Gravel Bike? Cross Bike?

This gravel bike thing is weird. When manufacturers came out with these I just said these are cross bikes. I ignored the genre cuz I thought it was just a rebranding of the cyclocross bike. Well, regardless of what I think this bike has a market now. A market that I don’t understand but a market nonetheless.

Cross\road\gravel bike

At least 4 guys in our riding group have gotten a “gravel” bike from a brand I do not sell. These bikes are road looking, road “relaxed” geometry bikes that fit fat road tires.

So Ive got it figured out now. These are cross bikes for those who will not ride a cross bike in the woods. Sort of a “pure roadie” cross bike.

Really a good cross bike is meant for cross racing. Nimble for tight twisting turns, a very high top tube for shouldering so the geometry is in that favor. Wheels bases and bottom bracket heights are different on a good cross bike. Than a road bike I mean.

So enter the gravel bike. The frames have none of the attributes that a cross frame is meant for. It truly is a road bike with fat tires. Relaxed geometry. And I kinda get it now after riding the Trek Boone as a road bike this summer. I mean really it was more a gravel bike than a cross bike at that point with bigger road tires and aero wheels. I never took it off road at all in that configuration. So take the fatter tires and disc brakes and put it on a road only geometry frame and that’s a gravel bike. Chain ring sizes are a bit different than a road bike too. More cross bikeish. Smaller overall.

Or some call them an “adventure” bike. But Im not so sure how much adventure you can have on the road. Maybe a little.

So.. my main brand, Trek, does not have a gravel bike. Not yet. I think maybe they sit back a bit to see what was going to happen with this. And I think this is a genre of bike that will sell. Its new and it has that target consumer. I would call that guy a rider who likes to have fast looking bikes but want a smoother ride when they are riding solo. No way would they bring the heavier slower bike to a high end group ride. They have their $10k rocket for that.

But for just tooling around on a slower more comfortable road bike this will fit the bill. I picture those riders a bit older than the average. Kinda like me I guess. I played out that exact scenario with the Boone this summer. So Im on the same page as those guys in our group that just bought these bikes. These are the same guys who would not buy a cross bike. But did buy a gravel bike.

Trek does not have any in their lineup yet but I also sell Raleigh and they do.

Heres one Im getting for stock.

Its looks like a road bike. Huge 40c tires. Hydro disc. Its a very fun looking bike. Nice specs.

But what does this bike give me that a Trek Boone cross bike does not? Besides small geometry differences, nothing.

So why am I getting one for the floor? Because there is a market for these road bikes. Personally I would “roadie” out a cross bike if I had the choice between the two. And I do have a choice. But not everybody does. While I still think its splitting hairs between gravel and cross it’s a hair that has been split.

 Last nites night ride had almost 20 bikes. Huge turnout. That will dwindle to half that once the temps turn. And that’s right around the corner. Weather dudes said maybe some snowflakes tonite. I say bring it.


8 thoughts on “Gravel Bike? Cross Bike?

  1. You’re the guy I need to talk to. I have narrowed my selection for a gravel bike to the Trek Boone and the Raleigh Roker Comp. I have ridden a Boone on trails and was very impressed with the ISO suspension. Trek says you can mount 38mm tires on the Boone. But I have read nice stuff about the Raleigh too. I do not race cyclocross. I just have tons of gravel roads where I live and would like to ride them in some comfort.

    1. I never rode a Roker. I loved my Boone on the other hand. I built one up 1 by 11 and used it for my road bike too a couple summers ago. Currently for my gravel bike I built a Trek Crockett just to keep the price down and can put a 40c tire on it. Im going to run the Surley 40c Knards.
      I wish I had more gravel road where I live. I gatta drive 100 miles to get to the good ones….

      1. Diving in here, do the 38 mm tires with some tread pattern have sufficient clearance with some mud in the mix. Thanks

    1. Because of the ISOSPEED suspension and the fact that I can run 38mm tires, I’ll probably go with the Boone. You should consider our Fran Fondo. It is beautiful here. More gravel roads than you could ever ride. The nearest stop light is about an hour away.

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