Having a gravel-specific bike isn’t essential, but it will make your ride experience much nicer. There are features of a gravel bike, most notably the size of tires it can accommodate, that will make for a much more stable and comfortable ride. If you’re new to riding gravel or not comfortable on terrain that’s not a smooth pavement, you’ll see great benefit from getting a gravel-specific bike.
What is a Gravel Bike
Sometimes the terms gravel bike and all-road are used interchangeably. An all-road bike is just what it sounds like: great for all types of roads, even gravel roads.
We love all-road bikes because, you know, options! Options and flexibility are amazing. You’ll never find one bike to do it ALL, but an all-road is pretty close.
A gravel bike will almost always come with disc brakes. It will often have a 1x drive train, with a derailleur only in the back. This is beneficial for its simplicity – a derailleur can easily get gnarled by the rough terrain most gravel riders embark upon. Gravel can easily get lodged in the mechanism. Some people say that on gravel you’re less likely to notice the subtle difference each and every gear offers and it’s just fine to have a more gapped gear spacing.
Gravel bikes come in various materials, but I mean, come on, STEEL. Steel is real – the rallying cry exists for a reason. Gravel roads are rough and rugged and your bike is going to take a lot of that shock. Investing in a quality steep bike means you’ll have a relatively light ride, an extremely sturdy ride (no thanks, aluminum) and the material will absorb a lot of the shock of the road – making for a more comfortable ride feel.
A gravel bike might have drop bars, might not, usually does.
The position is usually not too aggressive, but far different from a mt. bike. Kind of like a cross between a cyclocross bike and a road bike, with a little more upright thrown into the mix for many styles. That’s a good thing for those of us who like to go far on gravel and want to actually see the world around us while we do.
Gravel bikes might come with 700s or 650bs for wheels – it varies. 650b is a good way to go. And get those tires pretty fat – like 45s.
What are the Best Bikes for Gravel
I’ll tell you a story about this one. One time, two organized people who love riding bikes decided to invest in grave bikes. They had similar interests and analytical minds. One of them put together a spreadsheet, the other did additional online research and test riding.
And OH MAN there were a LOT of bikes on that spreadsheet. So many of them seemed equally great.
There are many excellent gravel bikes on the market these days so we’ll just name a few.
Made in Portland with love, care and fine attention to detail. This is certainly a top choice – a custom bike made just for you to your personal specs.
Just the right mix of features, component set and a great steel for the right price. I’m currently riding this bike and LOVING it. Upgrade to some Sugar Wheel Works Wheels in 650bs and keep or sell those 700s for a supreme ride feel. There are 7 bikes in the Renegade series, but this one seems to be the perfect balance.
This is a solid choice from a reputable brand. The bike delivers all the features you’re probably looking for and comes with strong reviews from those who have bought this bike.
Your challenge is going to be finding these bikes for a test ride. Ask around – they’re hard to find in the shops and Breadwinner is fully custom – not in the shops.