Choosing the right gravel bike: geometry, materials, gearing, tyres
Choose the most suitable gravel bike for your own requirements? It seems like child’s play, but it’s not that simple, especially for those who have no experience with gravel.
The world of gravel offers an infinite variety of options, with many very different products and in this article, we will try to analyse the most important aspects to take into account before making a purchase.
1. How, where and when to use a gravel bike
It’s one thing to use a gravel bike for a short stretch of dirt road during a long ride on asphalt, and quite another to use it on trails that are almost MTB. Trying to understand what the primary use of your bike will be is the most important step to take before proceeding with the purchase.
In general, we can identify three categories:
- who uses it mainly on asphalt, but prefers it to the road bike because it is more comfortable and versatile and does not care much about performance
- those who alternate dirt and asphalt in the same way and want a bike “without limits” (it could be considered the most “conventional” use of the gravel)
- those who use it mainly off-road, even on difficult trails, almost replacing what used to be done with their MTB.
Geometries affect the behaviour of the bike in a very important way.
Many newly manufactured gravel bikes are designed with geometries very similar to the MTB: open steering angle, long axle and longer reach compared to the gravel bikes that were manufactured a few years ago. Clearly, this imposition offers greater stability and safety off the road.
Others, on the other hand, have a similar design to road bikes, which guarantees good performance on any terrain, but are almost more suitable for asphalt or dirt roads than for extreme off-road riding.
As in the world of road bikes, the top of the range offers carbon frames. The characteristics of the fibre are perfect for creating versatile bicycles that are light, stiff but able to absorb the roughness of the terrain.
Aluminum, however, continues to gain a significant market share: It is certainly heavier and has a lower vibration absorption capacity compared to carbon, but thanks to the possibility of using large section tyres, at low pressures, it is possible to obtain very comfortable bicycles. It is probably the recommended option for those who want a good level gravel bike, without spending more than 1500 euros.
It has to be said that in the gravel world, the exasperated quest for lightness does not play such an important role, so even steel and titanium frames continue to play a leading role. However, it is clear that these are “unique” products and therefore much more expensive.
If you only use your bike on dirt roads, then the mono option is perfect: more intuitive and immediate, it eliminates any derailleur-related problems. However, it is important to choose your front derailleur according to your level of training and the slopes you plan to tackle.
On the other hand, the double crankset, although less “fashionable”, offers a greater number of possible combinations, which makes it easier to find the right gear to push. Clearly, it is the best choice for those who use gravel bikes on asphalt.
First of all, let’s start with the wheels, which must have a channel of at least 25 mm.
The standard bikes are fitted with 700×37 or 700×38 tyres, which is an option that can be defined as off-road.
For those who use the gravel on paved and rougher roads, we recommend the use of wider tyres (700×40-42). You could also go further, but at that point it would be better to use an MTB.
Those who use gravel bikes on asphalt can opt for smaller tyres: 700×33 or 700×35.
What we do recommend is to always opt for tubeless or tubeless ready tyres and wheels: this eliminates the risk of “pinching” the inner tube (very common in off-road use) and they are inflated to lower pressures, improving comfort and grip.
For all cycling products try Deporvillage.