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Cycliste gravel sur un sentier boueux

In this Article

Buying a used gravel bike: the complete guide

In this Article

For some, it is a return to the origins of the road bike. For others, it's the ultimate bike for unforgettable adventures. In any case, gravel biking does not leave indifferent. Bike manufacturers have understood this and every year the market presents more and more options and innovations at prices that defy all reason. To get equipped without breaking the bank, an interesting option is to turn to a used gravel bike. But it's not always easy to make a choice among such a dense offer... Don't panic, our experts are here to help you find your dream gravel bike without breaking the bank!




What is a gravel bike ?

Gravel cyclist on a muddy terrain

You could put it this way: the ultimate all-around bike. At the crossroads of road and mountain biking, it's the perfect choice if you like to ride on asphalt while indulging in winding trails. Thanks to its comfort and its robustness borrowed from the mountain bike, the gravel bike guarantees a very great freedom of route.

Thanks in large part to its fork, which allows for wider tires, you can travel with panniers for bikepacking, ultra-distance races, or simply use it for your daily velotaff distances.


How to choose a gravel bike?

First of all, you have to ask yourself the right questions:

  • What type of gravel to choose?
  • What materials and components should I choose?
  • What size bike to choose?
  • What is the budget for a gravel bike?


1. Define the purpose, use and type of cycling



Which gravel bike to choose for a cyclo gravel practice ?

Cyclo gravel is the gravel equivalent of gran fondos: medium-distance, high-intensity rides on a variety of terrain, from gravel roads to forest roads and even more technical trails. Frames are often made of carbon to be lighter and stiffer, with more aggressive geometry for better handling and stability at high speeds. Gravel bikes for cyclo gravel often have narrower tires for better pedaling efficiency on road sections and a race-ready transmission with tighter gears.

An excellent example of a gravel bike for this purpose is the Giant TCX Advanced Pro 1. This model features a lightweight and durable carbon frame, a carbon fiber fork to absorb vibrations, wheels with an ideal weight/stiffness ratio and a reliable transmission and disc brakes for optimal safety. It's the perfect choice for cyclists who want to move quickly on the road, yet be ready to explore more varied terrain.

Giant TCX advanced Pro black


Which gravel bike should I choose for leisure riding?

Recreational gravel is designed for recreational and discovery riding, with a more relaxed and comfortable geometry. The frame is often made of aluminum or steel for comfort, and it is designed to accommodate wide tires for better grip on uneven surfaces. Recreational gravel bikes have a long-distance drivetrain with a wide gear range and disc brakes for more stopping power.

The specialized Diverge E5 has a longer wheelbase for better stability and a more upright riding position for more comfort. It also features a FACT Carbon fork for better shock absorption on uneven surfaces. This versatile gravel bike will go with you on any terrain.

Specialized Diverge E5 gravel black


Which gravel bike to choose for bikepacking?

The gravel bikepacking is designed for multi-day trips with bikepacking bags. Bikepacking gravel bikes have a more stable geometry for a comfortable ride with an extra load and are often equipped with pannier mounts.

If you're a bikepacker, look for a gravel bike designed for bikepacking, with built-in lights like the Cannondale Topsone Carbon Rival AXS  and a pannier attachment system designed to avoid friction with the frame or your knees during the pedaling phase. And if you hesitate between a Gravel or a semi-rigid mountain bike, we have just the article to help you choose!

 Cannondale Topstone 

Handlebar bag, saddle bag, frame bag or top tube bag, it's up to you to equip your two-wheeler as you wish and make your gravel, the ultimate bike to travel.



Normal gravel or electric gravel ?

An electric gravel bike offers pedal assistance for longer and more challenging distances. The3T Exploro RaceMax Boost Dropbar GRX is an electric gravel model designed to offer a similar riding experience to a conventional gravel bike while providing additional assistance. However, they are generally heavier and more expensive due to the electric motor and their Battery integrated.


2. Choosing components and materials for your gravel bike



    Transmission for gravel : single or double tray?

    Henri, expert mechanic at The Cyclist Houseexplains the basics in a video dedicated to transmissions for Gravel bikes: single chainring vs double chainring.

     

    To summarize: If you ride mostly on flat ground and climb a few small hills with long climbs, you won't have the same needs as the rider who does 4000m of climbing in a short time. You will have to choose between a single chainring drivetrain (simple, light) or a double chainring drivetrain (wide speed range, ideal for mixed surfaces). To learn more, go to our article dedicated to transmissions for Gravel bikes!


    Brakes for gravel bikes: discs or pads?

    Disc brakes offer more braking power and better modulation, which means it's easier to control the pressure on the lever for precise deceleration. They are also more reliable and offer better braking performance on wet or muddy surfaces.

    Pad brakes are lighter than disc brakes and can offer better braking performance on dry roads. They can also be easier to maintain and adjust than disc brakes. However, they are generally less powerful than disc brakes and offer less precise modulation.

    If you are unsure, our article on the debate pad brakes vs. disc brakes can help you make a choice.


    Wheels for gravel bikes : 700c vs 650b

    700c gravel wheels are more common and offer better speed and handling on smooth and paved surfaces.

    650b wheels are smaller and lighter than 700c wheels, making them ideal for rougher terrain and less smooth surfaces. They are wider and offer better traction, which is especially useful on muddy terrain or steep dirt roads.

    To help you find the format that suits you, we invited the rising star of the French ultra-distance Nathalie Baillon.

     

       

    Gravel bike frame material: steel, carbon or aluminum?

    All frames have their particularity. We have summarized the advantages and disadvantages of each to help you see more clearly.

    For a more complete analysis, go to our article dedicated to aluminum vs. carbon match.                                                                      


    Advantages

    Disadvantages

    Steel frame

    ✅ Repairable in case of damage

    ✅ Very durable

    ✅ Absorbs vibrations

    ❌ Heavy

    ❌ Can rust if the coating is damaged

    Carbon frame

    ✅ Excellent shock absorption

    ✅ Light and rigid

    ❌ More fragile

    Aluminium frame

    ✅ Affordable price

    ✅ Durable

    ❌ Less comfortable than steel


    Optional accessories for your gravel bike

    Beyond the mandatory components, you can choose to add some accessories to your gravel bike to adapt it to your practice. For example, you can add a telescopic saddle, which allows you to adjust the seat height without getting off the bike for better handling in technical sections. And as you can imagine, we have written a specific article to help you choose your telescopic saddle !

    For more comfort and performance, think about the suspension fork. Often found on mountain bikes, the suspension fork improves shock absorption and road vibration, which will improve your speed and stability.



    3. Find a gravel bike that fits

    At one time, frames were "square": the length of the seat tube was equal to the length of the down tube. Today's gravel bike geometry is far from this format, and manufacturers each have their own measurement and sizing system.

    Most of the time, brands offer a size guide that tells you which size to choose. If you are between two sizes, it is not necessarily obvious to make a choice without trying the bike.

    Cyclist's size

    Size of the crotch

    Seat tube length

    Size range in letters

    150 – 160

    65 - 70 cm

    48 - 49 cm

    XS

    160 - 170 cm

    70 - 75 cm

    50 - 51 cm

    S

    170 - 180 cm

    75 - 80 cm

    52 - 54 cm

    M

    180 - 200 cm

    80 - 85 cm

    55 - 57 cm

    L

    190 - 200 cm

    85 - 90 cm

    56 - 60 cm

    XL

    At The Cyclist Housewe indicate the ideal rider size for each available model. If in doubt, our teams are available to help you choose the perfect gravel bike!

    For more details, you can read our article: how to choose the right bike size ? 

      

    How much to spend on a gravel bike ?

    Each bike has its own specificities, and prices can climb very quickly depending on your requirements. But it is our duty to remind you that you can find a used gravel bike that will fit in your budget for a leisure practice.

    When buying your gravel bike, don't forget the additional expenses that will (maybe) increase the bill depending on your practice and your existing equipment: panniers, lights, GPS, helmet...

    Finally, keep in mind that buying a high-end used gravel bike is a good investment. A gravel bike worth more than 1500€ will keep more value at resale than an entry-level bike.

    If your budget is limited but you have quality requirements, our selection of quality gravel bikes for less than 2000€ is a good place to start your search!

    If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us. We wish you a good trip, and see you soon✌️

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