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Trainer Road

januari 18, 2024

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5 Gravel Bike Trends We Expect to See in 2024

What better way to preview 2024 than to ask Velo’s editorial team for their predictions, hot-takes, and wild and weird theories for the season to come?

This story focuses on gravel bike trends for 2024. These trend predictions come from attending a range of shows over the year, talking with industry members, and following what we’re seeing at gravel events.

See all of the Velo Predictions for 2024 here.

The Pinion gearbox is coming for your derailleur(s)

Nicolai Argon-GX gravel bike with pinion gearbox
German bike company Nicolai is one of the first to adopt the Pinion gearbox to their gravel bike. (Photo: Nicolai Bikes)

Pinion gearboxes have shown to be a durable, reliable alternative for folks looking to replace their rear derailleurs, at least on a mountain bike. In 2023, the German company Pinion released their Smart Shift gearbox, which did two things: it made the gearbox much smoother shifting under load, and it offered electronic shifting for the first time.

With those improvements in mind, I predict we’ll start to see Pinion gearboxes on gravel bikes in 2024.

Traditional drivetrains with derailleur systems require the rider to change gears as they’re pedaling. Any change away from that is an adjustment for riders, which makes Pinion’s latest advancement an easy adjustment for most riders.

The electronic shifting component is a bit more important for a gravel bike, however. Until this point, Pinion gearboxes were largely controlled by a grip shift setup that makes little sense on a bike with drop bars, especially ergonomically. Electronic shifting eases that burden, offering all the advantages of electronic shifting both ergonomically and in how the drivetrain is packaged.

So we get that a gearbox is reliable, but gravel bike derailleurs are typically reliable as well. A gearbox, however, is nearly maintenance and adjustment-free, with just a bit of an oil change periodically (and a recharge for Pinion Smartshift). There’s less of a need to clean your drivetrain as well, particularly when paired with a Gates belt drive.

Further, shifting gears doesn’t require a turn of the pedals, allowing for shifting both as the rider is pedaling and at a stop.

A gearbox isn’t a perfect solution. They’re expensive. They’re heavy. And while the system may not need much maintenance, most repairs will likely have to be done by Pinion themselves in Germany. It’s not necessarily the choice for a ‘performance’ gravel bike, but ‘adventure’ gravel bikes could certainly see some level of adoption here.

If you do see a gravel bike with a Pinion gearbox instead of a traditional derailleur system, expect to see it paired with a TRP Hywire disc brake lever and shifter combo. Its electronic shifting system is already compatible with the Pinion Smart Shift gearbox, making for a simple combination. The only problem will be finding a frame designed for the gearbox!

Shimano and SRAM won’t be the only competition in town for gravel

 

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Shimano and SRAM are the two brands most will consider when looking for a drivetrain for their new gravel bike. But in 2024, I predict people will start to consider other brands as well.

As mentioned above, TRP has thrown its hat in the ring of drop bar shifting systems with its Hywire brake and shift levers. Hywire refers to only their electronic shifter/hydraulic brake lever system. While we’ve seen the Hywire levers paired to the Pinion Smart Shift gearbox in the real world, we asked if TRP has considered further drivetrain compatibility. Here’s what they have to say:

“The levers will work with other drivetrains and are not specific to the Pinion gearbox.”

I predict that in addition to Pinion and TRP on more gravel bikes in 2024, we will see more gravel bikes with drivetrains from companies like Microshift and Sensah. Microshift Sword has proven to be a tough, durable gravel bike drivetrain, with options for both 1x and 2x drivetrains.

Chinese component manufacturer Sensah has really only found itself rebranded on the State Carbon All-Road, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sensah drivetrains again on other budget-oriented gravel bikes.

Italian stalwart Campagnolo released their Ekar gravel drivetrain in 2020. Could we see an electronic version of Ekar to supplement one of the company’s most popular drivetrains? I wouldn’t be surprised.

More suspension is coming

Giant revolt X gravel bike
The Giant Revolt X is redesigned with a suspension fork in mind. (Photo: Giant)

Yes, your next gravel bike might have some sort of suspension. No, I’m not talking about bikes like the Niner MCR, which offers suspension front and rear but never quite caught on to most gravel cyclists. Rather, I think the bikes to look for in 2024 are closer to the likes of the Giant Revolt X, Lauf Seigla, or even the State Carbon-All Road.

The Giant has a more traditional suspension fork, which when paired with its suspension dropper post, makes for a much smoother-riding bike than most. The Lauf Seigla is similar, though its True Grit SL suspension fork uses lightweight leaf springs rather than traditional suspension. Both bikes have suspension forks, and I predict we’ll see more people buying gravel bikes with front suspension in 2024.

In the case of the State Carbon All-Road, riders get the choice of speccing the bike with a rigid carbon fork or a suspension fork for a slight upcharge. I suspect more gravel bikes in 2024 will have a suspension option of some kind.

What we’re really looking forward to, however, is the idea of adaptive suspension on a gravel bike.

Adaptive dampers are fairly new to the bike world, with only a few brands – SRAM in particular – trying to adapt it for bicycles. New patents dug up by our own Jessie-May Morgan revealed that a new ‘suspension component analysis tool’ (like the Quarq ShockWiz) could be coming soon. And if it’s coming for mountain bikes, there’s a decent chance someone will try and develop it for a gravel bike too.

Imagine that, adaptive suspension on a gravel bike. It’ll know when to firm up because you’re on the road, but change its tuning when you’re off it. As relaxed as many gravel bike riders are about their tech, adaptive suspension could make a ride much smoother.

Will adaptive suspension on gravel bikes arrive in 2024? I doubt it. But never say never!

Gravel bikes will officially be separated into categories

Canyon Grail CFR Etap 2023 Review-8502749
The 2023 Canyon Grail CFR is the brand’s implied performance gravel bike. This is the year we call these bikes what they are. (Photo: Will Tracy/Velo)

From my 2024 predictions:

It’s 2024. Your gravel bike isn’t just a 90’s mountain bike made from modern materials. That is unless it’s a Commencal 365, in which case it totally is. And it’s not just a road bike with just barely wide enough tires. That is unless it’s a Ventum GS1, in which case it totally is.

How will they be categorized, you ask? I propose two delineations: performance gravel bikes, and adventure gravel bikes. I never said these delineations would roll off the tongue!

Folks looking to compete at increasingly competitive gravel events look more and more for bikes with low weight, just enough tire clearance to fit a 40 or 45 mm tire with room for mud, and some form of aero advantage. Bikes already in this category include the BMC Kaius, Canyon Grail, Specialized Crux (despite the round tube sets, it is seen as a fast bike), and others.

Then come the adventure bikes, which offer wider clearance, more upright body positioning, and a greater array of mounts. You’ll likely find that these bikes will come with options for some sort of vibration damping and are generally much more accommodating to different kinds of terrain. These are the gravel bikes for people who are just looking to get out there and possibly load up their bikes once a year for some overnight camping.

We’re already starting to see the distinction between these two kinds of bikes. 2024 will become the year that these names become both industry and consumer names to separate the two, and brands that don’t distinguish their gravel bike into one of these categories will start to lose out.

Is a new Shimano electronic gravel groupset coming, too?

Shimano-grx-12-speed-review-out-riding
Considering Shimano launched a 12-speed version of GRX last year, could we see an electronic version released this year? (Photo: Shimano)

From my 2024 predictions:

Shimano released a new GRX 12-speed mechanical drivetrain last year, bringing well-considered gearing to their 1x drivetrains and more refined ergonomics. In typical Shimano form, if they release a mechanical version of a drivetrain, they will likely release an electronic version too.

I predict that Shimano will release an electronic version of their updated gravel groupset. Things like gearing, chains, and cranksets were shared between 11-speed Shimano groupsets; considering how much is shared between current 12-speed 105 Di2 and mechanical groupsets, I expect that components like gearing, chains, and cranksets will be shared with Shimano GRX 12-speed mechanical.

That means an update to 12-speed gearing to bring it in line with most of Shimano’s 1x drivetrain. 1x and 2x drivetrains will likely continue with the same 10-45t and 10-51t gearing options, as well as 2x drivetrain options shared with GRX mechanical drivetrains. Further, I predict that GRX Di2 will adopt the wired-less approach of other Di2 drivetrains, with wireless shifters and a battery tied to both derailleurs.

Shimano is traditionally methodical when it comes to product releases, so I don’t expect anything unique to GRX Di2 that isn’t already offered on other Di2 drivetrains. When is it coming, however? No clue. If it falls in line with GRX mechanical, we could see it at Unbound Gravel as we did last year.

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