Gravel grinders

I need to preface this by saying I’m not super serious about what I’m going to say here. I’m talking about a niche bike, that’s growing in popularity, and that’s good. The worst thing that could happen is for there to be only two kinds of bikes to buy.

All of these crazy new styles have existed in the minds of mechanics with imagination for years. Thankfully, when they found a way to put them on the roads and trails – even when most people around them thought they were crazy – other people took notice.

But still, some of these new styles are worthy of a little derision.

I give you the Cannondale Slate;

Cannondale Slate

Cannondale Slate

It’s a road bike, I guess, because it has drop bars? But it has suspension – a 60mm Lefty – disc brakes, and a 1x drivetrain. Or it’s a touring bike because it has 650B wheels? Mountain bikes have 650B, but this isn’t a mountain bike right? It’s a ‘grinder’ or a gravel bike.

My first thought was; if you put a flat bar on this you’d really have something.

That something being…. a mountain bike.

Emily Batty

Emily Batty

This is essentially the issue I have with gravel bikes in the first place. What would you posses you to design a road bike that will work on gravel, when that is pretty much exactly what a 29er MTB is? Check out 2015 PanAm Games champ Emily Batty’s Trek race bike here. Looks like a road bike with a flat bar and suspension doesn’t it?

So here we have the Slate, which is a gravel+ bike maybe? Your first instinct is “why 650B on a road bike” and the answer is “because the fatter tires are almost the same circumference as 700c.” Of course those fatter tires won’t roll as easily.

I don’t know. You really just end up chasing you’re own tail trying to explain all the little features that somehow make the Slate a better option than a 29er, and then you realize that it just doesn’t matter. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. If enough people do like it, they’ll stick around. And if not, so what? It didn’t hurt you any.

I’m just glad they’re trying.


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