Gravel vs Road bike

This is a possibly how longs a piece of string question, with a lot variables that no one will be able to quantify.

I for the most part don’t race and don’t don’t do a heap of group riding. I do a few long endurance races/challenges through the year, and a bit of hills riding 100-150km.

My normal ride I do around my area is flat-undulating coastal ride on very good condition asphalt.

Q) I currently ride a Cervelo S3, riding this loop 55km, taking my last ride I averaged 34km/h at 250w. If I was to swap to a gravel bike, assuming the same aero wheelset, How much could I expect to see this average speed drop?

Riding out in the hills doing long sustained climbs and fast descents. How would a gravel bike be affected here(again assuming same set of aero wheels).

When I ride with others they are for the most part the same weight and FTP as me. So if I’m having to put out an extra 10-20watts to keep the same speed, I would start getting frustrated.

I have watched a heap of videos on YouTube about Gravel vs road bikes, but they are for the most part the GCN videos doing unrealistic (to me) comparisons.


The biggest factors will be position and tires, (and maybe wheels also). If you match position and tires, a gravel bike will be pretty close to road. You’d need one of the more aggressive gravel bikes to match position.


Depends on the gravel bike, my guy. Some are soft and cushy, while others are racey and fast. With a Cervelo Aspero or 3T Exploro you’d probably be fine. They’re possibly a little slower, but I can’t say how much.

Get something with a softer ride, like a Cannondale Topstone Carbon, and you’ll definitely feel the difference.


So that would be a loss of pedalling efficiency through the inbuilt flex of the frame.

I’ve put two gravel bikes and my Cervelo s3 into Geometry Geeks website. The other two are the Diverge and Checkpoint. It doesn’t seem like my Cervelo is much of a different position to these two. (I ride with a 20mm head tube spacer)

I think you’ll notice a pretty big difference between these two bikes and your S3. I’m not totally sure about the Checkpoint, but the Diverge is really designed more for comfort than speed. That’s not to say you can’t be fast on it—but I do think you’ll work harder to do it.

Perhaps @mcneese.chad can shed some light on the Checkpoint, but I have a hunch he’ll say something similar.


Ok. I wasn’t sure if those differences in speed would be noticed when doing just fairy consistent Power rides vs racing where there are the big bursts of power and out of saddle jumps.

For reference, I have a 2017 Cannondale CAADX for my gravel/allroad bike and a 2018 SuperSix Evo as my road bike.

The CAADX is aluminum and about 19.5 lbs. The SuperSix is carbon and 16.3 lbs. The geometries are similar and I have them set up almost identically (the X is about 5 mm taller with 10 mm shorter reach). With the same wheels and tires, the X is on average about a mile an hour slower compared to the SuperSix at similar power.

Sure, it’s heavier, but I think the main difference comes in the stiffness—the SuperSix is just so much stiffer than the CAADX, so the power transfer is significantly better. There are a lot of moving parts in the “road bike vs. gravel bike” discussion, especially with gravel bikes coming in such an insane variety for different uses.

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The CP is more endurance road geo vs pure road or full blown gravel. It’s a bit of a middle ground with a longer wheelbase and slacker angles than road race bikes.

The taller stack could lead to higher setup, but that’s only if you are slammed on a road setup with minimal spacers under the stem. So you can likely get a similar fit to a road bike unless you are really aggressively setup now.

The handling will be a tad slower on steering and leaning towards stable vs agile (twitchy to some).

Not sure that covers the question well enough?


I find it super interesting. The Cannondale comaparison is certainly as close to a real life example of my question. It’s the video I would like to see from GCN.

Agility doesn’t faze me too much in a road bike, given my style of riding. But blasting along and trying to beat my straight line strava Segments does. Which will be effected by the points Chad brings up.

I certainly don’t have access to enough gravel to justify a high end gravel bike, but would love the ability to still ride gravel for the half dozen times I do in a year.

Ive just sold my HT MTB, so looking to something fill that spot the garage.

The other thing to keep in mind is gearing. I have the AL version of the Topstone which comes with a 46/30 crank and an 11/34 in the back. On flat to downhill paved roads I often find i don’t have the high end I’m looking for. I think something like the grx’s 48/31 would give me the extra gear I’m looking for. On gravel though the 46/30 is perfect for me. A gravel bike with a 50/34 might be something to consider if you think you’ll be on roads more frequently.

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Another interesting bike I just remembered as an option could be the Salsa Warroad (not Warbird). It is claimed as an 80/20 Road/Dirt bike. Geo is similar to the Checkpoint (based on a quick skim), so largely endurance geo. But it has some interesting options for wheel & tire size (700c or 650b) that could make an interesting Jeckyll & Hyde personality when the wheel swap.


They got the color right!! :sunglasses:


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Searching other topics and stumbled across this and thought I would toss in my thoughts if anyone was still interested.
Cervelo R5 Disc and Exploro 3T. Swap the wheels back and forth (ENVE 4.5 ARs with 28mm tires)
Have done the same loops on both bikes many times and find the Exploro to be roughly 0.5km/hr slower on average.
FTP ~280 and weight 68kg.

If could only own one bike the Exploro would be more than adequate. If were buying again would consider the Cervelo Aspero as I really dislike the Diff-lock saddle clamp on the Exploro (3T changed it for the new Exploro RaceMax). The new Caledonia 5 looks like a sweet ride but depends if you need a bike for true gravel riding or just rough/dirt/cobbled roads.
My old Pinarello F8 with Obermeyer Lightweight tubulars still faster than either the R5 Disc or the Exploro (though didn’t spec the R5 out to be a race bike).


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Cervelo aspero can do it all. Road geometry for a gravel bike. Can run a front double. Can fit a 42cc tire. I have had 0 issues with mine and ride gravel once a week.

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