You Don’t Need a Gravel Bike

Yes, dear readers, it’s true. You don’t need a gravel bike.

“But how can I explore all those cool, unpaved roads and trails I’ve been reading about?” It’s easy. Ride your bike on those cool unpaved roads and trails. While you may know the difference between a paved and unpaved road, your bicycle can’t tell the difference.

“My bike has skinny, slick tires, though.” Get bigger tires. You don’t need the fattest, knobbiest tires to enjoy riding on dirt or gravel roads. Over the past few years, I’ve actually transitioned towards narrower tires for the bulk of my unpaved riding.

“I’m afraid that my bike will break.” Bikes can break. They can break when ridden on city streets, and they can break when ridden on dirt roads. Personally, I’m more freaked out by pothole-riddled city streets than unpaved back roads.

Don’t let not having the “perfect” bike prevent you from exploring new terrain. People have been enjoying all kinds of terrain on the “wrong” bikes for over one hundred years. Like the sticker says, free your mind and your bike will follow.

5 thoughts on “You Don’t Need a Gravel Bike

  1. I’ve been riding the same road bikes since I bought them new, a 1985 Trek 560 and 1986 Trek 520, both on the road and everything else besides technical singletrack. Yes, I’ve had to replace a few more rear axles than I might have but it’s opened up miles and miles of traffic-free riding. I have always used the widest slicks I could find for comfort on the road and trail. The 560 has 700x28mm Ruffy Tuffys from Rivendell and the 520 has 27×1 1/4 Gatorskin Hardshells. I rarely ever have any traction problems and I can ride to the gravel and then ride home without getting off the bike.

    I’d love a gravel specific bike, but I’m not racing so worrying about the “perfect” bike for a given situation isn’t worth the time or energy. Besides, my experience on the ride wouldn’t be any better just because I dumped another load of cash to have another bike to take care of.


    1. Even though my Salsa Vaya can accommodate much wider tires, most of the time it wears 700×28 Panaracer Paselas. They smooth out the broken pavement, and do surprisingly well on non-technical trails.

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