Gravel Bikes: History
The fact that gravel bikes have quickly become popular might surprise you, but in reality, they are the newest bikes to hit the market. Despite their youth, gravel bikes were invented only a few years ago.
- It was the Minnesota-based company Salsa Cycles that created the first gravel bike. After recognizing that cyclocross bikes and road bikes weren’t powerful enough to race on gravel, their team created the Warbird bike.
- It was their goal to create a bike that gave riders all the features they needed for gravel racing, as well as offering the best value.
Hence was born the warbird bike, the earliest gravel bike, which have gone on to become one of the most popular types of bikes among cyclists and have been growing like crazy in popularity for years.
Since gravel bikes were introduced, how has this changed?
- The gravel bike market has carved out a niche for itself since its invention in 2012.
- In comparison with more traditional bikes, gravel bikes are a relatively new concept.
Gravel bike designs have remained the same since the genre was founded, but manufacturers are always adding new tyre and gear options.
Gravel Bikes: Their Characteristics
In a nutshell
There may be several subtle differences between a gravel bike frame and a cyclocross or road bike frame, but they are easily overlooked.
- First and foremost, gravel bike riders have a more upright posture while riding due to their lengthened head tubes in combination with their shallow head angles.
- Gravel bikes have a longer wheelbase than road bikes because of the shallow head tube angle. A longer wheelbase allows riders to ride more comfortably on difficult terrain and with more control.
- Gravel bikes are mostly made from aluminium or carbon, as with most bicycle frames.
- In the mid-range and budget segment, aluminium is commonly found on gravel bikes to save on costs, as it is lightweight, stiff, and provides a relatively smooth ride.
Some gravel bike riders prefer carbon frames because of their great strength-to-weight ratio. Because carbon is lighter than steel, aluminium and titanium, it is a great material for aircraft.
Carbon’s lower density enables it to absorb impacts and vibrations better than metal frames, which are more prone to transferring vibrations from your surroundings.
Wheels & Tyres
- 650b and 700c wheels are the two main sizes available on gravel bikes.
- With smaller 650b wheels, riders can equip their gravel bikes with larger tyres, thereby boosting their performance while off-roading.
- There is a range of tyre sizes that can be fitted to 700c wheels on a vast majority of road/hybrid bikes.
- Most gravel bikes come with tubeless wheels, which allow you to lower tyre pressure more than with clincher wheels.
- With a tubeless bike, you’re less likely to suffer from pinch punctures because the tyre pressure is lower.
- The tyre width ranges between 35mm and 40mm on gravel bikes. Thick tyres are more efficient in flat terrain, while thinner tyres will allow you to overcome difficult off-road terrain without sacrificing speed because of more friction.
Gravel bikes have a wider selection of gears than cyclocross bikes, which I talked about in gravel bikes vs cyclocross bikes. Keeping the power on the wheel at all times is possible due to this feature.
There are some riders who prefer riding a single chainring so they can remove the front derailleur, reducing the chances of things going wrong and making maintenance easier.
In my opinion, a 1x setup is simple and effective. The left hand will remain fixed in place to steer while the right-hand shifts gears with a single hand.
Gravel bikes are almost all equipped with disc brakes. A new road, hybrid, and mountain bikes now all feature these breaks. The Disc brake is the most popular type of brake for gravel bikes because of its ability to work in all weather conditions.
It is important to have responsive brakes since you will be riding muddy trails and dry dusty trails. Grit Bike riders can quickly adapt their speed to the terrain by using responsive breaks.
Racks & Mounting Points
Gravel bikes are a good choice for cyclists who wish to carry a large amount of gear. Water bottle cages can be mounted in two places on a road bike, whereas bags, pockets, and panniers can be mounted three to four times on a gravel bike.
Gravel bikes allow you to go further and discover more while taking your gear with you, even if you’re into backpacking and off-road cycling.
Do Gravel Bikes Make Sense for Everyone?
Gravel bike cyclists are hard to stereotype since they come in all shapes, sizes, abilities, and needs.
Since versatility is one of the defining characteristics of the bikes, gravel bike riders will also have a wide range of options.
- It is most definitely the way to go for cyclists who do not want to feel locked into purchasing a bike. The versatility of these bikes enables you to try out different types of biking events since they can handle different conditions.
- This is the ideal bike for beginners wishing to explore both traditional road biking and off-road biking.
- For bikepackers and multi-day bikers, gravel bikes are a perfect choice. Since they do not wear down or damage the tyres, riders can ride these bikes in any road climate.
- The gravel bikes can be useful for commuters living in densely populated cities as well. A bike that’s capable of handling a wide range of terrain is super convenient in cities when space is at a premium
Do Gravel Bikes Have to Be Used By Everyone?
Since gravel bikes are primarily aimed at navigating a wide range of terrain, they are not as suited to riders who have a single riding goal in mind.
In order to ride your bike on paved roads, you need a road bike if you are a leisurely rider. If you will not use all the features of a road bike, it is unnecessary to purchase one.
Despite this, if you’re interested in getting a bike that will mainly be used for urban commutes, but also needs to cope with extreme weather, a gravel bike would be a good choice. It depends on your budget!
Gravel bikes are used in what competitions and events?
- Gravel bikes are used frequently in competitive cycling, even though they aren’t yet part of the UCI. There are a number of different types of gravel bike competitions and races that originated in the United States.
- As the race takes place over a wide range of terrain, gravel bikes prove to be a versatile form of transportation.
- Grinding races are a good challenge but not for beginners who are looking to enter their first race. The race may last anywhere from 50 to 150 miles because riders usually race between 50 and 150 miles per race. As well as tackling challenging trails, riders are faced with gruelling obstacles.
- Gravel bike races are not currently part of the Olympic competitions for those looking to race at the highest level.
Gravel bikes have many benefits
In general, gravel bikes are more beneficial than any negatives. The benefits and drawbacks of this type of bike design should, though, not be overlooked.
Gravel bikes have several advantages, including:
- The ability to adapt
- Fitment of tyres
- Frameworks with strong rigidity
- Bikepacking is great
There is a reason gravel bike riders enjoy the fact that they can ride on pavement, gravel, and mountains at the same time because they are able to adapt to many different types of trails.
Gravel bikes: Risks to be Aware of
A downside of buying a gravel bike is its price, a new model can cost up to $1,500.
Having said that, their versatility makes them a great choice for people who only want one bike instead of buying multiple specialized models, because it’s more economical that way.
Gravel bikes come with their own set of risks, including safety concerns.
If you ride a gravel bike, wear a helmet at all times.
If you are planning to go on a long hike, notify someone what you are planning to do and when you will return. As long as someone knows roughly where you are, they can locate you in an emergency if you become injured or stranded.
How Gravel Bikes Impact the Environment
By reducing car exhaust and manufacturing process pollution, cycling is a more environmentally friendly option than driving a car.
In crowded cities where smog is a health concern, many green-conscious people choose to ride a bicycle rather than drive.
If the city is congested, riding a bike may make it easier for you to reach your destination.
It helps nature thrive if you don’t tear up ground off-road if you ride a gravel bike.
Can a gravel bike function without any maintenance?
Gravel bikes need to have their tyre pressure periodically checked and maintained to function at their best. Keeping an eye on your tyre tread is also important because enduring a variety of terrain may cause them to wear down over time.
You should lower the pressure on your tyres when the terrain is softer or more challenging.
As well as this, you must keep your gravel bicycle serviced from time to time and make certain that it is cleaned after each ride.
Gravel bikes have certain requirements in order to ride them. What are they?
The smoother the terrain, the better the gravel bike performs, such as on rocky, bumpy back roads and on mountain trails.
Gravel bikes are suited for both competitive and casual cyclists, and their thick, durable tires can handle almost any terrain.
As a result, gravel bikes are faster, more adaptable versions of hybrid bikes, and are better suited to commuting and light off-road riding.
Wearing the Right Clothing While Riding a Gravel Bike
While choosing an outfit to ride a gravel bike, safety and comfort must always be considered.
Due to the fact that you’ll probably be perched on a saddle for long periods of time. Wear whatever is the most comfortable to you, whether that is a loose jersey or tighter cycling lycra.
If you are hiking on really difficult trails, gloves and knee pads can provide some extra protection. You should also get some cycling glasses if you are riding on dusty trails with loose gravel.
They will prevent dirt from entering your eyes, as well as prevent you from having watery eyes when you need to concentrate on the upcoming course.
Helmets are a must.
Gravel bikes require certain accessories. Would you recommend any?
There are quite a few helpful gravel bike accessories you can pick up to ensure a smooth ride on your adventure-seeking ride.
GPS units, bottle cages, lights, and other crucial items, such as a lock, helmet, and tyre pump, could all contribute to this.
Several waterproof frame bags can keep your luggage dry while allowing you to keep your body weight down if you’re planning to go cycling or biking with your gravel bike.