Gravel Bikes - what exactly are you supposed to do with one?

Gravel Bikes - what exactly are you supposed to do with one?

Author
Discussion

oddball1313

Original Poster:

641 posts

70 months

Monday 21st October
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Another magazine bought and half of it dedicated to gravel bikes. I’m completely lost on what, why and where with these things. I get it if you live in Oregon etc and there’s 100 miles of tracks through woodlands the size of Wales but I’m clueless where these are in the UK? I’ve got Rutland water on my door step which is 26 miles if you factor in the peninsula but after that it’s footpaths and bridleways over the fields which look hopeless on a bike. They seem to me to be the biggest fad/con going on to get people to buy a product that is basically pointless as there’s nowhere to actually use them?

chris4652009

1,285 posts

31 months

Monday 21st October
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following with interest

austinsmirk

3,586 posts

70 months

Monday 21st October
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I'm intrigued by them- but I'd either:

do my commute and choose that I want to do a mainly off road route, or at least a mix of off road/road to make any sense of it/get value

do some mountain bike routes, but on my own and not with friends, as they're MTB'rs- so being honest, I'd lose them on the road/track bits immediately with a faster bike

not be able to do the mtb I do, because the bike probably couldn't cope with the off road stuff. I'm in yorkshire so mtb'ing tends to be pretty vertical all the time !


still like to try them out though !

Tall_Paul

1,709 posts

174 months

Monday 21st October
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Get out an ordnance survey map, look for bridleways, and get exploring.

If you live somewhere like me, the south east - where any decent mtb trails are at least 45 mins drive away, they're brilliant. Bridleways and tracks that would be boring and hard work on my other bike (a 150mm travel 29er FS mtb) are more enjoyable and more challenging on a gravel bike. I can easily put in a 25 mile ride in a couple of hours on a summers evening, with only a couple of miles of tarmac.

They're good on pothole strewn single lane roads, gravel fire roads, woodland fire roads, tame singletrack with roots. And they'll sit on the road at 20mph with ease.

Basically, I'm not interested in 'proper' road riding, but have tons of local bridleways from my door that would be far too boring to ride on the full suspension. And I use it to commute occasionally where it's mostly tarmac.



okgo

28,764 posts

145 months

Monday 21st October
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Totally agree.

Cyclocross bikes have been around for god knows how long and do the same thing, surely.

bonerp

357 posts

186 months

Monday 21st October
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I assume you are referring to cyclo-cross? Looks similar to mine. Its just a tough racing bike. Easy to use on road but tough enough for trails.

I don't get those fat tyred things. They must have so much drag and heavy to roll.

Jimbo.

3,487 posts

136 months

Monday 21st October
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Marketing bks.

Tabs

518 posts

219 months

Monday 21st October
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Just purchased a PlanetX London Road. Cable discs, single ring, 11 speed with fat tyres. Discounted to £499.95. Similar to a gravel bike. I also have summer road and winter bikes.
If I fancy a ride on the road with a diversion off road, the PlanetX is ideal. Just about fast enough on the road, and a good compromise as a mountain bike. Wouldn't be without it now. In fact, wish I'd bought a better spec as I was also unsure if I'd use it enough.

Barchettaman

3,031 posts

79 months

Monday 21st October
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I was thinking about getting a gravel bike, but ended up with an E-hardtail instead.

Now that thing really is a hoot on bridleways and woodland tracks!

TobyLerone

978 posts

91 months

Monday 21st October
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Well, as far as I see it, it goes down something like this;

The gravel bike is a bit of marketing wk. But...

There is something to it. I think. Most people who like off road riding will have full suspension MTBs with >2.4" tyres, and bouncy inefficient full suspension. Great for bike park, not so much for a 30 miler around the bridleways.

Most people who like riding on purely roads will have a road bike. Most probably won't have discs or fat (for a road bike) tyres.

Cyclo-cross bikes are a think, but they're almost always race-bred, with very aggressive geometry, and space for only 33mm tyres (the UCI says to race CX you have max 33mm tyres).

So gavel bikes - it's a compromise. Ok on the roads, thanks to being MUCH more aerodynamic and far lighter than even most XC race bikes. Ok on the easy off roads - you're not likely going to be smashing bike park Wales on a gravel bike, but bridleways, byways and local off road rights of access ways, they're great!

It's a bitter pill to swallow if you're cynical about spending another few grand (possibly) on another bike, to do stuff your XC or CX bike can do... but with a compromise of efficiency, geometry and weight.

I like them. Great for all day road rides, because they're comfortable geometry, and essentially road-bike aero. Not quite, but it's almost there. Stick a pair of lightweight 29er or even 650b tyres on, and it'll crunch over some countryside too. Not quite as good as your XC bike, but if you've got a few miles off rough roads or smooth gravel / fireroads / access roads on your route, maybe you'll have more fun and less toiling with a gravel bike, which is more comfortable than an out-and-out CX bike.

I dunno. That's my take on it. But I like them.
Monday 21st October
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Interesting GCN YouTube vid on them.

Their conclusion... you can ride the trails you used to in the early 90s and not feel over biked.

Old school mtb geo with brakes that work... What's not to like... Well unless you're tall hehe

Your Dad

1,469 posts

130 months

Monday 21st October
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TobyLerone said:
Cyclo-cross bikes are a think, but they're almost always race-bred, with very aggressive geometry, and space for only 33mm tyres (the UCI says to race CX you have max 33mm tyres).
Yes to the geo, no to the tyre clearance. I'm running 40mm tyres on my CX bike, still got plenty of clearance.

oddball1313

Original Poster:

641 posts

70 months

Monday 21st October
quotequote all
I get the concept, just not where in the UK all these amazing gravel trails are?

America and Canada I imagine are not short of them and maybe France and Italy in and around the mountains but I genuinely have no idea where there is enough of the stuff (certainly in my patch) to justify a specialist bike

Tall_Paul

1,709 posts

174 months

Monday 21st October
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oddball1313 said:
I get the concept, just not where in the UK all these amazing gravel trails are?

America and Canada I imagine are not short of them and maybe France and Italy in and around the mountains but I genuinely have no idea where there is enough of the stuff (certainly in my patch) to justify a specialist bike
You don't need gravel fire roads as far as the eye can see to ride a gravel bike, have you not read above?

And they're not a specialist bike, in fact they're one of the most versatile bikes out there.

Road riding
Exploring back lanes and country roads
Commuting
Gravel/fire roads/random woodland tracks
Mellow singletrack
Bikepacking

Basically anything between full on mtb trails and serious road riding.

Forget the name 'gravel bike'. Here they're better names as an 'adventure bike'.

FredClogs

13,756 posts

108 months

Monday 21st October
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My wife's got one she commutes on, it makes perfect sense, quicker progress on road than her old mountain bike, not as daunting as a road bike, will take on a canal tow path, rivers side track or stints on the sea front through sand drifts.

Helpfully we're roughly the same size so when it's wet (it's got full mud guards) or I just want to get out for a few hours of comfortable riding I can also do that and not have to worry about blowing my legs on the hills or constantly chasing strava segments. I did 50 miles on it on Saturday (all on the road bar about 10 miles along the sea front) and can honestly say it was the most enjoyable ride I've had this year.

If I had to only have one bike it would probably be something like hers.

Tall_Paul

1,709 posts

174 months

Monday 21st October
quotequote all
take-good-care-of-the-forest-dewey said:
Interesting GCN YouTube vid on them.

Their conclusion... you can ride the trails you used to in the early 90s and not feel over biked.

Old school mtb geo with brakes that work... What's not to like... Well unless you're tall hehe
https://youtu.be/XC_xFpg_UmA

Perfectly timed video. They are completely that, as MTBs have gotten more and more capable with more travel, riders need more and more challenging trails to ride them on. Leaving a huge gap in the market for something to ride on local mellow trails and light offroad.

frisbee

2,042 posts

57 months

Monday 21st October
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oddball1313 said:
I get the concept, just not where in the UK all these amazing gravel trails are?

America and Canada I imagine are not short of them and maybe France and Italy in and around the mountains but I genuinely have no idea where there is enough of the stuff (certainly in my patch) to justify a specialist bike
Where in the UK are the roads that don't resemble potholed gravel trails?

klootzak

401 posts

163 months

Monday 21st October
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Well I ride mine (a 3T Exploro) on the roads mostly.

It's a bit more relaxed than a CX bike, has decent hydraulic discs, and on 700c Fulcrum 4s with 28mm or 32mm tyres rolls very nicely over the crappy old chipseal we get on roads around here (NZ).

It's certainly more comfortable than my old road bike and barely any slower even though it's a solid 1.5kg heavier.

k

Evanivitch

4,837 posts

69 months

Monday 21st October
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Boardman ADV8.9 owner here (which Boardman admit is not a true gravel bike but built in a similar vein).

People that say cyclo-cross bikes are completely ignoring that cyclo-cross races are not long winded affairs. Gravel bikes are similar terrain, but as dissimilar as time trial bikes and road bikes.

I use it on roads, cycle paths (covered in wet leaves), gravel paths, forestry roads, canal paths etc etc. There's not many terrains I wouldn't at least attempt on it, but without the risk of a road bike or the slow road progress of a MTB.

Thesprucegoose

19,498 posts

142 months

Monday 21st October
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I took my road bike up canock chase on the fire trails, was a bit iffy but still fun. I can see the appeal of wider tyres and disk brakes.