If you’ve recently engaged in the rising popularity of gravel bikes, or maybe you’re even interested in purchasing one for yourself, then this article will be just for you as we will answer some of the most common questions regarding gravel bikes.
What is a gravel bike?
So, what is a gravel bike? A gravel bike is a bike with a drop handlebar and a road-like design to help you ride over various surfaces whether that be cruising on the roads of your local area or if you want to detour off to some different terrain trails. Gravel bikes are also known as adventure bikes and they’ve only become a recent phenomenon in the past few years.
The gravel bike is a blend of some of the best components of road, mountain, and cyclocross bikes to create an exploration bike that can be taken on all your adventures regardless of if they’re on tarmac or rough terrains. Gravel bikes are very versatile and are favored by seasoned cyclists who want an all-rounder bike that they’ll be able to take on all their bikepacking explorations to ride a bountiful of terrains.
Are gravel bikes more upright?
Yes, a gravel bike offers a more upright riding position compared to other bikes like road bikes as there’ll be a shorter reach for your arms so you can keep your back straighter instead of leaning right over the handlebars to comfortably pedal the bike. This upright position is generally more comfortable for longer bike rides and will give you more freedom to shift your weight and stretch upper body muscles during long stretches of cycling.
If you’re going to be doing some off-road biking with some steep descents or bumpy obstacles, then the upright positioning of gravel bikes also benefits this. This upright positioning and the drop handlebars provide the rider with the ability to move into an aerodynamic position when they’re riding down slopes or drops. You might not be able to tell the difference between a regular bike and a gravel bike until they’re right next to each other as their geometries are very similar and only differ by a few millimeters here and there, although those small differences can make a major difference.
How can I make my gravel bike more comfortable?
If you find that you’re uncomfortable when riding your gravel bikes, then there are some minor and some more major changes you can make to aspects of the bike to make it a lot more comfortable for you to cycle.
If your hands are feeling sore from the handlebars, then you can add some additional bar wrap or add some gel cushioning under the bar wrap to absorb some of the impacts from drops and bumpy descents.
If you’re someone who likes to cycle long distances then we’d recommend getting a thick bar wrap that has some cushioning to give you the most comfort throughout your ride.
Change Your Tires
One thing you can do is change the tires or the pressure inside the tires on your bike.
Try putting some larger tires on your bike if they’ll allow it. Having larger tires will mean you won’t have to pedal as much, therefore, using less energy and providing a more comfortable ride, however, larger and wider tires will require you to pedal harder due to their increased size.
If you don’t want to add the extra weight of larger tires to your bike, then you could use a suspension stem instead which will absorb shock impact from rough terrains and dropping down curbs or hills so you’ll feel fewer vibrations and feel more comfortable on the bike.
If you prefer the rough terrains of off-trail routes compared to the smooth concrete of roads, then you may want to consider adding a suspension seatpost to your bike to make your bumpy rides a lot smoother from the saddle. A suspension seatpost will have more cushioning for you to sit on which will provide more comfort, especially during long rides.
The seatpost will absorb some of the shock impacts from bumpy terrains, which can dampen or prevent some of the shocks from traveling to your spine and causing injuries. Some gravel bike models will not allow the addition of a suspension seatpost, so you’ll have to check your bike’s manual or check over your bike to make sure your model is compatible.
Check Your Seat Positioning
If you’re experiencing back pain or pain in your butt when sitting down, then this could mean that your saddle is in the wrong position and could also be causing you to not be sitting right when you’re cycling.
Try moving your saddle around and trialing out cycling it to see if changing the position makes a difference to your comfort. If you just can’t adapt to the shaping or squishiness of your saddle, then you can change it.
Not one saddle shape fits all, so hunt around for one that compliments your behind and aligns with your bone structure so you don’t get any aches or pains.The same goes for the height position of your seat, if you haven’t bothered changing it since you bought the bike, then the height is not adjusted to fit you perfectly. You would want your saddle to be nearly as high as your handlebars.
Change Your Brake Reach
If you’ve got smaller hands, you may struggle to reach the brake lever to pull it, meaning you have to overstretch your hands or move your body further forwards to reach them.
This is not only ideal as it may cause discomfort for you but it’ll leave you not feeling fully in control of the bike.You can change the distance of the reach by unscrewing a small bolt.
If you’re not familiar with bike maintenance, then it’s probably best to take it to the shop so they can do it properly, or try watching a few YouTube videos before taking on the task.
Ask A Professional
If you’ve made all the changes you thought were necessary but you’re still finding aspects of your riding to be uncomfortable, then try taking you and your bike to a professional at a bike shop and they’ll be able to give advice or even alter aspects of the bike to suit your positioning and comfort needs. If you ever buy a gravel bike in a store, then you should make sure you get fitted by a specialist as they’ll have more expertise on what kind of gravel bike would best for you based on your height, cycling habits, and any injuries or aches you may deal with day to day.
How do you sit on a gravel bike?
The best way to find the best sitting position on your gravel bike would be to get fitted with a bike specialist in a store somewhere.
Whilst you may know what feels comfortable for yourself, the specialist will know the specifications of the bike that can impact the comfortability of riding the bike and they’ll also be able to see what your posture is like whilst you sit on the saddle and lean on the handlebars.Ideally, your saddle should be aligned or slightly higher in height to your handlebars, this will allow you to sit comfortably upright during light cycling but be able to move into an aerodynamic position when cycling downhill or down bumpy terrains.
This will also allow you to move into a standing-up position more easily to pedal harder when you’re going up steep hills.
What is a gravel bike for?
A gravel bike is a bike that allows you to cycle on various surfaces including rough bumpy dirt tracks, sand bogs, smooth concrete, and even exposed rocks.
It’s essentially a combination of having the smooth-rolling rides of cycling on paved roads and also being able to endure some of the tougher routes off trail like forests and even rocky surfaces. The bike is an all-rounder and is ideal if you’re planning a big bikepacking trip that will cover many different terrains.
Gravel bikes don’t have the same speeds as road bikes, so if you were hoping to do some racing or even cut down on your cycling time on your trip, then a gravel bike may not be the one.
What makes a bike a gravel bike?
Gravel bikes have a longer wheelbase and a taller headtube that allows the rider to be seated more upright and comfortable compared to road bikes, where they are leaning over towards the handlebars.
The frame geometry of a gravel bike is what makes it more well-suited to off-road cycling as it can remain stable and more in control.
Why is a gravel bike the only bike you need?
A gravel bike is a good combination of many aspects of other bikes like mountain bikes and road bikes.
You’ll have the versatility to switch between more aerodynamic road cycling if you want or changing to some less stretched out cycling with a shorter stem if you’re challenging yourself in the forests.
Gravel bikes are pretty compatible with many types of tires, which will allow you to change things up more easily, saving you the money of having to buy a completely separate bike.