Gravel bikes offer versatility and the opportunity for riders to get off the beaten track without handicapping itself much on the tarmac.
So what exactly is a gravel bike?
A gravel bike is a drop-bar bike designed to let you ride over many different surfaces, meaning you can make good progress on the road, but, with wider tires, lower gearing and stable handling, you can also head off-road with confidence. Or you can load up your gravel bike with camping kit for a multi-day bikepacking adventure. A gravel bike from one manufacturer can look very different from another – with some gravel machines pitched more towards road speed and light off-road riding, and others bearing more resemblance to mountain bikes.
Gravel bike frame material
Gravel bikes are made from a variety of frame materials. The most common options are aluminium and carbon or more expensive titanium. But almost all boutique steel frame builders offer steel gravel bike which gives you the much-needed confidence to ride the rough terrain.
Gravel bike geometry
Although it looks similar to a conventional road bike, gravel bike geometry is designed for more stable handling off-road. That normally means a longer wheelbase, longer chainstay and slacker angles for the frame and forks and a noticeable BB drop. As we move from road to gravel, steering geometry slows down. Both the larger tire and slacker steering geometry will slow the steering more and more. As the terrain become more technical, the slowed steering is desirable.
A gravel bike will typically give you a more upright riding position than road bike geometry, with a longer head tube and shorter reach. That should result in more comfort on long rides and also lets you shift your weight around to tackle obstacles and off-road descents.
Gravel bike tyres
A key feature of gravel bikes is lots of tire clearance and, in turn, the opportunity to run significantly bigger tires than a road bike. The extra volume of gravel bike tyres lets you run low pressures of 40psi or less, adding comfort and traction on uneven surfaces. Gravel tyres have a tread pattern to aid grip.
Gravel bike wheels will usually be designed to run tubeless tires as well. A tubeless setup lets you keep tire pressure down with a lower risk of pinch flats. The tubeless sealant in the tire will seal small holes caused by thorns, flints and other causes. A gravel bike’s frame and fork blades will have enough space to handle any mud that they inevitably collect.
Gravel bike wheels
When it comes to gravel bike wheels, 650b and 700c wheels are both popular, although the bigger wheel size (700c) is more common. 650b wheels have a slightly smaller diameter and can be shod with even wider tires, for additional traction, while keeping the rolling diameter of the wheel plus tire similar to a road bike, for comparable gearing and ride feel. However, most gravel bikes come with 700c wheels as standard as there are much more tire options for 700c wheels.
Hydraulic Disc brakes are now ubiquitous on gravel bikes. Disc brakes offer consistent, effective stopping, whatever the conditions – crucial for gravel bikes – and leave plenty of room for the wide tyres required for off-road riding. Ekar features the best of proven Campagnolo disc brake performance and modulation, and controller technology and feel, all for the very best gravel riding performance.
Gravel bike gearing
Gearing is key when it comes to gravel bike setup. If you’re heading off-road, you’ll need lower gears to tackle steep climbs and trickier terrain. With grip reduced on loose surfaces, you can’t get out of the saddle so easily when climbing, so need to spin up the gradient to avoid wheel slip.
Most gravel bikes now have gravel-specific gearing, and the best is Campagnolo Ekar. A 1x setup keeps things simple with a single chainring at the front, paired with a wide-ranging cassette. A 38 teeth chainrings with 10-44T cassette is best for Gravel Adventure which should get you and your laden bike up most hills you can picture!.
Removing the front derailleur and using just one chainring makes for a simpler system. You get as much range (or more) as a double chainset. The chainring will typically have alternating wide and narrow teeth which, along with a clutched rear derailleur, helps keep the chain in place and running smoothly when it gets bumpy.
Handle bars that flare out to the drops are a common feature on gravel bikes. The flared drops provide additional stability, improving handling and control off-road because you have extra leverage, particularly if you’re descending fast. The bars will usually have quite a shallow drop, so that you don’t have to reach down too far.
Going bikepacking? Extra mounting points for bags and accessories will come in handy. Fork mounts are used to carry additional luggage. Another typical feature of gravel bikes is lots of mounts for accessories and luggage. Most gravel bikes have mounts for mudguards (fenders). Pannier rack mounts are also common, making gravel bikes a great choice for all-weather cycling or as a wide-tyred winter road bike. A typical set of mounting points will also include bolts for a third water bottle under the down tube, for long rides where it may be difficult to top-up on water. You can also use these to hold a tool keg in a bottle cage, keeping your pockets free. Top tube mounts can be used with a compatible bag to keep snacks and essential supplies at close hand.
You might find additional mounts on the fork blades, to bolt-on extra bottle cages or luggage, and some bikes have a mount for a dynamo light on the fork crown.
Welcome gravel adventure with POSST Oblique. The 1x13 spd EKAR steel gravel adventure bike. Frame designed and made in India with select Columbus tubes.