As we explore the sea of options available in the emerging gravel category of bikes and riding, we’ve been reaching out to various industry contacts to get their take on the relatively new offshoot of multi-surface road cycling. If you’ve retired from road riding because you hate riding in traffic, you’re not alone. A gravel or adventure bike makes a lot of sense for the majority of riders looking to get back into the drop bar riding experience, looking to explore the path less taken. Aventon’s Esteban Raposo was nice enough pen a brief piece providing his perspective on the ever-changing adventure bike category, as well as a few suggestions for shoppers looking to get back into long distance multi-surface adventure riding.
Guest Post contributed by Esteban Raposo
The road bike landscape has been changing the last few years, as more and more riders seek out routes devoid of traffic and seeking out new experiences. You can still buy a race machine focused on high speed, narrow tires, and aerodynamics, but a new class of road bike is also emerging – the adventure road bike. Adventure road bikes allow you to keep exploring even after the pavement ends. With room for bigger tires, a more comfortable and upright riding position, and disc brakes, you can ride on rough roads, gravel, or even tackle trails where you might normally ride a mountain bike for an extra challenge.
Adventure road bikes are a great way to have a change of pace, while still challenging your fitness and handling skills. Grab a group of friends, pick a direction, get lost. Stop for a snack, beer, or coffee. Ride some more and head home when the sun goes down. You can even carry an overnight kit for quick weekend riding and camping trips. You’re closer to nature, away from car traffic, and free to explore whatever direction looks interesting.
Ready to take the plunge? Here’s are a few things to look for when you go shopping for an adventure road bike:
1. Disc Brakes
Modern adventure bikes will almost always use disc brakes instead of caliper (rim) brakes. Disc brakes can provide bigger stopping power on steep roads or trails. Disc brakes also work better in wet weather compared with rim brakes, so you can keep exploring even when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.
2. Adequate Tire Clearance
Choose a bike or frame that has tire clearance to accommodate the type of riding you want to do. The gnarlier the terrain, the wider the tire you might want. If you only plan to ride bad pavement and won’t be heading off-road, you might like a bike that accepts tires in the 700×30 range. This size offers additional air volume for comfort and grip compared to a traditional narrow road tire, but will still roll smoothly when you’re on the pavement. Heading for dirt or gravel roads? Check out bikes that go up to 700×40 so you can use tires with a wider, grippier knobby tread. More advanced mountain bike riders might plan on even more aggressive terrain, like singletrack with rocks, roots, and big bumps. This niche of rider might want to go even bigger to fit the largest tires possible.
Some adventure road bikes can also accept 650B wheels and tires, in addition to the traditional 700c road size. This option opens up more tire and wheel options for riders who want to experiment.
3. Dropper Post Compatibility
If you’re riding on very challenging off-road trails, you might like to add an adjustable height seatpost. Dropper seatposts allow the rider to lower the saddle height, using a lever on the seatpost, or via a remote switch on the handlebar. With the saddle lower, the rider can put their center of gravity closer to the ground and further to the rear of the bike, which can help on steep descents. Just about every bike can accept a dropper post with an externally-routed cable; but if you want a “stealth” option with the remote cable running hidden inside the frame tubes, you’d need a bike specifically made with this feature.
4. Modern geometry
An “adventure road” or “gravel” bike isn’t simply a road bike with a wider tire. Look for shallower head and seat tube angles for a more relaxed feel and all-day comfort. You’ll likely want a higher handlebar position compared with road racing bikes as well. A longer wheelbase helps your bike track in a straight line on rougher terrain and is easier to control if you add panniers or a handlebar bag, which both affect handling.
5. A Comfortable Frame Material
Again, speed isn’t the focus, so we’re looking for features that allow you to stay comfortable on all day adventures. Steel is perceived to be ideal for this type of riding by many cyclists due to its vibration-damping properties. Feeling fancy? Check out titanium to retain that desired ride quality while saving weight; or carbon fiber if weight is a critical factor for you.
Thanks for Esteban of Aventon Bikes for his contribution to this post, and to learn more about the featured gravel/adventure bike featured in this article, check out the Aventon Kijote, a wallet-friendly adventure bike in 4130 chromoly steel.