Road Bike vs Gravel Bike – What are the Differences?

Gravel bikes vs road bikes? This is a question we are often asked.

Basically, they are two completely different types of bikes: the road bike for long distances, the gravel bike for rough terrain and dirt roads. However, with the latest models on the market, the two types have become quite close, sometimes even overlapping.

“Modern” road bikes are becoming more and more comfortable, lighter, aerodynamic and, thanks to the increased wheelbase, can also be used on roads that are not too rough.

Road bike vs gravel bike: there are many differences between one model and another. Some look almost like a road bike, others are practically mountain bikes.

Gravel Bikes vs Road Bikes – Main Differences

So let’s try to analyze the main differences to understand which bike is the most suitable for us.

  1. Geometry and saddle adjustment

Both bikes allow a relaxed position, with high handlebars and a not too long torso, to pedal for a long time without difficulties. However, there are differences in geometry and design that allow us to arrive at this scenario.

The stack is quite similar between the two types of bike, but gravel bikes usually have a shorter head tube. 


The real difference is the horizontal reach of the bike.

Gravel bikes have a longer reach and horizontal tube, with a short stem and a very open head angle. All of these features are inspired by the mtb world.

These options tend to allow for a more stable off-road ride. In addition, for better stability, both the wheelbase and the lower chainstays of the frame are longer.

  1. Components

This is perhaps where the various configurations can accentuate or diminish the differences between the two types.


Road bikes use road tires with a cross-section between 28 and 32 mm on average.

In gravel, the standard is 38 mm and above, but sometimes they can have tires up to 50 mm: these are practically mtb sizes.

There is no doubt, then, about the choice of technology: if in road cycling one can still argue about tubeless or tube, in gravel the tubeless is the only option because it allows to ride at lower pressures to avoid punctures.



Road bikes almost always come with a double crankset and a nimble but not extreme sprocket set. On gravel bikes, on the other hand, we often find dedicated groupsets and the use of a single chainring: a solution in which the jump between the sprockets is greater, but which allows a longer range and therefore gives the possibility of having a good compromise both on dirt climbs and on asphalt sections.

Stem and handlebars

The big difference is in the stem length. Gravel bikes have very short stems to limit the “deceleration” effect of the wider tires, in order to make the steering more agile.

As for the handlebars: while road bikes use road handlebars, gravel bikes use wider handlebars with an accentuated opening, i.e. with the lower part of the curve widening outwards. This allows for a more stable ride and also makes it easier to fit a handlebar bag for the bike.

Even here it is not uncommon to find the “inverted” options, so that the differences between the two bikes diminish considerably.

  1. Weight

Road bikes weigh less. A little, but they weigh less. How much less? About 1 kg. Not so much for the frame, but for the components, especially the wheels and tires.

Gravel Bikes vs Road Bikes – Best Choices

Determining the “best” gravel and road bikes can be subjective and depends on various factors such as your budget, riding style, terrain, and personal preferences. You can also read about other bicycle types and choose the best.

However, we can recommend some highly regarded options in each category based on their features, performance, and reputation in the cycling community:

Best Gravel Bikes

  1. Specialized Diverge. The Specialized Diverge is a popular choice among gravel riders, known for its versatile geometry, comfortable ride, and innovative features like the Future Shock suspension system.
  2. Canyon Grail. The Canyon Grail is praised for its unique double-decker handlebar design (the Hover Bar) that enhances comfort and control on rough terrain. It offers a range of models to suit different budgets and preferences.
  3. Trek Checkpoint. Trek’s Checkpoint series is designed for adventure and gravel riding, featuring stable handling, plenty of tire clearance, and mounts for racks and accessories for bikepacking.
  4. Santa Cruz Stigmata. Santa Cruz is known for its high-quality mountain bikes, and the Stigmata brings that same level of craftsmanship to the gravel category. It offers excellent off-road performance combined with a responsive ride on pavement.
  5. Cannondale Topstone. Cannondale’s Topstone lineup includes a variety of models at different price points, all featuring lightweight frames, comfortable geometry, and clearance for wide tires.Santa-Cruz-one-of-the-best-gravel-bikes

Best Road Bikes

  1. Pinarello Dogma F12. Pinarello’s Dogma F12 is a top-tier road bike favored by many professional cyclists. It’s known for its aerodynamic design, stiff frame, and responsive handling, making it ideal for racing and spirited riding.
  2. Specialized Tarmac. The Specialized Tarmac is a perennial favorite among road cyclists, offering a perfect balance of lightweight construction, stiffness, and compliance for a fast and comfortable ride.
  3. Canyon Ultimate. The Canyon Ultimate is highly regarded for its exceptional value, combining a lightweight carbon frame with top-notch components at a competitive price point.
  4. Trek Emonda. Trek’s Emonda series is known for its impressive climbing prowess and lightweight construction. It’s a favorite among climbers and riders who prioritize weight savings without sacrificing performance. 
  5. Cervélo R-Series. Cervélo’s R-Series bikes are designed for all-around performance, offering a blend of aerodynamics, stiffness, and comfort. They’re versatile enough for long rides, sprints, and everything in between.

Keep in mind that the “best” bike for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences, so it’s essential to test ride several models and consult with knowledgeable staff at your local bike shop to find the perfect fit. Additionally, consider factors like frame material, component groupsets, and available sizes when making your decision.

Conclusion of Gravel Bike vs Road Bike

Road bikes are designed to be used mainly on asphalt; gravel roads are allowed as long as they are well groomed. It is the perfect choice for those who want to cover long distances without obsessing about performance.

If, instead, the goal is to cover many kilometers on gravel roads, then it is essential to choose a gravel bike.

However, as life teaches us, not everything is black and white: there are plenty of shades of gray. By changing one or two components, you can create the bike to your liking, suitable for your actual use.

So to choose a gravel bike or road bike it is your option and depends on your riding style. 

F.A.Q – Road Bike vs Gravel Bike

1. What is a road bike❓

A road bike is designed for riding on paved roads and smooth surfaces, prioritizing speed and efficiency.

2. What is a gravel bike❓

A gravel bike rides smoothly on various terrains, including gravel roads, dirt paths, and rough surfaces, offering versatility and stability.

3. How do they differ in tires❓

Road bikes typically have thinner tires with minimal tread for reduced rolling resistance, while gravel bikes feature wider tires with more grip to handle rougher terrain.

4. Which one is faster❓

Road bikes are generally faster on smooth roads due to their aerodynamic design and lighter weight, whereas gravel bikes excel in rougher conditions but may not match the speed of road bikes on pavement.

5. Are there differences in frame geometry❓

Yes, road bikes often have a more aggressive geometry, promoting an aerodynamic riding position for speed, while gravel bikes usually have a more relaxed geometry for stability and comfort on varied surfaces.

6. Which is better for long-distance rides❓

Gravel bikes are typically better suited for long-distance rides that involve mixed terrain, offering comfort, stability, and the ability to tackle various road conditions without sacrificing performance.

7. Which is better, a road bike or gravel bike

It depends on individual preferences and the type of terrain you plan to ride on.

8. What is the main difference between gravel bike and road bike

The main difference is that gravel bikes feature a more relaxed geometry, wider tires, and greater versatility for mixed terrains, while road bikes feature an aggressive geometry, narrower tires, and are optimized for speed on paved surfaces.