You’ve seen them on the road, canal or a gravel track near your local forest walk. Gravel bikes. The latest phenomenon in cycling circles and the cycling world that have made their mark on a new approach to cycling.
The perfect balance between two different cycling disciplines that cater for all types of riders. As we are easing into the off-road season, you may ask yourself, ‘Should I get a gravel bike?’. The answer is YES!
Or at least that’s what our shop boy, Robbie, thinks after completing his first gravel event at the Galway Gravel Grinder this past weekend. So, what are gravel bikes? Can gravel bikes really do it all? And, where can you bring one for a ride?
What are gravel bikes?
Trek Checkpoint Driftless
We’ve covered this in our guide to road bikes in a previous article, read all about it here. But for a little recap, gravel bikes are the perfect cross between road and mountain bikes. Adapting only the best of both worlds. The bikes are extremely versatile and capable of handling almost anything you throw at them.
Sporting a longer wheelbase, lower bottom bracket, and slacker headtube angle makes way for a more stable off-road ride. They also have larger gear ratios and tires with a bigger clearance making them extra adaptive to challenging climbs, sketchy single track manoeuvres and speedy gravel descents.
So, can gravel bikes really do it all?
Trek Checkpoint AL 3 with SRAM Rival eTap
Yes they can, just read Robbie’s first hand account about his experience with his trusty Trek Checkpoint AL 3.
I decided to give gravel biking a go, as I’m a huge fan of doing climbs on a road bike set-up but descending on a MTB. I built up a Trek Checkpoint AL 3 frame-set. Choosing a 12spd 1x SRAM Rival eTap and Bontrager Paradigm Comp 25 wheelset, I was ready and set to get into the gravel frenzy.
With a somewhat sunny summer, I decided to spend most of that time riding around on a tubeless 28mm Pirelli Cinturato set-up as the canal was a perfect introduction to some light gravel rides. I really can’t say there were any faults with the tires as they never punctured and ran extremely smooth when changing the terrain from tarmac to hard pack gravel.
As the rain came and became more frequent, I changed over to the Pirelli Cinturato H 35mm tires and started spending more time in the woods and exploring proper gravel climbs. Switching to a wider tire was a game changer. Running lower psi pressures and having more grip really brought out the fun in testing your bike handling skills.
After months of preparation for the gravel season, I embarked on the Galway Gravel Grinder. Right from the get-go, the bike was extremely comfortable and fast as I tracked across boreens, single track and all sorts of gravel roads. I even managed to hit 93 kph on one of the descents and feel completely stable at all times. The climbs felt extremely smooth and easy to navigate with the large selection of gears available. I’m glad to say that the gravel bikes are a game changer and can REALLY do it all.
The gravel tracks constantly change
If you’re looking for a new challenge this autumn/winter then I would highly recommend investing in a gravel bike. There are now more and more events popping up around Ireland which are open to all riders. As a future event and challenge for any rider, I would recommend checking out the Galway Gravel Grinder and Lakelander Gravel Grinder.
There are no limitations on where gravel bikes can be ridden. They seem to be able to do it all and with new groupsets and technology coming out, you can have a dream bike that can do it all.