It wasn't that long ago that Gravels were a niche product and rarely found. Then they became the big hype and were again rare to find because they were usually sold out. Today they are everywhere, in the city, on the bike path, off-road or on the bike trail, in the lowlands and in the mountains. Gravels are simply everywhere. And that's where their greatest strength lies - Gravel bikes are incredibly versatile!
Many bike segments are becoming more specialized at the moment. Want an example? A mountain bike today isn't just a mountain bike, it's an enduro, a downhiller, a cross-country bike or whatever. And woe betide anyone whose bike doesn't match the terrain! Road cyclists have had this problem for a long time. You can get around on a road bike just fine. But only as long as the asphalt lasts, then it's over. There have been devices with cyclocross bikes for racing in the mud. But honestly? Bike racing through knee-deep mud isn't really everyone's cup of tea.
So how to reconcile the elegance of a road bike with the broad capabilities of a touring bike and the off-road ability of a mountain bike? The solution was simple, the Gravel Bike had to be invented!
The name alone gives away which direction these bikes like to go. Gravel means gravel or gravel. That doesn't mean you'll have to fork over a lot of gravel or grit, because unlike classy race bikes, Gravels are often comparatively cheap to buy. They do, however, like to ride on gravel or gravel, so they're perfectly capable of handling the surfaces that tend to be a problem for other bikes.
This is a Gravel Bike - Things to know about gravel bikes
If you take a look at a gravel bike from a distance, it actually looks like a road bike. Especially for hobby bikers, the typical race bike handlebars or dropbar is crucial in sorting it out - "Ah, sure, a road bike! Must be fast."
But something does seem different about this road bike...
Wide tires, preferably with tread
Tires are one of the clearest differentiators between gravel bikes and road bikes. Road bike tires are thin and smooth. Tread? No way, would only add unnecessary resistance! Gravels, on the other hand, roll on wide, grippy wheels with a little to a lot of tread.
The wider tires, after all, are what allow a Gravel to ride off paved roads, where slick road bike tires would have long since called it a day.
They also deliver significantly more riding comfort, because after all, pneumatic tires were invented specifically as damping for bicycles. Thick tire - lots of air - lots of damping!
Exactly how wide tires can be varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Often gravel bikes can handle up to 40mm of tire width or even more. Some bikes also offer the option of 27.5 inch wheels. These are also known as 650b wheels and offer more traction and comfort due to their higher volume. This means you can hit the gas even on rough terrain. But beware: not every gravel bike can accommodate this type of wheel. Some models already come with 650b wheels from the factory, others only fit the usual 28 inch or 700c wheels.
With skinnier tires - say, 28mm - a Gravel is more like a fast road bike, but with 650b wheels and 47mm wide tires it's almost a mountain bike.
Just take a look at the specifications of our Gravel bikes, there you can read what tire size they swallow or how much clearance they have (especially on bikes from the USA you will find this specification).
Moderate-sporty to relaxed geometry
A road bike rider usually has the nose a few inches above the stem, with the body almost parallel to the top tube. So it rides streamlined, but not really comfortable. The geometry of the frame is responsible for the riding position. Especially the reach (engl.: the reach), i.e. the distance from the bottom bracket to the handlebars, determines how low and elongated you sit on the bike, and what your intervertebral discs say about it.
Gravels have a much more relaxed geo than road bikes. They're not made for best times, but for enjoyable pedaling and long, relaxed bikepacking rides. They also provide a good overview in traffic. As nice as such a stem might be, a little view is nicer!
Gravel bikes usually have road handlebars
You've already read it above, gravel bikes often ride with drop bars. But it's perfectly okay if you'd rather have a flatbar, or straight handlebar, on your gravel bike.
Mounting points for various attachments
This is where true road bike enthusiasts get goosebumps. A gravel bike has mounting eyelets into which luggage racks, front racks, fenders or even a lighting system can be bolted. What would be absolutely unthinkable on a road bike not only makes the Gravel Bike suitable for everyday use, but it also makes bike touring and bikepacking with lots of luggage possible.
Since gravel bikes don't necessarily care about the last gram of weight, these bikes tend to be built to last. The installed parts, the frame and the fork should be able to withstand a lot and not slow you down on the road due to a breakdown. Therefore, they are characterized by a robust construction, if they are a little heavier, that is gladly accepted.
Gravel bikes for men and women
The triumph of gravel bikes began at the same time as the disappearance of gender-specific bikes. More and more bike manufacturers realized that the appropriate bike size is far more important than the distinction between women's bikes and men's bikes. As a result, most gravel bikes aren't built for women or men, they're built for people. To make sure your bike fits you, here in the shop you can choose between bikes with different geometry and in different sizes. Check out our blog for a guide to help you determine the correct frame size when buying online, too.
Gravel bikes for kids are still rare to find. For older kids and teens, a model in a small frame size is suitable. but most kids' bikes are still all-rounders with a low step-in.
The triumph of gravel bikes also began at the same time as a revolution in bike components, as bike gears have been shrinking since about 2019. Before that, the motto was "more is more," so the more gears a bike had, the more cogs and sprockets, the better. Today, 1x gears are very popular. They have up to 12 sprockets, but only one sprocket and therefore 12 gears. The range of gears remains almost the same, only the gradations are not quite as finely adjustable as with 2x or 3x gears. In return, the gears are lighter, cheaper and less sensitive.
So the sum of the parts of a Gravel bike makes for a sporty, but more importantly, comfortable bike, usually with road handlebars, plenty of tire clearance, disc brakes, and the ability to attach bikepacking gear or other equipment to it.
Is a gravel bike the right bike for you?
A gravel bike is a very versatile and almost universal bike. But is it the perfect bike for you and your cycling intentions? The answer to that is simple: a Gravel is suitable for actually everyone, because it covers almost all areas of cycling.
There are Gravel bikers who prefer to ride around with pleasure, stopping at every café and beer garden. Others go about their entire daily lives on a gravel bike. They ride to school, to work or with a child seat on the carrier to kindergarten. Still others love the challenge and throw themselves into extended adventures with their bike and master long-distance rides on changing surfaces.
But what all gravel bikers certainly have in common is a love of two wheels and a desire to ride a robust, as well as durable, high-quality bike. They are not necessarily concerned with setting new best times in races, but rather with making their daily lives more sustainable or spending time outdoors.
So a gravel bike is suitable for everyday cyclists as well as those who like to be outdoors and ride their bikes on different surfaces all year round. With the possibility of adding various attachments, such as mudguards or a light system, you can use Gravel Bikes 365 days a year.
By the way, Gravels are increasingly available with a motor as an E-bike.
The features at a glance:
- All-terrain all-rounder with wide tyres
- robust construction
- Suitable for year-round cycling, commuting, everyday riding
- changing surfaces from asphalt to off-road possible
- Day trips and multi-day tours,
- popular for bike packing
How does a gravel bike ride?
Although a gravel bike generally rides sporty and very comfortable, the general ride characteristics depend on the model. Not only do the frame geometries differ, but the materials from which the bikes are made also bring their specific characteristics. Besides aluminum and carbon, some gravel bikes are also made of steel. The frame material has a significant impact on how a bike feels when you ride it.
Gravel bikes made of steel are usually a bit heavier, but have more self-damping, they also can't be broken.
Aluminum bikes are often lighter than steel bikes. But the front-runner in terms of weight remains the carbon frame. It may be extremely light, but it is also much more expensive.
The specific tyre width and size plays an equally important role in the riding experience. The more volume the tires have, the more relaxed the ride, because more air means more damping. However, the overall ride also becomes less agile with increasing tire width and size.
Last but not least, the handlebar also affects the feel. Gravel bikes usually have road handlebars that you can always change your grip on. This avoids one-sided strain on your arms and hands. To help you control your bike off-road, gravel drop bars have more or less "flare," or flared ends, because the wider a handlebar is, the better the control.
Basically, though, it can be said that gravel bikes offer a relaxed riding experience and score points for comfort and smoothness.
The riding experience at a glance:
What are the advantages of a gravel bike?
The advantages of a Gravel bike are as varied as the bikes themselves, combining the benefits of all bike categories.
Gravels are really nimble bikes that get you from A to B super fast. That's why they are often used for commuting as a commuter bike. The sturdy build is just made for using the bikes every day in all weathers, getting you to work quickly.
Not only on the way to work gravel bikes offer, they are also on long bike rides fun, the relaxed geometry combined with the sporty feel ensures.
But the biggest advantage of a gravel bike is the ultimate freedom it gives you. You don't have to worry about the surface when choosing your route. Cobblestones, tar or dirt roads, a gravel bike will go anywhere. The wide tires even make off-road use on moderate mountain bike trails possible. Thus, in addition to farm and forest roads, typical gravel roads are no longer a problem.
Gravel bikes are not only universally applicable all-rounders when it comes to the surface. Also in terms of equipment options and mounting options, almost all models can score with very great diversity. Depending on the manufacturer and model, the modern bikes offer the possibility to mount almost everything. Would you like to have a permanently installed light system for the dark season? No problem. You want to go on a long bikepacking adventure and are looking for threaded eyelets to attach your equipment? There is. Want to add fenders in the fall and winter? That works just fine, too.
The advantages at a glance:
- universally applicable
- greater freedom to plan tours, as any surface can be driven on
- offer sufficient comfort
- are robust and durable
- are suitable for off-road use
- Attachment possibilities for a comfortable full equipment
How much does a gravel bike cost?
It's like any other bike: there's almost no upper limit. The lower limit for Gravels is around the 600 euro mark. Generally speaking, gravel bikes can be divided into entry-level, mid-range and top-end in terms of price.
In the entry-level class up to about 1,200, - Euro the bikes offer a solid entry into the Gravel world. The frames are mostly made of aluminum or steel. The disc brakes are often mechanical and the gears are simple. The total weight of entry-level Gravel bikes is in most cases above the ten kilogram mark.
In the next price category there are for up to 2,000, - Euro then already better gears and mostly hydraulic disc brakes. The frame materials can also be aluminum and steel, but are then often made of better alloys. The ten kilogram limit cracks middle class Gravel bikes usually anyway.
Absolute high-end gravel bikes are usually made of carbon and their equipment elements play in all areas in the first league. This applies to the gears and the braking system, the wheels as well as all other attachments. As a rule, such gravel bikes cost from about 2,200 euros upwards and weigh less than nine kilograms.
In all price ranges you get gravel bikes that you can rely on and trust on your trails. With quality and durability all gravel bikes can score points - even if the price differences of course affect the performance and handling.
The costs at a glance:
- Entry variants from 600,- to about 1.200,- Euro
- Mid-range gravel bikes go up to about 2,000,- Euro
- High-end gravel bikes start at circa 2,200 euros
Gravel bike, mountain bike, road bike, trekking bike and cyclocrosser-
Where exactly is the difference between a Gravel Bike and other types of bikes?
Gravel Bike - Mountain Bike
The biggest difference between these two types of bikes is probably the suspension. Mountain bikes almost always have a suspension fork, and fullys also have a frame shock. Gravel bikes do without, so the power of your pedaling is used more efficiently.
Gravel Bike - Road Bike
Grossly simplified, a gravel bike is an everyday, comfortable version of a race bike. With a road bike, you can go really fast, but the skinny tires make rough surfaces a no-no. With a gravel bike, on the other hand, you can ride on just about any trail. In addition, the moderate geo and the wider tyres in combination with the practical equipment options ensure a wide range of uses.
By the way, you can't just bolt wide tires onto your road bike and turn it into a gravel bike. The design of the frame dictates what tire widths can be ridden. Only narrow tires have room on road bikes.
Gravel Bike - Cyclocross Bike
Crossers or cyclocross bikes are very similar to gravel bikes in many ways, but in some aspects they are just very different. The two main differences are tire clearance and geometry. Gravel bikes can accommodate much wider tires in most cases because their frames are designed to do just that. Gravel bikes are also designed primarily for comfort and long distances. Cyclocross bikes, on the other hand, are designed for races that usually last an hour or less. As a result, the geometry there is much more sport-oriented and the riding position is not as comfortable. Cyclocrossers should not be confused with cross bikes!
Cross Bike or Fitness Bike - Gravel Bike
A cross bike is actually very similar to a gravel in its area of use. A cross bike is actually a non-specific bike. But precisely because it is non-specific, it has a wide range of uses. Touring, bike trekking, city riding, excursions, training laps, a cross bike does it all. Visually and in geometry it is a mix of hardtail and touring bike, usually the equipment is minimal at first and can then be added to by the owner.
Gravel bike - touring bike or trekking bike
A touring bike or trekking bike is most similar to a gravel in terms of where it can be used. Appearance is the most significant difference here. While trekking bikes often come across as very leisurely, the look of a gravel is definitely geared towards a road bike and is thus more sleek and sporty.
Gravel bike - city bike and urban bike
Quite similar to the touring bike is the comparison between city bikes or urban bikes and Gravels.
What should you look for when buying a gravel bike?
With each new model year, more and more Gravel bikes come on the market, and there's no end in sight to the trend so far. So of course you have a lot of choice, but on the other hand you just have to decide on a model.
With a few simple questions you will quickly find the right gravel bike:
- How often do you want to ride your gravel bike?
If you only want to use your new gravel bike once a week for a short spin, a bike from the entry-level category up to €1,200 will certainly suffice. But if you plan regular rides and even real training, then it's worth increasing the budget to at least 2,000,- Euro.
- How long should the tours last?
If you're looking to go rather fast and not for too long, then a sporty gravel bike will suit you best. But if you're aiming for (very) long tours and bikepacking adventures, a more moderate gravel bike will suit you better.
- Where do you want to ride, how rough are the surfaces?
If you want to ride your new gravel bike on really hard gravel roads or even flowy trails, then you should rather go for a model that can take 650b wheels and offers a solid equipment. However, if you are mainly riding on moderate forest trails and asphalt, then 700c wheels with about 35 mm tire width will suffice.
- What is the right frame size?
Like all bikes, gravel bikes come in different frame sizes. You'll find some manufacturers give specs like you're used to buying clothes, so from S to XL. Other bike brands give the frame size in centimeters, still others divide their bikes into inch sizes. Just check out our blog for instructions on how to determine the correct frame size for your online purchase.
So, all in all, a gravel bike is made for use on changing surfaces. It is very good to ride long tours on it. Due to the many attachment options, it can also be used for commuting and bikepacking. Gravel bikes are robust and durable, they are aimed at riders who like to ride fast and everywhere. One thing we'd like to tell you in closing: We love gravel bikes and advise you to definitely try graveling for yourself soon. But beware: the new freedom to ride and have fun on all trails has a huge addictive factor.
Buy a gravel bike from the best manufacturer!
In our Gravel Bikes category, you'll find a wide selection of different bikes from manufacturers Trek, Rondo, Orbea, Fuji Bikes, Bombtrack, Cinelli, Giant, Octane One, Breezer, NS Bikes and Creme Cycles.
You can also find all attachment parts and lots of accessories like luggage racks, bike bags and bike helmets in our online shop.
Don't know which type of bike is right for you yet? Here on BMO, you can easily compare. We explain what mountain bikes, urban bikes and city bikes, trekking bikes, dirt bikes, race bikes, and E-bikes can do. Plus, we'll help you buy a cool kids bike for your little one. Just read our buying guides and you'll know which bike you'll be happy with!