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what makes a bike a "gravel" bike?

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what makes a bike a "gravel" bike?

Old 08-19-20, 01:42 PM
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wilson_smyth
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what makes a bike a "gravel" bike?

is "Gravel Bike" another category created by marketing, or a genuine thing?
I ask as I have what was sold as a commuter, its a cube sl road race 2020.
Its got a slightly relaxed geometry, shimano 105's 700 shifters, cassette, derailleur, deore hubs, shimano BR MT200 disk breaks all round, 40mm knobbly schwable tires.

On giving my mates "gravel" bike a go (a GT Grade Expert), the spec was almost identical. The geometry was almost identical, much certainly closer to my bike than a full on road bike. The ride felt similar.
Apart from my straight bar and his drop bar, a blindfold cycle test would struggle to tell them apart ( and probably result in injury!). His was also 500 quid more expensive and im not sure why.

But it raised a question, if his is a "gravel bike" and mine is a "commuter", is the bars the only real difference?
Is the definition too loose to allow a proper definition of "gravel bike", or commuter for that matter?
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Old 08-19-20, 01:53 PM
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Maelochs
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Riding on gravel.
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Old 08-19-20, 02:17 PM
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Its a real thing and not just some category created by marketing, despite what some will inevitably claim.
Gravel riding was around before the explosion in popularity so it clearly isnt just a forced segment of cycling.

Gravel bikes are what many people should have been riding for years now, so as the trend was adopted, the industry took notice and started churning out products to support the trend. They would be stupid not to try and capitalize on it.
Drop bar bikes with wide tire clearance, quality components, and quality tires = the type of bike many people have wanted for years.


As for your bike- ride it wherever you want. Flat bar bikes can roll on dirt and gravel too.
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Old 08-19-20, 02:21 PM
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The better question may be, 'why is my Cube commuter named SL road race 2020?'

Just ride the Sh*T out of what you got and don't worry about names, or what the Manufacturer markets it as. Wanna ride gravel? Go for it. Wanna commute? Have at it. Want to enter a race with it? UCI will probably not allow it, haha
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Old 08-19-20, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post

Gravel bikes are what many people should have been riding for years now, so as the trend was adopted, the industry took notice and started churning out products to support the trend. They would be stupid not to try and capitalize on it.
Drop bar bikes with wide tire clearance, quality components, and quality tires = the type of bike many people have wanted for years.
So it's a "hybrid" bike with drop bars? I don't know about anyone else, but I see the "gravel" name and I stay away. "Gravel" to me means loose gravel and that's about the last thing I want to ride on.
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Old 08-19-20, 02:47 PM
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A lot of people probably do want a drop-bar "road" bike with wide tires---comfort and adaptability. A lot of others don't.

if you do ... get one, I guess. Oh, wait ... . you sort of did. (https://www.cube.eu/en/2020/bikes/ro...umngreen-2020/) (Oh and your friend's: https://www.gtbicycles.com/usa_en/grade-expert) Looks like you have better brakes, his wheels are probably a little lighter and just as strong. Drop bar shifters cost a lot more than flat-bar shifter. And he got a "GT," which is a more sought-after marque than a "Cube." So ... he paid a bit more for his down-tube decal.

Flat bar, but otherwise the same thing everyone would call a "gravel" bike. I'd guess that is the deciding factor for the PR team which picked the category ... flat bars are for "commuters" (greater comfort, more upright to see better in traffic) while drop bars are for "gravel riders" (no traffic to consider, and maybe longer rides.)

Remember back in the day, when you either had a bike or didn't? if you had a bike, you rode your bike. My love of MTB riding began on a 3-speed Sturmey-Archer-equipped Robin Hood when I was about nine .... if only I had known that it was the "wrong" bike.

So .... Don't tell people what kind of bike you have. if they ask if it is a "gravel" bike, tell them it is an aluminum bike--who would make a bike out of gravel? If they ask if it is a "commuter," tell them no, but you are sometimes. Wherever you ride, say, "I hope I can keep up, but I have the wrong type bike for this ride." Then if you don't get dropped, you can act all proud.

Have some fun with your bike. It's allowed.
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Old 08-19-20, 03:00 PM
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In some ways I think it is kind of an evolution of a cross bike for riding flatter terrain; more laid back, lower bottom bracket, more comfortable. And, wider tires to soak up the bumps and give enough traction.

A little like a comparison between a crit bike and touring road bike.

John
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Old 08-19-20, 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Its a real thing and not just some category created by marketing, despite what some will inevitably claim.
Gravel riding was around before the explosion in popularity so it clearly isnt just a forced segment of cycling.

Drop bar bikes with wide tire clearance, quality components, and quality tires = the type of bike many people have wanted for years.

As for your bike- ride it wherever you want. Flat bar bikes can roll on dirt and gravel too.
This is mostly correct, but I would add that cyclocross bikes are already equipped for gravel riding and have been around for years. The main difference between CX and gravel bikes seems to be the geometry: CX bikes are designed for riding for 1-1.5 hours at a time and include some compromises of comfort, while gravel bikes are designed to be ridden for much longer and prioritize comfort. Hence, most CX bikes have a more aggressive geometry, and most gravel bikes share the hybrid bikes' prioritization of rider comfort.

IME, it seems there is a spectrum of bikes from full-suspension MTB to road racing bikes, where CX and gravel bikes exist somewhere in between the two endpoints. If you ask the GCN boys, they recently pointed out that gravel bikes are essentially the same as the suspension-free mountain bikes from a couple decades ago, but with drop bars added.

Oddly enough, touring bikes share a lot of features that gravel bikes have, so maybe the gravel bike is just a new spin on some pre-existing products.
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Old 08-19-20, 03:04 PM
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Can you get a foot-long decal that says "GRAVEL" and stick it on your bike? As close as your bike is to your buddy's, that's probably the biggest difference.
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Old 08-19-20, 03:19 PM
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Thanks for the replies all.
I think i gave the wrong impression that i wished i had a gravel bike, which is not at all the case. I love the bike i have, its perfect for what i use it for that if i got it custom built it wouldnt be massively different!
I got it because depending on my mood, my cycle to work can be along a canal path that wouldnt warrant a mountain bike, but defo wouldnt be fun with 23mm tires like on my previous (stolen) bike. I got it because it felt like it could handle that terrain, and also be nippy enough around traffic.

I was just curious regarding the categories, seeing as there is so much overlap.

Originally Posted by Maelochs View Post
Remember back in the day, when you either had a bike or didn't? if you had a bike, you rode your bike. My love of MTB riding began on a 3-speed Sturmey-Archer-equipped Robin Hood when I was about nine .... if only I had known that it was the "wrong" bike.
My first bike was a little red folding bike with white tires with "dolly" written down the bar! As we got older, we all had what we called "Mountain bikes" by raleigh that weighted a ton and had little to do with anything about what people now know a mountain bike to be! If only i knew they were the wrong bikes i could have saved so much time wasted on fun and adventures!
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Old 08-19-20, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
Can you get a foot-long decal that says "GRAVEL" and stick it on your bike? As close as your bike is to your buddy's, that's probably the biggest difference.
While not a foot-long....https://pathlesspedaled.bigcartel.co...c-black-3-pack
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Old 08-19-20, 04:19 PM
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"Gravel bike " is a very clever marketing strategy. The only thing that the manufacturer has to do is increase tire clearance and tweak the geometry a little bit and then call it a "gravel bike".

The way I look at it is this:

- road bike = Ferrari
- MTB = Jeep
- Gravel bike = AWD Subaru

IOW a gravel bike is a cross over, jack of all trades do it all kind of a bike. It handles good on pavement and can still go off road and have fun on some mild singletrack.
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Old 08-19-20, 04:22 PM
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You Run out of Paved road , riding your bike..

Probably quieter, cars took over the highways. you're on a farm road.
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Old 08-19-20, 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Reflector Guy View Post
So it's a "hybrid" bike with drop bars? I don't know about anyone else, but I see the "gravel" name and I stay away. "Gravel" to me means loose gravel and that's about the last thing I want to ride on.
Sure, call it a hybrid with drop bars. It's a double hybrid then, since a hybrid was a mix of road bike and mountain bike.
Gravel bikes vary so significantly and are so wide ranging that they can be similar to a modern mountain bike and similar to a road bike. Calling them a hybrid is accurate and inaccurate, depending on which model is discussed.


As for staying away from gravel, that term is as wide ranging as gravel bike design. There are over 70,000mi of gravel roads in my state and almost all are very low traveled. They are just roads that aren't paved.
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Old 08-19-20, 04:54 PM
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Gravel bikes put a smile on your face.
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Old 08-19-20, 05:07 PM
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Unlike most of my road bikes, they accept fat tires.

I do have a couple really old road bikes, 700c conversions, that can accept some fat tires for gravel.

It would be a nice addition to have disc brakes and fenders for gravel, at least where I live.
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Old 08-19-20, 05:10 PM
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A gravel bike is a bike with a frame made out of gravel.
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Old 08-19-20, 05:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Reflector Guy View Post
So it's a "hybrid" bike with drop bars? I don't know about anyone else, but I see the "gravel" name and I stay away. "Gravel" to me means loose gravel and that's about the last thing I want to ride on.
most hybrids didn't really come with big enough tires. I guess you can get a bigger tire on most of them though. You get used to the lack of traction. That's one of many reasons why people want bigger tires on their gravel bikes.
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Old 08-19-20, 05:15 PM
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I think the popularity of riding on mixed surfaces grew first, then the industry came along with bikes targeted for that usage when they realized there was money to be made. If you separate the technology and designs from the marketing, you'll find some innovation and a whole lot of combining things we've already had. The back story of the 650 A/B/C wheel size tells you the idea of mixed usage bikes is not new at all.

Having gravel and cross and touring and endurance and all-road and commuter and race market segments means we have more choices. I don't necessarily fit any of them, but my chances of finding a bike and/or components to fit my desires is better than ever.
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Old 08-19-20, 05:31 PM
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I have a nice bike that I have ridden on pavement, gravel, grass, etc. It was built in 1992, by Bruce Gordon.
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Old 08-19-20, 05:42 PM
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Over the years, my level of participation in cycling, in general, has waxed and waned. When it's nice weather I ride more than when it's not. With exception reading stuff from the folks at Rivendell Cycles, an occasional glance through a Bicycling mag in some waiting room or pouring over a bicycle parts catalog (none of which had been done for a while), exposure to "new trends" in the bicycle world were absent until finding this forum. Even then, a full time job kept me from wasting (I mean spending &#128521 too much time coming up to speed. Semi retirement and COVID-19 have provided me with way too much time 😬.
I learned of the "gravel" bike right here on this forum!
While I'm sure those in the business of designing, manufacturing and most importantly selling "gravel bikes" will defend their position that these bike do have characteristics that warrant a separate class, I'm going to believe otherwise.
I just loved the very first reply "Riding on gravel"!
I don't have a bike that was "designed, manufactured and sold" as a gravel bike but have one that I do call my gravel bike. It's essentially a road bike from the previous millennium with 27" rims and a frame that's able accept a larger 27x1 1/4" (32-650) tire. I will say that the rear tire is a really tight fit but it does fit without rubbing! I generally run them with pressures around 80-85 psi. It has a wide range of gearing 29" low and 108" high. The steel frame is a tad large for me by currently standards. The ride tho, is comfortable and stable. It rides quite well on gravel and as expected handles hard surface roads too. Would be a piss poor mountain or single track bike. I would like to have better brakes but there's no chance of me upgrading this bike Tom disk brakes. Perhaps some good center pulls 🤔.
Bottom line, to me, is larger tires and a frame that accepts them.
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Old 08-19-20, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by HD3andMe View Post
So using that "logic," this is a gravel bike when it's ridden on gravel:



Does it turn into a road bike when ridden on the road?
it turns into a pumpkin when ridden after .... logic has failed.

Don't be afraid to visit your local big-box store and shop for both a life and a sense fo humor. One facilitates enjoying the other, and having both will make the first a lot more pleasant for as well.

Or you could spend your few remaining minutes on Bike Forums, snarkily sniping at others for no particular reason.

Are you generally unsatisfied? Can I help? Reach out ... people will listen.

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Old 08-19-20, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Reflector Guy View Post
"Gravel" to me means loose gravel and that's about the last thing I want to ride on.
"Gravel road" or "gravel cycling" is a term that covers riding on non-paved roads and tracks.They are a lot of fun, very low-traffic and often pass through interesting areas. They also offer a new type of challenge and a more intense workout. Whenever I see a sign that says " unimproved road" or "unmaintained road" I get super excited. We live in a world with too much pavement and it's kind of nice to get away from it and experience some dirt.
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Old 08-19-20, 10:05 PM
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What I do know that I wish they had gravel bikes (like we do now) 20-30 years ago.
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Old 08-19-20, 11:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Toadmeister View Post
What I do know that I wish they had gravel bikes (like we do now) 20-30 years ago.
20-30 years ago any rigid MTB with drop bars would be almost identical to what they call "gravel bikes" nowadays. Heavier, but otherwise very similar. I had an '88 Bridgestone MB4 which fit the bill very nicely. Chromoly frame and fork, 18-speeds, 1.6 (40 mm) tires and room for much more .....
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