What is a gravel bike?

We know what you’re thinking… “Can’t you ride any bike on gravel?”

Sure, you can ride a road bike, cyclocross bike, or mountain bike on gravel and dirt roads, but there is a better tool for the job – the gravel bike. It’s designed to make off-road adventures comfortable, efficient and FUN.

So, what is a gravel bike? Let’s dive in to explore the differences between these bikes to find out what makes a bike like the Liv Devote shine.

A group of three cyclists riding on a gravel road with a sign in the foreground that reads "pavement ends"

Gravel bike VS road bike

The all-terrain-vehicle of bikes, gravel bikes are made to carry all your gear, handle any weather conditions and road surfaces, and do it all while being comfortable. On the flip side, road bikes – whether designed for comfort over longer distances like the Liv Avail, speed on hilly roads like the Liv Langma, or flat out high-powered sprinting like the EnviLiv, they all have one thing in common: they are designed to be ridden on paved surfaces.

Gravel Bike

  • More clearance for larger tires (The Devote has a tire clearance of 45mm in the short position and 53mm in the long position with the Flip chip – dropout). Wider tires give gravel bikes more traction and make them more comfortable on rough roads and trails.
  • Gravel bike frame geometry has a longer wheelbase, lower bottom bracket, and slacker headtube angle, which make it more stable on off-road terrain.
  • Disc brakes are a must when it comes to gravel bikes for powerful and predictable stopping on any terrain.
  • Mounts for extra water bottles, fenders, and racks come standard on gravel bikes so you can load them up with gear for backcountry adventures.
  • Gravel bikes use flared drop bars that are a bit wider for more control and stability.

Road Bike

  • Optimized for speed and efficiency on paved roads, road bikes typically have narrower tires, maximum width 38mm.
  • Road bikes are designed to be super snappy and efficient with a steeper headtube angle and shorter wheelbase.
  • Most road bikes now come with disc brakes, including all Liv road bikes.
  • While some road bikes have mounts for fenders and racks, most will only have room for two water bottles to keep weight down.
  • Road bikes like the Liv Avail now feature flared drop bars for improved control, though other road bikes like the Langma and EnviLiv will spec drop bars without a flare. Most road bikes will have a longer stem than gravel bikes.

Gravel bike VS cyclocross bike

Though they look extremely similar and are both designed to be ridden off-road, gravel bikes and cyclocross bikes are meant for distinctly different uses. The main difference? Cyclocross bikes like the Liv Brava Advanced Pro are specifically made for racing short, punchy courses where you’ll likely have to carry your bike.

Gravel Bike

  • Frame shape for gravel bikes follow the compact road bike blueprint. The slanting top tube and small rear triangle save on weight and add some compliance to the frame for a more comfortable ride.
  • The gravel bike’s geometry is long and low for stability and comfort, with a low bottom bracket and long wheelbase.
  • Tire clearance up to 53mm, and you’ll likely run wide tires with as much tread as you’ll need for the conditions.
  • A wider gear range on the gravel bike allows you to tackle long, hilly routes without having to get out of the saddle.
  • For longer rides and bikepacking, gravel bikes are equipped with tons of mounts for bags, fenders, and extra water bottles.
  • Flared drop bars and the ability to add a dropper seatpost add more stability and control on rough roads and trails.

Cyclocross Bike

  • Cyclocross bikes have a distinct straight top tube. Standover height isn’t a thing for these bikes – instead, they are designed with a large open triangle frame for easy shoulder carrying over cyclocross race obstacles and run-ups.
  • Cyclocross bikes need to be snappy. You need to turn on a dime and power out of dead-stops, not to mention you might need to bunny hop a barricade. A higher bottom bracket and shorter wheelbase help make this happen.
  • Cyclocross bikes have a geometry optimized around a 33mm tire width. Although the bikes have clearance for wider tires, UCI rules state you can’t run tires wider than 33mm for elite racing, plus you want that extra room around the tire to allow mud to clear.
  • With cyclocross’s short courses and short, punchy climbs, a 1x drivetrain with a bigger gear is more useful.
  • Though cyclocross bikes have some mounting options, it’s not a top priority since this bike is designed for racing.
  • Regular drop bars may be a bit wider than they would be on the road, and the ability to add a dropper seatpost, if needed, for the race course.

Gravel bike VS mountain bike

Fully rigid or full squish? When compared to gravel bikes, mountain bikes like the Liv Intrigue 29 are optimized for varying levels of gnar on singletrack trails.

Gravel Bike

  • When it comes to geometry, a gravel bike is going to have a taller headtube, steeper headtube angle, and a lower bottom bracket. Making this bike stable mostly in a seated position and optimized for minimal tech.
  • Most gravel bikes don’t have a suspension fork or shock. They are “rigid”, making them super-efficient for long rides on gravel and dirt roads. Some gravel bikes can come with a suspension fork or one can be added if tackling more rough or technical terrain.
  • The disc brakes used on gravel bikes tend to have a fairly small rotor, making them lighter weight.
  • Flared drop bars on gravel bikes give the rider options for hand placement on long sections of gravel road, where body position rarely changes.
  • Maximum 53mm tire clearance. Generally, gravel tires have small knobs for traction and control on gravel and dirt.

Mountain Bike

  • Mountain bikes get their stability from a slacker headtube angle, making them capable of mowing over rocks, roots, and other trail features. A higher bottom bracket makes it easier to clear those same trail obstacles with your rear wheel as well.
  • Mountain bikes will have a suspension fork and sometimes a rear shock to absorb impacts on the trail. The more travel in your suspension, the more comfortable you’ll be on gnarly singletrack. However, all that suspension makes mtbs a little slower rolling and zaps some of your pedaling efficiency.
  • MTBs have larger rotors to disperse heat when braking heavily over extended periods of time.
  • Mountain bikes have flat handlebars. You don’t need to change hand your position, because you are constantly standing up and maneuvering the bike underneath you.
  • 2.2-2.6-inch tires are typical on most mountain bikes with larger knobs for riding on mud, loose dirt, rocks and roots.