Gravel Bike vs Road Bike
Gravel bikes stem from road bikes. But you can ride them not only on pavement. They’re more versatile and you can ride a gravel bike on almost all terrains. But of course, they’re not as fast as a road bike on tarmac.
Let’s have a look at the differences between a gravel bike and a road bike.
Gravel bikes usually have more clearance for larger tires. Wider tires give more traction. And you can ride wider tires with less pressure. That results in a more comfortable ride on trails. Most gravel tires are between 40mm and 45mm. But the trend goes to even wider tires like 60mm.
Road bike tires are usually optimized for speed. To be efficient and fast they have to have high pressure for less friction. That’s why they’re generally not wider than 35mm. A 23mm road bike tire you usually ride with 8bar or 115psi. For a 45mm gravel bike tire you would only use around 2bar or 32psi.
The geometry differences between a road bike and a gravel bike are subtle. You won’t be able to spot them unless you’re an expert or you have two bikes next to each other. The differences are only a few millimeters here and a degree there. But they make all the difference.
A gravel bike needs to be stable on off-road terrain. That makes some changes to the geometry necessary. Gravel bikes have a longer wheelbase and a lower bottom bracket. Also, the head tube is a bit longer and has a slight slacker angle. That makes gravel bikes shorter and gives the rider a more upright position. That improves their handling.
Road bikes have a shorter frame stack and head tube. That gets them a longer reach for a lower, more aero position.
Disc brakes are more or less standard on gravel bikes. Only cheaper models or models optimized for weight are using rim brakes. Gravel bikes need powerful breaks on any terrain under any condition. Especially in muddy conditions disc brakes bring great advantages.
Most road bikes nowadays also come with disc brakes. Disc brakes bring more security because of their predictable braking power. But if you look at the peloton of the Tour de France, a lot of racers still opt for rim brakes. They’re either traditionalists or they’re trying to save weight wherever possible. Rim brakes are a couple of grams lighter than disc brakes. All in all disc brakes are less widespread on road bikes than on gravel bikes.
Gravel bikes come with lots of mounts. They have mounts for bottles, fenders, racks, and bags. That makes them great adventure bikes that are perfect for backpacking.
Most road bikes have mounts for two bottles. That’s usually it. Some unique models might offer mounts for fenders, but that’s rather an exception.
Gravel bikes use flared drop bars that are wider than the ones on road bikes. A wider handlebar offers more control and stability. That’s necessary for trails and rough surfaces.
When it comes to the drop bars on road bikes, it’s again about speed, efficiency, and weight. They offer a riding position with narrow arms for minimal air friction.
Some gravel bikes have a dropper seat post. It allows the rider to move the saddle down for more technical descending while standing.
On-road bikes, the rider is always in the saddle, even on descents. So they use a regular seat post. Only in the 2022 Mailand – San Remo edition Mahoric used a dropper post for the descent. We’ll see if this becomes good practice or if it even will get banned.
The best gravel bike (2022)
Canyon Grizl CF SLX 8 eTap Suspension
For me, the Canyon Grizl CF SLX 8 eTap Suspension is the best all-rounder currently available. It’s not a high-powered performance weapon, but a well-rounded bike for all surfaces. Especially the RockShox Rudy Ultimate suspension fork makes the already wide range of use of the Grizl platform even wider. It ensures that the bike combines comfort, efficiency, and safety. Last but not least it provides riding fun in an unbeatable way in almost all possible scenarios. The result is boundless riding pleasure for gravel novices and experienced pilots. No matter the surface, it will chisel a fat grin on the face. The Grizl isn’t cheap, but the $6,499 price tag is fair.
Fork RockShox Rudy Ultimate 30 mm
Seatpost Canyon S15 VCLS 2.0 CF
Brakes SRAM Force eTap AXS HRD 160/160 mm
Gearshift SRAM Force eTap AXS XPLR 1×12
Stem Canyon V13 80 mm
Handlebar Canyon HB0063 440 mm
Wheels Reynolds ATR ****
Tires Schwalbe G-One Bite 700 x 45C
Available Sizes S M L XL XXL
Weight 9,42 kg at size L
RockShox Rudy Ultimate suspension fork with 30 mm travel
Tire clearance up to 700x50C
Compatible with dropper post and mudguards
Wireless SRAM Force eTap AXS XPLR shifting with 1×12 gears
Frequently asked questions about Gravel Bikes
What’s the point of a gravel bike?
A gravel bike closes the gap between a road bike and a mountain bike. It enables you to ride with great speed on tarmac but still allows you to use it in rougher terrain. You’re no longer bound to only one surface. It’s the perfect bike to use for a commute where you take the long way home from time to time.
What is a gravel bike vs MTB?
A gravel bike has slimmer tires and a drop bar vs a flat bar on an MTB. A gravel bike also has no suspension. With a gravel bike, you can reach higher speeds on tarmac and still ride off-road.
Are gravel bikes good for beginners?
A gravel bike is a great choice for a beginner. You don’t have to decide if you want to use your bike on- or off-road. You can still get a specialized bike if you, later on, realize, that you like one more than the other. Also, gravel bikes are more comfortable to ride than road bikes. That’s because they have a more relaxed geometry. Another advantage is that they don’t have a front derailleur. That makes shifting gears pretty easy.