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What is a Gravel Bike? Part 2 Gravel Bike Categories


Welcome to our latest edition of the Boundless Gravel blog series with VéloRoo / Pedal Brisbane / BOWY Active and the second part of “What is a Gravel Bike?”

We hope the information we have put into our Gravel Riding blog series is helping you navigate a nice smooth single track through the landscape of Gravel. The hype is real!

As always, we don’t pretend to know all the answers, so if you agree, disagree or have a question you want to ask without prejudice or bias, please ask away!

What is a Gravel Bike Part 2 summary;

  • Why are there different categories of Gravel Bikes.
  • What the categories are and how they’re different.
  • There’s MORE!?! Yep… say hello to the different frame materials!

Example: FOCUS Atlas 6.7.Alloy frame. 700c and 650b compatible.

Why Gravel Bike sub-Categories?;

Leisure rider? Mountain Biker? Roadie? Yep there is a Gravel Bike for you that will play to YOUR strengths and experience. We are all unique and different and our bike journey to gravel is equally as different. But with Gravel, the different experiences within the bunch complement and everyone comes out endorphined up! You know… those feel good vibes that make you excited for the next gravel ride!

For VéloRoo, bike riding is above all, achieving a positive state of mind, challenging yourself and the camaraderie being with like minded people.

Our rides are not competitions to meet or exceed someone elses expectations. They are about engaging your senses and immersing yourself within wonderful natural surroundings.

We tag it Live, Laugh, Ride…  Well, we found when Gravel came along about 5 years ago it amplified!

So we now have GraVeloRoo! Live, Laugh, Gravel Ride…

So who are you?

  • The Road Bike rider looking to venture off-road and explore, but wants a familiar bike dynamic.
  • The Mountain Bike rider wanting to dial back the adrenalin but have more fun on flatter trails and challenge of lighting up the climbs on a lighter more agile bike, but still can’t bear the thought of being lycra-ed up 😄
  • The Leisure rider who now really enjoys the freedom of bike riding and wants to explore and discover new regions, maybe even other countries, with their bike, by adventureing in touring or bike packing mode.

Read on, we’ll dive into the Gravel Bike sub-categories as we get closer to bullseyeing your Gravel Bike Venn Diagram!

We have also included our “Dusty Roo” ranking for each of the categories below as a suggestion for where they’d be most suitable.

Gravel Bike sub Categories:

Like everything, Gravel Bike sub Categories can accomodate every budget, it just depends on you. The main thing is what works for you and your gravel style.

All Road:

The entry point for gravel, and as the title suggests, All Road Gravel Bikes are almost identical to the traditional endurance road bikes.

Tyre clearances up to mid 30 millimeters and a more relaxed geometry they’re still quick and sharp handling both on road and very smooth gravel roads.

Their limitations are a lack of mounting points and narrow tyre clearances mean they’re not suited for adventures and chunkier gravel. Limited tyre size could also induce more fatigue over longer gravel distances. Descending can also require more concentration to make sure you follow the best line.

All Road Gravel Bikes are best suited to roadies who really don’t see themselves off road all that often but don’t want the fun to stop with the tarmac.

Example; TREK Domane max tyre clearance 35mm.

Suited To:

The All-Rounder:

The All-Rounder is by far the most popular sub-category, the SUV of the bike world if you like.

As it’s name suggests it’s pretty versatile, with a tyre size range between 35 – 45 mm on 700c wheels, you have more then enough to tackle pretty much anything a mixed terrain or general gravel route could throw at you. It won’t even look weird if you fit 32mm slicks for the weekly commute or weekend Road bunchie.

The All-Rounder is also the sweet spot when you want to add spicing up of your gravel adventures with spats of off-road shenanigans. Choosing the right frame will allow 650b wheels and even larger tyres to be fitted. Rad!

Further afield adventures can be had on the right All-Rounder with a plethora of bag/bidon mounts scattered all over the frame and forks on certain models. The example I have chosen below is the Genesis CdF. Zoom in on the pics and you’ll notice all the bullet head allen bolts awaiting bags/sacs/bidons etc.

For the trend setters out there, suspension elements are being added by some brands now.

Example: Genesis Croix de Fer.

Suited To:


The Ute (or Workhorse)

It’s a bit niche, but bridges the gap between an All-Rounders and fully blown Bike Packing mule.

An HD All-Rounder. To accompany the dizzying number of frame and fork mounts, they favour sturdy and stablity over lightness and speed. Consequently you can expect improved levels of comfort too. Not dual suspension comfort but pretty good.

Expect steel frames here for their durability factor, and if the ultimate is what you’re looking for, Titanium will feature here too.

You’ll also likely encounter some neat engineering like horizontal drop outs so you can extend the wheelbase to squeeze even more luggage on or take bigger tyres.

The Surly Straggler is a perfect example. Surly prides itself on making steel bikes for riders who don’t take themselves too seriously. In that vein, bikes like the Straggler are most definitely sturdy workhorses, not lightweight racers. You can run 650b or 700c wheels (take advantage of the horizontal dropouts to adjust the wheelbase) or turn it into a singlespeed, and bolt on bags, fenders, and racks galore for a bike tour.

To give an indication of how seriously Surly (and the people who choose a “Ute”) the logo for this bike is a snail! Talk about setting yourself up for “SPH” from the get go!

Suited To:


Aero Gravel Bike

Yep, aero gravel bikes exist. I told you there is a Gravel Bike for everyone!

The 3T Exploro kicked it all off. Before too all the big brands jumped on board. If I’m to be honest, I don’t really get it, but then I’m absolutely NOT the target market!

With more and more gravel events turning into or starting off as full blown races there is certainly a thirsty market out there and for those folks, an aerodynamic gravel bike makes sense.

This is the appeal of the Gravel vibe and what GraVeloRoo will always promote … “SPH”! So if you get your kicks from riding fast on gravel on a stiff aero gravel bike, yay! If you come on one of our rides, you will be very welcome, and you’ll be living the 3T Exploro tagline Go slow faster. 🙂


Suited To:


The Super Gravel Bike

Remember all the way back at the start I see Gravel Bikes coming from two DNA pools? Well up to this point we’ve really been looking at the “road bike” DNA variants. The Super Gravel Bike is very much from the Mountain Bike (MTB) DNA pool, less (well up until recently) front and rear suspension.

Frame geometry that looks very similar to a MTB, long frame and slack fork angles to soak up almost anything that you could encounter in nature just shy of black tracks or down hill!

Tailored for those who are seeking multi day/week/month/year bike packing adventures where you may not even see a car in all that time! A huge offering of bike packing and luggage rack mount points along with super generous tyre clearance.

Example – Salsa Cutthroat


Suited To:


Gravel e-Bike

Like every other mode of transport it didn’t take the bike world long to realise that there was a market for a Gravel e-Bike. The most surprising thing is it took a little while. Don’t like those pesky hills … tap the button and away you go.

I do not have any hangups with e-Bikes. If it gets more people out enjoying nature bring it on! #SPH remember!

BUT … yeah, there is always a but!

E-bikes can be terrifying due to their rate of acceleration. In most instances e-Bike riders are new to riding. Even as an experienced rider the sudden thrust of torque can be alarming. If delivered at the wrong time can ruin a great fun weekend. Throw in the increased weight (and the subsequently different dynamic and riding characteristics) of the machine and the switch from #SPH to non-SPH ratio can be equally as rapid as the bikes’ formidable acceleration.

If you are considering a Gravel e-Bike or if you already have one, the best investment you can make is to get some professional bike riding coaching.

Lastly you also need to consider range. Running out of juice will leave you stuck pedaling a bike that’s easily twice as heavy as a regular bike.

example: Bianchi e-Arcadex

Suited To:


So there you have it. The sub categories – who’d have thought!

Our next post will dive into the different fame materials and we’ll break down the benefits and characteristics of each material.

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