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Gravel Bikes

What Are Gravel Bikes? Pros and Cons Explained

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In the ever-evolving world of cycling, a new player has emerged, garnering widespread attention and enthusiasm from riders of all backgrounds. It’s not quite a road bike, not quite a mountain bike, and certainly not a hybrid. We’re talking about the gravel bike, a versatile and multi-purpose machine that has taken the cycling community by storm.

In this article, we’ll delve into the exciting world of gravel biking, exploring what exactly a gravel bike is, how it differs from other types of bicycles, and why it has become a beloved choice for cyclists seeking adventure, exploration, and a unique riding experience.

Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or a curious newcomer, fasten your helmet and join us as we navigate the gravel roads and trails of this intriguing cycling subculture.


What Is a Gravel Bike?

Gravel bikes, also known as adventure road bikes, are essentially a cross between the classic mountain bike and a road bike. They are designed to be faster than a mountain bike and more durable than your standard road bike. They can ride on tarmac, mud, and most surfaces in between.

It’s not surprising to find that this new concept came from the USA; there are hundreds of miles of rarely used tracks that exist predominantly to help fire trucks manoeuvre through forests. These are perfect for any level of biker who has access to a gravel bike – these tracks are too rough for your standard road bike. It will be shaken apart.

Of course, they are also too fast to be fully appreciated on your mountain bike. That’s why the gravel bike, or road adventure bike, is the perfect solution.


Gravel bike outdoors

What Does a Gravel Bike Look Like?

The best thing is that this bike can perform on any surface. You only need one bike to cover the daily commute, your road training, and your off-road fun.

It’s worth noting that geometry is the main difference with this type of bike. The head tube is usually taller while the angle is slicker, making the steering experience more relaxed than a road bike but less responsive than a mountain bike.

You’ll also notice that the bikes are generally a little longer than road or mountain bikes. This is to improve stability and comfort on all surfaces. Gravel bikes also have disc brakes as these provide better response and more confidence when you’re off-road.


Gravel Bikes – Pros & Cons

No bike is perfect, which means you need to consider the good points and the bad points of it before you commit to purchasing one. Below we take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of buying a gravel bike.

Pros

Accessories: Your gravel bike can easily have mudguards and the usual accessories fitted to it, allowing you to ride in comfort throughout the year. This is especially important if you use it as your daily commute. However, most bikes can be accessorised in this way.

The real advantage of the gravel bike is that you can switch the tire and fit much larger wheels and tires, giving you improved grip and comfort on the bumpiest of tracks. In other words, you can turn it into a fat bike!

Two Bikes: On the same vein as the first advantage, you can purchase skinny road tyres and put them on your bike when you need to go road racing. You’ll need just one bike to cover all your usual activities, that’s going to save you money and reduce the amount of space you need for storage.

Go Anywhere: These bikes are designed to handle the rough stuff better than road bikes. But they handle the really rough stuff just as well as a mountain bike. You can go anywhere with a gravel bike.

Slow It Down: There are times when you need to be bent over double with your feet going like Billy Whizz. But, in most cases, this isn’t really necessary. Gravel bikes don’t usually have a dropper post or dual suspension, this encourages you to go at a more sedate pace and actually enjoy the experience!

Simplicity: Gravel bikes are designed simply and have far fewer components that can go wrong or break. That means you really can get on and just ride, making the most of the time you have available and reducing surprise costs.

Cons

Slower: A gravel bike is slower although there is not much difference in the weight of the frame. The main issue is the width of the tyres, larger gravel bike tires create more resistance and slow the bike, compared to a road bike. But, the effect is minimal and you can always fit road wheels…

Weight: Gravel bikes are a lot heavier than road bikes. So if you ever need to carry your bike (e.g. if you live in an apartment block and have to carry your bike upstairs). You can see how much gravel bikes weigh in the sections below.

Cost: It is more expensive to pick up a gravel bike compared to a basic road or mountain bike. Of course, you’ll only need one bike in the future but it’s important to be aware of the potential cost difference at the start. This is especially true if you’re looking for a lightweight gravel bike.


Gravel bike tyre

Gravel Bike Tyres

There are several different types of gravel bike tyres, your decision on which is best for you depends on your budget and whether you want the fastest gravel bike tyres possible, or not.

The size of your gravel bike tyre can vary, for example, 28″ (700mm) models are available in widths between 28mm to 57mm, the wider the tyre the better the grip but the slower the bike is likely to be because it takes more effort to turn the wheels.


How Heavy Are Gravel Bikes?

The exact weight will depend on which gravel bike you choose but the average gravel bike weighs in at just over 11kg, that’s approximately 2kg heavier than the average road bike.

That’s going to slow you a little on roads and light country lanes, but you’ll want the extra weight for the strength and durability it provides when you’re on the rougher stuff.


How Fast Are Gravel Bikes?

The fastest gravel bike is not going to be as fast as a good road bike,. However, while this is generally blamed on the wider tyre and therefore an increase in drag, the real issue is actually the rider. The more aerodynamic you make yourself the faster you’ll ride, bent right over the handlebars on your gravel bike will be less comfortable than on a road bike, but it will negate the extra width of the tyres and help you to go as fast, especially if you’re going downhill.

But gravel bike speed is still very good. In short, unless you’re a professional racer the difference in speed won’t be noticeable, giving you more than enough speed wherever you’re going.


Man riding a gravel bike outdoors

Best Gravel Bike Brands

There’s a difference between a budget or affordable gravel bike and the best gravel bike on the market. Of course, most people don’t need the best; they need a good balance between the two, which is why it pays to be aware of the best gravel bike brands currently available.

These include:

It’s worth taking a look at everything they have to offer before making a decision.


Best Gravel Bikes

1. Canyon Grizl CF SL 6

canyon grizl cf sl 6 in blue background
canyon grizl cf sl 6 chain
canyon grizl cf sl 6 fork
canyon grizl cf sl 6 colours
  • UK Flag £1,949
  • US Flag $2,299
  • EU Flag €1,999

Prices are approximate

  • Frame Material: Carbon (CF)
  • Weight: 9.84kg (21.69lb)
  • Gears: 10-speed
  • Wheel Size: 700c
  • Max Load: 120Kg/265lb
  • Lights: Reflector set
  • Fenders:
  • Pannier Rack:

Although this is not the lightest gravel bike, and there were many others that would’ve battled for this 7th position, the value for money v the weight of this bike is just amazing. New for 2023, the Canyon Grizl CF SL 6 is only £1,949 and yet weighs in at 9.84kg: that’s seriously good stuff. Not only that but it also looks great and the frame and forks are also made of carbon, making it a great budget friendly buy for anyone wanting a lightweight gravel bike but wanting to spend a fraction of the RRP of the others in this list.

Pros

  • Amazing price
  • Carbon frame and forks
  • Light for the price

Cons

  • Only 10 speed
  • Not as light as high-end gravel bikes

2. Giant REVOLT ADVANCED PRO 1

giant revolt advanced pro in blue background
giant revolt advanced pro
giant revolt advanced pro
  • UK Flag £4,899
  • US Flag $5,500
  • EU Flag €5,700

Prices are approximate

  • Frame Material: Raw carbon
  • Weight: 9.84kg (21.69lb)
  • Gears: Aprox 8kg (17.63lb)
  • Wheel Size: 700c
  • Lights:
  • Fenders:
  • Pannier Rack:

Given how huge the company Giant is, it’s no surprise that they feature on this list with their very well received REVOLT ADVANCED PRO 1. Improving on the previous model, Giant is said to have saved 200g thanks to the Advanced composite frame and Advanced SL composite fork, which says to me that they were serious about cutting weight for this model. Coming in at around 8kg, it’s for sure paid off. But, it’s a pretty good price for the quality, making it a great option for anyone wanting to spend under 5k on a lightweight gravel bike.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Looks great
  • Great componentry for the price

Cons

  • Still expensive for most

3. Marin DSX 1

marin dsx 1 gravel bike
marin dsx 1 gravel bike sideview
  • UK Flag £816
  • US Flag $999
  • EU Flag €934

Prices are approximate

  • Frame Material: Aluminium
  • Weight: 11.4kg (25lb)
  • Gears: 11-speed 
  • Wheel Size: 700c
  • Max Load: 150kg (330lb)
  • Lights:
  • Fenders:
  • Pannier Rack:

Not every gravel bike has drop handlebars and the DSX 1 from Marin is one bike which has a slightly different setup. The flat handlebars make the bike more welcoming to ride, plus they’ll also help with steering when off-road.

The DSX features thoughtful touches like fork mounts for adding bottles and bags. With fender and pannier mounts, the DSX 1 could also happily adapt to a week’s commuting too.

Pros

  • Flat handlebars are comfortable for all
  • Fork mounts for adding cages and bags
  • External cabling routing for maintenance

Cons

  • 1×11 gearing has limitations

4. State Bicycle Co. 4130 All-Road

state bicycle 4130 bikes
state bicycle 4130 bikes in use
state bicycle 4130 bikes features
  • UK Flag £735
  • US Flag $899.99
  • EU Flag €845

Prices are approximate

  • Frame Material: Steel
  • Weight: 12.2kg (27lb)
  • Gears: 11-speed 
  • Wheel Size: 650b or 700c
  • Max Load: Not Stated
  • Lights:
  • Fenders:
  • Pannier Rack:

The only steel gravel bike on our list is the State. All-Road 4130. Again, like the Salsa Journeyer we listed above it can be purchased in a variety of guises.

The steel frame and fork, whilst heavy, makes for a reliable and solid base ( as do the thru-axles for the wheels), upon which State has added what has to be said a somewhat hotchpotch of different components. Whilst they won’t deliver the highest performance they’re probably a fair reflection of the overall price of the bike.

Pros

  • Thru-Axles
  • Loads of mounting points
  • Two frame colours
  • Customisation possible pre-purchase

Cons

  • 1kg (3lb) than most on our list
  • Down-specced components
  • Gearing won’t be enough for steep off road ascents

5. Ribble CGR AL – Sport

ribble cgr al all-terrain bike
trek checkpoint sl5 gravel bike colours
  • UK Flag £999
  • US Flag $1,250
  • EU Flag €1,165

Prices are approximate

  • Frame Material: Alloy
  • Weight: 10.5kg (23lb)
  • Gears: 20-speed 
  • Wheel Size: 700c
  • Max Load: 120kg (264lb)
  • Lights: Optional
  • Fenders: Optional
  • Pannier Rack: Optional

In the UK, Ribble are known to provide all types of bikes at decent prices. Although this version of the CGR has been around a fair while now, it’s still one of our favourites.

Just sneaking under the £1000 mark, this bike is available in two colours and six frame sizes. Ribble allows you to customise pretty much every part of the bike before you place your order – pretty sweet!

If you plan to ride more off-road than on, then maybe swerve this bike. The tyres and gearing are more suited to tarmac and hardpacked surfaces.

Pros

  • Can be customised before being ordered
  • Specification represents good value for money
  • 35mm tyres as standard

Cons

  • Tyres aren’t suited to off-road riding
  • Gearing spec is setup for faster road riding

tHE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A ROAD BIKE AND A GRAVEL BIKE.

Is a Gravel Bike Worth It?

If you’re considering a gravel bike then you need to go a step further and treat yourself to one. For the average rider, this is the best option available and will allow you to enjoy cycling, whether on or off-road.

Take your time choosing and testing the different bikes available, you want the one that suits you best, not the one that everyone says is the best!

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