The gravel, the ultimate bike for travelling?
In this Article
Is it still necessary to introduce it? Halfway between a road bike and a mountain bike, the gravel bike combines the speed of the road bike with the off-road ability of the mountain bike in a sleek machine. There's no doubt about it: the most versatile bike has been designed for maximum fun, both on and off the road. Both fast on pavement and smooth on gravel, you'll be able to eat up the miles as well as get off the beaten path... The gravel riding provides a unique sense of adventure, in that both paved roads and rough tracks are ridden with the same efficient feeling. That's why this type of bike is also the preferred partner of travelers and cycling touring. Cross a region, a country, a continent by bike, combining speed and adventure, while carrying your belongings on board... This is the promise of the now very popular bikepacking.
Reputed to be good everywhere but excellent nowhere, we come back in this article to the "gravel" phenomenon, its concept and its uses - whether for leisure, tourism or performance. If you don't know the term, don't hesitate to start by consulting our beginners guide.
What is a gravel bike?
A hybrid bike par excellence, the gravel bike was born from the love affair between a road bike and a mountain bike. Borrowing from the first its Handlebar from the first one its roundness and its light weight, from the second one its wide tires (35 mm at least) and its suspension system (even basic), the gravel bike is the most mixed bike: its piloting is reminiscent of a road bike, but its big tires will allow you to leave it for dirt roads or pebbles. As for the transmission, everything is possible: depending on your level (leisure, sport, athlete), your load and the type of road, you will opt either for the single chainring of the mountain bike, or for the double chainring of the road bike.
Gravel or mountain bike? It's all about the pavement: gravel is for asphalt and gravel, not rocky, root-filled mountain trails. For more information, see our comparison guide.
Gravel or endurance? With enough clearance and the right tires, an endurance bike can also handle uneven terrain. Find out more about this type of bike, click here.
The perfect travel companion?
You will have understood: all its characteristics tend to make the gravel the privileged partner of your adventures. If it is always possible to have fun on the road or in forestIt is also possible, when riding a gravel bike, to do both at the same time! Light and aero enough to ride fast, comfortable enough to ride for a long time, robust enough to ride (almost) everywhere, the gravel bike is without a doubt the most versatile bike. Does this explain the recent craze for it? We think so, and we'll even be a little more radical: if by chance you had to own only one bike, it would certainly be this one, for the only reason that, among the great diversity of practices, you'll surely find yours.
The work day is coming to an end and you're in the mood to unwind? The weekend is approaching and you miss the greenery? Get on your gravel bike and enjoy yourself. Whether you're looking to blow up your odometer or reconnect with nature, you won't be disappointed. Better yet, don't choose. Do both. On the same day. Riding a gravel bike is a guarantee of a rich experience, in terms of scenery, sensations and effort.
Cyclotouring and bikepacking
If your project is to leave, for a weekend, a week or a month, alone, as a couple or with friends, to discover your region, your country or even your continent, look no further: the gravel is the bikepackers' favorite travel bike, Pierre Lejeune included. Preferable to the road bike (unless you don't leave it) and to the mountain bike (unless you have to cross really rough grounds), the gravel bike allows you to cover a lot of kilometers quickly and to venture on portions, certainly less rolling, but wilder ! The principle of bikepacking is simple: instead of using a luggage rack on a heavy bike (randonneuse type), its followers install special panniers on a light bike (gravel type). Explore the world by bike, in all lightness and by all the ways: this is the promise of bikepacking!
Although bikepacking is now extremely popular, there are still many advocates of the luggage rack, because of the stability of the load and the volume and practicality of the panniers. As long as you are not a few kilos away, and as long as you have a bike equipped with the appropriate anchoring points, the question of the luggage rack is legitimate... Adventure novels or tourist guides, no need to choose anymore, we take everything, and we make ourselves happy: the tent and the hammock, the Haribo and the Cochonou.
To carry even more weight or simply have more fun on your long rides, you might want to check out the electrically assisted gravel bikes ( https://www.thecyclisthouse.com/blogs/blog/guide-dachat-gravel-electrique). Because yes, they do exist.
When it comes to panniers, there is no shortage of choice: many brands offer complete sets of bike bags. Among them: Ortlieb, Apidura, Restrap, Topeak, Vaude, Zéfal, Decathlon (Riverside), etc.
Are you a sporty person who dreams of shooting the breeze in the great outdoors? The race calendar is full of choice events 100% made in France, combining pleasure and performance. For more information, please refer to our article.
Finally, and as a reminder, whatever your gravel practice, do not neglect the preparation of your ride, your trip or your expedition. Focus on the following criteria: the type of surface and difficulty of the route, the positive elevation gain and the distance. As well as your equipment and nutrition, but it goes without saying😉
Specialized Diverge, Trek Checkpoint, Cannondale Topstone, Canyon Grail/Grizl, 3T ExploroCervélo Aspero, Giant Revolt, Bianchi Impulso, BMC URS... The craze for gravel is so strong that all bike manufacturers now boast a gravel range. This is good news, but also a bit confusing... To try to see more clearly, discover The Cyclist House selection of best gravel bikes of 2022. Some lesser known brands also offer great stuff, I think of the Fuji Jari and the Kona Rove or at the BH GravelX.
To browse our gravel bike catalog, click here.
To go further
Looking for information and advice? Itineraries near your home or on the edge of the world? Friends on the road and/or local guides? In case you want to extend the pleasure of discovery, you will find below some instructive links. Thank you for your interest and see you soon!
- Nature is Bikethe European Gravel Festival.
- Bikepacking.com - Bikepacking Routes, Gear, Inspiration.
- Camminusthe platform for bikepacking, ultra-distance and gravel enthusiasts.
- Gravel magazine, the everyday adventure bike, by Vélo Vert magazine.
- The YouTube channel Gravel&Bike - Tests, advice, adventures, meetings, bikepacking.
- Kim GintrandGravel lifestyle & more.