What Is a Gravel Bike and Why It Becomes Popular
Gravel bikes have increased in popularity over the past few years and there are good reasons for that. A gravel bike offers an opportunity for a rider to get off the normal road. The bike offers many things to the everyday rider who is looking to mix up their riding on a machine.
In short, the bike is capable of handling rough stuff. With a lightweight design, snappier handling geometry, and aero features, gravel bikes have many things to offer. Continue reading the post to learn more about this versatile ride.
What Exactly Is A Gravel Bike?
If you are thinking about making your off-road adventures fun-filled and comfortable, there is no better way than riding a gravel bike. So, what is a gravel bike? In short, a gravel bike allows you to escape the paved roads to have more fun on exciting terrain.
Typically, gravel bikes combine the features of both road bikes and classic mountain bikes. These bikes are more durable compared to ordinary road bikes and designed in a way to tackle the rough terrain that normal mountain bikes aren't capable of.
As such, gravel bikes can ride over most surfaces. It means they are good on mud, tarmac, and everything that comes in between. What makes gravel bikes stand out from the rest is their ability to perform better on almost any surface.
In short, gravel bikes offer you off-roading and daily commute as well. From bikepacking to racing, a gravel bike can fulfill your needs under any circumstances. These bikes provide you with sheer performance whether you are planning for a long road ride or maneuvering through rough terrain.
No wonder, the best gravel bikes bring out the spirit of adventure in a unique way. Gravel bikes are perfect for dirt tracks, fire roads, broken tarmac, and gravel paths. Besides, these bikes are equipped with wide tires, standard disc brakes, and enough room for mud clearance.
Gravel bikes provide you with a mix of off-road capabilities and on-road efficacy. Therefore, you can find designs of both cyclocross and road bikes alongside certain elements of mountain bikes.
Pros and Cons of Gravel Bikes Explained
There is no denying that everything in this world comes with advantages and disadvantages. That way, a specialized gravel bike is no different. Besides, you need to consider both the good and bad points of gravel bikes before making it an effort to buy one.
Here is a closer look at the pros and cons of a gravel bike so that you can make an informed decision on whether or not to buy one for your needs.
Pros of Gravel Bikes
1. They are extremely versatile
If you are looking for a bike that can do almost anything, gravel bikes should be the right choice. These bikes are perfect for doing a lot of things well. You can use these bikes for a variety of things.
Gravel bikes are perfect for both on-road and off-road experiences. You don't have to worry much when it is about choosing a bike that suits your needs because gravel bikes work great in any situation. That makes them popular among people who like exploring the wild on their adventure bikes.
2. They are perfect on paved roads and rough terrains
There is no denying that many people prefer bikes to run errands. That way, they can have some enjoyment alongside a bit of exercise. So, if you are looking for a bike that can handle city streets, gravel bikes are the next big thing.
Apart from that, gravel bikes are a great alternative for people living in rural areas. Streets with potholes and dirt-ridden side roads are a common sight in these regions. The versatility of gravel bikes means that they can handle all kinds of situations.
3. The wide tires allow you a smooth ride
Compared to ordinary road bikes, gravel bikes have wider tires that allow them to perform better over potholes, roots, rocks, and other obstacles. The wide tires help you ride the bike comfortably without getting off. Moreover, you don't need any kind of suspension on the bike to keep it from bouncing around.
This is the reason why people call them adventure bikes as well. The best part about the bike is that it performs well as a daily commuter bicycle and easily takes riders out in the open wild. As such, you don't need two separate bikes.
4. The simplicity of the bike is noteworthy
A gravel bike has a simple way of operation and has fewer components. Therefore, you don't have to worry about all the components malfunctioning together. It means you can get on the bike and ride wherever you want.
Nobody likes to have a bike that requires great maintenance. That way, you can save a considerable amount of time and money that goes into a normal bike in terms of surprise repair costs.
5. The ease of adding accessories
Gravel bikes can accommodate mudguards and other common accessories with ease. As a result, it allows you a comfortable ride throughout the year. Moreover, this becomes important when you use the bike for your daily commute.
Another advantage of a gravel bike is that you can change tires and use a larger one instead. That way, you can have an extra grip that gives you comfort even when you are on a bumpy track.
6. A great option for bikepacking
Bikepacking, which is a combination of bicycling and camping, is becoming a popular activity. Sometimes, people tend to ride for a few days or a couple of weeks and they need to carry the essential items such as camping equipment, sleeping gear, water, food, and so on.
When a bike offers backpacking, you can explore new places without worrying about the duration of the trip. Because you have everything that you need during the journey, gravel bikes make a great a choice
Cons of Gravel Bikes
1. Gravel bikes tend to weigh more
Although gravel bikes have a lightweight design compared to mountain bikes, they weigh more compared to road bikes. As such, it makes them difficult to transport. So if you live in a condo or apartment and do not have access to a bike rack on the balcony, things might get ugly when you need your bicycle at home without carrying extra weight.
2. They are slower
Although gravel bikes are faster than mountain bikes, they might be slower than road bikes. That's because the tires are wider and are filled with more air. Also, it means they will roll slowly on the pavement. Now that's a downside for people who want speed when commuting.
3. They are more expensive
A specialized gravel bike cost more than a mountain or road bike. While it is understandable that you need one bike for the future, it is equally important to be aware of the potential cost difference in the beginning.
Gravel Bikes vs Road Bikes
Gravel bikes - In gravel bikes, the frame design comes with a long wheelbase. Besides, it has a low bottom bracket and slack head tube angle that keeps the bike stable on rough terrain. The wide tires that have 45c width give the bike more traction and make them comfortable on trails and rough roads.
The presence of disk brakes makes unpredictable stopping on tough terrain a breeze. Gravel bikes include mounts for racks, fenders, and water bottles. As such, you can use them at your convenience when going for an adventure. The wider drop bars on gravel bikes offer more stability and control.
Road bikes - Boasts of a shorter wheelbase and steep head tube angle, a road bike is designed to be efficient and snappy. In general, a road bike has a narrow tire that should have a width of about 35c. While many people still choose rim brakes, road bikes come with disc brakes as well.
Road bikes come with mounts intended for racks and fenders. However, the space is for a couple of water bottles. That way, it keeps the overall weight of the bike down. The usual drop bars on road bikes give efficiency and speed.
Gravel Bikes vs Mountain Bikes
Gravel bikes - In terms of geometry, gravel bikes come with a tall headtube low bottom bracket and a steep headtube angle. As such, it makes the bike stable on most occasions while optimizing it for minimal technology. In addition, gravel bikes aren't equipped with a shock or suspension fork.
The disc brakes that come with gravel bikes consist of a small rotor that makes them lightweight. The flared drop bars that you see on gravel bikes provide the rider with the option to ride on long stretches of gravel road. The maximum width of 45c tires alongside small knobs gives the bike control and traction on dirt and gravel.
Mountain bikes - When it comes to stability, mountain bikes derive that from the slack headtube angle design. That way, they can move through rocks and other kinds of trail features. The high bottom brackets help clear trail obstacles with the rear wheel. Moreover, mountain bikes come with a suspension fork.
Sometimes, you can see a rear shock that absorbs hard impacts from the road. Although suspension makes the ride comfortable, it makes the bike roll slow. Mountain bikes come with large rotors that disperse heat.
Because of the flat handlebar, mountain bikes don't need you to change hand position. The 2.2 to 2.6-inch tires are common on almost every mountain bike. The large knobs help the bike ride through roots, rocks, loose dirt, and mud with ease.
Gravel Bikes vs Cyclocross Bikes
Gravel Bikes - The slant top tube along with a small rear triangle help save the bike's weight. Also, the frame provides a smooth, comfortable ride. A gravel bike has low and long geometry along with a long wheelbase and lower bottom bracket. It has a tire clearance of up to 45c width. Besides, you need to have a lot of thread on the wide tires. For bikepacking and long rides, gravel bikes have lots of mounts intended for extra water, fenders, and bags.
Cyclocross bikes - These kinds of bikes come in a distinct straight top tube. They have a big triangle frame that is easy to carry over obstacles. A short wheelbase and high bottom bracket make Cyclocross bikes unique. While the tire clearance might be 45c in width, the geometry could be optimized around 33c. Some models come with mounting options. However, the feature isn't a top priority because Cyclocross bikes are for racing.
Frequently Asked Questions about Gravel Bikes
Q: How heavy are gravel bikes?
Although the weight depends on what model you are buying, the average gravel bike weighs a little over 11 kilograms. Now, that's about 2 kilograms heavier compared to road bikes. As such, it will slow you down even on light-traffic lanes and roads. However, you may need extra weight for the durability and strength that it provides while moving on rough terrain.
Q: How fast are gravel bikes?
Even if you buy the best grave bike that helps you ride fast, it won't be as good as a road bike. Although people blame the wider tires in the bike that increase drag, the rider is the one to blame. The more your posture becomes aerodynamic, the faster you will ride. Gravel bikes might not be fast, but the speed difference isn't noticeable for an average rider.
Q: Are gravel bikes good on the road?
Gravel bikes have wider tires and lower gear ratios that help a rider maneuver through hilly terrain. However, when you want to ride on city streets more often you can change the wider tires with narrow ones. No wonder, a specialized gravel bike will hold down on the road with the right tire choice for longer rides.
There is no denying that gravel bikes are here to stay for many years to come and they will grow in popularity. So, if you are planning to buy a gravel bike, go ahead without hesitation. This is the best option for you even if you are an average rider. It helps you enjoy cycling both off-road and on-road. Therefore, take your time when it comes to choosing the right one for you.