5 Gravel Bike Facts you may not know…

Gravel bikes continue to spark the interest of existing and new cyclists worldwide, but did you know this about them?!

Historical Roots in French Races?

While gravel biking has gained popularity in recent years, its roots can be traced back to early 20th Century France. Back in the day, The Tour often included more ‘gravelesque’ tracks, as roads were not as well-paved as they are today. This historical connection adds a layer of tradition to the gravel bike movement.

Military Origins of Gravel Riding!

The concept of gravel riding has ties to military history. Pictured below is a current restoration project (in it’s early stages!)

In the mid-20th century, soldiers returning from World War II repurposed their surplus military bikes for adventure riding, often exploring gravel and dirt roads. This laid the groundwork for the adventurous spirit associated with gravel biking today.

Gravel Racing and Epics!

While gravel riding has been around for a while, gravel racing has gained momentum as a competitive sport.

Unpaved and off-road races, such as the Dirty Kanza in the United States, have become key calendar races. These events often cover long distances, pushing both professional and amateur cyclists to their limits in challenging conditions. There is an ever growing racing scene in a range of countries and some riders even attempting FKTs (Fastest Known Times) on popular routes. Gravel riding has also inspired many cyclists to take up their own long distance rides without touching the road.

Variety of Options!

The gravel biking world has plenty of variety…

Many gravel bike enthusiasts enjoy building their bikes from the frame up, selecting components that suit their preferences and the local terrain of their gravel riding. Some riders prefer to convert an old 90s MTB whilst others opt for modern look… Comfort or speed are also heavily influenced with the increasing choices of models available. From carbon aero style frames to steel or titanium options. Brands are even now opting to produce gravel bikes with race specific demands in mind, there really is something to suit everyone…

Electronic Shifting?

Some high-end gravel bikes are equipped with electronic shifting systems, providing precise and reliable gear changes.

This technology, once more common in road cycling, is finding its way into the gravel scene. Examples such as the Ridley Grifn (pictured below) are built with Di2 technology.

An ‘allroad’ bike that’s fast and capable on all kinds of surfaces, from smooth tarmac all the way to gravel paths, but now with even more advanced tech!

So that rounds up our perhaps ‘lesser known’ gravel facts! Let us know if you have heard of any of these before or have anything to add!?


  • Alex Cowie

    Outdoor Leadership and Coaching BA (Hons) Keen cyclist, runner, and outdoor enthusiast. I have been cycling since I was very young and always had a love for the outdoors. I have completed many long distance events including ultra marathons such as the Chester 100, Berkeley Marathons UK and Gravel Century rides.

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