GRAVEL BIKES

GO OFF ROAD WITH THREE OF THE BEST

Triathlon Plus - - Contents - Words Marc Ab­bott Pho­tos Stu­art Collins

A T THIS time of year, we’re ei­ther start­ing our train­ing in earnest for spring, or we’re en­joy­ing rid­ing bikes for fun – no Garmin, no av­er­age speed or heart rate to worry about. Which­ever camp you fall into, the three bikes we’ve tested here will en­able you to keep rid­ing in the great out­doors and save you from the sit­ting on a turbo trainer in a chilly garage.

Gravel bikes dif­fer from out-and-out rac­ing cy­clocross bikes in a few im­por­tant ar­eas. They’re built for dis­patch­ing bri­dle­ways, fire roads, even mod­er­ately tech­ni­cal trails, and they of­fer a more re­laxed frame ge­om­e­try to en­able this.

Their tyres are also fit for the pur­pose, ow­ing to their tread pat­tern and vary­ingly wide di­am­e­ters. Be­yond this, if you fancy a week­end ad­ven­ture, a gravel bike will some­times fea­ture lugs and mounts for lug­gage. Per­fect for week­end blasts on the roads less trav­elled and heft­ing a one-per­son tent with overnight sup­plies. But which lets the least get in its way?

Firstly, the £949 Gen­e­sis CDA20 of­fers a rugged plat­form for tar­mac-free rid­ing. Its sturdy, alu­minium con­struc­tion is mated to wide 40mm di­am­e­ter tyres, a durable groupset, and a host of prac­ti­cal touches, to make it a ver­sa­tile ma­chine.

Sec­ondly, Gi­ant’s £1,599 Any­road Co­max features a car­bon-fi­bre frame, deeply treaded rub­ber and Shi­mano 105 groupset com­po­nents. Built with the in­ten­tion of pro­vid­ing con­fi­dence and com­fort, it may cost more than the Gen­e­sis, but is it worth the ex­tra out­lay?

Thirdly, we have a bike that was the first model to make gravel bikes a main­stream con­cern. Spe­cial­ized’s £1,100 Di­verge Elite DSW features the man­u­fac­turer’s frame damp­ing tech­nol­ogy and a light­weight alu­minium con­struc­tion, yet the least deeply treaded tyres , which should have a ben­e­fit when not ac­tu­ally on the rough stuff. Can its light­weight ap­proach to of­froad trails still pro­pel it to the top of the pile?

We set off into a win­try scene of de­graded bri­dle­way to put each to the test, and come to a con­clu­sion.

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