Conquer the Trails: A Gravel Bike-Buying Guide for All

There is a good chance you will soon be a gravel biker.

Gravel biking is the only category of cycling that has shown strong year-over-year growth among all categories, including road, mountain, and time trial. Before the COVID year, when everyone suddenly discovered their outdoor passions again, gravel biking and bicycling were flourishing.

Gravel bikes offer many benefits. Gravel cycling opens up new routes that are not possible with a regular road bike. Many people find this exciting because it opens up new routes. You can still get speed on the right surface with the same gearing and position as mountain biking.

Gravel bikes can be used for anything, from gravel roads to limestone trails. Gravel bikes are a great multi-surface option, as they can be used on both pavement and fat bikes. A gravel bike is a good choice if you only have one bicycle. But, we wonder how many of our readers have only one bike!

What to look for in a Gravel Bicycle

It’s not difficult to find a great gravel bike. Sometimes the line between a road and gravel bike can be blurred. We still like some things in a gravel bike. Here are the three bikes we recommend.

Disc brakes

You can ride on gravel to discover new routes that aren’t possible with a roadbike.

You’ll need disc brakes for your gravel bike. This is a common problem with older bikes. Non-disc brake gravel bikes are possible. Sure. This article will help you find the perfect gravel bike. We would also recommend disc brakes whenever possible.

Why disc brakes? The wheel clearance provided by disc brakes is more important than the brakes themselves. Because you may want to try out different tires, disc brakes are essential. Modern gravel bikes require tires with a width of 35mm to 50mm. Unless you’re a Houdini-like mechanic, the caliper-style brakes will not work well with anything greater than 30mm. A combination of frame design, disc brakes and disc brakes can make gravel bikes accommodate 50mm tires.

Get disc brakes to ensure you have the best chance of riding a gravel bike.

Relaxed posture (higher handlebars).

Your handlebars should be a little higher than they would be on a road bike. However, you don’t want them to be as aggressive as they might be on a cyclocross bicycle. Gravel bikes can be used for long distances on gravel roads. You need to have a bit more control and be ready for anything.

It is a good rule of thumb to have your gravel bike setup about 1 inch higher than your road bike setup when you are riding on the bullhorns and down in the drops.

Comfortable riding position

There are two things that happen when riding on gravel. You might find yourself settling into a long stretch of hard-packed gravel. However, after a while, your body will need to adjust to compensate for any loose gravel or dirt. You will also notice that gravel vibrates your bike and body. Comfortable riding is much more important than riding on pavement. Your body doesn’t need to be as strong as a shock absorber.

You might want to quickly get up on your handlebars when you hit loose gravel. This will allow you to shift your weight back and can make it easier to ride long gravel roads. We recommend a more relaxed gravel bike position than you would for a roadbike or a time trial bike.


Your gravel bike should be able to handle rough roads. This is the most important difference from a cyclocross bicycle, which can look very similar to a gravel bike. It can perform well on gravel but can also be very good on pavement. This is the beauty of the right gravel bike. You can connect trails by riding on gravel for 10 miles, then connecting to another trail using 8 miles of pavement. Then you can return to your home with 12 miles of gravel. This creates a stunning 40-mile ride that is not possible to do on a mountain bike or road bike.

Wider tires (and wider tire clearance)

Even if you are using your gravel bike a lot, it is better to have wider tires than your road bike. A gravel bike’s tire width is typically 32-45mm or up to 50mm. A road bike can only go so far with a tire width of around 28-30mm. For avid gravel riders, a sturdy rim and wheelset can hold a well-treaded tire between 35-39mm and up.

Larger tires will provide more flotation on loose gravel. They also have the ability to have a more aggressive tread, which is useful on wet or greasy gravel. You will have a better ride on pavement and hard gravel if you use thinner tires (in the 28-34 range). A serious rider might have more than one set of wheels, but this will require some money.

Another important factor that affects tire width is the pressure required to inflate it (PSI). The PSI (pressure needed to inflate the tire) will depend on the width of the tire. A narrower tire will require a higher PSI, while a wider tire will require a lower PSI. A roadbike tire might require 100 PSI. This is because it will be rough, bumpy and vibrating on surfaces other than pavement. The gravel can offer a great advantage, as it can run at 35-60 PSI. This will absorb shock and vibration. It can be compared to a mattress. A tire with 100 PSI is similar to a mattress. However, a tire with 45 PSI is like jumping onto a soft, spongy mattress.

It isn’t just about the tires and rims that determine tire width. How wide you can go with a tire will depend on the bike, which includes the design of the fork crown, front fork, seat stays and brake calipers (not an issue for disc brakes). This is one of the best advantages to choosing a built for gravel bike. If the specs of a bike only allow for a 35mm tire and you attempt to fit a 40mm one on, there won’t be enough clearance in the frame to allow the tire to turn freely. Low tire pressure or mud can cause the tire’s to rub. This is a major problem.

Tubeless Tires

For a gravel bike, we strongly recommend using tubeless tires. Why? Why? You can ride at a lower pressure without worrying about your tire getting flattened by a sharp rock or boulder.

The ability to ride tubeless tires is less dependent on the frame and bike, but more on the wheel and rim. Choose a tubeless-ready wheel if you have the option.

Three All-Purpose Gravel Bikes That Are Amazing for 2021

GT Grade Carbon

GT Grade Carbon has been around for some time and has become a popular choice for cyclists looking for an all-purpose gravel bike, that is light and responsive on pavement. While some will argue that the GT Grade Carbon’s price ($1,500+ depending upon components) is too high for entry-level riders, it is affordable for experienced cyclists with a healthy budget.

GT Grade Carbon

It’s a great way to get into gravel.

It is unique because of its carbon fiber frame. Grade Carbon is easily identifiable by its unique floating seat stay design. It looks almost like your saddle is hanging from the back of the frame. However, it is strong and offers a great ride. This is the Triple Triangle design, according to GT.

You will find the disc brakes you need, and they can be very effective. The Shimano GRX Hydro is a fantastic disc brake that can be used in any conditions. It also performs well on the “steep downhill trail”. The GRX lineup tends to anchor other components as well.

We love the flared drop on the handlebars. It’s a small detail, but we think it’s a nice touch. They make long stretches in an aero position that is very comfortable for the arms and shoulders.

The only problem with GT Grade carbon is the fact that we have broken a few spokes from the Stan’s NoTube stock rims. This can be attributed to our riding and the rims’ longevity. It is possible that we have also gotten defective spokes.

The older GT Grades were able to handle tires up to 35mm in width, but the new models can go higher and are equipped with 40mm tires.

We love GT Grade Carbon for gravel.
Find it here.

Framed Gravier

Minnesota is where frame bikes are made. This is where gravel biking really took off, or perhaps we should say that it has been all along. Upper Midwest cyclists have used “Finding some Gravel” as a way to get away from traffic for years.

Framed Gravier

We love the Gravier model. The Gravier is not cheap, but it offers a great ride and a nice looking bike for gravel. It also has a carbon fiber frame that can be used for gravel. This bike is a favorite of many who are serious about the sport and is ideal for anyone who might be on pavement or tar between gravel rides.

Framed uses the SRAM Apex 1 base, while the GT relies upon the Shimano GRX lineup. With solid components and the “double tap” shifting we have come to love, the Apex 1 groupset has been reliable on gravel bikes. Although it’s not as reliable as SRAM’s Rival set, it is solid and performs on par with the Shimano Ultegra.

There are many things to love about the Gravier’s frame geometry. The Gravier has a wider wheel base than other gravel bikes, which makes it more comfortable when riding on longer distances. If you plan to take the bike on more difficult trails, the bottom bracket may be a bit lower than others.

Framed makes its own stem, seat tube and handlebars. Framed tends to produce quality parts at an affordable price point. We also hear from the community that they stand behind their products in case of problems.

The Gravier’s stock wheelset is the Alex Boondock disc-only wheel, which is specifically designed for gravel and cyclocross bikes. These wheels are light and seem to be a great value at the price. The stock tire is the Maxxis Rambler 40mm, which will provide you with a bit more tread than you actually need, but it will still perform well in most situations.

The Framed Gravier gravel bike is well-built and will perform well on all surfaces. Framed Gravier is a small bike manufacturer that can focus on every bike. This is the bike for you if you are looking to get a durable, long-lasting gravel bike.

Framed Gravier: Here

Cannondale Topstone Sora

Framed makes some of the most popular gravel bikes. Cannondale is one of the bigger, more established companies that is making gravel bikes.

Cannondale Topstone Sora

Cannondale offers a wide range of gravel bikes. Their Topstone line includes a model we like, especially at the entry level. The Topstone Sora is a combination of many things we love about gravel bikes. If you don’t want to race in ultra gravel or are not a gear junkie, then the Sora may be the right choice for you.

The frame is made of aluminum alloy and has a carbon fork. This gives it a solid grip on gravel. It is mostly Shimano (Sora) and includes many of Cannondale’s exclusive parts, such as the saddle, bars, seatpost, stem, and other components.

The geometry of the Sora is very comfortable. This might not be the best geometry for gravel bikes that you are looking to be borderline cyclocross. This will allow most riders to cruise comfortably on many surfaces and maintain a comfortable riding position.

Cannondale installed the RD2.0 mavic wheels on their Sora. This is a wheel that they love to use on many of their sub-$3,000 bikes. They aren’t the most exciting wheels for gear-heads, but they do work well. You can always get a better-built component for gravel, but they are fine for long-term use.

Cannondale ships the Sora equipped with a Riddler 37mm tire. This tire is an all-purpose tire that can withstand both flats and rough surfaces. Although this bike is not the best for racing in backcountry gravel, it’s perfect for most other gravel roads and trails.
>The Topstone can be found here.

What tires should I use for my gravel bike?

A gravel bike’s tire strategy is more complex than other bikes. You don’t have to weigh cost and performance when choosing a tire for a gravel bike. You must first decide what gravel bikes you will use. Next, decide on the type of ride you want, the width of tires you need, and then weigh the tire’s reliability and value.

The first decision is to decide what type of surface you require a tire for.

Tires are generally wider and have a more prominent tread than roads or fitness bikes.

  • To reduce vibration, you need a tire that can handle rough terrain and washboard gravel. This will likely mean a larger millimeter-sized tire.
  • You might be working with gravel that is loose and bordering on dirt or sand. A wider tire may be more able to float and provide you with more contact points on the uneven ground.
  • You may need a tire with a thicker tread or “knobbier” tires if you are likely to ride on wet or greasy trails. Slicker tires, even though they have a high-PSI rating, perform well on wet trails due to their constant contact with the ground.
  • You can use a slick, even gravel-friendly tire if you know that you will be riding on hardpack gravel or limestone. It is important to make sure the tire won’t puncture easily.

The best way to determine the best tire for you is by determining the appropriate aggressiveness, width, PSI, and pressure for the tire. For those times when you have to change tires, many gravel cyclists buy an additional set of discontinued wheelsets.

We recommend that you be a bit more conservative and knobby than what you believe you will need. If you have the funds to purchase spare wheels, equip those wheels with more aggressive tires for looser gravel and greasier conditions.

Gravel Tire Recommendation?

**Specialized Pathfinder Pro is the all-purpose gravel tire. It is hard to choose, but we would definitely recommend it. >Find it here.**This tire is fast and has good knobs. The tire comes in a 38mm or 42mm width, which is a good size for gravel riding on any surface.

Are gravel bikes able to be used on paved roads?

Absolutely. A gravel bike equipped with the correct tire set (not too aggressive or knobby) can be very good on pavement. This is why gravel bikes have gained such a loyal following – often it is the only bike someone needs. I know these are fighting words for cyclists who insist on a stable of five to six bikes.

Your pavement ride will be significantly improved by the choice of tires. You might feel the tire a bit heavier or slower on pavement if you go wide with an aggressive tread design. We have seen many riders with 45mm knobby tires. They are great for loose gravel hills but can be noisy on pavement. It’s all about where you want to perform at your best.

Gravel bikes are superior to mountain bikes or fitness/urban bikes because they can provide a smooth ride on pavement.

Are gravel bikes able to be used on off-road trails?

Although gravel bikes can handle some off-road stuff, as long as there isn’t any technical terrain or hairpin turns to contend with, they are not designed for singletrack or true “off-road” riding. This bike is best suited to a true mountain bike or cyclocross bike.

I find myself often connecting a country gravel road with a long, well-maintained limestone path that has about 500m of logging roads . The surface is semi-hilly single-track riding. This connector makes a lovely loop of 25 miles that I enjoy doing regularly. It’s fine for gravel bikes, but I wouldn’t take my gravel bike on a day of single-track riding in the woods.

Is there a gravel bike race?

They are, indeed, a big deal. These rides are often very long and competitive, with more racers every year.

We love the Dirty Kanza in Emporia (now renamed), the Dead Swede, Sheridan, Wyoming and the Black Fly Challenge in Indian Lake.

It shouldn’t be difficult to get your bicycle on your vehicle and find a gravel race. The numbers seem to be growing.

Do gravel bikes need disc brakes?

Disc brakes are preferred. A great gravel bike can be made with caliper brakes. But, you should consider disc brakes ….. This is coming from someone who used to ride a modified roadbike with Gatorskin tires. You can make a gravel bike using old-fashioned caliper brakes. If you’re a skilled bike mechanic, it is possible to save money by using an older bike. However, disc brakes offer a number of big advantages.

Caliper brakes have a narrower wheel width clearance

They can handle larger tires, but they won’t restrict your wheel clearance. Also, remember that some gravel bikes may have wheels up to 40 mm in width ….. You might also want to use a lower tire pressure, which could increase the footprint. You can expect a maximum of 30mm with caliper brakes. If you’re skilled, 32mm is possible.

Second, disc brakes can be more reliable in rainy weather. If you are riding on gravel, you may encounter some drizzle. Road cyclists won’t ride if roads are slippery.

Third, disc brakes work better when your wheel isn’t true or if there’s a wobble. We have found that gravel is more likely to cause spoke wear than road bikes due to the rougher surface, rougher riding and occasional spills. You will be able to make it home in safety and repair the wheel if disc brakes are used.

Caliper or rim brakes require a certain clearance between the brake and the wheel. For non-modified brakes, you can run a caliper brake on a road- or gravel-style bicycle up to 28mm. You could also run 30mm with some adjustment. Remember that 30mm is the ideal width for gravel bikes.

Are gravel bikes equipped with suspension?

It is not common. Most mountain bikes have suspension. However, a cyclocross or gravel bike will not have suspension. These bikes will be more like a road bike. A gravel bike has a certain appeal because it can be used on pavement or hardpacked gravel and will feel just like a roadbike, but much more smooth and powerful.

However, there are exceptions. We see more gravel bike models with a small amount of front suspension like the Future Shock feature on some Specialized gravel bikes. The shock absorbtion can be adjusted and disabled by the rider if necessary.

Why not ride your mountain bike on gravel instead?

You can. Many avid cyclists find that mountain bikes limit their enjoyment of gravel roads and trails due to the way they are set up and how they position themselves. A true gravel bike is built from the geometry of a road bike. This means that you can speed up and roll along a long road with good surfaces. Mountain bikes can be cumbersome on pavement. A gravel bike ride on asphalt is comparable to a road bike. You can combine a gravel-based ride, such as tar-gravel-trail-tar-gravel, to make it utterly fun.

What other equipment do I need to go gravel biking?

You can also get all the gear you need for other biking ( shorts and apparel), but there are also some items that are great for gravel biking.

You will be on remote roads more often so you might want to bring a bigger bag for everything, from extra calories to a tubeless kit. Although gravel bike tires are very durable, you never know when you’ll need them.

We recommend that you travel with a bicycle computer. It is easy to confuse a long forest road with a ranch road when you’re on gravel roads. These situations can make the turn-by-turn navigation of a bike computer very useful.

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