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Difference between Road and Gravel Bike: Which One Would Be Better?

gravel bike vs road bike

Who would not say, there is still a difference between a road and a gravel bike, although it is difficult to notice if you don’t delve into the individual details of these bicycles. Perhaps you are now thinking about which one to buy for yourself, but don’t know which one would be better. Today we will dive in and consider the gravel and the road bike, so that you can draw certain conclusions for yourself, as well as once and for all understand the differences between the types of bicycles.

Gravel Bike Definition

can a road bike go on gravel

First, it should be understood that this is a kind of road bike, adapted for different types of surfaces. That is, on it, you can confidently and quickly drive on asphalt, and without deteriorating the quality of movement, switch to grass, gravel, sand, and other types of off-road. That being said, even the best gravel bikes fall short of MTB (real mountain bike).

Gravel is a relatively new class of bicycles, so manufacturers often offer experimental solutions. Basically, all gravel bikes have the following traits:

  • shorter frame for a more comfortable fit;
  • rubber with a diameter of up to 42 mm (although 52 mm is found on the 700c rim);
  • Thicker tires than a road bike
  • unique transmission ー one chaining and several stars in the carriage, the diameter of which is significantly different from each other (a good example: stars 42/28 with cassette 11-36 or primitive 1×11 system);
  • low carriage sag (almost the same as on a road bike), which makes it easier to operate;
  • hydraulic disc brakes;
  • ram-shaped gravel bike handlebars;
  • additional attachments for luggage.

Thin tires on a gravel bike provide a faster ride on asphalt (compared to a mountain bike). At the same time, gravel allows you to drive safely and comfortably over rough terrain, which cannot be done on a highway. Gravel bike pedals should be individually selected based on skill level.

Road Bike Definition

difference between road and gravel bike

It is ideal for flat road surfaces. If you have to ride on asphalt most of the time, there is no better road bike. It transfers the load from the legs to the rear wheel as efficiently as possible, therefore it is the fastest and most technologically advanced (in terms of speed) type of bicycle transport.

Main characteristics:

  • sporty fit is the handlebars are lowered slightly lower than the saddle, by about 5-10 cm;
  • a special ram-shaped steering wheel provides several types of grip or multi-grip;
  • lightweight wheels with high rigidity;
  • thin tires without relief and spikes, providing maximum pedaling (the pressure inside the tires is 5-10 atm.);
  • the speed switches on the steering wheel are combined with the brake, this allows you to adjust the direction and speed of movement without removing your hand from the steering wheel;
  • excellent transmission is several front large sprockets and a rear carriage, the size of the sprockets in which doesn’t differ much from each other, improves handling at high speeds (a good example: 46/36 ー front, and 11-28 ー rear cassette);
  • a rigid fork without shock absorbers most often a carbon one that suppresses vibrations.

On some models, the overalls on the rear wheels are different from their counterparts. These are flat spokes, the number of which is different on different sides of the rim. Professional riders and athletes use clipless pedals and cycling shoes, but novice cyclists are better off choosing the regular option.

What Is the Difference between a Road Bike and a Gravel Bike?

According to the description, it is still not entirely clear if there are some kind of differences, so now we will consider the main differences between bicycles.

Gravel Tires vs Road Tires

gravel bike or road bike

Let’s start with the most obvious differences between the two. Unlike the road bike, the protectors play a more important role on gravel bikes. Road tires don’t do much grip and are more designed for smooth surfaces, so if you go off-road it can be difficult and the grip won’t be as strong as with treads. These tires are prepared for uneven road surfaces, which would give you a much better grip. In addition, there are protectors for different occasions, depending on the weather and the surface finish on which you intend to ride.

Also, an important detail is tubeless tires. They are becoming more and more popular for paved roads, although on the other hand, given all kinds of rough terrain and sharp objects along the way, such tires are almost standard on gravel models.

Gravel vs Road Bike Speed

Since the road bike is simpler in design, lighter due to the material, and not as heavy as gravel, its speed is much higher and can reach 75 kilometers per hour under excellent weather conditions and good road surface.

Considering the complexity of the structure, as well as its weight and “sluggishness”, the speed of a gravel bike is much lower. But we think this bike isn’t suitable for high speeds, because who wants to try to accelerate to 60-70 kilometers per hour on a hilly rocky road (for example, in a forest)? Most likely, this is possible and necessary, only for cyclists in such an area.

Gravel Bike Geometry vs Road

gravel bike geometry vs road

If you don’t have both of these options at hand, it would be difficult for you to discern the difference between their geometries, because the whole point is in a few millimeters and degrees of inclination of elements. The road bikes have rounded corners and a shorter wheelbase, which are very influential for better handling and sharp turns. The opposite is true for gravel bikes. This is important to make it easier for you to descend downhills, as well as for better stability and slower handling, which is important for overcoming various obstacles on the road.

Road bikes would also have more reach, shorter frame stacks, and head tube to allow for a longer, lower, and more aerodynamic stance, while gravel bikes would be shorter and more upright.

Gravel Bike vs Road Bike: Conclusion

gravel vs road bike speed

Based on all the comparisons, we can say that the forces are practically equal. When used correctly, they would all perform their main tasks perfectly, as well as provide a comfortable ride. But we think that the gravel bike would still be more versatile. By the way, you can use a gravel bike as a road bike, but the opposite won’t be a particularly suitable option. Unfortunately, the answer to can a road bike go on gravel would be negative, which already creates not very great convenience for those who like to travel on various types of trails and road surfaces. This would be another big plus in favor of gravel, which already has a fairly large advantage over its rival. Now you can notice all the differences between these types of bicycles. We believe that the gravel race will be the best. Yes, these are both good options, but one of them won’t be able to complete the tasks and functions of the other. Therefore, your final decision may depend on those things that would be most important to you first. Which one do you think is better, gravel bike or road bike? Why do you think so?

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