Photo by Chris Kochanski.
Best Gravel Bike Choice
The topography of the definition of “gravel riding” is as varied as the terrain we ride. What makes your favorite gravel loop might be very different from what makes ours, and that’s what makes it such a draw to so many riders - a gravel ride can be almost anything. But if a gravel ride can be almost anything, what’s the right bike? Exactly...
Just like any bike you would choose, this all depends as much on your personal riding style as it does on the terrain. Maybe even more so.
The Diverge is the textbook gravel offering from Specialized. It comes from the factory on 700x38 tires and can comfortably fit 700x42. A fairly traditional endurance road geometry keeps the handling mellow for long days in the saddle. Future Shock under the stem seems to disappear underneath you when the road is smooth, but when things are bumpy it does an amazing job of quieting the chatter. If your cycling background is mainly from the road, the Diverge could be just the right option for you.
Think about it. Gravel riding might have been borne of the idea that cyclocross races are all just way too short. So why can’t a ‘cross bike be the right gravel bike? You’ve got us there. In fact, most of the bikebarn crew choose the Specialized Crux as our own gravel tool. It offers up something a little different from the “traditional” gravel bike - and that something different holds a lot of appeal for riders who come from a mountain bike background. The slightly higher bottom bracket and tighter, steeper geometry of a cyclocross bike makes it more nimble when the terrain becomes a bit more challenging than a graded fire road (think powerline trail or even some chunky doubletrack).
There is an in-between bike! The Aspero is quick enough to race 'cross (both are raced by pros), but rugged and utilitarian enough to use for gravel or bikepacking. Higher bottom bracket than the Diverge combined with a shorter wheelbase and steeper angles enables this bike to turn itself on its head, but extra mounting points and insane tire clearance make it a bit more versatile than a cyclocross race bike. The best of both worlds!
Chamois or cut-off shorts, bikepacking trip or brutal day of gravel racing—you're going to ride far, go fast, and have a great time on a Checkpoint. You'd rather spend your money on a lightweight frame than a top-of-the-line drivetrain, but you still expect your workhorse gravel bike to perform. You want a bike that's both fast and comfortable, and you want endless carry options for gravel races and everyday adventures.
Fast gravel, rough gravel, pavement or dirt. However you choose to roll, this bike does it all. With a lightweight frame that's engineered for comfort, Revolt lets you push your limits on variable terrain. Details including a smart mount system for racks and accessories give you a head start on any gravel riding mission.
Sirrus is your ticket to riding more, and to places you never imagined possible. It’s a comfortable, capable, “let’s do stuff” kind of bike that will inspire you to ride more than you ever have before. With bigger, confidence inspiring tires, a slightly more upright riding position, a super intuitive one-by drivetrain, and plenty of mounts for racks and fenders —it’s more than just a solid partner on pavement. Sirrus is a dialed option when it’s time to hit some gravel.
Flat bars! It’s all about the engine, after all. Whether your ride gets a little extra gnarly in spots or you just want the upright position and the smoothness of some really big tires. Mount up some intermediate treads, maybe swap in a narrower handlebar and/or longer stem. Maybe even ditch the suspension fork and go rigid to save a bit more weight. The point is mountain bikes designed for "light trail use" could really just mean "perfect for any gravel road you can find". Check out Trek Marlin, Specialized Fuse & Rockhopper, Giant Talon, Santa Cruz Chameleon, and Liv Hardtails.
In the end, gravel is so many different things to so many different people - and that’s all part of the allure. The only rule is to get out there and enjoy it.