Stronger than a road bike and much faster than a mountain bike. Gravel bikes are an interesting option for cyclists who want to travel on and off paved roads with the same precise and fast handling on both terrains.
At first glance, a gravel bike is not that different from a cyclo-cross bike, but going into its design, performance and composition, it turns out that, gravel or gravel bikes are really different, and often closer to a road bike -but with something like steroids- . In fact, this type of bike performs very well in both categories. And that can only mean a lot of fun for your rider and a new insight into where and how a bike is being ridden.
Characteristics of gravel bikes
Gravel bikes, sometimes also called adventure bikes, are basically road bikes designed to cope with a wide variety of surfaces, carry additional equipment and are suitable for all-day riding on winding roads. They are made to be more durable and robust than a standard road bike, as well as having a greater range of gears and room for much wider tyres.
They have been designed to use drop bar type handlebars; these handlebars not only offer a wide variety of positions, but also a good grip for controlling the bike on climbs with all your support on it, as well as for speed descents or sprints. But as it is a recently manufactured bike, some manufacturers such as Canyon have given it a peculiar handlebar with a double bar. Nowadays, its brake levers or levers integrate the gears.
To begin with, the geometry of a gravel bike aims to create stability and comfort. It has been designed to be more relaxed than that of a road bike. The head tube, as it is known, is often higher and at a softer angle, resulting in a more relaxed ride.
The bottom bracket, or center box, will generally be a little lower than that of a cyclocross bike. Gravel bikes are also designed with longer wheelbases, so they are stable on the road and when riding on an unpredictable surface such as gravel, and provide additional stability and comfort over long distances.
Its top tube has a slight angle which makes it slightly steeper than a road bike. This is because on a gravel bike you are looking for a more comfortable ride, but one that responds well to strong starts.
Many manufacturers equip gravel bikes with extra eyelets to install frames and mudguards. That means you can ride them in the rainy season, turn them into a bike to transport you to work, or install saddlebags for long-distance travel.
One of its characteristics that distinguish it from other bikes are its wider tires, since the design of its frames accepts very well rims with measures between 650c to 700c x 30mm and even 42mm in different patterns, but always thought for difficult terrains.
As for the brakes, these bicycles are generally equipped with disc brakes that can have a hydraulic or mechanical system. However, due to their adventurous nature, it is recommended that you acquire hydraulic ones, as they offer greater braking power, which provides more confidence when riding off well-paved roads and are useful in mixed conditions. In the rain or in the mud, you will appreciate their efficiency.
As far as speeds are concerned, gravel bikes are very dynamic, as you can find models with different configurations, but some of the common ones are: transmission with single plate; two plates and, also with groups that are specific to mountain bikes and with some models that are very close to the group that you would find on a common road bike. They generally come equipped with a cassette with 11 sprockets (11/32t) and two chainrings (46/30t), but this will depend on the group and configuration you want it to have.
Advantages and disadvantages of gravel bikes
- They are strong and suitable for winding roads -without suspension, but there are even some models with revolutionary shock-absorbing systems, which are part of the frame.
- They are fast
- They can be used on a variety of roads
- They are good for the city and even for long-distance cycling trips
- Due to their robustness they can be less fast and not as light as road bikes
- They are less resistant than mountain bikes
Who are gravel bikes ideal for?
It is clear that gravel bikes are extremely versatile, as they borrow elements from road, mountain and cyclo-cross bikes, with the purpose of creating a complete option for cyclists who want a single machine with which to do many different things: it can be used comfortably for urban journeys, in the medium and long distance it feels like home and even dares with road and mountain routes, with the same ease as long as they do not present routes with excessive difficulty. That is the secret of its success: versatility, something no other bike can match.