Hey! Been a while….
We’ve been making the rounds and building out our selection of bikes that we’re going to be carrying for the 2020 season and I want to try to address a common question that we often get asked.
With drop bar bikes getting more and more capable and the “gravel” category growing seemingly every day, it’s an exciting time to be on the hunt for a new bike! Whether you’ve been riding a road bike for a while and you’ve been thinking your 23mm tire clearance just isn’t quite cutting it anymore or you’re looking for a bike to get totally loaded down and go on an offroad tour for 10+ days, there’s a gravel bike out there for you. But where it gets weird is with both those customers are looking for completely different bikes with a different set of features and geometry, how can they both be called gravel bikes?
Cutthroat Photo Credit: (Logan @Bikepacking.com)
I want to try to help make sense of the increasingly broad “gravel” category and give you a couple things to look for so you can narrow down what your next purchase should be.
Since we could probably talk for days breaking down each bike to see how it exactly fits your riding style, this post I wanted to look at 3 different features that strongly influence how a bike feels and rides. We’re going to be looking at chainstay length, tire clearance and headtube angle.
Here is how each feature will influence the ride:
CHAINSTAY LENGTH: A longer chainstay often equates to more stability on a bike. Whereas a shorter chainstay will add to a more responsive and snappier cornering bike. On a bike that you’re going to be riding for potentially longer periods of time, especially over bumpy terrain, a longer chainstay can be a blessing, whereas if you’re finding yourself riding more technical terrain with lots of tight corners and maybe even some singletrack, a slightly shorter chainstay will help you.
TIRE CLEARANCE: This is a big one! Tire clearance on the bike sends a bit of a message to the user about its intended usage. The wider and more rugged tire, obviously the more offroad capable and supple it’s going to be.
HEADTUBE ANGLE: A slacker headtube angle results in more trail, which translates to slacker bikes being less twitchy and more stable in corners whereas a steeper headtube angle gets the rider positioned farther over the front of the bike, allowing for a quicker cornering and sportier position.
If you wanted to, you could classify a lot of the bikes we have in the store under the sweeping “adventure and gravel” umbrella, but in reality they’re all just great bikes for Toronto! Our friend Mel helped us make this nifty little chart helping classify where on the spectrum each one sits relative to one another based on those three metrics I talked about above: chainstay length, headtube angle and tire clearance.
I sincerely hope this helps clarify things…and if you know anyone who is looking for a new bike, steer em’ to this chart, because it might help!
If you’re curious about another bike we sell and how it might fit on this chart, give us a shout! And of course, if you want to check out the bikes, you can 24/7 by clicking here or by coming down to the store so we can make you a coffee and send you on some test rides!
A super quick not on this chart: There's lots of factors that can justify certain bikes here being in different spots. Keep in mind we're using 3 key factors and a bit of magic to find them their placing. Would be happy to chat about why certain bikes are where and why they might make a good case to be somewhere else. Either way, enjoy and feel free to hit that share button down at the bottom. :)