Why choose a gravel bike?4 May 2023
Considering a gravel bike for your next set of wheels? Gravel bikes have become more and more popular over the last few decades, with good reason. To help you decide whether a gravel bike is right for you, we’ve detailed some of the best things about them below - plus one reason why a gravel bike might not be the best choice for your circumstances.
Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of gravel bikes.
Why are gravel bikes so popular?
Gravel bikes have been steadily increasing in popularity for what feels like forever. More recently, research shows that a huge spike of interest began in mid-2020, as the pandemic inspired people to put their health first. Whether you’re interested in improving your physical fitness or just want to clock up more hours in nature, gravel biking could be the way to do it.
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of choosing a gravel bike.
Commonly touted as the lovechild of the mountain bike and the road bike, a gravel bike gives you the best of both worlds. Gravel bikes can handle many mountain biking trails, with off-road capability that means you don’t have to stick to the roads when you’re out and about. At the other end of the scale, gravel bikes are also perfectly capable on tarmac and pavement for the vast majority of your road biking needs.
Great for beginners
As a result of their incredible versatility, gravel bikes are the ideal choice for beginner cyclists. They're great for those who want to get a taste for different styles of riding rather than taking the plunge and committing to one. With a gravel bike at your disposal, you’ll be able to try mountain biking and road cycling, take on trail paths that blur the lines between the two, and even try your hand at some gravel-specific routes.
Growing number of gravel races
Did you know that there are competitive gravel biking races held around the UK? These races combine the challenges of mountain biking and road cycling to test your abilities - not to mention making for a great day out. You can even give cyclocross a go - a winter cycling sport that meshes riding a bike with navigating an obstacle course. Having a gravel bike to hand can broaden your horizons, opening you up to these new opportunities you couldn’t take with a road or mountain bike alone.
Growing popularity of bikepacking
Finally, there’s one type of bike ride that really wouldn’t be nearly as good if taken on a mountain bike or a road bike. Bikepacking is the ultimate cycling holiday. You can tour a city, region or even a whole country while enjoying the perks of a leisurely bike ride along the way. Whether you prefer to stay in a bed and breakfast or camp out under the stars, bikepacking is best with a gravel bike. It will take you off the beaten track so you can explore the wild and wonderful sights to be seen away from the driveable paths.
With a less aggressive riding position than a road bike, gravel bikes are designed for maximum comfort in the saddle on longer rides. They also have additional luggage mounting points to help you carry everything you need for the trip. In fact, with a gravel bike, the world is your oyster.
When shouldn’t you choose a gravel bike?
Gravel bikes are pretty impressive, but while they’re good for a wide range of routes and terrains, there are nevertheless some situations where you’d be better off choosing a road or mountain bike instead.
While a gravel bike is perfectly fine for road cycling in a casual environment, chances are you’ll need a road bike if you intend to race competitively. Road cycling races tend to have rules on various components that limit the range of bikes you can compete on - which means a road bike is almost always required. On top of these rules, you’ll probably find you perform better in a road race on a road bike anyway - after all, it is what they’re made for. Road bikes tend to be lighter, more aerodynamic and feature a more aggressive riding position in order to help you cycle as fast as you possibly can in race conditions.
Similarly, if you’re looking to enter a competitive mountain biking race, it’s probably best to stick to a mountain bike. Gravel bikes can take on the average mellow cross-country trail, but when it comes to those hardcore MTB tracks that really put your skills to the test, mountain bikes are simply better adapted to get the job done.