Gravel bikes are known to be among the most versatile and comfortable machines on the market. But, are gravel bikes as comfortable as they are multipurpose?
Are gravel bikes comfortable? Gravel bikes are designed to maintain comfort while riding on a variety of surfaces. They generally have hydraulic disc brakes, larger tires, a lower wheelbase, and slight modifications to their frames for extra stability and comfort during all-terrain journeying.
Gravel bikes are made for comfort across any surface without sacrificing speed and control. They are a great next step in anyone’s biking journey, as they allow us to ride on roads, take shortcuts or service trails, and even plow through mud, without having to purchase multiple bikes or give up on comfort.
Why Gravel Bikes Are Comfortable
Gravel bikes provide the best of two worlds: the ability to handle everyday roads and the ability to go off-road. They are a combination of street bikes and cyclocross bikes, with a relaxed geometry, wider tires, upright seat shafts, and advanced disc brakes. They are designed for long treks but are versatile enough for daily riding. This all means you’re riding in comfort, no matter where the road leads.
Gravel Bike Geometry
Gravel bikes offer more stability than your typical street bike, and the angles of construction reflect this. The slack seat tube and head tube angles, combined with a longer chainstay, longer wheelbase, and lower bottom bracket, are more reminiscent of a mountain bike. You get the comfort of a road bike that can go anywhere without the stiffness of a race or cyclocross bike.
Gravel Bike Seats
There are many options for gravel bike seats, which are more commonly called saddles. With gravel bikes, you’re typically sitting just as often as not, as the bikes are designed for all sorts of terrain. With the right saddle, you will be adding even more comfort to your daily ride or exploratory journey on trails and mountain paths.
Ultimately, you’re looking for a padded and adjustable seat that suits your preferences for long rides. When you purchase your gravel bike, you may want to look at saddle options. If you choose a saddle that isn’t standard, make sure and compare its compatibility with your brand of a gravel bike.
Here are some top options for compatible gravel bike seats to compare online:
Gravel Bike Tires
Wider tires mean more comfort and grip performance on rougher terrain but may feel heavier on asphalt. Different width and tread patterns are available for different types of riding, and many gravel bikes come with two wheelbases, allowing you to switch tires as needed for different rides. The key thing to look for is what feels the most comfortable for the main type of riding you do, and gravel bikes have plenty of options to suit your needs.
If modifying your standard tires, as with all bike components, check your model’s size compatibility before purchase!
Gravel Bike Brakes
Gravel bikes, sometimes called adventure bikes, almost all use thru-axles and disc brakes now. This is safer because a thru-axle won’t open or fall out. Disc braking offers more comfort, stability, and control on looser terrain.
Gravel Bike Handlebars
Whether you’re out exploring new terrain or rediscovering your daily route, the drop bars used on gravel bikes offer a good balance of options. They boast a few grip points, so you can switch up your hand positions, depending on where you are and how tired your hands are. They are typically flat across the top, curve down, and flare out. Their flexibility offers a handful of comfortable steering options.
Compared to race, road, or x-cross bikes, gravel bikes have a few perks. They typically have extra water bottle mounts. Many come with the option to attach racks for extra gear or necessities, like rain ponchos or a change of clothes. This makes gravel bikes perfect for longer rides to remote picnics, photography shoots, or to school and work. Your rides will be more comfortable with these added options. Who doesn’t feel better when they have snacks and extra water?
Other Factors to Consider for Comfort
Now you know the basics, there are a couple of other factors to consider when looking at the comfortability of gravel bikes. Depending on how you use your bike, you may want to add extra storage through mountable racks. Also, there may be bikes aimed specifically toward men or women, and if you will be more comfortable with one of those options is a matter of personal preference.
Men’s Bikes vs. Women’s Bikes
Bikes made for men may have different saddles, heights, weights, and head bar tubes. Knowing how you dismount and what your expectations are before you buy will help you get the most comfort out of your bike. You can always message the manufacturer with any questions about whether the bike you’re looking at will be comfortable for you.
An example of gravel bikes specifically marketed to men can be found at Amazon, here: Mongoose Men’s Elroy Adventure Bike 700c.
Similarly, one marketed to women is here: Raleigh Bikes Women’s Amelia Adventure.
Another factor in how comfortable your gravel bike can be is how it adapts to suit your lifestyle. How comfortable can a bike really be if you’re not able to carry what you need or want on your journeys and commutes? As mentioned earlier, gravel bikes often have extra water bottle mounts and can be outfitted with racks for carrying supplies.
With their easy-to-use website, Old Man Mountain is an excellent resource for adding a rack kit to your gravel bike. You can make sure their kits will fit your bike before you purchase, and their customer service team is happy to answer questions you may have.
Another great resource to make your gravel bike more comfortable is Ortlieb. They offer mountable packs to carry food, extra gear, or whatever you need, especially if you’re taking your gravel bike on an overnight journey.
Recommended Gravel Bikes
Ready to invest in a gravel bike? The following are some of the top-rated options available online that range in features and price:
- Schwinn Sporterra Gravel Bike 700c
- The Sporterra has an aluminum adventure frame and fits riders 5’4” to 6’2” in height.
- Giordano Trieste Gravel Bike, 700c
- The Trieste has a chromoly steel frame, 30mm wide tires, and 16-speed drivetrain.
- Tommaso Sterrata Shimano Claris R2000
- The Sterrata has a compact aluminum frame, Tommaso TC-30D rims, and premium handlebars for extra comfort.
- Cannondale Topstone
- The Topstone boasts a balanced riding position, tire options up to 42mm, and three water bottle mounts.
- Revolt Advanced 2
- Advanced 2 includes a smart rack mount, D-fuse seatpost, and tires up to 45c.
- Salsa Journeyman Claris 650
- The Journeyman includes aluminum tubing, 2×8 speed drivetrain, and efficient 650b wheels.
Gravel bikes are the most comfortable type of bike for anyone that wants to ride on different surfaces, from gravel and trail to street. Gravel bikes’ adaptability, geometry, advanced tire, and brake systems, drop bars, seat options, ability to mount extra storage, handling, and tire options add up to one comfortable, versatile ride.
If you ride in town, but occasionally take a side trail, this bike has you covered. They are tough for loose terrain but made for everyday use. If you can’t commit to one type of bike because—let’s face it, street bikes are not fun on trails—gravel bikes have the necessary features to keep biking fun no matter what type of riding you’re into.