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Gravel Bike Buyer’s Guide

Gravel bikes have been the hottest new trend in the bicycle industry for the past few years. Their practicality and versatility make them a popular choice for many new bike buyers. But what’s the difference between a gravel bike and a traditional road bike? How do you choose the right one for you?

First off, we’d like to say that the term gravel bike makes many of us in the bike business cringe to begin with. That makes the category sound way too limiting, as if gravel roads are the only place where these bikes can be ridden. There aren’t even that many gravel roads here in Northeast Ohio. We prefer the term adventure road bike and others have taken to all-road bike or any road bike. However, to keep it simple, we’ll keep calling them gravel bikes in this article, since that’s probably what you Googled to get here.

Below, we’ll look at some of the main differences between traditional road bikes and gravel bikes, and talk a little more about what makes gravel bikes suitable for a wide variety of bicycle riders.


Road bike frames are typically designed to work with tires from 20mm to 28mm wide. These tires work well for fast riding on smooth pavement, but not so well on rough roads. The photo below on the left (or top) shows a road bike with a 700Cx22mm tire, with not much extra space between the tire and the seat stays of the bike’s frame.

Gravel bikes are built to take tires much wider, typically 38mm to 42mm. Some gravel bikes blur the line with mountain bikes, being able to take tires up to 50mm (2 inches) or more! There are many tire options available to let you choose the tire to match the conditions you want to ride. You can use a skinnier, smooth tire if you plan to ride pavement, but swap to a wider, knobbier tire for rides on rough pavement, gravel, or dirt roads. The photo below on the right (or bottom) shows a gravel bike with a 700Cx38mm tire, with plenty of room to go even wider!

Some gravel bikes even let you choose the wheel diameter to best match your riding conditions. For example, a bike might take 700C wheels with tires up to 38mm wide, but let you switch to 650B wheels with tires up to 47mm wide.

Stack Height

The stack height is a characteristic of a bike’s frame geometry that refers to the distance from the ground to the top of the bike’s head tube. This height (among other factors) affects your position while sitting on the bike. All else being equal, you’ll be sitting more upright on a bike with a taller stack height, while your body will be in a lower position on a bike with a shorter stack height.

Road bikes traditionally have a lower stack height to give you a more aerodynamic and efficient riding position. This will vary among different road bikes, though. For example, a pure racing road bike has a lower stack height compared to endurance road bikes oriented more towards the recreational rider.

Gravel bikes usually have a higher stack height. This results in somewhat of a sacrifice when it comes to aerodynamics in favor of more comfort, which is preferred by many gravel riders for the long-distance routes typically used for gravel events.

There is a tool called BikeInsights that lets you graphically compare the frame geometries of different bicycles. The image below shows a road bike and a gravel bike comparing the same manufacturer, model year, and frame size. Note how the top of the head tube on the gravel bike (black outline) is significantly higher than that of the road bike (white outline).


A bike’s wheelbase is basically the distance between the two wheels, measured from the center of the front hub to the center of the rear hub. Road bikes typically have a shorter wheelbase, giving you quicker acceleration and climbing and more responsive turning. Gravel bikes usually have a longer wheelbase, which provides a more stable feeling when riding over rough terrain.

The difference in wheelbase between the road bike (white outline) and gravel bike (black outline) is evident in the BikeInsights image above.

Table Of Contents

The difference between a gravel bike and a road bike is “geometry” and “wheels/tires”. There will also be differences in shifting and cranks, as some models have a single front gear shift.

Since the geometry cannot be changed, it is possible to convert a gravel bike into a road bike by customizing the wheels, tires, and gears to make it more like a road bike.

The wheels and tires are particularly effective, and by simply changing between “road set” and “gravel set” depending on the road to be ridden, a gravel bike can be upgraded to a versatile bike that can be used for both gravel and road riding.

Customize to make it a road bike

Changing to road wheels

Gravel wheels and road wheels are made differently because they are intended for different riding purposes. Road wheels are designed to be “light and aerodynamic,” while gravel wheels are designed to be fitted with thick tires that won’t break down on rough roads.

Since the standard wheels on gravel bikes are “wide-rimmed and sturdy (heavier)” with gravel in mind, it is recommended that wheels be replaced if you want to convert your bike to a road bike. You can save several hundred grams of weight just by replacing the wheels.

Many modern disc brake wheels are designed for both road and gravel use, so if you replace the wheels with road wheels that have a rim inner width of about 20 mm, you can upgrade to a gravel bike that can be used on both road and gravel by simply changing the tires. This is a great way to upgrade to a more versatile gravel bike.

If you replace the wheels with deep-rimmed disc wheels, they will be more racy and more similar to road bikes.

Replacing Road Tires

On a bicycle, tires have a major impact on the ride. Gravel bikes are often fitted with thicker tires of around 37-40C, while 25C for clinchers and 28C for tubeless are the major tires for road bikes.

Although it is possible to change tires without changing gravel wheels, gravel bikes have a wide tire clearance to allow for the installation of larger tires, so if a thinner tire such as 25C is used, the clearance with the frame will be unnaturally open, making the bike look a little less like a road bike. It will not look like a road bike at all.

Can I Survive A Road Race On A Gravel Bike?

For example, on a gravel bike with a maximum clearance of 700-45C, a tire as thick as 32C or 35C will fit better visually.

Modern tubeless tires are available in lightweight 30C and 32C models, so you can convert your bike to a road bike without sacrificing ride or appearance.

If it’s a front single, I’d like to make it a front double if possible.

Some gravel bikes may come as a single front single on the finished bike. A front single is fine, but a front double will allow for finer gear changes on paved roads.

However, to convert a front single to a front double, you must

  • left lever (replaced for double)
  • front derailleur
  • crankset for front double
  • wire set for front derailleur

The disadvantage is that the cost is quite high, since it is necessary to additionally prepare a 1. front derailleur 2. In addition, the weight will also increase by using a front double.

In this sense, when converting a single-front gravel bike to a road bike, it is acceptable to just make it a double-front bike if there is room in the budget.

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Expand your gravel bike enjoyment!

Road, Gravel, or MTB? How to Choose the Right Type of Bicycle for Your Bicycle Trip and the Best Sport Bicycle for You Bicycle travel, which involves biking around a destination, is an activity that is growing in popularity. However, the type of bicycle you choose will greatly affect the enjoyment and safety of your trip. In this article, we will discuss the best types of sports bicycles for bicycle travel and how to choose the right one.

Is it a good idea to use a gravel bike for commuting to work or school? No? Due to health consciousness and other factors, more and more people are commuting to work and school by bicycle. In this issue, we will compare and verify whether gravel bikes are a good choice for commuting to work and school, based on the characteristics of each bike type and the different routes to work and school.

Don’t want a gravel bike? Will you regret buying one? Gravel bikes are rapidly gaining popularity in the sports bicycle community, but some buyers say they don’t need them and regret buying them. In this issue, we summarize why people say they don’t need a gravel bike and how to enjoy such a gravel bike.

How to position a gravel bike How should you decide on a position for a gravel bike, which is intended to be between a road bike and a MTB?

How to convert a gravel bike into a road bike A gravel bike, a derivative of a road bike, can be ridden on paved roads without modification. However, when converted to a road bike, they can be ridden more like a road bike.

How to choose gravel tires for those who just want to go fast Gravel bikes are said to be slower than road bikes. If you want to go faster on a gravel bike! If you want to go faster on a gravel road bike, you can make it lighter and faster by simply customizing the tires.

How to customize a gravel bike with MTB wheels and how to choose Gravel bikes can also enjoy MTB-like riding with fat tires. If you are going to enjoy riding on rough roads, one way to have fun is to customize it with MTB wheels to make it more MTB-like.

Which type is best? Get to know the different types of gravel tires. Gravel tires are in between the properties of road tires and MTB tires, and there is a lineup of tires with both properties. In this issue, we will introduce the different types of gravel tires and how to choose and customize them for different uses.

How to add suspension to a gravel bike Gravel bikes can be ridden on unpaved roads, but the basic standard is a rigid fork without suspension. In this article, we summarize how to add suspension to a gravel bike without suspension.

What kind of road is gravel? The kind of riding a gravel bike is designed to do What kind of gravel roads can gravel bikes be ridden on? We have compiled a definition and a summary of how the manufacturer expects you to ride it, and how it is not expected to be ridden.

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Points to be checked if possible.

Equipment Enhancement

Unlike paved roads, where troubles are not that common or solutions to problems are affordable, the roads that gravel roads are designed to be ridden on are often in places where there are few stores and people.

In such places, you have to deal with punctures by yourself, and if you are riding on mountain roads, sudden weather changes are a daily occurrence in the mountains. Also, unlike in urban areas, if you get lost, you may end up wandering off in a crazy direction, so a smartphone navigation system is a must.

When riding in areas where gravel roads are active, it is a good idea to carry the following items.

  • Puncture repair kit (replacement tube, portable pump)
  • Rain gear
  • mobile battery and cable

It is a good idea to have a mobile battery/cable with you so that you can call an ambulance in case of emergency.

Increased load capacity

If you are going to do camping touring or long ride cycling on a gravel road, it will be more comfortable to store your luggage in the frame.

Road bikes have fewer “dowel holes” for storage than gravel roads, so you can use larger frame bags and saddle bags to increase the load capacity for a more comfortable ride.

When camping, luggage should be at least 50L, so if you are camping touring, augment your load capacity to about 50L by combining bags that can be attached to your bike.

If you are not camping touring, you can adjust the number of bags by reducing the number of bags.

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Gravel bikes have been rapidly gaining in popularity over the past few years. But what is the difference between a standard road bike and a gravel bike? We have compiled a list of tips on how to recognize a gravel bike and what to look for when choosing one.

Gravel bikes have been rapidly gaining in popularity over the past few years. While the number of complete bikes has been increasing, component makers have also started to offer specialized components for gravel bikes.

The following is a summary of Shimano’s GRX lineup of components for gravel roads, its features, and the advantages and disadvantages of choosing GRX.

This is a summary of Chinese bicycle parts manufacturer SENSAH’s components for MTB and gravel. It also includes the equivalent Shimano componentry grade and compatibility with Shimano parts.

Gravel roads are becoming more and more popular as they can be enjoyed both on paved roads and slightly off-road. In this article, we have compiled a list of points to check when converting your current road bike to gravel.

Tire customization is a fun way to change the riding experience for a cost of about 100. When replacing tires, there are three points to keep in mind when changing the size and thickness of your bicycle tires.

Shimano’s GRX series of gravel components can be used in combination with other road bike components, including tips on how to mix and match.

Learn more about GRX

The following is a summary of Shimano’s GRX lineup of components for gravel roads, its features, and the advantages and disadvantages of choosing GRX.

Shimano’s GRX series of gravel components can be used in combination with other road bike components, including tips on how to mix and match.

Gravel roads are becoming more and more popular as they can be enjoyed both on paved roads and slightly off-road. In this article, we have compiled a list of points to check when converting your current road bike to gravel.

Gravel bikes have been rapidly gaining in popularity over the past few years. While the number of complete bikes has been increasing, component makers have also started to offer specialized components for gravel bikes.

The front single without front shifting is being increasingly adopted in MTB and gravel road bikes. This section summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of the front single.

What is a Gravel Bike?

Sure, you can ride a road bike, cyclocross bike, or mountain bike on gravel and dirt roads, but there is a better tool for the job – the gravel bike. It’s designed to make off-road adventures comfortable, efficient and FUN.

So, what is a gravel bike? Let’s dive in to explore the differences between these bikes to find out what makes a bike like the Liv Devote shine.

Gravel Bike VS Road Bike

The all-terrain-vehicle of bikes, gravel bikes are made to carry all your gear, handle any weather conditions and road surfaces, and do it all while being comfortable. On the flip, road bikes – whether designed for comfort over longer distances like the Liv Avail, speed on hilly roads like the Liv Langma, or flat out high-powered sprinting like the EnviLiv, they all have one thing in common: they are designed to be ridden on paved surfaces.

Gravel Bike

clearance for larger tires. Wider tires, maximum 45c, give gravel bikes more traction and make them more comfortable on rough roads and trails.

Optimized for speed and efficiency on paved roads, road bikes typically have narrower tires, maximum 35c in width.

Gravel bike frame geometry has a longer wheelbase, lower bottom bracket, and slacker headtube angle, which make it more stable on off-road terrain.

Road bikes are designed to be super snappy and efficient with a steeper headtube angle and shorter wheelbase.

Disc brakes are a must when it comes to gravel bikes for powerful and predictable stopping on any terrain.

Most road bikes now come with disc brakes, but many road racers still opt for rim brakes which are lighter weight.

Mounts for extra water bottles, fenders, and racks come standard on gravel bikes so you can load them up with gear for backcountry adventures.

Turn Your Road Bike Into A Gravel Bike | GCN How To

While some road bikes have mounts for fenders and racks, most will only have room for two water bottles to keep weight down.

Gravel bikes use flared drop bars that are a bit wider for more control and stability.

Regular drop bars on a road bike are designed for speed and efficiency.

Some gravel bikes will have a dropper seatpost, which allows the rider to move the saddle out of the way for more technical descending while standing.

On road bikes the rider is always in the saddle, even on descents, so a regular seatpost is used.

Gravel Bike VS Cyclocross Bike

Though they look extremely similar and are both designed to be ridden off-road, gravel bikes and cyclocross bikes are meant for distinctly different uses. The main difference? Cyclocross bikes like the Liv Brava Advanced are specifically made for racing short, punchy courses where you’ll likely have to carry your bike.

Gravel Bike

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Cyclocross Bike

Frame shape for gravel bikes follow the compact road bike blueprint. The slanting top tube and small rear triangle save on weight and add some compliance to the frame for a more comfortable ride.

Cyclocross bikes have a distinct straight top tube. Standover height isn’t a thing for these bikes – instead, they are designed with a large open triangle frame for easy shoulder carrying over cyclocross race obstacles and run-ups.

The gravel bike’s geometry is long and low for stability and comfort, with a low bottom bracket and long wheelbase.

Cyclocross bikes need to be snappy. You need to turn on a dime and power out of dead-stops, not to mention you might need to bunny hop a barricade. A higher bottom bracket and shorter wheelbase help make this happen.

Tire clearance up to 45c, and you’ll likely run wide tires with as much tread as you’ll need for the conditions.

Also with tire clearance up to 45c, however, with a geometry optimized around a 33c tire. UCI rules state you can’t run tires wider than 33c for elite racing, plus you want that extra room around the tire to allow mud to clear.

A wider gear range on the gravel bike allows you to tackle long, hilly routes without having to get out of the saddle.

With cyclocross’s short courses and short, punchy climbs, a 1x drivetrain with a bigger gear is more useful.

For longer rides and bikepacking, gravel bikes are equipped with tons of mounts for bags, fenders, and extra water bottles.

Though cyclocross bikes have some mounting options, it’s not a top priority since this bike is designed for racing.

Flared drop bars and a dropper seatpost add more stability and control on rough roads and trails.

Regular drop bars may be a bit wider than they would be on the road, and the ability to add a dropper seatpost, if needed, for the race course.

Gravel Bike VS Mountain Bike

Fully rigid or full squish? When compared to gravel bikes, mountain bikes like the Liv Intrigue 29 are optimized for varying levels of gnar on singletrack trails.

Gravel Bike

Mountain Bike

When it comes to geometry, a gravel bike is going to have a taller headtube, steeper headtube angle, and a lower bottom bracket. Making this bike stable mostly in a seated position and optimized for minimal tech.

Mountain bikes get their stability from a slacker headtube angle, making them capable of mowing over rocks, roots, and other trail features. A higher bottom bracket makes it easier to clear those same trail obstacles with your rear wheel as well.

Gravel bikes don’t have a suspension fork or shock. They are “rigid”, making them super-efficient for long rides on gravel and dirt roads.

Mountain bikes will have a suspension fork and sometimes a rear shock to absorb impacts on the trail. The more travel in your suspension, the more comfortable you’ll be on gnarly singletrack. However, all that suspension makes mtbs a little slower rolling and zaps some of your pedaling efficiency.

The disc brakes used on gravel bikes tend to have a fairly small rotor, making them lighter weight.

MTBs have larger rotors to disperse heat when braking heavily over extended periods of time.

Flared drop bars on gravel bikes give the rider options for hand placement on long sections of gravel road, where body position rarely changes.

Mountain bikes have flat handlebars. You don’t need to change hand your position, because you are constantly standing up and maneuvering the bike underneath you.

Maximum 45c tires with small knobs for traction and control on gravel and dirt.

2.2-2.6-inch tires are typical on most mountain bikes with larger knobs for riding on mud, loose dirt, rocks and roots.

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