Road bike buyers guide part three - GRAVEL

Road bike buyers guide part three - GRAVEL

With the changing times that we are all living in now, it can be hard to qualify a new bike purchase, especially a high-dollar model that will last you years. However, we have been experiencing a demand for bikes at every price level since the beginning days of the pandemic here in the US. 
We field calls and emails daily about bikes, what kind to buy, what to do with them (how and where to ride), and what bike to buy at a given price point. We are hoping that this “bike boom” will continue for many reasons, but the only one that really matters is we hope it continues so the health and growth and love of the bicycle continue.
With that, we are hoping that this series of buyers guides will be helpful, entertaining, and educational enough to empower you to decide what bike is for you, how much to spend, and above all, help open the door to the love of cycling.
Road Bikes
Road bikes are probably the largest category and the easiest to recognize out there as they represent maybe 40% of the sales out most shop doors. To further complicate things, there are multiple categories within the term “road bike” that I will address here first.  The categories are (in no particular order), aero, endurance, climbing, general/all around, and gravel.
We here at Incycle try to simplify these by putting them into only three groups: Performance, endurance, and gravel/cyclocross. The performance category is basically any road bike that will have a component group you can race with and will generally have a carbon fiber frame, and a really nice wheelset. By really nice, we mean at least ¼ of the cost of the overall package is spent on the wheels. Now by “nice wheels” we are not talking full carbon, they may be carbon rims, they may not be, but they will have a high-quality hub with the best bearings that manufacturer makes and 24 to 28-spoke count. We lump aero, climbing, general, and some endurance into this group. 
We hear this term a lot and over the last few years, the category has really developed its own unique soul and fallen into its own. We wouldn't say it is a fully realized and grown-up category yet, but at least it is on its own and driving now.
Gravel as a concept is not new. The very first Tour de France races were held on some of the world's hardest unpaved roads. These dirt roads lost favor for smooth tarmac and higher speeds and then the mountain bike entered the market.
   So, what exactly is this thing, this buzz word called gravel? Gravel is freedom and love, it is an adventure, it is a wonder. It is the ability to get on your bike in your garage, go ride, and ride anywhere. Gravel isn’t discipline; it isn’t a buzz word or hype to sell something you don’t need. Gravel is the life we all had. Gravel is nostalgia. Gravel is freedom. Gravel is love. Somewhere along the way, cyclocross became a thing and a sub-genre was born of mud, blood, and sweat. It was these bikes, along with a sturdy following of people with a deep love of adventure, wider tires, wider, flared bars, and a penchant for overnight trips, long-distance mayhem, and a love for the pure essence of the bicycle. It would be easy to compare gravel bikes to the overlapping rigs you see driving around the neighborhood, all decked out with racks and baskets, waiting for the apocalypse. There are an amazing plethora of accessories you can buy to bolt, strap, and otherwise attach to these bikes to keep the fun rolling for days on end. 
Lucky for everyone, Gravel is an easy sport to get into and has a low buy-in threshold and an incredibly high fun threshold, making this new category the most bang for the buck. 
Specialized Diverge Comp E5
Starting with a premium E5 alloy frame and a full carbon FACT fork, we gave the Diverge Comp E5 our Future Shock 1.5 for a fast, confident, and comfortable ride on road, in the dirt, and over thick gravel. Shimano’s gravel inspired GRX 600 group shifts 1x11 gears smoothly on any terrain and Axis Elite alloy wheels with Pathfinder Sport 38mm tires add even more capability and versatility. Coming in at $2100, this "entry-level" is anything but.
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Cannondale Topstone Apex 1 

Explore Further. Ride Freer. The Cannondale Topstone Apex 1 is a capable, versatile gravel road bike. Built for chasing horizons, exploring routes less traveled, or accelerating your commute. Highlights include SRAM Apex 1, 11-speed Hydro Disc Group, WTB ST i23 Light TCS tubeless Rims / WTB Nano TCS tubeless ready Tires, TranzX Dropper Seat post / Fabric Scoop Radius Sport Saddle and the legendary alloy that Cannondale is known for. Also coming in at $2100, this sleek machine is built for the miles. 

 

 

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Cerveló Aspero 

In the official "I love gravel and want to race" category, we have the Cerveló Aspero. For $2799.99, you get a full carbon frame/fork, Sram Apex 1 group, and a frame that lets you choose the tire that best suits the terrain so you're always in control, with clearance for 700x42c or 650Bx49 combinations. Since different outside rolling diameters of various wheel and tire combinations affect the bike handling, the fork includes a "Trail Mixer" design that adjusts trail to lessen the impact on handling when swapping between most common tire sizes. The stock configuration is 700x40, which will get you outside, to the trails, and over the hills.

 

 

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Salsa Warbird 

When gravel roads beckon, the Salsa Cycles Warbird Carbon GRX 600 is a force to be reckoned with. The smooth-shifting of Shimano’s gravel-specific drivetrain complements the comfort and control of Warbird’s Class 5™ VRS-equipped high-modulus carbon fiber frameset. It’s the gravel bike for rides that go all day on all terrain. ​With a full carbon frame/fork with a vibration-reduction built into the specially shaped seat stays, enough mounts to make your Overlanding friends envious, coming in at $3199.99, you can't go wrong (Special order only).

 

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GT Grade Carbon Pro

 Another unique bike we carry is the GT Grade carbon pro. 

Out of the box with native 160mm rotors front/rear on the Grade Carbon Elite. With a standard adapter, the Grade Carbon Elite can move up to 180mm rotors. This gives big braking power for when you're loaded down with lots of gear or charging into the rough, more vertical compliance on both aluminum and carbon models than the previous generation of Grade for a more comfortable time in the saddle, no matter the terrain. Future-forward looks and an awesome component pick with a price of $3899.99, we give this grade, an A.

 

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Specialized Diverge Expert 

Whether your goal is to escape on gravel back roads, far from cars and crowds, or drop the hammer at the front of your favorite gravel race, no bike does it better than the Diverge. It's quite simply the fastest, most capable—and just maybe the most fun—bike Specialized has ever made, delivering a ride that's quick and lively under power, but stable and confidence-inspiring when the terrain gets rough. From Future Shock 2.0 and all-new gravel geometry to internal storage and category-leading tire clearance, the Diverge represents everything we've learned over more than 40 years of riding road, gravel, and dirt. The Diverge writes an entirely new chapter in the gravel bike category, so you can dream up entirely new rides. It's the ultimate getaway vehicle.

With Shimano's new gravel-specific component group the GRX 810 Di2 electronic shifting system, integrated "SWAT BOX" frame storage system, and an inspired geometry, this bike is one to check out for $4800.

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Cannondale Topstone carbon Lefty  1

Coming in hot for 2021 is something totally new. The Cannondale Topstone carbon is pure gravel goodness, with a major twist. With its high-volume tires, confident rider position, and sporty handling, it is ready to smash out big miles on the backroads, explore routes less traveled, or smooth out the chop on your morning commute. However, this is where the Topstone Lefty really shows how different it is. By bringing a chapter from mountain bikes, the Topstone Lefty comes fully suspended.

Topstone Carbon distills Cannondale’s experience making fast race bikes, comfortable endurance bikes, and ultra-light dual-suspension mountain bikes into the most off-road capable and on-road comfortable road bike ever made. Designed for maximum fun in places most gravel bikes would fear to tread, or maximum comfort in more sedate terrain. Also now with high-volume, 650x47 tires (as opposed to a more traditional 700c), combined with 30mm of suspension travel out front and a rear triangle designed with vertical compliance and wireless Sram eTap shifting make this one bike ready to take on the future of gravel. $7499.99