I just read Matt’s and Brian’s editorials on dedicated Gravelbikes and I think they are asking the wrong question. That question should be, “What type of Gravelbike do you want to ride?”
I dislike the name Gravelbike because it implies that Gravelbikes are just good for riding on gravel roads. In reality, Gravelbikes can be quite good on pavement, gravel, and singletrack. Instead, I think Gravelbikes should be called “All-Surface” bikes. And who wouldn’t want a bike that performed well on “all surfaces”?
So, what should a Gravelbike look like? Should it look like a full-rigid Roadbike with wide tires or a full-sus Mountainbike with narrow tires? Ultimately, I think both answers are right. Put a 42mm Gravel tire on a Roadbike and it makes a pretty good Gravelbike. Put a 42mm Gravel tire on a full-sus short-travel XC Mountainbike and it makes a pretty good Gravelbike. Gravelbikes are not dropbars or flatbars, full-rigid or front-sus or full-sus, Road geometry or Gravel Geometry or Mountain Geometry. All these variations, might be a great way to ride “all surfaces”. Mostly what makes a Gravelbike a Gravelbike is the Gravel tire (light-weight, lightly treaded, rolls fast, 26mm-2.25in wide).
If I could design my own Gravelbike it would be 60mm travel, full-sus, using leaf spring technology front and rear (think Lauf Forks), progressive Mountain geometry, flatbars, 50mm Gravel tires, i20 rims. If only someone would make that bike? My current Gravelbike is a 100mm full-sus XC Mountainbike with 43mm Gravel tires. However, if you put a set of 28mm Gravel tires on your Roadbike, that’s a Gravelbike also. Break out of the paradigm that Gravelbikes are Roadbikes with wide tires. A Gravelbike is any bike that performs well on “all-surfaces”.
I like the question. I read those articles a couple of days ago. I have mulled over this question a few times especially after I saw some videos about Dirty Kanza. I own a Salsa trail bike and leaned towards Salsa Fargo. It has drop bars and seems like that is what you would want to truly race gravel races. When you put the stipulation of all surface though I think more of a good hardtail XC bike. Definitely can handle gravel and is built to ride fast but can handle most trails although may have to be ridden slower or less freely due to its limitations but truly can handle any surface. I prefer a trail bike and it can do any surface but the XC bike would give more speed on gravel and hard surfaces. I find myself considering adding a XC bike so I have something to try a few races gravel and XC.
Well lets see since i purchased a c-dale topstone that will be my first choice. I’ll have to agree the tire size, rigid frame and fork and bike weight make it a gravel bike. Didnt get a whole lot ride time on mine since the weather is sloppy and in the cold i prefer my trusty hardtail with plus tires but i had g-bike on trails where guys were riding full sus that was completely unnecessary.The g-bike is snappy and quick and a completely different experience from my h-tail and that was my reasoning for getting one. Like ya said about handling certain terrain ,it is limited but if you get on some smooth single track with bikes costing three times as much and full sus, they going to have their hands full with a good rider on g-bike. For rail trails or canal paths there is nothing better, just flat out rips and can lay down some serious miles.
A lot of this depends heavily on what someone considers “gravel”.
It is a WIDE category at this point. If you’re truly going to be taking this bike on paved roads and actual gravel roads, then a ridged gravel specific drop bar bike with a max of 32mm tires would be my choice.
If you want to hit some more gnarly stuff, XC hardtail starts to come into its own then!
I personally love my combo of bikes:
– Niner Jet 9 RDO full squish
– Salsa Timberjack HT with 27.5+
– Niner RLT 9 RDO gravel/road
a drop bar road/gravel bike can be very versatile. With a wheel swap they can handle a lot of different terrain and my Ultegra 2x set up on my RLT gives me a nice wide range of gearing (with the RX clutched rear mech).
Ultimatly it boils down to the right tool for the job. Like today, I took my daughter out on a ride on a gravel path that I would usually ride my RLT on. But it’s un-seasonably warm this weekend (65* instead of 20*), I know the path is going to be VERY soft, so I brought the Timberjack with the plus tires.
so the gravel bike I want to ride is based off the gravel I’m going to ride…
Long reach with a riser bar for leverage and a 1 x 10 with an oval large tooth chain ring. Knobby narrow tires with XC rims, 140mm firm front suspension. Riser seat post and hydraulic disk brakes. I also ride an FS with a switch lockout.
I like to expect the unexpected and my bike can handle it. My goal is not speed but, getting through the adventure. I also go beyond just gravel and do road and XC trails.
I try to cover the smooth and easy rides all the way to XC racing trails with my ‘Gravel’ bike.