Explore With Gravel Bikes
Ride Outside The Lines
Leaves flap in the cool forest breeze as you roll from pavement onto an empty backroad. Dappled sunlight and the crackling white noise of dirt flowing beneath your tires invigorate your cadence while the sounds of the city fade behind you. Set your course on a new horizon — this is gravel riding.
Road Speed with
Gravel bikes have a snappy-yet-stable character that mixes cyclocross and road geometries. A relaxed riding position, longer chainstays, and larger tire clearance all contribute to a smoother, more comfortable ride.
Built For The Long Haul
To accommodate your needs on rambling rides, many gravel bikes include various mounts to attach feed bags, additional water cages, or lightweight bikepacking gear.
New frame designs allow for easier wheelset swaps. Run your lightweight 700x25 set for spirited road rides, then switch to an off-road set for weekend getaways. It’s a savvy way to enjoy both riding styles with just one bike.
Why Gravel? Read this Q&A with gravel enthusiast Nate Burks.
Why Choose Gravel Riding?
It will get you fit faster and take you places you'd never imagine, all while see fewer cars and riding with some of the friendliest folks you'll ever meet. It is less monotonous than riding on the road, but requires less skill than mountain biking. For many, gravel roads are only a few miles from home. Adventure begins where the pavement ends.
How is Gravel Riding superior to Road?
This answer will be different for everyone. For me, it frees me from expectations like road surface conditions, average speed, and worrying about traffic. Gravel riding is more than just riding on gravel roads. Routes often include dirt roads, two track, unmaintained roads, jeep trails, and singletrack. It is truly multi-surface. I go out on a bike that is ready to handle pot holes and washboard, chunky gravel and mud, steep hills and sketchy descents. It can handle all of this and is still relatively fast on pavement. When I am out on gravel and remote roads, I rarely see cars. In fact it is jarring to me now when I get on a busy road.
What is your favorite gravel riding memory?
A section of the Michigan Coast to Coast race rolls through the Manistee Forest. I happened to hit that section as the sun was setting, so much of the forest was backlit by the evening and night sky. A little ways into the forest, the Salsa guys were there with the Chaise, a photo-op stop during the race. The photographer was there along with the Head Story Teller, a big, friendly, burly dude who fit right in with the surroundings. (I wish I could remember his name.) I stopped for my shot and then continued on into the darkness, bike lights blazing, hitting more than a few sand traps on the single and two track before I finally made my way out. By that time, riders were very spread out, so I didn't see a soul until I was back out onto the gravel roads that led to our destination in Luddington.
Where are your favorite gravel riding trails?
The best place for gravel, jeep trails, two track, and singletrack within 2.5 hours of Toledo is the area around Mohican, specifically to the South and West. There are many gravel roads, unmaintained roads, and hidden "roads". It is always an adventure riding in that area. It can be a major challenge as well due to the rolling nature of the terrain. Many roads approach 15% grade and hills can be up to 500ft tall.
How is a gravel bike different?
The biggest difference is that a gravel bike has clearance for wide, high volume tires. This lets you run lower pressure for more comfort and control on loose surfaces. Disc brakes and lower gearing are standard on most gravel bikes. Frame geometry is also different than a typical road bike. The geometry places the rider in a slightly more upright position and the wheel base is often longer, trading some speed for comfort and nimbleness for stability on steep descents. Many gravel bikes evolved from a touring or adventure bike model, so there are often mounts for bikepacking gear.
Many thanks to Nate Burks for sharing his gravel bike affection.
Road Speed With Off-Road Capability
Where The Rubber Beats The Road
Ample rubber with tread patterns designed for riding fast on loose surfaces help you get the most from your gravel bike. This is one more detail that brings together road bike speed with off-road handling. Float over washboard, potholes, and other deteriorating surfaces that would otherwise beat you up while maintaining speed on smooth surfaces. The result is increased endurance and overall speed no matter where you ride.