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5 Reasons why Gravel Bikes are good for long distance

Exploring the Versatility of Gravel Bikes: Your Perfect All-Terrain Companion

If you’re an avid cyclist, you’ve likely heard about gravel bikes and the buzz surrounding them. Gravel bikes, also known as adventure bikes or all-road bikes, have gained popularity for several compelling reasons. In this comprehensive article, we will delve into five key reasons why gravel bikes are capturing the hearts of cyclists and explore their all-terrain prowess.

Well, now you know what I’m going to say… Yes, I think it’s the humble gravel bike, but listen to me, I think you’ll come to agree with me!

Naturally, when you think of long-distance riding, you think of a touring bike. With its relaxed driving style, light handling and overall good road manners. You might be thinking, a gravel bike? Are you angry?

Bike touring in comfort on a gravel bike
Bike touring in comfort on a gravel bike

Reason 1: All-Terrain Dominance

The primary reason people fall in love with gravel bikes is their remarkable all-terrain ability. These bikes are true multi-surface warriors, capable of conquering everything from smooth pavements to rugged dirt paths, mild singletracks, and of course, gravel roads. What’s even more impressive is that they achieve this feat on a single wheelset. This versatility opens up a world of possibilities for your cycling adventures, allowing you to explore regions with diverse terrain effortlessly.

Imagine you’re touring through a place like Vermont, where the landscape varies from town to town. Well-traveled roads can quickly transition from pavement to gravel and back again. In such situations, owning a gravel bike is a game-changer. You can take shortcuts of several miles on gravel roads that would be arduous to navigate on a road bike with slick tires.

Reason 2: Wheel and Tire Options

Gravel bikes offer riders the flexibility to adapt to various tour styles by simply switching out tires or wheels. These bikes can accommodate tire widths ranging from 23mm to a substantial 52mm. Planning a scenic ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway with its beautifully paved roads? Equip your gravel bike with 28mm tires for a smooth, enjoyable experience. If you’re tackling the C&O Canal towpath, opt for knobby 42mm tires to ensure comfort and exceptional grip on rougher terrain.

Reason 3: Riding in Comfort

Comfort on a bicycle is subjective, but there are some universal principles to consider. Gravel bikes typically feature a more relaxed geometry, offering enhanced comfort compared to bikes with aggressive postures. Larger tires contribute significantly to ride comfort, and gravel bikes usually accommodate them. You can even adjust tire pressure to create a cushioning effect when riding over bumps and rough surfaces. Some models, like the Cannondale Slate Lefty Oliver, even come with suspension options for added comfort. Additionally, gravel bikes provide a variety of hand positions, a feature that mountain bikes with straight handlebars lack. With double-wrapped handlebars and a cushy underlayer, you’ll find yourself comfortable even on your longest rides.

Reason 4: Lightweight Efficiency

Gravel bikes strike a balance between lightweight efficiency and rugged durability, making them an excellent choice for bike touring. While they are heavier than traditional road bikes, they remain significantly lighter than dedicated touring or mountain bikes. These few pounds can make a world of difference when tackling steep climbs on your journey. The only trade-off might be slightly lower weight capacity for extended tours. For carrying truly heavy loads, a dedicated touring bike might be more suitable. As the saying goes, “Steel is Real.”

Reason 5: Unparalleled Fun

Last but certainly not least, gravel bikes are just plain fun. They possess the agility of road bikes, the comfort of touring bikes, and the adventurous spirit needed to tackle various terrains. Whether you’re exploring wild singletracks, covering miles of gravel, or embarking on multi-week tours, a gravel bike handles it all with grace and ease. No matter the challenge, these bikes take it in stride.

So, it’s time to grab your gravel bike, outfit it with panniers or frame bags, and embark on your cycling adventures. The possibilities are endless, and the thrill of gravel biking awaits you.

Bike touring with ease on a lightweight gravel bike
Bike touring with ease on a lightweight gravel bike

Gears galore

Let’s talk gravel gears. Technically, the topic falls under the umbrella of versatility, but it’s important to recognize that a lot of gear choice comes down to individual taste, and gravel bikes offer more options when it comes to what works best for you.

A subcompact crank combined with an 11/34 can get you through just about anything. Or scale it down and go for a 1x groupset (just one chainring in front) with a larger cassette. Shift gears as easily as your shoes when you want to tackle specific steep climbs with loose surfaces, or take part in gravel events, time trials, road races and even ultra-distance races, the sky is the proverbial limit. Now that you have the right tires and gearing, push your limits.

The Perfect Blend: Road and Mountain Bike Qualities

Gravel bikes are essentially a hybrid of road bikes and cyclocross bikes. They seamlessly merge the speed and efficiency of road bikes with the durability and stability of mountain bikes. Let’s break down what makes them stand out.

Tire Tech and Traction

One key feature of gravel bikes is their wider tires with a specially designed tread pattern. These tires offer superior traction on loose surfaces, ensuring you maintain control even on gravel roads. It’s the kind of grip that adds confidence to your ride, whether you’re navigating a dusty trail or a rocky path.

Ready for Rough Terrain

Gravel bikes are built to tackle the most challenging terrains. They come with ample clearance for larger tires, ideal for navigating rough and uneven ground. Additionally, most gravel bikes are equipped with disc brakes, ensuring consistent stopping power, no matter the weather conditions or terrain.

Is a Gravel bike the same as a Touring bike?

While it is true that some gravel bikes can make up for themselves as decent touring bikes, both types still differ from each other, which is quite noticeable if you take a closer look.

Contessa Signature 2023, Scott's premium collection for women's road and gravel is renewed

Ready for Rough Terrain

Gravel bikes are built to tackle the most challenging terrains. They come with ample clearance for larger tires, ideal for navigating rough and uneven ground. Additionally, most gravel bikes are equipped with disc brakes, ensuring consistent stopping power, no matter the weather conditions or terrain.

The Ideal Long-Distance Companion

Gravel bikes are a top choice for long-distance rides. Their ability to handle diverse surfaces opens up a world of exploration. You can embark on bikepacking trips, venture off the beaten path, and discover new horizons. The comfortable ride and stability of gravel bikes mean you’ll feel fresh even after covering extensive distances.

Endurance-Ready Features

If you’re a dedicated long-distance cyclist, some gravel bikes are tailored for endurance riding. These models often come equipped with advanced features like vibration dampening technology and additional frame compliance. Plus, they offer extra mounting options for accessories such as racks and panniers, making them perfect for extended journeys.

The Ride to and from Lake Bartlett

The diverse environment of the Sonoran Desert has a lot to offer, and you’ll enjoy some of that diversity along the way to Lake Bartlett and back. This Strava Category 2 climb covers 13 miles from the Cave Creek road turnoff to the lake with an average gradient of 2%. The descent from the turnoff to the lake’s marina is 400 meters.

If you choose to visit Horseshoe Dam, you’ll add a few more scenic miles to your trip. Or, if you’re a real roadie, ride the full 54-mile route from Phoenix to the lake.

Bicycle Geometry

Touring bikes have a more relaxed geometry, making them better for long rides. They are also typically heavier than gravel bikes because they are designed to support more weight.

Gravel bikes have more aggressive geometry, making them better for shorter rides and riding over rough terrain. They are also usually lighter than touring bikes because they are not designed to support as much weight.

Gravel bikes, also known as adventure bikes or all-road bikes, have been making waves in the cycling world. These remarkable machines are designed to tackle a variety of surfaces, from smooth asphalt roads to rugged gravel paths and even challenging off-road terrain. In this article, we’ll delve deeper into the world of gravel bikes and why they’ve gained such popularity.

Geometry and Comfort

For those long, enjoyable rides, gravel bikes boast a more relaxed geometry. This design choice enhances comfort, making hours in the saddle feel like a breeze. Whether you’re out for a leisurely weekend ride or a multi-day adventure, the relaxed geometry of a gravel bike keeps fatigue at bay.

Unlocking the Potential of Gravel Bikes for Touring Adventures

Gravel bikes have emerged as a prominent trend in recent years, with major bicycle manufacturers all introducing their own lines of gravel bikes. The gravel biking scene now boasts an array of events, including a gravel bike world cup. These bikes exude an aura of speed and durability, prompting the question: can gravel bikes be a suitable choice for touring? The resounding answer is yes! Gravel bikes offer a fantastic option for touring, but there are some crucial considerations to keep in mind before embarking on your journey.

Unveiling the Advantages of Touring with a Gravel Bike

Gravel bikes are meticulously crafted to handle diverse terrains, ranging from smooth tarmac to rugged, rocky pathways. This versatility makes them an excellent choice for off-road touring or situations where you’re uncertain about the road conditions.

While contemporary gravel bikes are purpose-built, they still retain the speed and endurance associated with road bikes. This means you can cover substantial distances with ease, allowing you to explore far and wide.

Another compelling feature of gravel bikes for touring is their standard equipment, which includes disc brakes and wide-range gears. Disc brakes offer superior stopping power compared to traditional rim brakes, a crucial advantage when you’re carrying all your gear during long rides. Additionally, they perform exceptionally well in wet or muddy conditions, ensuring your safety in varying weather conditions. Wide-range gears also come in handy when conquering hilly terrain with a fully loaded bike, reducing the effort required to pedal uphill.

Choosing Between Bikepacking and Touring

It’s worth noting that most gravel bikes are optimized for “bikepacking” rather than traditional touring. Bikepacking resembles backpacking in the world of cycling and typically involves short trips lasting one to three nights, often with minimal accommodations such as a bivvy bag or open-air sleeping. If your tour involves hostels, bothies, or bed and breakfast accommodations, this distinction may not pose a challenge. However, if camping and carrying a tent and several days’ worth of provisions are part of your plan, you might find that a gravel bike’s storage capacity is somewhat limited.

Furthermore, gravel bikes are usually equipped to accommodate bikepacking frame bags rather than traditional panniers, further emphasizing the need for a lightweight setup. If you possess lightweight gear, including a tent, stove, and sleeping bag, you’ll be well-suited for this style of touring. However, careful consideration of your equipment is essential.

Race-Ready Gravel Bikes vs. All-Purpose Gravel Bikes

As the gravel bike category evolves, we’re witnessing the emergence of dedicated race-oriented models. Take, for example, Orbea’s Terra gravel bikes, available in both aluminum and carbon frame options. The aluminum variant offers versatility and is ideal for bikepacking adventures. In contrast, the carbon frame version is characterized by its lighter weight, increased speed, and suitability for racing. A similar dichotomy is observed in the Specialized Diverge range, where top-tier models boast carbon aero wheels and wireless shifting—perfect for racing but less aligned with remote touring routes.

The Ideal Solution for Occasional Touring

Gravel bikes are robust and versatile machines that enable you to explore your surroundings like never before. They open doors to new cycling experiences right on your doorstep, eliminating the need to invest in a dedicated touring bike. While there may be limitations on the amount of gear you can carry, this often proves to be an advantage. With less baggage to weigh you down, you can move swiftly, cover more ground, and revel in the joy of your adventures without the burden of excess baggage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Are gravel bikes suitable for beginners? Gravel bikes can be a great choice for beginners due to their versatility and comfortable riding position. However, it’s essential to consider your riding preferences and the terrain you’ll encounter.

Q2: Can I use my gravel bike for commuting to work? Absolutely! Gravel bikes are versatile enough to handle daily commutes on a variety of surfaces, including city streets, bike paths, and gravel roads.

Q3: Do gravel bikes require more maintenance than other types of bikes? Maintenance requirements can vary based on your riding conditions, but gravel bikes generally require regular upkeep like any other bike. Keeping your bike clean and well-maintained ensures longevity.

Q4: What’s the ideal tire pressure for gravel riding? Tire pressure depends on factors like rider weight and terrain. It’s best to consult your bike’s manual or a professional to determine the right tire pressure for your specific circumstances.

Q5: Can I participate in competitive cycling events with a gravel bike? Yes, many cycling events and races cater specifically to gravel bike enthusiasts. Gravel racing has become a popular sport, offering a unique and exciting competition experience.

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4 COMMENTS

    • Well, to each their own, but I must say, gravel bikes are the way to go! They offer versatility, comfort, and the opportunity to explore beyond the roads. Dont knock it till you try it, my friend. Happy riding!

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