What is a gravel bike? Chiz Dakin explains

Chiz Dakin has been enjoying riding a gravel bike for the new edition of Cycling in the Peak District. Here she explains exactly what a gravel bike is.

A new type of bike

Recently, a new sort of bike has come onto the market, and is gaining market-share very rapidly. It’s called a gravel bike, and seems to combine the advantages of both road and mountain bikes – with a similar ability to lap up the miles on tarmac as a road bike, while still being very capable off-road. In re-riding the routes for Cycling in the Peak District with a gravel bike, I’ve come to realise that while a gravel bike isn’t essential to enjoy these routes, they are a perfect match for such a bike!

Cycling Across The Tissington FordThe Fabulous Houndkirk Road Exciting Terrain Without Being Too Rough

Chiz Dakin has been enjoying riding a gravel bike for the new edition of Cycling in the Peak District. Here she explains exactly what a gravel bike is.

What is a gravel bike?

Not heard the term before? Don’t worry, it’s still fairly new. But it seems to be gaining popularity very quickly as it’s such a good idea.

In simple terms, a gravel bike is a hybrid bike which has wider (although moderately smooth) tyres and disk brakes like a mountain bike. But like a road bike, they tend to be relatively lightweight (especially when compared to many hybrid bikes) though still strong enough to venture off-road, and have drop-handlebars, which make longer distances (on and off-road) much more comfortable. (If you haven’t tried them and think they don’t sound comfortable, it’s well worth giving them a go. You may well be surprised!)

Linen Dale Near Eyam
Linen Dale Near Eyam

They also bear more than a passing resemblance to a cyclocross bike, but where the cyclocross bike’s gears and geometry are optimised for an hour’s race around a muddy field, gravel bikes are intended for all-day and multi-day use across a wide variety of terrains.

What is the best type of bike for cycling in the Peak District?

The ideal bike for the rides in the Peak District is a gravel bike (which is also known as an adventure road or adventure bike) – or any of its close variants such as a cyclocross bike, a hybrid (as long as it isn’t too heavy) or a lightweight 29er mountain bike with semi-slick tyres. These bikes provide the best compromise between fast and efficient progress over tarmac and the strength to go off-road on easy-to-hard trails and into the easier reaches of pure MTB territory. However, most bikes will be capable of the routes, other than lightweight road bikes. These, with care and a reasonably lightweight rider, may manage some of the gentler off-road and most of the trail sections, but riders will probably wish to take the ‘road detours’ mentioned in the text – especially for those on ultralight performance machines!

Fancy going cycling in the Peak District?

Whichever type of bike you prefer try Chiz Dakin's Cycling in the Peak District for some great ideas of where to go.

Dakin

Chiz Dakin

Chiz Dakin's cycle touring adventures almost happened by accident, when after a local photography trip by bike she realised that she'd done 50 miles in a single day with a reasonably heavy load. This led to the disconnected logic that if she could do that once, she was now ready to tackle multi-day cycle touring, and two weeks later set out on the Land's End to John o' Groats route.
Since then she's done several other multi-day trips including a pioneering Welsh coast cycle route (600 miles and 16km of ascent) but still maintains that you don't need to be seriously fit or fast to enjoy long multi-day routes. (She certainly makes no claim to being either!) She has also recently won an award for her photography.

View Articles and Books by Chiz Dakin

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