepared to register for our first race.”
Racing changes many things on a build, but Gravel Kings knew they wanted to do more in off-road, and this was one way to get their feet wet in off-road desert racing.
“We still thought we could do all the different parts of the race amongst our small group,” Schlosser explained. “The shop working on our truck set us up with the basics we would need to be able to enter and run the truck. The first race we registered for was a Mojave Off-Road Racing Enthusiasts or MORE race in the Stoddard Wells area.”
“This was at the time the biggest and most interaction we had with the off-roading community. We saw tons of race vehicles and people coming together, working with a shared passion for competing but also having a good time. Unfortunately, that weekend things didn’t go as planned for the race, but the interactions we made there helped move us along.”
Helping Grow The Off-Road Community
Since the off-road bug continued to grow, Gravel Kings wanted to get more involved with the off-road community. They saw the passion other off-roaders had and the community surrounding the off-road world.
Gravel Kings has continued to grow and helps support the off-road community on the racing side of things, but even more importantly, with the stewardship side of off-roading.
“We have been out supporting the efforts of Clean-Dezert and their events to help keep public land open for OHV by cleaning up,” Schlosser said. “We want to support others in the industry that positively impact the community.”
“We want people to understand that off-roading isn’t just going out there, but also being conscious of the environment and the ability to enjoy these outdoor activities. We have been an ongoing sponsor of their events, showing up, helping out, and supporting their drive to help keep the OHV areas open and accessible to everyone.”
“The Mojave Off-road Race Enthusiasts is another group we are actively working with and have helped sponsor several of their races. We have sponsored a couple of purses and competitions with them to help build more involvement with the community. We have seen that some racing classes have been underrepresented within their series. We would like to see more people get involved and come out and have a good time.”
In addition to helping the racing community, they have also teamed up with some big name racers having the same passion. One of those drivers is Blake Wilkey.
“Blake and his team have been one of our biggest supporters since we have started down this path,” Schlosser said. “He has helped put us in contact with some of the most amazing people in the off-roading community. At the same time, we have helped support his efforts to get out to some of the many events that he attends. Gravel Kings has some ongoing projects with Blake, so expect to see a fair amount of crossover between everyone.”
As Gravel Kings has grown so have the vehicles they own. The Juggernaut is one of the most iconic red, white, and blue trucks seen doing slap wheelies in numerous videos online.
“As people have hopefully already seen in our videos, we are the current owners of the Juggernaut,” Schlosser said. “Not to mess with the iconic legacy that this truck has built over the years, we spent a fair amount of time trying to decide who should drive the truck. It was by talking with various people about the history of the truck that we were introduced to Roy Tomkins.”
“Our first interaction with Roy was on the crisp January morning when James Holguin and members of Terra Crew came together to help shock tune two of our trucks. By the end of that weekend, between all the knowledge, history, and work, we had decided there was no better person to drive the Juggernaut than Roy.”
“For those that have not had the chance to meet Roy, he was responsible for helping prep the Juggernaut for several years, but not only did he help prep the truck, but he would also often be a co-driver on many occasions. Roy’s experience doesn’t just end there. Roy has been designing, fabricating, and testing many of his own designs over the years. He has continually refined and learned more over the years as things have evolved."
Roy has been involved in the racing community as a whole for many years. It was with all this involvement and a little bit of a push that Tomkins Racing was started. Expect to see some of the ideas he has had floating around take shape in future Gravel Kings projects.
“We have recently begun working with Adam, from Dirt Designs, and Chris, from RV MD, on some upcoming projects in the off-roading community,” Schlosser explained. “Expect to see many more collaborations from Gravel Kings, Dirt Designs, and RV MDs going forward. We have several projects in the works so expect to see our names splashed out there a lot more.”
The group at Gravel Kings is always looking toward the future and helping the off-road community as much as possible.
“Looking into the future, we are currently in the works with several projects, a few big names in the off-road community,” Schlosser said. “We don’t want to spoil too many surprises as we have some incredible stuff in the works.”
“Expect to see a host of various projects from custom builds, events, and random pop-ups all the way thru the end of next year. Our website is in the works for those who already follow us, where people can see our events schedule and buy some of our swag. We have several shirts we will release and various other items.”