Road to Gravel Position

Hi Folks,

pure lifetime roadie here. I also own a mtn bike, but converted to a rigid setup (steel fork and hard tail).

I have the opportunity of acquiring a gravel bike. It’s from a friend, and we have similar heights.

Question: what are the different setup I should think about when riding a gravel bike? Shorter reach? Shorter seat height? smaller saddle/bar drop?

Just looking to anticipate a few adjustments.

Please speak from experience, and let’s keep it polite, practical and civil.

Thanks guys!



I ride road, cx, gravel and MTB.

Shorter seat height is a no go. You would just ask for tendinitis riding lower all day long. Use a dropper if you want more room for technical stuff.

On my gravel and cyclocross bike I have a slightly reduced reach and a bit higher handlebar position than on my road bike. But the difference is small.

As for the frame geometry, I would favor a frame with a longer frame reach so that you can mount a shorter stem. It will make for a nicer, more agile handling imho.


I have around 1cm shorter reach on my gravel bike and slightly more setback, to get a bit more traction on the rear wheel and to keep the weight off the front. If you’re using shoes with the same stack height keep the same saddle height, maybe a touch lower but only if you do increase your setback.

Also depending on what type of terrain you’re riding go up a handlebar sizer and consider flared bars.

It Depends.

If you’re using this gravel bike the way I see a lot of current and former road racers using them - rides that include 20-30% pavement, with well-maintained gravel roads making up the rest of the ride and maybe a brief singletrack connector or two (you know, longer, faster rides) - then I’d recommend starting with your road position is the way to go. Even start with the same saddle and handlebars, if you can. It’ll feel familiar immediately and you’ll figure out what needs to change just from riding where you ride.

If the goal is to ride the bike in a more “mountain bikey” way - almost no pavement, unmaintained dirt roads (jeep roads) and frequent dives into nearby singletrack - then you’ll want to base the position more on a mountain bike style position. Taller on the front end, shorter stem, wider bars. At some point, you might even wonder why you don’t just use your fully-rigid hardtail.

Honestly, the first option seems a lot more fun and multi-purpose.