Is A Gravel Bike The Ultimate Commuter Bike?

Robbie Ferri talks through the pros and cons of using a gravel grinder for your commute

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reviewed by Rory McAllister

When it comes to commuting, you have many different bikes to choose from. You can use folding, hybrid, single-speed, and cargo bikes if you need to carry a lot of luggage. We are often asked, “Is a gravel bike good for commuting?”

Gravel bikes can handle a wide range of terrain, have gearing that allows for easy up-and-down hills, and, with the right bags, can carry a lot of goods.

For some riders (myself included) they make the perfect commuting bike, but they come with disadvantages that mean they won’t be ideal for every commuter’s scenario.

I have been lucky enough to commute with a gravel bike for many years. I used a Lynskey GR270, a Specialized AWOL, and recently got a Yoeleo G21. I am a huge fan of gravel bikes and tend not to keep much else apart from a road bike.

In this article, we will be telling you everything you need to know by telling you all about gravel bikes for commuting. We will be discussing:

Commuting on a white gravel bike.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

What Is A Gravel Bike?

Gravel bikes appear similar to road bikes at first glance, but have several adaptations that allow them to tackle light off-road terrain.

The most important of these are wider tires, more relaxed geometry, and (usually) disc brakes, although these are becoming increasingly common on road bikes too. They often include mounting points for racks and fenders, which are less common on road bikes.

They come in all different shapes and sizes, and some cost as little as $500, others and others as much as $10,000.

In the past decade, they have become increasingly popular. The reason is not just because gravel biking has become so popular but because they make an amazing do-it-all bike. Instead of having three bikes to buy and maintain, a gravel bike can do the job of many. 

My gravel bike during a commute.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

The Advantages Of A Gravel Bike For Commuting

The advantages of using a gravel commuter bike are huge, and for many years, I have stuck by them. Here’s why I am such a big fan. 


When it comes to commuting, I never feel held back by my gravel bike. It’s light, can carry everything I need, has disc brakes for poor weather conditions, and handles really well when I need it to.


Gravel bikes are very well-suited for both road and off-road riding, which is very handy when commuting. Poorly maintained cycle paths, potholes, and sneaky trails that offer a shortcut are no problem when you’re on a gravel bike.


Then we have comfort. Gravel bikes are great for comfort because they have wider tires that soak up bumps in road surfaces, an upright riding position, and with wider flared bars, you get a lot of control. They’re ideal for longer commutes, such as 30 to 40 minutes.


Gravel bikes, especially steel gravel bikes, are very durable. They are great for carrying heavy loads and tough enough to be locked up against a metal railing and still be okay when other bikes are locked up next to it or if it gets knocked. 

Much More Tailored To You

Many bikes sold as “commuter bikes” are very basic and come in limited sizes with very basic components. When gravel bikes come in many more shapes and sizes with many component mixes, you get much more choice overall. 

The Ability To Ride More For Leisure

Unlike a standard commuting bike, gravel bikes can be used for bikepacking, cycle touring, gravel biking, road cycling, and even going on the off on trails. A typical commuter bike is much harder to use in this way.

A white gravel bike on a muddy track.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

The Disadvantages Of A Gravel Bike For Commuting

Although gravel commuter bikes have some amazing advantages, they also have disadvantages. Here’s what I found in my experience.


Commuting bikes tend to be cheap. Gravel bikes are generally more expensive, and for one with some decent components, you are looking at between $1000 and $3000. You also have maintenance costs, which are important to factor in.


Gravel bikes are sought after by many, and although perfect for commuting in some ways, they are not great if you plan on leaving it locked up in public. They could be a solid target for thieves and not always the best in a city. 

Rolling Resistance

If you are commuting in a city or town on a gravel bike and aren’t required to off-road at any point, then you will find the bigger tires to be quite laggy. You could commute marginally faster on a road bike at times. 

Not All Features Are Required

Gravel bikes are fantastic for mixed-terrain riding, bikepacking, and adventure cycling. However, if you commute 20 minutes each way and the terrain is flat and smooth, a gravel bike could be overkill.

Most Have Drop Bars

If you are planning on getting a gravel bike, you will likely have drop bars. These are not always the best for commuting, and very few gravel bikes come with flat bars. Drop bars do offer multiple positions and are great, but not always for city riding.

Not Good For Trains

If you want to commute by bike and there’s a short train ride involved, a gravel bike will be difficult compared to a commuting bike such as a folding bike. They are not easy to store on transport or, for that matter, even at home.

Commuting on my white gravel bike.
© Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

My Personal Experience Commuting With A Gravel Bike

I have been lucky enough to spend a lot of time doing a gravel bike commute, and it has been excellent for my 30 miles of riding on rolling hills each day. On my gravel bike commute, I had small lanes and some rough cycle paths, and when I got to work, the bike was kept in a staff room. 

This kind of commuting was perfect for a gravel bike, and as an avid cyclist, I would use it at weekends and when I took a holiday and went bikepacking. I even put bikepacking bags on to carry a change of clothes ready to get to work.

If I were to work in a city with a short commute, a gravel bike wouldn’t have worked for me. It would have been risky to leave it locked up, the tires would have made it laggy, and it would have cost a lot of money for not many miles. 

Is A Gravel Bike The Ultimate Commuter?

A gravel bike can be the ultimate commuter bike, but only in the right situation. For me, who had a longer commute on mixed terrain, it was perfect, and nothing could have done the job as well. That isn’t always the case for everyone.  

It’s important to understand that for a typical commute in a city or town, you might find a single-speed or “proper” commuting bike, such as a folding bike. With this in mind, in other ways, it’s not a great commuter.

It comes down to the needs of the rider!

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Robbie has traveled the globe as an endurance athlete and bikepacker, breaking world records and competing in international ultra-cycling events such as the BikingMan series and the Transcontinental Race. He's also worked as an ambassador for some of the industry's leading names, including Shimano and Ritchey. If Robbie's not on a bike, he's either fixing them or out walking with his dog!

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