Gravel Bikes

By: Forest Dramis

Gravel bikes are the next big thing. Gravel bikes are ruling the market. Gravel grinders are ruling the race circuit. Crusher in the Tushar is THE race. Pardon me while I yawn...

Really? We've just discovered road racing on dirt roads? Strade Bianche? Paris Roubiax? Tour of the Battenkill? While I like a good marketing campaign as well as the next guy, and I realize if the bike industry doesn't change change BB standards every 8 quarters they'll go out of business, but I'm going to draw the line at Gravel Road Bikes. (Actually, I also draw the line at 650b, but that's another rant)

I had the "pleasure" of testing the Niner RLT – ($3,000, 19.2lbs), Foundry Auger ($3,050, 20.6lbs) and Vassago Fisticuff ($1,900,20.0lbs) at the Outside Magazine bike test in Tucson. Instead of giving you a rundown on each bike, I'll just give you my overall impressions as they were all pretty underwhelming.

None of them are as good as my cross bike. None of them handled off road terrain as well as my cross bike, none of them were as comfortable as my cross bike. None of them were as light as my cross bike and with the exception of the Vassago, none of them were as cheap as my cross bike. I also don't know who they're for. Are they for the guy who does a lot of dirt road riding but rides a little road too? OK, that guy should buy a cross bike. They're better. Are they for the road racer who wants to go kill it at the Crusher? That guy would be racing on his road bike. People who race "Gravel Grinders" and want to be competitive, race their road bikes. Is Fabian racing Flanders or Roubaix on his "gravel bike"? Please...

So in short, if you do a ton of dirt road riding, buy a cross bike, you'll be happy you did. If you want to race some dirt road races? Race your road bike, you'll be faster. And if you really want to buy a "gravel bike", make room in your garage next to your 650b.