My guess is it’s just easier to sell another bike to someone who already has one (three) than trying to create a new customer? Or do gravel bikes truly fill a gap in the market that the progression of mountain bikes has left empty? Test and compare under the same condition to find out which is best. This is the very first time when I had the opportunity to test at the same time 4 very interesting gravel bikes. Global Cycling Networks even did some – admittedly unscientific – testing: They ran a set of racing tires and a set of gravel tires. Meanwhile, most recreational groups on a Saturday morning road ride have no problems holding that same speed. On the bright side, it feels a bit light for a gravel bike made of steel. There was also the “RVing” TV campaign – were neither of those effective? The result: The racing tires were faster on all surfaces. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it. If you are running a more standard racing tire, like the Continental GP 5000 (221 g), the difference to the 48 mm-wide tires shrinks to just 384 g. And you get some of that weight back, because the smaller 650B rims and shorter spokes weigh a bit less. In the end, choice is a glorious thing. Aerodynamics of the rider: The rider is responsible for most of the wind resistance. And I intend to go to the 700×44 Snoqualmie Pass tires in the future. Any conditions. I changed it for a road frame with the opposite geometry (Trek Emonda – very steep and short) as an experiment. Plus, we all know that the fastest bikes out there are neither gravel nor road bikes, but velomobiles. De nombreuses courses de gravel y sont d'ailleurs organisées. I won’t pretend that a gravel bike is the better option for going fast on flowing singletrack, bombing a rough firetrail, or tackling a mountain bike marathon race. Find out why wide tires can be fast, how to find a frame that optimizes your power output, and how to get a bike that handles like an extension of your body. In turn, your glutes are more easily recruited to the task of pedalling, and so you can, in theory, pedal with greater efficiency. Too bad. And it’s this stark difference in speed that has perhaps helped define the design differences between modern gravel and mountain bikes. The (very small) increase in wind resistance of the wider tires is compensated by a (very small) decrease in rolling resistance. Speed is safe – and fun! So often we joke that gravel bikes are just old mountain bikes from a time that’s now in the rearview mirror. For example, James Huang, the technical expert from CyclingTips.com, posted: “I’ve been spending too much time on gravel and mountain bikes lately. Update 11/17/2020: We’ve just published our new book ‘The All-Road Bike Revolution’ with all the research that has changed cycling in recent years. One of the most obsolete post in your great blog! Oh Dear where do we start… Never have I seen or read where aero is measured with a rider on the bike in a wind tunnel. (Some riders prefer the more stable feel of bigger wheels and tires. Gravel and Cyclocross Bikes Check out our amazing range of cyclocross bikes at Evans Cycles if you are after unrivalled versatility in a no-nonsense, traditional package. 2020 BMC URS Three gravel bike review: Ground broken, 2020 Marin Gestalt X10 gravel bike review: The wheelie machine, Bikes of the Bunch: Unno Aora, the world’s lightest mountain bike frame, 2020 Giant XTC Advanced SL 29 1 hardtail review: fast as, Specialized overhauls Epic HT: A 790g hardtail mountain bike frame. The bike frame never determines how fast someone is. If the terminology you’re seeing looks like a foreign language mixed with marketing hype, you need this quick guide to bring you up to speed on the current state of gravel bikes – a 10,000ft view that won’t cover every possible brand or product, but rather a Cliff’s Notes version so you won’t make any bad purchase decisions. Probably not for long. It’s the bike I tried to cobble together for years (before I knew it existed) but was always let down by geometry, tubing selection, tire clearance, decent fender/rack mounts, or all of the above. Domane: very comfortable—even on rough dirt. The 2kg weight saving isn’t even worth 5 minutes on the longest climb (2.5 hours). Maintaining an average speed of 25 km/h (15.5 mph) on a mountain bike, over rocky and technical terrain, would put you in a very elite category. Which leads me to a conversation about average speed, perhaps the best metric in deciding whether a gravel bike, or mountain bike, is right for you. It’s not. They’ll be more likely to stay engaged and become life-long cyclists. Instead, they keep trying the old strategy of selling bikes to those who already have plenty. After 2200 miles on my gravel bike this year, my average speed was 19.3 MPH compared to an average speed of 20.3 MPH for 5000 miles last year on a steel road bike. They want a bike – one bike – that combines speed with comfort and the ability to go off the beaten path. (Bicycle Quarterly’s wind tunnel tests found no significant difference in the wind resistance with a 25 and a 31 mm tire.). I recently put the Standard casing Snoqualmie Pass tires on my wife’s aluminium Trek hybrid. Meanwhile, that extended reach adds further efficiencies by reducing your body profile to the wind. In my experience, even in fast group rides – like the early stages of this year’s PBP – I have no problems keeping up on my Rene Herse with 650B x 42s. The contenders are Cannondale Topstone Carbon, Canyon Grail CF SLX, Specialized Diverge Comp 2021, and titanium Enigma Escape (my own build). With two bags on a low-rider front rack it can even go camping, filling the long lost “sport touring” role. The Rene Herse Cayuse Pass is one of the lightest tires you can buy. Could it be that the little accelerations needed to grab the wheel after being on the front are a tiny bit harder than on a bike with narrow light tyres and at the limit this is enough to mean you are dropped, which then makes a big difference to your speed. The euphoria about gravel bikes is hitting a snag: Many riders feel that their gravel bikes are slower than their road bikes. From there, a narrower drop handlebar further reduces your frontal profile compared to the wide flat handlebar of a mountain bike. Gravel bikes have now truly opened up a new genre that fills the gap between lightweight mountain bikes and road bikes. Here in Bali, you can be pedalling fast downhill for 40-60 minutes so the wheels noticeably help there. Many non-cyclists are excited about the idea of the all-road bike. However, the dropped chainstays pioneered by Open have solved the problem of fitting wide tires between narrow cranks.). Aero is VERY IMPORTANT for an aeroplane flying at 500 kilometres an hour, not your average cyclist riding between 20-35 kph. Yes heavier bike is slower. With a 500% or 520% range a 1x12 AXS gravel bike has wider gearing than a GRX double. There is also a massive difference between an average speed of 15 and an average speed of 20 as the increased effort is exponential. There is no reason why a gravel bike couldn’t use the same riding position as a racing bike (above). So you trade some aero and weight for improvements in rolling resistance/suspension losses. I may keep the wheels; they will cut through a muddy CX course if nothing else, but when I return to the twisty, undulating terrain of the UK/Ireland with unpredictable weather I will be going back to bigger tyres and mudguards! For most of us, mortals, speed on bike is secondary. ~ Hed SL+ where I installed your superlative Barlow Pass Ultralights running at some 50 PSI. Cyclocross bikes can make ideal commuter bikes and are as comfortable exploring off-road as they are eating up tarmac. The big diameter wheels feel a bit ponderous, hard to accelerate (650b would alleviate this). It reduces the impact to your body, and makes a huge difference in helping to control the wheels – meaning more traction and the ability to hold the desired line. Then when the wind is blowing around you on the bike, in the real world, there will be eddies and flurries of wind that has changes in direction and causes a dislodgement of laminar flow over your super duper aero frame and wheels which renders the design useless. Q factor: Many ‘gravel’ cranks are very wide (above). It is great that road bikes and gravel bikes are good at different things. A 650B x 48 mm Rene Herse Switchback Hill Extralight tips the scales at just 413 g. Still, a set of Switchback Hills will weigh about 450 g more than our featherweight 700C x 26 Cayuse Pass (183 g each) – but that difference is little more than half a water bottle. (Due to carbon’s lower density, you need wider chainstays on a carbon bike. Why the bike biz folks don’t create a “Got milk?” type of marketing scheme to appeal to potential new customers is a mystery to me. Maintaining an average speed of 25 km/h (15.5 mph) on a mountain bike, over rocky and technical terrain, would put you in a very elite category. Handling felt cumbersome. Some of the climbing segments are faster. The push on e-bikes was the first clue gravel had already peaked, just as ‘cross had a few years earlier. Motor and battery: the right choices for a gravel e-bike We know that with the same casing and tread rubber, wide Rene Herse tires roll as fast as their narrow cousins (at 22 mph/35 km/h). I suspect the reason is simple: The industry wants to sell more bikes. Similarly, more skilled riders or those coming from mountain bike backgrounds can find true joy in rediscovering old trails on a less-capable bike. (As speeds increase, wind resistance matters more, so it’s possible that at time trial speeds, narrow tires are a little faster. Clearly suspension is a good thing when you’re on rough terrain. These are questions we’ve pondered as gravel bikes have risen in popularity, and something we wanted to answer while at our inaugural Field Test in Sedona, Arizona. Product Test: Velo-Orange Grand Cru Brakes. I’m sure you’re aware of this Jan. Fun, but a handful, to ride on deep gravel. Below that, my 38mm Extralights rolled great. (You don’t want to get dropped on your Sunday morning ride!). All 700c. In turn, a mountain bike suitable to many tailored trail networks can make riding simpler terrain, such as gravel roads, rather dull and slow-feeling. Your take on the bike biz is refreshing. On the other hand, if you ride slower than 22 mph, you’re probably faster on wider tires.). Here we go again. Since you can’t try them all, we saved you some time and tracked down the 15 absolute best single-speed bikes. colour: desert´n´black. Are you using different wheels on the same bike? The answer is: ‘It depends.’ There are a few things that can make a gravel tire slower: Aerodynamics of the bike: Wider tires catch a tiny bit more wind, but a 10 mm increase in frontal area doesn’t make a huge difference. The higher rolling resistance is due to the tire’s casing, not its width. Another way to look at it... A bike frame weighs 4-6lbs. Am I keeping it? Gravel bikes are better for most riders than road racing bikes, but it’s still baby steps. If you live in Norfolk, where hills are few and far between, your experience will bear little comparison with a rider setting off to the Lake District each week. 650b or 27.5in comes to us from touring bikes… Hunt Bike Wheels was one of the first to quantify more likely real-world aero gains with the wider 28mm tires many roadies ride (and race) these days in their Limitless ‘ fastest road wheel ‘ project. Best of all, gravel bikes are the most versatile drop bar bikes going and the antidote to the N+1 theory of bike ownership. Really smooth out the poor road surfaces up in Ontario, and I have not noticed any diminution in speed on my rides. Hi Simply put, the better your tyre choice is for off-road use, the worse it’ll perform on smooth terrain. I enjoyed riding so much that I'm now using that bike for longer tours (60-100km at 20km/h average speed, 1500m elevation) and also shorter rides (35km at 25km/h average speed, 350m elevation ). Aero? Colin Strickland’s 2019 Dirty Kanza success came with an average speed of 20.19mph, and at that speed aerodynamics is very important. The complexity comes in the form of having to design the geometry around the additional height of a telescoping fork. I have a nice mountain bike as well but I never hesitate to ride my cross bike on gravel over the mtn bike. I run moderate aero wheels with 28mm tyres. More information about the book is here. It doesn’t matter to me whether I’m on a mountain, road or gravel bike. This bike handles great but is not at all versatile. In fact, it’s usually about double that of an average rider. My steel road bike is rolling on 30c tire while my gravel bike is 42c A couple of years ago I treated myself to a 70th birthday present –> a Ti ‘7’ built to a design by Steve Hogg based on measurements by his Canadian fitter (Mark Dwyer) – my input being it had to allow for wider tires even when mudguards are installed. It was uninspiring to ride and didn’t even have useful mounts, but it was only when the speed went over about 35 km/h that I went backwards compared to my ride buddies on top road machines. I guess that problem would be solved if everyone rode on 42mm tyres, and then the groups would go faster too…. Up hill I feel like I’m going backwards. As previously covered in our grading gravel feature, not all-terrain – or even people’s perception of that terrain – is equal. Is a light, cross-country hardtail MTB the ideal gravel bike? I don’t feel slow on my Rat Trap Pass tires ! Of course, the use of wider mountain-bike-like 650B tyres on gravel bikes completely confuses this argument, but equally, it helps to show why such tyres are not the ideal choice for riding extended sections of tarmac and smooth dirt. Rather than trying to fill the garages of those who already ride, we should bring potential cyclists into the sport. Lynskey: rigid, rugged, manœuvrable. I’m still learning how to ride this bike. They are simply outstanding for a high-level gravel. Gravel bikes are coming down in price, but people are paying for premium technology so that they can be a little faster in adverse conditions. Light; but, as I found, carbon is fragile. Many gravel bikes these days have a 1x (single chainring) set up in the front. The solution is simple: Use smaller wheels and lightweight tires, so the rotational inertia is the same as on a good racing bike. The difference in rider position can be huge, too. 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