The Gravel Movement
As the temps drop and the leaves change color, it is a perfect time to get those ultra-capable road bikes (that we classify as gravel bikes) out of the garage. In the past couple of years, gravel bikes have become extremely popular. Once people realized how capable and versatile gravel bikes are, it became clear they were here to stay. Gravel bikes are very similar to road bikes in many ways, however, they allow cyclists to ride more terrain. Most people use their gravel bikes as their road bikes because they enjoy the benefits of the gravel frames. By switching out gravel tires for faster rolling road tires, you can convert a gravel bike to a road bike. Let’s break down why a gravel bike should be in your quiver.
Whether on a specific gravel bike or a modified gravel bike, pretty much every avid cyclist is out enjoying some good gravel riding. Many, like myself, find that riding gravel is a nice way to get pedaling miles while getting to ride more diverse terrain. A lot of the allure of gravel riding is the exploratory aspect. Many riders find themselves riding the same route over and over, which gets very old after a whole summer of riding. Luckily, hoping on the gravel bike opens many doors to riders. Modern-day gravel bikes are extremely capable machines. With frames designed to position rider’s bodies to properly handle rugged terrain and to fit wider tires, gravel bikes allow riders to become creative with their routes.
Derived from the roots of cyclocross and road riding, gravel riding was born. Like mentioned before, frames were made longer and slacker for better handling on fast technical sections. Slacker headtube angles slow down fast-twitch steering but create a more stable handling platform for faster and more technical riding. This is important because when riding gravel roads, cyclists must be able to maneuver around holes and larger rocks while riding on loose surfaces. Thus creating a frame that is built to handle these tough conditions is key for an enjoyable experience.
Because gravel riding tends to be much rougher than most road riding, frames are designed differently to help yield a smoother ride. Gravel frames have been engineered with built-in compliance to help ease the feedback from rougher roads. A smoother ride allows a rider to go faster and reduces fatigue. Because the rider can stay seated through rougher terrain, they can continue pedaling for longer periods of time. For those that do not spend a lot of time on rigid bicycle frames, the ability for a frame to absorb bumps decreases the amount of time you need to use your legs as suspension and not for pedaling.
Two different categories have emerged from the gravel riding category, racing, and adventure. These two groupings are quite different and therefore thus the frames and components are designed differently. You can find substantial changes in frame geometry, frame bosses, drivetrains, wheel sizes, and other differences that can be seen between racing and adventure gravel bikes. Bikes have many small parts that can be changed to optimize performance in specific environments.