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Summer Newsletter

Gravel Bikes - do it all adventure cycling!

Hello and welcome to peakcyclinguk’s summer newsletter.

It’s been a busy year so far here at peakcyclinguk HQ. We’ve been putting together new routes, exploring new terrain, roads and tracks. All combined with running mountain bike workshops on trail repairs, MTB Skills sessions, children’s after school & holiday cycling sessions, bike ability and, of course, guiding cyclists on their cycling holidays so you all have a stress free cycling break.

In mid-June I was guiding for the Equifax charity ride which took place in the Peak District. I was chatting to one of the riders, as you do, and was asked a very interesting question. He explained that he had a voucher for a bike under his company “bike to work” scheme and was considering buying a bike to commute on to save his “best bike”. He was thinking of buying a cross bike or a gravel bike as this would open up routes that enabled him to avoid a lot of traffic on the way to work. Always a good thing! So his question was “what is the difference between a cyclocross bike, a gravel bike and an adventure bike?” Utterly brilliant in its simplicity but it made me think for a few minutes as the answer is, as ever, a bit complicated. Now this is purely a (brief) layman’s view from a lifelong cyclist. So here goes:

Some of you will no doubt realise that the bicycle predates paved roads and that gravel or dirt road riding is therefore nothing new. So then, what was once old is now new. Correct! However, road bikes have become increasingly focused on riding fast on tarmac. They are generally light, fast, and have quick handling. How quick they are to handle depends on their geometry i.e. the frame angles and wheelbase etc (I’m not going to get too technical here). Basically they are arse up, head down and the slightest twitch of your hips brings a change of direction.

In cycling’s first golden age (I believe we are currently in the second) when club runs had hundreds of participants and were reported in the national press (true and in a good way) bikes were built for travelling long distances in comfort. The bikes had longer wheelbases, slacker frame angles and slower steering. You could ride them all day. Not long ago they were reinvented (modernised) as Endurance Bikes (or sportive bikes) thanks to the growing popularity of sportives’. The arse up head down bike was unsuitable for most people as they found them too uncomfortable.

The idea of a gravel bike is that you can be whizzing along the tarmac one minute then dive off down a bridleway, or a farm track or a forest track the next. They have drop handlebars, longer wheelbases for stability, and wider tyre clearances to take bigger volume tyres that can deal with rougher tracks. Typically you can fit 28mm tyres, with 35 or more quite common

A gravel bike, known as an adventure bike in the UK (as we have less unpaved roads), looks essentially like an endurance bike. Their tyres will be fatter, possibly tubeless, and generally have disc brakes. Typically the extra room in the frame allows for rack and mudguard mounts too.

Cyclo-cross bikes are designed for racing (cyclo-cross) and have steeper angles, quick steering and shorter wheelbases. They are race bikes so are, ahem, arse up head down. If you find them comfortable they also make good adventure bikes but take a bit more finesse and concentration to ride.

Gravel bikes are just as good on the road as endurance bikes but more versatile. They are potentially the only bike you need to own and utterly brilliant fun when you leave the tarmac behind. If I was only allowed one bike, I’d have a gravel bike!

If you want to give gravel or adventure riding a try join us for a two or four day tour on the Peak District’s finest gravel tracks and “white roads” from 28th September – 1st October. See for full details. Too soon? We have more dates later in the autumn.

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