Shopper’s Guide: Gravel Bikes
SO WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH GRAVEL BIKES?
We’re hearing so much chatter lately about gravel bikes, and we’ve even brought a few into our demo and retail fleets. So what is a gravel bike anyways?
In a nutshell, a gravel bike is essentially an off-road adventure bike that can also pound the pavement. It’s the in-between for cyclists who want the efficiency of a road bike and the ruggedness of a mountain bike. For those who like to ride, well, gravel. Or packed dirt. Or basically any “off-road” scenario where a hardtail or full suspension mountain bike isn’t necessary.
Aside from your daily commute on springtime gravel-ridden pavement, these bikes are great for bike touring, and often come ready with plenty of frame mounts for loading them down with all your gear. They’re also the preferred method of travel for cyclists racing Dirty Kanza, Land Run 100, and the like.
WHAT CHARACTERIZES A GRAVEL BIKE?
Basically, a gravel bike is recognizable as a road bike frame, but typically more stable. It will typically have drop bars that are often flared for more stability, although many riders choose to stick with flat bars. Additional mounts for bottles and bike-packing bags allow riders to travel longer distances. The most important differentiating factor between a gravel bike and a traditional road bike is the ability to run much wider tires for more comfort and stability.
ARE YOU IN THE MARKET?
If you’re looking to buy a gravel bike, try one out first! We have the Salsa Journeyman in our demo fleet and, when you’re ready to buy, can order a wide variety of bike options from our bike vendors. Bike-packing aficionado and winter staff member Hannah gives us some insight on the benefits of several different bikes. Check these out and then come in to chat about the best fit for you! Click the photos to learn more about each bike!
SPECIALIZED – SEQUOIA
Arguably one of the most attractive adventure bikes, the Specialized Sequoia holds a
foundational spot in the fleet. It’s comfortable, dependable and sleek, and has frame mounts
for nearly any cargo configuration from frame bags to full panniers. The Sequoia does road
better than gravel, but consigned to off-road will perform just fine. Expert, Elite and base
models offer a good spread of price options, too.
JULIANA – QUINCY
With its full carbon frame and hydraulic disc brakes, Juliana brings serious class to the gravel
ride market with their new Quincy. This is a women’s specific frame; it’s got our shoulder width,
torso length and, um, pubic bones in mind. The 3D prism paint job (think milky way at midnight)
is worth a closer look, too. Two wheel size options means it can run 650B with extra wide tires
or 700C with narrower knobbies. To own this bike is to Treat. Yo. Self.
SANTA CRUZ – STIGMATA
Counterpart to the Juliana Quincy is Santa Cruz’s Stigmata. It’s got all the clout and esteem of
the Santa Cruz line: clean graphics, reputation for quality, heavy-hitting R&D. It’s got a carbon
frame and hydraulic disc brakes. This is definitely the high end of the gravel grinder squad, and
is perfect for the rider whose priority is riding fast, even off the pavement.
SALSA – JOURNEYMAN
Salsa is the tip of the spear for riders looking for down-to-earth ride options for off-road touring
and mountain biking, and the Journeyman is integral to their fleet. This hard-working gravel
bike covers all the bases: functional gearing, versatile frame mounts, components, bar & fork
options, attractive paint colors and subtle graphics. Hovering right around $1000, you really
can’t go wrong with this ride.
SURLY – BRIDGE CLUB
Surly sticks to its bombproof steel frame utility with the Bridge Club. It’s arguably their simplest
off-road touring bike, with fewer rack mounts and fuss than the rest of the Surly fleet (and at a
manageable price point). The Bridge Club is designed for bike-packing excursions, but can cruise
on pavement without feeling like the ride’s too clunky. Full suite of granny gears means you
might be able to spin a little longer before the inevitable hike-a-bike on big climbs.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN – SOLO
The Rocky Mountain Solo is worth a test ride in the realm of gravel adventure bikes. Aluminum
frame and drop bars maintain its sleek roadie feel, but the frame also accommodates chunky
40c tires for deviations from the beaten path. Its 1x front gearing means a lower chance of
having a mechanical out in the middle of nowhere. Rocky has cornered the DH and trail markets;
the Solo is up-and-coming as they foray into true gravel rides.
So if you’re interested in venturing off-road, but want the speed of a road bike, come see us. We’d love to nerd out about all these awesome bikes with you!