Introduction to gravel

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.


  • Sold out
    panorama cycles t shirt
    panorama cycles t shirt

    T-shirt Bikepacking

    A fully equipped fatbike ready to take off. Bikepacking pure and simple.
    30$ (CAD)
  • Panorama Forillon
    panorama forillon


    *** It’s time to reserve your Forillon 2023. Use the promo code forillon during the transaction in order to complete your 50% deposit for the reservation. Deliveries are scheduled for April 2023. Contact us for any questions. *** *Please refer to the component list for 2023 specifications. 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. It's easy to see why the family behind the Terra Tributa project made these their bikes of choice for their nomadic lifestyle. 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.
    2,399$ (CAD)
  • Sale

    Torngat 27.5

    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!
    2,879$ (CAD)
  • panorama cycles hat
    panorama cycles hat

    Traveler Hat

    Slip this cap into your bike bags, and keep it stylish around the campfire!
    • 6-panel cap, without structure (ideal to pack into bags).
    • Blue color: fabric made entirely from 100% recycled plastic bottles. Each cap uses about 3 bottles, which have been recovered from our environment.
    • Olive color: 100% ripstop cotton
    • Adjustable strap and plastic buckle (convenient to be attached to a bag)
    • One size fits all
    34.99$ (CAD)
  • fourche taiga panorama
    fourche taiga panorama

    Taïga Fork

    Transform your hardtail mountain bike into a lightweight and versatile bikepacking bike with the Taïga carbon fork.
    • Axle to crown length of 500mm. Corresponds to a suspension fork for a 29in wheel with 120mm of travel, at 25% 'sag'.
    • Boost 110x15mm spacing.
    • Tapered 1-1/2 x 1-1/8 300mm long carbon steer tube
    • Offset/rake: 51mm
    • Triple cargo cage mounts
    • Clearance for tire: 29x3.0 or 27.5x3.25
    • Post mount 160mm brake standard.
    • Wheel axle included
    • Weight: 675g
    565$ (CAD)
  • Sold out

    T-Shirt Slow Travel

    Slow 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
    17.50$ (CAD)
  • Sold out
    panorama cycles t shirt
    panorama cycles t shirt

    T-Shirt S24O

    "S24O" (aka Sub 24h Overnighter) is, in the jargon of the bikepacker, an adventure of less than 24 hours including an overnight stay. The definition of micro-adventure!
    30$ (CAD)
  • panorama 29in fatbike wheelset
    panorama cycles fatbike wheelset

    29in fatbike wheelset

    Spring is coming? It's time to transform your fatbike with these 29" wheels and make it your exploration or trail bike.
    • 29" Sun Ringle DÜROC 40 rims. Compatible with 2.4'' to 2.8'' tires.
    • Front hub: Sun Ringle SRC 15mmx150mm
    • Rear hub: Sun Ringle SRC 12mmx197mm, HG, XD or Microspline cassette body available
    • Spokes: Stainless steel double butted
    • Quality handbuilt by Panorama Cycles
    949$ (CAD)