Gravel bikes are versatile, dynamic, and multi-purpose. They are a sort of hybrid bike that is built to be used on different terrains. Cyclists not only use them for off-road but also for paved roads just like road bikes.
But are they fast? Can they provide the speed you need on paved roads like road bikes give you?
We’ll go into detail about the speed of these bikes and also be putting them up close with road bikes and mountain bikes; comparing them in terms of speed and performance to guide you into making the best choice.
Are Gravel Bikes Fast?
Yes, gravel bikes are fast, but not all of them. It all depends on the design or the build. Some gravel bikes are built more like road bikes and those are the gravel bikes to go for if you are all about speed.
Let’s look at 3 factors that affect the speed of a gravel bike.
1- Lighter ones are Faster
The first thing to check out is weight. If you want a fast gravel bike, then go for a lighter one. Gravel bikes are built to endure and carry gear so they weigh around 13kg and more. But there are gravel bikes that weigh like 9kg or even less. These are built for speed.
2- Material Matters
Gravel bikes made of carbon are also fast. They are lighter and quick on their wheels but they may not be able to carry all your gear if you decide you want to go for an adventure. They have aerodynamic tubing and their frames are stiff enough to give you the speed you need.
3- Sitting Position Can Slow You Down
Gravel bikes are built to give you a more upright position so you can be comfortable on long rides but this slows you down. Some gravel bikes are built to be aero, like road bikes. They don’t have relaxed positions like road bikes but they are not as upright as the other gravel bikes so they are faster.
Some of these gravel bikes are even faster than road bikes. Some are designed with road tires.
What Is a Good Average Speed on a Gravel Bike?
The average speed you’re going to get on your gravel bike will depend largely on the conditions you’ll be riding in, the road surfaces, your fitness, position on the bike, the power you’re going to be putting in, etc.
Most riders can maintain a speed between 15 and 18 mph on a gravel bike while riding on a tarmac or a flat surface, for about 50 miles.
But if you can average about 13 to 14mph, it’s cool. It’s still a good average but you can push yourself to do better.
Gravel Bike vs Road Bike (Speed Comparison)
Because road bikes are designed mainly for competitive cycling, they are faster than gravel bikes.
If you ditch your gravel bike for a road bike and you ride with the same power and efficiency, you should get 1 or 2mph more on the bike. How fast you will be really can’t be determined or concluded but you definitely will feel faster and lighter.
This happens because of factors like weight, position, and tires.
A gravel bike gives you a more upright position that makes being aero impossible while a road bike gives you a more bent position which is more aerodynamic.
If you ride a gravel bike that has a stiffer frame, is designed to be aero, and is lighter, you will be able to get the same speed you get on a road bike or something close.
Gravel bikes are also not as fast as road bikes because they come with lower gearing. Some come with 1 chainring or double chainrings with an outer chainring of 46T.
Compared to road bikes that usually come with compact cranksets of 50 34T, this can be slow. The 50T in a road bike combined with an 11T cog will be faster on roads than a 46T combo.
This also means gravel bikes can descend steep hills as fast as road bikes. You may spin out fast.
Road bikes usually weigh around 18 pounds on average while gravel bikes are a little north of that by about 6 pounds. Gravel bikes weigh normally around 24 pounds and upward. The heavier the bike, the slower it gets.
Are Gravel Bikes Faster than Mountain Bikes?
Gravel bikes are faster than Mountain bikes. This is due to the drop handlebars and thinner tires on gravel bikes.
Gravel bikes usually come with drop-bar handlebars which give the rider an aerodynamic position, unlike mountain bikes that have flat handlebars.
Gravel bikes are also faster because they have thinner tires and are lighter. Mountain bikes come with better tires that give you balance and make you confident on very rough terrains, but that comfort comes at the cost of speed.
Mountain bikes are faster than gravel bikes when it comes to descents. Gravel bikes come with lower gearing that can make descending steep hills difficult as pedaling will be hard.
Apart from this situation, gravel bikes are faster. Some are even designed more like road bikes and built for speed.
Are Gravel Bikes Faster than Hybrids?
Gravel bikes are generally faster than hybrid bikes. This is more true when the gravel bike is lighter and designed with speed in mind.
Let’s see how these two bikes perform in different situations.
1- Rough Terrains
Hybrid bikes do not do well on gravel roads or very tough terrains, so gravel bikes will beat them hands down on these types of roads.
2- Casual Commuting
Hybrid bikes are meant more for casual riding and short-distance commuting. They do better on paved roads. They are mostly fitted with thinner tires compared to gravel bikes so they may be a bit faster than gravel bikes on these roads. But it’s not always the case.
How Fast Is a Gravel Bike for Climbing?
The gravel bike’s speed in terms of climbing depends on the bike itself, its gearing, and its build.
Lighter bikes climb better, and that’s why road bikes can be used to climb well. So a gravel bike with lighter components will climb really fast; faster than a mountain bike.
Gearing also matters a lot. A gravel bike with only 1 chainring will find it hard to climb. The big chainring will have to be combined with a very large cog before you can climb easily.
But a gravel bike with a double crankset that comes with an inner ring of like 36 or 34T and combined with a cassette with a wider range of gearing, will be very fast for climbing. An 11 32 or 11 34 cassette is adequate for this.
How Fast Is a Gravel Bike for City Riding?
With a gravel bike, you can maintain a speed of about 16mph – 22mph on paved roads while riding in the city. This depends on your fit, gearing, and power output.
A gravel bike won’t be as fast as a road bike for city riding because the latter is designed for speed and competitive cycling. However, this shouldn’t be a problem as you are not likely to be competing for awards while riding in the city.
So the gravel bikes will ride as fast as road bikes while staying within the city’s speed limits.
TIP: If your gravel bike isn't fast enough you can reduce its weight, change the wheels and use road tires, and lower the gearing. You can get a bigger chainring and get a cassette with wider gearing options.
Can I Put Road Tires on a Gravel Bike?
You can put Road tires on your gravel bike. This will not only decrease your rolling resistance on paved roads, but you’ll also reduce the weight of your bike and get more speed.
Some gravel bikes come with the option of 650b wheels or 700c wheels. 700c wheels allow you to install smaller tires or road tires. You will be fast on the road and commute more smoothly.
If you use your gravel bike for both road and off-road cycling, you will still need gravel tires for the rough roads. In this situation, you should have two sets of wheels; a gravel wheel and a road wheel.
Your gravel wheel should be set up with gravel tires and your road wheel set up with road tires. This way you can swap wheels to suit every occasion and road.
Gravel bikes are fast; Faster than you think if you haven’t ridden one. Note that there are different types of gravel bikes and some are faster than others. They are built with carbon frames, have thinner tires, and are designed to be more aero.
Your average speed on a gravel bike will depend on your fitness, power, build, and design of your bike. But you should be able to maintain an average speed of 13mph to 15mph on any gravel bike.
In terms of speed, road bikes will do better than gravel bikes in races. Gravel bikes are faster than mountain bikes and hybrid bikes generally, but sometimes it can be the other way round. We have discussed this in detail to guide you into choosing the best one for your needs and terrain.