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What to think about when buying a gravel bike

What to think about when buying a gravel bike

What to think about when buying a gravel bike

The rise in gravel culture across the UK and Europe has become ever more tempting to road cyclists over the past years. With brands launching, developing and then re-launching gravel-specific products to ensure they’re ahead of the curve, we truly are spoilt for choice when taking ourselves off the beaten path.


But, what are the main differences between a road bike and a gravel bike? 

To most, it may not look like much, but the minor tweaks and adjustments add up to some drastically improved ride characteristics when comparing to what would be an uncomfortable, bone shaking ride on a normal road bike to a comfortable, efficient one on a gravel specific one. 



Clearance for wider tyres

The first change we’re going to address is clearance for wider tyres. Much wider tyres, in fact. Brands like Trek, Enigma and Vielo boast up to 42c in 700c and 47c in 650b nowadays, all without having to switch bikes. For this reason, a majority of riders now solely own gravel bikes and two sets of wheels with different tyre setups. One set for road riding, one set for gravel riding. 

The type of tyre you choose depends on your riding style and what kind of terrain you want to ride on. If you’re looking for a do-anything, go-anywhere tyre, you’ll need something between 40c and 47c and a more aggressive, deep-mud friendly tread. The more aggressive the tread, the heavier the tyre will be, though. Some things to think about here. 

Most tyre setups in the cycling industry are now tubeless friendly, and if you’re looking to head out for bikepacking adventures and taking everything but the kitchen sink, you should look to set yourself up tubeless. Not only does it virtually eliminate punctures, but ensures you don’t have to carry spare tubes, just a tubeless puncture kit. Less kit = more space for snacks. The dream ratio. 



Frame materials

The most common frame options for gravel bikes are aluminium and carbon, with aluminium being more cost effective but carbon offering a much lighter, more nimble ride. Titanium frames are seen as the piste du resistance of gravel riders, ensuring a lightweight, comfortable and reliable ride alongside an aesthetic no other material can offer. 

Looking for carbon or aluminium? Check out Vielo or Trek’s gravel bike range. Looking for titanium? Enigma is your way to go. 




Disc brakes are now the dominant force in gravel riding, offering unparalleled levels of reliability and stopping power in every condition. Cyclocross bikes have already started to venture down this road (pardon the pun), moving away from the age-old cantilever brake systems and onto disc brakes.

We wouldn’t recommend any other braking system for gravel riding, so no need to expand on this, really. 




Gravel bikes, in general, have a more upright riding position, a longer head tube, shorter reach and higher bottom bracket than your typical road bike, but much like road cycling, gravel riding geometries vary from brand to brand and the type of riding you’re looking to undertake. 

Gravel bikes focused around speed tend to offer an aggressive geometry that pushes you further forward compared to more relaxed, long-distance gravel bikes. A shorter headtube is also common in race-focused bikes, giving snappier handling that allows for last-second direction changes and a poppier ride feel. 

A calmer, more adventure focused rider will benefit from an endurance focused geometry, following the standard gravel geometry of a shorter reach and wheelbase to improve stability and comfort over longer distances. 

We’d recommend the Vielo V+1 for speed enthusiasts, whilst the Trek “” is the perfect choice for riders with a more relaxed approach to their off-road rides. 




One again, the gear range on gravel bikes is much wider than your typical road bike. A wide-range cassette, sometimes cranking up to 58t, ensures those long, leg sapping climbs are easy to spin up, especially when fully loaded. 

You’ll typically find a wider range cassette equipped with a 1x chainring, whilst a 2x chainring will be spec’d with a more road focused cassette up to 42t. 

If you’re spending most of your time on smoother gravel, paths or just occasionally popping off-road, then a 2x drivetrain is probably best. If you’re wanting to ride rougher terrain then it’s best to follow the mountain bike world and go with a 1x drivetrain with a clutched rear derailleur.



Custom Builds

If off the shelf builds might not be your thing, or you just want something a little bit more special, then be sure to give us a call or pop in store. Our expert mechanics are obsessed with gravel riding, so will take you through the process of choosing the perfect components to build your dream bike!

Contact us here.

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