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Gravel Bike vs. Road Bike: Which Is The Bike For You?

Gravel Bike vs. Road Bike

Table of Contents

Picking the right bike for you can be challenging. With so many different types of bikes available and a lot of different types of riding you can do, it does get overwhelming. We are often asked by our amazing readers if they should ride a gravel bike or a road bike?

In the past few years, since gravel bikes have become unbelievably popular, we are seeing many people use them instead of road bikes, but is this the correct way to go for you personally? In this article, so that you can make the right choice for you, we’re going to be discussing:

  • What Is A Gravel Bike?
  • What Is A Road Bike?
  • What Are The Key Differences Between A Road And Gravel Bike?
  • Which One Is The Bike For You? 

Gravel Bike vs Road Bike

What Is A Gravel Bike?

A gravel bike is designed mainly for gravel riding, but they are excellent as do it all bikes. With gravel biking becoming extremely popular for racing and recently a recognized UCI professional discipline, gravel bikes are not only getting a lot of attention from professionals but also from day to day cyclists. 

Gravel bikes may look very similar to road bikes with their drop bars, but they are very different when you start looking at the finer details. They come with a relaxed geometry, oversized tires, powerful disc brakes, and lots of excellent other features. These characteristics make them great for adventure cycling and long-distance cycling. 

The best thing about a gravel bike is the versatility that it offers the rider. Being able to go out on your bike and keep up with the roadies on the club run but taking the shortcut trail home is really exciting for many riders. 

Gravel Bike Key Features

  • Drop Bars
  • Gravel Bike Gearing Low Ratio
  • Large Over Sized Tires 
  • Disc Brakes
  • Relaxed Geometry
  • 700c or 650b Wheelsets
  • Often Come With Suspension Components

Gravel Bike Example:

Specialized Diverge Expert Carbon

Carbon Fiber
Specialized Diverge Expert

Specialized Diverge Expert

  • Specialized Diverge FACT 9r carbon, SWAT™ Door integration
  • Future Shock suspension
  • Future Shock 2.0 w/ Damper
  • Smooth Boot, FACT carbon
  • Specialized Adventure Gear Hover

A good example of a mid to high-end gravel bike is the Specialized Diverge Expert. This carbon fiber lightweight gravel bike is great for on and off-road riding and offers geometry for control and comfort. With a small rear A-frame and a long wheelbase, this bike is ready to own sketchy corners and loose terrain. 

The gearing comes from SRAM, and it’s completely wireless, offering silky smooth shifting, and comes equipped with components from both their mountain bike and road bike range. A single 40t chainring on the front and 10-50 cassette on the rear means steep climbs are easy to manage.

It comes with a 700c carbon fiber wheelset, which is wider to suit larger tires and reduce roll on the corners. Equipped to these wheels are 42c tires that take the edge of the lumpy roads and offer comfort no matter what terrain you’re on. We also can’t forget the powerful hydraulic disc brakes with incredible stopping power. 

It has a Future Shock suspension stem to take the edge off the rough roads and a SWAT internal storage system for all your tools and spares alongside loads of bikepacking mounts. Coming in at roughly $8000, it’s not cheap, but you get a lot for your money.

  • Carbon Fiber Frame And Fork
  • SRAM Gravel Gearing 40T 10/50 Cassette
  • 700c Rovel Terra Carbon Wheels 42mm Tires
  • Suspension Future Shock
  • $8000

Road Bike

What Is A Road Bike?

Road bikes are what you will see being used when it comes to races such as the Tour De France or the Giro D’ Italia. Road bikes have been around for over a century and are one of the most popular types of bikes available on the market. Many people know them as the bikes you can pick up with your little finger. 

They are incredibly lightweight and designed to slice through the air at high speeds. They are designed purely to be ridden on roads and are made with no suspension. Road bikes are fairly aggressive and generally made for riding fast.

You can tell a road bike from its drop handlebars, aerodynamic shape, skinny tires, and lack of suspension. They are not known for being the most comfortable bikes but are known for being fast and handling amazingly, even on small tires. 

Road Bike Key Features

  • Drop Bars
  • Road Bike Gearing High Ratio
  • Small Skinny Tires 
  • Disc or Rim Brakes
  • Sporty Geometry
  • 700c Wheelsets
  • Made To Be As Light

Road Bike Example:

Trek Domane SLR 7 Gen 4

Ultra Lightweight
Trek Domane SLR7 Gen4

Trek Domane SLR7 Gen4

  • The Domane SLR 7 is an ultra-light carbon endurance road bike with high-end parts made for a fast, high-performance ride
  • Highest-level OCLV Carbon frame with rear IsoSpeed, an all-new wireless electronic Shimano Ultegra Di2 drivetrain for precision shifting and OCLV Carbon wheels

If there’s a road bike that, over the years, has earnt a place as a legendary road bike, it’s the Trek Domane. Not only does it look absolutely incredible in a stealthy matte black, but it’s as quick as it comes across too. With an ultra-lightweight carbon fiber frameset and aerodynamics that could take you to space, this is a very fast bike.

It comes equipped with the new Shimano Ultegra 12-speed Di2 electronic gearing, which offers loads of gears for both climbing and descending. It’s a silky smooth groupset that is fully customizable via an application you can put on your phone. 

Then we have the wheels, and they have gone with a set of carbon fiber Bontrager wheels and fitted them with 32mm road racing tires. Which, for a road bike, is fairly large but will add to grip and comfort. It also comes with hydraulic disc brakes for great stopping power in all conditions.

The bike is fully internally routed and weighs in at less than 8kg. It’s very lightweight and glides down the road quickly. We love the internal frame storage, which is hidden in the downtube. For us, the finer details of the Domane make it special.

  • Carbon Fiber Frame And Fork
  • Shimano Ultegra Gearing 50/34T 11/34 Cassette
  • 700c Bontrager Carbon Wheels 32mm Tires
  • Electronic Gearing 
  • Full Internal Cable Routing
  • $11,500

Differences Between A Road And Gravel Bike

Gravel Bike vs. Road Bike: What Are The Key Differences?

Now you know a little more about road and gravel bikes, let’s dive into the finer details and run down exactly what you can expect. Here’s what you need to know:

Frame Geometry

The first thing to mention is frame geometry. The geometry of the frame is the position it puts the rider in. A road bike typically will have a fairly aggressive geometry. This will lean the rider forward in a very aerodynamic position, and although it might not be the most comfortable, it will be the quickest.

A gravel bike, on the other hand, offers a much more relaxed geometry. This more upright position makes the rider a little more comfortable and helps the center of gravity, making controlling the bike much easier on rough terrain. A lot of cyclists use gravel bikes as endurance road bikes because of the relaxed geometry.

Longer Frame Wheelbase

Gravel bikes are designed to give you much more control than road bikes. An easy way to stabilize a bike is to make it longer. A common trait you will find on a gravel bike is a very long wheelbase. 

A longer wheelbase will make the bike feel less agile but give the rider more control. Road bikes have a shorter wheelbase making them feel snappy and nimble. Although the gravel bikes might only be an inch or so longer, the difference can be felt when you’re riding. 

Bike Wheel

Strengthened Frameset

When it comes to gravel bikes, they are made to be a little tougher. They are subject to much more rough terrain and are expected to take a few more hits than a road bike. Gravel bikes are generally made of stronger materials such as chromoly steel or carbon fiber which is reinforced.

Large Oversized Tires

One of the biggest differences between a gravel bike and a road bike is the size of the tires. Gravel bikes are equipped with very large tires, and they will be from 35c all the way up to 50c. Gravel bikes use bigger tires for rougher terrain and to help grip loose surfaces, but this adds a lot of rolling resistance. 

Road bikes generally use very skinny tires. They will be between 23c and 32c. This is because they are normally ridden on tarmac and don’t require larger, heavier tires because the surface is much smoother. 


Regarding gearing, the gravel bike and the road bike are very different. Gravel bikes tend to use what they call a gravel bike groupset, such as the Shimano GRX. This is a lower ratio groupset to help with climbing and has many features, such as clutch mech to help to shift on rough terrain and create tension in the drivetrain.

On road bikes, you have a high ratio of gearing. This means not only do you have a fairly good ability when climbing, but you also have a lot of gears for descending down hills too. The gravel bike groupset is a good medium between road and mountain biking gearing.  

Bike Gears


Then we have brakes, and gravel bikes are always equipped with disc brakes. They are the perfect component for slowing down on rough terrain and riding in poor conditions. Some come mechanical and some hydraulic. I would question a gravel bike without disc brakes.

A road bike actually comes with various braking systems. You get classic rim brakes that grip the wheel to slow down, not so great in poor conditions but light and aerodynamic. Then on modern road bikes, you get the disc brakes which are the same system as a gravel bike.

Also Read: How To Adjust Bike Brakes


Another interesting feature of a gravel bike compared to a road bike is the handlebars. Although from the side, they look very similar, from above, you will notice that they are quite different. Most gravel bikes generally come with what they call flared bars with a shorter drop.

Flared bars are where the bottom of the drop bars flare out to the sides at an angle to make them wider. These offer much more of a much wider stance for the rider and a huge amount of control when in the drops. 


Wheel Sizing

Next, we have wheel sizing. Adult road bikes will generally all come with 700c wheels. This is the standard size that manufacturers will design bikes around and wheel manufacturers choose to use for tires and wheelsets.

Many gravel bikes come with two different wheel sizes options. You get 700c, equivalent to 29” like the road bike but also get a size called 650b, which is equivalent to 27.5”. This smaller wheel size makes the bike accelerate better and also can help control at lower speeds.

Another thing to mention when it comes to gravel bike wheel sizes is that a larger 700c might only be able to fit a 45c in the bike’s frame before hitting the max clearance. At the same time, a smaller 650b can fit a much larger tire, such as a 50c, before it hits the max tire clearance because it’s a much smaller wheel.

Accessories And Mounting Points

Another thing you will find on a gravel bike that differs from a road bike is the number of mountain points for accessories. This is because many people use gravel bikes as adventure or bikepacking bikes. 

Road bikes will come with some mounts for bottle cages etc, but they are not fully loaded for a round-the-world adventure. They can still be used for bikepacking, but the gravel bike is the better option, in our opinion.

Which One Is The Bike For You? 

Gravel and road bikes are a great way to enjoy cycling. When it comes to picking the perfect bike for you though, it can be challenging. The speed of a road bike is exciting, and you can cover distances very quickly, but then the gravel bike has the ability to go on more terrains, and the comfort aspect is very appealing. 

If you are planning to compete in road racing events or really have a need for speed, then the road bike is for you. If you are looking for a long-distance bike to experience riding on and off-road, it has to be the gravel bike. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I turn my road bike into a gravel bike?

If your road bike has a wide enough clearance for larger tires, then it is possible, but it isn’t going to be the same. The position will be more aggressive, and the frame isn’t designed for the impact that it will be taking. We wouldn’t recommend it personally. 

Can I use my gravel bike as a road bike?

This is something a lot of cyclists tend to do. They take a gravel bike, put smaller tires on it, and then use it as a road bike instead. Surprisingly the result is a super strong, comfortable, and very good handling endurance road bike, which is perfect for riding long distances. 

Should I use 700c or 650b wheels on my gravel bike?

If you plan on riding lots of roads and only light trails, then the 700c wheels might be more beneficial for you. If you want to do loads of off-roading and need more control, the 650b will be better for you. 

Robbie Ferri

Robbie Ferri

Robbie picked up a bike ten years ago at the age of 26. It started with a ride from London to Paris. Since then, he couldn’t get enough of big mile cycling and started bikepacking and eventually ended up racing ultra distance and even breaking world records.

Robbie has also worked in bike shops and closely with brands to design bikes and new products. Now he loves to share his knowledge and experience to add value to other people's cycling.

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