Halfway between a road bike and a mountain bike, the gravel bike first appeared in the 2010s in the United States, where minor roads aren't always tarmacked. These stunning gravel trails are a great way for cyclists to avoid the often-dangerous main roads and make the most of the great outdoors.
There are currently almost as many definitions of gravel riding as there are gravel riders, but most would agree on the fact that gravel riding is a more relaxed style of cycling, without clubs and federations, and with fewer rules. The bikes' versatility means they're equally at home going down cute country lanes as they are on gravel trails, dirt tracks and byways. It's therefore a much more fun, varied sport that's super enjoyable no matter how experienced you are.
So what exactly is a gravel bike?
A gravel bike is a bike with the same geometry as a road bike, but whose components make it tougher and more versatile. The tires are wider and knobby, the handlebar is flared to make it easier to steer, and it has disc brakes so it's more effective in muddy conditions. Ideally, the gravel bike's gear ratio will be such that you can spin more.
While gravel bikes were originally completely rigid, several brands have started installing saddle and fork suspension to cushion bumps.
Where does bikepacking come into all this?
Bikepacking is a portmanteau of the words bike and backpacking. So bikepacking means travelling with bags fixed to your bike. That's why it differs slightly from bike touring: you don't need a pannier rack, so it's much lighter and more minimalist.
Bikepacking can therefore be done on- or off-road, though in reality gravel bikes lend themselves a bit more to this lighter way of travelling.
Why do we love it?
At Triban, we love gravel biking because it's great fun and can be done by absolutely anyone. The advantage of gravel riding is that it lets you go off-road - and therefore escape heavy traffic - and needs less technical skill than mountain biking.
Gravel riding gets you off the beaten track, gives you access to the great outdoors, and lets you explore wherever you want!