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GRAVEL BIKE FRAME
Like other types of bikes, there are many materials that can be used for gravel / all-road frames. It could be carbon, it could be steel, it could be aluminum, it could be titanium (and so on).
The difference is, this type of frame is not required to be very light. Toughness is the main thing. So, even if you use carbon materials, usually the type of carbon is not the most expensive. So that the price becomes more affordable.
Don’t be surprised if the price of the gravel frame set can be way below most road bikes. Although recently started to appear “luxury” gravel frames (which buyers may be afraid of dirty roads).
GRAVEL BIKE GEOMETRY
Perhaps the most important aspect of any gravel bike – is the geometry of the frame. Although much of the geometry of the bike has been mastered in the past few decades, the gravel frame is a wide segment with some feel of geometry and fit.
In general, gravel bikes tend to have a longer wheelbase and higher handlebars than road bikes – often paired with wide handlebars for better handling during rough terrain. Keep in mind that while the head tube of a gravel bike may not be longer than that of a road bike, the longer the axle-to-crown fork size means that your handlebars will almost certainly be slightly taller than that of a road bike.
Perhaps the biggest debate in gravel bike geometry is regarding the height of the bottom bracket – usually measured as the vertical distance between the wheelbase and the bottom bracket. Some get low, like the Special Diverge with an 85mm drop, and some get high, like the Trail Donkey 3.0 from Rodeo Adventure Labs, which only features a 65mm drop.
How do you know what’s best for you? Lower bottom bracket height provides better stability and bend, at the expense of ground clearance. The tall bottom brackets clean the gruff better, at the expense of stability. Remember that tire size will affect your effective BB height, so don’t deviate too far from the diameter of the stock tire unless you really know what you’re doing (and it’s okay with the effect you’re having on tire handling on a bicycle).
GRAVEL BIKE FRAME SIZE CHART
Gravel and cyclocross bikes are similar to road bikes when it comes to fit. The size is often numerical, in centimeters, measured from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the safety post clamp. The length of the top tube will be one of the main measurements to consider. A gravel bike will most likely have a higher head tube than a comparable road bike, to provide a more upright position.
If you already have a drop-bar bike, that’s a good starting point for finding the right size. If a friend owns a bike of the same size, it can be helpful to ride a little to get a feel for it. Unlike road bikes, gravel bikes are usually designed to fit shorter stems, often 80-100mm, so it’s best to avoid buying bikes that are too small in hopes of making them fit very long stems, and vice versa with -big frames as well.1
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Gravel frames are designed for long-distance riding, necessitating geometry that is stable and well-mannered. Usually, this means a slacker head tube angle, longer wheelbase, lower bottom bracket, and taller stack. Plus, gravel frames often afford more tire clearance, additional mounts for bottles and bags, and sometimes even incorporate aerodynamic features for battling across the windswept prairie.