Are gravel bikes good for commuting?

Are gravel bikes good for commuting?

Are gravel bikes good for commuting?

Gravel bikes are very popular for commuting. We sell lots of them on the cycle to work scheme. One of our biggest stores for gravel bike sales is our Greenwich shop in London. They're mainly selling them for commuting around central London on. We’re going to run you through the pros and cons of commuting on a gravel bike and answer the question ‘are gravel bikes good for commuting?’

The Pros of Commuting on a Gravel Bike

Gravel bikes are fast, nearly as quick as a standard road bike. They are certainly quicker on the road than most mountain bikes and many hybrids. That means you can get to work, and home, in the shortest time possible. But what makes gravel bikes so good for commuting is that they are extremely versatile. They can be ridden on tarmac, cycle paths, old railway lines, canal towpaths, and even off-road trails. So, it’s easy to mix it up on your commute and avoid traffic.

Another big advantage of commuting on a gravel bike is that they're generally more comfortable than road bikes. This is because they have wider tyres and longer wheelbases, which results in a smoother and more stable ride. So you don’t get bounced around as much on rough roads. Most gravel bikes have a fairly upright riding position which makes it easier to see what’s going on in traffic. The combination of stable handling and the comfortable riding position is a massive confidence boost for the rider, especially on wet roads.  

Finally, gravel bikes tend to be more durable than road bikes, thanks in part to their thicker tyres and robust frames. Most gravel bikes come with disc brakes for increased stopping power. Many also come with tubeless ready wheels which means a lot less punctures on your commute.

The Cons of Commuting on a Gravel Bike

Of course, there are also some drawbacks to commuting on a gravel bike. For one thing, they're usually heavier and less efficient than purpose-built road bikes when used on the road. If 99% of your commute is on tarmac you may be better off with a straight up road bike, or a road bike like the Trek Domane or Cannondale Synapse which is rated for ‘light gravel’ use.

The Trek Domane AL 2 Disc is an Endurance road bike that's also rated for 'light gravel' use.

Another potential issue is that gravel bikes usually come with lower gearing and 1x drivetrains which are great for riding off-road but can leave you ‘spinning out’ on fast road sections.

Gravel bikes tend to be slightly more expensive than either hybrid bikes or standard road bikes. For a gravel bike with Shimano gears and hydraulic disc brakes you won’t get much change out of £2000. For a road bike or hybrid bike you could get something equivalent for several hundred pounds less. Those bikes only have to fulfil one function whereas the versatile gravel bike has to be more heavily engineered and use more robust parts. On the plus side this should mean that your gravel bike lasts longer and needs less maintenance.

Finally not all gravel bikes can take pannier racks or full-length mudguards. So if those are important to you make sure to check the fittings on the frame.

So are gravel bike good for commuting?

If you are purely going to be commuting for short distances a hybrid bike like the Specialized Sirrus X may be as capable as a gravel bike and a significantly cheaper. However, over long distances the added speed of a gravel bike will make it more than worthwhile. When it comes to the weekend, or holidays, you’ve also got the gravel bike ready for bikepacking adventures, touring or gravel racing. For most people that’s the attraction of a gravel bike. It’s one bike that can do everything.

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