Reviewing Best Gravel Bikes: Shopping Guide For The Best Gravel Bicycles 2020

The gravel bike is a relatively recent but extremely popular cycling development. The best in this category offer the perfect combination of road rhythm and off-road control. The challenge comes by choosing the right model.

That’s where A Life of Luxury can help. Our mission is to find out exactly what you get for your money and help you make the right purchase decisions for your needs.

If you are ready to buy a gravel bike, our main recommendations in the previous matrix offer an excellent combination of performance and value. For those who need more detailed help, we have compiled the following gravel bike shopping guide.

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What Is A Gravel Bike?

Many cyclists spend much of their driving time on the pavement. It is tempting to take that side road or follow that interesting road, but a road bike is not made for that. Mountain bikes are excellent in really difficult terrain, but gear changes and driving position do not adapt to fast road use.

The gravel bike (or adventure bike) is the ideal solution. At first glance, these bikes look a lot like road bikes, most have drop handlebars, but there are differences:

  • Frame: The frame geometry is carefully modified to be shorter than that of a road bike, with a steeper angle of inclination, but not as extreme as a mountain bike. It balances the need for straight-line performance with off-road maneuverability.
  • Tires: The tires are wider, with a deeper tread, to provide extra grip on loose surfaces.
  • Position: the driving position is a bit more vertical.
  • Balance: the pedal lever is closer to the ground, which reduces the center of gravity and improves balance.
  • The result is a bike that can still ride fast on the road that also has the ability to drive gravel lanes and dirt roads. For most of us, it is the type of adventure that is much more common, and more accessible, than the nearest mountain.

    Hybrid bicycles are a similar idea, but they focus on comfort rather than sport. You will still have many gears to handle different driving conditions, but the driving position is much more vertical, and there is more padding in the saddle. The tires are for roads, with a limited trail capacity. The hybrids are designed for the most cunning in the city who like to take a walk in an urban park or along the river from time to time.

    Characteristics Of The Gravel Bike To Consider

    A modern gravel bike can incorporate many different materials and technologies. Let’s see how each affects your choice.

    Framework

    Frames are often a unique treatment for everyone. On cheaper bicycles, you will mostly see words like “adult” or “teenager.” The best gravel bikes offer a variety of frame sizes. If you travel regularly, and particularly if you ride more than a few miles at a time, it is important to obtain the appropriate size frame for your height. If you don’t, not only will you feel uncomfortable, but you also won’t have the balance and control you want on loose surfaces.

    The gravel bike frame can be made of steel, aluminum or carbon fiber.

  • The frames of steel are the cheapest option. Chromed steel is a lighter chromium and molybdenum alloy than common carbon steel and allows bending. These frames are strong and will withstand many hits, but they are also quite heavy.
  • The frames aluminum are much lighter than steel, an advantage both on and off the road. Aluminum is not as strong, but its weight advantages are such that it is the most popular frame material for both mid-range and high-end gravel bicycles.
  • Carbon is incredibly light and can be immensely strong, but it is expensive and not necessarily durable. It is very rigid, so impacts can cause stress fractures and, in extreme cases, even break. Carbon gravel bicycles do exist, but it is much more common in high-end road bikes, where impact is generally not a consideration.
  • Composite: Increasingly common in mid-range and high-end gravel bikes are composite frames in which different materials are used at specific points, especially around the lower support (where the crank spindle fits). These sections are designed to increase impact resistance, almost as a form of suspension.
  • Wheels and tires

    When it comes to wheels and tires, the options can be confusing, especially the sizes. Unfortunately, our research shows that there is no real standardization in terms.

    Gravel bikes for children often indicate tire size in inches: 24 inches is common.

    Adult gravel bicycles sometimes use inches, but more often they use expressions such as 650b, 700 or 700c.

  • 650 wheels have 26-inch diameter wheels.
  • 650b means 27.5 inches (the confusion is because 650b is a measure that includes the tire).
  • 700 sizes range from 27 inches (wheel only) to 29 inches (includes tire).
  • So how do you decide which one is the best? Although you will find numerous wheel and tire combinations, these are the most common we found:

    700 wheels with 40 mm tires: the larger wheel offers more stability in a straight line. The smaller tire means you have less contact area, so you’ll go faster with the same amount of effort. This is a biased configuration towards the use of the road.

    650 wheels with 47 mm tires: the smallest but thickest tire means more off-road comfort. You will also have more grip. In most cases, you will have less punctures with a thicker tire, as it absorbs more impact. This is a skewed configuration towards the trail riding.

    There are many more 700 gravel tires than 650. Unless you are a long distance engaged adventure rider, the 700 is probably the easiest option. Of course, it is always possible to change the wheels later, and some enthusiasts have a pair of each.

    Tubular or tubeless tires

    While most gravel tires are still tubed , cameraless variants are becoming popular. These tires cannot be placed on all tires, and they are more expensive, but they are less prone to punctures. You can also get tire sealants to repair your tire without a camera on the spot, or fill them out previously; You may never realize that you had a flat. That could be a great benefit if you travel at any distance.

    Brakes

    You will find caliper (edge) brakes in hybrids, but most gravel bicycles have disc brakes for superior braking power. These are operated by cable or hydraulically.

    Hydraulic brakes seem to be the most cost effective option, and have more “feel” of braking. However, with cables it can work much less and, unless you are a competitive cyclist, you are unlikely to notice much difference.

    Carbon forks: reduce the weight of the front, which facilitates the rotation, especially in gravel and dirt.

    Saddle posts: These have become surprisingly complex: not only does it have carbon options to save weight, but now it also has dropper seat posts that are pneumatically activated so you can change the seat height while driving.

    Seats: The seats tend to offer more padding and springs than the razor blades found on some road bikes, but are not necessarily luxurious. The accessories are universal, so it is a simple change if you want a little more comfort.

    Gears: It may seem strange that we have left the gears to the end, but from our point of view they are less important than many people might think. You are likely to get an absolute minimum of 15 speeds, which is enough. In fact, while cheap gravel bicycles can offer up to 24, high-specification machines aimed at the serious enthusiast are only 10. Quick-grip selectors are common, but levers / levers are more precise.

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    Prices Of Gravel Bicycles

    The range of gravel bicycles is huge, which is excellent news for the bicycle buyer. Even those looking for a basic level adventure bike have many options, as long as you don’t mind a couple of commitments. You can expect to pay  from $ 200 to more than $ 4,000  for a gravel bike, depending on the quality and features.

    Cheap:  cheap gravel bicycles cost about $ 200. The steel structure, wheels and tires are designed for both streets and trails, but almost everything else comes out of the same parts compartment as any road or mountain bike . You will get 15 or 21 speeds, changes of claws and calipers powered by cable or disc brakes. If you want a basic leisure bike, they are good for the trip to  work  and to run occasionally along a gentle forest path. You’ll find decent hybrids, with an aluminum frame and front fork suspension, for around $ 100 extra, although you can pay up to $ 500, depending on the quality.

    Medium range:  if you like to challenge yourself and go off the road regularly, you must invest more. You will find a great SUV that will handle the use of the serious weekend for around $ 600 to $ 1,200. It is quite extensive, but there is a great variation. Some bicycles will be steel, others aluminum. The changers will probably be lever operated. The brakes can be cable or hydraulic disc. Sometimes you get carbon forks. You will also find frame size options.

    Expensive:  in this price range, you are really choosing the best equipment available. Light but remarkably strong. Superbly built It is not difficult to spend $ 2,000 or more. If you want the ultimate gravel bike, it can be more or less personalized, for a price. A likely starting point would be $ 4,000, although you can pay more than that for just one carbon frame!

    Tips

    • There is no substitute for practice. If you’ve never traveled off the road before, it can be a stimulating and scary experience. The big difference with loose surfaces is that it is likely to slip and slide a bit. Learn how you drive your new bike in different terrains. The more you drive, the more your skills and confidence will grow. Face small challenges and build. Riding on gravel is fun, but gravel eruption is not!
    • Give your bike a good cleaning after each trip. Riding a gravel bike may not leave your bike covered in mud like a mountain bike, but dust and fine sand will find their way into gears, brakes and bearings, and will cause additional wear. Fifteen minutes with a brush and some soapy water will extend the life of your bicycle. Regular maintenance (following the manufacturer’s instructions) will ensure that you do not fail in the middle of nowhere.
    • Preparation is key. Adventure cycling has virtually no limits, but if you go any distance you need adequate supplies, especially water. You need a way to repair the punctures and a compact first aid kit : almost everyone who travels off the road sometimes falls. If you get too far from the established route, make sure someone knows where. You may not be able to trust a cell phone signal.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Q. What is the difference between a gravel bike and a cyclocross bike?

    1. They seem similar, but there are important details that differ, particularly in geometry. A gravel bike is generally longer, and the angle of the steering head is less deep. It is a compromise between a bicycle that handles gravel tracks and uneven terrain and one that provides good stability for fast driving on the road.

    A cyclocross bicycle (or CX) is shorter, and the angle of the steering head is more extreme. It’s all focused on the road, designed to give you the ability to turn the bike quickly when you need it.

    You can often place saddlebags or bag frames on a gravel bike for long distance journeys. You won’t find the same on a cyclocross bike, which focuses on off-road capability.

    Q. Could I put gravel tires on my road bike?

    1. It might be possible, depending on your tires, but it is not recommended. Even if you make the tires fit, they will still be relatively thin. You will not have much grip. And that is only part of the problem. A road bike is much less robust than a good gravel bike. The geometry of the frame is another problem. Road bikes are designed for good stability in a straight line on asphalt or concrete, they are not so good at coping with slides and rapid changes of direction in gravel and loose dirt.

    Q. What is a 1x powertrain?

    1. A 1x transmission has only one plate on the crank (with the pedals). Mountain bikes and road bikes usually have two or three plates in the front and a gear cassette in the rear, which gives up to 30 gears. This provides many possible combinations (especially for steep terrain), but it means that automatic transmissions are complex, with many that could go wrong. They are also hard on chains.

    On a gravel bike, it is unlikely to address extreme gradients, so you don’t need so many gears. As a result, the mechanism can be simpler and more durable. It is lighter and easier to understand because there is only one lever to operate!

    So far, budget and mid-range gravel bicycles still mainly use 2x and 3x transmission transmissions. It is economical There are many in production. However, with high-end gravel, cyclocross and mountain bikes (especially custom built), automatic transmissions are increasingly common.

    Based on the various tests we have carried out on several bikes, we can give the following classification to help you make a better choose of your best bike. This classification has also been verified by hundreds of thousands of users like you who bought and used their Amazon’s bikes.

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