A Buyers Guide For Gravel Bikes

A Buyers Guide For Adventure Bikes

If you’ve been in the market recently for a bike - but are not competing and just want long and peaceful adventure bike rides with a reliable source of transport, then we suggest that you read this advice before going out and buying one!

Adventure bikes have been around for a while now and with so many different brands promising that their bike is the best - it’s hard to know who and what to trust.

A great place to start comes from Reilly Cycleworks ambassador Elaine Burroughs, who loves her Reilly Gradient bike for adventure trips. She says: "The Gradient is great as I can fit all my bags on but still I have a good riding position. I never thought I’d be able to own a titanium bike but the Gradient is my Go Anywhere bike. I ride it for sheer pleasure and joy."

If you're in need of more guidance before making a purchase, we’ve created this adventure bike guide to give you the greatest chance of finding your dream adventure bike that will be with you for decades of exploring. Read along to find out more.


What is an Adventure Bike?

If you’re a casual and consistent rider then you will know that adventure bikes are simply one of the best bikes to ride off the road. To put it in the most straightforward manner - an adventure bike is a drop-bar bike invented to take on more of a wider range of terrain (stretch of land) than your average road bike. This can consist of gravel, dirt and many more natural obstacles. That's why you'll often hear 'gravel' and 'off-road' bikes used interchangeably.

Although it can tackle all of these hurdles, they also cover a wide range of riding styles and different bikes. However, the purpose of riding a bike remains the same. It is all about the spirit and the feeling of enlightenment when you’re cruising through all of the beautiful environments in your area.

This type of bike is the perfect companion for your every whim and journey throughout your long-term relationship with it. No matter the situation, you will be sure to find an adventure bike that suits your needs.


What Makes Your Adventure Bike?

Reilly’s established reputation for innovative design and manufacture means we can offer bikes to enhance your adventure, whether that's bike-packing under the stars or diverting from a well-trodden path to see where life takes you.

When it comes to the best adventure bikes, the Reilly Gradient is an unprecedented engineering achievement. Its progressive design and flexible geometry engineered by Mark Reilly has a Hydro-formed REILLY AXIS 3AL-2.5V titanium tube set that provides incredible speed on off-road surfaces.  The Gradient and Gradient T47 are renowned amongst the cycling community for beauty, comfort and speed.  

If you’ve heard the term ‘gravel bike’, this may have been brought to your attention from an American source - in the UK  we use the the terms  ‘adventure bike’ as well as 'gravel bike.' However, both bikes and have the same purpose.

This being said, adventure bikes often look like road bikes but when you first glance at the tyres of a gravel bike you may see no difference - but at close inspection, these differences are a lot more noticeable than once thought.

Let’s say you took a trip with a normal road bike on an adventure bike route - you would soon realise that it becomes very difficult and you may find some complications along the route with tyres, stability and many more.

Staying to read along with this blog will not only show you the subtle and not so subtle differences between road bikes and adventure bikes - but will run you through and give you ideas of where to start if you’re looking to invest in an adventure bike yourself. Whether it’s information on sizing or the height of a bike - this is all relevant for you to understand when making your decision.


Stack and Reach Method

If you’re a regular bike rider who has a bike in-house but needs another bike and wants to understand how the new bike will compare, then the stack and reach method is certainly the two measurements you should be taking.

This method was first introduced to make it easy to compare the sizing of bikes between the different brands on the market. Although the design and traditional sculpture of an adventure bike have changed over the years, making it a pain to examine the differences between old and modern bikes.

However, the stack and reach methods are two consistent and accomplished measurements that can be utilised to determine whether the bike you currently own has a similar fit to the one you want to purchase.

The stack part of the method is a vertical measurement between the centre of the bottom bracket on the bike and the centre point at the top of the head tube. Whereas, the reach is the horizontal distance between the centre of the bottom bracket and the centre point of the top of the head tube.

This combined method is not the only method of measurement you can use but is certainly one of the most proven and consistent methods out there for you to get the most accurate results.


Sizing and Geometry

Our hand-built best-selling gravel, adventure and road bikes are built to Mark Reilly’s ground-breaking frame geometry, optimised for comfort and speed. The Gradient and Gradient T47 adventure bikes are “do-it-all” Reilly heroes.

When you shop for an adventure bike and compare it to a road bike, what you will automatically notice is that while the two of them look alike - there are many ultra-fine differences in the way each of the bikes ride. 

First of all, adventure bikes are designed to be as stable as possible because you will not be riding on smooth surfaces all of the time and they’ll be a lot less predictable. Therefore, adventure bikes tend to have taller head tubes which allow for the rider to utilise a higher riding position. On top of this, the head tube angle will be slacker as well (more stable) to make the steering less twitchy and more comfortable.

For the bottom bracket, however, this will be lower and the wheelbase will be a bit longer than a traditional road bike - once again to improve the stability of your bike in inevitably tough riding conditions.

Master frame builder Mark Reilly was adamant that if the geometry was right the frame would work if you were 5ft 3” or 5ft 7”. Consequently, the same cleverly engineered geometry is matched across all sizes from Reilly’s XXS through to XXL.  Other companies do not benefit from such cleverly designed frames so always check their size chart before purchasing.


Wheel Size

A bike wheel spec is one of the most important parts of your bike altogether, because if they don’t fit - it’s not going to work. Similarly to a car, motorbike or any vehicle that needs specific wheels fitted, if the servicing for your wheels is wrong - it will not be possible to use.

On most adventure bikes wheel sizes are mostly either 700c or 650b which means depending on the measurements, this is what tyre you will be going for. The measurement will be from tyre edge to tyre edge (not rim to rim) because this could mess up the fitting service.

Overall, these are the key points you need to understand when buying your first bike. However, there are a few more points on what seat and brakes would fit, the groupsets and the frame materials of the bike too. So, if you’re interested in learning more on these topics - stay tuned with our latest blog posts!