Are Gravel Bikes Fast?


Over the past few years, gravel bikes have become a hot topic among cycling enthusiasts. Gaining rapid popularity and hiking demand, it seems like a new version of gravel bikes is launched every other week. Though the latest models don’t look that different, the modifications lie in details like wheel sizes, drop bars, tread pattern, and tire width, etc. And speed is an issue in all of these designs.

But are gravel bikes fast?

Gravel bikes or adventure bikes are essentially road bikes that are moderately fast. They can travel up to approximately 25mph on a flat road. On terrain such as gravel or dirt, you could reach a speed of 12-15mph.

Gravel bikes can handle a variety of roads and surfaces, and they carry additional gear. Because of the gear range and wider tires, they are more durable, comfortable, and resilient than your customary road bikes. 

I have been riding a gravel bike for the last couple of years now, and in this article I’m going to answer some of the main questions about speed – Are gravel bikes fast? How fast? And what determines the speed on different terrain?

Let’s dive into the answers to all these, and more.  

Man riding gravel bike on dirt track

Are Gravel Bikes Fast?

Gravel bikes are considered to be neither extremely fast nor too slow, and they are built to be that way.

They are fast enough to travel quickly across a range of terrain, but they are not built for out and out speed like road-bikes.

Their gears offer you enough speed to get round on most roads up to a speed of about 25mph.

However, you won’t have enough gears for when the speed gets very fast, for instance, 26 mph to 30 mph, or faster than this limit (Source). If this happens there would be a risk of spinning out. Realistically, you would only be reaching this speed going downhill, or if you were a seasoned sprinter.

Gravel Bikes – Speed and Popularity

There are several reasons for gravel bikes gaining prominence, and their speed is top of the list.

Their not-too-fast, not-too-slow, level of speed is a dream come true for many cyclists.

They have all-around durability on different surfaces, but definitely maintain a high level of speed. Not convinced about the speed? Well, check this out…

Quick answer: Yes, as fast as you want to be!

Speed and Specifications of Gravel Bikes

A closer look into the specifications of gravel bikes gives ample proof that these bikes offer out-and-out multiplex riding options.

It is also clear how they combine speed with other features.

Components of a Gravel Bike

The components of a gravel bike need due credit when considering the speed and durability of these bikes.

The sturdy constituents of these bikes enable them to ride up slippery slopes with efficiency and keep them from being torn into pieces in rough riding areas. 

Every gravel bike is equipped with disc brakes.

Though rim brakes (which the gravel and road bike have in common) are known to work well for riding on the tarmac, the disc brakes provide the rider more control, modulation, and greater power over the bike. 

Wheels and Tires

Gravel bikes are said to be an ideal choice for people who are suffering from injuries, especially in the hands and wrists. These riders can benefit from the larger tires and suspension mechanisms available on the bikes. 

Gravel bikes are made to work well on softer surfaces. They feature tread and knobs that dig into off-road surfaces.

There is a massive range of tread patterns available for gravel tires and the right one for you depends on many factors like the weather of your area and the ground you want to go riding on. 

The Geometry of Gravel Bikes

The geometry of a gravel bike provides a perfect balance between a mountain and a road bike.

Since it is easier to tackle than a road bike, and a little vigorous than a mountain bike, a gravel bike seems to be just the bike you need to strike a balance between the two. 

Speed and Versatility of Gravel Bikes

If you just want to own one bike, it should be a gravel bike.

You can go road-riding, touring, mountain riding, all while having the option of carrying the luggage on the bike as well.  

Even for mountain riding, a mountain bike would be a second option to a gravel bike because of the limitations of gearing range and the absence of luggage mounting in the former.

An All-Roads Bike

With a gravel bike, I can assure you that you can take on any road.

From riding on the tarmac and showing off your road cycling skills to conquering rocky singletrack, and even forest trails, gravel bikes can handle most of what you throw at them. 

Even if you’re not going to ride the bike off-road much, many gravel bike designs make for comfortable multipurpose cycling.

Certain gravel bike models, with their suspension forks and chainstays, are forgiving enough to even ride on tarmac, more so than an endurance road frame or a touring bike.

Modification Aspects

You can also modify the speed of certain gravel bike models to transform them into a more focused ride. For instance, for road riding, you can opt for a slightly longer, negative rise stem, and a few narrow bars. 

On the other hand, if long-distance, off-road riding is what you have in mind, a shorter stem will provide a more comfortable and extended position. This will help your ride become more streamlined – perfect for road riding.

Gravel Bike vs. Road Bike – A Brief Comparison

Road bikes, as the name implies, are engineered to be ridden on routes with a tarmac partiality, whereas gravel bikes are meant to be ridden on gravel paths, taken off-road, fire trails, dirt roads, and even single-track.

This doesn’t mean that you cannot use your road bike for some gravel riding.

However, road bikes got beaten by gravel bikes in popularity because of the former’s well-defined speed limit, which you can determine once you ride your road bike onto loose gravel roads. 

Unlike road bikes, Gravel bikes are comparatively more capable and can tackle a wider variety of landscapes. The latest gravel bike models are designed while focusing on race and endurance factors; hence you’ll be able to tackle racing grounds efficiently.

In terms of durability, a gravel bike is fashioned to be a lot more long-lasting than a road bike.

While it’s true that gravel bikes are available in carbon fiber, they are made heavy-weight to hold out against the wear and tear of gravel riding. 

Gravel bike on a leafy floor of the forest

Should You Buy A Gravel Bike?

Yes! You should go for a gravel bike if you’re planning to buy a bike at all, for all the aforementioned reasons and for the fact that these bikes are great on mild off-road terrain. 

In addition, if you don’t have easy access to gravel roads or some forest pathways, you can always use your gravel bike as a road bike. A gravel bike is a do-it-all companion where a road bike just won’t cut it (Source). 

Here are a few more reasons why a Gravel Bike is the ideal bike:

  1. Endless tire options: Gravel bikes offer almost endless tire options. These bikes can run a wide variety of tires – differing in tread patterns, sizes, widths, etc.
  2. Gearing Diversity: Gravel gearing can steer a wide range of riding disciplines. In other words, these bikes give you the most options when it comes to gear. 
  3. Position Variation: A gravel bike gives you varying riding options in terms of positions; for instance, a long rise stem for road riding and a shorter stem for off-road riding.
  4. The Fun, of course: Gravel bikes are enjoyable because of their versatility, i.e. they can be whatever you want them to be. This enables these bikes to cover as many features of the cycling spectrum as possible.  
  5. Weather-friendly: Gravel bikes run smoothly, regardless of the weather conditions.

Groove on the Gravel!

Hop on your gravel bike, and experience the sheer Swiss Army Knife pleasure of being able to bomb trails, take on mountain tracks and ride home on public streets all on the same rig!

With gravel bikes and their diverse nature, you can have a different bike for every surface, profile, distance, even every day of the week, depending on the settings, all assimilated in one.

These adventure bikes are here to meet all your cycling needs regardless of whether you are commuting, going off-road, and road riding, or going off the beaten path.

Having a gravel bike allows you to embark on multi-terrain excursions. It also means that you get to link gravel routes with numerous other routes, such as bridle paths, byways, forest pathways, and more. 

Martin Williams

Martin has been tearing up all sorts of trails on a range of bikes ever since he was young. He once cycled across France, and once fell into a canal on a hybrid. He writes about everything to do with cycling on our site.

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