Gravel bikes have an average speed of about 15 to 16 mph, when riding on a paved roadway and are also fast when riding uphill. Road bikes, on the other hand, can average speeds of up to 15mph on a one-hour ride; professional cyclists on the other hand can achieve speeds of up to 45mph by utilizing only raw power when propelling themselves.
In essence is that gravel bikes are not as fast as the road bikes, the reason being that gravel bikes only come equipped with a single chainring incorporated at the front part of the bicycle. A rider will therefore be able to use the different gears when riding but they won’t have the relevant number of high gears when they want to achieve very high speeds.
For example, Gravel bikes will not achieve speeds of up to 26 mph to 30 mph or even more, because they simply cannot pedal any faster. And while you might not be able to achieve faster speeds on a gravel bike when compared to the road bike, the gravel bike still happens to be the most comfortable and versatile bike.
You can equip your gravel bike with wider tires at lower pressure for enhanced cushioning, and with more rubber on the road, you can be sure of getting better-stopping capabilities and turning power. And if you will not be using the bike for racing then you can still achieve some good reasonable pace with it.
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Are Gravel Bikes Slower Than Road Bikes?
Road bikes are fast when used on different types of surfaces when compared to gravel bikes. But remember that gravel bikes are not inherently slow, meaning that their inability to achieve faster speeds is because of some of their features, most of which we will explore below.
Factors That Affect Riding Speed
The aerodynamics of a rider- when riding a gravel bike, the rider is usually responsible for the wind resistance, because the gravel bikes are characteristic of the upright riding position and which is not aero. Road bikes on the other hand do not have an upright riding position as you might have seen how most racers ride, the road bike riding position is, therefore, more aero.
The rolling resistance – gravel tires are built with stiff casings and absorb more energy while transmitting more shocks when compared to the road bike tires. Thus when riding the road bike tires, you will use less power when compared to the stiff gravel tires, this applies when riding on both the pavements and gravel. The higher rolling resistance is because of the tires casing.
The Q-Factor- if you take a look at the design of the gravel crank, you will notice that they are very wide, road bikes on the other hand have a Q-factor that is less than 150mm. So the problem with the wide Q-factor on gravel bikes is that it makes the cranks harder for the rider to spin. And while this might be a problem with the older model bikes, the current bikes in the market have been configured to integrate with the standard road cranks.
Differences Between Road Bikes and Gravel Bikes
Road bikes fall under two categories, we have the endurance and race bikes.
The endurance bikes are characteristic upright with stable handling, some have built-in storage and have even incorporated fenders and mount racks.
Race bikes are low in weight with tube shapes and components that reduce the aerodynamic drag.
And as already established gravel bikes are built to effectively handle different types of terrains, road bikes are designed for racing. But there are some built for adventure and will come equipped with mounts for bottles, fenders, and luggage.
Gravel bikes are also heavier when compared to road bikes. Their weight is normally because the frame has been reinforced to deflect the airborne debris and offer comfort when riding off-road.
Gravel Bike Clearance
Gravel bikes boast a clearance of 33mm tires and this incorporates the casings that are usually measured in inches.
Additionally, the frame of the gravel bikes are designed to integrate with both the 700c and the 650b wheels and tires.
The tread pattern of a gravel tire is also quite different when compared to that of a road tire. So, for the gravel tires, the treads must be designed to offer enhanced grip, but with the road tires, the treads are not designed to offer enhanced grip. That is why you find that most of the road tires are smooth.
Gravel bikes are designed for riding on softer surfaces and that is why they feature treads and knobs meant to offer stability on off-road surfaces.
You will find different types of tread patterns when purchasing the gravel tires, the differences in tread patterns are so that you can choose one that resonates with your weather and the type of terrain that you wish to engage.
Road Bikes Clearance
Road bikes have a maximum tire clearance of 33-35mm but this largely depends on the category.
Currently, road bikes feature the 25mm tires but with more room for 28mm. The endurance road bikes are also equipped with a wider rubber that enables lower pressure while creating a wider contact path that enables comfort and grip.
Wider tires are however not as reliable and with regards to the type of rim that you will have used your wheelset may fail to offer the aerodynamic experience.
On the flip side is that the current road bikes do not spread a 25c or 28c casing that is supposed to sit flush with the rim.
Road and Gravel Bike Geometry
Road bikes are characteristic of shorter wheelbases and steeper angles that offer a comfortable ride.
Gravel bikes come equipped with a longer wheelbase and have a slacker head angle that helps to enhance stability while slowing down the handling as the rider negotiates the technical terrains.
They also spot a longer reach, the frame stack is short while the head tube enables a longer, and lower aero position, while the gravel bikes are shorter and more upright.
Cockpit and Seat Post
If you look at the gravel bikes you will see that they are equipped with flared drop bars, and on other occasions, they do have shorter stems when compared to the cockpits on the road bikes.
For the road bikes, the drop bars are characteristic of a deeper drop and a longer reach, when compared to those equipped in the gravel bike.
The flared drop bars on gravel bikes allow one to place their in a much broader position, a feature that allows clearance for the wrists and added control.
The flare feature makes it easy for the rider to reach the brake levers from the drops
Both the road bikes and gravel bikes excel in different categories.
Gravel bikes have been found to be more versatile when engaging different types of terrains.
While the road bikes are fast and excel when used on smooth tarmacked roads.
The differences in construction between the two bikes are quite striking, so it basically depends on your needs when making a purchase.
What are gravel bikes designed for?
Some lightweight gravel bikes have been made for use in racing and for engaging the fast-paced adventures.
Do tires contribute to the speeds offered by a particular bike?
Yes, tires contribute to the speeds offered by a particular bike. For example, the gravel bikes that have been equipped with thinner tires are faster.