Lately, I have been riding my Torelli Zona Cross for general fitness training. It was especially nice to have when I visited my family in Illinois during Christmas. The back roads are mainly gravel and are a hassle to negotiate on a typical road bike in Central Illinois on rural roads. I have also found that riding the Zona on the local dirt and sand trails in the Southern Pines Area has been a nice refreshing change to open road riding in cooler weather (and no traffic to avoid). So to say the least, I am very happy to have invested in my purchase and use of my new gravel bike.
Now, I will be doing my first Gravel Bike Race (on a gravel bike, that is) this weekend at the Monster Cross 50 Miler in Chesterfield, VA on February 19th (Thanks George Hatcher for telling me about this exciting event.) So far there are more than 500 people signed up to participate in this Gravel Grinder. I am sure I will have a great experience.
Since I have been riding my gravel bike I get questions about the differences and reasons for riding a gravel bike versus a road bike.
Below are some interesting bits of information:
First, gravel bikes are more durable than a road bike (and much faster than a mountain bike). In which gravel bicycles present an interesting option for the rider who wants to travel on and off road.
Second, regardless of where you live, there is probably plenty of fire or service roads around you that are easy to tackle on your everyday road bike. So what’s the problem? Well most of those exciting roads will destroy your headset, knock your wheels and you out of consciousness, and make climbing or downhill a slippery and dangerous adventure. In other words, no matter how many motivating action movies you have watched, your everyday road bike can’t handle every road on this planet. Enter the gravel bike world!
Third, the gravel bike family tree! A gravel bike is a combination of a road bike (happy on pavement) and a cyclo-cross bike (happy on mud). The idea came from the US, where the countryside is crisscrossed by miles and miles of unused tracks, trails, and unpaved roads. The gravel bike is capable of performing on various surfaces while sustaining comfort. Their adaptability, versatility, and ruggedness make them a perfect commuting bike, an ideal light touring, a great winter training bike, or simply that one bike that can tackle any sort of terrain you care to try it on. How do you recognize them from the more common road bikes, from which they are partly derived?
Fourth, the geometry is more relaxed than that of a race bike. The head tube is often taller and the head angle is slicker for more relaxed steering (less twitchy than a racing bike, less responsive on technical off-road sections than a cross bike). The bottom bracket will usually be a little lower than a cyclo-cross bike. Gravel bikes are also designed with longer wheelbases, so they’re stable on the road and when riding over an unpredictable surface like gravel, and provide extra stability and comfort over long distances.
A sloping top tube offers more stand-over height, which is useful in a get-off, while taller head tubes than what you’d expect to see on a ‘cross’ or race bike allow for greater comfort in a more upright rider position.
Fifth, most gravel bikes feature disc brakes (mine has cantilever brakes). Disc brakes, especially hydraulic discs, offer more power, which provides more confidence when riding off-road and are useful in mixed conditions. In the rain or in the mud you’ll appreciate the perfect efficiency.
Six, the gravel bike accommodates bigger tires. The idea of bigger tires will give you not only extra comfort on the rough and bumpy roads, but due to their design they also raise the grip on the ground.
I am currently riding 700 x 40c tires and it can easliy accept 43c tires. Big boy likes!
Stop in and test ride a gravel bike for size. In the meantime wish me luck on my Monster Cross Adventure. For more info about everything gravel check out Gravel Cyclist.
Yours in Cycling and Fitness,
President of Fun
May Street Bicycles is not your typical bike shop. Sure we sell awesome bicycles, provide bicycle repairs, and rental bikes all at great prices. But we do a great deal more such as dynamic bike fitting, metabolic testing, altitude training, and personal training.
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