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What is an all-road bike? Is this new bike breed really an N+1 killer?

How do the new breed of all-road bikes compare to gravel and endurance road bikes and which best suits your riding?

Both road bike and gravel bike clearances have ballooned in recent years, but the grey area between them remains. We've seen plenty of brands releasing bikes that claim to be neither gravel nor road lately, instead dubbing them 'all-road' bikes. So, what exactly is an all-road bike? Should you get one, and are they really the N+1 killers that they're cracked up to be? 

2023 Ridley Grifn.jpg

Currently in for review is this Ridley Grifn shown above. It's just one of a flurry of new all-road bikes... aka road plus, aka gravel-lite. It's a whole genre of bikes that seems to be gaining traction and slotting in somewhere between the increasingly grey area between gravel and endurance road bikes.

Has the bike industry just created a whole other subcategory for no reason at all? Although if there are reasons, an understandable one is in order to sell more bikes...  

What is an all-road bike?

2023 Ridley Grifn - riding 3.jpg

The phrase ‘N+1 killer’ can be an overused term that describes a bike that can 'do it all'. The idea is that if you have one bike for all your riding, then you won’t need to go out and purchase new ones for various different riding disciplines. 

Canyon describes all-road bikes as "drop-bar bikes that are fast and capable on any kind of road surface from smooth asphalt all the way to light gravel tracks."

Compared to a road bike, an all-road bike often has wider tyre clearances, more laid-back or stable geometry, wider gearing and an array of storage options. That’s not only a good thing for anyone wanting to venture onto some light gravel, but also many road cyclists navigating poor road surfaces and prioritising comfort over speed.

2023 Ridley Grifn - front.jpg

> Gravel bikes — do we actually need them?

That does however, all sound rather similar to a gravel bike doesn’t it... those too have wider tyre clearances, more relaxed geometry, storage, sometimes suspension and of course, wider gearing. If you want to check out the differences between a gravel bike and an endurance road bike in more detail then, we’ve got a feature on that too!

Tyre Clearance

2023 gravel bike vs allroad bike vs road bike front tyres

Road bikes tend to top out at around 32mm for tyre clearance. The BMC Roadmachine shown above is one of the most spacious, with room for 33mm rubber.

Gravel bikes have been getting ever more spacious. While it varies a lot, the vast majority of recently released gravel bikes will take at least 40mm tyres, and many even greater than that. For example, the Lauf Seigla can take whopping 57mm tyres. Not so long ago, only mountain bikes would take tyres this wide! 

2023 ridley grifn tyre clearance outside shot

> How to choose the best width road tyres for your riding

All-road bikes aim to fill the gap that's appeared/appearing between road and gravel bikes, with clearance for 32mm up to 40mm tyres depending on the model. The Grifn, for example, can take 38mm tyres in the 2x crankset set-up that we have. It can take 40mm tyres when used with a 1x crankset, and 32mm tyres when paired with full mudguards.


2023 ridley grifn gearing outside shot

The gearing and geometry on an all-road bike also tends to find a halfway house between road and gravel. You’ll find that many all-road bikes will come with a double chainset just like a road bike, but with smaller gearing. This is because you're more likely to find yourself travelling slower on back lanes and gravel climbs, rather than hooning down an A-road on a road bike.

Our all-road bike has fairly typical gearing for this sector, with 46/30T rings up front on a Shimano GRX groupset. SRAM also makes a double chainset designed specifically for all-road bikes with smaller 43/30T rings, but with a 10T cog at the back to provide very similar ratios to this GRX setup.

2022 Sram Force Wide 43/30T crankset allroad bike

Compared to an endurance road bike, that’s pretty small gears. These days you’ll typically find SRAM-equipped road bikes using the brand's X-Range gearing including 48/35T rings, and many Shimano-equipped road bikes use compact chainsets with 50/34T rings.

Gravel bikes, meanwhile, now come with huge ranges, but very often in a 1x setup; for example, mine is fitted with a 40T ring at the front with a 10-44T cassette. That gives me a huge range to play with when riding off-road, but does result in quite large gaps between the gears. This becomes noticeable when trying to hold a steady cadence on the road.

Lauf Seigla Weekend Warrior Wireless RCCR-3

> Staff Bikes: Jamie's customised Lauf Seigla Weekend Warrior

It is worth noting that if you do want to run a double chainset on a gravel bike, then double-check that it can take one. Many of the latest designs such as this Lauf Seigla are now 1x only to squeeze every last bit of tyre clearance out of the frames. From the all-road bikes on the market so far though, it's far more common for them to accept a 2x groupset.


Geometry can all be a bit boring, but annoyingly it is very important to how a bike rides. We’ll therefore try and keep it short and sweet...

2023 gravel bike vs allroad bike vs road bike rear tyres

Of course, there are a few anomalies but in general - and in order of aggressiveness - you've got race bikes, endurance road bikes, all-road bikes, gravel bikes and then mountain bikes. There are lots of fancy geometry words to describe all the lengths and angles but in general, you’ll find that the road bikes have:

  • Lower stack heights
  • Steeper head tube angles
  • Steeper seat tube angles

The result of these is that you'll be pushed further forwards relative to the bottom bracket, and in a better position to put power down. If an off-road bike had similar characteristics to this, the downside would be increased risk of going over the bars when clattering into rocks or navigating a technical descent.

Road bikes also have:

  • Shorter wheelbases
  • Shorter chainstays

These make a bike feel more agile and the steering quicker, but at the expense of high-speed stability. Road bikes are often run with longer stems to try and remove some of this twitchiness.

2023 road vs all-road vs gravel bike bmc roadmachine two

> How to read a bike geometry table: the numbers made easy

For me, there’s no better way of getting a rough idea of a bike's geometry than when riding no-handed. Jump on the BMC and for a road bike it’s fairly relaxed; but even so, it takes some concentration to ride no-handed.

The Ridley all-road bike, meanwhile, has the front wheel more out in front of you. This makes the steering feel slower and more controlled, and I can quite happily ride around no-handed on this one.

2023 riding no handed on gravel

> No, I don't wave at other cyclists when I'm out for a ride... isn't a simple nod of acknowledgement enough?

And then we have the Lauf gravel bike, which is the most stable of the three with the steadiest handling. Despite being designed for racing and quite aggressive compared to other gravel bikes, it's by far the easiest of the three to ride no-handed.

Are all-road bikes actually new?

2023 Colnago C68 Allroad - 5.jpeg

> Colnago introduces C68 Allroad for the “light off-road” market

So, we’ve ascertained that all-road bikes really are a happy medium between full-on road and gravel bikes. So why haven’t we heard of them before?

Well, the truth is there have always been bikes like them, just up until now we haven’t given them a fancy name. It’s only recently that gravel bike clearances have ballooned, so a gravel bike from 10 years ago is, for all intents and purposes, an all-road bike nowadays. 

Specialized Crux Elite X1- down tube

There has long been the desire to ride wider tyres on the road, and have a bike that can be used both on the tarmac and on light gravel. Years ago I built up a Specialized Crux cyclocross bike. It could take around 35mm tyres and made an absolutely great bike for smashing down back lanes in winter, poorly surfaced roads and of course, some gravel as well. 

As much as brands would love to scream and shout about their new creations right until the next model comes out... all-road bikes aren’t exactly an all-new invention, it’s just the name that’s new to a lot of us. If you'd rather, they can be seen as a subcategory of gravel bikes.

All-road bike > gravel bike?

Bojan gravel biking (via Instagram)

So, if you’ve made it to this point then you might be wondering why don’t you just go full hog and get a gravel bike? Well, the truth is that it’s going to depend a lot on the terrain that you ride. 

An all-road bike is indeed very similar to a gravel bike, just with smaller tyre clearances and the gearing and geometry to match. For riders who usually stick to the roads and well-surfaced gravel paths, an all-road bike will hit the absolute mark. 

2023 Sram Force AXS gravel BMC Kaius

> 8 tips to get started with gravel riding

I've had the chance to ride a fair few of the latest all-road bikes, and have been repeatedly impressed with how little they give away in terms of speed on the road when specced with slick tyres. Yes, the latest road bikes are stiffer and more aerodynamic, but the vast majority of us simply aren’t after that. In fact, I'll go as far as to say that on the abundance of lumpy potholed lanes in the UK, you’ll be seriously hard-pressed to find a faster bike than one shod with 35mm slick tyres.

Then, of course, there's the added benefit of being able to take an all-road bike off-road. My commute along a disused railway line, for example, has sections of loose gravel, that whilst passable is less than ideal on a dedicated road bike. I’m waiting for the day when a stone jams itself between the frame and tyre because I’ve maxed out the clearance...

Are all-road bikes N+1 killers?

2023 Lapierre Pulsium AllRoad 5.0  - 9 (1).jpeg

Allroad bikes such as the Grifn or Lapierre Pulsium All-road 5.0 shown above certainly are fast and capable on all kinds of surfaces, from smooth tarmac all the way to dirt roads. The best all-road bikes manage to be fast, reactive yet stable and well-balanced like a road bike with enough comfort, clearance and gearing for long days on rough roads. I’d happily line up on the start line of a Gran Fondo on an all-road bike. 

Ridley says that this particular bike is the perfect match for riders who don’t want to have to choose between road and gravel, and that’s something I completely agree with. However, Ridley does then go on to say that the Grifn is carefully designed for riders searching for that one bike that can do it all. Maybe that’s true for some riders out there; but as we’ve previously alluded to, everyone’s riding, and therefore perfect bike, is different.

2023 Ridley Grifn riding shot Jamie kit

> Best gravel bikes under £2000 2023 — off-road, drop bar bikes that balance performance and price

It’s easy to get hung up on what label a bike brand has given their latest bike, and even easier to decide we don’t like any one particular genre of cycling. The good news is that there’s more choice than ever for whatever type of riding you do.

So, will all-road bikes break the N+1 rule of bike ownership? Maybe for some people, maybe even a lot of people, but certainly not for everyone.

2023 all-road bike vs gravel bike vs road bike

Our full reviews of both the Ridley Grifn and BMC Roadmachine TWO featured in this article will be appearing on soon!

Is an all-road bike the one you’ve been waiting for? Let us know in the comments section below… 

Jamie has been riding bikes since a tender age but really caught the bug for racing and reviewing whilst studying towards a master's in Mechanical engineering at Swansea University. Having graduated, he decided he really quite liked working with bikes and is now a full-time addition to the team. When not writing about tech news or working on the Youtube channel, you can still find him racing local crits trying to cling on to his cat 2 licence...and missing every break going...

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Cugel | 504 posts | 4 months ago
1 like

Perhaps anyone wanting to determine what bicycle attributes they require for various cycling intents will be best-off ignoring the various taxonomies and schemas, along with the associated nomenclatures, as mere marketing hypnotics and fashion-lures? Instead, list what you want a bicycle to do then find one (or more) to fit the bill.

Personally I've always had two fundamental bikes: a racey thing for (once upon a time) actually road racing on and a winter bike that also serves in summer as a tourer, audax, shopping and "most other cycling purposes" bike. The winter bike also serves as what's now called a gravel bike (once called a rough stuff bike).

The racey thing (now used only for "fitness rides" on the road) is fast and light with a geometry to suit and nothing for mudguards, panniers, super-wide tyres et al.

The winter bike is a highly adapatable thing, requiring only component changes to fulfill one of its many purposes. Its geometry is stable and it can take all sorts of gubbins, including wheels with very wide tyres (or slimmer ones, of course). It normally has all the gubbins on it unless they come off in seconds (like the pannier bags) but also has 3 wheelsets & tyres for different purposes.

In short, the unavoidable differentiator between two or more bikes is really not so much one of purpose (since even the winter bike, if stipped of all its dangles and shod with fast wheels & tyres can actually become quite racey) but one of convenience. It would take too long to strip the winter bike down into a racey configuration - then back again so I could ride to the shops in the pouring rain down a forest track, for example. Also, the frameset geometries are a bit different, of course.

That winter bike could be "differentiated" into several additional bikes that would be identical apart from what was hung from or mounted on them all. Even the racey bike could be re-componented into a TT bike ...... but it would be easier and quicker to buy a dedicated TTer (not that I want one o' them).

So forget the marketing drivel. Let form follow function to decide your bicycle(s). Let convenience dictate acquisition of several varieties of essentially the same bike if you're well-orf and a bit cack-handed at the component-swaps.

Don't, by the way, treat a bike as if was a frock: merely for showing off to the other fashion-victim girly-men.  Well, you can if you like posing more than cycling.  1

levestane | 141 posts | 4 months ago

Maybe the category should be 'road bike', with 'not all road bike' for those used on tarmac/concrete.

Doctor Fegg | 168 posts | 4 months ago

Congrats, you've just reinvented the Croix de Fer.

Adam Sutton | 488 posts | 4 months ago

Is this really new? I bought my Ribble CGR back in 2019, as I really don't want a garage full of bikes. GRX wasn't available at the time, I'd probably go for that today, so I went for 2x 105 setup and with a pannier rack and mudguards permanently attached it does everything I need.

In the week it's a commuter and at the weekend I'll just go for a ride, often dipping off road on to the marshes nearby, or like this morning use it to pop to the shops if I just need a few bits that makes leaving the car behind sensible.

bikes | 75 posts | 4 months ago

Why does going from 2x to 1x increase the tyre clearance? Is it the band of the front derailleur? 

Rendel Harris replied to bikes | 5436 posts | 4 months ago
1 like

bikes wrote:

Why does going from 2x to 1x increase the tyre clearance? Is it the band of the front derailleur? 

That can be eliminated by having braze-on mounts. 1x can run bigger tyres because the chain is further away from the tyre, on a 2x setup as you increase tyre size eventually the chain will start rubbing on the tyre when using the inner ring, with no inner ring there's room for wider tyres without chain rub.

mark1a replied to Rendel Harris | 1032 posts | 4 months ago

Shimano GRX 2x can mitigate this slightly, it has a 5mm larger Q factor, moving the drive side chainline out by 2.5mm. Similar to the post mentioned above, when I bought a so-called "all-road" bike in 2018, a Specialized Diverge, GRX wasn't available yet, it came with 105 and 32mm tyres, still quite road focused and not really up to forest trails. I've subsequently put GRX800 2x on it, retaining the 105 brifters and widening the gear range. That's enabled me to put Panaracer GK 38mm on, and at 35psi tubeless, it's a much smoother ride without sacrificing too much on the tarmac. 

Rendel Harris replied to mark1a | 5436 posts | 4 months ago

Mmmm, that both looks and sounds rather tasty.

bikes replied to Rendel Harris | 75 posts | 4 months ago

Interesting. The limiting factor for tyre size on my 3x touring bike is the chainstays. There's lots of room between the chain and tyre.

HollisJ | 65 posts | 4 months ago

I never understand why people get in such a tizzy over new bike categories; surely more choice is better? The more chance of bikes getting into consumers hands the better?

I don't see it confusing consumers either, because it makes it clearer about what the bike is intended for.

i like the idea of an all road bike but my gravel bike (with 35mm all road tyres on) serves that purpose, although I will admit the 1x gearing is a bit of a compromise on the road.

Dude58 | 1 post | 4 months ago

Honestly, road vs gravel vs CX drives me crazy.

In a couple hours, I'm heading out for a ride on my Giant TCR Advanced wth 25mm tires. Ride's about 40 miles with 15 miles of dirt/gravel. Today, TCR is my "all-road" bike. I'll take tire pressure down 5lbs. 

Yesterday, I took my Cannondale SuperX on a 25-ish mile ride. Dirt, gravel and single-track with about 5 miles of paved road to and from. Yesterday, the SuperX was my "all-road" bike. 

froze replied to Dude58 | 265 posts | 4 months ago

Don't go crazy, just know it's all about marketing bicycles for manufacturers to make money, they're in a slump right now, so BOOM, along comes another class of bikes to try to generate excitement, it's all BS to get your money.

You can convert a gravel bike to a CX bike, to a touring bike, or to the new all-road bike; all you need might be a new set of wheels for each class you want to convert to, but that's doubtful you'll need all those wheels when swapping tires could work just as well.

I have one road bike in particular that can handle 23 to 28 size tires, I have a touring bike that can handle 32 to 48 size tires, just between those two bikes I can cover it all with the right tires.

marmotte27 replied to froze | 565 posts | 4 months ago

What's "funny" ist that the term "all-road bike" was coined by its inventor Jan Heine almost twenty years ago to avoid the kind of narrow categorization that's happening now so that you know who can sell you yet another bike.

"All road" means just that, each and any road, whatever its surface quality. The clue was and is wide tyres, since the same Jan Heine established that supple wide tires are not slower on smooth roads and faster on rough ones. The width depends on the roads you want to take. With a road (otherwise it's not a road bike) q-factor and 26" wheels, the max is about 54 mm with, 60 mm without mudguards.

espressodan | 91 posts | 4 months ago

So, it's a 2x gravel bike with a road stem and road handlebars?

kil0ran | 2914 posts | 4 months ago

My '21 Giant Revolt has pretty much identical stack and reach to the Defy Advanced, the only things setting the bikes apart being the wheelbase and clearances. I'm currently running it on 28mm GP4000s and gravel gearing aside it's just as fast as my old Defy. It's a little heavier but nothing a set of carbon road wheels and clipless pedals wouldn't sort out. At the limit the longer wheelbase and greater trail does make it a bit less pointy in corners but you've got to be really pushing it to notice it. If I wanted to gravel it I could easily fit something like a 650B Sendero on XC rims. N=1? Yep for me, I'd even happily ride it on blue singletrack.

OnYerBike | 1298 posts | 4 months ago
1 like

Meh... I don't really see the appeal of an "all-road" bike compared to a gravel bike. Stick some slicks on a gravel bike and I don't think the difference would be noticeable compared to an "all-road" bike - I regularly use my gravel bike with 35mm slicks and it is very nice (in fact, the gravel bike has a distinct advantage in that it can take 35mm slicks and proper mudguards). And then I can swap the wheels over and fit in 55mm tyres if I want to go somewhere slightly rougher, which you just can't do with an "all-road" bike.

Maybe if you live in a part of the world with an extensive network of light gravel trails it could make sense: you've no intention to do anything remotely gnarly, but having a bit more tyre clearance over a typical road bike opens up a whole new world of non-tarmac possibilities. But I don't think anywhere in the UK fits the bill.  

RobD | 1070 posts | 4 months ago

I have a Ribble CGR 725 which I guess is an all road bike if you put the right tyres on it, it'll go from being a nice road bike for most things short of all out racing, up to cross or gravel on anything but the most extreme almost mountain bike like terrain. As it's the only bike I really ride outside lately it kind of has been an N+1 ender

marmotte27 | 565 posts | 4 months ago

"An all-road bike is indeed very similar to a gravel bike, just with smaller tyre clearances and the gearing and geometry to match."

These categorys are getting completely blurred, thanks to the bike industry jumping on each bandwagon they see passing, in oder to sell, sell, sell.

For a short yet comprehensive overview, from the man who coined the term "Allroad-bike", see here:

So originally it was the other way round, gravel bikes, stemming form road or cyclocross bikes, had narrower tires, allroad-bikes evolving from mid-century randonneur bikes, have wider tires (actually up to 54 mm).

chrisonatrike replied to marmotte27 | 6799 posts | 4 months ago

Well, next you'll be confusing your all-road bike with your downcountry bike!

levestane replied to marmotte27 | 141 posts | 4 months ago

This is the definition that works for me as well, as does ATB/VTT. Two sets of tyres (slicks and knobbies; 54-559 for my bike in this 'category') give you great flexibility.

Secret_squirrel | 3194 posts | 4 months ago
1 like

2x Gravel bikes are N=1's.

No need for another category all you need are 2 sets of wheels.  Tyres define 90% of what this category is capable of - especially in the wet UK.

On the same tyres my Reilly Gradient is as fast as my Ribble Endurance but much more versatile.

huntswheelers replied to Secret_squirrel | 338 posts | 4 months ago

Exactly this......  I'm the same... I have a custom geared Gravel Bike(built it myself as I am trade) and set up with a wide range for road/off road/bikepacking and 2x wheelsets and 2 different tyre types    both tubeless....  Ride Safe

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