Bikepacking and gravel bikes: new concepts in off-road cycling, or marketing fad?

Bikepacking and gravel bikes: new concepts in off-road cycling, or marketing fad?

A four-day loop around the King Alfred’s Way gave ample time to test the claims of faster speeds and greater off-road ease

The world of leisure cycling is nothing if not inventive when it comes to ways to sell bikes and associated bits of kit, and two of the most popular new – or theoretically new – concepts are bikepacking and gravel bikes.

As with all such ideas there is the inevitable marketing guff, but both are nonetheless interesting, if sometimes misunderstood. Earlier this week, on trend as ever, I managed both, with a four-day ride around the King Alfred’s Way, a 218-mile primarily off-road loop through the lanes, tracks, woods and ridges of Hampshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Surrey and West Sussex.

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