Fitness Bike vs. Gravel Bike: Is One Better Than the Other?

Bikes are a valuable means of transportation. They are fast and lightweight, making them ideal for various uses. You can use it as an alternative form of transportation for fitness, and you can even use it for bicycle-oriented sports.

There are many different bikes for different types of people and lifestyles. And even for those that are looking for all-purpose bikes for any occasion, there is still a choice to make to know which would be a good bike and which would serve you better.

Similarities of Fitness and Gravel Bikes

Credits to: @asoggetti

Fitness bikes and gravel bikes are two different types of bikes, each with its own specialties that cater to other people. Despite that, there are many similarities between the two. First, they are both bikes capable of any type of use expected of the medium of transportation. Both also have a high stack and short reach that promote ease in posture in place of performance. 

On top of that, they both come with 700c wheels that sit at a comfortable width of about 40mm. The big tires help with comfort and stability even on rough terrain in exchange for speed. The two are a match for their usefulness in different situations. Both are generally good in many cases and are flexible enough to take on different uses.

Differences between Fitness and Gravel  Bikes

They are different and specialize in various aspects. The Fitness bike is commendable for being lightweight and speedy. The gravel bike is a bit heavier but is durable and built better for rough terrain. 

They also have different types of bars. The fitness bike has a flat bar, while the gravel bike utilizes a drop bar. The flat bar is simpler and puts the biker in a more comfortable position with a straight back. The drop-bar is different, as it favors speed by lowering drag and features 3 hand positions.

You can consider them both well-rounded bikes, with different focuses as a rule of thumb. The fitness bike focuses more on leisurely on-road commutes, while the gravel bike is better for off-road travel.

What Makes a Fitness Bike?

Fitness bikes are also sometimes called hybrid bikes due to their borrowing elements from road and mountain bikes. These have the combination of short reach, high stack, and flat bars, making for the most comfortable position. The 700c wheels with a width near 20mm give a good performance, handling, comfort, and viability through rough terrain. They are also outfitted with disc brakes, which are more effective than rim brakes.

What Are Fitness Bikes Good for?

Fitness bikes are a reliable go-to for beginners or people who could use the comfort it offers. It is dedicated to speed and can also boast its comfortability. It can also hold itself pretty well across different types of terrain, even as far as tarmac or gravel. The main selling point of the item is its usefulness in commuting. 

Even casual cyclists and the physically unfit will have a decent time through long rides, making it suitable for back and forth rides to work. If you want an easy-to-control bike that is comfortable and convenient for on-road use, the fitness bike should work for you. The versatility it provides also means that you won’t be missing out on any situation to use a bicycle.

Fitness Bikes: The Pros

1. Comfortability and Ease of Use

Despite losing out on performance, the fitness bike boasts comfortability. Due to its simple design, even newcomers to the biking hobby can get a good ride without any problem. This design makes long rides easy and relaxing and will avoid getting fatigued as much. It is a good choice for those who plan to bike on paved ways and would favor comfort over performance.

2. Rim Brakes

The rim brakes with the standard fitness bike are perfect for commuting. It is durable and can withstand adverse weather and conditions. They are also compelling and efficient compared to other types of brakes. It fits well with the “comfortable and beginner-friendly” theme of the bike.

3. Flat Bars

The flat bars that come with the fitness bike come with a variety of advantages. They tend to be wider, which gives the user an easier time doing turns. The flat bar supports a more upright position, making it more comfortable, especially for those new to riding bikes. Not only that, this also allows for more visibility for the user. The flat bars also have an easier hand positioning, making turns and brakes much simpler than its counterpart.

Fitness Bikes: The Cons

1. Relatively Slow

It is generally outpaced by other city-focused bikes such as road and endurance bikes. In contrast to its comfortability, it misses speed and handling, which makes it far from the best choice for sports-oriented use.

2. Not the Best Off-Terrain

While usable on gravel and tarmac, the fitness bike loses out on off-road use against mountain bikes, gravel bikes, and the like. They tend to feature better handling, speed, and general performance when used against rough land. 

Not to mention that they can also beat the hybrid bike in comfortability when talking of off-land transportation. If you’re going to be mainly biking in off-road terrain, the fitness bike should probably not be your first choice.

3. Flat Bars

The addition of a flat bar also has its own share of cons. One of which is its limited number of hand positions. This may affect your arms and wrists during long bouts of travel, in which you may feel pain or numbness. It also lacks an “aggressive” posture that is present in drop bars, which means more drag and, consequently, lower speed.

What Makes a Gravel Bike?

A gravel bike is a bike that boasts all-terrain maneuverability and high speeds. They have a longer wheelbase and chainstay and a lower bottom bracket. This would give more stability to the bike, especially at higher rates. They are commonly fitted with 700c wheels with a width of 40mm for more stability. 

Tread patterns are also part of the wheel’s exterior for smoother rides on wet and rough land. They also have greater clearance to give leeway for bigger or even smaller tires if needed.  They have a combination of short reach and a high stack, which makes them more comfortable. On the other hand, It features a drop bar, perfect for aerodynamic posture that can sustain higher speeds.

What Are Gravel Bikes Good for?

Gravel bikes’ design centers on usage for all types of terrain. It is decent for asphalt and dirt paths, but it outpaces other bikes on gravel and other rough surfaces. The large tires with great compliances help cut the vibration and the effect of uneven surfaces giving the riders a smooth experience. 

They are also exceptional for bikepacking and hiking due to their ability to cross rough terrain with ease and comfort. Add to that its high speed due to the posture that the drop bar provides, it makes for a decent alternative for off-road biking competitions. It functions well as a jack of all trades if you’re looking to use your bike for a variety of purposes. If your bike is going to see a lot of use off-road, then a gravel bike is a worthwhile buy.

Gravel Bikes: The Pros

1. Terrain Compatibility

Gravel bikes can work through even rough terrain where other bikes find difficulty. As the name suggests, they are the best bike for gravel riding. They can keep high speeds while riding through tarmac and slightly rough roads while holding their own against the rougher ones. 

Due to its wheels and excellent clearance, it is also stable and comfortable for long bouts of travel through a mix of both coarse and paved roads.

2. High Speeds

The gravel bike has the balance of handling and speed best for surfaces like gravel and tarmac. While its build may be for unorthodox paths, it still offers a high speed ideal for long stretches and extended rides. 

Its gearing is also suited for any type of terrain, making it ideal for paths with a mix of different terrain. This means that you can expect a lot of mileage from a gravel bike, no matter the weather or terrain.

3. Drop Bars

Unlike fitness bikes, gravel bikes use drop bars. These drop bars provide 3 different hand positions, which may avoid problems with pain and fatigue for arms and wrists during long rides. The position one takes while using drop bars is also helpful for steep hill climbs. 

The most notable effect of the drop bars is their aggressive positioning. Aerodynamics in bikes with drop bars is better because it provides less drag and more speed.

Gravel Bikes: The Cons

1. Weak Handling

The bike favors long stretches of land and may see a bit more trouble with constant twists and turns. Its maneuverability is the tradeoff for stability brought by long wheelbases, long chainstays, and lower bottom brackets. Additionally, the gravel bike’s big tires do not have the agility that smaller wheels provide. That is why the gravel bike tends to have weaker handling compared to other types of bikes. 

2. Outpaced at Different Aspects

The gravel bike is well-rounded, but it also means that it is not the best at any one point. It does not have the highest speed, nor does it have superb maneuverability. It is also not the best for strenuous off-road bike paths, and its comfortability for paved roads is beaten by the fitness bike.

3. Drop Bar

The drop bars tend to have less control than their counterparts. They are much shorter compared to most flat bars, which means it affects handling as well, especially at lower speeds. This makes it less than ideal for rides that are slow and take many turns. The posture when using the drop bars also offers poor visibility, which will be necessary, especially in the middle of traffic.

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