It’s about freedom – the freedom to go wherever you like on one bike. Gravel bikes are lightweight and fast enough to munch miles of tarmac, and tough enough so that if you spot a tasty trail you can just turn the bars, head off into the woods and satisfy your off-road, gravel appetite. And in case you want to stay out for a few days, gravel bikes have provision for mudguards and racks with multiple mounts so that you can load up for a full-blown adventure.
Traditionally, it was either road bike or mountain bike and never the twain did meet. But if you’re looking for one truly versatile bike to rule them all, this is the best bike for the job.
A cyclo-cross bike will be fast on actual gravel but just as you wouldn’t try to hang saddlebags off a thoroughbred racehorse, gravel bikes are better placed to handle the donkey work and rugged terrain of a bike-packing adventure. Whereas cyclo-cross bikes are built for an hour-long lap of eyeballs-out racing in the mud, gravel bikes are designed for hours, or even days, in the great outdoors.
That generally means a taller head tube, with a more relaxed angle for better comfort and stability. A lower bottom bracket and longer chainstays provide clearance for bigger tyres and also lengthen the wheelbase. Some gravel bikes have a dropped chainstay so that you can swap between 700c and 650b wheels if you want to run really fat rubber for more technical stuff. Gravel bikes often have more bottle cage mounts – obviously essential for longer trips.
There are a few things to factor in here. Although gravel riding originated in the American Midwest, with its endless miles of unmade roads, here in the UK ‘gravel’ is almost a misnomer because our landscape is a little different and can vary dramatically depending on the region.
For more rugged terrain, larger-volume tyres are best. A 650b wheel with a 2.1inch tyre will roll over the bumps, increase traction and take the bigger hits. Roughly equivalent in diameter to a 700c wheel with a 42mm tyre, it won’t change either the geometry or handling. Also consider the ratio of road to off-road riding you plan on doing. If you want to keep up with the club run with only the occasional excursion away from the tarmac, narrower less knobbly tyres on 700c rims will be faster. There’s also the gearing: for tackling epic climbs with luggage – especially off-road – you’ll need a low, low gear. For flatter riding you don’t need higher gear ratios. Typically, gravel bikes will have a single front chainset with a 40- or 42-tooth chainring, then spreads starting from 11 to 42 teeth on the rear cassette. Double chainring options are also available but less common since Shimano launched its GRX range of groupsets.
Pearson’s Summon the Blood is a titanium gravel bike that will supply a lifetime of buttery-smooth, multi-terrain riding. We spec it with Shimano GRX815 Di2 electronic gears and hydraulic disc brakes but, as with our other gravel bikes, will build it to the customer’s specification.
Or there’s the super-light, carbon-fibre Off Grid. Like the Summon the Blood, it can take 700c or 650b wheels, is available as a custom build in two colourways, and with mechanical or electronic gearing. The aluminium All Mod Cons offers all the versatility of the carbon and titanium gravel bikes at an excellent price. We build each Pearson gravel bike for the customer from the frame up. We will always check with the customer that they have chosen the correct frame size, then confirm the best fit before we build. This can happen before or after purchase. We offer free shipping on all our bikes in the UK.