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What Is A Gravel Bike?

Gravel bikes are drop bar bikes designed to provide speed, traction, and confidence when riding off pavement. 

But while that may sound niche, gravel bikes in our opinion have become one of the most versatile types of bike on the market, making them perfect for just about anyone. 

In this guide we'll break down what makes a gravel bike a gravel bike, why you might want one, and what our favorite models are.

Let's get rolling!

Table of contents

  1. What makes a gravel bike a gravel bike?
  2. Who rides gravel bikes?
  3. Best gravel bikes
  4. Shop all gravel bikes
  5. Where to ride gravel bikes in San Diego

What makes a gravel bike a gravel bike?

Wider, more capable tires

With wider, grippier tires you'll be able to ride where you feel, whether that be dirt and gravel roads, bumpy double track, or even light single track trails.

Off road gearing

While road bikes are made for mashing up smooth and well graded roads, gravel bikes typically feature lower gearing that's more suited to rougher, steeper off road riding.

Versatile frame design

Gravel bike frame geometry is designed to provide more stability and comfort than traditional road frames, all while remaining snappy and quick for precise handling.

Who rides gravel bikes?

Like we said earlier, our opinion is that gravel bikes are some of the most versatile models out there and that they are great for lots of riders. Whether you're shopping for your first real bike or you have aspirations of racing at the highest level, there's a gravel bike for you. 

Here's who gravel bikes are great for:

First time bike buyers

Gravel bikes make great first bikes because of their versatile nature. Riders can rest assured that they can use their new bike on pavement, off-road, and everywhere in between.

Urban commuters

Navigating the concrete jungle is easier on a gravel bike. The wider tires are more comfortable over potholes and less-than-perfect pavement and the knobby tread pattern provides good traction in the wet.

Weekend warriors

If going on long Saturday rides is your thing, gravel bikes open up a wider world of possible destinations than traditional road bikes. Conquer more routes!

Bikepackers and bike tourists

Most gravel bikes have additional frame mounts to carry gear on long rides. The durable components and relaxed geometry come in handy on high-mileage touring days.

Gravel racers and ultra endurance athletes

High-end gravel bikes are designed for maximum performance in gravel races and ultra-endurance events where every second counts.


Gravel bikes are built to adapt to a wide range of riding surfaces and follow your lead! They really are the choose-your-own-adventure bike.

What are the some of the best gravel bikes?

Bike manufacturers have embraced the relatively new discipline of gravel biking with open arms, creating some amazing bikes that feel at home on a variety of surfaces. We’ve picked through the crowded field of gravel bikes and selected the best models that show off their innovative tech and impressive specs.

Here are a few of our favorite gravel bikes:

Specialized Diverge

This award-winning model is a purebred gravel bike built to smooth out the route ahead. Specialized’s eye-catching Future Shock Technology is available on the top models to offer extra compliance with on-the-fly adjustability— perfect for taming the rough stuff.

Specialized Crux

The Crux is a lightweight gravel bike designed for outright speed and efficiency. It has more aggressive, race-oriented geometry inspired by cyclocross that’ll give you an edge in gravel races and ultra-endurance events. A podium-topping bike that’s as light as a feather and boasts massive tire clearance.

Pivot Vault

Created with the varied terrain of the Pacific Northwest in mind, the Pivot Vault is a versatile gravel bike that delivers some serious comfort. The advanced frame provides a stable ride that’s plenty playful for fun days out on the trail every time. The recognizable, kinked Iso Flex seat tube is Pivot’s way of adding some vertical compliance when riding over bumps. It’s also available as an electric gravel bike.

Scott Addict Gravel

Inspired by Scott’s flagship endurance road bike, the Addict Gravel combines off-road performance with aero gains. The lightweight carbon frame utilizes airfoil tube shapes and integrated components to maximize pace. There are cleverly placed frame mounts on this bike that flies on both pavement and rough gravel.

Cervélo Áspero

The Áspero is the brand’s dedicated gravel race machine. The Trail Mixer dropouts mean you can swap between 650b and 700c wheels and maintain the same geometry. This aesthetic gravel model is a go-to choice for gravel races and high-mileage events off the beaten path.

Santa Cruz Stigmata

Santa Cruz has used their MTB expertise to create a bold gravel bike that knows no bounds. The carbon Stigmata runs 700c or 650b wheels with a huge tire clearance of up to 50mm along with in-frame storage. It makes for a great bikepacking setup and riders can opt for a dropper post or gravel suspension fork if they want.

Shop all our gravel bikes for sale

Where can you ride gravel bikes in San Diego?

Our favorite gravel routes around San Diego are Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve and Beeler Canyon. These adventure-filled routes pack a great variety of riding surfaces that’ll show off what your gravel bike is truly capable of. Check out more gravel rides near San Diego here for local routes that are a surefire blast on your bike.

Explore San Diego Bike Rides

Test Ride A Gravel Bike Today!