There’s a quiet revolution going on in the bike world: gravel bikes. What are they? Do you need one? What are the key features? We have a look at the brand-new Giant ToughRoad SLR GX 0.
At first they look like cyclocross bikes: off-road bicycles with dropped handlebars. But on closer inspection they are quite different to a ’crosser: different gears, different geometry and different materials. The Giant Toughroad SLR GX 0 is a great example of this new adventure bike trend. The Prologue has a quick look at this slick aluminium-framed bike.
A while back the on-road and off-road scenes were strickly divided between road racers, cyclocrossers and mountainbikers. The new breed of adventure bikes are designed to glide between road and track and back. So what are the main features?
- Comfortable geometry
- Space for mud in frame
- Hard front forks
- 1 x 11 gearing
What do we mean by “comfortable” geometry? A pure road racing bike often has a relatively short wheelbase (distance between the contact point of both wheels). This can make it very lively and quick to react in a racing situation, but as soon as the going gets rough, this can feel “skittish” and a little unstable. The medium version of the Giant ToughRoad has a wheelbase of 1048mm, compared with the medium version of the race thoroughbred Propel Advanced SL1 Disc which is 976mm — over 7 centimeters shorter.
The long wheelbase of the ToughRoad will also help to absorb some of the shocks, as the stiff front forks are less forgiving (but much lighter) than telescopic mountainbike forks.
Space for mud — what are you talking about? “Can’t you just put cyclocross tyres on your racing bike and ride off-road?” is a question we are often asked. “Mostly not,” is the answer. This is mainly because road race frames don’t have the clearance for fatter tyres, and certainly not the mud that comes with them.
Mostly, cyclocross bikes will have clearance for tyres and mud, but tighter “racey” geometry, which means a shorter wheelbase and a more tiring ride. Fine for a one-hour cyclocross race, but not so pleasant for multi-day adventures in the saddle.
The gearing of the Toughroad is also on-trend. The Sram Apex 1 x 11 set-up has a formidable 42-tooth rear sprocket on the back for the lowest gear. Yes, 42! The single front chainring has 38 teeth.
While the bike comes fitted with chunky 700 x 40 wheels and hydraulic disc brakes, the frame’s mountainbike heritage is underlined by the fact that it will also accept 29-inch wheels.
We can’t wait to take this little beauty out for a spin on the gravel tracks near The Prologue offices!