'Aggro Gravel' is a Thing Now, Apparently

Feb 10, 2022 at 8:43
by James Smurthwaite  

Mountain biking is no stranger to confounding categorisations. Remember SuperXC or Overmountain from back in the day? Or maybe a more recent example of ebike specific tools? In fact, we've got our own sordid past here and made one of our own that unfortunately caught on in Downcountry. Well, another category has now popped its head above the parapet thanks to Sonder's Dial hardtail - Aggro Gravel.

Sonder describes the Dial as an "Aggro-gravel bike, built for speed and efficiency. Beat your best time, cover big miles on a long day out, race to the podium. With its lightweight aluminium tubeset and 100mm travel up front, the Dial gives maximum pedalling efficiency whether you're riding 200kms at Dirty Reiver or racing flat out." It is apparently "designed for riding cross-country trails without compromise. It gives more confidence than a gravel bike and a more direct feel than a trail bike."

Take a look over the spec and geometry charts though and it looks like a fairly regular, entry-level XC hardtail. A 69° head tube angle, 74° seat tube angle and a reach of 455mm in size large makes the geometry so regular it's barely worth mentioning. On top of this, the spec consists of a 100mm fork with a mix of own-brand parts, a rigid seatpost and solid kit from RockShox and Shimano at a competitive price. Basically, this is equivalent to the bike most of us probably started off riding that took us from bimbling down local trails to many misguided adventures as we grew into the hobby. But if it looks like a mountain bike and it quacks like a mountain bike, why isn't it called a mountain bike?


When we reached out to Alpkit, the parent company of Sonder, they told us that the term originates from a Singletrackworld podcast and is a bit of a tongue in cheek reference to phrases like "groad" rather than an attempt to create a new category. Sonder describes its Camino gravel bike as the mountain biker's gravel bike and there have apparently been a number of enquiries about a flat bar version of it. Sonder took that a step further with a suspension fork and the Dial was born.

While XC race bikes are getting more progressive (check out the 67.5 degree head angle on new Scalpel HT for evidence of that), and trail bikes are getting more enduro, Sonder wanted the Dial to fill the gap left behind. It purposefully bucks the longer, lower, slacker trend and is more aimed for "wheels on the ground" riding with narrow bars and a nimble feel. They want this to be a bike that helps you learn skills while not getting you too far out of your depth. Think about the kind of fast, smooth riding you get at British trail centres and you're probably picturing the intended terrain for this bike.


The Sonder Dial range can be bought as a frame only for £399 with build options starting from £1,099 for the SX Eagle model up to £1,749 for a Shimano XT spec. The bikes are available to order now with delivery expected around the start of April, just in time for the aggro gravel season to kick off. More info can be found here.

But anyway, isn't this all semantics? What is a gravel bike? What is a mountain bike for that matter? Isn't this all just marketing? And aren't we all playing into their hands by talking about it? Is it even going to catch on? Does anyone care? Probably not even worth commenting on... right?


180 Comments

  • 217 3
 Can we stop calling them gravel bikes and start calling them dirt roadies pls
  • 95 7
 XC guys have already been "dirt-roadies" for the last two decades...

"Endorphins are the only thing that gets me high, bro." Silly leg-shavers.
  • 19 6
 We call pure xc guys dirt roadies tho. Like narrow bars, full lycra, road helmet guys.
  • 55 16
 Here's an idea, I don't know if it will catch up: Fireroad Warriors!

What do you think? Big Grin
  • 4 1
 @calmWAKI: Yes, I shall refer to them as that title from now on.
  • 48 0
 Groadies.
  • 2 0
 @RuskinL: love it
  • 29 1
 Off Roadies?
  • 20 1
 @calmWAKI:
Haha! Around here we call them "Fireroadies".
  • 6 0
 Here in NL we use a term that is loosely translated as 'forest road racers'. Except in Dutch that doesn't have the word for 'road' in it.
  • 3 0
 @solarplex: Don't attack me like that.

This bike has the same geo as my first full-on XC race bike. A 2015 Superfly SL 9.9
  • 6 0
 Roadie? Ugggh, I wear jorts over my Rapha lycra thank you very much
  • 7 5
 All I can say is that shroomgravel or edible gravel are one of the best forms of cycling in existence. So please don’t laugh. They require good route and time planning, then discipline and experience in consumption. But when done well, they are an amazing activity. The only downside is that you won’t get physically stronger out of that.
  • 4 10
flag Dopepedaler (Feb 10, 2022 at 15:56) (Below Threshold)
 @teagues: Sure. Can we call enduro riders "only pedals down the mountain bikers"...siiiick brah
  • 2 1
 Aggrodumb….
  • 3 2
 @cgreaseman: 2017 top fuel for me lol. Lycra… road helmet. I race xc so bah. Its cooler…
  • 4 0
 I've been calling my Niner RLT the 'dirtroadie' since 2015. My gravel bike is a steel 29er XC hardtail with pre-enlightenment geometry...one of millions of old (now unrideable?) XC bikes that must still be out there somewhere.
  • 1 1
 Try riding on gravel..ud actually want a fat tire bike for gravel. Anytime gravel is properly used its gna be 1" deep...right
  • 2 0
 I'm fine with that.
  • 2 1
 @Dopepedaler: Mountain coasters
  • 5 6
 @solarplex: We call the bros who drive 25 miles to ride 10, "Tacomountain Bikers"
  • 1 2
 @teagues: 2 decades??? How old are you???? 5??????? 2 decades...ffs
  • 151 0
 Looks like someone is trying to move some 5 year old xc frames they found in the back of the warehouse and told marketing to figure it out
  • 80 0
 and marketing managed to get a 5 year old xc frame on the front page of Pinkbike, so someone deserves a bonus.
  • 11 0
 @mtb-thetown: it’s click bait for the comments, it was an easy pickup by PB.
  • 8 0
 @stevemokan: it worked, I didn't even read the article
  • 2 0
 @t0nt0: same here! Clicked and scrolled STRAIGHT to the comments page......am not disappointed haha
  • 3 0
 Do you want to ride gravel? Are drop bars too weird? Is a rigid fork too stiff? Are 40-45mm tires not enough float or grip?

We have a solution for you! Entry xc….. i mean aggro gravel!!!!
  • 111 0
 I keep having to update the list:

Track
Tri
cx
Road
bikepacking
Gravel
Aggro gravel
xc
Downcountry
Trail
All mountain lite
all mountain
ALL MOUNTAIN !!!!!
All mountain heavy
Upduro
Enduro
Outduro
Downduro
Freeride
DH
Gravelity
  • 2 0
 Thanks for the LOL
  • 45 0
 Forgot slopeduro
  • 25 0
 Dang, forgot some.
Klunking
BMX
Trike
Randoneer
Surlying/Rivendelling

Mix 'em in wherever.
  • 12 0
 Dirt jumper?
  • 17 0
 You forgot Superenduro and slope style
  • 6 0
 Hey man,there's freeride and Extreme freeride, right?
At least,back in the day...
  • 8 0
 You're missing shred-country (evil following)
  • 9 0
 And "All Country".

(Transition Spurs tagline on their site)
  • 11 0
 @dreamlink87:

Dont forget DownDuro And CrossTrail

Also you can never forget Gluten Free Range Hella Down
  • 6 0
 @trevor-bag: and gravelduro (evil chamois hagar)
  • 2 1
 U forgot the whole emtb category.
  • 17 0
 @iJak: What category?
  • 21 0
 @iJak: that's bc it's a motor sport.
  • 1 0
 No Super-D?

Big old middle finger to trials riders on that list
  • 1 0
 all road endurance road adventure
  • 2 0
 @ocnlogan: " And "All Country".

(Transition Spurs tagline on their site)"

that's a radio station not a bike.
  • 5 0
 Slopeduro Gropestyle
  • 2 0
 @dreamlink87: You can also add "-plus" as a suffix and an "X" as either a prefix or in the middle for a lot more combos
  • 1 0
 Marathon follows XC I believe.
  • 16 0
 Now its begiinng to sound like musical genres:

Emo-duro
Straight-xc
Post-klunk
Gravel-core
Grunge-country
  • 5 0
 YOu left out...

Fat
Mid Fat
Plus
Mid Plus
Tandems
Tridems (yes Santana and a couple others have made 3-person examples)
Trikes
Reverse trikes
Recumbents
recumbent trikes (and yes recumbent reverse trikes)
plus all the bikes meant for disabled/partially disabled riders.

And there's all the bike cyborgs.. Back in the 90s I remember there was an american racer who made his own prosthetic limb out of a manitou suspension fork so he could have "forearm" shock absorbtion when riding.
  • 4 0
 You forgot super enduro. Think mondraker super foxy, nukeproof giga, transition spire...
  • 4 0
 which category does someone with a BMX background fit in to?
  • 3 0
 @pwn1: 4X racing.
  • 2 0
 tracklocross
  • 1 0
 Cargo biking
  • 1 0
 Just add "Country" to every one on the list as well. TrackCountry, TriCountry, CXCountry... even DownCountryCountry, and the mysterious XCCountry.

Personally, I do a lot of GravelCountry, but that's just because the dirt trails are a muddy mess right now. When it's cold and nasty out, I do TrainerCountry in the basement.
  • 3 0
 Singlespeed
4x
Dual Slalom
Park
Street
Street/trial
Trial
TGS (tap, gap, sidehop)
mini-dh
  • 2 0
 My bikepacking bike and agro gravel bike are the same bike but it's not a gravel bike. I have a gravel bike too though and while it could be a bikepacking bike it's certainly not an aggro gravel bike.

Confused¿
  • 3 0
 a freeroad bike?
  • 70 3
 What the heck is is...its my freaking dream bike! Just needs a motor. Be safe be well, Incognito Robin
  • 27 1
 Articles like this make me aggro.
  • 17 0
 When you run out of things to sell, trick them into buying something old and terrible for a new purpose. The circle of marketing.
  • 3 1
 Cycling must’ve hired fashion industry marketing people.
  • 18 1
 "Aggro Gravel Bike"?!?!?!
GTFO
  • 11 1
 Exactly. Get bent @sonder you bunch of twat waffles. That is JUST a hardtail MTB and everyone knows it
  • 3 0
 @bman33: An old mountain bike hardtail at that!
  • 1 0
 @TheR: entry-level hardtail
  • 12 0
 Just did a quick glance at the geometry differences between this and a Rockhopper. The biggest difference is a 10mm shorter chainstay (430 vs. 440) and ~30mm shorter stack on the Dial. Everything else is just a matter of 0.5-degree angle differences and 2-3 mm lengths.
  • 4 0
 and hilariously they've offset that short stack with about 30mm of spacers...go figure.
  • 3 0
 The frames come in close to the 2kg mark. Way to heavy for XC/gravelcrap. My alloy XC frame weighs 1.3kg
  • 1 0
 Hilarious, so it's a hardtail mtb that's not as fun as the average hardtail mtb.
  • 13 0
 Better get this sorted fast. A big player like Sonder could turn the whole market upside down!
  • 6 0
 Last time I knew, Sonder (Alpkits bike brand) was from the same stable/designer as a number of other spin off brands from non-other than Planet X. Now like them or loth them, Planet X has been knocking out on trend budget mtb’s in one guise or other for a quarter century. Id also add that nearly every world brand has clambered over itself to put out steel hardtails of late. Planet X On-One 456, etc were at that party before pretty much everyone. Before it was even a thing.
Either way Sonder is big into bikepacking and this has that all over it
  • 1 1
 @ilovedust: Exactly, they do spin-offs and knock-offs and budget bikes. They produce nothing that establishes trends, they just follow and copy. Aggro gravel has as much chance of taking off as recognized thing as tuna-mint gelato.
  • 2 0
 @cerealkilla: it’s opposite to that point but either way technically in this instance you are right because what you are looking at hear would, 10-15 years ago, have just been called a ‘hardtail’.
  • 3 0
 It's marketed for the boomers who read Singletrack mag.
  • 2 0
 @cerealkilla: I don't know, the camino has and is one of the best reviewed and good value 'gravel' bikes on the market - they pushed the big tyre clearance, slacker geo and wide/flared bars way before a lot of the big brands updated theirs. Plus they update it nearly every 2 years - the new version looks very good indeed, and still for less than £1500
  • 2 0
 @vladtheinhaler: 100% correct - STW is the most Boomer MTB publication of them all. The forum is just boomers saying they never jump and asking how fuel efficient different models of Audi cars are...
  • 9 0
 "Think about the kind of fast, smooth riding you get at British trail centres and you're probably picturing the intended terrain for this bike."

U WOT M8?!
  • 5 0
 Subtle neg on trail centres
  • 3 0
 Yeah that'd be great on Rim Dinger at BPW or even Sheepskull at Forest of Dean.... heck you'd get to the bottom without any teeth in your mouth !
  • 2 0
 It's marketed for the Singletrack magazine boomers.
  • 3 0
 @vladtheinhaler: LOL i'm one of those, but i ride a 170mm Enduro Smile
  • 7 0
 the aggro gravel bike trail edition – coming in 2025 – will have more travel than a V10
  • 6 0
 Hold on, and let me check the calendar... It's not April 1st? I'm just going to leave this thread confused and slightly annoyed.
  • 2 0
 I thought I'd lost a month and a half as well... Smile
  • 7 0
 If it looks like a duck, quack likes a duck, tastes like a duck I guess that means it must be chicken.
  • 8 0
 1700£ for xt equipped. This is true innovation
  • 3 0
 So they finally figured out that "aggressive" gravel tracks are best ridden on a XC MTB that has similar geometry to the older MTBs that were designed to excel on the same kind of terrain...no kidding?
The whole gravel movement is basically road cycling moving to XC in degrees. Which is what MTB was in the late 80s.
  • 6 0
 imagine having a GMX background
  • 4 1
 what what what? This is just an xc hardtail. Its got a low end xc fork, mtb tyres, mtb drivetrain, mtb bars and brakes. This is just a low end xc hardtail. Its got absolutely nothing to do with gravel wtf.
  • 8 0
 They knew exactly what they were doing
  • 8 0
 @office: and landed an article on pinkbike with high engagement. Some marketing guy has a sore palm from all the high fiving
  • 3 0
 Down-gravel.

Up-country.

Trail-road. (And junctions are then called trail-road crossings and school groups have to stop completely and look both ways even if the bell isn't ringing)
  • 2 0
 I love gravel riding but this has to stop. The minute someone puts flat bars on a gravel bike it becomes a mountain bike. To me gravel riding is basically road riding but on dirt. If you’re hitting singletrack, get a mountain bike.
  • 1 0
 I actually was looking at one of their drop bar gravel bikes as a commuter today. It seemed good for the price and with it fitting near MTB sized tires, I could ride it on the dirt road hiking approaches that I now ride on my Bronson rather than my skinny tired commuter.
  • 1 0
 What goes around, comes around. This measures up quite closely to my DeKerf Team, 2001 vintage, other than the 26" wheels. I'm still riding it, by the way, usually outfitted as a "gravel bike" with 1.35 Schwalbe CX Pro tires. When mounted with a proper set of fast 2.1 xc knobbies, it's still at least as much fun to ride as my "up to date" hardtail on tight twisty moderate singletrack.
  • 1 0
 This "article" appears three times in my RSS feed for some reason:
1) What the Heck is an 'Aggro Gravel' Bike?
2) The Sonder Dial is an 'Aggro Gravel' Hardtail
3) 'Aggro Gravel' is a Thing Now, Apparently

Pick a headline and... stick to it.
  • 6 0
 Interesting evolution of thought, though:

1) What is this thing?
2) This bike is this thing
3) This thing is a thing now
  • 3 0
 I like the fact that Sonder prices are still sensible and offer value for money in a world when the equivalent bike from a big name brand is 30% higher in many cases.
  • 1 0
 The raddest biking ever was F1 BMX in the 90’s.
Twisty turns on a coarse marked by cones on a parking lot.
Popular (12 people!) for the crit crowd.
Haro, Diamond Back and others made the bikes.
They are a geometric wonders!
  • 4 0
 Run a WTB Judge tire and bang the gravel.
  • 4 0
 If they put pannier mounts on it does it then become a Gravel Packer?
  • 5 0
 An Aggro Gravel Packer.
  • 3 0
 This op-ed and Kaz's yesterday on the E-Bike thing are freaking gold! Yall are angry, I love it!
  • 1 0
 This is the greatest. For the second time in a week, Pinkbike, you've made an incredibly silly and excellent article. Thank you for both the jokes and the abrupt candor. Y'all rock on!
  • 2 0
 Pretty sure this bike already exists at every Trek/Specialized/Giant chain store, but hey, there’s a sucker born every minute!
  • 2 2
 Pinkbike complaining about semantics is rich! You have pushed bs categories like down country, trail and enduro for years! A bike goes up and downhills is an XC bike or a mountainbike not matter the amount of travel or geo. A bike that goes downhill only is a downhill bike again in spite of travel A bike that is only used on the road is a road bike etc
  • 2 0
 looks like a trek marlin ... these roadies are finally closer to evolving to their final form of mountain bikers. FLY PEACOCKS FLYYYY!
  • 3 1
 Meh, not impressed.
I´m holding out for next mont´s release of the new "Down Gravel Bike"
  • 4 1
 Those Brits are aggravelating me!
  • 4 0
 down gravel
  • 4 1
 Only thing aggro was the pricing
  • 4 0
 Bro, do you even Aggro?
  • 2 0
 "Buy Now. Deliveries from 31 March." Hope they weren't planning on using all the Shimano kit that got nicked?
  • 2 0
 ...because when the gravel gets deep, you stop and eat a hoagie, but you call it a "grinder"
  • 3 0
 I want an “uphill” bike to complete my stable.
  • 2 0
 I got a new bike the shop called a "flat bar gravel-adventure bike". I call it a rigid mountain bike with skinny tires.
  • 2 0
 Wouldn't it be great if 29er wheels fit the hardtail you had 20 years ago. Then you could....... oh now i see.
  • 1 0
 Step 1) Buy a bunch of out dated surplus XC frames for next to nothing.
Step 2) Market aggro-gravel as a "new" thing.
Step 3) Reap in the $$$$ from hipsters.
  • 3 0
 Nice xc
  • 2 0
 No 29x3.0’s is a waste of a hardtail. Mkay?
  • 1 0
 one man's pinkbike is another marketing man's progressive gravel bike (PGB)
  • 2 0
 petition to start calling it GMX
  • 2 0
 Gravel = at least 2 water bottle mounts.
  • 1 0
 Genuinely like the ‘down country’ term though, makes sense to me. Aggro gravel is not a thing
  • 2 0
 Give it a sliding rear dropout and they'd sell the sh*t out of them!
  • 2 0
 Back in my day we called those mountain bikes.
  • 3 0
 Welcome to 1992.
  • 6 0
 I would have killed for this bike in 1992. Rigid, 26-inch wheels, canti brakes, 3x7, quill stem...
  • 3 0
 @AndrewFleming:

Ha, true.

You just described my 92 Trek 950 sans the 3D violet bar ends.

Back then we would’ve gone SS and scoffed at that cassette range.
  • 2 1
 Like e bikes they should all be piled in the desert and used for military target practice
  • 2 0
 so its a glorified $500 hardtail
  • 3 0
 Funny way to say XC.
  • 1 0
 My enduro bike is now the new aggro-down-country…..oh wait downgro-country?
  • 3 0
 downcore progravel
  • 1 1
 Aggro-gravel = Beyond-stupid

Imagine the the marketing department sitting around the table trying to come up with this original idea....
  • 2 0
 Yeah how stupid of the marketing department to take a bike that would normally get zero interest from PB and get it plastered on the home page with soon to be 200+ comments. Not doing their job at all, right?
  • 1 0
 Should pass for xterra events..."mountain bikes only" no cyclocross; no drop bars.
  • 2 0
 Ag-Grav
  • 1 0
 This is just a 2004 hardtail with extra steps!
  • 2 0
 hahahahhahahahahahah
  • 1 1
 This is by far the dumbest take any marketing team has come out with in quite some time.
  • 2 1
 Except they got this basic xc hardtail on the PB front page with super high engagement. Seems to me like the marketing team did exactly what they wanted.
  • 1 2
 @bananowy: Not all publicity is good publicity...
  • 2 0
 Next up... Tame DH.
  • 1 0
 So it’s basically a Canyon Exceed
  • 1 0
 We already call these "recreational" bikes
  • 1 0
 Aggro? Gravel?

Hahahhahhahahhahahahahahahhah......
  • 1 0
 Do you even aggro gravel bro????
  • 1 0
 Next it’ll be ‘comfort gravel’ with full suspension 100 mm XC bikes.
  • 1 0
 It's called a cross country bike.
  • 1 0
 Why is everyone so upset? This is the perfect bike for my local xc loop.
  • 1 0
 Braiding all the tech single tracks at tour loops Soon!
  • 2 0
 Downgravel
  • 1 0
 so its just a dated 29" XC bike.... who gives a f*ck
  • 1 0
 GRAVEL PLUS BABY YEEEEEEEW
  • 1 0
 What is Pink Bike, what is Vital? Isnt this all just marketing?
  • 1 0
 Can we just call it BORING AF
  • 1 0
 If it gets annoying roadies off of the actual roads I'm all for it!
  • 1 0
 Another euphemism for “I have no bike handling skills”.
  • 1 0
 Agro gravy, it’s better than curry sauce.
  • 1 0
 that shit right there's a walmart bike
  • 1 0
 Gravel for peasants = aggro gravel ?
  • 1 0
 hold on 1st of April is months away
  • 1 0
 FREEROAD bikes and the Freeroadies who ride them
  • 1 0
 Looks like something I can get at Bikesdirect at up to 70% off.
  • 4 3
 aaaaaargh fuck off
  • 1 0
 Grave Country
  • 1 1
 Will the price of a regular xc bike go up if it's called "aggro gravel"?
  • 1 0
 A legacy piece
  • 1 0
 Eat my dick
  • 1 0
 Click bait
  • 1 0
 no
  • 1 0
 For f@ck's sake.....
  • 1 0
 Not ever
  • 1 0
 I like turtles
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