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Unscientific Evidence that Gravel Bikes Are As Fast As Road Bikes

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like : "Unbound Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Unscientific Evidence that Gravel Bikes Are As Fast As Road Bikes

Old 08-26-21, 05:39 PM
  #26  
caloso
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Originally Posted by fujidon View Post
I used to commute to work about 14 miles each way on my road bike. After I bought a mountain bike, I set it up with road tires just for the commute. I timed myself over multiple days and was surprised to find that while it was a little slower, the difference was much less than I expected.

Later, I bought a heavy fat tire touring bike (similar to a gravel bike) and started using that to commute. Again I timed myself over many trips and could not find a significant difference between a touring bike and a dedicated road bike.

I have a gravel bike now (Specialized Diverge). I plan to use it for touring. I pump the tires up to 60 psi for the road. I haven't timed it to get empirical data, but it does feel like it might be just the tiniest bit slower. A lot of that feeling is probably subjective since my riding position is different and the gravel bike is a little heavier.

Back to the point... if I could only have 1 bike, it would be a gravel bike because I think they're the "do-it-all" bikes and close enough to the speed of a dedicated road bike that most cyclists would never notice the difference.

A little bit of rant to follow:

I also happen to think that the whole concept of gravel bikes are mostly an invention of bike manufacturers to create demand for a niche product. Other than for competitive gravel cyclists, road bikes could be designed to fit 35c wheels (which many now are) and we could basically be turning our road bikes into gravel bikes just by swapping tires.
Maybe raise the bottom bracket a few mm for clearance and ovalize the top tube to make it more comfortable in case you need to carry it on your shoulder.
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Old 08-26-21, 06:34 PM
  #27  
unterhausen
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Originally Posted by nomadmax View Post
@ 15mph there is no difference between this
and this
Let the pace heat up to 18-26 mph or add climbing and there's a WORLD of difference.
No difference other than the fact that my back twinges every time I see a varsity due to my time as a mechanic in the late '70s and early '80s working at a shop where we had to lift the repair bikes onto hooks.

Given better tires on the Varsity, it would be fine at faster speeds until you started to go uphill. And even then, an extra 20 pounds is not that big of a deal.

Originally Posted by fujidon View Post
I also happen to think that the whole concept of gravel bikes are mostly an invention of bike manufacturers to create demand for a niche product. Other than for competitive gravel cyclists, road bikes could be designed to fit 35c wheels (which many now are) and we could basically be turning our road bikes into gravel bikes just by swapping tires.
Gravel bikes came before the manufacturers discovered the idea, I know there aren't that many people that knew about it. The manufacturers noticed that their CX offerings were very popular. And anyway, even if it was just marketing, it's great they finally marketed themselves into such a good product. Much more practical than a performance race-oriented low clearance bike. It used to be that road racing bikes dominated road bike sales (if you ignore hybrids), but now they are an afterthought. And as you say, many of the road bikes that remain are very close to gravel bikes in a practical sense.

Last edited by unterhausen; 08-26-21 at 06:42 PM.
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Old 08-28-21, 12:36 AM
  #28  
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Well the best way to test this is to use an app that does GPS speed etc like Strava, and also a power meter to gauge how hard you're working. But where's the fun in that? haha
One bigger reason I had to get a touring/commuter/mountain bike because I had to put a baby seat on, and my carbon road bike didn't have any attachment points on the rear! Now they call those things gravel, fitness or road plus or whatever. I'd agree for 90% of riding speeds most recreational cyclists do, the bike isn't going to be as important as the legs.
For my commutes, I choose the bike that allowed me to arrive the freshest, without too much perspiration. That means the fastest with minimal effort, with the right gearing for the inclines.
Originally Posted by Random11 View Post
Until recently, my only bike for the past two years has been a Specialized Diverge gravel bike with 700x38c tires. I mostly ride solo on pavement and have a frequent route that is 15.5 miles. I don't have a good measure of my speed except that I'll look at the clock in my bedroom as I leave to get my bike out of the garage and go ride, and then look again when I'm back in my bedroom after my ride. The fastest I can remember doing this is 58 minutes and the slowest is 64 minutes. I'm usually around 61-63 minutes.

I recently bought a Cervelo Caledonia road bike with 700x30c tires that feels a bit lighter than my Diverge. I've only put about 160 miles on it so far and have ridden that 15.5 mile ride four times, with elapsed times between 60 and 62 minutes. It should be faster than the Diverge, and based on these rides probably is by a minute or two, which amounts to about 10 seconds a mile. There's not that much difference in the speed of these two bikes, based on only a few rides on the new one.

I don't doubt that if we were racing these bikes in precisely timed rides, the Caledonia would be faster. But for people (like me) who are going out for exercise, trying to push it a bit but not precisely measuring performance, my experience suggests that the gravel bike is just about as fast as th road bike. Plus, I do take the Diverge off-road from time to time and it's nice to have a bike that is versatile enough to do that.

It's nice to have a second bike, but if you only have one, a gravel bike seems like a good option. You don't give up much on the road, and get a more versatile bike when you want it.
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Old 08-28-21, 10:30 AM
  #29  
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Take a gravel bike and a road bike and put them both on a gravel road and the gravel bike will always be faster. Put them both on pavement and they would probably be almost the same speed.
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Old 08-28-21, 10:54 AM
  #30  
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
Put them both on pavement and they would probably be almost the same speed.
For the first 20 miles anyways...... the next 80 is a different story.
Unless your century rides are a leisure 15-16 mph average , then a gravel bike will suffice.
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Old 08-28-21, 12:37 PM
  #31  
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
The local U-18 CX champ does the River Ride (local Saturday morning world championships) on his CX bike with road tires. He needs to spin a bit quicker on the flats due to lower gearing, but it doesn't seem to be a problem for him. As the saying goes "It's not about the bike."
Itís about the tires and geometry. A cross bike ridden by an u-18 is unlikely to have the 6 inches of stem spacers and upturned stem lots of riders roll on a comfort gravel setup. Meaning less aero penalty for bike fit.

The fact a cross bike geometry is still reasonably aggressive combined with using road tires isnít a good comparison. Just not enough true penalty for it to be that impressive.

Itís a nice flex, but not the same as showing up on knobbies or a hardtail mtb and hanging.
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Old 08-30-21, 04:27 PM
  #32  
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My "gravel" bike is a 1X CX bike. My road bike is Prince with 55mm wheels. On faster rides (20+ MPH), the Pinarello is a little faster at similar power outputs, and is also easier to ride fast due to the gearing. That said, I've thrown some road tires on the cx bike for commuting / group ride on the way to work, and I can definitely hold speeds close to the road bike on a few of my usual routes. I do have issues spinning out above 31-32MPH, but I'm trying it out on our early morning group ride before work for the first time tomorrow (my schedule this fall dictates that I have to ride from the group ride straight to work). We'll see how much the cx bike + the ortlieb saddle bag with my clothes and lunch slow me down on the group ride. I can say as much as I love the cx bike offroad and on more relaxed road rides, the Pinarello feels much better as speed picks up, though, again, gearing has something to do with that. And the swooshing of the wheels. The sound is good for a few watts :-).
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Old 08-31-21, 10:17 AM
  #33  
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On my mixed group rides doing rolling sprints, the dedicated road bikes get the initial lead, but I can usually catch up with my 2x gravel bike (running either narrow tires or slicks). Also in some respects due to wider tires and bad city streets, the gravel bike can navigate tougher terrain, which in real world circumstances can give you the lead on a ride (I have no qualms hoping curbs or cutting across medians). I've yet to run into a scenario where I've spun out on my bike before wind resistance kicks in. On fast downhills going 40mph plus, I just coast and drop aero tuck at that point.
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Old 08-31-21, 09:18 PM
  #34  
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Originally Posted by ericcox View Post
My "gravel" bike is a 1X CX bike. My road bike is Prince with 55mm wheels. On faster rides (20+ MPH), the Pinarello is a little faster at similar power outputs, and is also easier to ride fast due to the gearing. That said, I've thrown some road tires on the cx bike for commuting / group ride on the way to work, and I can definitely hold speeds close to the road bike on a few of my usual routes. I do have issues spinning out above 31-32MPH, but I'm trying it out on our early morning group ride before work for the first time tomorrow (my schedule this fall dictates that I have to ride from the group ride straight to work). We'll see how much the cx bike + the ortlieb saddle bag with my clothes and lunch slow me down on the group ride. I can say as much as I love the cx bike offroad and on more relaxed road rides, the Pinarello feels much better as speed picks up, though, again, gearing has something to do with that. And the swooshing of the wheels. The sound is good for a few watts :-).
Did the group ride this morning. I didn't get dropped, but could definitely tell a difference when doing pulls. Tucked into the group, there were no issues until speeds ramped up. On one stretch as we approach a sprint point, speeds really pick up. I was looking for another gear that just wasn't there... I guess the lesson is that my less expensive (by a lot) cross bike can do what my road bike does for the most part. But I don't think I'll be getting rid of the Pinarello anytime soon.
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