Gravel riding has seen a huge growth in popularity over the last few years, and with more and more riders opting for off-road explores – the rise of gravel doesn’t seem to show signs of slowing down any time soon. In fact, data from Forbes showed that while UK bike sales as whole took a hit in 2022 – gravel bike sales bucked the trend and were actually up 8% on the year before. So what is it about swapping the tarmac for trails that has so many riders leaving their ultra-thin road tyres in the garage in favour of something a touch more knobbly?
The answer, it seems, boils down to some of the things we love most here at Stolen Goat: Freedom, Adventure… and cake. We asked some of the gravel-loving Goats from the Stolen Goat Herd on Instagram what it is about gravel that gets their hooves tapping:
Ian (@igby17) said it’s “the ability to go anywhere, at any time without thinking.” For Tom (@tom_townsend_) it’s the opportunity for “car-free side by side group riding”, and Chrys (@chrys1025) echoed that – it’s the combination of “no cars and the open trail.” The fun factor featured highly, too with Jonathan (@cycling_psychotherapist) telling us: “It’s fun and makes me smile” and – possibly our favourite answer – Gunnar (@untersommert) simply said: “We stop more often and we eat cake.” If we needed any convincing to give gravel a go, the prospect of extra cake would certainly have us on board!
So for the pure roadies amongst us, is it time to give gravel a go?
THREE REASONS TO GIVE GRAVEL RIDING A GO
1) Freedom to explore (without needing technical mountain biking skills)
Gravel offers a happy medium between the possibly intimidating “shred the gnar” mountain biking world, and the open roads – where you’ve got cars and other vehicles to contend with. Gravel riding gives you the opportunity to explore trails and places that you wouldn’t be able to reach on your road bike, without the full-on descents, jumps and technicality of the more hardcore mountain biking scene. And the absence of cars makes it easier to ride side-by-side without worrying about traffic, so it can be a more sociable option. Our friends over at Cycling UK have curated a few beginner-friendly routes, ideal for gravel bikes including the Rebellion Way, the Cantii Way and the King Alfred’s Way. Gravel gives you the opportunity to get out and explore, without needing a full suspension mountain bike, or the technical MTB skills to ride it!
2) Embrace the spirit of adventure
If you want to ride far or explore further afield, you’ve got to stick to the roads – right? Nope! With their drop handlebars and relatively lightweight frames, a gravel bike set up is perfect for longer days in the saddle. And gravel routes themselves are often designed to facilitate you riding further and seeing more. Cycling UK’s King Alfred’s Way is a perfect example of a gravel-friendly route that you can take on as a micro-adventure and explore over a few days. And, as Andy from the HQ Herd says in our recent video documenting his own long explore around the KAW, there’s nothing you’ll encounter on the route which is so technical that you couldn’t make your way though it. Put simply, gravel is a great way to rediscover the joy of using a bicycle as a means to explore your environment, without pressure to ride hard or fast.
3) Ride your way
We love road cycling here at Stolen Goat and, in our opinion, it doesn’t matter whether you’re riding on the road, through the mud or cycling across the craters of the moon (if that’s what floats your goat) – you can still wear what you love and ride how you like. But the wider road cycling community can be a bit more focused on “the rules” about what you can wear, how long your socks have to be and how many café stops is an acceptable number. (To throw it back to the 00s and quote Mean Girls – if you ask us, “the limit does not exist”.)
If you’ve been switched off by the slightly more rigid approach of road cycling, then gravel might be the scene for you. Gravel tends to be a pretty relaxed vibe, and the essence is about exploring – not necessarily racing, or riding hard. Ride how you like, wear what you like: fun tends to be the focus with gravel so anything goes.
Perhaps the greatest thing about gravel is that it gives you the best of both worlds. You can head out for a few hours to hit your favourite roads and explore some trails, all in one ride. Long bikepacking adventures or just taking the short, scenic route to your go-to coffee place – it’s all fair game. If you’ve lost the joy or you’ve been struggling for motivation – giving gravel a go might be just the change of cycling scenery you need to help you fall in love with riding all over again.
Ready to kick up some dust? Make sure you check out our NEW gravel kit to keep you cool and comfy on your off road adventures!