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Gravel bikes are perfect for those who want to spend a lot of time on bike paths and in the countryside. The bikes are designed to be nimble and easy to ride, making them perfect for navigating around obstacles and corners.
With so many different choices on the market, it can be quite difficult to decide which one to choose, so we decided to pull together the following guide to help you find the best gravel bike for you.
- What Is a Gravel Bike?
- Best Cheap Gravel Bike
- Best Entry Level / Beginners Gravel Bike
- Best Affordable Gravel Bike
- Best Mid Range Gravel Bike
- Best Steel Gravel Bike
- Best Aluminum Alloy Gravel Bike
- Best Flat Bar Gravel Bike
- Best Gravel Bike for Road Racing
- Best Gravel Bike for Touring / Bikepacking
- What to Look for When Choosing a Gravel Bike
What Is a Gravel Bike?
Gravel bikes are a relatively new type of bicycle that has been gaining in popularity in recent years. They are designed to be ridden on gravel roads and trails, and they offer a lot of advantages over traditional road bikes.
Gravel bikes are built with wider tires and more forgiving geometry than road bikes, which makes them better suited for off-road riding. They also have more anchor points than regular road bikes, which allows you to attach racks, fenders, and other accessories necessary for riding on unpaved surfaces.
If you’re looking for a versatile bike that can handle both paved roads and gravel trails, a gravel bike is a perfect choice.
Best Cheap Gravel Bike
Whether you are just getting into gravel biking and don’t want to spend a fortune on your first bike, or if you just don’t have a very large budget, finding a cheap gravel bike can be tough. Most guides you read will recommend bikes in excess of $1000 and refer to them as “cheap”.
Whilst having a four-figure budget will certainly get you a decent gravel bike, there are plenty of good options for less than $500, which I believe fits the requirement for “cheap” much better.
Kent Genesis 700C Bohe Men’s Gravel Bike
The Kent Genesis 700C Bohe Men’s Gravel Bike is the best of the gravel bikes we have found for under $500.
This bike has an aluminum alloy frame, which is light and strong and comes with 14 gears, which is very good for a bike in this price range.
This bike also comes with mechanical disc brakes and 700c x 40mm tires, which is good for a bike at such a low price.
Related: Best Gravel Bikes for Under $500
Best Entry Level / Beginners Gravel Bike
When looking for an entry-level gravel bike for beginners, you want a bike that isn’t too basic but means you are not paying for the luxury of features that you won’t really appreciate as a beginner.
For beginner gravel bikes, a budget of up to $1000 will get you a good gravel bike that can last a few years before you decide whether it is worth upgrading to something lighter with more durable components.
Marin San Rafael Dual Sport 2 700C
The Marin San Rafael Dual Sport 2 700C is a very good entry-level bike for beginner gravel bikers.
The aluminum alloy frame is light as well as durable. It also comes with 16 gears, which is a good number of gears for a beginner.
The wheels are 700c, which is fairly standard for a gravel bike, however, this particular bike benefits from hydraulic disc brakes, which are a step above the mechanical disc brakes you typically see on a beginner gravel bike.
Related: Best Gravel Bikes For Under $1000
Best Affordable Gravel Bike
Gravel bikes vary widely in terms of price and quality. There are some bikes that have quite a high price tag but don’t really seem to offer much by way of good quality components or features that make them stand out from other gravel bikes. On the flip side, there are some gravel bikes that punch well above their price tag, offering good components and a generally good bike at a very reasonable price. These are what I would refer to as affordable gravel bikes, which offer a good balance of decent components, lightweight and don’t cost the earth.
To get something decent in the affordable gravel bike range, having a budget that can extend to up to $1500 is a good idea as this price point is where you start to see a real difference in quality, where you can get a good bike that will last many years.
Salsa Journeyer Sora 700C
For those looking for the best affordable gravel bike, look no further than the Salsa Journeyer Sora 700C.
This bike is made with a light and strong aluminum alloy frame, designed to be able to soak up the bumps you encounter on the trail.
The 18 gears this bike comes with are more than most bikes at this price point and give you many options when encountering hills or wanting to put your foot down.
The 700c wheels are similar to other gravel bikes as well as coming with mechanical disc brakes. This bike stands out more due to the use of good quality components.
Related: Best Gravel Bikes For Under $1500
Best Mid Range Gravel Bike
Mid-range gravel bikes are when you start seeing a real improvement in the quality of components, lightweight materials being used and typically a bike that is built for performance rather than just looks.
In terms of cost, these bikes will typically cost around $2000. At this price point, you will really start to feel the difference in the ride quality of the bike as well as the components, which will need to be maintained less and are going to be more durable than bikes in lower price brackets.
Vaast A/1 700C GRX 2X
One of the best mid-range gravel bikes on the market is the Vaast A/1 700C GRX 2X, which offers something a little different to other gravel bikes on the market.
Unlike other bikes, the Vaast A/1 700C GRX 2X is made with a superlight magnesium alloy, which is typically used for aerospace products. This material is very light, weighing up to 30% less than aluminum, yet maintaining the same strength.
This mid-range gravel bike comes with 20 gears, which are plenty for taking on hills and rough terrains. It also comes with hydraulic disc brakes and 700C wheels.
The real benefit of this bike is the use of a Shimano GRX groupset, which is a step above gravel bikes are a lower price point.
Related: Best Gravel Bikes For Under $2000
Best Steel Gravel Bike
Steel gravel bikes are a great choice for cyclists who are less concerned about the weight of their bike and want a bike that is able to cope with the stresses that riding along gravel trails put on the frame. Steel is much stronger than other materials, such as aluminum and carbon fibre, but it is a lot heavier, meaning your bike will feel a little sluggish compared to lighter gravel bikes.
In general, the best steel gravel bikes are cheaper than gravel bikes made with other materials. More expensive steel gravel bikes feature superior components to cheaper steel gravel bikes and, most of the time, have better components than aluminum and carbon-framed bikes in the same price range.
Marin Nicasio 2
For those looking for the best steel gravel bike, look no further than the Marin Nicasio 2.
This steel-framed gravel bike comes with 20 gears, based around a Shimano Tiagra drivetrain, which is much better than components for similar priced, lighter framed bikes.
You also get high-quality Shimano hydraulic brakes, which again are rare for a bike priced at around $2000.
Best Aluminum Alloy Gravel Bike
If you are a cyclist who is looking for the perfect blend between weight and price, aluminum alloy gravel bikes are a great choice. The aluminum alloy frames are much lighter than steel and not as expensive as carbon. This means they sit right in that sweet spot between compromising on price or weight.
Quite a large number of aluminum gravel bikes come with carbon forks, meaning you get the benefit of light, durable carbon forks without having to pay for a full bike that is made of carbon.
Niner RLT 3-Star
When looking for the best aluminum alloy gravel bike, you need a bike with decent components, preferably carbon forks and a good set of gears. The Niner RLT 3-Star fits these criteria exactly.
This aluminum alloy carbon fork combo gravel bike is designed to be light and durable. Coming with 11-gears, this is a bike that is built for someone who wants to spend more time riding and less time maintaining a bike with more complex components. The drivetrain is a high-quality SRAM Rival 1 set of components, which are durable and great for gravel riding.
This Niner RLT 3-Star also comes with SRAM Rival 1 hydraulic brakes, which provide plenty of stopping power when needed.
Best Flat Bar Gravel Bike
Gravel bikes are the perfect mix of road and mountain bikes. With a more relaxed geometry than a road bike, but the wider, grippier tires of a mountain bike, they offer a versatility that you won’t get with just a road bike or mountain bike.
If you are a mountain biker who is looking for versatility, you will no doubt be tempted with a gravel bike, but might be put off by the fact that they come with drop handlebars. Worry not, this isn’t the case with all gravel bikes and there are some great flat bar gravel bikes on the market.
Marin DSX 1
If you are in the market for a flat bar gravel bike, then you can’t go wrong with the Marin DSX 1 gravel bike.
This flat-bar gravel bike is made with an aluminum alloy frame and comes with 11 gears, which is great for those wanting to ride both on and off-road.
The Marin DSX 1 also comes with hydraulic brakes, which provide consistent stopping power when you need it. Unlike a mountain bike, this gravel bike features 700c wheels, which are great for faster gravel riding.
Best Gravel Bike for Road Racing
Whilst gravel bikes have a more relaxed geometry than a traditional racing bike, don’t be fooled, these bikes are also great for hitting the roads and hitting your top speed! There are plenty of great gravel bikes for gravel grinding competitions, built for speed and power, however, if you want a gravel bike to compete with a road racing bike, you will need a gravel bike that is light and comes with a great range of gears.
The best gravel bikes for road racing should be made of carbon fibre, which is the lightest frame material for a gravel bike. You will also need a bike with a good range of gears to make sure you can compete when reaching higher speeds.
One additional step you might want to take is to switch your gravel tires out for a set of narrower, slick tires.
Orro Terra C Hyd 7020 RR9 Gravel Bike
If you are in the market for a lightweight gravel bike that can keep up with road racing bikes, the Orro Terra C Hyd 7020 RR9 Gravel Bike might just be the perfect choice.
This bike comes with a carbon fibre frame, which is very light and makes reaching higher speeds much easier than riding a heavier bike. The 22 gears also provide you with a good selection of gears, in case you do need to drop into an easier gear for taking on hills.
This bike also comes with hydraulic brakes, which you should expect in a bike of this standard. This is different to what you would get on a racing bike but is certainly not inferior.
Best Gravel Bike for Touring / Bikepacking
Bikepacking is a great way to get out and experience the world. Riding off into the countryside and finding a place to set up camp provides a unique way to experience the world. If you are looking for the perfect touring gravel bike, there are a few things that you will need to consider.
The first thing you should look for is a strong bike frame. Whilst generally a lighter frame is preferable, if going lighter compromises the strength of the bike, you should lean more towards strength than lightweight.
You should also look for a bike with lots of anchor points where you can add racks for carrying all of your gear. Whilst there are racks that you can buy without the need for anchor points, having a bag that is attached to the frame via an anchor point is preferable.
Nukeproof Digger 275
If you’re looking for the best gravel bike for bikepacking, then look no further than the Nukeproof Digger 275.
This aluminum alloy framed gravel bike is a great choice for those looking for a touring trip. It is not only a durable bike but also comes with multiple anchor points for attaching your cargo.
The Nukeproof Digger 275 also comes with 11 gears, which is a good amount for a bikepacking trip, as well as hydraulic brakes which will provide superior stopping power and are particularly useful when you are carrying extra heavy loads.
What to Look for When Choosing a Gravel Bike
When choosing a gravel bike, frame material is an important consideration
Some materials, like aluminum, are stiff and efficient but can be harsh on bumpy roads. Others, like steel, are more forgiving but can be a bit heavier. So which is the best material for a gravel bike? Below are the pros and cons of each material:
Steel is a popular material for bike frames because it is strong and relatively inexpensive. Steel also has a high fatigue resistance, which means that it can be ridden hard without breaking.
However, steel does have some drawbacks. It is heavier than other frame materials, such as aluminum or carbon fibre, which can make the bike harder to pedal. Steel also tends to rust if not properly cared for.
On the plus side, aluminum is strong and lightweight, making it a good choice for racing bikes. Frame fatigue is also less of a concern with aluminum.
However, aluminum can corrode when exposed to the elements, and it can also be more expensive than steel frames.
Carbon fibre is one of the most popular materials used in bike frame construction. It has a high strength to weight ratio, is stiff and durable. This makes it ideal for use in frames, where these properties are important.
However, carbon fibre is also expensive and difficult to work with, which means frames made from it tend to be more expensive than those made from other materials.
Frame geometry is one of the most important considerations when choosing a gravel bike. A frame that is too small or too large will not be comfortable to ride, and can also be dangerous. The height of the bottom bracket is also important, as it affects the bike’s handling. A low bottom bracket makes the bike more stable, while a high bottom bracket makes it easier to pedal uphill.
The length and angle of the fork also affect the bike’s handling. Longer forks make the bike more stable, while forks with a steeper angle make it easier to steer. The size and shape of the frame tubes also play a role in how the bike handles. Thin frame tubes are more aerodynamic, but they are also less sturdy than thicker tubes.
Before you invest in a gravel bike, it’s important to consider frame size.
Why is frame size important? Because a bike that’s too small or too large will be uncomfortable and difficult to ride. A bike that fits you properly, on the other hand, will be efficient and fun to ride.
When choosing a gravel bike, then, be sure to consult the bike size chart and find the model that corresponds to your height and inseam measurement. If you’re not sure which size to choose, it’s always best to go with the smaller size; you can always make adjustments as needed.
Frame size is an important consideration when choosing a gravel bike because it affects comfort and efficiency.
Price is an important consideration when choosing a gravel bike because it can be a significant investment. It’s important to make sure that you are getting the most bang for your buck by selecting a bike that fits your needs and budget.
One of the benefits of gravel bikes is that they can be used for a variety of activities, from commuting to weekend rides to racing. This means that you don’t need to invest in multiple bikes if you decide to start riding on gravel.
When considering the price, it’s also important to think about the components of the bike. Many gravel bikes come with hydraulic disc brakes, which provide better stopping power than rim brakes. The frame and wheelset are also important considerations, as they can impact the overall weight of the bike.
Finally, it’s important to remember that not all gravel bikes are created equal.
When you think of a gravel bike, the first thing that comes to mind is probably not its weight. But, believe it or not, this is an important consideration when choosing your next gravel rig.
Gravel bikes are designed to handle a variety of terrain, from smooth country roads to gnarly singletrack. And while they may be heavier than traditional road bikes, they’re still considerably lighter than mountain bikes.
So, how much should you weigh in order to ride a gravel bike? That depends on the bike’s intended use. If you’re looking for a bike that can do it all – Gravel racing, commuting and weekend rides – then you’ll want something that can handle a wide range of rider weights.
When looking for a gravel bike, tire size is an important consideration. Larger tires can provide more cushion and stability when riding on gravel roads. They can also help to prevent pinch flats. In addition, wider tires can provide more traction, making them ideal for riding in wet or muddy conditions.
However, larger tires can also be more difficult to pedal and may cause the bike to be less efficient when ridden on paved roads. Therefore, it is important to consider the type of riding you will be doing when choosing a gravel bike with the appropriate tire size.
The width of your tires is an important consideration when choosing a gravel bike.
If you plan to ride primarily on paved roads, a narrower tire will work better. If you plan to ride on unpaved surfaces, a wider tire will be more stable and provide more traction.
When selecting a gravel bike, be sure to choose one with tires that are the appropriate width for the riding you plan to do. A narrower tire will work better on paved roads, while a wider tire will be more stable and provide more traction on unpaved surfaces.
Gravel bikes are designed to be ridden on a variety of surfaces, including gravel roads and trails. When choosing a gravel bike, it is important to consider the type of brakes that are installed on the bike.
There are three main types of brakes used for bikes: disc brakes, cantilever brakes, and V-brakes. Disc brakes are the most common type of brake used on gravel bikes. They offer good stopping power in all weather conditions and are easy to maintain. There are two main types of disc brakes:
Mechanical Disc Brakes
Mechanical disc brakes are a type of brake system that uses discs to create friction and slow or stop a bike. The discs are attached to the hub of the wheel and the brake callipers grip them to create friction. Mechanical disc brakes are considered more powerful than rim brakes and they work better in wet and muddy conditions. They also have a longer lifespan than rim brakes.
Hydraulic Disc Brakes
Hydraulic disc brakes work by using hydraulic fluid to create pressure in the brake calliper, which then squeezes the brake pads against the rotor to stop the bike. This is a big improvement over traditional cable-operated mechanical disc brakes, which can be difficult to apply smoothly and require a lot of maintenance. Hydraulic disc brakes are also much more powerful than rim brakes, so they’re perfect for mountain biking and other off-road activities.
Number of Gears
Having more gears gives you more flexibility in terms of terrain and riding style. If you’re mostly riding on flat roads, you don’t need as many gears as someone who likes to ride on hilly terrain. And if you’re into endurance racing or touring, having more gears can be a real asset.
The best gravel bikes typically have anywhere from 10 to 27 gears, which gives you plenty of options for adjusting your speed and gearing depending on the terrain you’re riding on.
So there you go, a gravel bike is a perfect choice for anyone looking for a versatile and durable bike that can handle a variety of terrain. With the right set-up, a gravel bike can be used for everything from commuting to long rides on back roads and trails. So if you’re in the market for a new bike, be sure to consider a gravel bike you won’t be disappointed.
Andy is an avid cyclist who enjoys nothing more than a ride out in the hills. Competing in track, road, time trial and mountain bike events in the past, he prefers slower rides out with his family these days.