It wasn’t so long ago that the cycling world was divided into two categories: road bikes rode on asphalt, mountain bikes rode on dirt. Sure, you could take your road bike off-road, but you were in for a world of teeth-rattling and wrist-aching pain. Now, you can find a frame type for every road, terrain, rider, and style you can think of, and a new name to go with. It’s confusing! So we put together this guide to help you figure out what these fancy all-road bikes are that every manufacturer seems to be churning out, and whether you want one.
What are all-road bikes?
All-road bikes. You’ve heard the name. Or maybe you haven’t heard them called all-road, but you’ve heard of gravel bikes, endurance bikes, adventure bikes, cyclocross bikes, and a few others I’m probably not thinking of. Broadly speaking, these are bikes designed to be a hybrid between the speed, stiffness, and lightness of road bikes and the comfort, versatility, and durability of mountain bikes. They can handle gravel roads as well as smooth ones, mud puddles as easily as sidewalks, and even singletrack without breaking your wrists (or your bike). But to think of them as a compromise is doing them a disservice. Here’s some of the features that go into all-road bikes like the LOOK 765.
Disc brakes always seem right around the corner from truly breaking into the road cycling world, but concerns about racing safety and weight seem to keep them at bay. Not so for all-roads. Disc brakes stay tucked away from the rim, so they’re less susceptible to mud, water, and dust that would affect the stopping power of a rim brake, or even damage the wheel itself. Hydraulic levers mean you can experience full braking strength and modulation with one or two fingers, reducing fatigue and leaving the rest of your hand free for better control and grip. And since you’ll be riding in rougher terrain, you don’t have to worry about scratches and dents in your rims tearing up your brake pads.
Disc brakes also means more clearance for some truly chunky rubber, at least compared to what you’re used to seeing on a road bike. While many road bikes can’t handle a tire any thicker than 28mm — and some even less — all-road bikes can accommodate tires with widths well into the 30s, even the low 40s. Throw in tubeless compatibility, and you can run some seriously squishy pressures for comfort on the gravel without sacrificing speed on the road. Lots of people fit these bikes with mixed-terrain tires, with a band of slicker tread down the middle for fast flats and knobs on the outside for grip in the corners.
These bikes generally have a shorter top tube and a higher steerer tube and stem, prioritizing long-term comfort over short-term speed. The bottom bracket is often lower to the ground than on a road bike, giving a sense of better connection to the trail and better maneuverability at slow speeds. Some have high handlebars for a more comfortable climbing and endurance posture.
These aren’t ubiquitous on all-road bikes the way they are in the mountain world, but they’re getting close. 1x drivetrains are lighter, require less maintenance and fewer parts, and can give you the same range of gear ratios that a 2x setup does, albeit with larger jumps between gears. If you’re planning on doing a lot of long trips with heavy weight, you might want the flexibility and range that a 2x setup offers, but otherwise a 1x will serve most of your day-to-day needs.
So why should I get one?
Well, that’s sort of up to you. Many reviewers are saying that they’ve switched to all-road bikes full time, and have noticed no dropoff in performance on the road. The bikes are still light and nimble on tight asphalt corners and climbs, but they open up a whole new world of dirt and gravel that previously wasn’t an option on a super-stiff road frame. If you find yourself cutting your rides short where the blacktop ends, frustrated by traffic, or gazing wistfully at the farm roads that you pass by, then an all-road bike might be for you.
Interested in the bike in this post? That’s the LOOK 765 Optimum Allroad Disc, and we’ve got it in stock!