In the world of biking, there are many different types of bikes to choose from. From mountain bikes and road bikes to hybrid cycles and cruisers, there are bikes designed for just about every trail or road condition that you can imagine. Gravel bikes are one of the latest additions to the lineup. These bikes have dropped handlebars like road bikes. Unlike road bikes, however, they have rugged tires that are designed for riding on unpaved roads or trails.
While they may not be able to handle the same extreme riding conditions as a mountain bike, they can take on much more challenging terrain than a road bike. This makes them a good balance between the two.
If you are thinking of buying a beginner gravel bike, it is important to know what to look for. Bikes in this category can be quite expensive. Educating yourself about the various features that you should look for is one of the best ways to make a well-informed buying decision. Here are some of the factors that you should consider as you shop.
The width of the tires
Tire width is highly variable in the world of gravel bikes. Some have relatively slim tires that aren’t much wider than the tires on a road bike. Others have tires that are almost as wide as what you would find on a mountain bike. As a general rule of thumb, wider tires will provide you with more stability on the trail. If you plan on riding on trails with loose gravel, sand, or other unstable surfaces, going with wider tires is the best option.
On the other hand, if most of the trails you will be riding on are packed dirt or other solid surfaces, slimmer tires may be a better choice. Skinnier tires may allow you to go faster since less of their surface comes in contact with the ground. This reduces friction, which helps them roll better – particularly when riding on smooth surfaces.
Another important thing to think about is the tread pattern of the tires. Ideally, the tread on the tires should match the trail conditions where you plan on taking the bike. For instance, if your bike has smooth tires, you should primarily stick to smooth surfaces like hardpacked dirt. If your tires are rugged and knobby, on the other hand, you can take on a lot rougher riding conditions.
The geometry of the bike
When you hear someone talking about the geometry of a bike, they are referring to the measurements and angles of the frame. A bike’s geometry affects how it feels to ride and how it performs. Compared to road bikes, gravel bikes usually have a wheelbase that is quite a bit longer. Additionally, the handlebars are generally taller and wider. This makes it easier to control the bike on uneven surfaces or in rough riding conditions.
The other thing to consider is how much ground clearance the bike offers. Some beginner gravel bikes have an extremely low bottom bracket, while others offer more clearance.
How do you know what bike geometry is best? It depends on the level of control that you want over the bike and the type of riding that you plan on doing. Usually, the best option is to visit a bike shop that is staffed by experts. They can talk to you about what you want to get out of your bike. Based on your objectives, they can then match you up with a gravel bike that has the right geometry.
For instance, if you want a lot of control and stability, they may point you in the direction of a gravel bike with a low bottom bracket. On the other hand, if you plan on riding over extremely rough ground and don’t mind sacrificing a little bit of control, they may advise you to buy a bike with a higher bottom bracket.
The weight of the beginner gravel bike
While the weight of the bike is not the most important consideration, it is something that you should take into account. This is particularly true if you think that you may someday try your hand at racing. Lightweight bikes tend to be a better choice for racing.
If you plan on riding in rough conditions, having a bike that is lightweight enough to carry may also be an important consideration. If you have to pick your bike up and carry it over portions of the trail, it is a lot nicer to have a lightweight model rather than an extremely heavy bike.
The price of the bike
Gravel bikes range in price from relatively affordable to extremely expensive, depending on the brand, the model, and the quality. When you are just starting, there is no need to spend a fortune on a high-end bike. Usually, the best option is to buy an entry-level or mid-range model for your first bike. That way, you can determine whether or not you like this type of riding before you invest a lot of money.
Gravel bikes tend to retain their value relatively well. If you decide you want to upgrade to a nicer model at a later date, you can always sell your first bike and reinvest that money into a more expensive bike.
Gravel bikes offer a lot of the same benefits as road bikes with the added benefit of being able to ride over rougher terrain. If you are getting ready to buy a gravel bike, you should learn as much as you can about these bikes before you decide which model to buy. Getting a better understanding of how they are designed and how they function on the trail can help you make a smarter purchasing decision.
Some of the primary factors that you should think about when buying a beginner gravel bike include the width of the tires, the tire tread, the geometry of the bike, and the bike’s weight.
Finally, you also need to consider how much money you want to spend. As a beginner, you don’t need to worry about spending a lot of money on a high-end model. Instead, you can opt for a more affordable entry-level bike.
Buying second-hand is often a tempting option for the cycling beginner who wants to get the most from their money but some caution is advised. As a beginner you might not be experienced enough to avoid bikes that could have potential issues. Can you spot a welded frame or know when a bike is overpriced? Sometimes you really do get what you pay for and buying of an expert who lives by their reputation can be the cheapest option in the long term.