• Europes biggest bike selection
    Gravel biking

    What is a gravel bike?

    Robert Ferri
    Robert Ferri
    Apr 29, 2024 11 min
    What is a gravel bike?

    When you start getting into cycling, you quickly hear about gravel bikes. The truth is, you do not really understand what people are talking about. Let's admit it: it looks like a road bike, but it is not a road bike. Everyone says, "yeah, gravel bikes can handle anything, they're awesome." So, is it more like a mountain bike then? Ouch, it is easy to get confused. Do not worry, we will explain you what makes a gravel bike a gravel bike and nothing else, and why this type of bike has become so popular in recent years.

    What is a gravel bike?

    A simple definition of a gravel bike

    A gravel bike is a bike designed to be ridden on gravel roads.

    gravel bike
    A gravel bike on rough gravel terrain.

    They are incredibly popular because they are fantastic bikes for not just going on dusty trails but also for riding on the road. They are even pretty good on trails.
    Many different brands interpret the term gravel bike differently. Some design a gravel bike very similar to a road bike but add larger tires. Others might opt for a mountain bike style bike but remove the suspension and add drop bars instead of flat bars.

    Discover our gravel bike buying guide to help you understand how to choose a gravel bike and our article on where to buy a bike for the best deals.

    A gravel bike is the do-it-all bike

    Gravel bikes have quickly become the do-it-all bike. They are great for lots of different types of riding and still have the ability to perform well. They are great for cyclists who just want to own one bike, and for adventure cycling, they are perfect for anything the trip might throw at you.

    What are the characteristics of a gravel bike?

    Although Gravel bikes may differ greatly from one another, they have some unique characteristics. Here’s what you can expect when thinking about what is a gravel bike.

    Large oversized tires

    For cycling on rough terrain and also to help increase comfort. 

    Relaxed geometry

    To make them easier to control from a more upright position and increase comfort.

    Disc brakes

    For excellent stopping power. This comes in very handy riding off-road.

    Increased durability

    To ensure the bike can take knocks when on rough roads or if dropped. 

    Longer wheelbase

    Gravel bikes are generally made with a longer wheelbase to help handling.

    Flared bars

    Wider bars so you have extra control especially when in the drops.

    Mounting points

    A lot of mounting points for adding bags and goods on the bike.

    Different wheel sizes

    Gravel bikes will typically be able to use both 650b and 700c wheels

    Low range gearing

    Gearing which is designed to get up hills well. Often comes as a 1X system.

    What is a good average speed on a gravel bike?

    It is important to remember that a gravel bike will always be slower than a road bike, but faster than a mountain bike. A good average speed on a gravel bike depends on so many factors. Riding on road or off-road, the amount of elevation, or even the weather conditions. If you can average 14 mph on the road and 12 mph off-road on a mild elevation ride that’s great! 

    what is a gravel bike
    An average of 14 mph on the road and 12 mph off-road is great!

    Different types of gravel bikes

    When it comes to gravel bikes, there are generally two or three different types you will see when searching. This is why many people turn to a gravel bike buying guide. These are what you will find.

    The road gravel bike

    The gravel bike is a gravel bike that is designed mainly for road riding but still has some ability on trails and dusty paths. They will have larger 700c wheels, smaller tires, and often don’t come with flared bars.

    Famous all-road gravel bike models:

    The off-road gravel bike

    The off-road gravel bike is made mainly for riding on trails and gravel paths with limited road performance. They have smaller 650b wheels, run larger knobby tires, and some come with very light suspension ability.

    Some of our top off-road gravel bikes families:

    We have also made a selection of the best gravel bikes for bikepacking.

    The all rounder

    Many gravel bikes fall between these two categories, which are considered to be more all-around ability. They can even have city accessories like dynamo lights and a lightweight luggage rack.

    Amongst the best all-rounder gravel bikes models:

    Have a look at our reviews of the Rose Backroad and the Rose Backroad FF.
    Gravel bike Rose Backroad
    The Backroad from the german brand Rose is a perfect all-rounder

    Gravel bike vs other bikes

    Among the many questions we get from our amazing readers, we often get a lot of comparison questions about gravel bikes. Here are the most common and how each type of bike differs.

    What is the difference between a gravel bike and a road bike?

    Although many road and gravel bikes look similar, gravel bikes have more relaxed geometry, lower gearing, extra durability, wider tires, and, unlike road bikes, always come with disc brakes.

    What is a gravel bike vs mountain bike?

    When compared to mountain bikes, gravel bikes don’t have large suspension travel. They come with drop bars over flat bars, have smaller tires, and are typically lighter. 

    Gravel vs cyclocross

    You will often hear people say cyclocross bikes are gravel bikes when this isn’t true. They have smaller tire clearance, are more aggressive than gravel bikes, and are made for racing more than adventure riding.

    What is a gravel bike vs hybrid?

    Gravel bikes are specifically designed for off-road adventures, with features like wider tire clearance and a rugged frame, while hybrids blend features of road and mountain bikes for versatile riding on different surfaces. The handlebars are often more racing-oriented on a gravel bike than on a hybrid. We also have a detailed article on a special hybrid bike which is the touring bike.

    What are the most famous gravel bikes?

    Now, you're probably wondering what a gravel bike actually looks like. Well, here are some of the most famous gravel bikes that you will see being ridden on the trails and dirt roads. 

    Canyon Grail

    When released, the Canyon Grail completely blew the cycling world away. It wasn’t just an excellent gravel bike but also had the unique feature of double-level handlebars, which offered flexibility and comfort. However, newer versions don’t have this.

    The bike is sleek, fast, and very lightweight. It is incredibly fun to ride and inspires confidence on loose terrain. Many professionals choose it, and it continues to dominate many races. They even make electric versions!

    The gravel bike model "Grail" from Canyon

    Specialized Diverge

    The Specialized Diverge, if bought with the top specification, costs around $15,000. It’s a bike made for performance and absolutely incredible to ride. It’s a race-winning bike and really looks the part. 

    It comes with a unique future shock suspension front and rear, weighs as little as 8.8kg, and even has internal storage in the frame. If you're looking to invest in one of the best gravel bikes available, this could be for you. 

    The gravel bike model "Diverge" from Specialized

    Ritchey Outback

    The Ritchey Outback is a gravel bike made for comfort and adventure. It’s made from the legendary Ritchey steel, has extra length for stability and control, and is full of mounts for bikepacking and adventure riding. 

    It may be a little heavier than other gravel bikes, but it offers comfort that other bikes can’t match. It has enough tire clearance for mountain bike tires, small tubing, and classic looks. It ticks all the boxes when it comes to gravel bike buying guide.

    Come and visit buycycle's shop to check out some of the best gravel bikes available.

    One bike that does it all

    Gravel bikes have hugely increased in popularity in recent years, and it’s been great for cycling as a whole. The first reason is that they offer cyclists an option to have a do-it-all bike. It means that you no longer need multiple bikes to ride off-road and on-road, you just need one.

    The rise of bikepacking

    There have been many other factors, such as people start bikepacking or bike touring and riding lots of long-distance multi-terrain routes. When it comes to choosing a bike for bikepacking, the gravel bike is the perfect tool for the job and the choice of bike for many ultra and exploration cyclists.

    There have also been many gravel events all over the world, even to the point that they are now recognized by the UCI. This has seen many professionals from road racing come across to take on events against day-to-day riders.

    If you are interested into bikepacking, you can also check our ultimate bikepacking gear list.
    A gravel bike is a perfect companion for bikepacking

    The multiplication of gravel bike competitions around the world

    Gravel bike competitions are very different from your typical races. They range from around 20 miles to over 300 miles, and unlike professional races, where only the elite earn a place, anyone can enter. This means you could be riding alongside your favorite pro riders and having a beer with them afterward.

    There are many amazing races to enjoy, and they are more often treated as events where people choose to go for the weekend. There are things for the whole family to enjoy. Here are some of the most popular gravel races.

    gravel bike competition
    The proliferation of gravel bike competitions has surged in recent years.

    Dirty Kanza (Unbound Gravel)

    Held in Emporia, Kansas, USA. Distances range from 50 miles to 200 miles. It’s known for offering challenging terrain and unpredictable weather conditions. Many pros choose to race this and by far one of the top 5 gravel races in the world.


    Grinduro is held in multiple locations, such as Japan, France, Germany, and even Italy. They are events that don’t just have gravel roads but also challenging trails and much more. The events are not just a race but a party and live music afterward.

    The Gravel Worlds

    Coming from Lincoln, Nebraska, this event is where the best of the best go to race. With multiple distances from 30 miles to 300 miles, everyone faces a challenge. It’s been running for over 15 years and over a few days.

    The Dirty Reiver

    In Northumberland, in the UK. The Dirty Reiver offers an incredible gravel course where hundreds of riders and brands flock to each year to experience the Kielder forest. It’s fun, fast, and very dusty!

    Is a gravel bike for you?

    If you are looking for an excellent all round bike which can do a bit of everything, then gravel bikes are definitely for you. They are great value for money, perfect for riding on the roads and trails, and also have a large community surrounding them.

    Now we have answered what is a gravel bike, make sure to check out our amazing selection of gravel bikes on the website or check out how to choose a gravel bike.

    what is a gravel bike?
    The gravel bike: a must-have!