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Gravel bikes v N+1 — is a fat tyre bike the best alternative to a fleet?

Is a gravel bike the best option if you want speed, comfort and loads of versatility?

Do gravel bikes scupper the old gag that if you have N bikes now, the right number of bikes to own is N+1? Unless you're racing, a gravel bike could be the single bike you need: quick, rugged and also capable of carrying loads. Here's why.

First of all, don't be put off by the 'gravel bike' label. There might not be many gravel roads around your way but the vast majority of mountain bikes don't get ridden on mountains, most race bikes are never raced... Gravel bikes are great for a whole lot more than riding on gravel.

Check out our gravel and adventure bike reviews

You'll hear the term 'adventure bike' bandied about a lot too. Pedigree gravel bikes are designed for racing on gravel roads, which is largely a US phenomenon, while adventure bikes are more about exploring and maybe carrying enough stuff with you to stay away overnight or longer. In truth, the two categories merge, particularly here in the UK where we don't have a huge gravel racing scene. Bike brands have taken elements from each and combined them to offer you the best of both worlds. And in a battle of terminology that reminds us of 'mountain bike' v 'all terrain bike' back in the 1980s, 'gravel bike' is mostly winning, so that's what we'll mostly call them.

2021 Boardman ADV 8.9 - riding 1.jpg

A gravel bike is in many ways a combination of an endurance road bike and a cyclocross bike. It's designed to be fast and efficient and also burly, making it the perfect option for those who want the option of exploring dirt roads, forest roads and the occasional bridleway as well as riding on Tarmac. 

Key features include a dropped handlebar, tyres that are fatter and knobblier than you'll find on a standard road bike, and disc brakes. These bikes usually have mounts for mudguards and racks so you can use them for commuting and touring too. 

Take a look at 22 of the best gravel & adventure bikes

If you want one bike that's capable of handling a whole bunch of different types of riding, you should definitely consider a gravel/adventure bike.

Ride position

It's difficult to make generalisations about gravel/adventure bike geometry because they're so varied but many people prefer the ride position of this kind of bike because it tends to be a little more relaxed than that of a standard road bike. The head tube is generally a little longer, the stack height (the vertical distance from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the head tube) taller and the reach (the horizontal distance between those points) shorter.

2021 Specialized Diverge Expert Carbon.jpg

Take the Specialized Diverge Expert Carbon, for example. The 54cm model has a 116mm head tube (though the Future Shock widgetry in the steerer raises the bars quite a bit), a stack of 592mm and a reach of 383mm, putting you into a fairly upright ride position without much strain on your back or neck.

Gravel/adventure bikes often have a head angle that's slacker than that of a normal road bike – the Specialized Diverge Expert Carbon's is 71.25°, for instance – and the steering is a little less twitchy. Bottom brackets tend to be low and wheelbases long in order to add stability, and sloping top tubes are common, reducing the standover height.

These features help to make a gravel/adventure bike comfortable whether you're riding on rough gravel roads or asphalt.

Mudguards and ability to carry loads

Many manufacturers spec mudguard/rack mounts on their gravel/adventure bikes.

2021 Orro Terra C GRX800 - fork detail.jpg

The Orro Terra C GRX800 that we reviewed, for example, has neatly positioned mudguard eyelets front and rear that will come in useful if you want to use the bike for all-weather commuting.

2021 Orro Terra C GRX800 - seat stays.jpg

You also get rack mounts at the back that will help if you're lugging kit to and from work or doing the adventure thing and having a night away in the back of beyond.


Gravel/adventure bikes are equipped with disc brakes. These have been dominant in mountain biking for years and have become more popular on the road recently because of the easily controlled power on offer. 

Many people find that disc brakes, especially hydraulic disc brakes, instil extra confidence when riding over rough surfaces, particularly with a heavy-laden bike. Plus, with the braking surface further from the road, disc brakes are less affected than rim brakes by wet conditions.

2021 Vitus Substance CRS 2 - front disc brake.jpg

The Vitus Substance CRS-2 that we reviewed recently, for example, is equipped with Shimano GRX hydraulic disc brakes. 

2021 Vitus Substance CRS 2 - rear disc brake.jpg

Reviewer Stu Kerton said, "the braking – Vitus has specced RT56 160mm rotors front and rear – is impressively powerful so you can just use one finger on the flat section of the lever to control your speed."


With no rim brake callipers and plenty of frame and fork clearance, gravel bikes can take far larger tyres than most road bikes and this can make a massive difference to your comfort.

The Kona Rove LTD we reviewed came with 47mm-wide tyres fitted to 650b wheels, the Mason ISO will take 60mm-wide tyres on 700c wheels, and there are bikes out there that will take even wider.

Bombtrack Hook EXT-C - rim and tyre.jpg

In contrast, most road bikes with rim brakes will take tyres up to 28mm (sometimes less) and endurance road bikes with disc brakes tend to accept tyres up to about 32mm. That might be enough for short sections of well-maintained gravel or towpath but you'll want more air between you and any really rough ground.

Tyre choice depends on the riding you're planning. You can fit lightweight and fast 25mm or 28mm tyres if you're going to be on asphalt all day, swap to something like a 35mm tyre if you're going to encounter some gravel and/or dirt, and go for something knobblier and wider if conditions are going to be more demanding.

Bombtrack Hook EXT-C - fork.jpg

Swapping tyres on and off your rims is a bit of a faff, especially if you're doing it frequently, so a couple of sets of wheels fitted with different tyres will make things easier if you can handle the expense. Changing wheels is quicker and easier than switching tyres. You could have wheels fitted with skinny road tyres for the daily commute and other wheels fitted with dedicated gravel tyres for weekend jaunts, for instance.

Check out 16 of the best gravel and adventure tyres


Gravel/adventure bikes come with many different gear setups so you're bound to find something that's to your liking. 

Cube Nuroad Race FE - riding 1.jpg

Many of us realised early on that your typical 50/34 compact chainset was silly on a gravel bike, and almost all manufacturers now seem to agree. Chainsets with 48/32 and 46/30 rings are common, dropping the overall ratios to give more gears for climbing on steep, loose surfaces. Cube's NuRoad Race FE is a good example, combining a 46/30 Shimano GRX chainset with an 11-34 cassette.

Cube Nuroad FE - crank.jpg

The most common alternative to a wide-range double chainring setup is a  single chainring with a very wide-range cassette. Known as a 1X (say 'one-by) setup, this is the way mountain bike gearing has worked for the last few years and you'll find it on Merida's heavily mountain bike-influenced Silex+ 6000. With typically a 38- or 40-tooth chainring and 11-42 sprockets, this doesn't give quite the wide range of a double set-up, but it's less complicated. You just go up or down the cassette and when you run out of gears you coast or get off and push.

Single chainring transmission on 2020 Merida Silex 6000

The best option for you comes down to the terrain you'll be riding, the type of gear you like to push, and whether you're likely to be lugging heavy loads.

Find out how to get ultra-low gearing for gravel bike adventures

Riding off the beaten track

Gravel/adventure bikes are great for rough roads — that's what they're designed for. They can handle gravel tracks, forest roads, towpaths and even a bit of bridleway action, depending on the surface and the tyres fitted, where skinny-tyred road bikes would struggle. 

Some gravel/adventure bikes can cope with more extreme conditions than others. The Marin Gestalt X11, for example, has many features commonly associated with mountain bikes.

Marin Gestalt X11 -16_0

"A wide bar and short stem, sloping top tube, dropper post, wide tyres and relaxed geometry mean that when you swap the smooth for the rough, bumpy and technical the Gestalt X11 is right at home, unfazed by challenging terrain that can sometimes have other gravel bikes all in a twist," said Dave Arthur in our review.

Road riding

You're not going to win your local crit aboard a gravel/adventure bike but you might be surprised at how quickly you're able to ride on the road. In most cases, your ride position won't be a whole lot more upright than on an endurance road bike and you'll have a good spread of gears to keep you moving efficiently. A gravel/adventure bike is a great option for winter training but its use on the road needn't be confined to that.

2021 Fuji Jari Carbon 1.3 - riding 3.jpg

Granted, big, knobbly tyres that are good for providing grip on tracks won't necessarily roll fast on asphalt, so it makes sense to have a couple of sets on the go at any time, swapping between them according to the surfaces that you're going to ride. Plus, there's the advantage that a gravel/adventure bike allows you to nip along non-asphalt sections – a short bit of towpath, for example, or a stony track – to save time or cut out a nasty section of road.

In his review of the Orbea Terra M21-D 19, Dave Arthur said, "The low weight and high stiffness [give it an] almost road race bike-like responses on the road, yet it's stable and controlled on rough and loose surfaces."


Gravel/adventure bikes are burly enough to handle the daily commute and their disc brakes will perform well whatever the weather. The low gears are handy for riding in traffic and most have mounts for racks so carrying all the gubbins you need for the day isn't a problem.

2021 Ribble CGR Ti Sport - rear mudguard.jpg

Most bikes of this genre come with mudguard mounts too — a real bonus for making sure you arrive at work at least reasonably dry when the weather turns against you.

2021 Ribble CGR Ti Sport - front mudguard.jpg

The Kona Rove DL comes fitted with mudguards and reviewer Stu Kerton said that as well as being a blast on and off the beaten track (with a change of tyres), it would make a solid workhorse for the daily commute. 


There are people out there who will tell you that adventure biking is essentially re-badged touring, and there's some truth in that although adventure bikes are generally more off-road capable than traditional touring bikes largely thanks to disc brakes and the ability to take wider tyres. 

An adventure bike's baggage carrying capability allows you to load it up with everything that you need for a night (or several nights) away, while the low gears allow you to pedal comfortably with that extra weight.

Check out why your next bike should be a touring bike 


Gravel/adventure bikes are similar to cyclo-cross bikes in many ways, but usually have steadier handling for all-day riding and a wider gear range. That said, if you fancy a go at racing cyclocross, a gravel/adventure bike will get you started.

Read 6 reasons why you should try cyclocross this winter 

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Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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kil0ran | 2 years ago

When this article was first published I had two bikes - a "fast" best road bike and a general purpose gravel/commuter/tourer. The main differences between the two being tyre clearance, braze-ons, and position. The only reason I got the fast road bike at the time was because I CBA to do wheel swaps when I just had the one bike, meaning I ended up running my Gravelking SKs for everything, including sportives. 

Fast forward two years and both bikes have gone, replaced with a short travel hardtail. I'm no longer commuting so it's focused to the "go anywhere" end of the scale which suits me as all my riding (bar transitions) is off-road in the New Forest and at trail centres. Quite apart from the lack of rack and mudguard mounts there's no way it would do double duty as a commuter, it's just too long, slack, and inefficient for that. However, if you can find a steel XC hardtail - or a carbon one with the required mounts - that could be the way to go if you're mostly riding offroad with a nod towards adventure/bikepacking.

Why? Because MTBs can be more adaptable. 11sp and 12sp cassettes make them efficient on the road (as long as the geo isn't too MTB-focused) and you can easily play with things like stem length and bar shape depending on what you're doing with it. A bar swap with flat bars is literally a 10 minute job. So run wide straight bars if you're at a trail centre and something like a Jones H-Bar if you're off for a spot of bike packing.

Tyre-wise you have access to all the "road plus" tyres that have come on the market for roadies going gravel, particularly if you run 27.5" rims. A lot of frames will take a 2.6" 650B tyre so there's huge flexibility.

MTB groups (when they're available) are cheap compared to the same level road/gravel groups - a full Tiagra level 1x group is around £140 from Bikester for example - that's not much more than the price of a single road shifter. You're going to knacker components quicker if you're doing serious gravel miles and I'm not convinced that GRX has the required longevity for British riding and to a certain extent Shimano have recognised this with the new Linkglide groups.

Ultimately, it is a compromise. If you're mostly on the road, towpaths, or flat hardpack gravel, go with a gravel or modern CX bike. If you're going further afield but still need efficiency on the flat, go with an XC bike, or something like the Mason ISO.

matthewn5 | 2 years ago
1 like

I was influenced I guess by all the talk about the whole gravel 'thing' to rebuild my fave bike as more of what we used to call a 'light tourer' back in the day. Rather than a Super Record setup, its now got Chorus with a semi-compact crank and a bigger cassette and a set of frame bags. It's not able to take more than 25mm tyres (rim brakes, old school frame building) but it's already taken me on a series of adventures and off road numerous times. So maybe 'adventure' bikes just mean a change of mindset? Less 'Strava' and more 'Landranger 1:50,000'?


Ihatecheese | 2 years ago

I nearly got sucked into the gravel or n+1 marketing phenomenon, then I remembered I live in the city, have no more storage,  enjoy riding efficiently fast and don't like getting wet when I ride. So it was an easy excuse not to purchase. 🤓

Nick T | 2 years ago

3 years and 15 refreshes later, the answer is still "no".

inz4ne | 2 years ago

N+1 still applies collectively and within bike categories. Since getting a gravel bike I now need a lower spec one for days I'll choose it for a gravel commute; a mountain bike for the routes where the gravel bike was defeated; plus it's time to upgrade my road bike but I won't sell the old one as I could do with a road bike geared for the hills. Luckily my wife has the same urges.

Zermattjohn | 3 years ago

As the article points out, not all 'gravel' bikes are the same. A more mtb-inspired one, with slack angles (like the Evil Chamois Hagar) and a massively heavy frame will be absolutely dreadful anywhere except challenging off-road terrain. I have an Orbea Terra which is superb in all except the most bouncy, technical downhill type stuff, because it's basically a road bike with a beefier frame and capable of taking wider tyres. Specced with a single chainring that might be different, but Orbea allow you to choose the spec, so choose your spec and you're good.

For the riding I do, it's perfect, and I'd rather have a day on it than my 3kg-lighter road bike, because I can basically ride where I like on it, and if the road is busy I dart off into the woods. That wouldn't be the case if I had a Hagar.

Some bikes that are marketed as 'gravel' can be the ideal N-1 bike, but not all of them. There's a comment below about the Whyte Glencoe being a tank and useless in headwind and uphill. That's not to do with the fact it's a gravel bike, it's because it's an exceptionally heavy one. My Terra is just under 9.5kg - not heavy enough to be noticeable except when racing for me.

Nick T | 3 years ago
1 like

Had one, never rode it, got rid of it

RobD | 4 years ago

I've had a Ribble CGR 725 for the last 9 or so months and I love it, With large-ish (35mm) slick 700c tyres, panaracer gravel kings, it's a great commuter, over engineered town/hybrid bike, and great for the less appealing months when a ride outside with mudguards or just not worried about going so fast will do. With 650b wheels and chunkier tyres it does really well keeping up with my brother and his other half on their hardtail mountain bikes on anything that isn't super muddy or has lots of jumps/downhill sections.

It doesn't lose out in terms of speed all that much to my dedicated road bike, despite the 1X gearing, I've given my hybrid bike to my dad as I have no need for it at all. I don't ride proper mountain bike trails, there's only one or two around here that are too much for it, and it's forced me to get a bit better at choosing lines and handling the bike.

I still have a 'proper' road bike, and likely always will, for the few months a year where it all comes together and it's the perfect bike for riding, and I still own a folding bike from use on my old commute, but for pretty much everything else I'm a gravel/adventure convert.

Zjtm231 | 4 years ago

Bought the entry level 3T exploro with a sram apex 1x for half price in a sale last year.

Totally blown away - got some Fulcrum red power 27.5" for the off road and some DT Swiss 1400 ERC for the on road.  Bike is amazing at both disciplines.

Lightening on road and pretty capable at the offroad without having suspension.

geomannie 531 | 4 years ago
1 like

I have just indulged myself in building one of these beasts, a Genesis Vagabond with triple up front and friction bar-end shifters (controversial/old school/flexible- you decide) and very nice it is too Braking is TRP HY/RD cable/hydraulic. On the road my road bike is better, but hit the gravel it's fantastic. Is it worth having one? Depends on what you want to do. There are many miles of gravel tracks near me I have never been able to comfortably explore. That will change soon!

Jif | 4 years ago
1 like

I bought a Kinesis G2 last year which I use for commuting (30 mile daily round trip), winter club rides and light off road. I agree it could be the one bike for almost all riding, only really rough off road would be beyond it. That said I've had the proper road bike back out for the last few months and the lower weight and quicker responses do make it a much more enjoyable ride.

steviemarco | 4 years ago

I splashed out and got the Open U.P, at first with 'gravel' tyres, it was really comfortable but I turned it into a road goer (Greek winters aren't as bad as UK) and am very impressed. It doesn't seem to be quite as (dare I say it) fast as my Cipollini road bike but it's a trade off I will gladly live with at the moment for the comfort factor. I don't think I will every buy a pure road race bike again - I don't race and I'm not very aerodynamic so saving watts isn't very high on my priorities list.

Panslanepaul | 4 years ago
1 like

I opted for a Cannondale Topstone 105 last year, came with 46/30 11-34 and 40mm tyres on 23mm rims. I bought 52/36 rings, and a pair of wheels which have 32mm tyres on 19mm rims and an 11-30 cassette. Genuinely two bikes for the price of one and a bit. Bit of a faff to swap the rings as it can't be done without taking the chainset off, but only need the 46-30 for stupidly steep gravel/byways.

EddyBerckx | 4 years ago

Its personal. I had a gravel bike for my commute (whyte glencoe) was an utter tank. Great for easy cruising speeds, awful, awful, awful for trying to go fast or in a headwind...or going uphill due to the weight. And riding with others with a single chainring on road? Doable but not ideal.

A more expensive, lighter gravel bike would've been better (theres a lot of choice out there) but for me, it simply was too much like hard work on the road compared to a road bike and so I swapped it for a caad12 disc. Best decision I've made in a while - commutes are (were) fun again!

bobrayner | 4 years ago

Since starting riding in the 1990s, I have seen many trends come and go, lusted after many technical fads, experimented with stupid training techniques... but the one great idea I had, the one I'll never regret, is deciding "maybe I could get a CX bike; with road wheels it'll still do 99% of what a road bike does, and I could swap in wheels with big knobblies and a wider cassette, and go offroad too". It was a precursor of the "gravel bike", it's one bike for everything, and I love it. I can ride a sportive one day then explore muddy moorland the next day. My next bike will definitely be "gravel".

If you worry that you'll have 1% more drag (or mass) than when sitting on an aero road bike, either you're an actual pro rider in the tours, or you're fretting about something which won't detract in the slightest from how much fun you have on your weekend ride. 

Once you have One Bike For Everything, you then have much more money left to spend on carbon-fibre bidons or whatever accessories turn you on.

Avatar | 4 years ago

A year ago i thought not. But, now you can get stuff like the grail or the new grade, fast gravel frames, with grx and a subcompact double (48/31 is all the gears anybody ever needed really), then yes, cautiously. Still need two wheelsets in truth though to properly kill the quiver.

Dingaling | 4 years ago
1 like

No, I wouldn't tell you anything about Belgian/Brussels roads because I don't know them. I was going to say that I have never used them but I did ride once from Catzand to Knokke-Heist and back. I don't envy you having to ride there based on the road traffic I have experienced around Brussels and Antwerp. Mind you, you probably wouldn't like it round here (I live inbetween Dusseldorf, Duisburg, Essen, Wuppertal). I guess we get used to what we have to get used to.

Xenophon2 | 4 years ago

There's no such thing as a do it all bike, it's always a compromise.  

I ride a gravel bike for my daily commute and also ride centuries/audax with it.  It's a generalist's bike.  Won't do proper all terrain riding, slower and more unwieldy than a dedicated race bike.  As someone said earlier, 7/10, but 7/10 on everything.

If I'd ride a genuine ultra light, all bells and whistles 'race' bike to work over my less than perfectly smooth roads/paths, it'd be shredded after a year, if that, and I'd be looking at huge maintenance costs.  On my commute I often encounter a guy riding a fatbike, he evidently commutes on it.  This is in an urban environment, not a wood or marshland.  I have one hill to conquer.  Far as I can see he's not overweight but when I meet him there, his face is the colour of a lobster that took a bath in boiling water and I hear him huffing and puffing over the substantial tyre noise to maintain maybe 15 kmph while I whistle past.  Whenever I read about fatbikes and how glorious they are, I think about that dude and wonder if he didn't regret the purchase.

If I'd have unlimited storage space (which would imply getting rid of my wife who'd slit my throat if I schlepped in a third bike) then I'd purchase a genuine racing machine.  But right now my Canyon Grail works fine.  There's also gravel and gravel:  from ultra relaxed to something on the sportier end, the latter is where I like to be.

Dingaling replied to Xenophon2 | 4 years ago
Xenophon2 wrote:

There's no such thing as a do it all bike, it's always a compromise.  

I ride a gravel bike for my daily commute and also ride centuries/audax with it.  It's a generalist's bike.  Won't do proper all terrain riding, slower and more unwieldy than a dedicated race bike.  As someone said earlier, 7/10, but 7/10 on everything.

If I'd ride a genuine ultra light, all bells and whistles 'race' bike to work over my less than perfectly smooth roads/paths, it'd be shredded after a year, if that, and I'd be looking at huge maintenance costs.  On my commute I often encounter a guy riding a fatbike, he evidently commutes on it.  This is in an urban environment, not a wood or marshland.  I have one hill to conquer.  Far as I can see he's not overweight but when I meet him there, his face is the colour of a lobster that took a bath in boiling water and I hear him huffing and puffing over the substantial tyre noise to maintain maybe 15 kmph while I whistle past.  Whenever I read about fatbikes and how glorious they are, I think about that dude and wonder if he didn't regret the purchase.

If I'd have unlimited storage space (which would imply getting rid of my wife who'd slit my throat if I schlepped in a third bike) then I'd purchase a genuine racing machine.  But right now my Canyon Grail works fine.  There's also gravel and gravel:  from ultra relaxed to something on the sportier end, the latter is where I like to be.

I still maintain, in terms of going anywhere by bike, the mountain bike is the do it all bike. As you said the gravel will not do all terrain nor will a road bike but the mtb will do the lot. Just not as fast. A fat bike is a version of a mtb, like a downhill bike is, but both a bit extreme for general use. If my wife said I could only have one bike then I would probably keep the mountain bike in the hope that I get back to Lake Garda sometime but if I were to forget rough stuff then the one bike would be my road bike. I look upon the gravel bike that I bought last year as an unnecessary luxury.

Btw, where do you ride/live that the roads are so bad?

Xenophon2 replied to Dingaling | 4 years ago
Dingaling wrote:


Btw, where do you ride/live that the roads are so bad?

I live in Brussels, Belgium.  You'll now say that the roads here are not that bad and you'd be right.  If I were to take the shortest route the road would be ok and my commute 8 km shorter (one way, that is).  I'd also probably be in an accident and hurt or worse after one year (very busy roads, one of which is known for illegal street racing, lots of heavy traffic, no separate cyclepath).  Not to mention lots of time wasted waiting at traffic lights.  So I first ride to the outskirts of the city, take a couple of iffy paths (no tarmac, compacted gravel or broken up concrete).  Essentially it's a low-traffic ride that makes me encounter exactly one set of traffic lights where the shortest route would take me past 6 or 7.  

Also, I know from experience that I'm not careful with my stuff, it needs to be sturdy.  25 mm tyres at high pressure are a guarantee for wheel damage despite my 72 kg for 1 m 82, I now run 38 mm Herse Barlow pass extralights at 2.5 bar.  I like to go at a good clip and a substantial part of my rides happen very early in the morning or late at night as I work irregular hours (am typing this just before leaving, it's 4 AM).  Even though I know the road and have good lights, hitting the occasional bump or pothole goes with the territory.

pasley69 replied to Xenophon2 | 2 years ago

"There's no such thing as a do-it-all bike, it's always a compromise"

That's true, but then every bike and every component of every bike is a compromise. Weight - functionality - cost - pick any two!

However I do think all but the most extreme bikes could be made to cover a wider range of uses. Accommodate a range of wheel widths, a few extra lugs,
a bit of strengthening here and there. Sure top racers, MTBers, BMXers, stunt riders, long-distance loaded tourers, etc will always want the most dedicated machines, but most of us are not going to notice a extra few ounces in return for added functionality.

I am fed up with manufacturers who add the few extra lugs - then assume we are hopeless riders and fit a low-grade groupset.

Dingaling | 4 years ago

For my way of thinking the only do it all bike is the mountain bike. If you have no intention of doing any rough stuff then a gravel bike is the next best allrounder. The road bike is the least versatile but I think the most satisfying at speed.

srchar | 4 years ago

If you ride exclusively on gravel and towpaths, don't go properly off-road and aren't bothered about losing a few km/h on the road, yes.

For everyone else, there's N+1.

Mungecrundle | 4 years ago

Is a gravel/adventure bike all you need?

Maybe, but there isn't much passion in aspiring to what you need*.



*With due regard to the millions of people who have far less than they need of things more important than pedal cycles.

Secret_squirrel | 4 years ago

In the UK they should call them "NCR Bikes"

The right weapon for taking on the less than pristine surfaces on our National Cycle Routes - they are a great boon when you dont want to tangle with traffic over a longer distance but lordy some of those surfaces!

At their best Adventure bikes are a worthy sucessor to something like the trusty Thorn 26" tourers.


Fat tubeless tyres, discs and flared drops all combining to update the rigid mtb with drops into something almost universally useful rather than the millions of niches MTB'ing exploded into.


But once manufacturers realise they have accidentally made half their existing niches obsolete they will stop building Adventure bikes and push us onto the next big thing.


Joe Totale | 4 years ago

If you're cool with a versatile bike that's a 6 out of 10 for everything or have very limited space then yes, I'd certainly get a gravel/adventure bike. 

However, if you're properly into off road a mountain bike is always going to do it much better, likewise if you want to be fast on the road an aggressively set up road bike which takes aerodynamics into account will still always be faster. 

CXR94Di2 | 5 years ago
1 like

If you can only have one bike then an 'All Terrain' bike it would be.  It can with 40mm tyres go fast on road and be able to cope with muddy or gravel paths.  

alanmc | 5 years ago

For me this rings true. I bought a Planet-X Tempest Ti with full Ultegra Hydro for what was an absolute steal at £2K 3 years back. The main purpose was for entering Dirty Reiver, but also with the intention of using it as a rugged road bike with 28mm tyres and mudguards for winter commuting and general road riding (2 sets of wheels as suggested in the article)

It has done both of those things brilliantly - including 200km Audaxes in "road" mode, and has allowed me to find a fantastic "gravel" commute to work through the Pentlands in the summer. It has also now twice done 1-week loaded camping tours - those fat nobbly WTB Nanos are great on tarmac, and allow me to venture onto some less gnarly off-road sections even with my camping gear.

Does it replace my road bike ?  - no, but it does all of those other things really rather well, without compromise. And my road bike has become a "summer" best bike, and its components now last a lot longer !!

Best bike I've bought (... so far ...)

Avatar | 5 years ago

At a casual level, maybe. But the more you enjoy riding, the more you realise that there is no one bike for all.

quiff | 5 years ago

I have a strange admiration for the way manufacturers are managing to sell gravel bikes on the "do it all"/ quiver killer idea - funny how "the only bike you need" is always the one you don't yet have.

I say this not as someone who eschews the latest trends in favour of the trusty bike they've had for 30 years, but quite self-knowingly as someone who (a) knows full well he doesn't need a gravel bike; but (b) is almost certainly going to buy a gravel bike at some point. I am slowly realising that for me there is no such thing as a "do it all" bike because even if I find one bike that's technically capable of all the different rides I do (tarmac; slightly worse tarmac), there are other considerations. E.g. among other things I am currently lacking: a titanium one; a blue one; a Campag one; one with tanwalls; one with a Rohloff; one with a porteur rack; one with deep rims; a cargo bike...    

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