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At The Bicycle Chain, we’re firmly of the opinion that gravel is awesome. We love the technical challenges it presents and we love the untapped exploration that a gravel bike can unlock. You can go fast, like on a road bike, but also take on stuff that’s a little bit bumpier than tarmac, as you might encounter on an MTB. We’d advise against entering any criterium races or downhill competitions, but otherwise these machines are built for pretty much anything.
If you haven’t tried riding gravel before, we’ve picked out some amazing bikes that’ll give you a cracking intro to this new discipline. If you’re already a dab hand at off-road and adventure riding, skip to the bottom for some kit that’s going to elevate your experience.
Either way, if your New Year’s resolution is to spend more time riding rough stuff, we’ve got you covered.
Entry level gravel grinders
The Liv Avail AR1 is an accessible, enthusiastic gravel bike for women. Despite being the cheapest gravel bike in Liv’s portfolio, it packs a surprisingly mighty punch – with lightweight aluminium tubes for the frame and a carbon fork up front. Wider tyres and an endurance-focused geometry make this a bike you’ll want to keep riding and riding until the trail runs out.
For the men, we’ve been hard-pushed to find a better-value gravel bike than the Trek Checkpoint at just a shade under the £1,000 mark. As a company, Trek have their roots in the backwoods of the USA, and so they’re more than comfortable when it comes to building machines to handle adventure.
The Specialized Diverge was one of the bikes that really fuelled the boom in gravel’s popularity, and while plenty of excellent machines have followed in its tyre tracks, it remains among the leaders of the pack. More accessible than ever, the Elite 2020 model is a superb option for those looking to ride more bumpy stuff without investing in a bike built to win the Dirty Kanza.
Expert gravel bikes
Supercharge your off-road explorations with the flagship e-bike in Specialized’s range, the Turbo Creo SL Expert EVO. Built to deliver a truly peerless experience, it’s packed with features to enliven any ride on gravel. Much like its road-faring S-Works cousin, the Expert Evo has super-light FACT carbon frame, but where it differs is in the extra clearance around the tyres and the addition of a Future Shock 2.0, to help smooth out the ride.
Fancy riding something a little more bespoke? Might we recommend an Allied Alfa Allroad? These handmade frames come all the way from Arkansas and are made to your measurements – offering that extra custom riding experience that elevates a bike from awesome to ‘the one bike to rule them all’. From there, we can build the machine up with the parts you want, or we can hand it over to you for the final assembly. Whichever way you go, one thing is certain. The Alfa Allroad absolutely shreds when you get it on the rough stuff. Allied’s bikes are all custom-painted too, so be sure to explore the available options on our website, from classic shades like Gulf Blue to the jazzier ‘Harlequin series’ options that feature a shimmery two-tone effect.
Accessories for all
Gravel riding is a discipline that requires a bit of resourcefulness and self-reliance. As you head off the beaten path, there’ll be fewer petrol stations and corner shops than you’d experience on a rad ride, so you’ll need to carry a fair bit of food with you. Kit with lots of pockets or an easily-accessed frame bag are both great ideas for this. Perhaps ‘not bonking’ could be another New Year’s resolution…
A firm grip on the bars is essential when piloting your machine around obstacles and keeping those fingers warm is key when you’re tackling the early season off-road, so take a look at some of our weatherproof gloves.
We’ve also chosen couple of hydration pack options to wet your whistle with – one for around your waist and one that sits on the back – plus a handy pack for fixing minor mechanicals, something that feels inevitable when you take a drop-bar bike off the tarmac.