Road Vs Gravel Bike – Is A Gravel Bike Really Any Slower? | GCN Does Science

Road Vs Gravel Bike – Is A Gravel Bike Really Any Slower? | GCN Does Science


– Gravel bike, cyclo-cross bike, whatever you want to call them, they’re the workhorses
of the cycling world. And for that very reason, more and more people are,
quite rightly, buying them. – Yeah, as an alternative to a road bike. Or perhaps as a second bike. One you use in the
winter or as a commuter. If you are contemplating
buying one though, there is undoubtedly
gonna be that question lurking in the back of your mind. If you buy one, how much slower will it be than a road bike? – Yeah, and if you choose a gravel bike as your only bike, how
much are you losing out to your mates on their road bikes on a silky smooth road surface? – Should we find out, Matt? Like do some science and stuff? – We’re kinda here, aren’t we? – Should we do some science? – Some wet science? – Wet science. – Damp science. – I heard it’s waterproof. It’ll be fine. – [Matt] So what’s the test then? Well, we have two bikes at our disposal. Both with powermeters to make sure that our effort levels are consistent. One is a Canyon Aeroad CF SLX, and the other is a Trek Crockett, which is in that broad
category of cyclo-cross bike to gravel bike. – The test is a simple one. We’ve condensed the whole ride
into just eight kilometres. We’ve got three kinds of twisting descent, a short loop on flat roads before coming back up this final climb. Three distinct sections. We’re gonna do it twice each, once on each different bike. And we’re gonna hold slightly
different average powers. Matt’s gonna go for the
lower end, 200 watts. And I’m gonna go for a
slightly higher end, 300 watts. Then we simply compare the two. Run number one, cross bike, road bike. – Well, sorry, I think you’re gonna need just a little bit of a
headstart, to be honest with you. Off you go. – It’s probably a fair point. All right, mate, see you in a bit! So what are we expecting to see then? Well, the gravel bike’s
gonna be a little bit slower. And that is partly because
it weighs a bit more. So about a kilo over Matt’s road bike and pushing two kilos over mine. But I think it’s the tyres that could make the biggest difference. See, these are wider and treaded. So there is no general
cyclo-cross/gravel tyre. There’s loads of different types. These ones are Continental
CycloCross Racers. They are very, very capable off-road. Not out-and-out mud tyres, but they are grippy. Nevertheless, they do feel
like they roll pretty fast. Not as fast as a road tyre, granted, but in terms of my perception, they do feel pretty good. I just wish I were off there somewhere actually making the most of
what I have at my disposal. – Okay, run number one
on my trusty road bike. Here we go! Got my feet in second time. (exhalation) Well, what can I say? It’s a top-of-the-range road bike, and it feels absolutely amazing. Well, I suppose I actually
can say a little bit more. And it’s not just the
usual things like weight and tyres that separate
a top-end road bike from a gravel or a cross bike. Because, generally speaking,
a top-end road frame will have aerodynamic
shaped sheathing to help it cheat the wind and cut through the air that much better. But aerodynamics is something that is open to absolutely anybody,
regardless of your budget. Because the biggest cause of drag is your body. And this is where a road
frame or road bike can help. Because generally,
they’re lower and longer, therefore stretching
you out and making you far more aerodynamic. (breathing heavily) – How was that, mate? – Well, same as usual. Brilliant, really. – Yeah (chuckling),
fair enough, I suppose. – How was the gravel bike? – Yeah, it was good. It was really good. Actually, it was surprisingly enough. Descending was amazing. Descending on road, it
was like it was on rails. So I’ll be interested to see what you think about it actually. – Hold that. I’m gonna give this a nudge. That sounds fantastic. Well in terms of feel, these two bikes are remarkably different. Straightaway when you
get on the cross bike, you just feel a lot higher. Generally, the bottom
bracket on a cross bike is a lot higher. So I feel far more off the ground. And at that front as well, I feel the bars a lot more higher. Definitely not cutting through the air quite as efficiently. And in terms of handling, along the descent, the
cross bike felt just as good as the road bike in the corners. Plenty of grip with this wide, knobbly tread. But the one thing you do notice, after you’ve shaved off
speed going into a corner, you don’t pick up the
speed again quite as quick due to the increased road resistance of these bigger, knobblier tyres. – My road bike, not Matt’s. Only difference, slightly less aero and no disc brakes. But, kilo lighter. See what happens. I don’t know about speed yet, but the two bikes feel
like chalk and cheese. Now, there’s the fact
that this one rolls faster and all that kind of stuff. But actually, it’s the way it handles proves out the biggest difference. It changes direction much, much easier and with much less
input at the handlebars. Partly ’cause the bars are narrower. But certainly because the
actual geometry of the bike. Now, it’s important to know
it’s neither better nor worse one way or another. You just get used to it. And to be fair, you
probably only notice it literally jumping off one
and straight onto another. But they are very different bikes. Right, enough of the touchy-feely stuff. How much slower is a gravel bike? Well, about two kilometres per hour. Or 6.7 %. And weirdly, it was the
same for both me and Matt. It’s almost as if we
actually got it right. However, as you might expect though, it’s not as simple as that. On the technical, twisty descent, the gravel bike actually
wasn’t slower at all. The stable geometry on the corners more than made up for
the slower rolling tyres. On the flat, they were
relatively closely matched. Just a few seconds separated them over the three minute section. Which works out at about 5%. Then on the climb, the
differences bloomed out. Partly of course, because
it was a slower section. Therefore it took longer. But perhaps also because the weight became more of a factor, particularly
at the lower power. Matt was therefore 12%
slower on a cross bike, and I was 9% slower So, gravel bikes are faster. There’s no doubt about that. – No.
– Not with our results. But– – No, they’re slower. – They are slower. What did I say? – Faster. (laughing) (Matt cackling) – So gravel bikes are slower. There’s no doubt about
that from our results. But, the differences aren’t exactly huge. And what you have to remember is that cross bikes or gravel
bikes were designed to go where road bikes would struggle. As Dan found out. – Yeah, Dan really did find out. Now, you might be able to
tell from the bike behind us that we weren’t entirely
satisfied with the results. So what we did is we
stuck a set of road tyres on the cyclo-cross bike to see how much faster it would then go. And the difference is pretty significant. It was pretty much as fast
as the road bike on the flat. And then on the climb,
it gained 20 seconds over the cyclo-cross bike. Now that still made it,
compared to my bike, a good 30 seconds slower
than the road bike. But we accounted for most of that with the fact that’s it
two kilogrammes heavier. Then the rest, we couldn’t quite explain. But it’s only a handful of seconds. – Yeah, so if a cross bike,
gravel bike, is gonna be your singular bike of choice, it’s really worth investing
in a pair of slick tyres which you can swap out
when you go on the road. And you won’t be at too much
of a disadvantage at all. – No, not at all. You basically get two
bikes for the price of one, which seems like a winning situation. Now undoubtedly, some of you would of already caught on to that. So let us know in the comment section, is a gravel bike your one and only bike? Is it your commuter bike? Is it your winter bike? Let us know your thoughts
in the comments section down below. – Now, if you haven’t already subscribed to Global Cycling Network,
click on the globe. It’s your one-stop shop
for all things cycling. Now sticking with gravel for a bit, how ’bout clicking just down here where we tested some gravel
bikes in deepest Wales. – That’s right. How much can a gravel bike do that a road bike can’t. One of our favourites, and not just because
Lloydy gets really grumpy. – He did get super-grumpy, didn’t he? – Yeah, the video where I got
a little bit grumpy actually was where Matt and I raced an
e-bike against a road bike. I was on the road bike. Matt was on the e-bike. That’s a great watch even if I… Well, was really grumpy. – He probably was grumpy. – I was really tired. You weren’t tired at all. – No, I was just on an e-bike.