Gravel riding is hitting new heights in popularity, according to Strava's latest data

gravel riding
Gravel riding in the Rocky Mountains of Canada (Image credit: Getty Images)
What is gravel riding?

gravel rider

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Gravel riding sits somewhere between road cycling and mountain biking. At first glance, the drop handlebars and simple no-suspension frames of the bikes used for the sport appear just like their city slicker counterparts. However, gravel bikes have sturdy wheels and tires for tackling rough terrain. Gravel riders should also always ensure that they have basic tools with them, to deal with any unexpected damage that can crop up on the bumpy services they’re likely to encounter.

The number of people taking up off road sports is on the up, according to research by Strava.

The sports data specialist, which has just released its global trends report for 2023, says it saw a spike in records of gravel riding last year, with a 55% increase compared to 2022. Other off-road pursuits were also on the rise, with records of trail running up by 16%, mountain biking by 13% and hiking by 10%, the report found. 

Each year the company samples a cross section of Strava athletes globally, and analyzes the data to look for sporting trends. Overall, running remained the most popular activity uploaded to Strava, with cycling and walking taking second third place respectively.

However, dirt sports weren’t far behind, with trail running, gravel/mountain bike riding and hiking in fourth, fifth and sixth place respectively.

downhill skier

Alpine skiing and snowboarding were the most popular sports uploaded to Strava by people were away from home during winter (Image credit: Getty Images)

Holidaying Strava athletes weren't exactly sitting idle either, with people typically recording rides outside their home state or country 24% longer than those they they logged at home. Alpine skiing and snowboarding were the sports most likely to be uploaded away from home in winter months, while hiking and stand up paddle boarding took the top spots in spring and summer.

The top devices for uploading tracking data to Strava were the Garmin Edge 530 cycle computer and the Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS watch

Gen Z logged the fastest median runs and rides, but they also recorded the shortest runs and the second shortest rides. As people got older they were more likely to log runs rather than rides - blame it on the creaky knees!

Strava athletes said they stay consistent by setting goals, signing up for an event or planning a workout with friends.

Some 90% of Strava athletes believe building a routine helps them work out regularly, while three-quarters believe their pets help them get out of the door to exercise.

Two thirds of athletes said work demands were a major barrier to creating a sustainable routine, while women were more likely than men to cite a lack of safe places to exercise as holding them back from their goals.

Climate change was also a preventative for many, with 75% of those surveyed saying extreme heat had affected their plans in 2023, while 27% blamed poor air quality for scuppering their goals.

Strava’s Year In Sport analyzes activity uploads on Strava between October 1, 2022 and September 30, 2023. Activities set to ‘Only Me’ or those that are opted out of sharing with Strava Metro are excluded from aggregated insights. The report also includes survey data from 6,990 respondents, drawn from both Strava’s global community of more than 120 million athletes and a random sampling of active people both on and off the Strava platform.

Rosee Woodland
Senior Staff Writer

Rosee Woodland developed a taste for adventure at a young age, growing up in a home where camping was the default holiday, and good weather was a vacation bonus rather than a necessity. After bike-packing the length of France in her mid teens with her family, she started to undertake solo forays in her 20s, usually without the benefit of much technical gear at all. Happily, the years she later spent as a mountain biking journalist eventually gave her an appreciation of decent kit! These days she loves a water-based adventure, and is an outdoor swim coach, and a keen free diver. She has a soft spot for Northern Ireland's Mourne mountains, and can also be found hiking and kayaking in Pembrokeshire and the South West of the UK.