Explain gravel bikes to me?

Discussion in 'Touring and recreational cycling' started by Rock Creek Rider, Mar 1, 2018.

  1. Rock Creek Rider

    Rock Creek Rider New Member

    Sep 30, 2017
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    I don' understand the whole gravel bike craze. I thought gravel roads were why mountain bikes were invented. If you have a road bike and a mountain bike, why would you buy a whole other bike? You use your road bike for paved roads and your mountain bike for unpaved roads. This seems like a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. Want a dual purpose bike? Put dual purpose tires on your mountain bike.
    Can any body explain this to me, I don't get it?

  2. dabac

    dabac Well-Known Member

    Sep 16, 2003
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    Nah, MTBs were intended for rougher, more technically demanding riding than gravel roads.
    Heck, a hybrid will do OK on gravel roads.
    Two types that are more closely related are CX bikes and gravel grinders.
  3. BrianNystrom

    BrianNystrom New Member

    Aug 13, 2013
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    Gravel bikes are similar to CX bikes, but with:
    • More clearance for larger tires, with 40-45mm being common. Some will also accept 650b (27.5) wheels with even larger rubber
    • Typically a lower bottom bracket, more relaxed head angle and longer wheelbase, for increased stability
    • Lower gearing is common, too
    • They often have compliance features, if not some form of small travel suspension
    • You'll frequently find extra water bottle mounts, fender mounts, rack mounts and top tube bag mounts on the more "adventure riding" oriented bikes
    From a performance standpoint, they're typically lighter and quicker handling than an MTB, but more stable and comfortable than a road or CX bike. They can be true "quiver killers", one bike that can do almost everything, albeit with a change of wheels or at least tires. If someone new to cycling asked me what kind of bike to get and they were interested in a variety of kinds of riding, I'd steer them toward a gravel bike.

    All that said, both of my "gravel" bikes have been CX bikes with fatter (~40mm) rubber and lower gearing for the steep stuff. I ride more on trails and fire/logging roads than on actual gravel or dirt roads meant for vehicle traffic. As long as I avoid the really bony stuff, the bike is great. It's much lighter and more responsive than a full-suspension MTB and a bit lighter and still more responsive than a comparably-priced hardtail.

    Overall, I just find the gravel bike to be more fun to ride than my MTBs for most non-pavement riding. I still use an MTB or fat bike for snow & ice riding, and bony trails that the gravel bike doesn't handle well, but that's about it.
  4. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

    Jul 23, 2005
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    As is generally the case, dabac is correct when he notes that "a hybrid will do OK on gravel roads."

    BECAUSE a so-called "gravel bike" is really a "hybrid" (frame) which has DROP handlebars instead of FLAT handlebars, disc brakes (which seem to becoming universal for all categories) instead of V-brakes, and (sometimes) a slightly shorter wheelbase which has been collectively packaged & re-named ...

    BECAUSE somehow "hybrid" bikes became the redheadedstepchild of the cycling world ...

    After all, 700c wheels for non-paved roads was too mind-bending a concept ~30 years ago when MTBs were now available ...

    But, time marches on ...

    And, 29ers have shown the cool kids that wheels with 700c rims are "okay" for non-paved riding.
    BTW. Yes, it's true that the components on a "hybrid" tend to be at the lower end of the spectrum, but that is due to the target market which seems to be those who are typically transitioning from a Big Box Store bike ...

    MY recollection is that the non-racing frames were very briefly outfitted with cantilever brake calipers instead of really LONG reach brake calipers ... then, someone had the idea of fitting FLAT bars on the bike plus a sloping the top tube rather than having it be horizontal AND THEN calling the non-racing frames "hybrids."

    #4 alfeng, Mar 10, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2018