An Introduction to Gravel Bikes & Riding

If you frequent any cycling news-related websites at the
minute, you’ll be met with a plethora of new bikes and kit aimed at gravel
riding. But what is a gravel bike? Is it just a road bike that you can use on
gravel paths? Or is it a mountain bike for people who don’t want to ride the more
technical, treacherous trails?

For a lot of people there are more questions surrounding gravel
and riding than any other discipline, so we thought we’d
assemble a quick guide to help you make sense of cycling’s latest craze!

What is gravel riding?

For the cynical among us, gravel riding is just a
marketing term for something we’ve been doing for years. It’s a bandwagon the
industry has jumped on to sell more bikes and more kit and, to an extent,
that’s not far from the truth. Gravel riding, as the name implies, largely
involves riding along mostly gravel or hard packed fire roads and trails on a
bike that roughly resembles a road bike with big tyres and disc brakes. Nothing
ground-breaking there then!

You can head out into the hills for a few hours and take
in roads, fire roads or single-track if you really fancy it. Or you can pack up
your bike and head away for the night and engage in another craze sweeping the
industry; bike packing. It’s all riding and adventures you can have on pretty
much any bike. So why do we have all this new kit specifically for the job that
doesn’t need a specific tool for the job?

So, what is all this new kit and why do we need it?

You might not need a specific bike or kit, but what
gravel riding has done is lead to an explosion of new bikes and kit that makes
life out on the bike better. Gravel bikes are equally happy on the road as
traditional road bikes but are so much more versatile. Bikes like the Cube
, the Scott
Speedster Gravel
and the GT
are all fast, comfortable bikes on the road, but have
clearance for bigger tyres and geometry that is more stable at speed off-road.
These bikes are proper quiver killers; with a gravel bike at your disposal you
may no longer need a road bike, cyclocross bike or mountain bike!

You’ll see bikes covered in cleverly shaped bags to store
a whole range of kit. These bags you use to lug a days or weekends worth of
supplies around on your bike-packing escapades are also great for commuting to
work with. Blackburn’s
Outpost range
has been designed specifically with this in mind, with
large capacity frame, saddle and handle bar bags to accommodate all you’ll need
and the kitchen sink. Ok, maybe not the kitchen sink, but you get the point!

The beauty of these bags is they can be removed and
fitted in seconds; no more relying on pannier racks that add weight and hold
you back when not in use. Your gravel bike can be ready to hit the weekend road
club ride or head out on a multi-day epic in minutes, with next to no hassle.

Tyres is another area where the gravel craze has helped
to improve on current offerings. This latest breed of tyres roll quickly on the
road but offer excellent grip on loose gravel and also have excellent puncture
protection. They’re another example of this growth in kit that works in a
multitude of scenarios. Brands historically associated with both road and
mountain biking have been getting in on the act, with Vittoria offering tyres
like the Terreno
and Terreno
while Maxxis have entered the fray with the Rambler
and Re-fuse.

What does it all mean?

It means there’s never been a better time to try
something a little different! With the industry trying to pigeon hole us and
our gear into ever slimmer categories, gravel bikes and riding defy
categorisation; the industry might be trying to put a spin on it as they always
do, but the truth is the bikes and gear coming to market is enabling more
riders to get out in the wilds and do something different, while being better
equipped for the task. That’s a win in our minds!

Some of the best rides we’ve had recently have involved a
bit of everything on gravel bikes, taking in tarmac, gravel and even a bit of
light trail centre riding! Gravel riding is a craze for a reason: it’s great
fun and takes cycling back to its roots, getting out there and having fun!