Riding dirty and rough has become the new way to enjoy the outdoors, even if you don’t live near a mountain. An increasing number of bikers are finding the fun in potted roads, blacktop, dirt tracks, and the countless trails and paths that are too rough for street steeds but don’t need the same level of equipment that mountain riders require. For these folks, there’s gravel bikes, which are sometimes hybrids, but just as often are their own unique animal which loves to go the road more battered.
The things that make up a good gravel bike are pretty simple. Nice drop bars that offer control during skids and slides, but provide you enough position to read the terrain are a must. Burly tires that beg to be beaten to a pulp are also sitting at the top of the checklist, since a flat or ripped up rims will quickly ruin your drifting fun; and finally, a chunky frame – we prefer steel for its mix of softness and strength, but often steel forks will suffice – able to keep you comfortable whether commuting or going for broke beyond the pavement. If you’re not into off-roading yet, let one of the 13 best gravel bikes take you there.
Masi Speciale Randonneur
More of a touring steed than a deep-digging gravel monster, those who expect long rides that sometimes take them over the hill as much as down the street will find the pleasant geometry of the steel frame to be a masterful blend of softness and strength; all with Shimano Tiagra permanence.