Gravel Talk.× 11.08.2018 We are loving the recent growth in gravel focused bikes. Here are two different approaches to the segment. And we are really impressed with both.No one is going to accuse the bike industry of not being able to exploit a niche and the gravel bike is to the bike world, what the Audi Q8 is to car manufacturing – an affront to common sense. Who needs a luxury, ‘coupe’ off roader? No one really asked for them, but they’re here and for what it’s worth, they’re not bad. They’re not bad at all.In fact, we’re big fans of these ugly-beautiful, rugged road bikes with their increased clearances and longer wheel bases.Two models we’re particularly enamoured with are the 3T Exploro and Parlee Chebacco. They’ve nailed the requirements of sporty awkwardness and given it a sense of proportion and purposefulness that feels just right.To continue the car analogy, the Exploro has a Dakar Rally Porsche 959 feel about it, like it could take a set of Hella Rallye Lights across its bars. Everything is a bit outsized, a little askew, but the result is a bike more than the sum of its parts and way cooler for it. And like the Porsche it bounces and slides its way over almost any surface faster than anything else available. The aero work by Gerard Vroomen means this bike (in wind tunnel testing) is slipperier than an eel in an oil slick. Vroomen, for the uninitiated was Cervelo’s aerodynamicist and like a Japanese blacksmith whose singular goal in life is the sharpest knife, he is about going fast. He is responsible for the epically slick Cervelo bikes; the P2 and P3 and the genesis of the R3 and ‘squoval’ tubing – still in use today and in an evolutionary sense, the core of the Exploro’s chunky stylings.The 3T Exploro’s ridiculous tire clearance – up to 53mm (you can run everything in between of course) and very cool ‘1 X’ componentry means hassle-free operation and super clean aesthetics. If you’ve been in the store in recent months you would have noticed the 3T on our shelves and nothing has been able to dampen or diminish our feelings for this unique frame.The Parlee Chebacco is the Massachusetts’ company’s own version of the niche. A slightly lower bottom bracket and ‘slacker head tube angle’ give this bike a smooth, stable feel when out on the trails. The Chebacco gives you clearance of up to 40mm tires, comes in disc and offers all the benefits of Parlee’s carbon expertise and factory finishing. Pick a colour, any colour!As much as I wanted the Chebacco to be named for Han’s buddy; a tough, lovable, hairy rogue with a nifty shoulder bag and can take care of anything in his path, it is actually a reference to a historically rich area north of Boston, now known as Essex. Chebacco Parish was one of the earliest European settlements in the mid-1600s and the first roads and paths carved out to serve the locals today make for excellent trails. The short of it being, Parlee don’t mess around with anything unless they’re sure they can do a hellova job.The snazzy red model we have right now is testament to that.As is Parlee’s want, they offer the Chebacco in as many specs and configurations as there are fish in the sea; short, mid, tall, cross, commuter, 1 X and traditional. And while it reads like fat kid’s Christmas list, it means they can be tailored and delivered to your specific needs. Let us point you in the right direction and get you out there.These go anywhere, do anything, swiss army knives of cycling are the current darlings of the bike world, but it’s a niche that won’t be going anywhere soon and with their ugly duckling-come-swan looks who are you to resist?Come in to talk gravel and awkward good looks.