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Bikes Buying Guide

Best 2020​ ​Gravel​ ​Bikes​ ​for​ ​up​ ​to​ ​£2,000

Gravel​ ​riding​ ​is​ ​an​ ​exciting​ ​discipline​ ​of​ ​off-road​ ​cycling​ ​– it’s​ ​about​ ​fun​ ​and​ ​freedom,​ ​adventure​ ​and  even​ ​racing.​ ​Gravel​ ​originates​ ​from​ ​the​ ​USA,​ ​where​ ​rugged​ ​drop-handlebarred​ ​road​ ​bikes​ ​specified​ ​for  the​ ​tough​ ​challenges​ ​of​ ​touring​ ​and​ ​exploring​ ​bumpy,​ ​dusty,​ ​unsurfaced​ ​roads​ ​developed​ ​a​ ​great  following​ ​and​ ​spawned​ ​its​ ​own​ ​unique​ ​race​ ​scene.​ ​British​ ​bikers​ ​are​ ​more​ ​than​ ​ready​ ​for​ ​gravel’s​ ​fat,  treaded​ ​road​ ​tyres,​ ​low,​ ​close​ ​gears,​ ​weatherproof​ ​disc​ ​brakes​ ​and​ ​bulletproof​ ​builds.

Like​ ​its​ ​cousin​ ​cyclocross,​ ​gravel​ ​has​ ​caught​ ​on​ ​fast​ ​here​ ​in​ ​the​ ​UK,​ ​with​ ​a​ ​number​ ​of​ ​British​ ​race​ ​series  emerging​ ​–​ ​from​ ​the​ ​north,​ ​Dirty​ ​Reiver​ ​in​ ​Northumberland​ ​and​ ​Grinduro’s​ ​amazing​ ​loop​ ​round​ ​the​ ​Isle  of​ ​Arran,​ ​way​ ​down​ ​south​ ​to​ ​the​ ​CW​ ​Century​ ​on​ ​the​ ​South​ ​Downs​ ​Way,​ ​with​ ​many​ ​in​ ​between.

But​ ​gravel’s​ ​far​ ​more​ ​than​ ​racing;​ ​the​ ​sheer​ ​versatility​ ​of​ ​these​ ​all-year-round​ ​bikes​ ​mean​ ​they’ll​ ​tackle  muddy​ ​off-road​ ​trails​ ​yet​ ​will​ ​also​ ​serve​ ​you​ ​well​ ​on​ ​the​ ​weekend​ ​club​ ​run.​ ​Most​ ​gravel​ ​bikes​ ​boast  mounts​ ​for​ ​racks​ ​and​ ​mudguards​ ​equipping​ ​them​ ​for​ ​commuting,​ ​while​ ​multiple​ ​bottle​ ​mount​ ​lugs​ ​lend  themselves​ ​to​ ​adventure​ ​set-ups,​ ​endurance​ ​events​ ​and​ ​bike​ ​packing​ ​machines.​ ​A​ ​gravel​ ​bike​ ​can​ ​truly  do​ ​it​ ​all,​ ​and​ ​for​ ​£2k,​ ​you​ ​get​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​gravel​ ​bike​ ​at​ ​Hargroves​ ​Cycles.​ ​Here’s​ ​what​ ​to​ ​look​ ​out​ ​for…

Geometry, Tyres & Clearance

Tyre​ ​clearance​ ​is​ ​an​ ​important​ ​consideration.​ ​Most​ ​gravel​ ​bikes​ ​run​ ​the​ ​same​ ​700c​ ​diameter​ ​as​ ​their  road​ ​bike​ ​cousins,​ ​but​ ​they’re​ ​specified​ ​with​ ​more​ ​robust,​ ​wider-rimmed​ ​wheelsets​ ​to​ ​accommodate  much​ ​wider​ ​rubber.

While​ ​road​ ​bikes​ ​generally​ ​run​ ​25​ ​or​ ​28mm,​ ​gravel​ ​bikes​ ​could​ ​go​ ​from​ ​32​ ​to​ ​46mm.​ ​Wider​ ​tyres​ ​with​ ​a  deeper​ ​tread​ ​pattern​ ​are​ ​crucial​ ​for​ ​control​ ​on​ ​mud​ ​or​ ​gravel,​ ​and​ ​fuss-free​ ​tubeless​ ​tyre​ ​systems​ ​are  becoming​ ​more​ ​commonplace.

Room​ ​for​ ​mud​ ​clearance​ ​between​ ​the​ ​tyre​ ​and​ ​the​ ​frame​ ​is​ ​also​ ​important,​ ​so​ ​you​ ​don’t​ ​get​ ​clogged​ ​in  the​ ​worst​ ​of​ ​Britain’s​ ​winter​ ​quagmires!

Off-road​ ​demands​ ​mean​ ​gravel​ ​bikes​ ​need​ ​slightly​ ​different​ ​frame​ ​geometries​ ​to​ ​traditional​ ​road​ ​bikes.  Their​ ​relatively​ ​long​ ​wheelbase​ ​and​ ​more​ ​relaxed​ ​headtube​ ​angle​ ​ensure​ ​stability​ ​and​ ​steadier,​ ​more  assured​ ​steering.​ ​Gravel​ ​bikes​ ​have​ ​a​ ​taller​ ​headtube​ ​for​ ​‘sit-up’​ ​comfort​ ​over​ ​long​ ​days​ ​in​ ​the​ ​saddle​ ​–  referencing​ ​the​ ​controlled​ ​poise​ ​of​ ​MTB​ ​position​ ​–​ ​while​ ​a​ ​low​ ​bottom​ ​bracket​ ​is​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​‘strong​ ​and  stable’​ ​package.

Materials & Components

As​ ​gravel​ ​bikes​ ​are​ ​intended​ ​to​ ​take​ ​on​ ​many​ ​forms​ ​of​ ​riding,​ ​manufacturers​ ​approach​ ​their​ ​designs​ ​in  different​ ​ways,​ ​so​ ​when​ ​considering​ ​the​ ​material​ ​its​ ​frame​ ​and​ ​fork​ ​are​ ​made​ ​from,​ ​think​ ​about​ ​what  exactly​ ​you’d​ ​like​ ​to​ ​get​ ​from​ ​your​ ​bike.

If​ ​you​ ​plan​ ​to​ ​load​ ​up​ ​with​ ​luggage​ ​for​ ​long​ ​bike​ ​packing​ ​trips,​ ​look​ ​to​ ​the​ ​capability​ ​of​ ​steel.​ ​If​ ​you prefer​ ​a​ ​lightweight​ ​whip​ ​round​ ​your​ ​local​ ​trails,​ ​then​ ​consider​ ​a​ ​CX-style​ ​carbon​ ​build.​ ​For​ ​something  in​ ​between,​ ​aluminium​ ​is​ ​your​ ​likely​ ​choice.​ ​As​ ​with​ ​road​ ​bikes​​ ​it’s​ ​not​ ​unusual​ ​for​ ​an alloy​ ​frame​ ​to​ ​find​ ​a​ ​‘best​ ​of​ ​both​ ​worlds’​ ​partnership​ ​with​ ​a​ ​carbon​ ​fork. It’s​ ​important​ ​to​ ​consider​ ​the​ ​components​ ​that​ ​best​ ​suit​ ​your​ ​riding.​ ​First​ ​select​ ​the​ ​right​ ​types,​ ​then  match​ ​their​ ​level​ ​of​ ​specification​ ​to​ ​suit​ ​your​ ​budget.

While​ ​gravel​ ​bikes​ ​are​ ​available​ ​with​ ​cantilever​ ​brakes​ ​born​ ​from​ ​’cross,​ ​disc​ ​brakes​ ​are​ ​de​ ​rigeur  – and​ ​hydraulic​ ​systems,​ ​more​ ​powerful​ ​than​ ​lighter,​ ​cheaper​ ​mechanical​ ​disc​ ​brake​ ​systems,​ ​are  becoming​ ​more​ ​prevalent.

Gravel​ ​bikes​ ​have​ ​lower​ ​gearing​ ​than​ ​road​ ​bikes,​ ​and​ ​it​ ​varies,​ ​so​ ​match​ ​to​ ​your​ ​intended​ ​use​ ​and  preference.​ ​MTB-style​ ​1x​ ​systems​ ​avoid​ ​the​ ​mud-catching​ ​complexity​ ​and​ ​weight​ ​of​ ​a​ ​front​ ​mech,​ ​while  compact​ ​doubles​ ​–​ ​typically​ ​50/34-tooth​ ​front​ ​chainrings​ ​and​ ​a​ ​cassette​ ​with​ ​11/28​ ​teeth​ ​– give​ ​you  range​ ​and​ ​climbing​ ​ability.​ ​Super-compacts​ ​(48/32​ ​or​ ​46/30​ ​front​ ​rings)​ ​push​ ​that​ ​further.

Meet the Contenders

The​ ​2020 Bergamont Grandurance 5​ ​(£899),​​ ​is your golden ticket to gravel adventures.

The​ ​full​ ​Shimano​ ​Sora​ ​groupset​ ​provides​ ​reliable​ ​shifting​ ​on​ ​a​ ​18-speed​ ​compact​ ​double.​ ​Shimano’s BR-RS305​ ​mechanical​ ​disc​ ​system​ ​provides​ ​predictable​ ​braking​ ​power​ ​to​ ​tackle descents​ ​with​ ​confidence.

A redesigned ultra lite alloy frame finished off with high-grade Syncros components make this a top contender for a more budget conscious rider.

Stepping​ ​up​ ​the​ ​gravel​ ​food​ ​chain,​ ​the 2020 Saracen Levarg SL​ ​(£1,399.99)​ takes Saracen’s MTB dna and moulds it into a true gravel machine.

2020 Saracen Levarg SL

650b wheels & WTB Byway 47c tyres come as standard but the frame can accommodate 700c wheels as well if you wish to change, with a recommended maximum tyre size of 50mm in 650b and 44mm in 700c respectfully.

High quality SRAM/Saracen Custom components deliver a 1x 11 Speed drivetrain featuring an 11-42T ratio cassette and 42T narrow wide chain ring.

Mounts for 3 bottle cages and eyelets for easy mounting of mudguards make this a very versatile bike for any adventure you can throw at it.

Now, to push the budget right to the line with the 2020 Specialized Diverge Comp E5 (£1,949)

“One bike that shreds flowy singletrack gravel and traditional roads with equal authority”

Specialized

2020 Specialized Diverge Comp E5

So what sets this bike apart from the other contenders and why should you spend the extra? Two words. Future Shock.

The Future Shock features up to 20mm of travel, and it’s positioned above the head tube in order to move in a vertical path. So when the front wheel encounters rough terrain, the bike moves up towards your hands and preserves your forward momentum without slowing you down. Another important fact is that, because the Future Shock is positioned above the stem, the bike’s wheels are held together rigidly by the frame. In other words, because the wheelbase isn’t changing throughout the suspension’s travel, like with traditional system, you get the added benefit of extremely predictable handling.

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