Whats the deal with gravel riding?
Dedicated gravel bikes are quickly making themselves a staple on the product lines of many manufacturers thanks to a surge in popularity of the relatively young discipline that is gravel riding, aka â€œgroadâ€ biking. There is a yearning for off-road speed, adventure and unadulterated fun among the cycling public, so as more and more riders hang up their race bikes for a life off the beaten track, letâ€™s take a look at what youâ€™re going to need to join them.
What is a gravel bike?
Combining the speed of a road bike with the durability and traction of a cyclocross bike, the gravel bike smoothly slots between the two, and shares many of the same characteristics found on adventure bikes. It is more nimble on the road than the mud-ready cyclocross machines and a lot more capable over rough surfaces than the standard road bike â€“ a best of both worlds if you will.
Originating in the US, the gravel bike concept was conceived to endure the rougher countryside crisscrossed by miles and miles of unused tracks and forest paths. Essentially, itâ€™s the sort of terrain that doesnâ€™t quite call for a MTB or cyclocross bike but is simply un-rideable by a road bike. The gravel bike has since been adopted across the cycling world, some using them as tough, road-ready commuters, and others choosing them as designated touring rigs.
Howâ€™s it different to other bikes?
The term gravel bike is often used synonymously with adventure bike â€“ the two machines sharing a very similar construction recipe. While this may be debated among the deepest, and darkest of internet bike forums, both bikes are engineered with the same kind of riding in mind: comfortable and stable geometry sought for the long, adventure haul.
They do, however, differ greatly to other bike variants. Gravel bikes follow a pretty strict list of features: a long wheelbase, wide tyre clearance, low bottom bracket, tall head tube, relaxed angles, and disc brakes.
What do I need?
From the best gravel bikes to the most durable jerseys, the wealth of adventure and gravel specific kit is enormous. Many of the bikes discussed in last weekâ€™s adventure bikes feature lend themselves well to gravel riding thanks to the superior tyre clearance and resilient frames.
Here at Beyond, we offer a range of clothing ideal for cladding the intrepid adventurer with comfortable and efficient riding wear. While jerseys and bib shorts are interchangeable between road and off-road, shoes are certainly not. A stable but versatile shoe is vital, one that can both pedal efficiently and keep traction with the ground when off the bike. Many riders opt for MTB specific shoes like the Fizik X5 Terra and Specializedâ€™s Comp MTB which share the status as some of the best in their category, combining breathability with a rigid sole for maximum power transfer.
Gravel-specific shoes may also require specific pedals, and there is a choice ranging from flat MTB pedals to road-specific clipless systems. Combining the rigid clip-in system with functionality and superior mud clearance, you just canâ€™t go wrong with clipless MTB pedals.
Where can I ride?
The simple beauty of a gravel bike is in its ability to cruise across any surface with ease, so the answer is: pretty much anywhere. If youâ€™re on the lookout for some monster adventure rides around the Surrey area, look no further than the Surrey Hills and South Downs off-road cycle routes which both offer some fantastic opportunities to shred the â€˜gnarmacâ€™.
Why not head out towards Epsom, taking in Epsom Downs, or the backroads before incorporating a few ascents up the infamous Box Hill. After all, a gravel bike can truly conquer anything.
Wherever you choose to ride, a gravel bike will no doubt enhance your experience, promising speed, durability and, most of all, fun. Check out more of the adventure/gravel line from Beyond now and start working on your future in groad biking.
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