The beauty of bikepacking is that you can do it on just about any bike. Just strap on your bikepacking bags and hit the road, whether you’re riding out on your local lanes or embarking on an off-road epic. Having said that, the growing popularity of bikepacking has also been accompanied by the rise of the gravel bike. Gravel bikes (sometimes referred to as adventure bikes) are designed to combine road speed with off-road capability, sitting in a sweet spot that opens up a wide range of riding. As such, gravel bikes are now widely seen as the best bikepacking bikes.
“If you were to own only one bike, chances are you’d want it to be a gravel bike”
“Going faster, further and deeper into the unknown is made easier with a bit of bike specialisation,” says Callum Nicklin, brand manager of Mason Cycles. “An adventure bike should allow you to cover ground quickly, both on and off-road, while still being comfortable enough to ride all day.”
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If you were to own only one bike, chances are you’d want it to be a gravel bike. These drop-handlebar, knobbly-tyred machines are capable and versatile. We’re going to take a closer look at what makes a gravel bike and why they’re ideal for bikepacking. We’ll then showcase some of our favourite machines.
Gravel bikes are typically made from aluminium, steel or carbon fibre. Some exotic – and expensive – titanium frames are also available too. While carbon fibre is the go-to material for many high-end bikes, aluminium is ideal for gravel and bikepacking thanks to its durability and affordability.
One brand’s definition of a gravel bike can vary significantly from another’s. Some lean more heavily towards the road, others are akin to the fully-rigid mountain bikes of old. But understanding the key features of an adventure-ready machine will help you pick the right bike for your style of riding.