Road bikes and gravel bikes are similar in a lot of respects. In some cases, you can have one model for both disciplines. But actually, there are six key differences that make these bikes work for different terrain. Read up on what they are here. Then you can decide what’s right for your cycling journey!

1. Geometry

Road bikes have a shorter wheelbase for more quicker acceleration, more precise handling, and more climbing ability. Gravel bikes have a longer wheelbase for more stability and capability on rough terrain, and maximum comfort for long riding days.

Non-racing gravel models have a shorter reach and higher stack than most road models. It gives you a more upright body position in the saddle. Endurance road bikes also have a less aggressive body position, so there’s some overlap with these categories.

2. Tire Clearance

Road bikes are made for 20mm to 28mm tires, or 32mm for progressive endurance models. They have a “slick” tread pattern for smooth paved roads, better for accelerating, braking and cornering. Narrower tires have less tire clearance and less weight.

Gravel bikes work with 38mm to 42mm tires, or 50mm for XC mountain models. They can handle different terrain, but primarily work on dirt and gravel. You can fit wider gravel-specific tires for optimal traction and comfort.

3. Gearing Options

Road and gravel bikes have 1x and 2x drivetrains. Gravel leans more towards 1x, mostly with 11 or 12 gears. Narrow-wide chainrings with narrower and wider teeth keep the chain from bouncing off over rough terrain.

Road is more likely to have 2x, which generally has 20, 22 or 24 gears. A bigger range makes it easier to find a comfortable cadence at any speed. Lower numbers are for climbing, and higher for steep, fast descents.

4. Frame Materials

Road and gravel are made with aluminum, carbon, steel, or titanium frames. Four incredibly durable materials with their own pros and cons. Carbon is the most popular in both categories. Carbon road models are light and compliant, while carbon gravel road models are heavy and durable.

Aluminum alloy frames are common at the budget end, ideal for beginner gravel riders. Steel is more popular for gravel models because of its strength and vibration damping. Titanium is found on premium models due to its superior ride quality.

5. Accessory Mounts

Racing road bikes have fewer mounting points, mainly just for bottle cages in the front triangle. Endurance, urban, and winter road bikes have more mounts for mudguards, racks, and multiple bottles. It’s the same for racing vs. backpacking gravel models.

2022 Niner MCR 9 RDO Gravel Bike

Road and Gravel Bikes at Airpark Bike Co

Still can’t decide between a road or gravel bike? Get all the help you need at Airpark Bike Co in Scottsdale, AZ! We’ll determine what’s right for you based on where and how you ride. Then we’ll set you up with a model from Cipollini, Niner, Bombtrack, or another top brand. You can also buy replacement parts and cycling gear at our shop. Everything you need for your rolling on two wheels!