This is a gravel bike

Anatomy of a gravel bike

Enjoy more possibilities 

The Gravel bike – also known as the all-road bike or adventure bike, is a bike designed with the benefits of the road bike but with the ability to ride on more rough surfaces, typically such as gravel roads, dirt roads and not too technical singletracks. This might sound like a cyclocross bike, but with the cross bike being a machine built for speed with a more ´agressive´ design, the gravel bike grants you a more comfortable two wheeled vehicle that allows you to go off the beaten path for a day of discovering or to go on multi-day adventures with luggage.

As the gravel bike presents a lot of opportunities to enjoy riding in very different environments, it´s interesting to delve into how the gravel bike is designed.

Photo: Alex Buck | GripGrab Media Crew
Ridley X-Trail with Clement X'Plor MSO 700x36c tyres - It´s not a road bike or a cyclo cross bike, but a concept in between - An all-road adventure bike.

A road bike to go offroad

We can very quickly establish that the gravel bike is closer related to the road bike and the cyclo cross bike than to a mountainbike, so don´t expect your gravel bike to conquer rock gardens and big drops. You will find zero suspension on a gravel bike (except for the suspension you get out of deflating the tyres).

So is the gravel bike just a road bike with bigger and more knobby tyres? No, there´s more to it than just tyre size. As the road bike is built with the purpose of going fast, the geometry of the gravel bike differs from the road bike in several ways. Generally, the gravel bike is built with more comfort in mind.   

The top tube is sloping in order to provide a comfortable standover height. This adds comfort and relief to your ride, when you dismount due to obstacles on your course, or when you´re bikepacking and need to stop for navigation.

The taller headtube provides a more upright position, thus adding comfort to the (longer) ride.

With a longer wheelbase you get a more stable and comfortable ride. Often you will experience longer chainstays on gravel bikes, in order to give clearance for the rider´s heels when panniers are mounted.

A more slack head tube angle makes handling and control better – Much less aggressive compared to the race-oriented cx bike.

One of the most obvious characteristics about the gravel bike is the bigger tyres, providing grip and traction on the unsurfaced roads. The frame on a gravel bike is designed with plenty clearance for bigger tyres – 36 mm tyres are common, but the frame will easily have room for tyres up to 40 mm or even more.

Traction, grip and pressure
Bigger tyres provide better grip on the dirt roads, and more air in the tube provides for a wider range of tyre pressure, so the rider can adjust according to terrain. Low pressure means more traction and suspension, and is necessary for handling the bike in rough terrain such as wet dirt and steep climbs. Tyres for gravel bikes comes in an abundance of varieties, designed for specific needs; sandy sections, cobbles, dirt roads etc. A standard gravel bike will most likely feature 36 mm tyres with aggressive tread pattern with big shoulder knobs to provide grip and traction in most conditions. 

Photo: Alex Buck | GripGrab Media Crew

Disc brakes

With the bigger frame, there´s no room for mounting cantilever brakes on a gravel bike – No problem! With disc brakes you have great braking performance in all conditions, including wet weather and muddy settings. Hydraulic disc brakes offers superb braking power and excellent modulation and handling of the brakes.

Photo: Alex Buck | GripGrab Media Crew
Photo: Alex Buck | GripGrab Media Crew
To accomodate for the various purposes of a gravel bike, the frame often comes prepared with eyelets for racks and mudguards. This emphasizes how versatile the gravel bike is. It is truly a multi functional bike!
Photo: Martin Paldan | GripGrab Media Crew

Riding

Whether you are looking for pure exercise and training rides or seeking adventurous outings, the gravel bike will broaden your riding possibilities. It might be your perfect companion for exploring the (dirt) roads less traveled, lead you to an open landscape under a blue sky, bring a welcoming escape from urban surroundings or simply be a motivating change from intervals on the road.

If you´re up for challenges, there´s already a bunch of gravel races and events to choose from: Dirty Kanza (USA), Dirty Reiver (UK), Dalsland Runt (Sweden), Hansens Cykelløb (Denmark) + a lot more.

Gravel grinding during the Dalsland Runt event in Sweden.
Photo: Martin Paldan | GripGrab Media Crew
In the mood for more gravel? Watch this video on how to turn waiting time into gravel time:


 Photo credits: Alex Buck and Peter Ebro | GripGrab Media Crew

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