Last modified on September 21st, 2023 at 5:06 pm

5 Tips for Picking Your First Gravel Bike

Gravel bikes have expanded in nature, from mountain bikes to road bikes and gravel bikes for racing. Gravel riding is exciting and can take you on an entirely new adventure since it combines road and mountain biking, and there are plenty of new and hybrid-built bikes to assist you in your first exhilarating journey.

It can be challenging to know if you’re entering into the world of gravel bikes just how to begin in choosing the right gravel bike for you. The spectrum of high-performance gravel bikes for sale is vast, so you may feel overwhelmed when trying to determine your first gravel bike purchase. However, searching for your first gravel bike can be fun if you take your time and do your research before you choose one.

So, how do you go about deciding on your first gravel bike? Here are five tips that can help you quickly select the best route to take when picking out that first bike.

Asking Yourself Questions

You should start by evaluating yourself to determine the best kind of gravel bike. Here are a few questions that you can start by asking:

  • What terrain do you plan to ride on?
  • What events or riding do you plan to do the most?
  • What is your training plan for gravel riding?

The first question should take you a long way into your decision for a bike. For instance, if you’re riding on pavement and dirt roads, you might consider something closer to a road-gravel bike. On the other hand, if you plan to ride on more rough trails often, you might want to look more into a gravel bike designed as a mountain bike.

It would be best to consider your stability level when you ride off-road as well. There are gravel bikes geared more towards keeping you from losing balance on uneven surfaces. While there are plenty of gravel bikes, you should look into which ones are more or less forgiving if you run into some bad terrain.

Picking Your Component Spec

There are two separate areas of spec differentiation – the drivetrain type and the bike’s tire size. Usually, these are split up into 1x or 2x drivetrains. Picking the best one will depend on how much time you plan to be off-road or riding on smoother gravel trails.

If you like the idea of riding up and down hills for exercise, then getting a 2x drivetrain would be best. If you plan to ride on rough trails with 4×4 gravel roads, go with more mountain-type gravel bikes and get a 2x drivetrain, perhaps with a clutched rear derailleur.

1x drivetrains have simpler systems, and many mountain bikers utilize them since they can adjust to frequent speed changes. There is less to go wrong with a 1x drivetrain, and they all come with a clutched rear derailleur, which helps keep your chain on when riding. However, the rougher the terrain you plan to ride on, there is a definite need for a clutch.

Gravel Tire Size

Again, choosing your tire size will depend heavily on the type of roads you will ride. Most riders are happy with a 700×40 mm tire, a standard road wheel, and a fat gravel tire for any uneven terrain.

If you are looking for more adventure, you may want to go with a different tire and make room for more rubber. Mountain biking would require a gravel bike with at least 45 mm clearance for a tire. Look at the “Max tire clearance” on the bike’s specs.

Matching Geometry to Your Terrain

When choosing your gravel bike, it is vital to look up the geometry chart and look for certain things that can help determine how it will feel, known as the trail figure. Then, depending on your typical riding style, you can look at the geometry to indicate what the bike’s use is for, which will help make your decision.

The trail figure on a gravel bike combines the head angle and fork offset. To put it simply, the bigger your trail, the more that the bike is going to feel like a mountain bike, and smaller trail figures will be more similar to a road bike with less stable speeds but quicker handling. Typical road bike trail figures are 55-61 mm, and mountain bike figures are 80-100 mm.

When you are looking at the trails on bikes, you can always ask for assistance. Matching the trail figures to where you plan to ride can feel a bit tricky, especially if it’s your first time and you’re not clear on the type of rider you are.

Test Ride Your Top Choices

Probably an essential part of picking out your first gravel bike is taking it for a test ride once you’ve narrowed down your choices. You don’t have to ride for very long or even over gravel to determine whether or not the bike suits you.

If you’re torn between a few different gravel bikes, test out each one and think about the kind of biking you plan to do. When you find the bike that fits the criteria, then you’ll know you’ve made the right choice. In addition, you can evaluate the fit, feel, and quality of the bike and discover if you will run into any issues.

Other Gravel Bike Tips to Consider

Whether it’s a mountain bike style or gravel bike with a 1x drivetrain, or a 45 mm tire with 700c wheels, there are different factors to consider when picking out your first bike. In addition, you might want to consider other things, such as whether you want a wider frame or smaller width in bike type.

The bike frame was not something that was mentioned because it’s not an essential piece of the gravel bike. The frame material will not change the aspect of the bike itself, but more in how much you want to spend. Materials like titanium, steel, aluminum, and carbon are all very capable on various roads.

You should feel very confident in your first gravel bike purchase with these tips. Happy hunting!