The gravel bike trend is relatively new and rapidly growing as people seek new challenges away from the regular road or mountain biking. Taking the best bits of road, cyclocross, and mountain biking, the adventure bike has been designed to be excellent on rough terrain and the tarmac.
Are you looking to buy a gravel bike? There is no doubt that gravel bikes have many perks to offer the everyday rider or a cycling enthusiast. The riders and owners of gravel bikes often enjoy a mix of riding experiences with the machine’s capability to handle both rough terrains and a tarmac road.
All the fuss about gravel bikes is well deserved. So, what are gravel bicycles? In this article, you will have an opportunity to understand the gravel bike with guides on the primary features that make up the bike and what differences make the bike stand out above its competition from mountain bikes.
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What Is A Gravel Bike?
A gravel bike is classified under the drop-bar category that ranks bikes that are designed with the capability of handling different terrains. The bike design that incorporates a drop handlebar and a road bike design means that the rider can move of roads with speed and at the same time have an easy off-road experience courtesy of the low gearing, wider tires, and stable handling.
The benefit of owning a bike that can handle both rough and smooth terrain is that you can comfortably switch between the two tracks without having to compromise your conformability. Other landscapes that the gravel bike is built to handle include forest tracks, gravel tracks, bridle paths, byways, and rough trails.
Additionally, gravel bikes can handle large amounts of weight, which means that you can load up the machine with camping gear and take a multi-day backpacking adventure. Like any other cycling machine, the features on gravel bikes can have slight differentiations in design and styles dependent on the manufacturer. The particular differentiation can have one gravel bike that is more inclined to being used on roads with higher road speed and light off-road tracking. In contrast, the other design can have a stronger resemblance to mountain bikes that are more inclined to travel over off-road terrains.
Thus, the process of selecting your ideal gravel bike is dependent on your riding style and preference. To help you make a more informed decision and impact you with additional knowledge on gravel bikes, we will take a deeper look at the different features defining a gravel bike.
Features That Define A Gravel Bike
Here are the features that define a gravel bike.
Gravel bikes are easily mistaken to be road bikes, but they have additional features that differentiate them from road bikes, with stability for off-road handling as the main feature. To achieve the desired off-road experience these bikes, have a longer wheelbase and sleek angle designs for their forks and frame.
One unique geometry design is the top stone gravel bike. Its design is adopted from mountain bikes, but the bike’s front wheel is placed much further from the rider to increase stability. For gravel bikes, a rider will get a more upright position when riding than any other road bike geometry, and a relatively long head tube giving a short reach for the rider.
The combination of the geometry as mentioned above design gives the rider more comfort on virtually longer rides. It allows the shift in weight around the tackle obstacles and off-road downhills. It is common for you to find that gravel bikes have frame tubes shaped in a manner that cushions the rider.
Manufacturers will often shape the frame tube in a triangle design where flattened sections and curves in the bike’s chainstay and a seat stay give off an in-saddlecomfort. Manufactures of gravel bikes have also ensured that the seat post can absorb any vibration that will arise during a riding experience.
If you are looking for a gravity bike that mainly suits the off-road terrain, the geometry designed features wide tires on small 650b wheels and mountain bike features.
Gravel Bike Frame
The common materials used to make the frames of gravel bikes are either carbon or aluminum. The benefit of using aluminum is that the material is cheap, light, and durable, making gravel bikes relatively budget-friendly.
On the other hand, carbon frames are way lighter than aluminum frames. One benefit of using carbon is that it can be manufactured in a design that finetunes the comfort and stiffness of the bike, giving manufacturers more opportunities of exploring aerodynamic tube shapes. Additionally, you may find gravel bikes made of titanium or steel.
For gravel bikes, the wheel design is in most cases scaled to ether 650b or 700c. The 650b wheels have the characteristics of a slightly smaller diameter, and it can be shod with wider tires to give out more traction while maintaining the rolling diameter of the wheel plus tire the same as that of a road bike for a comparable gear system and ride feel.
What is wheel size common to gravel bikes? Typically gravel bikes come equipped with 700c wheels with standard tires, but you can swap them to the 650b based on your preference. Gravel bikes that are more tuned for off-road experiences have a smaller-sized tire.
The primary feature of gravel bikes has to be the tire sizing, which is in most cases 40mm in width. The tire size of gravel bikes is the determining feature in the type of terrain you want to ride your bike.
The additional volume of gravel bikes allows the rider to run on lower pressure levels like 40 psi or even lower. There is also the benefit of traction and comfort on uneven surfaces. The tire may also have a tread pattern that significantly assists in adding grip over loose surfaces.
The tires for gravel bikes can also have custom treads. For example, if you are riding out in the winter, you might need tires that have aggressive tracks with an addition of side lugs for that extra grip, while a rider traversing the dry terrain will need minimal treads.
Gravel bike tires are designed to be resistant to punctures and clincher occurrences. The design that runs on tubeless lets the rider keep the pressure down. Additionally, the sealant found in the tires will enable the bike to cope with thorns, flints, and any other reasons causing punctures.
Unlike the predecessor, most gravel bikes have employed the disc brake design, one that has been used on other bikes like mountain bikes and road bikes. The hydraulic disc brake for the drop bar gear shifters has also been used on gravel bikes.
This technology offers effective stopping and consistency regardless of the condition. This design also gives room for installing oversized tires on the gravel bike, and it supports the switch between wide and thinner tires.
The other feature that makes gravel bikes stand out is the amount that allows luggage and accessories. Thus, you can use mounts to install mudguards and racks, a feature that makes gravel bikes the best machine for commuting or as a long-term park ride.
The other set of mounting features are found on the down tube that can hold a third water bottle, making it efficient on long rides where water refills can be a problem. Other manufacturers have fitted their gravel bikes with mounts for feed bags positioned on top of the top tube behind the stem.
As if that is not enough, you might find other mounting features on the form blades that you can use to bolt on an extra bottle of water or a cage for luggage or a dynamo light if you prefer.
For gravel bikes to handle both terrains, the gearing system is one feature that has been given significant consideration. When riding over rough terrain, you might need low gear to handle the steep climbs. With the reduced grip on loose surfaces, you can slip off the saddle when climbing, but the gear system can be spined up to avoid wheels spinning.
Gravel bikes will often have a 50/34t compact road chainset and a wide range cassette. The other gear system that you can find on a gravel bike can be a super compact chainset that drops the chainring sizes to 48/31t or 46/30t, and this is combined with an 11-32t or 11-34t cassette, making it easy to climb steep hills.
Difference Between A Gravel Bike And A Mountain Bike
Gravel bikes share many characteristics with mountain bikes, such as suspension, stable geometry, vast gearing capacity, and wide tubeless tires. On the other hand, gravel bikes are more fun if the journeys have either tarmac or faster, less technical off-road conditions because of their drop bars and more aggressive gearing.
Although gravel bike gearing is less complicated than road gearing, it falls short of the range provided by a proper mountain bike groupset. Mountain bike tires will be broader and more gripping, and suspension on mountain bikes will be more potent than even the most cushioned dirt bikes.
Gravel bikes are almost as powerful and lighter as similar mountain bikes for many light off-road terrains, but mountain bikes are the winner once you get onto rugged trails.
Why Are Gravel Bikes Popular?
Gravel bikes are unusual in that they emerged so quickly. When rider customization is also widespread, there are no hard-and-fast guidelines for what exactly falls into the definition of a gravel bike. Unlike road bikes, which have always lived on a scale ranging from short and compact competitive racing versions to more reliable and longer touring cycles, gravel bikes exist in a space between cross-bikes and mountain bikes.
Any bicycle that the operator intends to use on trails, rough terrains, or other off-road areas may be classified as a gravel bike. Consumer interest seems to be converting dirt bikes, mountain bikes, and off-road cycles into legal segments of the industry, including promoting “gravel bikes” by firms seeking to sell new designs and cash in on this niche cycling trend.
Regularly, many riders join the cycling arena, and not all of them are participating in conventional racing cycles. Many people aren’t even aware of competitions, are unfamiliar with the names of riders in the Tour de France, or are uninterested in lightweight frames for endurance and cycling.
These are the niche riders who are part of a younger wave of enthusiasts who are getting into cycling to stay in shape, become more daring, cycle on hills, canyons, and mountainous scenery, and go off-roading for fun and challenge.
Considerations For Choosing A Gravel Bike
The process of choosing a gravel bike entails answering several questions that will guide you on features you will need your bike to have.
How are you going to ride your bike? This question will guide you when it comes to the strength needed and features you need. For example, if you plan on going out for bike packing, you will need to get a gravel bike with oversized tires and a tight chain set, while if you’re only using it for commuter purposes on the road, you will not necessarily need wide tires.
The other question you need to answer to find out what considerations you need is where you will ride the bike? Gravel bikes can move on many different kinds of terrain. Knowledge of the landscape you will depend on will help you determine the level of tire clearance you need, the stability, and the level of vibration absorption required.
The above questions go to literate on the considerations that should be given to the terrain, the wheel size, the speed and comfortability desired, and the gear rage. All these factors need to be considered when choosing to buy a gravel bike.
Gravel bikes are incredibly flexible, borrowing elements from the lane, mountain, and cyclocross bikes to create a one-bike-fits-all alternative for people who only want one bike in the garage. This article should be in handy the next time you are looking to purchase a cycle.