Walking around the show, it’s easy to spot obvious trends. But we talked to product managers, brand ambassadors, and the marketing folks at hundreds of companies over the four days of Eurobike to get the real scoop on what’s coming for gravel bikes in 2018 and 2019…

DROPPED CHAINSTAYS

It’s nearly impossible to talk about dropped chainstays and not think about the Open U.P. and U.P.P.E.R. Their radical take on the gravel bike certainly brought the concept to the forefront for gravel bikes, but builders have been experimenting with wild chainstay designs for years – whether elevated, dropped, or otherwise.

The usual reason for a dropped driveside chainstay is to create additional tire clearance while keeping chainstay length to a minimum and still allowing for adequate chainring clearance. Tire clearance is somewhat of a fixed number in order to stay relevant (most people are wanting the option to fit 50mm tires these days), but chainring clearance is fluid. The more gravel bike designers can get the chainstay out of the way, the larger a chainring you can run.

Some brands, like Ibis, are putting their own spin on the idea by manipulating the stays to provide huge clearance while sticking to a threaded BB.

Unless we go back to the days of elevated chainstays for gravel bikes (we’re already there for some 29+ MTBs), don’t expect the dropped chainstay to go anywhere soon.

MULTIPLE WHEEL SIZES

Look for more options with 650B and 700c as wheel sizes. We’re not at the point of “Plus” mountain bikes where most are being designed to fit 29er XC tires and 27.5+ tires simultaneously, but there are bikes that accommodate both road standards. Mostly, for now anyway, you’ll see a mix of bikes that choose one or the other and optimize their geometry around it.

SUSPENSION

Lauf has been one of the early proponents of suspension forks for gravel riding. That’s hardly a surprise since they are a lightweight suspension fork maker. But this year they jumped into the gravel market with both wheels on their own True Grit gravel frame to pair with their fork. Curiously they didn’t opt for suspension or even more compliance out back, instead looking to build a stiff gravel race-ready carbon frame to pair with their improved and more progressive Grit SL fork. Fox answered with their modified 32 StepCast fork to create the short travel AX and test the market.

A-pro full suspension gravel road bike with X-Fusion Ranger inverted suspension fork

At Taipei show, we saw a full suspension concept bike from A Pro and X-Fusion

prototype niner full suspension gravel bike

…and Niner has shown us their working prototype of something they’re likely launching in 2018.

DROPPER POST INTEGRATION

As gravel bikes get more capable, the idea of including a dropper post makes more and more sense. The height adjust seat posts can help lower your center of gravity on tricky descents for improved handing, potentially better aerodynamics, and make maneuvers like bunny hopping logs easier by getting the seat out of the way. Don’t expect all, or even most of gravel bikes to come stock with droppers, but the ability to run one is relatively easy to add to a frame and could be a feature that some riders are looking for.

ALT DRIVETRAINS

Favorit F3 Expedition custom carbon Gates Belt Drive gravel bike with internal gear Alfine hub

Gates belt drives and internally geared hubs have been mainstays on proper touring bikes for a decade. Now that gravel has become the new adventure touring discipline, it makes sense that gravel bikes would adopt the alt drivetrain too. This carbon Favorit adopts the Gates and an Alfine hub, but we are even staring to see gearboxes like the Pinion get traction for the mixed-surface gravel road crowd as well.

FENDER MOUNTS COMMON, RACK MOUNTS GROWING

Most brands have embraced the concept that these all-road, any-surface gravel bikes are all about versatility. While some companies (and many racers) scoffed at the idea of putting rack & fender mounts on the multi-purpose cyclocross bikes that predated the gravel discipline, we’ve seen little resistance on proper gravel bikes. So why not add a few braze-ones at the rear end, and maybe something up front on the fork on a bike like this aluminum framed/carbon fork Bergamont Grandurance.

So now most of the gravel bikes coming can sport full coverage fenders for winter commuting or just wet weather touring. And a few rack mounts can make it easy to haul tons of gear across any road surface on your next adventure ride.

BIKEPACKING BUILDS

Why stop at rack and fender mounts? Some models get braze-ons to mount full-on touring equipment (like this Merida Silex), but the bigger trend for most mixed-surface touring is actually to ditch the structured racks and go for the lighter weight of bike packing bags. More and more companies are making capable saddle, frame & handlebar packs that simply strap to the frames. And companies like Merida, Ghost, Salsa & many others are working with bag makers to offer packs custom fit to turn their own gravel bikes into adventure touring bikes.

AFFORDABLE ALUMINUM BIKES

Gravel riding doesn’t only need to be within reach of those buying expensive carbon bikes. With most dedicated gravel bikes running 40mm 700c tires or 47mm 650b tires, there is plenty of cush & comfort in dropping out a few PSI from your tires (especially once you set up the bike tubeless after it came stock from your bike shop with tubeless-ready rims, tubeless-ready tires, and tubes installed!) So alloy bikes like this Bionicon Mashup, the Bergamont Grandurance up there with fenders, or the aluminum version of that Merida Silex above are making gravel riding more attainable under around 1500€ complete.

AND KEEP YOUR EYES OUT FOR…

Bikes without front derailleurs, or even the ability to mount them, means 1x-specific designs are going to be a thing. Many bikes are already spec’d that way, but we noticed a subtle trend toward seat tubes that have no concession for a front mech.

Oh, and did we mention e-gravel bikes like the Focus Project Y or Orbea Gain?

30 COMMENTS

  1. So Niner is looking at doing a FS *ahem* ‘gravel’ bike. At what point do we just admit that the whole thing has jumped the shark? If it has not already…

    The Apro bike’s interesting in as much as they make frames already for many of the big players, own X-Fusion as well as do rims…

    And that Rondo’s a bit sexy!

    • Full squish gravel makes perfect sense for someone in say.. Colorado, like where Niner is based. Lots of opportunity for throwing in some world class single track during a mixed surface ride. Many mountain folk started running dropper posts in their gravel/cx bikes 5 years ago, and that was considered insane by the flatlanders, so go figure. Not so much jumping sharks, just another option. But yeah, maybe not for somebody in the linear gravel grid of the Midwest.

        • The Driftless area is a small percentage of the Midwest as a whole. I ride the Durand-Mondovi area regularly, and for decades. But does that terrain really require a full suspension gravel bike? …..Hardly. Is the overwhelming majority of gravel in the Midwest on a grid?… By all means, yes. Getting caught up in semantics isn’t really doing much for your “look up” commands.

  2. “Gates belt drives and internally geared hubs have been mainstays on proper touring bikes for a decade.”

    Huh? I have never seen a touring bike with either. Does Rohloff or shimano even offer IGH shifters for drop bars?

    • A LOT of people tour with Rohloff hubs. They have a funky adapter that would drive me nuts but no more nuts than a bar end shifter would.

  3. So what is the difference now between cross geo and gravel? You commonly see 68mm BB drop with CX bikes, so the diff is half a degree slacker at the head tube? 2mm lower BB height? This is getting silly.

    • Silly what?. Longer wheelbases and room for bigger tires. Some have provisions for adventuring…. and for years now.. Which begs the question; where have you been?

      • I’ve been here, just like you. Monster cross answered this need years ago. Maybe not with the bento box braze-ons – time for another bike!

        • Yes, and there also was a clear divergence in marketing.. years ago. Anybody really use ‘monstercross’ in their venacular anymore?… not really. In 2010 maybe it was a.. ‘thing’. Bento box braze-ons are dangerous to the taint if you like to to hang it out there.. Just sayin’

    • None of these two are even on the market yet and already we have a …”direction”. Well, anyway..’Run what you brung’. How is this getting lost in translation? It’s only been the universal moto of gravel riding/racing for the past 10 years!!! Mtb.. fine, cx… good, gravel bike… alright then. Just ride it and embrace the diversity.

      • Erm not really, you have the Cannondale Slate w/ Lefty Oliver and the Fox AX suspension. So it’s already in the market, the only one that hasn’t come yet would be full suspension, which at that time, will really make you wonder, what’s the difference between a gravel bike and a MTB except for drop bars

        • Erm, not being able to grasp a point doesn’t bode well for conversation. Not my problem the only distinguishable feature you can grasp is a handlebar. You see any Mtb’s with cx/gravel geo or even any xc mtb’s with that short of travel like any of these bikes? Hell no! How is that getting past you? Who really cares if some bikes on the market blur the lines between genre, isn’t choice good? Can’t be all that confusing. So ride a mountain bike if you want, ride a gravel bike if you want, road, cx, suspension yes/no… don’t care

  4. 1. Dropped stays are a great idea but just put a 73mm BB on a gravel/road frame and you can run 2″ wide tires if you want (like a mountain bike for example). And no, the Q factor wont kill you.
    2. With a 73mm BB you can run tires up to 2″ (or more) on 700c rims with short chain stays (400-415mm) if you really want but as people have already discovered, short chain stays are not always a great idea anyway.
    3. e-bikes are motor bikes, just call them motor bikes, be honest. They are not a bad thing but they are not bicycles.

  5. 4. Oh, and Bike Industry: Stop putting 650b wheels on everything. Get over it, you didn’t invent 29ers so you wanted to make the next big thing and you came up with 650b and it just doesn’t work.

    • 650B is an old size, mainly used on touring and randonneuring bikes before MTBs and marketing trumpeted their recent popularity.

      • I’ve been designing and building my own bikes for commercial sale for over 10 years now. I don’t have an armchair at my CAD station btw.

        • With your claimed experience you should at least know why you’re not going to see 73mm bb’s take over gravel bikes. And the hordes seem to love their 650b wheels across many disciplines. Just because you don’t agree something doesn’t mean it should/shouldn’t exist.

  6. I’m with Bazz…. I have the Kona Sutra LTD and am currently running WTB Nine Line 2.25’s (the proper 29’er/700c) version. Kudos to Kona for doing a great job the first time out of the box. For bikepackers and people who love to ride their drop bar bikes on singletrack, the bigger tire is great and much easier to find if you need one in the middle of nowhere. Plus… B sized wheels/tires just look funky.

  7. it is time for road (gravel) boost spacing. This would eliminate the necceesiy of dropped chainstays etc. It is time to deviate from the road standards as they just necessitate sub-optimal frame manipulations.

  8. +1 for 73mm threaded BB. Seems a sensible way to get the clearance for bigger tires. Riding on rocky forest roads, I much prefer the additional volume/rollover of a 29er tire. I suppose it limits your crankset options, but I’m more than ok using an MTB crankset as it gets me the gearing range I want for the steep stuff. The 650b plus is a nice way to retrofit an existing frame to get more volume, but designing a bike like the U.P. around it seems like a compromise (unless for smaller riders). I wouldn’t be interested in a 650b hardtail MTB, let alone one with drop bars.

  9. I love almost all of this. Most of it is exactly what I’ve wanted in a bike for ages. Primarily a road rider but there is a fair bit of gravel roads not too far from me to explore.

    -Extreme distances, so a slew of mounts are always welcome.

    -The ability to run 2 inch tires on a bike with drop bars.

    -… all while it being able to fit me. That’s just not something slapping drops on a mountain bike would achieve.

    -Dropper post? ehh, why not, it’s a nice option.

    -Potential for some big gear range on a big ring. Hell standard road range gearing on a 1x would fit me and where I live just fine… so 48×10-42. If we can get that 12th 50t gear on there, great.

    All of this while still being more than 97/100ths a road performer, with nothing but a wheel swap to skinnies. Maybe with any luck, that wheel set can get something like a 12speed 10-36 cassette some day?

    If you don’t race but want a primarily roadish bike, these gravel thingers make a lot more sense to me than getting a standard road bike.

  10. All of this just shows how the Salsa Fargo was just SO far ahead of it’s time. Comfortable geo and space for real 29er tires if one so wishes. Occasionally I convince one of my road based gravel bros to throw a leg of my fargo with 2.35’s and it always blows their minds. If you are in search of comfort, a switch from 28c to 35c is laughable.

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