Buy a gravel bike: You shouldn’t skimp on these three things

by time news

IIn the context of the general bicycle euphoria and fueled not least by the corona pandemic, the gravel bike is also very popular. Just – what is that anyway?

“Strictly speaking, a gravel bike is nothing more than a racing bike with wider tires,” says Thomas Geisler. “Tire widths of 35 millimeters and more, which are driven with little air pressure, enable comfortable and fast progress even on loose ground, on field and forest paths,” says the editor at the Bicycle Press Service (pd-f).

That explains the name of this bike, because Gravel means gravel in English. And because these bikes work well not only off-road, but also on asphalt – the rolling resistance is hardly higher than that of a classic racing bike – they are also referred to as an all-road bike or a wide-tire racing bike.

Pay attention to three points on gravel bikes

“A gravel bike not only offers more flexibility than a racing bike, but is also more comfortable thanks to the wide tires and often more intuitive to ride thanks to the adapted geometry,” says Benjamin Topf. He recommends not only beginners not to save on equipment, especially at the three contact points – saddle, pedals, handlebar grips.

“For example, you should make sure that the handlebar grips are grooved to ensure a secure hold when driving through mud or water,” says the editor-in-chief of the bicycle magazines “Gran Fondo” and “Downtown”. And since the tires are the only contact with the ground, he recommends using higher quality models here too.

Basically, you should also be clear about what exactly you are going to do with your bike. “Gravel bikes are now available for pure racing use, but also for short adventures with luggage,” says Geisler.

“If you want to make short or longer trips with your bike, you should make sure that the bike has the appropriate devices for attaching luggage, mudguards and lights.”

And like Topf, the pd-f expert also considers a certain quality level of the individual components to be advisable. Disc brakes and an off-road gear ratio are part of the basic equipment for him. Bonds from the mountain bike sector, such as a suspension fork, on the other hand, are not a must, but rather a question of money.

Gravel bike frame made of aluminum or carbon?

The choice of frame material is also a matter of taste and thus also a question of finances. “The market demands carbon because it is the high-tech material,” says Topf.

“But an aluminum or even a steel bike also offers a lot of riding fun”. Modern aluminum frames in particular are not only of very high quality and often comparable in quality to cheap carbon frames, but usually even bring carbon forks with them.

Fast over hill and dale: that's how gravel bikes tick

Compared to their relatives on pure road racing bikes, the tires on gravel bikes have a more rustic design

Source: dpa-tmn / Nils Nilsen

Geisler would also prefer a high-quality aluminum frame to an inexpensive frame made of carbon, especially since the high sensitivity of carbon and material damage that can occur in the event of a fall are a clear disadvantage. However, he also advises a carbon fork.

The reason: “An aluminum frame has less damping properties, but damping is important when engraving. A fork made of carbon increases driving comfort and thus also driving pleasure. “

The high-end solution is titanium, by the way, which has good damping properties similar to steel, but unlike steel does not rust. However, titanium frames are only found in very high-quality and therefore expensive models.

How expensive are gravel bikes?

You can hardly get a good entry-level model for less than 2000 euros, says Topf, and the pain threshold is 1500 euros. Geisler puts this limit, beyond which the quality drops rapidly, at “around 1000 euros for a decent aluminum gravel bike”.

The starting price for carbon bikes is around 2000 euros. And an e-gravel bike – the general trend towards e-bikes has of course long since arrived in the gravel bike segment – is available from 2500 euros.

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If you are looking for a cheaper solution in view of these prices and come across the old racing bike, which is still in the basement anyway, both experts advise against retrofitting.

“Simply converting a racing bike with wider tires usually doesn’t work at all because the tire throughput at the fork and seat stays is limited,” says Thomas Geisler. “That means: tires that are too wide no longer roll in a racing bike frame.”

Fast over hill and dale: that's how gravel bikes tick

This racer has fairly wide and profiled tires – a distinguishing feature for gravel bikes

Source: dpa-tmn / Zacharie Scheurer

For Benjamin Topf, however, it is not just the tire width that throws such conversion plans into the equation: “The comfort of a gravel bike is determined by more than just the tires.” A classic racing bike is about propulsion, but not about comfort aligned.

Conversely, it is more likely to become a shoe. “If necessary, a gravel bike can be converted for use on the road with little effort,” he says. “With two sets of wheels for off-road and road, you increase the range of uses and driving pleasure even more.”

Fast over hill and dale: that's how gravel bikes tick

Gravel bikes also get along a little better on cobblestones in the city than racing bikes with super narrow tires

Source: dpa-tmn / Zacharie Scheurer


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