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Why your next bike should be a gravel bike
In this blog, I will explain what exactly a gravel bike is and why you should make your next bike a gravel bike.
Jack is a keen competitive cyclist and regularly competes in road races and time trials. He brings experience in a variety of on and off road cycling disciplines, and regularly combines an interest in racing with a love of adventure and cycling exploration. How to set up your bike.
You know that little off-road track that you have passed a hundred times that you always wanted to ride? But your road bike isn’t capable of? Well, a gravel bike can take you on that adventure.
In recent years gravel bikes have become more and more popular. As roads have become busier and sometimes less safe, more and more people have looked at off-road riding to fix their passion for two wheels.
You only have to go back a few years and nobody had really heard of gravel riding. It was a niche subset of off-road cycling that not many people really understood. Welsh mountain biking trails.
However, in recent years gravel riding has become more and more popular with dedicated cycling clubs and races focusing on gravel cycling. Races such as the Belgian Waffle ride and dirty Kanza 200 have really put gravel riding on the map and have made it the main focus of many cyclists.
But what actually is gravel cycling?
Gravel roads can be any form of unpaved road or a network of bridleways, byways or disused rail tracks. For most cyclists, gravel cycling is uncompetitive, not focused on how far you go or how fast you go but more about the adventure and exploring new places by bike.
What are gravel bikes?
A gravel bike may look like a cyclocross bike or a road bike with chunkier knobblier tyres. But there are several differences that are harder to spot.
Most gravel bikes are drop bar bikes (road bike handlebars) with substantial tyre clearance, more comfortable endurance-focused frame geometry and wider gear ratios. The design of a gravel bike reflects its purpose of off-road exploration.
The increased tyre clearance allows for at least 45mm tyres or you can run smaller 650b wheels and fit most mountain bike tyres. With this increased tyre width, you can take on technical off-road single track and gravel country lanes. A gravel bike will feel and handle differently compared to your road bike.
With a relaxed head tube angle, the gravel bike will put you in a more upright position making all-day rides more comfortable and will inspire confidence on even the most technical of trials. The wider gear ratios will allow you to go flat out on smooth tarmac whilst giving you plenty of easier gears for those off-road steep climbs.
For road bikes, an 11-28 cassette is the norm but for gravel bikes, you will often find 11-50 cassettes with a single chainring up front giving you the perfect gear selection for every eventuality.
Sprinting off the start line and jostling for position into the first corner or technical sections can see riders move up or down the field and for most people, this decides the outcome of their race.
So to have a chance of winning, you need to have a good start. Training for the start of a cyclocross race is a specific skill.
You need to be able to quickly clip into your pedal and produce maximum power within a fraction of a second. So an easy way to train this is to simply repeat this process over and over again in one session.
Accelerating up hills and out of corners.
In scientific language, this is referred to as your anaerobic capacity. But in simple terms, it’s how many times you can peak over a more constant cycling intensity. A good analogy for your anaerobic capacity is a box of matches.
Each time you accelerate up a hill or out of a bend, you are using up a match, and you only have a finite amount of matches. Every time you burn a match it takes approximately ten minutes to make another match. How to take a corner on the trail.
One way you can train your sprints and accelerations to be more powerful and recover quicker is to try sprinting for 15-30 seconds every 3 minutes for a period of 20-30 minutes. Training this way will prepare your body to produce more power and recover quicker. Five interval training sessions.
What is the differences between a cyclocross bike and a gravel bike
You may have ridden a cyclocross bike before and wondered if there is a difference between the two bikes. Well, the two bikes are very different.
There are 5 main differences between a cyclocross bike and a gravel bike. The geometry and frame material are two of the most significant differences. Cyclocross bikes are designed to be raced and are focused on maximising speed off-road. Beginers guide to Cyclocross.
They feature carbon fibre frames and forks. Made to be as stiff as possible and be aerodynamically efficient through the wind.
However, gravel bikes are usually made from aluminum or steel and feature a relaxed riding position focused on all-day comfort rather than outright speed. How to train for cyclocross.
Another fundamental difference between the two bikes is storage solutions on the bikes. Cyclocross bikes will only have room for one bottle and no extra mounts for mudguards or pannier racks.
On the other hand, a cyclocross bike will have more storage solutions than you will ever need. They can fit up to three bottles and will come stock with mounting points for panniers and mudguards. Jacks experience in the battle of the bowl.
As previously mentioned, the gearing on a gravel bike often comes standard with an 11-50 cassette giving you a wide range of gears for speeding down on road descents and grinding your way up super steep off-road hills.
In contrast, cyclocross bikes have a narrow range of gears focused on maintaining a high speed on less challenging terrain.
Bigger volume tyres are commonplace on gravel bikes compared to cross bikes which can only fit a maximum of 32mm tyres. The larger volume tyres of a gravel bike simply mean that you can take on rougher terrain and really push the limits of drop-bar cycling off-road.
Why a gravel bike is the ultimate solution to n+1
Many cyclists will already have a Sunday best bike. Your road bike is your pride and joy. But road bikes can only be ridden on tarmac roads, so you lose out on all the adventure and explorations you can have by venturing off-road. How to buy your first road bike.
A gravel bike is the true do it all bike. Allowing you to ride on tarmac and take the trail less explored.
A gravel bike also makes the perfect commuter bike. You can store all of your work items on the pannier racks and fit mudguards to protect you from the elements. T
hen when the weekend rolls around, you can take your gravel bike on the adventure it deserves, exploring remote country lanes and bridleways. An entry-level gravel bike will set you back around £600 but will give you multiple different bikes in one. So you are really getting a lot for your money.
So if you are thinking about buying a new bike. Then you should seriously consider purchasing a gravel bike. A gravel bike will enable you to cycle on-road and off-road all on one bike.
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