Gravel biking: what is it, equipment, racing, how to ride and training plans

Gravel biking is a form of cycling that combines elements of both road biking and mountain biking, designed to traverse a variety of surfaces including gravel, dirt, and paved roads. It differs from mountain biking in that gravel bikes are designed with a lighter frame, narrower tires, and a geometry that offers a more comfortable ride over long distances on mixed terrains, unlike the rugged, technical trails typical of mountain biking. Gravel biking also differs from road cycling in its versatility: while road bikes are optimized for speed and efficiency on paved roads, gravel bikes are built to handle a wider range of terrains with more durability and stability, making them ideal for adventure rides and long-distance tours where varying surface conditions are expected.

Gravel bike equipment is designed for durability and versatility, enabling riders to tackle a mix of terrains with ease. Gravel bike types include endurance-focused models with comfortable geometry, racing-oriented designs with aggressive positioning, and adventure bikes equipped for bikepacking. These are offered by top brands like Specialized, Cannondale, Trek, Giant, and Salsa. The key equipment parts of a gravel bike are a sturdy frame, wider tires for better traction, disc brakes for reliable stopping power, and a gearing system suited for varied landscapes. Essential gravel biking gear includes helmets designed for both road and off-road use, specialized shoes for mixed terrain, versatile clothing adaptable to different weather conditions, and protective eyewear. Gravel bike accessories are comprehensive, ranging from multi-tool kits and tubeless tire repair kits for on-the-go maintenance, to water bottle cages, bikepacking bags for storage, and GPS devices for navigation on long exploratory rides.

In this article, we will explain the definition of gravel biking, types of gravel bikes, calories burned, gravel biking equipment, gears and accessories, gravel biking racing and popular events from the USA to Europe, then we dig deep into how to ride a gravel bike, how to prepare for a gravel bikepacking, training plan for gravel biking cyclists, nutritions and necessary knowledge like books, apps, forum, and maps.

Table of Contents

What is gravel biking?

Gravel biking is a cycling discipline that involves riding specially designed gravel bikes on mixed-terrain routes, often including bikepacking adventures, where riders traverse a combination of paved, gravel, and dirt roads. The definition of gravel in the gravel biking context refers to small, loose, often compacted stones commonly found on unpaved roads, which provide a unique riding surface that’s distinct from smooth asphalt or technical mountain bike trails. 

The meaning of “gravelly” relates to the texture and condition of these roads, characterized by their loose, rocky nature. As a gravel cyclist, one navigates various types of gravel roads, which can range from well-maintained, fine gravel paths to rough, loose, and challenging tracks, requiring a bike that is versatile and durable, blending the speed of a road bike with the robustness of a mountain bike. “Gravelness” means the quality or characteristic of being like gravel, typically describing surfaces composed of or covered in small, loose stones, often encountered in gravel biking.

What are the types of gravel biking?

The types of gravel biking are categorized into Category 1, Category 2, Category 3, and Category 4 based on the terrain’s difficulty and the tire size appropriate for it, as defined by the International Standard Guide to Gravel (ISGG) created by Neil Shirley, a former professional road racing cyclist from the United States who was active between 2004 and 2010. Neil Shirley’s expertise as a professional cyclist has informed this classification, making it a valuable guide for riders to match their equipment with the intended gravel biking experiences. 

Gravel Biking CategoryIdeal BikeTire SizeEvent Examples
Category 1 GravelRoad bike25-28mmHaute Route Rockies, Battenkill Roubaix
Category 2 GravelEndurance/All-road bike28-32mmGravel Worlds, Dirty Devil, Boulder Roubaix, Belgian Waffle Ride, Grapes Of Wrath
Category 3 GravelGravel bike33-38mmRebecca’s Private Idaho, Landrun 100, Crusher In The Tushar, Rock Cobbler, Gravel MOB, SPNDX Stampede, Chino Grinder
Category 4 GravelGravel bike38-42+mm, or Road Plus (650b wheels with 42+mm tires), 1.9-2.25″ tiresDirty Kanza, Grinduro, Lost and Found, Rock Cobbler

What are the types of gravel biking

What are the differences between gravel biking and mountain biking?

The differences between gravel biking and mountain biking are centered around bike design, terrain, tire size, riding position, and typical use. These distinctions illustrate how each biking style is tailored to different preferences and riding conditions, from long-distance, mixed-terrain adventures in gravel biking to the more technical, rugged terrains of mountain biking. Below is a comparison table highlighting these differences. 

AspectGravel BikingMountain Biking
Bike DesignLighter frame, more similar to road bikes but with modifications for off-road useRobust frame with aggressive geometry, designed for technical off-road trails
TerrainGravel, fire roads, and mixed terrains, generally less technicalRugged, technical trails with obstacles like rocks, roots, and steep descents
Tire SizeWider than road bikes but narrower than mountain bikes, around 28-42mmMuch wider, typically 2.0 inches and above for better traction and stability
Riding PositionMore upright and comfortable, similar to endurance road bikesVaries based on discipline, generally more aggressive
Typical UseLong-distance rides, bikepacking, and adventure cyclingTechnical trail riding, downhill, cross-country, and trail exploration

What are the differences between gravel biking and mountain biking

What are the differences between gravel biking and road cycling?

The differences between gravel biking and road cycling are primarily based on bike design, terrain, tire size, riding position, and typical use. Here’s a comparison table illustrating these differences below.

AspectGravel BikingRoad Cycling
Bike DesignRobust frame, wider tires, and often with disc brakes for varied terrainLightweight frame with narrow tires, designed for speed on paved roads
TerrainMixed terrains including gravel, dirt roads, and pavementSmooth, paved surfaces, optimized for speed and efficiency
Tire SizeWider than road bikes (28-42mm) for better traction on loose surfacesNarrow tires, typically 23-28mm for reduced rolling resistance
Riding PositionMore upright and relaxed compared to road bikesAggressive and aerodynamic for maximum speed and efficiency
Typical UseVersatile for long rides, bikepacking, and mixed-terrain adventuresLong-distance rides, racing, and endurance cycling on paved roads

What are the differences between gravel biking and road cycling

Is gravel biking dangerous?

No, gravel biking is not inherently dangerous if approached with the right equipment, awareness of terrain, and adherence to safety practices; however, like any form of cycling, it carries risks, particularly when navigating mixed terrains, and it generally falls between the relative safety of road cycling and the more technical challenges of mountain biking.

What is the average gravel biking speed?

The average gravel biking speed typically ranges between 15-20 mph (24-32 kph), depending on various factors like the rider’s fitness level, terrain type, and bike setup. This speed is influenced by the mixed-terrain nature of gravel biking, which often includes both smooth and rough surfaces, inclines, and varying trail conditions, all of which can affect the overall pace compared to road cycling or mountain biking.

What is the average gravel bike weight?

The average gravel bike weight typically ranges from around 9 to 11 kg (20 to 24 lbs), influenced by factors such as the frame material, with carbon fiber being lighter but more expensive, aluminum offering a balance between weight and cost, and titanium known for its strength and lightweight properties, as well as components like wheels and groupsets that can add or reduce the overall weight.

How fast do gravel bikes go?

Gravel bikes can go as fast as 25 to 30 mph (40 to 48 kph) on flat and smooth terrains, a speed influenced by factors like the rider’s fitness, bike design, and terrain. This estimate is based on general observations and reports from gravel biking events and enthusiasts, as there isn’t a universally recognized record for gravel bike speeds. The actual speed can vary greatly depending on conditions such as trail difficulty, inclines, and the rider’s skill level.

How dangerous is gravel biking?

Gravel biking is generally considered safer than technical mountain biking while being slightly more hazardous than road cycling, but it carries risks including unpredictable terrain, loose gravel causing skidding, higher speeds leading to potential accidents, limited visibility on rural roads, and the challenge of remote locations in case of emergencies.

Calories burned gravel biking

Calories burned from gravel biking range based on factors like body weight, terrain, riding position, intensity, and duration. The following table which is calculated using the Metabolic Equivalent of Tasks (METs) method, shows the calories burned per hour for different body weights and gravel biking intensities.

Here’s a table that shows the calories burned per hour from gravel biking for different body weights and intensities.

Gravel biking burned calories per hour150lb / 68.04kg175lb / 79.38kg200lb / 90.72kg225lb / 102.06kg
Bicycling, General535.81 calories625.11 calories714.41 calories803.71 calories
Bicycling, 12-13.9 mph, Leisure, Moderate Effort571.53 calories666.78 calories762.04 calories857.29 calories
Bicycling, 14-15.9 mph, Racing or Leisure, Fast, Vigorous Effort714.41 calories833.48 calories952.55 calories1071.61 calories
Bicycling, 16-19 mph, Racing/Not Drafting or > 19 mph Drafting, Very Fast, Racing General857.29 calories1000.17 calories1143.05 calories1285.94 calories
Bicycling, > 20 mph, Racing, Not Drafting1128.77 calories1316.89 calories1505.02 calories1693.15 calories

Calories burned gravel biking

For a gravel cyclist with the body weight of 175lb (79.38kg), under moderate effort gravel biking burns approximately 666.78 calories per hour, while vigorous effort increases the calorie burn to around 833.48 calories per hour.

Is gravel biking good for weight loss?

Yes, gravel biking is good for weight loss just like mountain biking or road cycling, and it’s comparable to road cycling and potentially more effective than indoor cycling because it engages a wide range of muscles due to varied terrains, often leading to a higher calorie deficit compared to road and indoor cycling, while mountain biking typically burns more calories due to its technical nature and intense physical demands.

Is gravel biking good exercise?

Yes, gravel biking is a good exercise because it combines low-impact cardiovascular activity with the benefits of outdoor exercise, burning a significant number of calories while exploring varied terrains, thereby improving overall fitness and endurance.

What are gravel bikes good for?

Gravel bikes are good for versatility in cycling due to their ability to handle a variety of terrains from pavement to gravel and dirt, long-distance comfort, bikepacking adventures, providing a balanced workout through mixed-terrain cycling, and offering an accessible option for those looking to explore both road cycling and off-road biking.

Gravel biking equipment

Gravel biking equipment is designed specifically to handle the diverse and often unpredictable nature of gravel terrains. This equipment aims to provide comfort, stability, and durability for long rides across varying surfaces. Standard gravel bikes typically feature drop handlebars, a robust frame, and wider tires for stability and comfort on loose surfaces. All-road bikes, a subset of gravel bikes, lean more towards road biking but with added versatility for off-road use, often lighter and faster than standard gravel bikes. Flat-bar gravel bikes, on the other hand, offer a more upright riding position similar to mountain bikes, catering to riders who prioritize control and comfort on rough terrains.

The necessary equipment for gravel biking centers around the gravel bike itself, which is the heart of the experience including the frame, flare drop handlebar and wheelset. Essential gear includes appropriate tires – wider and with a tread pattern suitable for gravel – durable wheels that can withstand uneven terrain, and a comfortable but sturdy saddle for long rides. Riders should also consider investing in a reliable set of brakes, typically disc brakes, for consistent stopping power in various conditions. Additionally, gearing is crucial; a gravel bike should have a wide range of gears to tackle both steep climbs and fast descents. For personal gear, helmets, gloves, and appropriate eyewear are essential for safety, while specialized clothing can provide comfort and protection against the elements. Accessories such as GPS devices for navigation, hydration packs or water bottle cages, and tool kits for on-the-go repairs are also valuable additions to any gravel biking setup.

What is a gravel bike?

A gravel bike is a versatile bicycle designed to perform across various terrains, including gravel roads, trails, and paved surfaces. Its inception can be traced back to the early 2000s, emerging as a response to cyclists seeking a single bike capable of handling both on-road and off-road conditions effectively. The concept gained significant public attention and popularity when used in events like the Dirty Kanza, one of the first large-scale gravel races held in the Flint Hills of Kansas, USA. Gravel bikes typically feature a frame geometry that balances the agility and efficiency of road bikes with the robustness of mountain bikes, accommodating wider tires for improved traction and comfort on rough surfaces. 

The gravel bike frames are often made from materials like carbon fiber, aluminum, or steel, offering a mix of lightweight durability and cost-effectiveness. This blend of features makes gravel bikes ideal for riders looking for an all-in-one solution to explore a wide range of cycling environments.

What is the point of a gravel bike?

The point of a gravel bike is to provide a versatile and durable cycling option that bridges the gap between road and mountain biking, offering the ability to comfortably and efficiently traverse a wide range of surfaces from paved roads to gravel paths and light trails, thereby embodying the essence of adventure and exploration in cycling.

Gravel bike vs road bike vs mountain bike vs cyclocross bike, what are the differences?

The differences between gravel bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes, and cyclocross bikes are based on factors like frame geometry, tire size, handlebar type, gearing, terrain suitability, and typical use. Here’s a comparison table illustrating these differences among all these adventure bikes.

FactorGravel BikeRoad BikeMountain BikeCyclocross Bike
Frame GeometryBalanced for comfort and efficiency on varied terrainsAggressive for speed and aerodynamicsRobust for technical trails and obstaclesAggressive yet comfortable for maneuverability
Tire SizeWider than road bikes (28-42mm), narrower than mountain bikesNarrow (23-28mm) for reduced rolling resistanceVery wide (2.0 inches+) for traction and stabilityNarrower than gravel bikes (30-35mm), designed for mud clearance
Handlebar TypeDrop bars for multiple hand positionsDrop bars for aerodynamic positioningFlat or riser bars for controlDrop bars like road bikes
GearingWide range for climbing and speedHigh gearing for speed on smooth surfacesLow gearing for steep terrainsSimilar to road bikes but with modifications for off-road use
Terrain SuitabilityVersatile for pavement, gravel, and moderate off-roadOptimized for paved roadsRugged, off-road trailsMixed, often muddy and rough terrains
Typical UseLong rides, bikepacking, adventure cyclingRacing, long-distance, endurance cyclingTechnical riding, downhill, trail explorationCyclocross racing, short off-road circuits

Gravel bike vs road bike vs mountain bike vs cyclocross bike, what are the differences

Gravel bike types

Gravel bike types are diverse, including Standard gravel bikes, all-road bikes, and flat-bar gravel bikes, each designed for specific aspects of gravel riding, each of these types caters to different preferences in gravel biking, from long-distance adventures to more road-oriented experiences, and the choice largely depends on the intended use and riding style.

  1. Standard Gravel Bike: This type typically features a drop handlebar with some flare for better control, a relaxed geometry for comfort over long distances, and tire clearance for tires around 35-45mm, making it suitable for a wide range of terrains from smooth roads to rugged gravel paths.
  2. All-Road Bike: These are closer to traditional road bikes but with modifications for off-road use, including slightly wider tires (usually around 28-35mm), a more aerodynamic frame geometry for efficiency, and often a lighter build for speed and agility on both paved and unpaved surfaces.
  3. Flat-Bar Gravel Bike: Offering a more upright riding position similar to mountain bikes, flat-bar gravel bikes provide greater control and comfort, especially on technical trails. They often feature wider tires like standard gravel bikes and are ideal for riders who prefer the feel of a mountain bike but want the versatility of a gravel bike.
Gravel bike brands

Gravel bike brands, both available in bike stores and online are listed below, each of these brands brings unique attributes to their gravel bike models, catering to different preferences, from racing-oriented designs to adventure-ready builds.

  1. Trek: Known for their innovation and quality, Trek offers models like the Trek Checkpoint, combining durability and performance.
  2. Specialized: A leader in bike technology, their Diverge series is popular for blending speed and ruggedness.
  3. Cannondale: Renowned for innovative designs, Cannondale’s Topstone series is well-regarded in the gravel biking community.
  4. Marin: Offers a range of bikes, with the Marin Gestalt being a popular choice for its versatility.
  5. 3T: Known for high-end bikes, 3T’s Exploro model stands out for its aerodynamic design.
  6. All-City: Offers durable steel frames, with the Space Horse being a favorite for its classic design and versatility.
  7. Argon 18: A brand known for high-quality builds, offering models like the Dark Matter for gravel enthusiasts.
  8. Bianchi: With a rich history in cycling, Bianchi’s Impulso Allroad is a blend of tradition and modern gravel biking.
  9. BMC: Offers premium bikes like the URS, known for its innovation and performance.
  10. Canyon: Their Grail series is popular for its unique design and efficiency.
  11. Cervélo: Known for high-performance bikes, the Cervélo Áspero is designed for speed and agility.
  12. Diamondback: Offers versatile bikes like the Haanjo series, suitable for various terrains.
  13. Fuji: Known for reliability, their Jari series is a solid choice for gravel riders.
  14. Giant: Offers models like the Revolt, which is popular for its balanced performance.
  15. GT: Their Grade series is well-regarded for comfort and adaptability.
  16. Ibis: Known for high-quality, innovative designs, with models like the Hakka MX.
  17. Kent: Provides affordable options for beginners in gravel biking.
  18. Kona: Their Rove series is known for its durability and versatility.
  19. Masi: Offers gravel bikes that combine classic styling with modern technology.
  20. Moots: Known for their titanium frames, offering premium gravel bikes.
  21. Niner: Specializes in off-road bikes, with the RLT 9 being a standout for gravel.
  22. Parlee: Offers high-end custom builds, well-suited for gravel adventures.
  23. Pinarello: Known for their racing heritage, with gravel models like the Grevil.
  24. Ribble: Offers customizable bikes, with the CGR series being versatile for gravel.
  25. Ridley: Known for their robust and high-performance bikes.
  26. Salsa: Their Warbird is iconic in the gravel biking world for adventure and endurance.
  27. Santa Cruz: Known for mountain bikes, but also offers the Stigmata for gravel.
  28. SCOTT: Their Addict Gravel series is designed for performance on and off-road.
  29. State Bicycle: Offers affordable and stylish options for gravel biking enthusiasts.
  30. Surly: Known for their durable steel frames, ideal for rugged gravel riding.
Gravel bike equipment

Gravel bike equipment includes a specially designed frame, a robust wheelset, flare handlebars, and a gravel-specific fork, is tailored to the demands of gravel riding.

  1. Frame: Gravel bike frames are typically made from carbon fiber, aluminum, or steel, offering a mix of lightweight and durability. The geometry combines comfort and efficiency, with a longer wheelbase and more relaxed angles compared to road bikes, allowing for better control on mixed terrains.
  2. Wheelset: Gravel bike wheelsets feature wider rims to accommodate larger tires (28mm to 42mm or more), providing enhanced traction and stability on loose surfaces. The rim depth is usually moderate, balancing aerodynamics with stability in varying wind conditions.
  3. Handlebars: Flare handlebars are common on gravel bikes, offering a wider grip for better control on descents and technical sections. Options also include flat bars for an upright position and classic drop bars with a standard bar and stem system for a road bike feel, giving riders multiple hand position choices for comfort and control.
  4. Gravel Fork: The gravel fork, either standard or with suspension, is crucial for absorbing shock on uneven terrains. Standard forks are typically lighter and more rigid, suitable for smoother gravel paths, while suspension forks offer increased comfort and control on rougher, more technical routes.
What is the difference between men’s and women’s Gravel bikes?

The difference between men’s and women’s gravel bikes primarily lies in the frame size and geometry, with women’s models often featuring shorter top tubes and taller head tubes for a more comfortable reach and upright position, and sometimes narrower handlebars to suit typically narrower shoulders, catering to the general physical differences between men and women for enhanced riding comfort and efficiency.

Does 700x28c gravel work for gravel biking?

Yes, 700x28c tires can work for gravel biking if the gravel is relatively smooth and compact, as these tires are narrow enough to be efficient on such surfaces; however, they may not provide sufficient traction, comfort, or puncture resistance on rougher, looser gravel or more technical off-road terrains where wider tires are generally recommended.

What is the best pressure for riding gravel roads?

The best pressure for riding gravel roads typically ranges between 30-50 psi (2.07-3.45 bar) for most conditions, with variations based on factors like rider weight and tire width. For tubular and clincher tires, maintaining pressure within this range helps balance traction and efficiency, while tubeless setups can often go slightly lower, around 25-40 psi (1.72-2.76 bar), due to their reduced risk of pinch flats, thereby improving grip and comfort on uneven gravel surfaces.

What is the best tire width for gravel riding?

The best tire width for gravel riding typically ranges from 35mm to 45mm (approximately 1.38 to 1.77 inches), because this width provides a good balance between traction, comfort, and rolling efficiency on various gravel surfaces. Wider tires offer better stability and shock absorption on rough, loose gravel, while still maintaining reasonable speed and handling on smoother sections.

Can bike wheels tear from riding on gravel?

No, bike wheels normally don’t tear from riding on gravel if they are of good quality and appropriate for the terrain, but under certain conditions like riding over sharp stones or extremely rough gravel, especially with high-pressure tires or less durable materials, there is a risk of damage. Wheels made from robust materials like carbon fiber that meet EN standards for wheelsets are designed to withstand the rigors of varied terrains, including gravel roads, provided they are used within their intended design limits and maintained properly.

Is aluminum or carbon wheelset better for gravel riding?

Carbon wheelsets are generally better for gravel riding when prioritizing performance, especially for racing or long-distance rides, due to their lightweight and stiffness, enhancing speed and responsiveness. However, aluminum wheelsets are often preferred for bikepacking and more rugged adventures because they offer durability, easier maintenance, and typically lower replacement costs. Therefore, for gravel riders focused on endurance and reliability, particularly over challenging terrains, aluminum is the more practical choice, but for those seeking to optimize performance and speed, carbon is advantageous.

What is better for gravel riding 700c or 650b?

700c wheels are generally better for gravel riding than 650b because they offer faster rolling efficiency and better momentum conservation over varied terrains, making them ideal for longer distances and smoother gravel paths. However, 650b wheels can be advantageous for more technical or rougher gravel routes due to their ability to accommodate wider, more cushioned tires, providing increased comfort and better traction. The choice ultimately depends on the specific gravel riding conditions and personal preference.

Gravel bike Gears

Gravel bike gears, including helmets, gearing systems (1x or 2x), brakes, shoes, pedals, seats, suspension, and apparel such as kits, gloves, and socks, are essential for a comfortable and efficient gravel riding experience.

  1. Helmets: Essential for safety, helmets for gravel biking often balance aerodynamics with ventilation and are sometimes equipped with features like visors for sun and debris protection.
  2. Gearing: The choice between a single (1x) or double (2x) chainring setup depends on the terrain; 1x systems offer simplicity and a wide gear range with a single shifter, while 2x systems provide more fine-tuned gear options ideal for varied landscapes.
  3. Brakes: Disc brakes are standard on gravel bikes, offering reliable stopping power in all weather conditions, crucial for the unpredictable surfaces encountered in gravel riding.
  4. Shoes: Shoes for gravel biking strike a balance between stiffness for efficient power transfer and comfort for walking, often with recessed cleat designs.
  5. Pedals: Pedal choices range from clipless for secure foot placement and efficient pedaling to flat pedals for ease of use, depending on rider preference and terrain.
  6. Seats: Comfortable, durable saddles are vital for long rides, with designs that support an upright position and reduce pressure points.
  7. Suspension: Some gravel bikes come with limited suspension or vibration-damping technologies to enhance comfort on rough trails.
  8. Apparel: Functional clothing is key, including breathable and moisture-wicking jerseys and shorts, gloves for grip and comfort, and socks designed for ventilation and support.

Which gear ratio is better for gravel and road cycling?

The best gear ratio for both gravel and road cycling depends on the specific terrain and individual riding style. For mixed-use on both gravel and paved roads, a versatile gear ratio like 2×11 with a compact chainset (50/34t chainrings) and a wide-range cassette (11-32t or 11-34t) is effective. This setup offers lower gears for uphill and rough gravel sections, higher gears for fast descents and flat roads, and a good range for variable terrain in between. It provides flexibility to tackle steep climbs common in gravel riding, while also allowing for efficient and fast pedaling on smoother, flatter road sections.

What is the best cassette size for gravel riding?

The best cassette size for gravel riding is typically a wide-range cassette, such as an 11-32t or 11-42t, as it offers a broad spectrum of gears suitable for the varied terrain encountered in gravel riding. Brands like Shimano and SRAM offer these options, with the larger cogs providing lower gears essential for climbing steep or technical off-road sections, and the smaller cogs allowing for efficient pedaling on flatter, faster sections. This range ensures versatility and adaptability, key aspects of gravel biking, by accommodating both the challenging ascents and rapid descents often found on gravel routes.

Gravel bike accessories

Gravel bike accessories, essential for both gravel biking and bikepacking, include lights, pumps, spare tires, protective glasses, mudguards, knee pads, various bags (backpack, frame bag, fork bag, handlebar bag), and a bell.

  1. Light: Crucial for visibility and safety, especially when riding in low-light conditions or during longer bikepacking trips.
  2. Pump: A portable pump is essential for maintaining tire pressure and dealing with flats on the go.
  3. Spare Tires: Carrying spare tires or a repair kit is vital for addressing flats or tire damage during long, remote rides.
  4. Glasses: Protect your eyes from debris, dust, and the elements, a must-have for comfort and safety.
  5. Mudguards: Useful for wet and muddy conditions, keeping you and your bike cleaner and more comfortable.
  6. Knee Pads: For added protection on rougher or more technical trails, enhancing safety during adventurous rides.
  7. Bags: A backpack for carrying essentials, a frame bag for easy access items, a fork bag for additional storage, and a handlebar bag for tools and snacks, all critical for bikepacking and long rides.
  8. Bell: An important accessory for signaling your presence to other trail users, enhancing safety for everyone.

Can I put gravel tires on my road bike?

Yes, you can put gravel tires on your road bike only if the frame and fork have sufficient clearance for wider tires and if the rim width is compatible. Most modern road bikes can accommodate slightly wider tires, but traditional models may have limited space. For clincher, tubular, and tubeless-ready rims, ensure that the tire width matches the rim specifications. Gravel tires typically require wider rims for optimal performance and safety, and using them on narrow road bike rims might not yield the best riding experience or could be unsafe. Therefore, it’s crucial to check both tire clearance and rim compatibility before making this switch.

Gravel biking racing

Gravel biking racing has gained significant popularity as a competitive cycling discipline due to its unique blend of endurance, adventure, and technical riding across diverse terrains. This popularity stems from the sport’s inclusive and exploratory nature, appealing to a wide range of cyclists seeking a challenge beyond traditional road or mountain biking races. 

Top gravel racing events include the Dirty Kanza in Kansas, USA, known for its challenging 200-mile route; Belgium Waffle Ride in California, offering a mix of road and off-road sections; The Mid South in Oklahoma, famous for its unpredictable weather conditions; Unbound Gravel in the Flint Hills of Kansas, attracting a global field of riders; and Barry-Roubaix in Michigan, billed as the largest gravel road race in the world. These events exemplify the growing interest and diversity within gravel racing, drawing both amateur and professional cyclists.

Gravel biking events

The top 10 gravel biking events along with their unique features are list below in the comparison table. 

EventLocationMileage and Features
Transcontinental RaceVarious, EuropeVaries, ultra-distance, self-supported
Dirty ReiverNorthumberland, England200km, forests and moorland
Grinduro (Scotland)ScotlandUnique format, scenic
Tuscany TrailTuscany, ItalyUnsupported bikepacking, scenic
La RésistanceFrench AlpsHistorical, mountainous terrain
Unbound GravelKansas, USAUp to 200 miles, prestigious
Dirty KanzaKansas, USA200+ miles, Challenging terrain in the Flint Hills
Belgium Waffle RideCalifornia, USACombination of terrains, unique
Barry-RoubaixMichigan, USALargest gravel race, diverse terrains
Crusher in the TusharUtah, USAHigh altitude, challenging

Gravel biking events

Gravel biking racing tactics

Gravel biking racing tactics include maintaining a steady pace to conserve energy over long distances, strategically choosing the right gear and tire pressure for varying terrains, staying hydrated and nourished throughout the race, drafting behind other riders to reduce wind resistance, and carefully navigating technical sections to avoid crashes and mechanical issues.

Who are the best Gravel biking riders?

Below is a table showcasing some of the best gravel biking riders, both male and female, along with their nationalities and notable achievements. 

CategoryRiderNationalityBest Achievement
MenIan BoswellAmericanWinner of Unbound Gravel 200
MenPeter StetinaAmericanNumerous top finishes in major gravel races
MenIvar SlikDutchProminent figure in European gravel racing
WomenRebecca ‘The Queen of Pain’ RuschAmericanMulti-time winner of Leadville 100 and Dirty Kanza
WomenLael WilcoxAmericanRenowned for ultra-endurance gravel and bikepacking races
WomenSofia Gomez VillafañeArgentinian-AmericanStrong performances in various gravel events

Who are the best Gravel biking riders

What does it take to become a professional Gravel cyclist?

To become a professional gravel cyclist, one must build a strong base of cycling fitness, gain experience in gravel races, network within the gravel cycling community, secure sponsorships or join a cycling team, and consistently train and refine gravel-specific skills.

  1. Build Cycling Fitness: Develop endurance, strength, and speed through structured training and regular riding, focusing on both on-road and off-road terrains.
  2. Gain Race Experience: Participate in various gravel races to understand race dynamics, learn tactics, and gain exposure in the competitive gravel biking scene.
  3. Network in the Community: Connect with other gravel cyclists, join cycling clubs, and engage with the gravel biking community to build relationships and learn from experienced riders.
  4. Secure Sponsorships/Join a Team: Seek sponsorships from cycling brands or join a professional cycling team to gain financial support and access to better training and racing opportunities.
  5. Train and Refine Skills: Continuously work on improving gravel-specific skills, such as bike handling on loose surfaces, pacing for long distances, and technical riding, to excel in professional races.

What does it take to become a professional gravel cyclist

Is Gravel biking harder than road cycling?

Yes, gravel biking can be harder than road cycling because it often involves more varied and challenging terrains, requiring greater bike handling skills, engaging more muscle groups for stability, and demanding higher levels of endurance to navigate through loose surfaces, steep climbs, and long distances typically found in gravel riding.

Is Gravel biking a skill?

Yes, gravel biking is a skill because it involves mastering specific techniques like navigating varied terrains, maintaining balance on uneven surfaces, efficiently managing gear shifts, and adapting to changing conditions, all of which align with the definition of skill as a learned ability to perform an activity proficiently.

Is Gravel biking a sport?

Yes, gravel biking is a sport because it involves physical exertion, skill, and often competition, fitting the definition of a sport as an activity requiring physical prowess and often organized competition, with gravel biking races and events exemplifying its competitive and athletic nature.

Is Gravel biking an Olympic sport?

No, gravel biking is not currently an Olympic sport. While cycling is included in the Olympics in various formats like road cycling, track cycling, mountain biking, and BMX, gravel biking specifically has not been recognized as an Olympic discipline as of now.

What is a good base mileage for gravel biking?

A good base mileage for gravel biking is around 50-100 miles (80-160 kilometers) per week, as this range provides a solid foundation of endurance and helps build the necessary fitness for longer, more challenging gravel rides. Defining this base mileage depends on individual goals and experience; it’s important to start at a comfortable distance and gradually increase mileage to build stamina and adapt to the rigors of gravel biking, especially given the mixed terrains and potentially longer duration of gravel events.

What is the world speed record for downhill biking on gravel?

The world speed record for downhill biking on gravel is 167.60 km/h (104.14 mph), set by Austrian Markus Stöckl in the V-Max project. This record was achieved on a Mondraker Summum downhill mountain bike in Chile’s Atacama Desert on February 9, 2017. Remarkably, nothing on the bike was modified to enhance speed. Stöckl reached this top speed in just 11 seconds over a distance of 650 meters, starting from a summit at 3,972 meters altitude with a 45-degree slope and a total run-off of 1200 meters from top to bottom, benefiting from ideal wind resistance conditions.

How to ride a Gravel bike?

To ride a gravel bike effectively, one should have a solid understanding of bike handling skills, be prepared for varied terrain with appropriate gear and bike setup, plan the route in advance using apps or maps to navigate mixed surfaces and ensure physical readiness for the demands of gravel riding, all while being adaptable to changing conditions and potential challenges encountered along the way.

How to start gravel biking?

To start gravel biking, one should equip yourself with a suitable gravel bike, choose appropriate protective gear and accessories, plan your route using detailed maps or dedicated cycling apps to navigate through recommended gravel paths and begin with less challenging terrains, gradually progressing to more complex routes as you gain confidence and experience.

What are the basic gravel biking techniques?

The 8 basic gravel biking techniques include remaining seated and planted, mastering stable turning, floating over rough terrain, being mindful of vehicular traffic, route preparation, managing ascents and descents, staying hydrated and nourished, and maintaining tubes and tires.

  1. Remaining Seated and Planted: Stay seated to maintain stability and efficient power transfer, particularly on uneven gravel.
  2. Stable Turning on Gravel: Approach turns with caution, slow down appropriately, and use controlled braking on gravel.
  3. Relax and Float Over Rough Terrain: Maintain a relaxed posture and let the bike move naturally underneath you to absorb bumps and maintain control.
  4. Awareness of Vehicular Traffic: Stay vigilant for potential traffic, especially on roads shared with vehicles.
  5. Preparation for the Route: Familiarize yourself with the route, plan ahead, and carry essential supplies and repair kits.
  6. Managing Ascents and Descents: Adjust your riding technique for uphill and downhill sections, using appropriate gearing and body positioning.
  7. Hydration and Nutrition: Regularly consume water and energy-rich foods to maintain energy levels and hydration.
  8. Tube and Tire Maintenance: Be proficient in tube and tire maintenance and replacement to handle flats or tire damage efficiently.

What is the proper body position on a gravel bike?

The proper body position on a gravel bike is a relaxed and slightly leaned-forward seated position, because it provides stability, control, and efficient power transfer, especially on varied gravel terrains. This posture ensures that your weight is evenly distributed between the front and rear wheels, enhancing traction and balance, while the slight forward lean aids in aerodynamics and allows for effective pedaling, crucial for navigating through both smooth and rough gravel surfaces.

How to improve gravel biking skills?

To improve gravel biking skills, one should regularly practice on diverse terrains to adapt to different surface conditions, focus on mastering bike handling techniques like cornering and braking, and engage in structured training that includes endurance rides, speed work, and strength exercises to enhance overall fitness and bike control.

How do I plan a gravel biking trip?

To plan a gravel biking trip, you should research and select appropriate routes based on your skill level and interests, ensure your bike and gear are well-suited for the terrain and distance, and prepare for varying weather and trail conditions by packing essential supplies like water, nutrition, and a basic repair kit.

Is gravel biking hard?

No, gravel biking is not inherently hard if you start with routes that match your fitness level and gradually build up your riding skills, but it can become challenging when navigating more technical terrains, longer distances, or when encountering adverse weather conditions, which require greater physical effort and bike handling proficiency.

Why is gravel riding so popular?

Gravel riding is so popular because it combines the adventure and natural scenery of mountain biking with the accessibility and fitness aspects of road cycling, appealing to a wide range of cyclists in Europe and America. Its growth in popularity is fueled by the desire for exploration on less-traveled paths, the community’s inclusive culture, and the versatility of gravel bikes that can handle diverse terrains, making it an attractive option for both recreational riders and competitive cyclists.

Is it easy to ride a gravel bike?

Yes, it is easy to ride a gravel bike if you have basic cycling skills, as it combines the straightforward handling of a road bike with the stability and ruggedness of a mountain bike. Compared to city bikes, gravel bikes offer more versatility for various terrains while being more efficient than mountain bikes on smoother paths and less technical than road bikes, making them accessible and enjoyable for riders with varied experiences and preferences.

Can I use a gravel bike for mountain biking?

Yes, you can use a gravel bike for mountain biking when the trails are not too technical or steep, but it’s important to remember that gravel bikes are not designed for aggressive mountain biking terrain with significant obstacles, drops, or extreme inclines, as they lack the suspension and robust frame structure typical of mountain bikes.

Can gravel riding grinding improve mountain biking?

Yes, gravel riding grinding can improve mountain biking by enhancing endurance, pedaling efficiency, and bike handling skills on variable terrains; however, it may not significantly develop the upper body strength and technical skills specific to more challenging mountain biking trails, such as navigating over large obstacles or steep descents.

Gravel bike for bikepacking

Gravel bike for bikepacking represents a perfect match of versatility and adventure, a concept that gained popularity in the early 2000s as cyclists sought ways to explore off-beaten paths. This trend grew as riders discovered the joy of combining the exploratory nature of bike touring with the capability of handling mixed terrains, something gravel bikes are exceptionally well-suited for. Gravel bikes, with their robust frames, wider tire clearance, and comfortable geometries, make them ideal for bikepacking. They can carry the necessary gear for multi-day trips while providing the agility and efficiency needed for both paved roads and gravel trails. This adaptability, coupled with the increasing desire for outdoor adventure and self-sufficient travel, explains why gravel bikes have become a go-to choice for bikepacking enthusiasts.

What should I carry while gravel biking?

You should carry a spare inner tube and tire repair kit for unexpected flats, a multi-tool for basic bike repairs, enough water and energy-rich carbs for sustenance, appropriate clothing for changing weather conditions, and a navigation device or map, especially for long-distance rides or bikepacking, because these essentials ensure preparedness for various situations, from mechanical issues to personal comfort and safety.

How to patch a tubeless tire gravel biking?

To patch a tubeless tire while gravel biking, one should first remove any debris from the tire, inject tire sealant into the puncture or use a tubeless tire plug kit to fill the hole, inflate the tire to the desired pressure, and then rotate or spin the wheel to distribute the sealant and ensure the puncture is properly sealed.

Can you use a gravel bike for winter riding?

Yes, you can use a gravel bike for winter riding only if you equip it with appropriate tires for snow or slush and maintain it properly to handle the harsh conditions, but it’s important to note that gravel bikes may not be suitable for extreme winter conditions like deep snow or ice, where a bike with wider tires and more robust features, like a fat bike, would be more appropriate.

What’s the difference between gravel biking and bikepacking?

The difference between gravel biking and bikepacking lies in the purpose and setup: gravel biking is primarily focused on the cycling experience on mixed terrains, often for shorter, one-day adventures, while bikepacking involves multi-day journeys with a bike equipped to carry camping gear and supplies, emphasizing the combination of cycling and self-supported travel.

Gravel biking training plan

Gravel biking training plans vary based on factors such as skill level (amateur to professional), gender (men and women), and specific goals (racing, endurance, or recreation). For amateurs, the focus is on building endurance and bike-handling skills with a mix of long steady rides and shorter, more intense sessions; the plan should also include off-bike exercises for overall strength and flexibility. For professionals, the training becomes more intensive and specialized, with structured workouts targeting specific aspects of performance, such as power output and recovery, while incorporating advanced techniques and strategic race simulations. Both men and women can follow similar training structures, but may tailor their plans based on individual physical attributes and endurance capabilities.

Gravel biking training plan for beginner

For beginners in gravel biking, a weekly training plan should focus on gradually building endurance, bike handling skills, and overall fitness. Here’s a suggested plan example as below.

MondayRest Day or Light ActivityRecovery and preparation for the week
TuesdayShort Gravel Ride (Easy Pace)1 hour / 10-15 milesFocus on bike handling and comfort
WednesdayCross-Training (Strength Workout)1 hour (Gym or Home Workout)Improve overall strength and flexibility
ThursdayRoad Cycling (Moderate Pace)1-1.5 hours / 15-20 milesBuild aerobic fitness
FridayRest Day or Light Stretching/YogaRecovery and muscle relaxation
SaturdayLong Gravel Ride (Build Endurance)2-3 hours / 20-30 milesIncrease stamina and adapt to gravel surfaces
SundayActive Recovery or Leisure Activity1 hour (Easy Walking or Cycling)Light exercise for active recovery

Gravel biking training plan for beginner

Gravel biking training plan for amateur

For amateur gravel bikers, a weekly training plan should focus on improving endurance, speed, and technical skills, along with incorporating structured workouts for overall fitness.

MondayRest or Active Recovery (Yoga or Light Jogging)Focus on recovery and flexibility
TuesdayInterval Training (Road or Gravel)1-1.5 hours (Intervals)Build speed and power with structured intervals
WednesdayMid-Distance Gravel Ride (Moderate Effort)2 hours / 30-40 milesSteady effort for aerobic fitness
ThursdayCross-Training (Strength and Flexibility)1 hour (Gym or Home Workout)Overall body strength and conditioning
FridayShort, High-Intensity Gravel Ride1 hour / 20-25 miles (High Intensity)Improve anaerobic capacity
SaturdayLong Endurance Gravel Ride3-4 hours / 40-60 milesLong ride for endurance building
SundayGroup Ride or Competitive Simulation2-3 hours / VariesRide in a group to simulate race conditions

Gravel biking training plan for amateur

Gravel biking training plan for professional

For professional gravel bikers, a weekly training plan is tailored to enhance high-intensity performance, technical skills, and race preparation.

MondayActive Recovery and Flexibility Training1-2 hours (Yoga/Pilates/Stretching)Recovery and maintaining flexibility
TuesdayHigh-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) on Gravel1.5-2 hours (Intervals)Focus on explosive power and speed
WednesdayLong Distance Road Ride (Pace Training)4-5 hours / 60-80 milesEndurance and pace management
ThursdayTechnical Skills Practice (Off-road/Gravel)2-3 hours (Technical Riding)Refine off-road handling and technique
FridayRest or Light Cross-TrainingRest and light activity for recovery
SaturdayRace Simulation or Intensive Gravel Ride3-5 hours / Race DistanceMimic race conditions for strategy and endurance
SundayGroup Ride or Recovery Ride2-3 hours / Easy PaceSocial ride or easy recovery to loosen muscles

Gravel biking training plan for professional

What type of Gravel bike should a beginner get?

The type of gravel bike a beginner should get is one with a relaxed geometry for comfort, wider tires for better stability on mixed terrains, and a wide range of gears to handle both climbs and flat sections, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable introduction to gravel biking.

Should I take strength training for gravel riding?

Yes, you should take strength training for gravel riding because it builds core stability, leg strength, and upper body resilience, all of which are crucial for maintaining control and endurance on the varied and often challenging terrains encountered in gravel biking.

Is gravel biking good for you?

Yes, gravel biking is good for you because it offers several health benefits, including cardiovascular fitness and muscle strengthening, provides an enjoyable outdoor experience, and can be a great option for bikepacking adventures, all of which contribute to potential weight loss through increased physical activity and calorie expenditure.

Health benefits of Gravel biking

The top 5 health benefits of gravel biking are improved cardiovascular fitness, enhanced bone and joint strength, increased muscular endurance, reduced stress levels through outdoor exposure, and the potential for weight management or loss due to the calorie-burning nature of the activity.

Disadvantages of Gravel biking

The top 5 disadvantages of gravel biking are the increased risk of injury due to rough terrain and obstacles, potential traffic encounters on shared roads, limited access to support and facilities for long-distance rides in remote areas, the need for specialized equipment which can be expensive, and the physical demands that may not be suitable for individuals with certain medical conditions or fitness levels.

Can I get back pain from gravel riding?

Yes, you can get back pain from gravel riding if your bike fit and posture are not properly adjusted to maintain a comfortable and neutral spinal alignment, but with the correct setup and riding technique, you can minimize the risk of back pain.

Is gravel bike riding easier on knees?

Yes, gravel bike riding is easier on knees if compared to high-impact activities like running or mountain biking, but it still requires proper bike fit, body positioning, and technique to ensure minimal stress on the knees and joints.

What are the best gravel biking books?

Below are five highly recommended gravel biking books along with their authors and publication dates:

  1. “Gravel!: The Ultimate Guide to the Gear, Training, and Grit You Need to Crush it” by Nick Legan (Published: 2021).
  2. “Gravel Cycling: The Complete Guide to Gravel Racing and Adventure Bikepacking” by Nick Legan (Published: 2017).
  3. “The Cycling Bible: The Cyclist’s Guide to Technical, Physical and Mental Training and Bike Maintenance” by Robin Barton (Published: 2006).
  4. “Epic Bike Rides of Europe – Lonely Planet Online Shop” by Lonely Planet (Published: 2017).
  5. “Two Years on a Bike” by Martijn Doolaard (Published: 2019).
What are the best grave biking apps?

The 5 best gravel biking apps are listed below.

  1. Strava (Android/iOS, free): Strava is a popular fitness app that offers features like route tracking, segment comparisons, and a supportive community of athletes.
  2. Google Maps (Android/iOS, free): Google Maps provides valuable navigation tools, helping you plan routes, explore new areas, and find gravel roads.
  3. Komoot (Android/iOS): Komoot is a comprehensive route planning and navigation app that includes detailed maps, points of interest, and off-road route options.
  4. Windy (Android/iOS, free): Windy offers real-time weather information, essential for gravel riders to plan rides and be prepared for changing conditions.
  5. (Android/iOS, free): While primarily a travel booking app, can be useful for gravel bikers looking to find accommodations along their routes or plan bikepacking adventures.
What are the best states for gravel biking?

The best state for gravel biking in the US is Colorado because it offers a diverse range of gravel routes and scenic mountain landscapes, making it a paradise for gravel riders.

What are the best grave biking forums?

The best 5 gravel biking forums are listed below.

  1. The Riding Gravel Forum-
  2. Cycling UK Forum-
  3. Mountain Bike Reviews Forum-
  4. Reddit · r/gravelcycling
  5. Bike Forums-
What are the best grave biking magazines?

The best 3 gravel biking magazines are listed below.

  1. GRAN FONDO Cycling Magazine
  2. Cycling Plus Magazine
  3. Cyclocross Magazine