Road bike for gravel

Okay so we’re all aware that people ride gravel bikes on the road all the time, but what’s to stop you, other then the weird, judgy looks, from taking your road bike, swapping out the tires, and taking it on gravel?

Like if you saw some dude on a Trek Edmonda SL5 riding on gravel do ya think people would lose their minds?

Tyre clearance


No minds to lose in most cases, but like so much here, it depends.

People have ridden and continue to ride “road” bikes on unpaved roads. The real issues boil down to the specific conditions of the unpaved road and tire size of the road bike.

  • “Gravel” roads run the full range from hard packed dirt that is as smooth and fast to ride as fresh tarmac. But there are also “gravel” roads what consist of large river rock, chunky holes and rocks that approach double-track trail. So, considering that wide swath of road conditions, riding a regular road bike on those will be more practical in some cases than others.

  • Related to the above, the road bike in question will have some functional limit to tire size. Typical “road bikes” these days commonly fit a 28mm tire and many go to 32mm or even 35mm in a few cases. From experience, those 32mm tires can be quite capable, but find their limit on the less polished gravel conditions mentioned above.

  • Mixed in with that is the rider ability and comfort level in rough and loose conditions. A full fledged roadie may find their limits sooner than a MTB rider dabbling in skinny tires. Experience matters and a well capable rider can overcome a bike limit in many cases, at least to push beyond what many others may consider “possible/practical”.

  • Checking this, it has a 30mm max tire width. This is great for road, but will be quite limiting in “gravel” unless you have the better set of road conditions and/or a very capable rider.

If you have the clearance there’s nothing really to stop you my mate does it with his cube there are limitations on comfort, handling etc though so it is a compromise. I think I’ve also heard of folk swapping out their 700c wheels for 650b wheels to get a bit more clearance.

  • That is typically done for actual “gravel” and maybe some “all-road” bikes. I am not sure I’ve heard anyone do this with a “road” bike.

That swap can allow a larger diameter tire relative to the wheel diameter, but the common limit is still the frame & fork clearance relative to tire width (usually tight at the chainstays in particular) so not all 650b wheel/tire options are even possible since that wider tire is the deal killer in most cases.


I’m riding a gravel event in a couple months (Dead Swede) on an old Specialized Allez with 26mm Gravelkings.

Did it last year on my XC hardtail and found it not exciting enough :slight_smile:


sl7 takes 32
cervelo calendo takes a 35
specalized roubaix takes a 32
The aspero looks like a road bike but its a gravel bike

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Great event. Which distance did you do before and are doing this year?

  • If you rip the Hundo on your Allez… I want video of you on the down side of Red Grade hill :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ve got an SL5 so I think I’m limited to 30s

Nice! I got the Edmonda when bikes were scarce and I should have held off and gotten a Grail like I wanted but hindsight is 20/20. Think I’m gonna give it a shot.

I ride my Bianchi, which has a max of 30s, on “gravel” quite often. In mid-spring and fall you can usually find a good groove to rip and only a few sketchy spots. You need to pick your routes wisely and be prepared to backtrack as well.

Once the graders come out in late-spring 30s are unrideable. 40s are pretty near unrideable in the deep, soft, gravel.

So yes you can, but it largely depends on your brand of gravel.


Just the 40 this year. Did 60 last year (though I did ride up Red Grade a few days prior for fun… ain’t no way I’m taking a road bike up and down Red Grade!)

I’m riding with a friend who goes party pace and he’ll be riding on a fat bike, so we will just have fun, drink some brews, and eat some bacon.


OK, that’s what I was guessing. The Sheridan gravel is super nice and ripping a road bike (or gravel on “skinny” 32’s) on most of it is actually the “fast” option for the pointy end.

Have a great race. I am not hitting it this year, but hopefully next season.


Tire clearance: I have an aero road bike, a 3T Strada, which has miniscule clearance between tires and frame. So if stones, mud or debris get caught in between frame and tire, I am asking for trouble. Otherwise, in principle, you could ride gravel on a road bike, especially if your frame accepts 32–35 mm tires.

I would add one more thing: it really depends on what you consider fun. Some people like to be underbiked during rides — they might enjoy the challenge of riding terrain with a road bike. Other people don’t care about speed and just want a mellow ride: a hard tail mountain bike might be more for them.

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There’s nothing stopping you. I’d argue that riding a road bike with 28-30c tires off road is a lot more interesting than the more recent spate of all-road bikes with ≥40c tires.

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LOL, yup. But keep in mind that what is interesting for one rider might be terrifying for another :stuck_out_tongue:


Just for context, I’m looking at doing a local gravel triathlon, not Unbound or Leadville, lol

That’s great, but still doesn’t give any context about the type of gravel you will experience. I’d suggest checking the route if you haven’t already done so. Even 10 miles of the worst gravel could be a challenge on skinny tires, or it might be a breeze if it’s “hero dirt”.


Yeah, the gamut of gravel is huge, from mostly road to a few fire road sections to stuff you’d find interesting on a proper mountain bike. Especially if you want to race rather than just ride, punctures may be an issue.


Oh I know, I’m just saying I’m not trying to do something insane!

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