Text by Adrian Grant
Photos by Eric Levert / Crossroad Tremblant
Before entering the mainstream, gravel riding was very much an opportunity to “run what you brung”, whether it was an older hardtail or a road bike with 28mm tires shoehorned between the chainstays. Neither of these options were ideal. On long loops, any significant stretches of asphalt could turn into a slow and disheartening experience on a mountain bike. Meanwhile, road bikes, with their skinnier tire, could be downright treacherous when the pavement ended and dirt began. The advent of cyclocross bikes provided a better option, but with their aggressive geometry, short wheelbases, and only marginal improvements in terms of tire clearance relative to road bikes, they still weren’t a gravel cyclist’s panacea. What was needed was a non-competitive yet high performance bike, designed for both adventure and fun.
In response, the last five years have seen an explosion in the development of gravel-specific bikes. These include drop-bar frames with a more comfortable upright geometry for longer days in the saddle, and most importantly clearance for high volume tires (a minimum of 700x35mm up to 54mm or more (!) when equipped with a 650b/27.5 wheelset). This has allowed riders to push the envelope even further as to where one could conceivably ride a bike that, at its heart, was originally designed for pavement.
While gravel bikes are viewed by some as yet another special niche, created by a bike industry eager to exploit those looking for their next n+1, I see them as a practical and versatile solution to the problems the average cyclist faces every time they just want to go out for a ride. Specifically, gravel bikes offer an antidote to riding with heavy traffic. Because, let’s face it – cycling on roads with heavy traffic sucks. It can be a stressful nightmare of honking horns, high-speeds, and distracted drivers. And to be frank, the culture around road cycling can at times be intimidating, pretentious and unfriendly to the unshaven hoi polloi unfamiliar with “The Rules”.
In comparison, gravel roads provide opportunities to traverse remote and scenic landscapes, devoid of cars and other distractions, resulting in a relaxing experience. Perhaps that’s why the culture around gravel riding is generally much more mellow. Forget aggressive pace lines, wattage metrics and Strava times, and focus instead on having a good time! Whereas roadies may shun the use of saddle bags or other accruements, gravel riding embraces the use of top tube bags, handlebar bags and framebags to stash essentials like sandwiches, gummy bears and a can of your favourite IPA. Rest stops (or even better, pub stops!) are considered welcome opportunities to eat, drink, and socialize with your fellow riders, and not evidence that you need to harden up.
In short, gravel riding is road cycling’s chilled-out cooler cousin. The cousin most likely to offer you a beer rather than an energy gel. It’ll remind you what’s it’s like to be a kid again, when what mattered most was exploring new places, making friends, and having a good time. So go play in the dirt. Slow down, don’t speed up. Ride like you have nothing to prove, not to prove a point.
Go find your nearest gravel road. And just go for a ride.
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PartsThru axle for the front wheel. Bolt-on type (no lever), install with 6mm hex key.40$ (CAD)
All-Road touring*** If your size is currently 'out of stock' on our website, please contact your closest PANORAMA CYCLES dealer to know what they have on hand. Please subscribe to our newsletter to be the first informed of when the pre-sale will be launched. *** The Forillon is your best ally for cycling around the world. It is designed to be ridden efficiently on a variety of road types, while remaining stable and easy to handle when loaded with all your luggages. Strength and reliability are highlighted in the choice of components. The 36 spokes double walled with reinforced eyelets rims paired with 700x50mm tires and the Microshift transmission offering an immense speed range of 585% are perfect examples. The Reynolds 525 steel tubeset as well as the 4130 steel fork have been selected to maintain excellent stiffness once the bags and panniers are added. Features such as the addition of extra spokes mounts, integrated kickstand plate, multiple mounts for bottles, front and rear racks and fenders make this a true Swiss Army knife for on-the-go travel bike.2,149$ (CAD)
PartsAlways a good idea to have a spare derailleur hanger when venturing a little further than usual...25$ – 40$ (CAD)
Fatbikes*** Pretty much all of our fatbikes are already sold for fall 2021. If your size is currently 'out of stock' on our website, please contact your closest PANORAMA CYCLES dealer to know what they have on hand or will be receiving. Please subscribe to our newsletter to be the first informed of when the next pre-sale will be launched. *** Opportunities for adventure are infinite with such a versatile bike. Let the Chic-Chocs carbon fatbike take you to the mountains, rivers or beaches you’ve always wanted to discover. At 29 lbs and equipped with tubeless 27.5” x 4.5” tires, this is a seriously fun bike to ride on newly discovered sandy, rocky or snowy paths. You’re into bikepacking? We’ll get along pretty well! In addition to 3 water bottle mounts, top tube bag mount and anything cage mounts on the fork, everything is ready for you to install a rear rack (if you prefer this setup versus minimalist frame bags). That way you can carry your skis to get to this remote backcountry spot, or bring some extras on your trip for a memorable night around a campfire. Your friends will thank you!4,099$ (CAD)
ClothingSlow Travel is the state of mind we approach during bike journeys. It is taking the time to live each experience in its entirety, focusing on quality rather than quantity.
- 100% Cotton
- Printed by hand in Montreal
Fatbikes*** Pretty much all of our fatbikes are already sold for fall 2021. If your size is currently 'out of stock' on our website, please contact your closest PANORAMA CYCLES dealer to know what they have on hand or will be receiving. Please subscribe to our newsletter to be the first informed of when the next pre-sale will be launched. *** Isolated in northern Quebec, located in the Arctic Cordillera, the Torngat Mountains are frequented only by those who have the real will to face the elements of nature. We do not get there by chance. It is a mythical place that imposes respect. An highly inspiring destination for the Torngat fatbike! We have included in this bike the features needed to make it completely versatile. Among other things, the frame is belt-drive compatible, it has an access for a dropper seatpost and is equipped with horizontal rear wheel dropouts. The Reynolds 725 high-grade steel tubing frame and the light, stiff carbon fiber fork accommodate the largest 26″ tires available, as well as the 27.5 x 4.5″. All you have to do is leave the house, get on the bike and explore the territory that is still unknown to you!2,999$ (CAD)
Gravel BikesThe first generation of the Katahdin has proven itself both in races, gravel events and in bikepacking trips. For its second iteration, the Katahdin gets a makeover with progressive gravel geometry and new features to make it even more versatile. A relaxed 70deg steering angle, longer reach, 75mm bb drop and 430mm chainstays increase the wheelbase of the bike and place the rider in a stable and comfortable position. The goal is less fatigue, and more speed for long outings and / or races. The internal cables for an adjustable seat post, the fork adapted to the use of a dynamo hub, a threaded bottom bracket shell and all the mounts necessary to install bags and accessories are among the features of the Katahdin.2,699$ (CAD)
ClothingA fully equipped fatbike ready to take off. Bikepacking pure and simple.30$ (CAD)