Gravel bikes, Adventure bikes (aren’t all bikes for adventure?), Multipurpose bikes, Off pavement road bikes, Cyclocross bikes, Drop handlebar commuter, CX bikes, Grinder bikes and Touring bikes are all different names for similar bicycles. The features common to all the above terms are a road, or drop handlebar and clearance for wider tires than a road racer. I really appreciate the versatility, comfort and durability of these bikes. They can accommodate a wide choice of tires, and most can be fitted with racks and fenders. Since they can take different tires, simply changing the rubber can change the character of this bike. With relatively narrow tires you get a quick and lively pavement bike. By fitting wider road treads, you have a bike quite suited for touring or commuting. If you install tires with more serious tread you can ride with confidence in gravel, grass, dirt, and tame mountain bike trails. If I had to have only one bike, this would be it!
Racing on gravel has been around as long as bicycles have been ridden, but it has become quite popular in recent years. It is a new category of organized racing. There are few, if any standards for these events, so be sure to check with the race promoter. There may be equipment restrictions or recommendations. Tire width and tread, especially are different for different conditions.
For us non racers, these machines open up new areas and ways to ride. These bikes are really a refinement, not a totally new phenomenon. Adventurous souls have been riding on challenging terrain since the bicycle’s invention. While the concept is the same, the equipment has been refined to improve the rider’s experience.
Today’s bikes are faster, more comfortable, safer and more durable. Braking, shifting, wheels, tires, and ergonomics are the biggest changes. All these improvements result in more fun! Higher speed, better cornering, shorter braking distances, and less upper body fatigue are all accomplished as compared to bikes of yore.
We are stocking lots of bikes in these categories. For women, one of my favorites is the Liv BeLiv featuring the almost forgotten mixtie frame. In Felt’s lineup we really like the VR series. The Toughroad by Giant is available with either a drop or flat handlebar. Naturally we stock both, so you can decide for yourself.
When contemplating a purchase of one of these versatile bikes, there are a few things you should consider besides quality, price and color. Does it accept racks and fenders? How wide of a tire can fit? The particulars of frame geometry will matter to some. For example, a long wheelbase is more stable when carrying a load, like touring. A lower bottom bracket is better for Cyclocross. For most riders these subtle differences are not extremely important.
If you want one bike to do it all, or a bike for fast recreational riding, you should take a close look at these machines. Please do not get stuck on one name of category. The lines get blurred, and bike companies use these terms differently. What does not change is the fun available riding in new places. Does anyone want a test ride?