Gravel Gear

Tech Podcast: Are gravel drivetrains really necessary?

Gravel drivetrains exist, but do they really need to? Ben Delaney and Dan Cavallari discuss the merits of a dedicated gravel groupset.

It wasn’t long ago that gravel bikes simply wore the drivetrain trappings of their road bike brethren. Now dedicated gravel drivetrains exist to address the specific needs of the gravel rider. But what exactly does that mean? And do we really even need dedicated gravel drivetrains?

Tech editor Dan Cavallari and editorial director Ben Delaney have ridden a lot of those drivetrains. And while they may not be must-haves, they are certainly purpose-built for the gravel rider and feature certain touches that make such drivetrains an ideal choice.

That said, there are other options, and if you don’t want to plunk down cash for a gravel drivetrain to convert your CX or road bike to a gravel rig, that’s totally fine. In fact, Ben has had great success riding Shimano’s 105 groupset on a gravel bike and in certain cases, actually prefers it.

On this episode of the VeloNews Tech Podcast, Ben and Dan give a rundown of which gravel drivetrains are available and what makes them any different from a road or mountain drivetrain. As it stands now, Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo all have offerings for the gravel crowd, and each one offers different advantages and disadvantages. Ben and Dan run through them all and talk about their experiences with two of those three drivetrains (neither have ridden Campy’s brand new Ekar groupset yet).

It should come as no surprise that it all comes down to gearing. Is 1x the way to go? Is 2x still useful? If so, how do you choose between the two? Ben and Dan help you navigate all the intricacies of gravel drivetrains.

Of course, it might all be a moot point; as gravel grows as a category, it’s very likely the next gravel bike you buy will come with a gravel-specific drivetrain anyway. But if you’re considering turning your current CX bike or road bike into a gravel bike, you certainly can! And you don’t need to go out and drop cash on a new drivetrain to do it.

As always, if you have questions about this episode of the Tech Podcast, or suggestions for topics you’d like us to cover on a future episode, we’d love to hear from you. You can reach out to tech editor Dan Cavallari via email, Instagram, or Twitter.