What is a Gravel Bike?

For discussions about bikes and equipment.
PH
Posts: 8150
Joined: 21 Jan 2007, 12:31am
Location: Derby
Contact:

Re: What is a Gravel Bike?

Postby PH » 19 Jan 2020, 8:00pm

The utility cyclist wrote:As others have said, it's a great way to sell a bike 'type' to people, they aren't gullible, I think that's incorrect and a bit too far, but they are duped into thinking they need this bike type for certain riding because they simply don't have the knowledge, understanding or even ability to convert a hybrid to drops,

You seem to have been duped into the idea that you need drops - I don't actually think that, but it's no less accurate than your claims. A bike's a bike, if someone likes riding it then it's a good bike, what more is there?

rfryer
Posts: 706
Joined: 7 Feb 2013, 3:58pm

Re: What is a Gravel Bike?

Postby rfryer » 19 Jan 2020, 8:03pm

Sweep wrote:I'd be interested to know what UK owners actually use them for.

I use mine as my go-to recreational bike, unless I'm road cycling with a group where I'm concerned the pace will challenge me. I rarely take it off what the local council laughingly call tarmac.

It's not much slower than my road bike, much more sure footed on poor surfaces, and has loads of clearance for a solid set of mudguards. The wider, higher flared drops offer a range of comfortable hand positions

It makes me smile! :D

PH
Posts: 8150
Joined: 21 Jan 2007, 12:31am
Location: Derby
Contact:

Re: What is a Gravel Bike?

Postby PH » 19 Jan 2020, 8:10pm

rfryer wrote:It makes me smile! :D

Nooooo you're not supposed to enjoy it, it's the wrong bike!

slowster
Posts: 1150
Joined: 7 Jul 2017, 10:37am

Re: What is a Gravel Bike?

Postby slowster » 19 Jan 2020, 8:24pm

PH wrote:
slowster wrote:The key point I was trying to make was that I think that many new cyclists would do better to start with a touring bike which can be ridden all day in comfort and which is a jack of all trades,

My main point is that I'd rather be celebrating that people are riding than critical of what bike or it's label. The current fashions will change, but the choice of practical bikes in Halfords has improved with recent trends.
I've ridden with plenty of experienced cyclists who've chosen to change bikes to these current trends, these are riders who know what they want, they don't consider themselves to have been duped by marketing. What matters is that they're happy with their choices rather than what anyone else thinks of them.
We've had all the arguments before, it's the same sort of derision that greeted Mountain Bikes, they're no good for touring, they're only good off road... Yet millions of people have done millions of good miles, so what's the point of saying they could have had a better bike?

An experienced cyclist is much less likely to base their choice on marketing, and be better able to discriminate between different bikes and choose what they want based on the bike's features (geometry, specification etc.). All bikes are a compromise to some degree - being more experienced and knowledgeable means that you have a better idea of what compromises you are happy with and would even expect your next bike to have, and what compromises would rule a bike out of consideration.

Gravel/adventure bikes could have the potential to encourage a lot of new people into cycling, in the way that MTBs have done. However, I think a lot of customers might be disappointed when the expectations that the marketing creates are not fulfilled. If they do not find the bike sufficiently comfortable, that the gears are too high, that they need mudguards and the bike is difficult to fit them to, that it's awkward carrying things with them on the bike etc., there is a danger that they will ride less and eventually that the bike ends up like so many - unused at the back of the garage. My concern is that a lot more of those people would be likely to continue riding if they had bought a more touring oriented bike.

As it happens I have a ti/carbon gravel bike. I bought it after a long lay off because I thought it would be ideal to get me back into riding, and to a large degree because I fell for the marketing spiel. To my mind it seemed like a tourer but better because it was lighter, and should also be better for riding off road on tracks and bridleways. And indeed it is wonderfully light, fast and lively. However, I soon found that the gears were too high, and eventually fitted a Spa Super Compact chainset. I also tried a number of different stem lengths and angles/heights because I never felt quite right on the bars. Despite the changes I was never keen to go out for long rides on it.

Then a few years ago I reassembled my old 1980s tourer. When I rode it I was shocked by how well it handled and felt, and how comfortable it was (and that was with some old 23mm tyres which were all I had to hand, unlike the 40mm tyres on the gravel bike). As a result I eventually decided both to buy a new tourer (like most 1980s tourers, mine was limited to 32mm tyres and I need wider for riding on tracks, and that limitation would remain even if I had had the rear stays cold set to allow modern 135mm OLN cassette hubs to be used instead of the original 126mm freewheel compatible hubs) and to persevere with trying to improve the set up of the gravel bike. As part of the latter process, I have slowly and somewhat reluctantly come to the conclusion that its 74 degree seat angle is simply far too steep (and is probably the primary reason why the bars have never felt quite right: too much weight on my hands), and I have recently purchased one of the Planet X Holdsworth Gran Sport seatposts with ~30mm setback to see if that will provide enough layback. I am hoping that when I have finished the gravel bike will be a much more comfortable and capable bike (it's just a pity that one thing I can't do is lengthen the chainstays by 20mm, which would improve the handling/stability, especially off road, and make it much better for longer rides on road and tracks).

Obviously my experience has inevitably influenced my views on gravel bikes both with regard to the actual features of that classification of bike and also with regard to how it is marketed. Plenty of other people's experiences will be very different, and I'm sure many/most will be very satisfied with their purchase. My concern is for those who will not be satisfied and are instead disappointed by their bike, and rather than be encouraged are deterred by it from going out for a ride.

In short, I agree with The utility cyclist that the bike industry and shops are good at getting people to buy bikes, but often poor at ensuring people buy a bike which best fits their needs (or even just fits them full stop) and which will be a bike that encourages them to ride more often and/or further, rather than being a disappointment which languishes at the back of the garage.

User avatar
The utility cyclist
Posts: 2744
Joined: 22 Aug 2016, 12:28pm
Location: The first garden city

Re: What is a Gravel Bike?

Postby The utility cyclist » 19 Jan 2020, 8:25pm

PH wrote:
The utility cyclist wrote:As others have said, it's a great way to sell a bike 'type' to people, they aren't gullible, I think that's incorrect and a bit too far, but they are duped into thinking they need this bike type for certain riding because they simply don't have the knowledge, understanding or even ability to convert a hybrid to drops,

You seem to have been duped into the idea that you need drops - I don't actually think that, but it's no less accurate than your claims. A bike's a bike, if someone likes riding it then it's a good bike, what more is there?

Why do you say I've been duped when you have no idea what bar type I ride and most often? :?
As it happens my carbon 'gravel' is a flat bar, my day bike is a flat bare that is used for road/off road and my audaxy/winter racer spesh is drops but it was a flat bar, I converted it as it's primarily a road bike but that I can use it off road with very wide tyres is a boon, I also have two MTBs including a retro steel hardtail downhill bike, so I'm not duped by anything ta.

The reference to being duped however is correct, road riders see that their needs are better solved for off road riding with a drop bar bike (EDIT and a big price tag as I mentioned before), this is sold to them by reviewers/websites for the most part as well as bike shops, so they are being directed into buying the type of bikes that are sold as gravel.
For the vast majority if they had a bit more understanding of what the bike actually does and their own requirements they wouldn't feel the need for what's being sold to them, it is what it is. Conversely those with an MTB background will very more often than not stick to a an MTB/29er or even a 27.5".
Last edited by The utility cyclist on 19 Jan 2020, 9:32pm, edited 1 time in total.

Ellieb
Posts: 785
Joined: 26 Jul 2008, 7:06pm

Re: What is a Gravel Bike?

Postby Ellieb » 19 Jan 2020, 8:46pm

I think it is amazing that if you go onto an MTB forum there are loads of voices saying people really should be buying an MTB rather than a gravel bike, whereas you go on a Touring website & people seem to think that the answer is really a touring bike. Who'd a thought it? :D

PH
Posts: 8150
Joined: 21 Jan 2007, 12:31am
Location: Derby
Contact:

Re: What is a Gravel Bike?

Postby PH » 19 Jan 2020, 8:51pm

The utility cyclist wrote:
PH wrote:
The utility cyclist wrote:Why do you say I've been duped when you have no idea what bar type I ride and most often? :?

Did you keep reading to the end?
I said I didn't think that but it's no less valid then you saying others had been duped for their choices. For a start, as with rfryer, they didn't buy them to go off road, they wanted wider tyres and better brakes along with a more relaxed position.
Last edited by PH on 19 Jan 2020, 8:59pm, edited 1 time in total.

PH
Posts: 8150
Joined: 21 Jan 2007, 12:31am
Location: Derby
Contact:

Re: What is a Gravel Bike?

Postby PH » 19 Jan 2020, 8:56pm

People riding bikes = Good
People telling other what they ought to be riding = Bad
That's my opinion in it's entirety. Slowster and Utility Cyclist win the word count, not one of which will change the bikes people buy, all it will do is open up divides where we should be united.

Debs
Posts: 676
Joined: 19 May 2017, 7:05pm
Location: Powys

Re: What is a Gravel Bike?

Postby Debs » 19 Jan 2020, 8:59pm

Sweep wrote:I'd be interested to know what UK owners actually use them for.


A gravel bike rider speaks:

I don't want a touring bike cos i don't go touring or have need for luggage carrying capacity. Neither do i want a road race bike cos my last road race was run over 25 years ago so i no longer want a balls out road race set-up that is more at home with better quality tarmac roads than wot we have around here locally. I don't want an off-road bike ATB or mountain bike cos i don't ride off-road or like getting ridiculously muddy, i also don't like straight bars preferring drops.

If we may use the analogy of car types for a moment: :P
i see aero dynamic road race bikes as a formula race cars, a good commuter bike as a sensible hatchback, and a touring bike as an estate car, the grocers delivery bike as a van... then i see the gravel bike as a rally car of the bike world.

There is no reason or law they have to be used strictly on gravel roads, i never have done nor interested, but my local roads are country lanes and byways which are all various conditions of ageing tarmac, some of it remains wet or muddy, some of it fairly rough and ready, and over the past two and a half years i've found my two bikes [ which both qualify as Gravel bikes ] are the best weapon of choice to ride around in this particular local environment.

I would expect people who ride a gravel bike to have the thing set-up to their own preferences and demands of the roads where they ride. Choice of tyres, gearing, mudguards or not, lots of variations to suit the ride. My machine weighs in at just over 8 kilos and handles similar to a road bike, but the frame is more rugged with a tall head tube which puts the bars into a higher and more relaxed position. I'm very happy with it :D


Image

PH
Posts: 8150
Joined: 21 Jan 2007, 12:31am
Location: Derby
Contact:

Re: What is a Gravel Bike?

Postby PH » 19 Jan 2020, 9:06pm

Debs wrote:I'm very happy with it :D

Nice looking bike.
The only Gravel bike rider I've come across who wasn't happy with their bike was on this forum and they changed it for a road bike, I don't know if they were happy with that, they haven't been back since.

mercalia
Posts: 12382
Joined: 22 Sep 2013, 10:03pm
Location: london South

Re: What is a Gravel Bike?

Postby mercalia » 19 Jan 2020, 9:33pm

Maybe those with gravel bikes should tell us which gravel routes they ride on so others can get a idea if they need a special bike for those rides? Maybe then some one else will say well I rode that path on my eg Sardar and it was fine? All this talk of head angles dont mean much to me. The one thing many of the pictures seem to show is no mudguards? Thats all I can see. ( and disc brakes)

mercalia
Posts: 12382
Joined: 22 Sep 2013, 10:03pm
Location: london South

Re: What is a Gravel Bike?

Postby mercalia » 19 Jan 2020, 9:42pm

Debs wrote:
Sweep wrote:I'd be interested to know what UK owners actually use them for.


A gravel bike rider speaks:

I don't want a touring bike cos i don't go touring or have need for luggage carrying capacity. Neither do i want a road race bike cos my last road race was run over 25 years ago so i no longer want a balls out road race set-up that is more at home with better quality tarmac roads than wot we have around here locally. I don't want an off-road bike ATB or mountain bike cos i don't ride off-road or like getting ridiculously muddy, i also don't like straight bars preferring drops.

If we may use the analogy of car types for a moment: :P
i see aero dynamic road race bikes as a formula race cars, a good commuter bike as a sensible hatchback, and a touring bike as an estate car, the grocers delivery bike as a van... then i see the gravel bike as a rally car of the bike world.

There is no reason or law they have to be used strictly on gravel roads, i never have done nor interested, but my local roads are country lanes and byways which are all various conditions of ageing tarmac, some of it remains wet or muddy, some of it fairly rough and ready, and over the past two and a half years i've found my two bikes [ which both qualify as Gravel bikes ] are the best weapon of choice to ride around in this particular local environment.

I would expect people who ride a gravel bike to have the thing set-up to their own preferences and demands of the roads where they ride. Choice of tyres, gearing, mudguards or not, lots of variations to suit the ride. My machine weighs in at just over 8 kilos and handles similar to a road bike, but the frame is more rugged with a tall head tube which puts the bars into a higher and more relaxed position. I'm very happy with it :D


Image


I wouldnt have thought the head tube was particularly high just the seat tube low? The forks couldnt be any shorter and the head tube is almost non existant?
Last edited by mercalia on 19 Jan 2020, 9:44pm, edited 1 time in total.

Debs
Posts: 676
Joined: 19 May 2017, 7:05pm
Location: Powys

Re: What is a Gravel Bike?

Postby Debs » 19 Jan 2020, 9:43pm

PH wrote:
Debs wrote:I'm very happy with it :D

Nice looking bike.
The only Gravel bike rider I've come across who wasn't happy with their bike was on this forum and they changed it for a road bike, I don't know if they were happy with that, they haven't been back since.


Perhaps he joined a professional TdF race team and no longer has time for this place :)

I bought a gravel bike [ Cannondale Synapse ] a few years ago and wasn't happy with it, but that was around bike fit; frame sizing, the crank length, and awkwardness of fitting full length mudguards. It was nought to do with it being a gravel bike, it was beautifully finished typical of Cannondale and had many excellent attributes like handling, brakes, feel of ride, but it wasn't the bike for me, i traded it in to the LBS for a smaller frame size Trek, and which incidentally has hidden mudguard eyes and stacks of clearance :wink:

slowster
Posts: 1150
Joined: 7 Jul 2017, 10:37am

Re: What is a Gravel Bike?

Postby slowster » 19 Jan 2020, 9:55pm

PH wrote:People riding bikes = Good

Not if it's uncomfortable. Not if it doesn't fit them. Not if it's not really suitable for their needs. Because those things are likely to put people off cycling.
PH wrote:People telling other what they ought to be riding = Bad

Which is exactly what the bike industry does. The marketing is all about persuading people that they should be riding X, and the shops do likewise. I have bought a bike which the manufacturer and the shop's own advertising convinced me was suitable for me and my needs, and it wasn't. What was far worse, was that the manufacturer's recommended sizing was completely wrong, so much so that many people who relied on it were likely to get the wrong size bike, and the shop sold a bike to me based on that size guide which was clearly too large for me. The shop owner must have realised it was too large as soon as I got on the bike when I went to pick it up. If he had been a good retailer, he would have questioned whether the bike felt right and suggested that maybe I should have a smaller frame, but he wasn't interested in ensuring that I had a bike that fitted me, only in completing the sale. Yes I should have questioned the size and fit myself, but I was also aware that it was the size recommended by the manufacturer, and it should not have been necessary for me to question it.

So until the industry, its marketing people and retailers start to do a much better job of ensuring that customers get bikes that best suit them and their needs, please spare me the trite simplistic nonsense that telling people what they ought to be riding is bad.

mattsccm
Posts: 2890
Joined: 28 Nov 2009, 9:44pm

Re: What is a Gravel Bike?

Postby mattsccm » 19 Jan 2020, 10:15pm

I am somewhat perplexed about some of the comments that suggest that the industry should be guiding people to buy bikes that suit them. Why for goodness sake? That's poor business. What they should do is convince some poor fool to buy something totally unsuitable every year. More money that way. To expect anything else is silly . They are in the game to make money and that's it.