Wednesday Wisdom - Gravel Bikes

Wednesday Wisdom

Gravel Bikes

By: Brooks Doughtie
Inside Out Sports Bike Manager

What's the best number of bikes to own? Ask any cyclist, and they will say "N + 1".  Ask their significant other and that number may be slightly smaller ????.  Kidding aside, one of the most popular forms of bike riding right now is gravel bike riding.  You are probably asking what is gravel riding and why is it so popular?  

Gravel riding is basically taking a road geometry setup and applying it to a bike that rides off road with tires that are usually a little wider and have knobby tread on the tires.  Gravel bikes can allow you to ride on just about any surface minus single track trails.  Gravel bikes allow for wider tire clearances on the frames which allow this setup to be ridden off road with a knobbier tire, and that’s one of the bigger differences between a road bike and a gravel bile.  

So why is gravel biking becoming so popular?  More and more cities have greenway trail systems or bridle trails that allow users to get off the open roads.  Here in the Triangle area, we have lots of greenway trail systems as well as 2 off road trails - American Tobacco Trail and Umstead State Park.  Gravel rides will make you a stronger cyclist, but they can also be great for just casual rides with friends.

Advantages to gravel riding:

  • it's FUN to go ride your bike in nature with the different foliage and animals.  
  • it makes you a better cyclist by improving your bike handling skills.
  • You can get a great workout by just riding your bike and not worrying about car traffic.
  • Great versatility that can take the bike on the road or off road, with different wheelsets.

In summary gravel bikes are a great option to enjoy riding, while getting off the roads and away from traffic.  Gravel bikes allow greater diversity than a road bike as you can ride a gravel bike on the road, but you can't take a road bike off road due to tire clearance on road frames.