3/ Gravel bikes: how are they different?
They're often described as being like road bikes but with bigger tyres, like cyclocross bikes, or even like mountain bikes but with thinner tyres. So what is it that actually makes gravel bikes different from their brothers and sisters?
1. WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GRAVEL BIKE AND A MOUNTAIN BIKE?
Mountain bikes are designed for riding in forests and mountains on steep paths or small singletracks. They're therefore very easy to handle and very stable on rougher terrain. They have a flat handlebar and very wide tyres to grip gravel trails, whether you're going up or downhill. They also have suspension to cushion impacts.
On the other hand, the geometry of gravel bikes is more like that of road bikes, with an aerodynamic position to favour speed. They don't have suspension and the tyres are narrower than mountain bike ones, which makes you more efficient on roads while still helping you take on gravel trails Last but not least, gravel bikes are generally equipped with disc brakes for powerful braking on any terrain, including muddy ground.
Unlike mountain bikes, gravel bikes are more comfortable on long, fast rides.
2. WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GRAVEL BIKE AND A ROAD BIKE?
Road bikes are designed for speed on smooth roads. They have an aerodynamic frame and narrow tyres, they're light, and they favour performance.
Though they may look like road bikes, gravel bikes have a wider, more flared handlebar to help with control and stability. The frame is higher and it has a larger travel so that you can mount tyres of different sizes, including fat ones with big lugs. The drivetrain has been designed for rough ground, with smaller increments between gears. All of these things help gravel bikes go anywhere, unlike a road bike, and keep you comfortable without sacrificing speed.
3. WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GRAVEL BIKE AND A CYCLOCROSS BIKE?
Cyclocross is a cycling discipline that's mainly done in autumn and winter on circuits with both trails and paved surfaces. These circuits tend to be short and intense, with the aim being to go as fast as possible. The routes are technical and feature obstacles, meaning that you sometimes have to get off and carry your bike. Cyclocross bikes therefore have to be light like road bikes, stiff to maximise pedalling power, and responsive.
Gravel bikes are more versatile, comfortable and robust. They're still designed for roads and trails, but they're also intended for long distances.
Find out more: What's the difference between gravel riding and cyclocross?
4. WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GRAVEL BIKE AND A HYBRID BIKE?
Hybrid bikes are used for rides on paved roads and paths, whether close to home or further afield on multi-day trips. These bikes are stable and sturdy, with a very comfortable riding position: your chest is more upright, unlike on a gravel bike, where you're in a more aero position.
Gravel riding is a bit more active, whether it's a case of riding at speed on fast trails, or exploring steeper routes.