What are Gravel Bikes, Let us explain

Gravel Carbon Bike vs Road Bike

In this article we take a look at Gravel Bikes. Everyone is talking about gravel these days and from our point of view, it’s not hard to see why; so what are gravel bikes? Well allow us to take you on a journey to understand what a Gravel Bike really is, what makes them different and why they are here to stay.

Regardless of where your from you would have easy access to plenty of unpaved service roads or basic gravel that you could tackle on your roadie.  The problem is these surfaces wreak havoc with your standard roadie headset, wheels and can shake you into unconsciousness, and lets not even consider if you encounter a slightly technical up or downhill section.

Enter the gravel bike

What is a Gravel Bike?

Gravel and all-road are terms used for this rapidly growing segment of the drop bar bikes. These bikes have generous tyre clearance and geometry that is more stable and forgiving than traditional road bikes.

As the name suggests, gravel bikes are primarily designed for gravel and fire roads. Gravel bikes are made to accommodate the luggage bike-packers need on their multi-day trips and come with rear/front rack attachment points.

Gravel bikes originated  from the American Midwest, where racing on gravel roads took hold a decade ago and has steadily gained popularity. In the early days, riders tackled these endurance events on cyclocross bikes with the largest tyres that would fit.

Is a Cyclocross bike the same as a gravel bike?

Gravel bikes and cyclocross bikes do have a lot in common, however there are some key differences.

Cyclocross is a sport and the bikes are designed for racing. So what, well that will generally mean a lower and more aggressive riding position. Likely to have sharper steering and higher gearing. The tyre clearances aren’t as generous, since the UCI has a 33mm maximum rule for competition, you’re less likely to have mounts for mudguards and racks.

The benefits of a gravel bikes then rise to the surface, because gravel bikes aren’t restricted to racing they are designed to accommodate endurance type riding having less aggressive frames and overall will be more practical.

The Gravel vs. Cyclocross Bikes Debate

Clearly differentiating between cyclocross and gravel bikes can sometimes be tricky as they both feature a pretty similar design and components. However, both are optimized for different purposes. Gravel bikes (more comfortable) are for fun seekers who want a single bike for gravel/dirt and paved roads and want more storage options for multi-day trips. Cyclocross bike (prioritize speed) on the other hand are meant for competitive cyclocross events. They are not as comfortable as gravel bikes due to subtle differences in geometry and other components. Both these types of bikes are not as fast as road bikes on paved roads and not as comfortable as
mountain bikes on challenging terrains.

So Should You Buy a Gravel Bike?

Gravel bikes are meant for riders who want to explore challenging terrains that otherwise are not easily accessible with road bikes. However, these bikes are not as comfortable as full-suspension mountain bikes. This makes them unsuitable for the most challenging of terrains, which usually require enduro or downhill MTBs.

Gravel bikes are not designed for winning road championships, but they will provide a great balance between on/off road performance. Traditional road bikes are designed for on-road performance and mountain bikes for off-road adventures. Gravel bikes are a nice middle ground between them and prioritise stability and comfort over speed and rolling resistance. This makes them a great choice for recreational activities and exploration.

Some key differentiating factors of gravel bikes include:

Designed for better endurance and a more comfortable upright sitting position
Steadier and better control
Allow using both 700C and wider 650b wheels
Larger tire clearance of up to 47mm
Most gravel bikes have attachment points for storage racks, hence the term bike-packing

Our Top 5 Gravel Bikes

2020 Giant Revolt Advanced


This high-performance all-rounder made a big splash with its 2018 debut, landing podium finishes at big-time gravel events including Grinduro and the unofficial “Gravel Worlds” in the U.S. The frame is integrated for disc brakes and has clearance for larger tires up to 45c so you can float through the rough stuff. Add in some clever frame details, including the X-Defender downtube protector and smart mount system for racks and accessories, and you have everything you need for your gravel adventures.

Key features and specifications:

  • Advanced, lightweight frame-set, 12mm thru-axle
  • Contact XR D-Fuse handlebar (31.8mm) and seatpost for vibration/shock absorption
  • Clearance for up to 45c tires
  • Shimano Ultegra shifters (22sp)
  • Shimano Ultegra front and SU RX rear derailleur
  • Shimano Ultegra Hydraulic disc brakes (160mm) and brake levers
  • 700x40C tires Maxxis Velocita (120tpi)

2020 Cannondale Topstone (105 Disc)

2020 Cannondale Topstone (105 Disc)
2020 Cannondale Topstone (105 Disc)

A capable, versatile gravel road bike. Built for chasing horizons, exploring routes less travelled or accelerating your commute.

Key features and specifications:

  • Shimano 105 groupset
  • Hydraulic brakes
  • Durable and lightweight aluminum alloy frame (SmartForm C2) and full carbon fork
  • FSA Omega crankset
  • Tubeless-ready tires/rims
  • Formula RX-512 hub/front hub and Formula RX-142 rear hub
  • 700x37c tubeless-ready tires (WTB Riddler TCS Light)
  • Weight 21.99 lbs./9.9 KG

Specialized Diverge Womens

Women's Diverge Comp
Women’s Diverge Comp

Nowadays, there are few bikes out there that can do it all. Sure there are some that work well as a road bike and a ‘cross bike, while others can be used for commuting and some short road riding, but there’s not one steed that can effectively perform all of the above.

Key features and specifications:

  • Can accommodate up to 700x42mm or 650bx47mm tires
  • 700x38mm tries to minimize rolling resistance (Sawtooth Sport)
  • Carbon frame and fork (FACT 9r)
  • Future Shock Progressive Suspension (20mm travel)
  • Single bolt Carbon seatpost
  • Shimano 105 flat-mount disc brakes
  • Shimano 105 shift levers, front/rear derailleur and cassette
  • Traxis Alba crankset and bottom bracket

2018 Norco Search XR Ultegra 700c


The Search XR is simultaneously non-conformist yet familiar, pushing the limits of what you’d expect from a drop bar bike. With generous tire clearance, rack, fender and bottle mounts, and a lightweight carbon frame, the Search XR is an all-new breed of adventurer that takes you off the beaten path and allows you to ride every road and trail your heart desires.

Key features and specifications:

  • Can accommodate up to 700x40C or 650Bx42C tires (tubeless-ready, folding)
  • Carbon frame and fork (Search XR Carbon)
  • Bottle mounts, fender and rack
  • Shimano Ultegra front/rear derailleur
  • Shimano Ultegra front and rear shifters
  • Shimano Ultegra front and rear brakes


BREED 20 | 2019
Felt BREED 20 | 2019

Rugged, capable, versatile, able to be outfitted with a wide array of storage solutions, and with the ability to run either 650b or 700c wheels, the Breed 20 is the ultimate gravel race bike. Built with the incredibly popular SRAM Force drivetrain, the Breed 20 is the ideal machine for tackling a fast gravel grinder, navigating technical singletrack descents, or flying across miles and miles of rough terrain.

Key features and specifications:

  • Custom-butted aluminum frame
  • Carbon fiber fork
  • SRAM Force shifters and rear derailleur
  • Praxis Works Zayante crankset
  • SRAM cassette, hydraulic brake levers and brakes
  • Carbon fiber seatpost
  • 650bx47C tires (WTB Byway)
  • Weight 21.4 lbs./9.7 KG

The Wrap Up

These double-duty bikes make the choice easier for riders who want to shed some mud without compromising too much on on-road performance. If stability, comfort and storage capacity are your top priorities, gravel bikes make a lot of sense and offer the best of both worlds. Gravel bikes are great for people who don’t want to spend tons of money, store and maintain separate bikes for road traveling and dirt track adventures. A great all round option and compromise that will happily tackle most things you can throw at it. Fun Plus!



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