If you enjoy cycling, you most likely will find yourself in one of these two categories: 1) you seek adventures with your road bike, but it can only take you on paved paths 2) your mountain bike is so much fun to ride, but your friends are leaving you behind on long distance road rides. These are common dilemmas, These are common dilemmas, especially if you’re riding in Sydney where there are a wide variety of cycling terrains. Historically, patents for bike design have not been versatile enough to allow cycling enthusiasts to enjoy the best of both worlds, but that could be about to change.
Gravel bikes are becoming more and more popular nowadays with bike enthusiasts exploring more paths and seeking comfort for longer rides. So, what are gravel bikes? Are they really that different from your regular road bike or mountain bike? Will this shift in cycling innovation affect the sport as a whole?
What are Gravel Bikes?
As the name suggests, gravel bikes are bicycles designed for rough terrains such as gravel. Gravel bikes are also referred to as adventure bikes. They have components very similar to road bikes, but are designed to tackle a wider variety of surfaces, carry additional gears, and are best-suited for all-day riding on unconventional roads. Contrary to the road bike, a gravel bike’s build is more robust and durable to accommodate the rough terrain it intends to travel in, while not compromising the rider’s ability to maintain speed for lengthy durations.
While its tyres are wide enough to offer comfort and security on rough roads, it’s also slim enough to offer ample speed on flat and paved roads. These features make gravel bikes suitable for city commutes. Its versatility also makes it a top choice for cyclists who enjoy variety in the style of ride they choose.
Nowadays, bikepackers (yes, that’s a term cyclists use) prefer gravel bikes on their tour adventures because of their versatility. Gravel bikes are also ideal because of their relatively substantial number of eyelets for mudguards and other accessories. The scope of their design is adequate enough to accommodate for bike racks and bags.
What Differentiates A Gravel Bike?
A mountain bike offers perhaps the most comfortable ride. It can have suspension systems in front and back. It has significantly wider tyres to allow more grip on rough surfaces. But, the only downside is that mountain bikes can often be very bulky and heavy. Its suitability on anything other than downhill, mountainous terrain is extraordinarily limited.
The Cyclocross bike is perhaps the closest to the gravel bike in terms of design, but there are still some striking differences. Cyclocross bikes are built for short, intense racing. They are designed more aggressively than gravel bikes, which are built with comfort in mind.
Here’s a closer look at the more aggressive geometry of a cyclocross bike: it has a shorter wheelbase and higher bottom bracket compared to a gravel bike, which provides greater ground clearance to overcome obstacles like steps, tree roots and rocks. Both bikes have large wheelset, but due to Cyclocross race regulations, its bikes are limited to a 33mm tyre width, whereas gravel bikes can go up to 47mm. Both bikes opt for disc brakes for better performance even in wet conditions.
Because of its popularity, bike giants like Shimano created their own line of gravel-specific groupsets to cater to this niche customer. For those who want to build their own gravel bikes, check on the following specifications according to gravelcyclist.com to see their differences:
With gravel bikes gaining more and more popularity, it won’t be long before gravel and adventure bikes take centre-stage of the mainstream cycling community. This will give more opportunities to smaller companies to take their share of the growing market for gravel-specific parts and components.
When that time comes, newer technologies will emerge to further gravel biking. It’s fair to say that it has a strong chance to leave its predecessors—mountain bikes and road bikes—in its dust as the bike of the future.