Carbon vs steel for bikepacking: which frame material is best for multi-day adventures?

We put a carbon and steel gravel bike to the test on a four-day loop around Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains

Ribble Gravel SL - Pro carbon gravel bike and Ribble Gravel 725 - Pro steel gravel bike next to each other in Morocco on a bikepacking loop.
(Image credit: Stefan Abram)

In some areas of cycling, the argument is pretty settled on which is the best frame material between carbon and steel. For top-end road performance, carbon is a pretty clear winner with its aerodynamic tube shapes and lighter overall frame weights. For long-term trekking and round-the-world rides, the durability and strength of steel is hard to argue with.

But what about gravel riding and, more specifically, the non-competitive adventuring side of that genre? Here second-saving optimizations aren’t as important as at the pointy end of road racing - longevity is also a proportionally greater concern. Then again, even if not racing, a lighter and more sprightly bike is simply just great fun to ride - nobody wants to lug around more weight than they need to!

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