Gravel Bikes are the hottest cycling trend of the 2020’s. They are versatile and just damn fun to ride. They also happen to be a fantastic choice for bicycle touring or bikepacking. These are the top 5 reasons to buy a gravel bike for touring!
Interested in Gravel Bicycle Touring or Gravel Bikepacking? Check out our guide to a gravel bike trip along the C&O Canal.
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Reason 1: All Terrain
The number one reason that people love gravel bikes is their all terrain ability. They can handle pavement, dirt paths, mild singletrack, and of course gravel. And thats on one wheelset! On tour this gives you lots of options for route and side adventures in areas with varied terrain. In a place like Vermont, this type of versatility is a huge benefit on tour. Even well traveled roads turn from pavement to gravel and back again as you ride from town to town. On many tours that we have ridden, a couple miles of gravel can be a 20 mile shortcut. If you’re on a road bike with slicks, you are going the long way round.
Reason 2: Wheel and Tire Options
Switching out tires or wheels also allows a rider to outfit one bike for multiple different tour styles. Many gravel bikes can run anything from 23mm to 52mm tires. Planning to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway? Throw on 28’s for the beautifully paved roads. Riding the C&O Canal towpath? Run knobby 42s for comfort and grip.
Reason 3: Comfort
Comfort on a bike is a very subjective topic. Despite this, there are some universal truths. A bike with more aggressive geometry is usually less comfortable than one with a more relaxed geometry. A bike with larger tires is usually more comfortable than a bike with smaller tires. With the right research and test-riding you can find a very comfortable gravel bike without sacrificing performance. The ability to run larger tires at a lower pressure also gives a bit of cushion when going over bumps. A few even often some measure of suspension like the Cannondale Slate Lefty Oliver (one of our personal favorites). Gravel bikes also allow for all kind of different hand positions, something that mountain bikes are not so good far with their straight bars. Double wrap your bars with a cushy underlayer and you’ll find yourself comfortable even on the longest days.
Reason 4: Weight
Gravel bikes are also good for bike touring because they tend to be a bit lighter than a dedicated touring bike. Gravel bikes are made of casual riding or racing, but also built to withstand rougher terrain. As a result they are heavier than a comparable road bike, but lighter than a touring bike or mountain bike. Those few pounds can save you quite a deal of work up the big climbs. The only downside may be less weight capacity for long tours. For the truly heavy loads get touring bike. Steel is Real.
Reason 5: Fun!
Gravel bikes are just plain fun. They move like road bikes, ride like touring bikes, and make you feel like you can conquer about anything. We’ve taken ours on wild singletrack, miles of gravel, and multi-week tours. No matter what you throw at a gravel bike it takes it in stride. So grab your gravel bike, throw on some panniers or frame bags, and get out there and ride.