What Is a Gravel Bike: Simple Guide

A gravel bike gives you wheels to run your race not minding the terrain! Do you have a gravel bike? You can unlock your adventurous spirit and ride on!
John Watson
John Watson
John is an experienced cycling enthusiast and a great asset when it comes to writing skills. He's a Bachelor of Arts and a talented journalist. John is in charge of our blog read more
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Jessica Kingston
Jessica Kingston
Expert Consultant
Jessica is our expert consultant on all things connected to biking - gear, technique, you name it. Being a pro cyclist in the past, she knows exactly how things work in and read more
Last updated: August 13, 2023
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Do you need to ride very fast on different terrains, but are you considering the best means of riding? Well, you don’t need to think too far. With a gravel bike, you can enjoy your adventurous ride to the fullest. Read on to find out what is a gravel bike and the detailed features of gravel bikes in this article.

What Is Gravel Riding?

Gravel riding is a very popular form of cycling on unpaved roads. Gravel biking includes different terrains – from smooth surfaces to steep and gravel roads. It also can be defined as a combination of road and mountain biking.

What Is a Gravel Bicycle?

What Is a Gravel Bike: Simple Guide
With a gravel bike, you can explore new gravel paths or go on an adventurous forest run.

Basically, gravel bikes are used for giving you great riding time on different terrains and surfaces. It features a drop handlebar coupled with a road bike design, wide tires, lower gears, and sturdy handles. These combinations are what make it great for different kinds of roads. 

There are different gravel bike designs and sizes. A gravel bike size is usually based on the manufacturer and the functionality. While some gravel bikes are designed for high speed, some are designed to look more like mountain bikes. 

Your choice of gravel bike has a lot to do with your preferred planned ride. If you want to have a fast and easy ride, you could go for the gravel bike that looks more like the road bike, but if you are doing some explorations with a bushy track or a rail track, then you should go for the mountain bike lookalike. Here are specific designs associated with gravel bikes. Now, let’s take a look at what makes a good gravel bike.

Frame material

Gravel bikes are mostly framed with aluminum and carbon. Other frame materials you may find include steel and titanium. While aluminum and carbon are relatively lightweight, steel and titanium aren’t.

Aluminum gravel bikes are generally lightweight, durable, and, of course, affordable. On the other hand, carbon is lighter than aluminum and can be manipulated to create comfort and reduce stiffness. It can also be used to construct aerodynamic tubes for aero gravel bikes.


The gravel bike bears a close resemblance to the road bike. However, it has its own distinctive features. Its angles are slacker than the road bikes, while the wheelbase is also longer. This makes it more suitable for off-the-road terrains.

You can achieve a more comfortable riding time with an almost perfectly upright position. This is because the gravel bike features a longer head tube and a shorter reach. Thus, if you are going on long rides, you can almost be sure you won’t come back with aching backs. The bike allows you to shift your weight easily if you confront any obstacle in your ride time.

The gravel bike geometry is designed to handle off-road stability. You will observe the frame’s tubes are shaped to ease cycling Trusted Source Cycling - health benefits - Better Health Channel Cycling can help to protect you from serious diseases such as stroke, heart attack, some cancers, depression, diabetes, obesity and arthritis. www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au , especially the section where the chainstays and the seat stays are. Most times, the seat stays are designed to cause some extra vibration and allow for better absorption.


What Is a Gravel Bike: Simple Guide
One of the best ways to identify a gravel bike is the big tires.

Gravel bikes always feature big tires. Most of the tires are usually within the range of 40 mm in width. And, of course, you have to consider your tires when choosing your terrain for rides.

The size of the gravel bike’s tire provides you the opportunity to ride comfortably on low pressures, even on unbalanced terrains. These tires also feature a tread pattern that helps them to grip well on sloppy surfaces. When buying your tires, you have to consider where and when you will be riding. You may want to buy tires with diamond thread, for instance, if you will be riding on dry routes. On the other hand, winter routes demand that you have tires with big, deep, bold patterns with side draws. This helps it to grip the road more firmly.

You will have most of your gravel bike tire tubeless. This keeps the tire pressure down without running a risk of having a sudden flat tire. These tires usually have sealants that ensure the tires are protected from different types of punctures like thorns, flints. It does this by creating a seal around the cuts, thereby reducing the air escape to the barest minimum.

Most times, your gravel bike has a frame that allows more than enough room for the large tires and still leaves space for mud packing too.

Tire Pressure and How It Affects Your Gravel Bike

One of the simplest maintenance works you can do on your tubeless tire is to regularly check the tire pressure before taking it out. Your gravel bike tire pressure level should depend on where you want to ride your bike. How does the pressure affect your bike?

1. It can determine how much you enjoy the ride.

Low-pressured tires soak up the vibrations and shock the ground may give off during the ride. It also absorbs the force from the pedals. Thus, giving you a more comfortable ride. On the other hand, hard-pressure tires direct the pressure to the cyclist himself and the bike suspension. This could, in turn, have a damaging effect on the bike and cause aches in the cyclist’s body. 

2. Increased speed

The rugged, pressured tire will increase the speed of the bike. The fact that the tires are pressured hard makes it easy for the bike to cover long distances in a short time. This has to be done on good roads, though, this is because a puncture on a bad road could deflate the tires. 

3. Bike’s power

With a low pressured tire, the more you ride the bike Trusted Source The Reluctant Rider’s Guide to Biking Whether you bought an impulse pandemic bike and haven’t used it, or you have an old cruiser hidden in your garage, now is a great time to get back in the saddle. Can’t ride? Feel overwhelmed by the biking world? Don’t worry, there’s a place there for you — right next to me and my kid’s sippy cup. www.nytimes.com , the more your tire deforms. This forces to pedal more and increase the energy released to both the tires and the pedal.


You have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to gravel bikes wheels. You can either pick from the 650b or the 700c. The 650b wheels usually have a smaller width and can easily wear wider tires. This gives it better traction. It does have a road bike look, though. However, you should know that most gravel bikes’ standard wheels are 700c. This, of course, could be changed to 650b if you want to do that later. However, the former wheel sizes favor off-road riding.

Disc brakes

What Is a Gravel Bike: Simple Guide
When hydraulic disc brakes became common for drop-bar gear shifters, they gradually spread to gravel bikes too.

Disc brakes are essential for gravel bikes. This is because it helps leave ample space for the wide tires the bike needs during off-road riding. They also are necessary for active stopping during a ride. For instance, according to users’ reviews, the Tommaso Siena Shimano Tourney is an excellent adventure gravel bike with disc brakes and big tires. It is perfect for all kinds of roads.


The gearing system of the gravel bike is also critical to the success of the ride. To ride off roads, you need lower gears. The lower gears will help you navigate sharp climbs and risky routes. When riding on loose surfaces, it’s only natural for your grip to reduce significantly, especially when climbing; however, you can easily prevent a wheel slip with the gearing system. This implies that gravel bikes should have wide-ranged 50/34t compact road chainsets.

It is not uncommon to also see double chainsets on gravel bikes. Another gearing feature you can spot is the super-compact chainsets. This type of chainset is one of the very best for rugged or sharp terrain.


Mounts, as the name suggests, help you to be able to maximize your gravel bike. With mounts, you can easily fasten some bags and add some accessories to your bike. One of the particular features of a gravel bike is the mount to attach both luggage and accessories. The mounts could also be used to hold things like mudguards, water bottles for long rides, feedbags, etc. Some bikes even have mounts for dynamo light. For instance, the mongoose men’s Elroy adventure bike is not just great for the life of the adventure. It is equally good to keep your essentials when going for such rides. It has room enough for 3 different water bottle cage mounts.

Other features

Other interesting features of the gravel bike include:

The drop-bar

The drop bars allow the gravel bike rider to assume a natural position while riding. With it, you can maintain better stability on the bike. The flared and expansive nature of the drop bars allows you to have good movement, especially when riding on rough terrain.

It is important to measure and ensure the drop bars are your comfort size, as this could significantly affect how much you enjoyed your riding experience. With your drop bars, you will be able to lower the bars and enjoy the added advantage of a deeper drop bar with a long head tube.

Most drop bars come in sizes 36cm and 46cm to get the best size for you. You may need to measure and know your perfect size in the two.

The dropper seat post

This is usually a feature of gravel bike upgrades. It is also one of the common features of mountain bikes, and it is quite useful, especially when you are descending an off-road.


The suspension system is a new feature of the gravel bike. It helps you manage your steep and rough descent very well. It does this by either raising or lowering your saddle.

Electric gravel bikes

What Is a Gravel Bike: Simple Guide
Electric gravel bikes provide support. However, the support you get depends on the particular motor for the electric bike used. The electric motor ranges based on different battery sizes, the terrain, and the degree of support you need per time.

You probably have heard about how exciting the electric ride could be. If you desire that kind of adrenaline-pumping power ride, then you should consider getting an electric gravel bike. This bike offers electric support when you pedal to a particular speed. It comes really handy when navigating difficult or sharp climbs or if you desire to give in to your exploring spirit and go off the road.

Gravel bike vs. road bike

From the preceding, it could be observed that the road bike usually has a faster and more forceful geometry than the gravel bike. This is because the gravel bike is less aggressive in its setup when compared with the road bike. The implication of this is better and more comfortable riding time. It helps you sit in an almost upright position and provides better stability when handling and riding.

Also, there is better room for the tires to use a wider tire, have an extra thread, and offers an extensive gear scope. And guess what! Your gravel bike can easily match your road bike speed on the main road, especially if you get the right tires set for the tarmac road.

Gravel bike vs. cyclocross bike

As mentioned earlier, the cyclocross is designed for race life. It could race for about an hour at a time. The gravel bike, on the other hand, is designed to endure difficult, explorative rides. Therefore, you will observe that cyclocross has the geometry that will allow it to run faster and negotiate around obstacles in a race. In contrast, the gravel bike will have a geometry that has a lasting and enduring exploring time. 

What Is a Gravel Bike: Simple Guide
The traditional cyclocross bikes are majorly designed for racing. They feature wide tires, lower gears, big clearance, looking very similar to the features of the gravel bikes.

The gravel bike tires have a lot of clearance for winter and mud, but the cyclocross has narrower tires. This helps it run faster during the race and, of course, helps go in sync with the race. Moreso, a cyclocross may not have enough mounts to add personal effects and other accessories.

Gravel bike vs. mountain bike

We’ve already established that gravel bikes can ride in rugged and steep terrains. But mountain bikes are more suited for more extreme off-road terrains. It has better geometry, tires, and suspension that suit that type of ride. There are a lot of features in gravel bikes that are actually borrowed from the mountain bike. These include the geometry, the suspension features, the gearing system, and of course, the tubeless tires.

The gravel bikes’ drop bars and aggressive gearing system give you a smoother and more comfortable ride. Mountain bikes have a firmer grip and provide a better suspension than even the best gravel bikes.

If you are riding on a tarmac or off-road terrain, the gravel bike is your best bet. However, if you would be doing a lot more explorative adventure, you would want to for the mountain bike.

Gravel bike vs. hybrid bike

What Is a Gravel Bike: Simple Guide
If you enjoy riding on light terrains but don’t have access to a gravel bike, then a hybrid bike would be a great alternative. The hybrid bikes have wide tires and low gearing ranges. It equally features flat bars instead of drop bars.

The tires patterns of the hybrid bikes make them more ideal for tarmac road use and commuting, unlike the gravel bikes that could be great for both road and off-road routes. And although the hybrid bike hardly needs to clear off mud, it still has mounting points for the mudguard. Hybrid bikes are great for commuting, gentle, and leisure rides. However, if you find yourself on any difficult terrain, you can make it out in one piece with a lot of caution and carefulness.

Benefits of a Gravel Bike

As you can see, a gravel bike is an excellent vehicle for those who like adventures. This bike has its own adventures that we will list below.

  • Versatility;
  • Upright riding position;
  • Comfortable for long rides;
  • Durability;
  • A great number of wheel and tire options.


Are gravel bikes suitable for the road?

Gravel bikes are very suitable for tarmac roads. You will enjoy comfort and speed if you ride with a gravel bike on a paved road. Almost the same experience you will get with a road bike. The only difference is while road bikes are not suitable for off-road riding, gravel bikes are ideal for almost all terrains, on the road and off the road.

Is there any significant difference between the road bike and gravel bike?

Gravel bike and road bike are almost the same with slight but significant differences. The major difference is in the tire sizes. Road bike tire sizes range between 21mm, 23mm, 25mm, etc. these are narrow tires and will not be suitable for off-road adventures. On the other hand, a Gravel bike has bigger tires with wide patterns. This makes it suitable for all road types in all conditions.

Final thoughts

The preceding paragraphs have given a lot of exposure to what is a gravel bike. The specific features include the frame materials, the geometry, the tires, the wheels, the gearing system, and the mounts. It also fully explained the differences between the gravel bike and other bikes, such as mountain bikes, road bikes, and hybrid bikes. If you need a bike to use on the road, but you also quite love some adventure, the gravel bike is the way to go. It gives you stable handling for steep off-road terrains as well as comfort for the tarmac road.


Cycling - health benefits - Better Health Channel
Cycling can help to protect you from serious diseases such as stroke, heart attack, some cancers, depression, diabetes, obesity and arthritis.
The Reluctant Rider’s Guide to Biking
Whether you bought an impulse pandemic bike and haven’t used it, or you have an old cruiser hidden in your garage, now is a great time to get back in the saddle. Can’t ride? Feel overwhelmed by the biking world? Don’t worry, there’s a place there for you — right next to me and my kid’s sippy cup.

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