Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What is a gravel road bike?

We are often asked, "What is a gravel road bike?" when people are shopping for a new bike in our stores. There is no single right answer. A gravel road bike can be a road bike with a wider and knobbier tire. A gravel road bike can be a cyclocross bike. A gravel road bike can be a mountain bike with thinner tires and drop bars. The point I'm trying to make is: a gravel road bike can be whatever you want it to be, as long it suits your needs. There are companies that have jumped on the trend and are designing bikes around the specific needs of gravel-centric riders, but there are many bikes out there that are very capable "gravel grinders" with little or no modification. The gravel road bikes that today's major manufacturers are turning out are highly modified road bikes. They have lengthened wheels bases, slacked head & seat tubes, shortened reaches, lowered BB's, and increased tire clearances. All of these modifications have been done to increase comfort and stability during long hours in the saddle on less than ideal road conditions. Some companies have focused on the endurance racing end of the spectrum of gravel riding and eliminated the rack and fender mounts while other have embraced the versatility of these bikes and kept these features. Below are a select few of the bikes we carry that make excellent gravel road bikes.

The Salsa Warbird. The Warbird was recently redesigned and is one of the bikes that is designed for the lighter weight racing end of the spectrum. It has no rack or fender mounts and is ideal for the performance minded rider. Salsa offers a wide variety of bags to fit the Warbird if you wish to carry gear on your adventures. There are both carbon and aluminum models available and they can handle a waide range of tire sizes.

The Niner RLT 9. Niner is know as the company that jumped headfirst into designing bikes around the 29" wheel (which is the same diameter as the 700c). The RLT 9 is their first model made with drop handlebars instead of a flat bar mountain bike. RLT stands for Road Less Traveled and that's what this bike is all about. It has almost identical geometry to the Salsa Warbird, gives you the ability to run 29"x1.75" tires, and it has rack and fender mounts.

The GT Grade is the new guy on the block. It's a completely new model from GT and comes in both alloy and carbon models. The grade ships with smooth 28c tires, but is just as happy wearing wider knobbies. The frame on the grade is unique in that it was engineered to offer the most flex and compliance where you want it while remaining stiff and efficient where you need it. This is your road bike, adventure bike, gravel bike, and touring bike all wrapped into one.

The Fuji Sportif is found in their road family of bikes, but it's just as capable on the gravel roads. It comes with 28c smooth tires like the GT Grade, but because of the disc brakes and the frame design it can accommodate larger and knobbier tires. The Sportif family of bikes is all aluminum, but they come with different build specs that allow the different models a variety of price points. Rack and fender mounts are standard on all the Sportif models and they offer the best versatility for the money.

Stop in our shops and ask questions. We like that. Try some bikes. We like that too. We're here to make your bike purchase easy, no confusing.