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Gravel bikes from Scott, Giant, Orbea and Cervelo

Why gravel?

Really, another category invented to sell more bikes? Well, no, not really. Gravel bikes have exploded in popularity over the last year or two - and with great reason.

Gravel roads literally are everywhere as main routes. We're spoilt in the north east with so many converted railway lines across Wearside, Durham and Newcastle: a road bike with 25 or 28c tyres just doesn't give the comfort on them, and a hardtail mountain bike is too slow on the roads linking them up. Gravel bikes, like most bikes then, were born out of function - longer, lower and slacker than a cyclocross bike.

Gravel comes in to its own, up here in the north east at least, when the ride is a good mix of tarmac and bridlepaths. On sealed tarmac they aren't much slower than an endurance road bike, but you can start linking up bridleways, disused railway lines, clifftop paths and badly surfaced roads. It opens up so many possibilities, especially for those of us who have ridden the same roads, on the same bikes for years. They make a great alternative for a winter road bike too.

You need a gravel bike in your life whether you realise it or not. One ride out, and you'll be hooked.

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