Your ultimate gravel guide for the best trafficless experience. Powered by Wilier Triestina

Why choose a Gravel bike?

The do anything, go anywhere, versatile, Swiss army knife bike. From racing to bikepacking, with your friends or solo. There are so many reasons that can lead a cyclist to choose a gravel bike.

If you are looking for a bike that does all these things then gravel is for you. However, as is so often the case, we are not talking about the perfect bike, but nevertheless this is bike that holds it’s own on many different road surfaces, and performs whatever the weather.

The gravel philosophy keeps everyone happy: the performance-conscious roadie has the opportunity to mix things up rather than stay on the usual road routes. At the same time those who aren't interested in KOM's and races can experience adventures in total freedom and autonomy.

With the same bike and a few simple modifications it is possible to road ride and at the same time venture out onto dirt roads that until recently were only accessible by mountain bike.


What are gravel bikes?

As no doubt we may be able to gather from the title, the definition of gravel is a discipline that fits somewhere in between the road bike and the mountain bike. Gravel is not to be confused with cyclocross, although at first glance they may have more than a few points in common, starting from the environmental context where they are both ridden. Cyclocross involves full on lung busting racing, lasting for a maximum of one hour to be held on a circuit set up with artificial obstacles. There is also a pit area for mechanical assistance. Cyclocross bikes must also meet the technical requirements imposed by the International Cycling Union (UCI).

Gravel has a broader field of interest, and, although it does have it's own competitive context in the form of the UCI Gravel World Series, Gravel can be said to identify with a real philosophy that at times reminds us of the heroic vintage cycling of the early 1900's. Mechanical assistance at gravel events is not permitted, so as a consequence these events are defined as being unsupported. Furthermore, the distances of the event or trail randonnées can sometimes be up to 300 km. Based on this it is easy to understand what a gravel bike needs to be. We are talking about a bike that must be fast, strong without compromising comfort and it needs to be able to fit bike bags and accessories for repairs, weather protection and hydration.

At the heart of all this is a frame that must be built with certain specific requirements, capable of fitting of 700C/28’’ and/or 650B/27.5’' wheels with wide tyres and with a variety of different treads depending on the road surface conditions. Also, it is the frame design and setup that permits the housing of bags and accessories dedicated to storage. 

In cyclocross, for example, the International Cycling Union (UCI) has imposed a maximum tyre width of 33mm. Also it makes no sense to have a bike fitted with luggage and accessories considering the limited duration of a cyclocross race, where there may also be the need, depending on the circuit, to dismount and run with the bike over the shoulder for long or short stretches. This is the reason why cyclocross frames, even though they may resemble gravel frames, in most cases are not equipped with holes and setups for bikepacking.

Gravel bike: which one to choose?

From the beginnings of the "Made in USA" phenomenon, the gravel segment has grown to such a point of that companies have begun to apply the same research and development engineering criteria as those used for their study of the road and mountain bike ranges. Market offerings are such that we can define at least three segments within the gravel range.

  • Racing/Competition: these are light bikes with a carbon fibre frame and aerodynamic profiles. Designed for long distance races, however that can also be employed in the most extreme of adventures. Crossing the Gobi Desert or tackling the Icelandic winter alone will not be a problem.
  • Endurance: More relaxed riding position for those all day rides. In this segment we can find gravel bikes with steel frames, offering better flexible characteristics and resistance to riding forces than aluminum. They are bicycles that remind us of the vintage cycling of yesteryear. 
  • Leisure/Fitness. These are bikes intended for all those who starting out in the gravel world, offering a very good cost to benefit ratio.

In the gravel environment, it is the general consensus of opinion that there are also  two subsections of the bike: gravel backroad and gravel adventure. In the first instance we are talking about bikes that will be used on fast dirt roads and things are geared toward performance, whilst the adventure bikes section - as the word itself suggests  - are not so bothered about competition, these are bikes dedicated to the practice of bikepacking which in some cases can cross over into the world of mountain biking.



7 reasons to choose a gravel bike

  • Versatility and wide range of use.
  • Ability to make road rides less monotonous while maintaining a similar riding position.
  • Ride trails in close contact with nature, free from traffic and smog.
  • A bike that makes it possible to plan a real biking holiday, weekends away or trips with friends or alone.
  • Discover places of interest and their historical, cultural, gastronomic and wine offerings in a flexible and dynamic way.
  • Relive vintage cycling in a modern way.
  • Be part of an international cycling community made up of enthusiasts and cycle travellers.

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