If the world of gravel biking gets your heart pumping and your desire for adventure rising, then this article is meant for you.
It’s your opportunity to explore six gravel bike trends that have been stirring up quite a bit of talk and, quite frankly, causing a bit of annoyance.
While gravel biking is a thrilling experience, these trends might bring out a grimace instead of a grin.
So, grab your helmet and get ready to familiarize yourself with these six trends that you might find a little bothersome, too!
Overly aggressive frame geometry
It’s an undeniable fact in the cycling world that frame geometry has a substantial influence on how a bike performs and how comfortable it is.
Consequently, this is a feature that should not be overlooked when purchasing a bike. Lately, it seems there is a trend toward overly aggressive frame geometry that isn’t necessarily beneficial for all riders.
Increasingly slack head tube angles
Slack head tube angles appear to be growing more prevalent. While this trait may be advantageous in downhill mountain biking, providing stability at high speeds, it can be rather unwieldy for everyday riders.
This geometry tends to make the bike feel lazy and sluggish, particularly when climbing or navigating tight, twisting trails.
Excessively long top tubes and reach
Another trend we’ve noticed is significantly longer top tubes and reaches. This design not only stretches the rider out into a more aggressive riding stance, but it may place undue strain on the back and neck.
It’s worth mentioning that what is perfect for a professional bike racer doesn’t necessarily translate to comfort and efficiency for a daily commuter or casual weekend rider.
Inconvenience in handling due to overly sportive geometry
As a result of the aforementioned changes, there’s a noticeable inconvenience when it comes to handling.
Such bikes with oversportive geometry may feel less responsive and agile, and that could reduce your riding pleasure and limit your ability to maneuver through rough terrain.
Excessive use of carbon
Carbon has become a popular material in the bike industry, thanks to its lightness and stiffness. However, the extensive employment of this material in certain models has become a worry.
High cost of carbon components
First and foremost, carbon components are exorbitantly priced. This factor can considerably push up the cost of the bike, making it inaccessible to a large section of potential bicycle enthusiasts, especially those just getting into the sport.
Question of durability and longevity
While carbon is lightweight and stiff, its durability over time is up for debate. Unlike metals, which can endure a certain degree of bending and flexing, carbon is known to crack under extreme conditions, raising concerns about its longevity and reliability.
Difficulty in maintenance and repairs
Another downfall of carbon is the maintenance and repair difficulty. Damage to carbon components generally requires specialized tools and knowledge to repair, potentially costing more in upkeep.
In other cases, the whole component will need to be replaced, adding to the overall expenditure.
Disproportionate wheel and tire sizes
Choosing the right wheel and tire sizes is crucial for optimal riding experiences. However, we can’t help but notice a trend toward oversized components, which can lead to a host of problems.
Trend towards overly large wheels
Oversized wheels have become quite the rage. While these can assist in navigating over larger obstacles more easily, they are heavier and less responsive, disadvantaging cyclists who need to climb steep ascents or who prefer great handling bike.
Mismatch between tire sizes and frames
Another worry is the apparent mismatch between tire sizes and frames. Some modern bikes seem to be designed to accommodate large tires, but the frame geometry doesn’t afford sufficient clearance. This mismatch can lead to rubbing, resulting in wear and tear on both the frame and the tires.
Compromised bike handling due to larger wheel and tire sizes
Pair the oversized wheel and tire trend with an overly aggressive frame geometry, and you could have a bike that’s difficult to handle.
Large wheels and tires can make the bike feel sluggish and less responsive. Plus, they can create a higher center of gravity, making the bike feel unstable and impairing your ability to respond to unexpected obstacles or terrain changes swiftly.
Single chainring setups
Single chainring setups are increasingly popular. However, this simplicity comes with a few downsides that have left us a bit annoyed.
Limited gear range
Bikes with a single chainring setup offer a limited gear range. While it may be adequate for city commuting or leisurely cruising, it falls short for more challenging terrains that require a wider range of gear ratios, like steep hills or rough terrains.
Inefficient on hilly terrains
Due to its limited gear range, a single chainring setup proves inefficient on hilly terrains. Most riders are accustomed to having a wide range of gears to handle ascents and descents smoothly.
With only a single chainring, the climb can become a struggle, particularly on steep routes.
Higher maintenance costs due to frequent replacements
Fewer parts may seem like a recipe for less maintenance, but when it comes to single chainring setups, the opposite can occur.
The additional load on the only chainring may lead to quicker wear and tear, resulting in more frequent and potentially costly replacements.
Superfluous electronic gear shifting
Despite the technological advances, electronic gear shifting systems still strike us as unnecessary and problematic.
Expensive and complex electronic shifting systems
Electronic shifting systems, though touted for their precision, are expensive. They add a significant amount to the cost of the bike, making it less accessible for many riders.
Additionally, they can be more complex than their mechanical counterparts, requiring a learning curve for new users.
Battery life concerns
Another drawback of electronic gear shifting comes down to battery life. Always worrying about battery levels can be a potential downside, especially on lengthy rides. If your battery dies mid-ride, you might be stuck in a gear that’s less than ideal for your remaining journey.
Potential technical issues during tough journeys
Electronic systems, with their complexity, can be prone to technical issues that might be challenging to fix on-the-go during strenuous rides.
Mechanical setups may be old-school but they’re reliable, easier to tweak, and tolerating some neglect.
Over emphasis on aerodynamics
Aerodynamics is important, mainly for road racers battling it out at high speeds. However, for the average gravel rider, the overemphasis on aerodynamics is a bit misplaced.
Inclusion of aero bars and related components
Aerodynamic add-ons like aero bars might seem cool, but they can often hamper the comfort and handling of the bicycle for the average rider.
They assume that the rider will continuously be in a tucked position, which isn’t practical, or even manageable, for many recreational riders.
Uncomfortable due to aggressive riding position
In the pursuit of aerodynamics, comfort often takes a backseat. Aerodynamic components push the rider into a more aggressive position, straining the neck, back, and wrists.
This setup is ideal for competitive riding over short durations, not for recreational or long-distance riders.
Limited practicality for majority of gravel riders
Riders spend most of their time battling climbs, crosswinds, and rough terrains where aerodynamics have limited impact. So the trade-off between comfort and aerodynamics doesn’t seem worthwhile.
Decline of threaded bottom brackets
Once widespread, threaded bottom brackets are seeing a decline, being replaced by press-fit versions. However, this trend isn’t without its niggles.
Difficulties in maintenance of press-fit bottom brackets
Press-fit bottom brackets, while looking sleek, pose some difficulties in terms of installation and maintenance.
They require special tools to install and remove, making the process a little more complicated than with threaded bottom brackets.
Issues surrounding creaking noises
A commonly reported issue with press-fit bottom brackets is the infamous creaking noise.
These noises aren’t just irritating; they’re often a symptom of another problem, such as a loose fit or lack of proper lubrication. Threaded models, on the other hand, tend to be quieter and more reliable.
Lack of durability compared to threaded bottom brackets
Durability is another area where threaded bottom brackets reign supreme. Being sealed and secure, they hold up better against elements like dust, debris, and water, contributing to a longer lifespan. This characteristic is particularly advantageous for gravel riders who often ride in various conditions.
Over-packed gravel bikes
Gravel bikes, by design, should be versatile and adaptable. However, this doesn’t mean more is always better. These days, it seems many gravel bikes are over-packed with accessories and features.
Utilisation of excessive accessory mounts
While it’s nice to have the option to install water bottle holders, racks, fenders, or bags, too many accessory mounts can lead to an over-packed bike.
You might be tempted to mount more gadgets than necessary, leading to a cluttered and cumbersome ride.
Increased weight due to added accessories
Every extra accessory you mount on your bike adds weight. Additional weight not only makes your bike harder to maneuver and slower to accelerate but also puts extra strain on crucial components like the frame and wheels.
Reduced bike handling due to too many packed items
Moreover, an over-packed bike can negatively affect your ability to handle the bike, especially on rough terrains.
Overloading can result in a higher center of gravity, making the bike unstable, and may also affect your ability to see and control the bike.
Excessive focus on bike lightness
Bike lightness has always been a sought-after trait, but it seems like the current trend is bordering on obsession. However, striving purely for lightness comes with its drawbacks.
Compromise on durability and strength
Materials that offer the ultimate in light weight often compromise on strength and durability. Lighter frames and components may be less resistant to impacts and more prone to wear and tear compared to their slightly heavier but sturdier counterparts.
High cost associated with lightweight materials
Materials like carbon fibre, which is often used to achieve lighter bikes, are expensive. As a result, bikes focusing on lightness may not be affordable for everyone.
This trend also raises the question of value for money, especially for non-racers who may not benefit significantly from a few grams’ weight reduction.
Not necessarily beneficial for all riders
Lastly, a bike’s lightness might not matter as much to the average rider. Unless you’re racing, factors like comfort, durability, and versatility are often more important.
A slightly heavier bike with comfortable geometry and reliable components may provide a more enjoyable ride than an ultra-light racing machine.
Overly complicated suspension systems
Suspensions are meant to improve comfort and control. However, the move towards intricate suspension systems seems to be creating more issues than benefits.
Expensive suspension setups
First off, these advanced suspension systems can drastically increase the bike’s cost. Manufacturers often use high-tech materials and mechanisms in these setups, which reflect in the price tag.
A lot of the time, a good set of tires and a well-chosen tire pressure can do just as good a job as a suspension system for a fraction of the cost.
Increased maintenance requirements due to complex systems
Complex suspension setups can require more regular maintenance compared to their simpler, rigid alternatives. They often employ a myriad of moving parts that are prone to wear and tear, requiring regular inspection and service.
Compromised ride quality due to overly stiff or soft suspensions
Last but not least, many suspension systems offer a suboptimal ride quality. They are often overly stiff, compromising on comfort, or excessively soft, affecting control.
Moreover, fine-tuning these systems to create the perfect balance of rigidity and plushness can be a complicated and time-consuming task.
In general, it’s essential to remember that just because a trend exists doesn’t mean you have to follow it. It’s always more important to consider your individual needs, comfort, and budget when choosing a bike. Happy cycling!