If you could only ever buy one bike, a gravel bike is a great choice.
I’ve been riding a gravel bike for a few years now, and with the increasing popularity of gravel and the wide range of options available, you really can’t go wrong investing in a good gravel bike. If you’ve ever been interested in riding gravel or riding a gravel bike, keep reading for 14 reasons why gravel bikes are totally worth it.
1. Gravel bikes can go on all kinds of roads
Gravel bikes are totally adept at handling all kinds of terrain. Sure, they can navigate asphalt with ease like their road bike counterparts, but they can also grind over grit, sand, and gravel.
With a sturdy gravel bike, you can plow through mud and drive over dirtpack, too. A gravel bike is an awesome allrounder – it can manage most types of terrain with ease thanks to its wide and gnarly tires, sturdy geometry, and excellent handling.
A gravel bike may not be quite as quick and snappy as a race bike or as tough as a singletrack mountain bike, but it certainly covers the most variety of ground and all types of road surfaces.
So whether you’re making your way on your Monday morning commute or exploring on the weekend, a gravel bike will take you far. These bikes are ready for anything.
2. Gravel bikes can take all kinds of tire types
Most gravel bikes have a wide tire clearance that you simply won’t find on a traditional road bike or cyclocross bike. In most cases, you can put just about any tire type on your gravel bike, and since they come with disc brakes, you won’t be limited by brake calipers, either.
Want to hit the pavement for the day? No problem, you can put on your 700 slicks for a quicker pace. Are you hitting the trails? Try your 650s with a little bit of extra nobbiness to give you traction on softer, looser roads. Want to try your hand at cyclocross? There’s a tire for that, too.
Since gravel bikes can fit lots of different types of tires, you won’t need a different bike for all of your different types of rides. You just need different types of tires. If your space and budget are a bit tight, you can store extra wheels rather than extra bikes.
3. Gravel bike geometry is more forgiving than road bike geometry
Road bikes are designed for speed, and most of them will put you in a very aero position on the bike. (Source) But if you aren’t very flexible or just don’t like to pedal in that position, you might prefer a gravel bike.
The geometry of a gravel bike is a little more upright, requiring less back flexibility. The wheelbase of most gravel bikes is a little longer than a road bike, too, which means you also have a little more stability when navigating rugged terrain.
A slacker head tube also adds to the bike’s stability, whereas other types of bikes with steeper headtubes will be a little more twitchy and easy to oversteer. And while a gravel bike may or may not have suspension, the frame set up will reduce road vibrations making for a much comfier ride.
4. When it comes to gears, you’ve got options—lots of them.
Gravel gears come in a wide variety of options, depending on how and where you want to ride them. Manufacturers like Shimano are offering their own gravel-specific gearing, such as the GRX series. But your options stem even beyond that. One of the great things about gravel bikes is the variety of gear setups you can choose.
For a lighter gravel bike, you might prefer a 1 x setup, with a single chainring in the front and wider selection of gearing in the back. That granny gear (sometimes called the escape clause) will get you up a lot of steep terrains! Also, with 1x gearing, your chain will be less likely to bounce off when you’re hobbling over rocks and roots.
If you’re a roadie and seeking the perfect cadence is your thing, you can go with a traditional two-chainring in front and a compact, subcompact, or mini in the back. There is research into how the ideal cadence has a huge impact on performance. (Source) Gravel bikes with a 2x setup often come with a clutch to keep that chain in place.
For example, if you’re primarily riding paved roads and just some light off-roading, you’ll be happy enough with a 50/34 compact chainset that you would typically find on a road bike. But if you’ll be doing lots of climbing, you’ll probably want to make sure you have gearing with a 1:1 ratio.
5. Gravel bikes can take a lot of abuse
If you’ve ever babied your road bike, you’ll be happy to know that your gravel bike can take a bit of a beating. Gravel bikes are designed to be ridden in less than perfect conditions. So although you’ll still need to show your gravel bike a little love (especially when it comes to the drivetrain), you can be confident that your gravel bike can handle mud, dirt, grime, bumpy roads, and grassy terrain.
6. Gravel bikes have better handling
Race bikes are quick and responsive, but they’re also at risk of being twitchy, in part because of their steeper headtubes and shorter wheelbase. Not so with your gravel bike, though. A longer wheelbase, slacker headtube, flared drop bars, and wider tires give you steady, solid handling so you can feel confident during your ride.
Flared drop bars on a gravel bike give you more room to hold the bars and a wider grip, too. In addition, flared bars will help you better navigate tight corners, loose or soft road surfaces, and sketchy terrain when you need to find your line.
7. Gravel bikes have great brakes
Gravel bikes are often outfitted with hydraulic disc brakes to give you better-stopping power on loose surfaces. However, you don’t want to get dirt, moisture, or grim in rim brakes as this can impede your ability to stop, so disc brakes are a better choice. Disc brakes are also great because they don’t limit tire clearance like rim brakes do.
8. Gravel bikes can go adventure cycling and bikepacking
If you’re looking for an adventure, you can go by gravel bike. The upright posture, comfortable frame geometry, and all-surface tires make your gravel bike ideally suited for exciting adventures and long days in the saddle.
The more stable handling makes them perfect for lugging gear, too. Pile on the tent, handlebar bags, food, water, and anything else you need for long trips.
You won’t have to worry about where your route takes you because other than serious singletrack, your gravel bike can tackle just about any road surface and trail. So whether you like the beach, the woods, the mountains, or the city, your gravel bike can take you there.
9. Gravel bikes have plenty of mounts for accessories
Your gravel bike most likely comes with a plethora of mounts.
Many gravel bikes have your standard water bottle cage mounts in the frame, but they also come with many more places to put your stuff. You might find extra mounts on the head tube, the down tube, the forks, and even a spot to put a cargo rack on the back.
All these extra mounts mean you can pile on the bike bags and carry whatever you desire! You can load up your bike with a handlebar bag, top tube bag, downtube bag, fork bags, panniers, and even a cart. In addition, built-in bike mounts mean your cycling accessories won’t flap around, and they are less likely to damage the paint job because of straps rubbing against the paint.
You can have a blast accessorizing your mountain bike. You can find everything from standard gravel packs on Amazon to customized, curated picks on Etsy. Or, if you’re creative, you can create your own setup with bungees, and bags, and even milk crates if you desire.
10. Gravel bikes have lots of frame material choices
Steel is often used to craft bike frames because of its springy capacity to absorb bumps and its sturdy ride. Likewise, steel is often used to craft gravel bikes because it can stand up to the rigorous types of riding. But if steel is too heavy for your taste, you can find gravel bikes in all sorts of frame materials.
Maybe you prefer carbon for its lightness and how it can be shaped to be more aerodynamic for gravel races. But, on the other hand, perhaps you like the snappiness of aluminum or the lightweight feel of titanium.
Even better are bikes that give you the best of both worlds, such as a shock-absorbing steel frame with a lightweight carbon fork. But, again, the available options are endless.
11. Gravel bikes are stable
Long wheelbases, wide flared drop bars, and sturdy frames make for a more stable bike. This kind of stability means you can handle bumps with ease, navigate tricky terrain, and take on loose roads, to start. But it also means you can load up on the accessories.
Some bikes will get wobbly and twitchy, and out of control when you pile on the gear bags, but a gravel bike will give you extra stability to handle it. You may roll at a slightly slower pace, but it’ll be worth it when your bike is wiping out on challenging climbs and technical descents.
Your steering simply won’t be as thrown off by bags and gear on a gravel bike as they would on the typical road and hybrid bikes.
12. Gravel bikes are comfortable
Gravel bike manufacturers know you’ll be tackling tough stuff, so they make an effort to build comfort into every gravel bike.
The frame’s geometry puts you in a more relaxed and upright position, which makes for a lot more comfort on long rides. In addition, frame materials and seat posts are made to absorb the chatter and vibrations of the road, especially for rickety, gravel, and dirt treks.
Larger tires absorb many bumps in the road, but if that isn’t enough, you can always get a gravel bike with extra suspension built-in.
13. Gravel bikes have all kinds of options for extras
Do you prefer a dropper post? You can get a gravel bike with that.
Are you looking for a great all-around e-bike? There are plenty of gravel e-bike options, so you’ll have that extra boost when you need it.
Want a little suspension to get you over demanding terrain? You can find it on some models of gravel bikes, too.
These bikes come in all shapes and sizes, of course, but they also come with a wide variety of options so you can pick and choose exactly what kind of bike you want. So you can tailor your gravel bike to the type of riding you love the most.
14. Gravel bikes are just fun
Gravel bikes are totally worth it because they’re just fun!
With a gravel bike, you can go just about anywhere, ride just about any road, and enjoy almost any exciting adventure you choose. Gravel bikes are worth it if you don’t spend every day doing the same kind of ride. Instead, you can mix it up, change it up, and embrace the opportunities that come your way.
You can race them or pace them, ride them sleek and fast or pile on the gear for camping. A gravel bike can be your grocery-getter, kid-hauler, commuter bike, and freedom machine.