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Please help me understand gravel riding?

Old 09-12-20, 09:13 PM
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IGH_Only
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Please help me understand gravel riding?

I get what gravel bikes are and what their purpose is (I think). And I get that some people live in areas (and driveways) where gravel is used for paving over dirt so they ride on gravel. What I'm confused about is that there appear to be people who ride specifically on gravel for enjoyment??? Is that correct? And if so, why?
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Old 09-12-20, 09:22 PM
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It depends on where you live....In these parts:

A) You get away from the traffic and noise and suicide of riding on roads.

B) You Have FAR more choices of where to go

C) You find far more stuff

Here in Lancaster County....if you limit yourself (as many do) to riding only on paved roads with shoulders....well....there are 5 roads (well they're State Highways) in the entire county you can ride on. They're 70+MPH speed limits and high traffic....loud, crowded, stressful....and not fun.

Here in Nebraska...most non-city-limit roads, are unpaved. By mileage. Said another way, most roads are not paved unless it is a highway (and most of those don't have a shoulder).
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Old 09-12-20, 09:36 PM
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Riding gravel means you get to buy another bike.
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Old 09-12-20, 09:40 PM
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I think it probably depends on where you live. Where I live now, I'm not sure there are that many pleasant gravel roads that aren't fire roads or singletrack best done on MTBs, but where I grew up in rural PA, there were dirt roads and farm trails that would be fun to ride and would give you more roads to ride. And other parts of the country probably have even more.
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Old 09-12-20, 10:19 PM
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Kinda like fat bikes to me, really fun to have if you have places that are just meant for that kind of bike. My gravel bike is really set up as a bikepacking bike and much of what I've toured with it has been rail trail that isn't always paved so perfect use.
Though just today my wife discovered that there's cheap fat tire bikes that she'd like to get so we can go ride the beaches in the off season around here without worrying about the sand ruining quality parts. Hard to argue with her on it.
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Old 09-12-20, 10:22 PM
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It is a brilliant marketing concept. Back in the day, I rode throughout the northeast on unpaved roads on a beater bike because who in their right mind would take something nice on a road where rocks pelted the frame and dirt got in your gears. Mountain bikers do that but gravel bikes are marketed to road bike people.

So itís brilliant because people scared of cars now have a nice new cycling segment. Thoughts of quiet pastoral trails, nature sightings and fun picnics. In reality though, gravel biking is really boring. Seriously the rides are short and slow with none of the challenge and sport of mountain biking.

Not that I didnít have fun, but I canít imagine spending the type of coin people spend on these bikes, thousands even $10,000 or more for a bike to ride slowly on a dirt road for a few miles.

I simply donít get it but apparently when people hear ďgravel bikeĒ they get all hot and bothered when in reality some piece of crap bike is what you need and not a carbon, or custom made steel or titanium bike. Its absurd.

The fad will fade soon I am sure.
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Old 09-12-20, 10:44 PM
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GrAvel bike is just a name. Something like ďall road bikeĒ might be a better description but doesnít sound as sexy.

Gravel racing and events are also a nice grass-roots change from the highly structured, often elitist, road racing crowd. So you could say itís a bit of a counter-culture movement.
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Old 09-12-20, 11:18 PM
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I see gravel riding as non-technical mountain biking - not so many roots and rocks, more fire roads. Actually sounds pretty good - mountain biking lite
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Old 09-12-20, 11:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Mulberry20 View Post
Not that I didnít have fun, but I canít imagine spending the type of coin people spend on these bikes, thousands even $10,000 or more for a bike to ride slowly on a dirt road for a few miles.
I didn't buy a gravel bike to ride slowly on a dirt road for a few miles. On my last outing, I covered 123 miles and topped out at 44 mph.
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Old 09-12-20, 11:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Mulberry20 View Post
It is a brilliant marketing concept. Back in the day, I rode throughout the northeast on unpaved roads on a beater bike because who in their right mind would take something nice on a road where rocks pelted the frame and dirt got in your gears.
I canít imagine spending the type of coin people spend on these bikes, thousands even $10,000 or more
I simply donít get it but apparently when people hear ďgravel bikeĒ they get all hot and bothered when in reality some piece of crap bike is what you need and not a carbon, or custom made steel or titanium bike. Its absurd.
Because some people like riding nice bikes, regardless of whether or not the ride makes the bike dirty. You can ride paved roads just fine on a piece of crap bike, and you can go mountain biking on a piece of crap bike. But people buy nice bikes for those disciplines. Graveling is hardly much different.

Yes, gravel riding wears parts faster than road riding does. But most of the folks dropping $10,000 on gravel bikes aren't going to be stricken with sticker shock when they learn that a new Dura-Ace chain will set them back $45.

Thoughts of quiet pastoral trails, nature sightings and fun picnics. In reality though, gravel biking is really boring. Seriously the rides are short and slow with none of the challenge and sport of mountain biking.
If the rides are too short and slow for your tastes, why not go on longer and faster ones? I don't see how "short and slow" makes any logical sense as a criticism to direct at a cycling discipline.

If you simply don't like the roads in your area, then I guess that's a bummer and would certainly stifle the interest. The thing about gravel cycling is that it varies dramatically by area, depending on what kinds of gravel roads actually exist, what sort of terrain they go through, how they interact with the paved road network, etc. My regional gravel roads are mostly mountainous and have no shortage of "nature sightings." (And if you're inclined to descend aggressively, the double-track roads can provide plenty of challenge on a gravel bike.)

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Old 09-13-20, 02:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Mulberry20 View Post
who in their right mind would take something nice on a road where rocks pelted the frame and dirt got in your gears. .
Full fenders and a long mudflap in the front fender will solve that problem. The drivetrain is much cleaner after a week of riding in gravel than without fenders.

Someone looking for a gravel bike to use on gravel must make it sure there's enough eyelets on the frame and fork for both racks and full fender installation. Thus, a tour bike is a good or even better alternative to gravel bike depending on application.
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Old 09-13-20, 02:46 AM
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Originally Posted by IGH_Only View Post
I get what gravel bikes are and what their purpose is (I think). And I get that some people live in areas (and driveways) where gravel is used for paving over dirt so they ride on gravel. What I'm confused about is that there appear to be people who ride specifically on gravel for enjoyment??? Is that correct? And if so, why?
Gravel bikes are also good for road-only use. If roads around you have plenty of big potholes, wide cracks, wide gaps, and other horrible features, they'd be too dangerous for a skinny wheel and would actually limit your options to bikes that can only fit wider wheels (CX, Gravel, tour, Hybrid, and MTB).
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Old 09-13-20, 02:48 AM
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So many people being so negative about others doing things they don't like to do themselves. Kind of small-minded, IMO.

"Why gravel riding? is the same sort of question as "Why ride MTB?' Or fatbike, or downhill, or CX or roads .... why ride a bike at all?

Glad to see some folks actually bothered to answer the ... somewhat less thoughtful objections.

If there had been an internet back then ... there would have been threads upon threads of people laughing at those repack idiots burning out the bearings on their balloon-tire Schwinns riding down mountains. A passing phase obviously ....... off-road riding will fade away pretty soon ......
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Old 09-13-20, 04:45 AM
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I have yet to gravel ride specifically but I can see the allure. Some of the pics posted on BF are nothing short of epic! The scenery alone is worth consideration. I do not see myself buying another bike as I do not have local dirt/gravel roads that impress me. The local mountains are better suited for MTB's and there are paved roads in the mountains that offer plenty of choices for scenery.
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Old 09-13-20, 05:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Mulberry20 View Post
So itís brilliant because people scared of cars now have a nice new cycling segment. Thoughts of quiet pastoral trails, nature sightings and fun picnics. In reality though, gravel biking is really boring. Seriously the rides are short and slow with none of the challenge and sport of mountain biking.
I have to disagree.

First, I ride my gravel bike because it gets me away from traffic and houses and people sure - but not because I'm afraid of riding around cars.

Second, if you think gravel biking is boring you aren't doing it right. Yes it's absolutely slower than road riding so if you want to crank out miles fast definitely it's not what you want. But as for challenge - come ride with me, and I guarantee you will be challenged. Not all "gravel" roads are the same - not all smooth well groomed gravel. Some are dual truck tracks and can be quite gnarly. Some surprisingly dont' exist when you try and ride them. Some can be flooded mud pits. The climbing can be brutally hard, and at times the descents are just as hard.

Here's a ride I did around this time last year. I think you'd find it challenging: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/39689491

I had planned to ride an even more challenging route next week, but an IT band injury is forcing me to postpone it to next year.
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Old 09-13-20, 05:21 AM
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Originally Posted by IGH_Only View Post
I get what gravel bikes are and what their purpose is (I think). And I get that some people live in areas (and driveways) where gravel is used for paving over dirt so they ride on gravel. What I'm confused about is that there appear to be people who ride specifically on gravel for enjoyment??? Is that correct? And if so, why?
Riding off road is fun and provides a new type of challenge. We have too much pavement around us and hitting some dirt or gravel is a lot of fun. It's also an opportunity to get out and enjoy nature.
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Old 09-13-20, 05:33 AM
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Gravel bikes are just road bikes that donít suck on gravel/dirt roads.

The baffling question fo me is not why someone would buy a bike that works great on a variety of road surfaces, but rather why someone would buy a bike that does not.

The reason me and all my riding friends now ride ďgravelĒ bikes is not due to a love of gravel itself, but for quite roads with little traffic.... which around here often involve dirt, gravel, and poorly maintained pavement.

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Old 09-13-20, 05:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Mulberry20 View Post
It is a brilliant marketing concept. Back in the day, I rode throughout the northeast on unpaved roads on a beater bike because who in their right mind would take something nice on a road where rocks pelted the frame and dirt got in your gears. Mountain bikers do that but gravel bikes are marketed to road bike people.

So itís brilliant because people scared of cars now have a nice new cycling segment. Thoughts of quiet pastoral trails, nature sightings and fun picnics. In reality though, gravel biking is really boring. Seriously the rides are short and slow with none of the challenge and sport of mountain biking.

Not that I didnít have fun, but I canít imagine spending the type of coin people spend on these bikes, thousands even $10,000 or more for a bike to ride slowly on a dirt road for a few miles.

I simply donít get it but apparently when people hear ďgravel bikeĒ they get all hot and bothered when in reality some piece of crap bike is what you need and not a carbon, or custom made steel or titanium bike. Its absurd.

The fad will fade soon I am sure.

Short distances? Not necessarily. Rail trails can be hundreds of miles long. With the right tires, I was cruising one at about 17 mph for about 70 miles--Northern Rail Trail, NH.
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Old 09-13-20, 05:53 AM
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Riding on gravel and dirt for recreation has been around for a long time. Only a troll would ask a question why people do it. It's obvious that OP and some other posters feel bothered by how and where other people choose to ride and he is just trying to stir things up.
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Old 09-13-20, 06:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Mulberry20 View Post

Not that I didnít have fun, but I canít imagine spending the type of coin people spend on these bikes, thousands even $10,000 or more for a bike to ride slowly on a dirt road for a few miles.
What floors me is how much some people spend on pavement-only bikes that canít even clear a set of 32s and greatly limit where you can ride.
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Old 09-13-20, 06:20 AM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
Riding on gravel and dirt for recreation has been around for a long time. Only a troll would ask a question why people do it. It's obvious that OP and some other posters feel bothered by how and where other people choose to ride and he is just trying to stir things up.
From the flip side....Just to play devil's advocate. Much of the rising popularity of 'gravel riding' was in direct reaction to the ludicrous expense of road riding equipment and rides, and anyone could do it just about anywhere suitably rural enough.....which brings us to 2019 (last time most rides occurred), and the bikes have become as-expensive and the rides more-expensive than road rides while having less amenities, and the rides are getting filled with people who ride 40 hours/week. IOW, it has become exactly the thing it was a reaction against.

Last year Gravel World's was asking for $100USD to ride. For 1 day. With NO support, no SAG, no wrenching. On open public roads. $100 got you a bib and a bit of swag, and that is it. Which is nuts. Dirty Kanza is worse.

Which, ofc, to be completely fair....the bikes don't need to be that expensive...and organized rides are, well, what they are--and you can enjoy riding on your own.


I once heard a CXer characterize gravel riding as: as long as a road ride, on practically CX surfaces, without any amenities.
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Old 09-13-20, 06:30 AM
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I was using a cyclocross bike as my road bike for years before gravel biking became a thing. I just wanted wider tires for the chip seal roads around here, the gravel roads are actually smoother most of the time.
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Old 09-13-20, 06:45 AM
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Originally Posted by IGH_Only View Post
I get what gravel bikes are and what their purpose is (I think). And I get that some people live in areas (and driveways) where gravel is used for paving over dirt so they ride on gravel. What I'm confused about is that there appear to be people who ride specifically on gravel for enjoyment??? Is that correct? And if so, why?
Forty years ago, I lived in a place that was a "concrete jungle" with very few easily-accessed trails, and (to my knowledge) zero gravel roads. Almost everything was a basic asphalt or concrete street, MUP or jogging/cycling path. All of the gravel and hard-packed forest roads were 80+ miles distant, and most of what trails did exist were at the far end of the county (and much more like technical MTB trails).

Then, I spent the next few decades in a spot that had 10:1 trails and gravel roads over asphalt motor roads. A cyclist's paradise, for those wanting to find the road less traveled via heading off-pavement. Lots of modestly-technical mountain biking paths, but lots of "secondary" (and forest) gravel roads, hard-packed roads, mildly-unmanaged country tracks. On such roads a "gravel" bike or somewhat-relaxed geometry rigid MTB seems to excel. Ran most of them; cycled many of them.

I agree that largely the "gravel bike" concept is a marketing thing. Such roads and trails have always been there. And there's generally always been a type of bike functionality that seems to eat such stuff up.
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Old 09-13-20, 07:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Mulberry20 View Post
Seriously the rides are short and slow with none of the challenge and sport of mountain biking.

Not that I didnít have fun, but I canít imagine spending the type of coin people spend on these bikes.

The fad will fade soon I am sure.
Sounds like you're doing it wrong, if you've done it at all.

Perhaps some other people have more money than you, or at least prefer to spend it differently.

Judging from bike sales and event registrations, the "fad" seems to be becoming more popular each year.
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Old 09-13-20, 07:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
From the flip side....Just to play devil's advocate. Much of the rising popularity of 'gravel riding' was in direct reaction to the ludicrous expense of road riding equipment and rides, and anyone could do it just about anywhere suitably rural enough.....which brings us to 2019 (last time most rides occurred), and the bikes have become as-expensive and the rides more-expensive than road rides while having less amenities, and the rides are getting filled with people who ride 40 hours/week. IOW, it has become exactly the thing it was a reaction against.

Last year Gravel World's was asking for $100USD to ride. For 1 day. With NO support, no SAG, no wrenching. On open public roads. $100 got you a bib and a bit of swag, and that is it. Which is nuts. Dirty Kanza is worse.

Which, ofc, to be completely fair....the bikes don't need to be that expensive...and organized rides are, well, what they are--and you can enjoy riding on your own.


I once heard a CXer characterize gravel riding as: as long as a road ride, on practically CX surfaces, without any amenities.
The thing is that you don't need to spend thousands of dollars on gravel specific bike. People have been riding on dirt and gravel long before there was such a thing as a gravel bike.
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