Five Key Differences Between a Gravel Bike and a Road Bike

types of mountain biking

Five Key Differences Between a Gravel Bike and a Road Bike

When shopping for a new bike, knowing the difference between a gravel bike and a road bike can be challenging. Here we’ll look at some of the most important differences between these two types of bicycles, including the drivetrain, tire clearance, and frame materials. In addition, we’ll go over the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

Carbon fiber

A gravel bike has more durability than a road bike. Gravel bikes are built to endure rough terrain and are generally heavier than road bikes. Both of these features are beneficial for riding on rough terrain. 

The frame stiffness of a road bike will be determined mainly by the strength of the chainstays and bottom bracket shell.  If you’re planning to do road biking shortly, you should consider a road bike. You can find the best road bikes on the market.

A gravel bike with imposing chainstays and a bottom bracket shell will feel much more imposing than an ordinary road bike. Likewise, a carbon fiber gravel bike frame will likely be stiffer and offer greater ride comfort than a road bike. And, since carbon fiber is lighter than steel, manufacturers can tune the frame for the best ride possible without showing signs of impact damage.

Aluminum

The main difference between a gravel bike and a road bike is the frame material. While both bikes are lightweight and affordable, the frame material determines whether they perform well off-road or on the road. Aluminum frames tend to be the most durable and affordable choice, but they are difficult to heat treat outside of industrial settings. While carbon frames are more expensive, they are lightweight and durable.

An alloy road bike has aerodynamics, aero tubing, and a dropped seat stay. Its design also features carbon forks and aero bars. A gravel bike will also have a combination of road and mountain groupsets, such as Shimano Sora and Alivio. The bike will have a flat-mount brake and low gears, making it ideal for world touring. The frame will be heavier than a road bike, but it will offer a comfortable ride and an outstanding balance of ride quality and price.

1x and 2x drivetrains

There are several advantages to having a 1x or a 2x drivetrain for your bike. A 2x drivetrain gives you a more comprehensive range of gearing for easy and more challenging rides. Unlike a 1x drivetrain, however, you won’t lose your cadence. One of the best advantages of a 1x drivetrain is that you can use a wide chainring for climbing. It also allows you to use an 11/42t cassette in the back.

A 2x drivetrain offers a wider range of gears and lowers low gears. Low gears make climbing more accessible, and high gears are better for pedaling on steep descents. A 1x drivetrain may not offer as many gears as a 2x, but it will provide more flexibility for gearing. The 2x drivetrain also offers minor gear changes, making it easier to maintain cadence.

Tire clearance

While road and gravel bikes are very similar, there are a few crucial differences between them. One of the most noticeable is geometry. Gravel bikes have slacker geometry and increased tire clearance, which gives them more stability on loose gravel. A gravel bike is also longer and lower than a road bike, making it ideal for off-road riding. 

Gravel bikes tend to have wider tire clearance than road bikes. Compared to road bikes, gravel bikes are typically equipped with 35mm or larger tires. While a gravel bike can be used in various terrains, its tires must be more comprehensive. Changing a gravel bike’s tire is similar to changing a road bike’s.

Gearing

If you’re wondering how to gear a gravel bike, don’t fret. There are many differences between the two types of bikes. The main difference lies in how the gearing system is set up. For instance, gravel groupsets typically have more comprehensive chain lines, so you can use bigger tires without spinning out. A gravel bike should also have fewer gear jumps and smoother cadence transitions. Finally, a gravel bike also should have fewer components than a road bike, which will help you save money and time.

Luckily, gravel bikes are very adaptable, and numerous components are available for gravel-specific setups. Some bike brands are even designing gravel bikes with in-built suspension. The Cannondale Topstone, for example, has a Kingpin rear suspension for 30mm of travel. The Specialized Diverge comes with Future Shock, a system that adds 20mm of suspension travel through the steering column.

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