Gravel bikes have gained popularity in recent years as a versatile option for cyclists who want to explore both paved and off-road terrains. However, if you’re not a fan of gravel bikes or want to try something different, there are alternative options that can provide similar benefits. In this article, we will explore some alternatives to gravel bikes and their unique features.
One of the notable differences between road bikes and gravel bikes is the handlebars. Road bikes typically have conventional drop handlebars, while gravel bikes often feature handlebars with a flared drop. The flared drop provides better control and comfort when riding on gravel surfaces.
If you prefer the handlebars on road bikes but still want the versatility of a gravel bike, you can consider using alternative handlebars. There are various options available, such as ergonomic handlebars or flat handlebars with bar ends. These handlebars can provide a more comfortable riding position and better control on different types of terrain.
A popular difference between road and gravel bikes is the handlebars. Road bikes have conventional drop handlebars, but gravel bikes have specific handlebars with a flared drop that can increase control and comfort on gravel. The drop section of the handlebar is simply flared and the flare angle varies from gentle to extreme, so try a few to see which one suits you. A wider drop bar will also increase your control and help relax your upper body.
Gravel bikes are generally more relaxed than road bikes, so a sensible change to try to replicate this is to swap the 130mm stem on your road bike for a shorter, taller stem. Moving the handlebars closer to your body will improve your control, especially when riding on wooded trails when you want a nimble, nimble bike that’s easy to ride. Raising the handlebars using an angled stem will improve your control on descents by reducing the shift of your body weight on the front wheel when the bike is leaning downhill.
Adjusting Stem Length
Gravel bikes are generally more relaxed compared to road bikes, which means they offer a more upright riding position. To replicate this on a road bike, you can swap the current stem with a shorter and taller stem. This adjustment moves the handlebars closer to your body, improving control, especially in wooded trails where nimbleness is essential.
Raising the handlebars using an angled stem can also enhance control on descents by reducing the shift of your body weight on the front wheel. This is particularly advantageous when the bike is leaning downhill, as it helps maintain stability and improve overall handling.
Lauf True Grit
A standout alternative to a gravel bike is the Lauf True Grit. This bike features a unique Jimmy Durante front suspension fork that provides 30mm of travel. The Lauf True Grit gained attention with its unconventional appearance and impressive performance over rough terrain.
Tested on Southern California fire roads, the True Grit showcased its ability to float easily over fast and bumpy surfaces. Despite the added weight of the Grit SL fork, the bike remained lightweight, weighing less than 18 pounds. The Lauf True Grit is an excellent choice for those seeking a high-performance alternative to traditional gravel bikes.
Gravel Cycling: A Personal Experience
The world of cycling has always been a passion for many individuals, including myself. As a dedicated road cyclist, my whole life revolved around the thrill of road racing and immersing myself in the cycling culture of different countries. However, recent experiences on the road made me reconsider my choices.
Increasingly, I noticed drivers distracted by their phones, close calls with vehicles, and even a minor accident. These incidents started to take away the joy I once found on the road. As a result, I turned to trail running as a new way to explore the outdoors. It provided a different kind of thrill and allowed me to avoid the risks associated with road cycling.
The Rise of Gravel Bikes
Gravel bikes have seen a significant increase in popularity, surpassing road bikes in terms of demand. According to a survey conducted by GRAN FONDO, over 51% of respondents preferred gravel bikes, while road bikes remained at 43%. This shift reflects the growing interest in gravel biking and the versatility it offers.
After suffering big losses the previous year, road bikes remain at 43% and endurance bikes at 34%, in second and third place, respectively. The question of what type of bike you want to buy also basically reflects the trends of your current bikes. Thus, gravel bikes also occupy the first position with 41%, while 31% are interested in a racing bike and 23% would prefer an endurance bike.
From gravel bikes for light MTB trail use to gravel time trial machines, there’s almost nothing left that isn’t available. For the gravel enthusiast looking for the perfect gravel companion, this is, of course, a curse and a blessing! Because apparently it’s suddenly no longer enough to want to ride a bike that can handle any adventure.
Instead, you feel like you have to be classified as a gravel racer, pleasure cyclist, adventurer, or commuter. At the same time, specially optimized bicycle models offer clear advantages for specialized cyclists who know exactly what they want.
The bicycle industry has recognized this trend, resulting in a wide range of gravel bike options available in the market. Manufacturers have moved away from a one-size-fits-all approach to cater to specific segments within the gravel bike community. From light trail use to gravel time trial machines, there is a gravel bike for every type of rider.
While the diverse options can be overwhelming, they present an opportunity for gravel enthusiasts to find their perfect companion. Whether you’re a gravel racer, pleasure cyclist, adventurer, or commuter, there’s a specially optimized gravel bike that fits your needs.
Dan discovers gravel cycling…
I was, and always will be, a purebred roadie. I’m also a purely uphill type of person. For many years my life revolved around bicycles. In fact, I first moved to Europe to road race and experience the Italian cycling culture. I dreamed of running through steps with cowbells ringing and spectators shouting. For me, walking down the road, going up one side of one step and down the other, and repeating it, was my life.
But in recent years my experiences on the motorcycle began to suffer. I noticed more and more drivers looking at their phones, I had a few close calls and then a car hit me. Nothing serious, but enough to make me paranoid. As all these experiences added up to less fun, I started spending my time uphill not on wheels, but in running shoes. I switched to trail running and never looked back.
While gravel bikes have become a popular choice for those seeking versatility, there are alternatives available for those who desire a different riding experience. Whether it’s adjusting handlebars, stem length, or exploring unique bikes like the Lauf True Grit, cyclists have options to customize their rides according to their preferences.
Ultimately, the choice between gravel bikes and their alternatives comes down to personal preference and the type of terrain you plan to ride on. It’s important to test different options and find what works best for you.
Have you tried alternative options to gravel bikes? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments!
1. Are alternative handlebars suitable for all types of bikes?
Alternative handlebars can be used on various types of bikes, including road bikes and gravel bikes. However, it’s essential to consider compatibility and consult with a professional bike mechanic for proper installation and adjustments.
2. How do I choose the right stem length for my bike?
Choosing the right stem length depends on your body measurements, riding style, and preferences. It’s recommended to consult with a professional bike fitter who can analyze your riding position and help you determine the appropriate stem length for optimal comfort and control.
3. Can I convert a road bike into a gravel bike?
Converting a road bike into a gravel bike is possible with the right modifications. This may involve changing the tires to wider and more durable options, adjusting the handlebars and stem, and adding accessories like fenders and racks. However, it’s important to note that not all road bikes are suitable for gravel riding due to frame and clearance limitations.