Best Bikes and Gear for Gravel Riding: A Comprehensive Guide

When it comes to bikes for gravel riding, there are a few key features to look for. A wider tire is essential for better traction and stability on loose surfaces, while a more relaxed geometry can provide added comfort on longer rides. Many gravel bikes also come with disc brakes, which offer better stopping power and are less likely to get clogged with mud and debris. We’ll take a closer look at some of the top gravel bikes on the market, and what sets them apart from traditional road or mountain bikes.

In addition to the right bike, there are a few key accessories and pieces of gear that can make all the difference when it comes to gravel riding. A good pair of cycling shoes with a grippy sole can help you stay steady on the pedals, while a hydration pack or frame-mounted water bottle can ensure you stay hydrated on longer rides. We’ll also explore some of the best apparel options for gravel riding, including padded shorts and jerseys designed to withstand the rigors of off-road riding.

Understanding Gravel Riding

Gravel riding is a type of cycling that involves riding on unpaved roads, gravel paths, and dirt trails. It’s a popular form of cycling that has gained popularity in recent years due to its adventurous nature and the ability to explore new areas. Gravel riding can be done on any type of bike, but it’s best done on a bike that’s specifically designed for gravel riding.

Gravel Riding vs. Gravel Racing

Gravel riding can be done at any pace, from leisurely rides to more intense rides. Gravel racing, on the other hand, is a competitive sport that involves racing on gravel roads. Gravel races can be anywhere from 50 to 200 miles long and can take anywhere from a few hours to a full day to complete.

Gravel Events

Gravel events are becoming more popular and are a great way to experience gravel riding with other cyclists. These events can range from casual group rides to more organized events with hundreds of riders. Gravel events can be a great way to meet other cyclists and explore new areas.

Gear for Gravel Riding

When it comes to gear for gravel riding, there are a few things to consider. A bike that’s specifically designed for gravel riding is ideal, but any bike can be used. It’s important to have tires that are suitable for gravel riding, with wider tires being better for stability and comfort. Other gear to consider includes a helmet, gloves, and appropriate clothing for the weather.

Overall, gravel riding is a fun and adventurous way to explore new areas on a bike. With the right gear and a sense of adventure, anyone can enjoy gravel riding.

Types of Bikes for Gravel Riding

When it comes to gravel riding, there are several types of bikes that you can choose from depending on your riding style and preferences. Here are the most common types of bikes for gravel riding:

Gravel Bikes

Gravel bikes are the most popular type of bike for gravel riding. These bikes are designed specifically for riding on gravel roads and trails. They typically have wider tires, a more relaxed geometry, and often come with features like disc brakes and extra clearance for mud and debris. Gravel bikes are versatile and can handle a variety of terrain, making them a great choice for riders who want to explore different types of gravel roads.

Mountain Bikes

Mountain bikes are another popular choice for gravel riding. While they are not specifically designed for gravel riding, they can handle rough terrain and provide a comfortable ride on gravel roads. Mountain bikes typically have wider tires and a suspension system that absorbs shock, making them ideal for rough terrain. However, they can be heavier and less efficient on smooth roads compared to other types of bikes.

Road Bikes

Road bikes are not the best choice for gravel riding, but they can still handle some gravel roads and trails. Road bikes have narrow tires and a more aggressive geometry, which makes them more efficient on smooth roads but less comfortable on rough terrain. If you plan to ride on mostly smooth gravel roads, a road bike may be a good choice.

Specialized Bikes

There are also specialized bikes designed specifically for gravel riding, such as the Specialized Diverge E5 gravel bike and the Cannondale Topstone Carbon 4. These bikes have features like wider tires, disc brakes, and a more relaxed geometry that make them ideal for gravel riding. They are often more expensive than other types of bikes, but they provide a superior riding experience on gravel roads.

In summary, when choosing a bike for gravel riding, consider your riding style and the type of terrain you plan to ride on. Gravel bikes are versatile and can handle a variety of terrain, while mountain bikes are ideal for rough terrain. Road bikes are not the best choice for gravel riding, but they can still handle some gravel roads. Specialized bikes designed specifically for gravel riding provide the best riding experience but can be more expensive.

Bike Features for Gravel Riding


When choosing a bike for gravel riding, the frame is one of the most important features to consider. Look for a frame that is sturdy and durable, yet lightweight. A carbon or aluminum frame is ideal for this type of riding. Additionally, a frame with a slack head tube angle will provide better stability and control on rough terrain.


Gravel riding requires tires that can handle a variety of surfaces, from loose gravel to hard-packed dirt. Look for tires with a wider profile and a tread pattern that can handle a variety of conditions. Tires with a tubeless setup can also help prevent punctures and provide a smoother ride.


Wheels are another important feature to consider when choosing a bike for gravel riding. Look for wheels with a wider rim profile, which will provide better stability and support for wider tires. Additionally, wheels with a disc brake setup will provide better stopping power in wet or muddy conditions.


While some gravel bikes come with suspension, others do not. If you plan on riding on rough terrain, a suspension fork can provide added comfort and control. However, if you plan on riding on smoother surfaces, a rigid fork may be a better option for a more efficient ride.


Gravel riding often involves steep climbs and descents, so having the right gearing is crucial. A 1x drivetrain with a wide range cassette can provide the necessary gear ratios for both climbing and descending. Additionally, having fender mounts can be a useful feature for riding in wet conditions.

Overall, when choosing a bike for gravel riding, look for features that prioritize durability, stability, and versatility. Consider the terrain you plan on riding and choose a bike with features that will provide the best performance for your needs.

Choosing the Right Bike Size

Understanding Reach

When it comes to choosing the right bike size, one of the most important factors to consider is reach. Reach refers to the distance between the saddle and the handlebars, and it plays a crucial role in determining how comfortable you’ll be on your bike.

If the reach is too short, you’ll be cramped and uncomfortable, which can lead to pain and fatigue. On the other hand, if the reach is too long, you’ll be stretched out and unable to control the bike properly, which can be dangerous.

To get the right reach, you’ll need to consider your body type and riding style. If you have a long torso and short legs, for example, you may need a shorter reach than someone with a short torso and long legs.

Importance of Sizing

Sizing is another crucial factor to consider when choosing the right bike for gravel riding. A bike that’s too big or too small can cause discomfort, pain, and even injury.

To determine the right size, you’ll need to consider your height, inseam, and riding style. A bike that’s too small can cause knee pain and back pain, while a bike that’s too big can cause neck pain and shoulder pain.

When choosing the right size, it’s important to remember that different brands and models may have slightly different sizing charts. Always consult the manufacturer’s sizing chart and try the bike out in person if possible.

In summary, choosing the right bike size is crucial for comfort, safety, and performance. Understanding reach and sizing can help you find the perfect bike for your body type and riding style.

Bikepacking Essentials

Packing Tips

When it comes to bikepacking, packing efficiently is key. You want to bring everything you need, but not so much that you’re weighed down. Here are some tips to help you pack smart:

  • Use a frame bag: A frame bag is a great way to maximize your carrying capacity without adding too much bulk. It fits snugly against your bike’s frame and can hold items like a tent, sleeping bag, or extra clothes.

  • Roll your clothes: Rolling your clothes instead of folding them can save space in your pack. It also helps prevent wrinkles.

  • Pack heavy items low: When packing your bags, try to keep the heaviest items low and close to your bike’s center of gravity. This will help keep your bike stable on rough terrain.

Essential Gear

When you’re bikepacking, you want to make sure you have everything you need to stay safe and comfortable. Here are some essential items to consider:

  • Tent: A lightweight, compact tent is a must-have for bikepacking. Look for one that’s easy to set up and pack away.

  • Sleeping bag: Choose a sleeping bag that’s appropriate for the weather conditions you’ll be facing. Look for one that’s lightweight and packs down small.

  • Water filter: Depending on where you’re riding, you may not have access to clean water. A water filter can help you stay hydrated without having to carry large amounts of water with you.

  • Multi-tool: A good multi-tool can help you make repairs on the go. Look for one with a variety of tools, including a chain breaker, screwdrivers, and wrenches.

  • First aid kit: Accidents can happen when you’re out on the trail. Pack a basic first aid kit with items like bandages, antiseptic, and pain relievers.

When it comes to bikepacking, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. The gear you need will depend on your route, the weather conditions, and your personal preferences. But with these packing tips and essential gear, you’ll be well on your way to a successful bikepacking trip.

Gravel Riding Apparel

Gravel riding requires specific apparel that can withstand the rough terrain and varying weather conditions. Here are some recommendations for footwear, clothing, and helmets that will make your gravel riding experience more comfortable and enjoyable.


When it comes to footwear for gravel riding, you want something that is durable, comfortable, and offers good traction. Here are some options to consider:

  • Mountain bike shoes: These shoes are designed for off-road riding and offer a good grip on pedals. Look for shoes with a stiff sole for better power transfer and protection from rocks and debris.
  • Gravel-specific shoes: Some brands offer shoes specifically designed for gravel riding, with features like a grippy sole, extra protection, and a comfortable fit for long rides.
  • Trail running shoes: If you prefer a more casual look, trail running shoes can be a good option. Look for shoes with a durable sole and good grip on uneven terrain.


Gravel riding apparel should be comfortable, breathable, and offer good protection from the elements. Here are some recommendations for clothing:

  • Shorts: Look for shorts with a chamois or padding to reduce friction and provide extra comfort on long rides. Bib shorts can also be a good option as they stay in place better and provide more coverage.
  • Cargo bib shorts: These shorts have extra pockets for carrying essentials like snacks, phone, and tools. They are a great option for longer rides where you need to carry more gear.
  • Jerseys: Choose a jersey made from moisture-wicking fabric to keep you cool and dry. Look for a relaxed fit that allows for freedom of movement.
  • Socks: Look for socks made from a breathable, moisture-wicking material to keep your feet dry and comfortable.


A good helmet is essential for any type of cycling, including gravel riding. Look for a helmet that is comfortable, lightweight, and offers good protection. Here are some options to consider:

  • Mountain bike helmets: These helmets are designed for off-road riding and offer more coverage and protection than road helmets. Look for a helmet with good ventilation and a comfortable fit.
  • Gravel-specific helmets: Some brands offer helmets specifically designed for gravel riding, with features like a visor to block sun and debris, and a more aerodynamic shape for faster riding.
  • Road helmets: If you already have a road helmet, it can also work for gravel riding. Just make sure it fits well and offers adequate protection.

Tools and Accessories


When it comes to gravel riding, having the right tools can make all the difference. Here are some essential tools to have on hand:

  • Multi-tool: A good multi-tool should include a range of hex keys, screwdrivers, and a chain tool.
  • Tire levers: These are essential for removing and installing tires, especially in the event of a flat.
  • Pump or CO2 inflator: You’ll need a way to inflate your tires if you get a flat or need to adjust tire pressure.
  • Spare tube: Always carry a spare tube in case of a flat.
  • Patch kit: A patch kit can be a lifesaver if you get multiple flats on a ride.


In addition to tools, there are a number of accessories that can make your gravel riding experience more enjoyable and comfortable. Here are a few:

  • Seatpost: A good seatpost can help absorb shock and make for a more comfortable ride. Look for one with a carbon fiber construction and a design that can flex and move with the terrain.
  • Dropper seatpost: If you’re tackling technical terrain, a dropper seatpost can be a game-changer. It allows you to quickly and easily adjust your saddle height on the fly, so you can get into the right position for steep descents or technical climbs.
  • GPS: A GPS device can help you navigate unfamiliar terrain and keep track of your ride data. Look for one with good battery life and the ability to download maps and routes.
  • Navigation: If you prefer to navigate with your phone, a good phone mount can keep your device secure and easily accessible while you ride.

Remember, the right tools and accessories can make a big difference in your gravel riding experience. Be sure to choose high-quality options that are reliable and durable.

Riding Techniques

Maintaining Stability

Maintaining stability is crucial when riding on gravel roads. Here are some tips to help you stay in control:

  • Keep your weight centered over the bike.
  • Use a relaxed grip on the handlebars.
  • Keep your eyes focused on where you want to go.
  • Avoid sudden movements and jerky motions.
  • Choose the right tires for the terrain.

Understanding Aerodynamics

Aerodynamics play a significant role in your speed and efficiency when riding on gravel. Here are some tips to help you optimize your aerodynamics:

  • Keep your body low and streamlined.
  • Tuck your elbows in and lower your head.
  • Use aero bars or aero extensions if possible.
  • Choose a bike with aero features, such as aero tubes or integrated handlebars.
  • Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing that can create drag.

By following these tips, you can improve your stability and aerodynamics on gravel roads, making your rides smoother and more enjoyable.

Hydration and Nutrition


Staying hydrated is critical when it comes to gravel riding. The last thing you want is to run out of water in the middle of a ride. To avoid this, consider carrying a hydration pack or a water bottle with you. A hydration pack is a great option for longer rides where you need to carry more water. It sits comfortably on your back and allows you to drink water without stopping.

If you prefer a water bottle, make sure it’s easy to reach and that you have enough of them to last your ride. Consider getting a bottle cage that holds multiple bottles if you need to carry more than one.


Fueling your body during a gravel ride is just as important as staying hydrated. You need to consume enough calories to keep your energy levels up. Make sure to pack snacks or energy bars that are easy to eat on the go.

Consider the type of snacks you bring with you. You want to make sure they’re easy to digest and won’t upset your stomach. Foods like bananas, trail mix, and energy bars are all great options.

It’s also important to replenish electrolytes lost through sweat. Consider bringing an electrolyte drink or tablets to add to your water. This will help prevent cramping and keep your energy levels up.

Remember, everyone’s nutritional needs are different. Experiment with different types of snacks and drinks to find what works best for you.