In 2017 the Velominati, self appointed Keepers of the Cog, published "The Rules"; ninety five commandments that all cyclists seeking enlightenment must adhere to. Rule 12 concerns us here;
"The correct number of bikes to own is n+1. While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner."
Tongue in cheek obviously, but it does make me wonder if one bike can perform well in a variety of environments. For those of us with limited funds and a lack of storage space, is there a bike that can do it all, or mostly all? Kind of. Enter the gravel bike; in a category between road bike and cyclocrosser, the gravel bike is cycling's Swiss Army knife. With its relaxed head angles, longer wheelbase, clearance for big tires and lower bottom bracket, this bike will take you anywhere you want to go. The hot ticket is to have two sets of wheels for your gravel machine, what I refer to as "running shoes and hiking boots"; one constructed with 700c rims primarily for asphalt and another set constructed with 650B rims for rougher, less manicured surfaces. I've supplied more than a few customers with dual wheel sets and I'll use my customer Rick as an example. He was getting a Firefly Cycles Ti gravel bike and came to me for his hoops. To eliminate disc brake rub when swapping between wheel sets we used White Industries' excellent CLD (centerlock disc) through axle hubset on both setups. For the fast 700c wheels I suggested the excellent Nox Composites Falkor 36D carbon rim; weighing in around 410 grams, the rim's asymmetric design boosts the low side tension so you end up with almost even spoke tension throughout. To round the wheelset out, I chose DT Aerolite bladed spokes to save weight and harvest an aerodynamic bonus. For the "hiking boots" I went with a rim that I import direct from my manufacturer; I call it the Signature 650B Gravel, a 35mm deep asymmetric shaped rim that has an internal width of 24mm. Since these wheels wouldn't be pushing any speed limits, we went with Wheelsmith 14 gauge double butted spokes and black brass nipples. Rick chose Hutchinson Sector 28 tubeless tires for road and went with WTB's excellent Byway 650b x 47 tire for the multi surface wheel set. Here is the same bike wearing the two wheel sets;
Is he enjoying his bicycle; yes! I wrote to him recently to ask his opinion regarding the One Bike Question; this was his answer.
"Can one bike do it all? If it has disc brakes and a couple of sets of wheels, the answer is mostly yes! With a set of 700c wheels for road riding and a set of 650b wheels tires for mixed terrain, one bike can tackle just about anything from fast club rides to long adventure rides. There might be times when you want to go super light for big climbs or full-suspension for technical trail riding, but for all those other days, one bike can do just about everything else".
Then, to finish his email he said;
"On the other hand, when it comes to bikes, it's hard to argue with Rule #12." Oh, well.
Just as you wouldn't use that Swiss Army knife to carve the Sunday roast, a gravel bike ain't ever gonna win the Tour de France; or the Kamikaze at Mammoth Mountain. But, like Rick opined; if you are looking for a machine that feels at home on asphalt, single-track, fire roads, the daily commute and yes, gravel, this could be the flavor for you.