Night Riding on Trails – A New World Awaits

A mountain biker is riding a trail at night.

Riding trails at night is fun, fun, fun.

Have you ever felt like your trail riding routine has fallen into a rut, so to speak? Are you looking for a means to add some magic into those familiar loops in the woods? Try riding those same trails at night! Even the trail that you absolutely know by heart in the daylight becomes a totally fresh, new experience when riding it in total darkness. At the very least, it just feels faster when you ride trails at night.

The key to riding trails at night is, of course, the utilization of sufficiently bright lights. And unlike riding on the road where a single headlight will suffice, for the optimal trail riding experience you’ll want a pair of lights: one mounted on the helmet and one mounted on the handlebars.

The helmet-mounted light provides a view ahead that syncs with your line of vision. So whenever you move your head, the helmet light will illuminate where you’re looking. The second light mounted on the handlebars will provide an immediate field of view of the terrain directly ahead in front of your front wheel.

How Many Lumens Do I Need?

The helmet-mounted headlight needs to be bright, much brighter than the handlebar-mounted headlight. 700 lumens is considered a base level, but having a helmet-mounted light with a triple-digit lumen output will pay amazing dividends out on the trail. The NiteRider brand of lights set the standard for lighting up trails like daylight, and their Pro 2200 Race Headlight provides an absolutely massive 2,200 lumens at the highest setting. Quite simply, it’s like having your own personal sun. Bike Nashbar also features several other NiteRider headlight options that are excellent, including the NiteRider Pro 1800 Race Headlight, the NiteRider Pro 1400 Race Headlight, and the NiteRider Pro 1200 Race Headlight with 1800, 1400, and 1200 lumen maximums respectively.

The dual beam NiteRider Pro 2200 Race Headlight

The NiteRider Pro 2200 Race Headlight, with 2200 lumens at its brightest setting, is the most powerful headlight available at Bike Nashbar.

Your handlebar-mounted light should have a minimum of 300 lumens, but running a headlight a bit brighter, such as the NiteRider Swift 450, provides just that additional bit of light in front of your front wheel for added clarity.

Night Riding Tips

This may sound like a no-brainer, but make sure you start your mountain bike night ride with fully charged lights. Keep them plugged in overnight the evening before or make sure they’re charging throughout the day in advance of your ride so you’ll have the maximum amount of battery strength at your disposal.

And speaking of fully charged lights, it’s a very good idea to bring along an additional fully charged light as a back-up option. Stow it in your pack and hopefully you’ll never need to use it, but you never know what might happen out in the woods. Trust us when we say that navigating out of the woods in total darkness is not how you want to spend your evening.

A mountain biker is riding through the woods at night.

Why not try riding your favorite trails at night?

Preserve your battery strength and maximize run times by being judicious about when you run lights at their brightest settings. If you’re riding to and from the trails, you can certainly run your headlights at a much lower lumen output than you would need on the trails. Similarly, if you know the trails and find yourself on a section that’s not very technical, or if you find yourself climbing and don’t need full-on illumination due to a slower speed, then by all means run your headlights at a lower lumen output. Save all those lumens for trail sectors that are more difficult to navigate.

If your night riding trail adventure includes riding to and from the trails, as opposed to driving to a trailhead, then you’ll want to add a tail light to the mix for safety. Once you’re on the trails, you can turn it off so it won’t be distracting to other riders on the trails.

If you’re riding trails at night with other people, wearing reflective clothing helps provide an additional visual cue as to the location of your friends.

And last but not least, if you’re riding trails at night by yourself, make sure you tell someone where you’re going.

So there you have it. With the addition of some lights, you’ll have the means to really expand your trail-riding horizons. You won’t have to worry about chasing daylight to get in a great ride. And riding at night is just plain fun, which is what cycling is all about.

A mountain biker is riding trails at night.

It’s a whole new world of fun and challenges when you mountain bike at night.


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Sweat Much? Proper Hydration For Indoor Training

Bike Nashbar is pleased to introduce the first of a three-part series of articles, Get More Out of Your Indoor Trainer, written by well-known sports science researcher Dr. Robert Portman, the author of Nutrient Timing, The Performance Zone and Hardwired for Fitness.

As the weather turns colder, serious cyclists will be moving indoors to stay in shape. Indoor workouts require multiple decisions: which trainer to buy, since there are many options, and, what are the best workouts. All too often, in the selection of the best trainer and workout regimen, nutrition issues are often ignored. This article is the first in a three-part series designed to help you maximize the benefits of your indoor training. This article focuses on rehydration, while subsequent articles will show how to maximize fueling and recovery.


A cyclist riding hard on an indoor trainer.

Proper rehydration makes a world of difference for your indoor training sessions.

Hydration is the cornerstone of any athlete’s regimen. Although working muscles are extremely efficient in converting fuel to energy, they are not perfect. In general, about 60% of the energy released during exercise is wasted as heat rather than used to fuel muscle contractions. By comparison, a well-tuned engine is only about 30% efficient which means 70% of the energy is released as heat. In fact, without any ability to cool, 25 minutes of hard exercise could bring your body temperature to 106°, which is a life-threatening temperature. Generally, hydration is even more important during an indoor session. During outdoor cycling air flowing over the skin causes evaporation and cooling. Indoor cycling lacks air flow which is why you sweat much more on your trainer.

To prevent an unhealthy rise in temperature your body has developed a sophisticated system of cooling in which heat from muscles is transported to the surface of the skin as sweat. As sweat evaporates, it cools the blood and helps maintain body temperature. During this process significant amounts of body fluid is lost. The effects of even moderate dehydration are an increase in fatigue, an increase in heart rate, a decrease in endurance performance, and an increase in the stress hormone cortisol.

For each 1% loss in body weight due to sweating, heart rate increases 5-8 beats per minute. It is not unusual for a 150-lb. individual to drop three pounds during a hard indoor training session. That’s 2% of your body weight. The table below shows the consequences of fluid losses thru sweating on exercise performance.

Body Water Loss Effects
0.5% Increased strain on heart
1% Reduced aerobic endurance
3% Reduced muscular endurance
4% Reduced muscle strength; reduced fine motor skills; heat cramps
5% Heat exhaustion; cramping; fatigue; reduced mental capacity
6% Physical exhaustion; heatstroke; coma


Water is still the preferred rehydration drink for most athletes. However, water is not ideal in replacing fluids lost through sweating. Researchers showed over 4 decades ago rehydration could be significantly enhanced by adding sodium to water. The reason being that water absorption is dependent upon sodium transporters in the cell. As sodium is reabsorbed water follows. Additionally, the electrolytes in the drink maintained thirst to encourage an athlete to continue drinking.

A cyclist riding hard on an indoor trainer.

Do not overlook the unique hydration demands of working out on an indoor trainer.

Although the first sports drink only contained electrolytes, it was soon noted that the addition of carbohydrates could further improve rehydration.  Carbohydrates help absorb sodium using a different sodium transporter. A combination of carbohydrates and electrolytes produces a more complete rehydration than just electrolytes or water alone. We now know that there are a number of sodium transporters, a carbohydrate-dependent sodium transporter as well as a protein-dependent sodium transporter.

The benefits of activating multiple sodium transporters was clearly demonstrated in a study comparing rehydration properties of water, an electrolyte/carbohydrate beverage and electrolyte/carbohydrate/protein beverage (Accelerade®). The researchers found Accelerade was:

  • 15% more effective than the electrolyte/carbohydrate beverage
  • 40% more effective than water


  • Hydration needs during your indoor workout should be an integral part of your total regimen which includes selecting your workout and the TV program you will be watching.
  • An electrolyte/carbohydrate/protein sports drink, such as Accelerade, will optimize rehydration
  • It is better to consume your hydration drink in smaller but frequent sips, which is far easier to do on an indoor trainer. This puts less stress on your GI system and improves the efficiency of rehydration.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Get More Out of Your Indoor Trainer, which will focus on how proper fueling can improve performance.

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Shedding Light on Bike Lights

Last Saturday, September 22nd, was the Fall Equinox which for cyclists is a harbinger for dwindling daylight. Daily commutes may no longer entirely take place in brilliant sunshine and what was once plenty of time post-work to ride in sunshine is becoming a more precious commodity. Which makes now the perfect time to discuss bike lights and which ones will fulfill the needs of your riding endeavors.

Outdoor photo of a bicycle stopped on the side of a road with the bicycle featuring a headlight and tail light.

Whether you ride day or night, dawn or dusk, it’s a very good idea to outfit your bike with both a headlight and tail light.

In general, lights fall into two categories: lights that help you see and lights that help you be seen. And of course there’s then the million dollar question – which do you need?

Much will depend on when, where, and how you ride, but one thing is consistent: every cyclist should own at least one set of lights to help ride safely. While many bikes come with reflectors, and a lot of cycling clothing and gear is reflective as well these days, you still need to use lights for safe cycling. In fact, most states require that lights be used when riding at night. Our home state of North Carolina requires a front light that can be seen from at least 300 feet in front of the bicycle and offers a choice for the rear of either a red light visible from at least 300 feet behind or clothing/a vest that’s visible from 300 feet behind.

Safety Lights/Daytime Running Lights

Quite simply, every cyclist needs to own at least a set of safety lights. These smaller, inexpensive LED lights have become much brighter and have longer battery life in recent years. They take up a minimal amount of space on the bike, attach easily to the handlebars and seatpost, and are bright enough to help you be seen. Even if you don’t plan on riding at night, having a set of these with you during the fall and winter is important in case something unexpected happens and your ride makes an unplanned transition into darkness.

Going beyond having safety lights for use when it’s dark, it’s just a good idea to use them as daytime running lights to maximize your visibility to motorists, fellow cyclists, and pedestrians. Even in broad daylight, a set of front and rear safety lights can create bright pulses and flashes to snap other road users, especially motorists, out of the haze and malaise of the day and alert them to your presence.

Axiom Lazerbeam 180 Tail Light

The Axiom Lazerbeam 180 Tail Light makes an excellent choice for the safety-conscious cyclist.

The Axiom Lazerbeam lights are popular in our office and are especially effective for daytime cycling. As a died-in-the-wool roadie who’s all about a minimalist aesthetic when it comes to accessories on my bike, I’ve personally become a fan of the Knog lights as they’re well-designed, exceptionally compact, and – like many lights in this category – conveniently re-charge via USB. They’re on every time I’m out on a ride.

Commuter Lights

Packing more of a punch than safety lights, commuter lights make an ideal choice for commuters and road riders. Commuter lights are brighter than safety lights, and typically have an output in the 50-375 lumen range (lumens are a measure of how bright a light is – the more lumens, the brighter). These lights are capable of putting out enough light to illuminate the path in front of you with some help from a street light or two.

They’re typically very convenient to mount on the handlebar – most utilize a tool-free system – and they feature an internal, rechargeable battery that helps keep the weight down and re-charges via a USB cable. Commuter lights are also moderately priced and won’t bust your budget.

NiteRider Lumina Micro 550 Headlight

The NiteRider Lumina Micro 550 Headlight is a popular, value-packed option for commuters and road riders.

NiteRider lights are exceptionally well-made and in the realm of commuter options their Lumina Micro 550 Headlight is a very popular choice. In its brightest mode, the Lumina Micro 550 provides 550 lumens of illumination, bright enough for riding in near total darkness. But keep in mind that the running time for the brightest option is of course the shortest (in this case 1.5 hours) before the light needs to be re-charged.

However, this light – and lights of this category – include a range of brightness options (in this case five, including a daylight flash selection and a walking mode for use when you’re a pedestrian), so it can run for up to seven hours at a lower, 125 lumen output or 20 hours in walking mode. Keep in mind that the brightest option may be overkill for the amount of darkness you encounter while riding. With experience, you’ll become a Jedi master in terms of using enough light for safe cycling while maximizing the run time of your battery before a re-charge.

Bring-On-The-Night Lights

Packing high-powered LEDs in the 500-2200 lumen range, these are the lights that are used to light your way during full-on night rides in pitch black darkness. At the lower end of that brightness range the lights are still relatively compact, self-contained units, while at the upper end of that brightness range they can be fairly big, and some even require external battery packs. And they can be priced in the several hundred dollar realm. But what you get is a bike light that is so bright if feels like you’re riding with your own, personal sun – such as the brightest light Nashbar currently sells: the NiteRider Pro 2200 Race Headlight.

NiteRider Lumina 950 Boost Headlight

The NiteRider Lumina 950 Boost Headlight will be your best friend when riding in darkness on roads or trails.

If you ride on trails at night, like to do some road cycling at night, or commute down unlit country roads, these are the lights that can show you the way home. The NiteRider Lumina 950 Boost headlight is a perfect choice for riding in these conditions, and is also an exceptional value.

Tail Lights

Basically, these are flashing red lights that mount to the back of your bike — either on the seatpost or seat stay, or by clipping onto a saddlebag or backpack. Their purpose is to make you visible to traffic approaching from the rear, while some tail lights also offer a wider radius of illumination and can also help you be visible from the side.

NiteRider Solas 100 Tail Light

The NiteRider Solas 100 Tail Light – don’t leave home without it!

Most are pretty inexpensive, and they go a long way toward helping you stay visible and safe. The most powerful tail lights can be seen from over a mile away, while smaller “blinky” lights are more suitable for city or suburban streets that aren’t totally dark. The aforementioned Axiom Lazerbeam 180 tail light is a great option, as well as the NiteRider Solas 100. They’re compact, durable, easy to use, and are USB rechargeable.

Tail lights are also required of cyclists riding at night in almost every state, city, and municipality in the United States, but independent of the law, we just think they’re a very good idea to enhance your safety – in daylight as well as night.


Safety Made Simple: Reflective Clothing, Parts, and Accessories

Reflective jacket

Reflective cycling gear enhances visibility and safety in low-light or dark conditions.

With the fall equinox tomorrow (Saturday, September 22), the specter of diminishing daylight becomes more and more a reality. Visibility is always a primary concern for cyclists, and more so when your early morning or early evening rides more frequently experience low-light conditions or even darkness. And that’s where reflective clothing, parts, and accessories come into play.

First, when we refer to cycling gear with reflective properties, that means the material becomes super-bright from exposure to direct light, which for cyclists typically entails a vehicle’s headlights. The light bounces directly back to the driver and alerts the motorist to your presence. Otherwise, in the absence of direct light, the material is subtle and unobtrusive, seamlessly blending into the gear it’s on. A factor to consider in reflective cycling clothing and gear is utilizing a combination of reflective elements (a full ensemble of clothing tops and bottoms, packs/panniers, and tires) to provide sufficient, collective visual cues to identify you as a cyclist out on the road.

The great part about utilizing all of these reflective items is that the reflective properties are built right into cycling gear you’ll use anyway as part of your regular routine. You don’t have to think twice about it or have to take an extra step to make sure your safety is optimized.


Clothing is a fundamental means of adding reflectivity to your daily cycling routine. And with cooler fall weather approaching, you can both prepare for the conditions as well as enhance your safety. There are basic, staple options such as the Bellwether Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey as well as the Canari Spiral Women’s Tights. There are plenty of jacket options for a variety of conditions beginning with the super-versatile Canari Optimo 2 in 1 Jacket that features removable sleeves to it can be used as either a jacket or vest.

Canari Solar Flare Windshell Jacket

In addition to being a superb choice for cool, blustery conditions, the Canari Solar Flare Windshell Jacket sports reflective logos and piping to enhance your safety out on the road

For wet weather conditions there is the Castelli Sella Rain Jacket, while for straightforward blustery, windy days there’s the Mavic Cosmic Pro Wind Jacket or the Canari Solar Flare Windshell. All of these clothing items feature strategically placed reflective logos, piping, and accents that are subtle in daylight conditions, but provide superb reflectivity from a variety of angles when you’re riding in low-light or dark conditions.

And don’t forget other clothing items such as gloves (such as Pearl Izumi Cyclone Gel Gloves) and shoe covers (such as Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Barrier WxB Shoe Covers) to further enhance reflectivity and provide further visual cues to motorists, particularly with items such as shoe covers that are in motion as you pedal.

Helmets with reflectivity are an important way to complete your kit, with the Bell Z20 MIPS Ghost Reflective Road Helmet a superb option. The helmet is treated with a durable, reflective coating under the helmet’s clear coat that glows with eye-searing intensity when hit with direct light. And it’s also a super-subtle treatment that has no effect on the helmet’s aesthetics in daylight.


The trusty seatpack is a perfect means to add reflectivity to your bike with options such as the Nashbar Waterproof Saddle Bag, Topeak Survival Tool Wedge II, or the BiKASE Momentum Seat Bag all featuring reflective logos and piping that are readily visible to motorists approaching from behind.

The Nashbar Waterproof Saddle Bag

The Nashbar Waterproof Saddle Bag features a reflective logo and accents for enhanced rear visibility

 Commuting and running errands around town means you’ll need panniers to carry your gear, so why not choose something like the TransIt Metro Grocery Pannier or BiKASE Reggie H20 Proof Pannier with reflective elements that are visible from both the side as well as behind.


When it comes to parts of your bicycle, tires with reflective striping on the sidewalls make perfect sense for the safety-minded cyclist. The venerable Continental brand is noted for just such a feature, and the sidewall reflective striping is prevalent on a variety of tires such as the Town Ride City Tire, the Sport Contact City Tire, and the Top Contact II City Tire.

The Continental Town Ride City Tire

The Continental Town Ride City Tire features a reflective strip all the way around the sidewall for enhanced visibility

Of course, reflective clothing and gear are only one part of being a safe cyclist when you’re riding in low-light conditions or full-on darkness. Lights, both headlights and tail lights, are a must-have item to illuminate your way and also provide critical visibility to motorists, pedestrians, and fellow cyclists. And Bike Nashbar has plenty of lights to choose from to fit your budget as well as illumination demands.

Stay safe, stay vigilant, and enjoy your rides during this transition into fall cycling.


Gravel & Cyclocross Bikes – What’s The Difference?

Gravel bikes. Cyclocross bikes. The latest buzz in bikes and its venerable mixed-surface cousin. Striking a super-versatile middle ground between dedicated road bikes and dedicated mountain bikes, these steeds deliver the zippiness and efficiency of a road bike that makes it easy to cover plenty of ground, all the while relying on the toughness and dirt-friendly tread patterns drawn from the mountain bike realm that make them at home when venturing off the beaten path. And both are just flat out fun to ride.

There are plenty of options for gravel and cyclocross bikes at Bike Nashbar, but what category of bike do I need? And what exactly is the difference between a gravel bike and a cyclocross bike anyway?

Cyclocross – The elder statesman of drop-bar bikes on dirt

The Nashbar Carbon Cyclocross Bike in action at a local 'cross race.

The Nashbar Carbon Cyclocross Bike in action at a local ‘cross race.

At its essence, cyclocross is about racing. The sport has its roots in Europe as a means for road pros to stay fit in the off-season, and in the mid-20th century cyclocross evolved into its own dedicated competitive discipline with a race season encompassing the fall and winter months. ‘Cross is a sport that’s been dominated by Europeans, with Belgium the current world power and spiritual homeland, but North Americans have made inroads, particularly on the women’s side with riders like the USA’s Katie Compton a perennial superstar.

Cyclocross races are roughly one-hour, multi-lap events over a course typically no more than two miles in length, with a variety of surfaces (dirt, grass, asphalt/concrete), plus features such as barriers and short, steep climbs that force riders to dismount and carry their bikes. It is a thing of beauty watching world-class ‘cross racers approaching obstacles at speed and their subsequent super-smooth dismounts and remounts.

And as a fall/winter sport, weather conditions play an enormous role. It’s not uncommon for cyclocross races to take place in frigid rain (or snow) that turns the course into a literal sea of mud, and riders must switch to clean bikes, sometimes every lap, when the accumulation of muck, slime, and ice renders bikes barely rideable.

Within these general parameters of cyclocross racing evolved bikes specific to the sport’s needs. Tire clearance on a cyclocross bike is generous, to allow for wider off-road tires, typically but not exclusively in the 700x30c-ish range (pros are limited to a max width of 700x33c). There’s a range of tire tread patterns available, ranging from minimalist file treads to aggressive, mud-oriented treads, to dial in the bike’s traction needs to the course at hand. The wheelbase is longer, too, which provides more stability when riding over non-firm surfaces (even sand!).

Nashbar Carbon Cyclocross Bike

The Nashbar Carbon Cyclocross Bike is ready for ripping or racing with its carbon frame & fork, Shimano 105 components, and Tektro Spyre mechanical disc brakes.

If you become a devoted racer, you’ll find that carbon fiber is king regarding frame (and fork) materials, with Bike Nashbar’s own Carbon Cyclocross Bike a remarkable value. For the more budget-conscious, aluminum frames provide nearly as light a material as carbon that’s much friendlier to the wallet. And even steel, such as our super-fun Nashbar Single-Speed Cyclocross Bike, is still a viable, very affordable option.

Nashbar Single-Speed Cyclocross Bike

One gear to rule them all. The Nashbar Single-Speed Cyclocross Bike is the essence of simplicity.

 ‘Cross bikes position the rider more upright, with a higher center of gravity, a geometry that makes it easier to navigate unsettled terrain plus ensuring more pedaling clearance. The frames are designed with steeper headtube angles to handle the demands of sharper turning. There’s plenty of changes in speed and direction on a ‘cross course and a cyclocross bike is optimized for aggressive riding and accelerating out of every turn to maintain a speedy tempo.

Traditionally, cyclocross bikes have been set up with drivetrains featuring double chainring cranksets, but in recent years single chainring, 1x set ups have immensely increased in popularity. A 1x configuration is lighter in weight, is a mechanically simpler system (less likely to be affected by sloppy conditions), and delivers super-intuitive shifting (very important when you’re deep in the pain cave and don’t have the mental acuity to work with both front and rear derailleurs).

Gravel – The new kid on the drop-bar block

Gravel bikes, on the other hand, are less about racing (although gravel races are definitely growing in popularity) and more about enjoying riding for riding’s sake on the road less taken, and having the capacity to keep you comfortable and well-equipped for tackling extended-length adventures over pretty rough terrain. Possibly multiple days in duration.

Durability, reliability, and comfort are hallmarks of a well-made gravel bike. While there are full carbon fiber steeds for the dedicated gravel racer, for riders of a less competitive mindset who may be interested in long-distance adventure rides or bikepacking, rugged frames made of steel or aluminum make perfect, practical sense. The legendary Breezer brand, of Joe Breeze fame (one of the originators of the modern-day mountain bike), provides fantastic steel options in their Inversion and Radar models. Additionally, the Fuji Jari gravel bikes are available in steel and aluminum frames while the Diamondback Haanjo (men’s version) and Haanjenn (women’s version) gravel bikes are built around aluminum frames.

2018 Breezer Inversion Pro Gravel Bike

The 2018 Breezer Inversion Pro gravel bike breaks down the barriers of what a “road” bike can be. Featuring a butted chromoly D’Fusion frame, carbon fork, Shimano 105 components, TRP hydraulic disc brakes, and 700×32 WTB Exposure tires.

Gravel bikes tend to have a taller headtube and thus situate you in a more upright position than cyclocross bikes, befitting their call as an all-day ride. Lower bottom brackets are all about stability and a lower center of gravity while longer wheelbases are there, too, featuring longer seatstays than ‘cross rigs for additional comfort on the back end as well as more easily accommodating racks and panniers.

Gravel bikes are noted for the proliferation of braze-on mounts to facilitate extended rides away from readily available provisions. It’s normal for a frame and fork to sport braze-on mounts to handle five water bottle cages, front and rear packs & racks, as well as a top tube-mounted bento box. Contrast that with my personal ‘cross bike that’s only equipped with a pair of water bottle cage braze-ons.

2018 Fuji Jari 1.5 Gravel Bike

The 2018 Fuji Jari 1.5 gravel bike is your ticket to adventure. Featuring a butted aluminum frame, carbon fork, SRAM Apex 1x drivetrain, TRP mechanical disc brakes, and Clement X’Plor USH 700×35 tires.

Gearing is generally more forgiving on a gravel bike, befitting their endurance orientation and the demands of scaling lengthy, steep ascents. Climbing in cyclocross racing is short and punchy, and if the terrain is too steep you simply get off and run with the bike on your shoulder. In my days as an elite ‘cross racer, I ran a 42T single chainring with a 12-25T cassette. That’s fine for ‘cross racing and training, but my legs would explode in mere minutes using those gears on rides in Pisgah Forest in western North Carolina.

If you’re off the beaten path taking on an extended stint of National Forest fire roads, you may encounter steeply pitched climbs that are many miles in length and you need gears low enough to pedal up them – especially if your bike is loaded up with packs and bags. Which is why a bike like the Breezer Radar Expert gravel bike sports 48/32T chainrings plus an 11-36T cassette. You’ll thank your lucky stars your low gear is lower than a 1-1 ratio. Speaking of gearing, you’ll find a healthy mix of both double chainring and single chainring drivetrain configurations on today’s gravel bikes.

Befitting the demands of long rides on rough dirt/gravel roads, with “road” often used in the loosest possible manner, gravel bikes are designed with more tire clearance than ‘cross bikes so you can run plush, forgiving rubber. My ‘cross bike can barely clear a 700×38 tire, and I’ll only use that width in dry conditions, while at a minimum a gravel bike is expected to clear a 700×40 tire, with tire widths often running close to 50mm. Minimally maintained roads coupled with the possibility of gear for multiple days in the woods make running wide, higher volume tires a necessity.

But What Bike Do I Need?

It really comes down to the style of riding you’re more inclined to do. If you’re interested in ‘cross racing and/or riding fast and light on mixed surfaces over rides lasting up to a few hours in length, then a cyclocross bike is the logical choice. If you’re more comfort-minded, are more interested in the journey itself, and in particular are inclined to undertake rides that entail packing extra gear/provisions, then by all means look into a gravel bike.

And the beauty of both ‘cross and gravel bikes is there is a blurry middle ground. You can certainly race ‘cross on a gravel bike or add a sizable seatpost pack and handlebar bag to a ‘cross bike for longer rides. The bikes are fully capable of crossing boundaries, but are best able to handle their own specific genre of riding.

Don’t forget that ‘cross bikes and gravel bikes are remarkably versatile and it’s amazing just what they can do with a simple change of tires. My ‘cross bike has logged plenty of super-fast road group rides with simply a change of tires from 700×33 knobbies to zippy, 700×25 road rubber, and another switch to Continental Gatorskin tires and a set of platform pedals converts my ‘cross bike into a bombproof, around-town commuter. And a gravel bike transforms into the ultimate comfort, endurance road bike with a similar outfitting of slick road tires. And you can run them wide, too, – REALLY wide – and discover the beauty and comfort of 700×30 and wider slick road tires.

And no matter which bike you ultimately choose, there’s just no end to how much fun you’ll have when the pavement ends and the dirt begins.