Gravel bikes, sometimes referred to as adventure bikes, have become increasingly popular in recent years. To make them super versatile, gravel bikes have borrowed the best bits of other bikes.
So, they have the speed of a road bike and the durability of a mountain bike.
At face value, you may not notice many differences between a gravel bike and a road bike. But, there are actually a couple of design elements where the two differ.
The most significant difference between the two is a road bike, as the name suggests, rides best on road surfaces, particularly smoother, tarmacked roads.
Gravel bikes allow you to take this one step further as they can ride just fine on rougher road surfaces too, like gravel (even loose gravel), dirt tracks and more.
Can I ride a gravel bike on the road?
Yes! You can of course use a gravel bike on the road. This all depends on how you ride, though. A gravel bike will have a few small limitations on the road.
If you’re just riding on the road for commuting or if you’re riding at a reasonable pace, using a gravel bike on the road is perfectly fine. You’ll barely notice any difference in agility.
Plus, the wider, lower pressure tires will be much comfier, making your ride more enjoyable even on long distance journeys.
However, gravel bikes do tend to feel slightly heavier than road bikes because they’re much stronger and the wider wheels will add some weight too. As a result you may struggle a little on the road when riding uphill, for example.
You may notice the wider tires are a little slower than road ones. The best thing to do to combat this issue is to invest in a second set of wheels.
Gravel bikes are great because they often offer two different wheel sizes. So the wheels are capable of holding wider tires as well and narrower ones.
This way you’ll have one set for riding on gravel tracks and another for road riding – perfect if you’re only looking to purchase one bike to fit all of your needs.
Gravel bikes’ ability to cut through loose gravel also means they are less capable of responding quickly to sharp bends. This would be something to weigh up when it comes to choosing which feature best suits your needs.
Are gravel tires better than road tires?
What’s good about gravel tires is you can comfortably ride them in road tire territory. Whereas if you were to ride a road bike over loose gravel, your tires would struggle.
On the road you would hardly notice a difference in speed compared to road tires, but you would definitely feel the difference in comfort and control.
Of course, some tires will be much better suited to gravel rather than road and will feel a little too heavy and slow you down at times.
Can a gravel bike keep up with a road bike?
Gravel bikes do a pretty good job keeping up with road bikes. For standard riding like commuting, a gravel bike will get you up to the required speed just as easily as a road bike.
However, when it comes to road racing, gravel bikes struggle. Most gravel bikes only use a single chain ring set up. This means your bike will come with fewer gears. The gear set on a gravel bike is perfectly fine for most road riding, but they lack enough high gears for racing.
If you need to get up to speeds over 30 mph you would eventually lose control because you won’t be able to pedal fast enough to keep up. This may result in your feet spinning off the pedals and would definitely disadvantage you in a race.
Another reason these bikes are slower is because their wider tires catch more wind. The larger tires on a gravel bike create more resistance which slows the bike down.
If you want to use your gravel bike for road racing, you could switch the tires out for road tires to make it slightly faster. Many riders find this a good compromise to justify buying a gravel bike over a road bike.
Choosing between a gravel bike and a road bike can be tough but ultimately, gravel bikes are better all-rounders. Unless you need a bike specifically for road racing, a gravel bike will cater to your every need.
The wider tires make for a comfier bike overall and make any terrain feel like you’re supported and in control. Plus, the option to switch out the tires for a bigger or smaller size means you can even ride your gravel bike on the road and keep up with a road bike no problem.