In short, yes! Road bikes can be ridden on gravel.
Road bikes are quite the all-rounder in the bicycle world. Their speed and ability to turn tight corners last minute makes them an ideal choice for riding on various terrains - including gravel.
This means you won’t have to worry about selling your road bike or buying a new bike to enjoy the thrill of gravel roads and trails.
The only thing you do have to worry about is the type of gravel you intend to ride your road bike on.
The issue with road bikes on gravel is the bike’s tires. Whilst road bikes are fine on medium chunks of compact gravel, they don’t do so well on loose and small gravel.
How to ride a road bike on gravel?
First things first - you need to think about where you want to ride. What’s the texture of the gravel like?
If the gravel is loose and small and looks like it could pop your tires - avoid it. If the gravel looks compact with medium-sized chunks of stone, go for it!
Make sure to bring a map or your cell phone with a GPS to get an idea of where you want to cycle.
The best places to look for on your map or GPS are smooth trails and rails-to-trails. Smooth gravel trails will have been flattened slightly by vehicles, which is ideal for road bikes to move on.
In general, you should follow tire tracks and flatness on gravel to prevent popping your tires.
Rails-to-trails are old railway tracks that have been covered by gravel trails. These are generally road bike-safe and easy to find on maps.
Whilst road bikes are designed for speed and agility, you might want to slow down on the gravel.
Not only will this give you more control over avoiding potholes and loose pebbles, but it will also train you to realize how fast you can actually go. You don’t want to hit a large loose pebble and go flying.
To put it simply, you can ride your road bike on gravel - just be careful!
Can I ride a road bike on dirt trails?
Road bikes are generally the most versatile option for riding on different terrains, including some dirt trails.
In most cases, cyclists would recommend opting for a mountain bike for dirt trails, so it mostly depends on how often you intend to ride dirt trails.
Your skill level and style of riding will also determine whether a road bike is suitable for riding on dirt trails.
It mostly comes down to personal preference. If you find that you mostly use your bike for cruising around town and commuting to work and you’d like to explore some dirt trails, then a road bike will suffice.
The issue with riding a road bike on dirt trails is that road bikes are designed for speed and agility on smooth terrains - which dirt trails aren’t always suitable for.
Picture this - you’re riding your road bike on a dirt trail, speeding down the somewhat smooth ground. You see several large stones and debris on your path and you’re finding it hard to weave in between them.
Do you continue going at your speed or do you slow down?
You will need to slow down significantly when riding a road bike on dirt trails.
Mountain bikes have wheels that are designed to grip dirt and debris, which might make the journey slightly slower, but ultimately much safer.
The main things to consider when looking to ride your road bike on dirt trails are:
- How fast do you want to go?
- Why do you want to ride dirt trails?
- How often do you intend to ride dirt trails?
As road bikes need to be ridden slowly on dirt trails, which can be harder than you think, you need to consider the type of trail you want to ride.
If it’s the occasional flat dirt trail with your friends, sure, ride your road bike. If you plan on riding dirt trails regularly, you will find that a mountain bike is a more versatile option for different terrains.
Can you ride a fixie on gravel?
The beauty of fixies and hybrid bikes is their versatility and customization. It mostly depends on the type of fixie you own, because some are better suited for off-road riding than others.
That doesn’t mean you can’t upgrade your wheels to match a mountain bike’s wheels, which are best suited for gravel terrains.
It mostly depends on the type of gravel you want to ride on. Most fixies are suitable for riding on compact gravel that isn’t loose.
Only some will be able to ride on loose gravel with small stones. This is because fixies and hybrids aren’t designed for rocky terrains in the same way mountain bikes are.
Fixies are fairly similar to road bikes in that they are best suited for flat, road-like surfaces. However, fixies generally have a slightly thicker wheel, which makes them a slightly better contender for riding on gravel than road bikes.
How to ride a fixie on gravel?
If you plan on riding your fixie on gravel, you need to consider a few things.
Firstly, slow down. You will have much more control over your bike on potentially uneven terrain if you slow down.
This means you have more time to dodge loose stones and pieces of gravel that could pop your tire or cause damage to yourself.
Also, assess the terrain. Avoid gravel trails that have potholes and loose stones as these are a recipe for disaster.
We recommend bringing a map or GPS with you as well as necessary tools just in case something happens to your fixie.
Your fixie will thank you for riding on gravel that has been flattened by a vehicle beforehand, too!
Make sure to avoid turning tight corners. This is where gravel tends to build up, which will only cause damage to your tires.
In short, you can ride your fixie on gravel - it just depends on the type of gravel you wish to ride on.