Which Gravel Bike is Best?

Image showing 3 gravel bikes - gradient, a classic gravel bike, Spectre and all-terrain bike and Reflex a gravel race bike.

In this second installment of our graving riding feature, ex pro Petra Wiltshire examines the types of gravel bikes on offer, plus advice on tyres for each type of ride. Read on to find out more.  

What is Gravel Riding? 
In one word ‘Freedom.’ Take a turn off a main road onto a forest track, bridle way, service road, forest trail and you are riding gravel! Gravel is basically riding unpaved roads. The laid-back culture of gravel is in stark contrast with the high tech, often competitive world of road riding and the more extreme nature and technicality of mountain biking. 

What are the different types of gravel riding?  
Largely gravel is undefined. For some people it may mean adventure that merely takes them out into the countryside on unpaved paths with smooth premium, hard packed, light gravel. Some of these trails can be smoother than current British roads and offer little technical difficulty or skills to travel easily and quickly.  

Light Gravel
This type of gravel is perfect for an all-road style bike. The ideal bike for this type of terrain would be the Spectre.  

Tyres for Light Gravel  
The ideal tyres for this type of light gravel terrain would be 32mm to 38mm with a relatively light tread pattern. Tyres with a slick centre profile and a smaller tread on the sides offer less rolling resistance eg. Panaracer Gravel King Semi-Slick Plus. 

Events to try  
At Kings Cup Gravel you will find typical smooth hard packed gravel trails. Reilly will be available at Kings Cup Gravel 24 with our fleet of demo gravel bikes.

2023 saw two Reilly riders at Kings Cup Gravel. Male and Female rider in gravel race with Kings Cup logo in the centre

Hardcore Gravel  
You can also ride larger grade gravel with pot holes, vehicle ruts and loose corners. This type of gravel is perfect for the Gradient a titanium frameset engineered for all day comfort whatever the terrain. 

Hardcore Gravel Tyres
I would recommend a larger volume tyre to offer more comfort and increased grip and control. Tread patterns are important to consider as many have larger knobs and offer grip in wet and muddy conditions, with stronger side walls.

Perfect tyres would be anything from 38mm- 47mm eg. Panaracer Gravel King SK TLC  

Events to try
Dirty Reiver, Gralloch
Reilly will be available at both these events with our fleet of demo gravel bikes.

Petra at Dirty Reiver 2023
Muddy woman with bike infront of log pile

Extreme Gravel
The final category includes exposed rocks both fixed and loose, deep holes, drainage ruts, bogs, mud, sand and anything else that an off road trail might entail.

Ideal bikes for these events would be the Reflex and the Gradient. 

Extreme Gravel Tyres
Big volume tyres are a rider’s best friend for extreme gravel. With a well-defined tread pattern, strong side wall protection and lower air pressure to offer grip. Tyres from 38mm – 55mm work well eg the new Panaracer Gravel King X1 TLR 

Events to try
Unbound, Grinduro, and Silk Road Ultra Race.

In the next blog, Petra will examine the best rides and races for novice gravel riders.