Flick through any cycling magazine or website and there is a huge buzz around gravel cycling. With reams of information about off-road races, new gravel trails, bike packing anecdotes and most of all gravel bikes and their kit. Here’s Reilly’s gravel run down.
What Is A Gravel Bike?
A gravel or adventure bike can handle off-road terrain as well as the road. Often described as a “grab it and go” bike due to its immense versatility; with a gravel bike, you can ride forest tracks, rocky mountain paths, sandy single tracks, bridleways, dusty country trails, tarmac and pretty much everything in between.
What Does A Gravel Bike Look Like?
Gravel bikes are often used for longer adventure rides or bike packing excursions so one of its key features is the relaxed frame geometry to offer all-day comfort.
The slightly more upright riding position helps with off-road handling and the chunky tyres, ensure a decent grip while hopping over uneven surfaces.
Disc brakes offer more control and accurate stopping plus reliability in unfavourable weather conditions and no limit on tyre size which makes them a perfect fit for the gravel bike.
Titanium is our calling card at Reilly and for good reason. Our Gradient and Gradient T47 gravel, adventure bikes with their 3AL-2.5V titanium frame are durable, beautiful and hardworking - taking the impact of the rocky road to ensure a smoother ride. Gravel bike frame sets are also available in steel and carbon.
What Do I Wear?
Gravel bikes exist in a world between road bikes and mountain bikes so the kit is influenced by both. In short, anything goes. Some ride in the classic padded bib shorts and jersey while others favour the relaxed check shirt and baggy shorts combo.
Be mindful of the weather and layer up if you are out for hours. As always, a helmet is a sensible addition.
Why Choose A Gravel Bike?
Remember your first bike and the freedom as you pedal down the road and off into an adventure, Gravel riding harnesses that same feeling, you open your front door and go, wherever the wind takes you.
“I’m a fairly serious roadie,” said Gary 49 “and my brother loves his mountain bike. We decided to get gravel bikes so we could go out together. That was 5 years ago. Every week we spend hours kicking around our local forest on bikes… just like when we were kids!”
Expand your world
Many took up cycling on the empty roads of lockdown but now the traffic is back they have made the move to off-road. Your cycling world expands exponentially once you discover gravel rides and the relaxed vibe– going at a slower pace, enjoying exercising in nature and escaping everyday life has huge benefits for body and mind health.
For those using cycling solely for fitness, gravel is a great addition to road cycling. A recent study in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise monitored 30 trained cyclists and found that muscles in their calves, triceps and forearms are increased while pedaling a bike on a vibrating/uneven surface.
Which Reilly Adventure Bike Do I Buy?
If you come to Reilly the very first thing we ask is what do you want to do on your bike? This might seems like a simple question but it gets to the nub of the issue.
Let’s say you are a dedicated roadie who fancies trying out some light gravel every so often. Say, 60/40 in favour of the road, then the all-season, all-road Spectre is your ride.
Titanium frame set with ample tyre clearance, to 38mm without guards and (32mm with guards) it’s the ultimate sportive bike, sleep yet strong and a Transcontinental Ride favourite.
If you are a 50/50 road to gravel sort of a rider then opt for The Gradient our best-selling gravel, adventure bike. Combining a Hydro-formed 3AL-2.5V titanium tube set with carbon adventure forks, pannier mounts, mudguard fixings, 3 sets of cage mounts and tyre clearance of up to 43mm it’s your perfect adventure partner.
The Gradient T47 is an evolution of the original, built for those riding 70% gravel to 30% road. Drawn on the blueprint design of Reilly's successful Gradient, the T47 incorporates an internal cable routed bottom bracket that is compatible with all axle standards producing cleaner lines and mud-free shifting.
The new frame set features a revised hydroformed down tube and top tube profiles with top tube pack boss mounts. A new carbon fork design incorporating internal dynamo and brake cable routing with a variable rake for running 650b with 55mm tyre clearance or 700c wheels with up to 50mm tyre clearance.
Wheels & Tyres
Reilly has a strong working relationship with an independent brand, Strada who hand build wheels in their workshops in West Sussex. The skill and experience that goes into the All Season Disc wheels fitted as standard on Reilly’s gravel adventure bikes are second to none.
Continental Terra Speed tyres are fitted on both Gradient and T47. “An excellent choice for fast gravel riding on mixed terrain “ according to Bike Radar. Pana Racer King SK+38mm or 43 mm are also an option.
Shimano GRX has been designed with the needs of the gravel/adventure rider centre stage. Reilly offers GRX as standard on the Gradient and T47 both GRX 600 and 800 series are available.
The 600 series is equivalent to 105 found on road bikes while the 800 mirrors the Ultegra with mechanical and Di2 options. Depending on client preference and cycling style you can choose x1 or x2.
1 x comes with 40T front chainring and 11-42 rear cassette while 2x has 48/31 front chainring and 11-34 rear cassette. Sram and Campagnolo Ekar groupsets are available as an upgrade to a standard build.
So, you have got your bike, the sun is shining so where do you go? Ollie Hayward who cycled Lands End to John O’Groats in a staggering 146 hours 20 minutes and 8 seconds and bagged himself 2nd place in GB Duro 21 offered some very sage advice to adventure newbies.
“You don’t need to go far; it can be just as rewarding to go to a spot locally. Just expand your boundaries slowly. When I first got into it, I picked a big event and didn’t know what to do which was a bit scary. There’s no right or wrong way. Try it all and find out what’s best for you.”
Read the full interview here.
Even if you live in an urban area there’s a chance a bridleway or forest a relatively short distance away so start there …. You can always open your front door and just go but if you prefer to find a route to follow a trail here are some good starting points:
- UK Gravel Bike Club
For those who fancy find out about gravel ride / races Gravel Union has an events calendar.
Gravel bikes are sought after especially now when parts are at a premium so don't forget your lock if you are likely to be stopping.
What Is Bike Packing?
Bike packing is gravel riding with an overnight stay of two added into the mix. This is often camping but could be a stay in YHA or B&B. As you carry your kit with you on the bike it needs a bit of planning.
What bags to buy, where do I put them on the bike and what kit gets put in them, is it a bit of a minefield that you need to get your head around? For many experienced bike packers, this is also the joy.
Reilly Ambassador and bike packing pro, Elaine Burroughs demonstrates her skill (gained over many trips) when packing up her trust Reilly Gradient.
And this is what she had inside those bags.
Elaine and Helen Keller Gave Talk
An Introduction to Adventure Cycling
Anyone women interested in trying bike packing in a female-only safe and supported environment.
Check Out Reilly Wild Women Bike Packing Adventure 7-8 May 2022.