Gravel bikes, what to lookout for?
Gravel bikes are really increasing in popularity and we can see why! A gravel bike has a lot to offer, allowing the rider to mix up their riding on a machine that can handle the rough stuff without sacrificing itself much for the tarmac!
A gravel bike is bike similar to a road bike so you can make good progress on the road but wider tyres, lower gearing and a more stable handling means you can also get off the beaten track and ride rougher terrain.
Riding gravel allows you to link up routes in new ways meaning you can link together gravel roads, forest trails, byways and bridle paths alongside roads meaning new adventures are endless!
You will need quite a different bike whether you want to nail the Dirty Reaver and smash that PB or if your next outing is all about having fun and exploring your surroundings. Regardless, away from roads and tarmac, gravel riding is all about the spirit of adventure!
So let us help you navigate what type of gravel bike you might be looking for by taking a closer look at each of their features.
Depending on what type of grav grav you want to do, you will look at different bike shapes.
Want to smash the Dirty Reiver in September? You will want to look at an aggressive bike with drop bars, which can carry speed and power.
Looking to spend all day in the saddle with friends for that 100km to the pub and back with a mix of road and off road? You'll want to look at a more relaxed bike with either drop or flat bars.
If touring across the continent is your bag, French Divide style, then flat bars will be your friend as the technical trails will require a little more.
When looking at gravel bikes the most common frame options are aluminium, steel and carbon frames.
Steel will be your all time classic gravel bike, durable, resistant to being trashed around, able to carry heavy loads. Steel will stand the test of time. Downside? Quite a bit heavier than the other options.
Aluminium is a durable option, but is quite a bit lighter than steel frames, which makes it a good material for the lower priced gravel bikes. So if you are looking for a steady ride, which will last a long time but saves you on weight look out for aluminium frames.
Carbon frames are often much lighter than aluminium frames as well as much faster. Often built in the more aggressive positions, carbon frames are fast and fun. However, if you're looking to carry heavy loads and tour the country, they are not your best option.
The type of tyres you choose for your gravel bike depends on the type of terrain you want to ride and from slick to chunky, there is a huge array of tyres.
However, choosing the right tyres should not be a headache. The rule of thumb is the more technical the terrain, the chunkier the tyres. The wider and chunkier tyres will be harder to pedal but will provide you more stability. The narrower and slicker tyres are faster, but won't provide you the grip needed by the more technical tracks.
Wider tyres allows you to run a lower psi in your tyres, which will make the ride softer across uneven terrain.
For rougher terrains gravel bike tyres and wheels are usually designed to be tubeless, which allows you to keep the pressure in your tyres down without getting punctures or pinch flats.
Gravel bikes often have a longer wheelbase and slacker angles in the frame and forks which allows for more stable handling off road.
They will often feature a more upright riding position with a longer head tube and shorter reach that your typical road bike.
You should search for a specific geometry depending on the riding experience you're looking to get. Gravel race will require a more aggressive position, whereas gravel tourers will be looking comfort.
Many endurance road bikes now come with the tyres and clearance to handle light gravel riding. But if you are wanting to mainly ride techy off road terrain you might want to choose a gravel bike with wider tyres on smaller wheels and a geometry more similar to a mountain bike.
Our team will be able to help you and find your perfect steed.
Almost all gravel bikes now come equipped with disc brakes. Not only this allows more space for bigger tyres but disc brakes give you consistent, effective stopping, whatever the conditions – crucial when you are riding multiple terrains!
When selecting groupsets and gears for gravel bikes depending on the terrain you will most likely be riding, you will want gears targeted at slower speeds and with greater range to allow for options for those steeper and looser climbs.
The big question is whether you have 1x or 2x drivetrains.
If you are spending most of your time on smoother gravel or paths and roads and wanting to go faster up and down hills then a 2x drivetrain is probably best. If you are wanting to go on rougher terrain then it’s best to follow the mountain bike world and go with a 1x drivetrain with a clutched rear derailleur.
Here at Brixton Cycles, we pride ourselves with our custom builds. Custom builds allows you to implement just about every idea or concept you could imagine to create your next steed. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us or come in store to chat about how we might be able to help build your dream ride!
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