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Road vs. Gravel - How do the bikes differ?

Surge in Gravel

In recent years, gravel cycling has grown rapidly in popularity. It's not hard to understand why the sport has become so popular. It's out in nature, the atmosphere is more laid-back, and the roads are often free of traffic. Gravel biking does not require the intricate skills of downhill mountain biking, but it's still an adventure where you get a little dirty. Due to its increased popularity, the gravel bike technology has been rapidly developing. At first glance, road bikes and gravel bikes may look similar, but there are some key differences.

Differences between Road & Gravel Bikes

Tires

The first and most obvious difference between a road and gravel bike is the size and pressure of the tires. Road bikes are designed to have the least rolling resistance possible, meaning a 23-25mm tire with 90-100 PSI. These specs mean tires will roll fast on the road, but it also means any slight bump will be felt. Consequently, this setup simply does not comfortably work for gravel bikes. Gravel bikes need a wider tire to provide more traction on loose, mixed surfaces. You will typically find a 30-40mm tire filled at about 40 PSI. The low PSI with the wider tire allows the tire to absorb the bumps in the road, and makes it more puncture resistant.

Brakes

Disc brakes have been popular on mountain bikes for a long time, but have only recently been entering the road cycling scene. Some still opt for rim style braking systems to save on weight. However, gravel bikes exclusively feature disc brakes. Disc brakes stop better on a variety of surfaces, making them more reliable and efficient.

Durability

Road bikes are often made as light as possible, which means they are not the most durable bike on the road. On the contrary, gravel bikes are designed to take a beating. Although you can find carbon gravel bikes, they will still be heavier than a road bike in order to withstand the abuse of the surfaces they're ridden on. Consequently, it's easier to attach racks and bags to a gravel bike than a road bike.

Geometry

Road bikes place a rider in a low aerodynamic, sporty position. On the contrary, gravel bikes have a longer wheelbase and a taller headtube that lets the rider sit more upright and relaxed. This position helps increase stability and handling on surfaces that are less predictable.

Reasons to Try Out Gravel Cycling

Thinking about trying out a gravel bike for the first time? There are several reasons to give gravel a try.

  • Chill! The gravel scene is known for its more relaxed atmosphere - and even post-ride campouts.
  • Get away from the threat of distracted drivers.
  • Encounter all sorts of nature and wildlife (we're talking llamas and marmots).
  • Become a much better bike handler.

Stop in today to try out a gravel bike!

Information found on active.com.