Best gravel bikes: our pick of the top models

We pick out some of the best gravel bikes and adventure road bikes on the market, and explain what defines the genre and what to look for

Included in this guide:

Best gravel bikes
(Image credit: Future)

The gravel bike category is steadily becoming an ever broader spectrum. On the one end, there are burly, highly capable rigs which are essentially filling the vacuum left by old-school mountain bikes.

Right at the other, there are the gravel race bikes. These are built with speed and efficiency in mind and are being refined for the nascent UCI Gravel World Champs – which kicks off in 2022.

Within that, the bikes are built with varying degrees of bikepacking in mind. Some could happily take you on an around-the-world tour; others are designed just for long weekends.

We’ll take you through all the best gravel bikes we’ve reviewed, explaining exactly what type of riding they’re best suited for so you can narrow down your search to those that best meet your needs. 

With the demand for new bikes still being so high, the availability of certain models is pretty sparse and there aren't as many discounts as we'd normally see coming into a new year. But with all that said, we've managed to track down some bargains in our best January bike sales hub page, along with discounts on a whole range of cycling gear.

Best gravel bikes

BMC URS One Best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Future)

Best for blending trail-readiness with speed

Frame : URS Premium Carbon with Micro Travel Technology
Fork: URS 01 Premium Carbon
Groupset: SRAM APEX 1 HRD // 40x11-42t
Wheels: DT Swiss C1850 Spline
Tyres : WTB Raddler, 40mm (Max clearance: 700x45c)
Weight: 9.58kg
Reasons to buy
+Sorted geometry is a blast on the trails+Still efficient for longer distance rides
Reasons to avoid
-Stock gearing is a little steep for bikepacking-Lack of mounts on fork for extra carrying capacity

 the BMC URS One impressed with its brilliant balance between being fun and capable off-road, whilst remaining efficient enough to easily handle long distance epics. 

Several cues are taken from BMC’s mountain bike range, such as a slacker head angle and stubbier stem. At 70 degrees and 70mm, these numbers are quite far off what you’d get on a modern MTB, but for gravel it’s really quite progressive.

This, combined with the short 425mm chainstays, adds up to a bike which can be popped around the corners, but still doesn’t feel skittish on the descents. 

Yet for all that, this isn’t a kind of monster-cross, essentially MTB with drop bars. It still retains the efficiency you’d expect from a gravel bike – it successfully completed the South Downs Way, a challenging one-hundred-mile gravel trail in the South East of England.

It’s not totally bedecked in mounts – we wouldn’t choose it for bikepacking trips measured in weeks rather than days – but for those shorter, local rides which make up the majority of the time spent on our bikes, it’s a complete blast and a pleasure to ride.

Read more: BMC URS ONE Apex full review

Specialized S-Works Crux

(Image credit: Future)

Best for racing speed

Frame: S-Works Crux FACT 12r Carbon
Fork: S-Works FACT Carbon
Groupset: SRAM Red eTap AXS // 40x10–44t
Wheels: Roval Terra CLX
Tyres: Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss Ready 700c x 38mm (Max clearance: 700x47c or 650b x 2.1in)
Weight: 6.9kg
Reasons to buy
+Exceptionally lightweight fully built+Race ready - for luggage free gravel or cyclocross+Power meter as standard+Stable yet nimble geometry
Reasons to avoid
-Need gravel on a grand scale to truly do it justice-Obviously very expensive

For many years, the Crux has had its feet firmly planted in the muddy fields of cyclocross. But for 2022, the range has had a refresh and a rebrand – now top level gravel racing has been added to the Résumé.

Testing the Crux in its top level spec, it was astonishingly fast with a particular aptitude for the climbs. In a size 52cm and without pedals or bottle cages, the bike tipped the scales at a feathery 6.9kg – which is frankly absurd. For context, the UCI’s weight limit for road bikes in its races is 6.8kg.

Beyond just making hills melt away, that extreme light weight made the Crux unbelievably nimble, sudden switches of line and hopping over obstacles happened almost at the speed of thought, rather than requiring any manhandling to elicit.

With everything about this bike geared towards speed, it’s not something we’d be inclined to take bikepacking or on multiday tours. Lugging this up with a handlebar and frame bag feels almost like using a Ferrari to tow a caravan – and with a frame that weighs just 725g in a size 56cm, we’d imagine that the thin carbon walls wouldn’t take too happily to any rubbing and chafing.

But for flat-out race performance and flatteringly high speeds, it’s a truly great option – if you can afford the eye-watering price.  

Read more: Specialized S-Works Crux full review

Canyon Grizl CF SL 8 1by Best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Future)

Best for bikepacking on rough terrain

Frame : Canyon Grizl CF SL
Fork: Canyon FK0087 CF Disc
Groupset: Shimano GRX RX800
Wheels: DT Swiss G1800 Spline db
Tyres : Schwalbe G-One Bite 700x45c (Max clearance: 700x50c)
Weight: 9.77kg
Reasons to buy
+Large tyre clearances+Good range of bikepacking mounts+Quality wheels and groupset+Front suspension ready 
Reasons to avoid
-Gearing is a little steep for carrying loads-Long chainstays are at odds with its burly build

Coming specced with the same Schwalbe G-One Bite tyres in 45mm as I’ve been using as my control tyre, the Grizl was pretty well suited to my local riding from the off. There was a good balance between being fast enough rolling on the road and tame trails, while still providing enough traction and cushion on more technical terrain.

Extra comfort was provided courtesy of Canyon’s catchily named S15 VCLS 2.0 CF suspension seatpost. The minimalist design doesn’t add much weight over a standard seatpost, but the 20mm of travel does serve to take the edge off some of the bumps. 

However, for all its capability off-road, I did feel that there was a bit of a tension between certain elements of the design.

Yes, those burly tyres offer a lot of promise for hitting the trails hard, but the long chainstays at 435mm do hold it back a bit on tight and chattery singletrack. It’s not really an ideal pairing – if you’re primarily going to be razzing about the trails, you’d likely have a better time on a bike with chainstays around the 425mm mark, or even shorter.

On the other hand the range of mounts gives great potential for bikepacking adventures, but in this 1x configuration, there just isn’t the range you really need for carting luggage about off-road. You’d be much better off with the 2x versions for that – or going up a price bracket or two for the new build featuring SRAM’s XPLR 10-44t cassette paired with a 40t chainring.

But at least the gearing is something you can change – unlike the length of the chainstays. So that’s what I’d have to say this bike is really best suited for – off-road cycle touring and bumpy but open trails. 

Of course, you can take it down tight and twisty trails, I certainly did. It’s more that if that is the type of riding you’re planning on doing most of, then there are other bikes better suited.

Read more: Canyon Grizl CF SL 8 1by full review

Cervélo Aspero-5 Force eTap AXS 1

(Image credit: Future)

Best for high speed riding and racing

Frame: Cervélo Áspero Carbon
Fork: Cervélo All-carbon, Tapered Áspero Fork
Groupset: SRAM Force eTap AXS // 36x10–36t
Wheels: Reserve 32mm DT370
Tyres : Panaracer Gravel King SK Sport 700c x 38mm (Max clearance: 700c x 42mm or 650b x 49mm)
Weight: 8.3kg
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous looks+Gucci spec+Fast ride quality
Reasons to avoid
-Stiff for long off road days-Better suited to wide open gravel than techy singletrack

Similar to the Specialized Crux, the Cervélo Áspero is part of that new breed of gravel bikes geared towards racing and high performance, contrasting with the more do-it-all, go-anywhere attitude of the Canyon Grizl.

Typically Cervélo, the new Áspero comes with claims of improved aerodynamics as well as a lower weight. Coming in as it does at 8.3kg in a size 56cm, it’s not quite as feathery as the superlative Specialized Crux, but that is still a weight which would be respectable for a mid tier road bike – and so very impressive for gravel.

Exactly to what extent those aerodynamic tweaks have boosted the Áspero’s speed on the flat, that’s something we can’t really say. But what is for sure is that the bike does feel truly rapid when tapping along on open, fire-road tracks. 

With a relatively steep head angle at 72 degrees and very short 420mm chainstays, it’s extremely fast in reacting to rider input and darts around the corners. The consequence of this is that it’s a little less stable on highly technical descents, but with tyre clearance limited to 42mm in 700c and 49mm in 650b, that’s not exactly the terrain this bike is designed for.

If rough trails and week-long bikepacking trips is the kind of gravel riding you’re looking to do, you’d be best off with a different bike. But if you’re looking to ride fast on adventures that start and finish on the same day, then Cervélo’s performance gravel bike could be the one for you. 

Read more:  Cervélo Áspero-5 Force eTap AXS 1 full review

Vitus Substance CRS-2 eTap AXS Rival gravel bike

(Image credit: Future)

Best for value

Frame: Vitus Substance UD Carbon
Fork: Vitus Substance UD Carbon
Groupset: SRAM Rival eTap AXS // 43/30t x 10–36t
Wheels: Prime Kanza 650b Aluminium Disc wheelset
Tyres: WTB Venture TCS Road Plus 650b x 47 tyres (Max: 650b x 47mm or 700x42c)
Weight: 9.6kg
Reasons to buy
+Excellent 2x12 SRAM AXS Rival groupset+Good range of mounting points+Confident and stable handling
Reasons to avoid
-Internal rim width is a little narrow by today’s standards-Not best suited for tight and twisty riding

Vitus has a built a strong reputation for delivering excellent bikes at an incredible price – and the Substance CRS-2 very much follows in that vein. With coming with a 2x12 electronic groupset and a full carbon frame, to get a similar spec from some of the bigger bike brands would set you back nearly twice as much.

But while those extra gears and reasonably lightweight certainly add to the experience, it’s the frame design that’s fundamentally of the most importance but Vitus has done a good job there too.

The Substance leans towards the more rugged and long distance end of the gravel spectrum. It comes with bottle mounts on the fork legs and the underside of the downtube, as well as attachment points for a rack and a set of panniers. For tours measured in months rather than days, you’d want tubes made from metal rather than carbon, but for week long trips, the Vitus Substance is a lightweight and efficient rig.

The rated maximum tyre clearance at 650b x 47mm or 700c x 42mm sells this bike rather short. We felt there was ample clearance at the front for 650b x 2.1in tyres as well as going wider at the rear. Sticking to the suggested tyre widths does close off riding this bike on some terrain – or at least makes it slower going than with a fully fat Canyon Grizl, for instance. 

Read more: Vitus Substance CRS-2 eTap AXS Rival full review

Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon Best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Specialized)

Best gravel bike for do-it-all

Frame : FACT 9r Carbon
Fork: Specialized's Future Shock 2.0
Groupset: Shimano GRX 2x11 // 48/31 x 11–34t
Wheels: DT Swiss G540
Tyres: Specialized Pathfinder Pro 2Bliss 38mm (Max clearance: 700x47c or 650b x 53 (2.1”))
Weight: TBC
Reasons to buy
+Carbon frame+Great handling+Perfect blend of on road performance and off road capability
Reasons to avoid
-Tyres compromise off-road capability

We found the frame super fast, which was an easy pedal. Even when fully loaded with bags, the 48/31 crankset rarely felt undergeared on any climb.

The wheelbase length made descending with heavy bags a stable joy. Taking the bike off road was a similar predictable and controlled handling experience.

Overall it offers a great balance between the on- and off-road worlds. However, the  off-road performance is compromised a little by the stock tyre choice and we'd certainly swap them out for something with a bit more volume if we were tackling more serious terrain.

There's a variety of Specialized Diverge bikes on offer, with the Carbon Comp sitting in the middle spec and price wise. Expect to pick up the entry level aluminium frame Diverge Base E5 for just over £1k, or the range topping S-Works Diverge for closer to £11,000.

Read more: Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon full review

Scott Addict Gravel 10 Best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Future)

Best gravel bike for performance

Frame: HMF Carbon
Fork : Addict Gravel Disc HMF Flatmount
Groupset: SRAM Force eTap AXS HRD // 46/33 x 10–36t
Wheels: Syncros Capital 1.0 X40 Disc
Tyres: Schwalbe G-ONE Evolution 35mm (Max clearance: 700x45c)
Weight: TBC
Reasons to buy
+Responsiveness ideal for steep off-road climbs+Nice ride position on tops+Bullet proof rims
Reasons to avoid
-It is expensive

As much as we loved riding this bike around local bridleways, a full carbon Addict frame with deep section carbon rims is just begging to be raced.

Where the frame really comes in to its own is climbing. The best comparisons here are with mountain bikes. Anyone who’s done some mtbing will be familiar with those loose, uneven, steep climbs where you’re twiddling a tiny gear and going nowhere. 

On this bike on those climbs you do feel like you’re getting somewhere. And on those occasions when you have to accelerate to regain momentum or get over a root or step, the reaction is instant, surging you forwards and on up the climb. On smooth tarmac climbs it feels like just like a road bike. 

In fact, put some slick 28 or 32mm tyres on and it would perform as well as most race bikes. This for me was the frames real strength. It was surprising just how well a lightweight bike, with a good position responded on those climbs and made me hate them a whole lot less. Full marks.

The SRAM Force eTap AXS groupset specced has fast become popular among gravel riders. A two-by set up might not be your initial first choice, but the electronic shifting is so smooth that it still works underload, although having the 46/33 chainset meant there was more gears at the top end than were really necessary.

With a full carbon frameset, hydraulic disc brakes, carbon Syncros Creston 1.0 Flare handlebars, Syncros Capital 1.0 Syncros RWS wheels and Schwalbe G-One Evolution tyres, this is a bike ready for the start line.

Read more: Scott Addict Gravel 10 full review

Tifosi Cavazzo Ekar Best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Future)

Best for high-value components

Frame : UD Toray T500 and T700 Carbon
Fork: Carbon UD 1
Groupset: Campagnolo Ekar // 40x9–42t
Wheels: Miche Graff SP DX AXY wheels 700c
Tyres : Schwalbe G-One Ultra Bite 700x42c (Max clearance: 700x45c or 650b x 2.1”)
Weight: 9.50kg
Reasons to buy
+Excellent Ekar 1x13 groupset+Lots of mounting points, modern and traditional+Good tyre clearance
Reasons to avoid
-Wheels have a relatively narrow internal width-Handlebar reach is quite long

 Tifosi’s Cavazzo platform is very much a jack of all trades. Put on some fat tyres and, together with its reasonably slack head angle and simple 1x drivetrain, it’s a blast around the local trails and bridleways. 

Going in quite the other direction, the Cavazzo is also well suited for long distance bikepacking jaunts, with those 13 gears and wide variety of mounting options. This isn’t a bike that railroads you into one small, particular niche - many doors have been left wide open.

 I was quite impressed with the feel of the Cavazzo. Whether or not the open-mould frame damped vibrations less adroitly than other frames designed in-house, I couldn’t really tell – the tyres of gravel bikes are so much larger and more cushioned than road bikes that that level of refinement isn’t really noticeable.

As expected, the rear end did get a little more hung up on roots and wasn’t quite as snappy as gravel bikes with shorter chainstays. But if that kind of riding isn’t so much your bag, preferring longer distance jaunts on mellower trails, then this won’t really present itself as so much of an issue.

The Miche Graff DX wheels felt pretty respectable, feeling reasonably lightweight and being quick to accelerate. Part of that is likely down to the narrow 19mm internal rim width not requiring so much material for its construction.

On the flipside, this does mean that there’s a little less sidewall support when running wider tyres at low pressures (around 24psi). I would rather have the lighter and narrower rims of the Miche wheels than the heavier and wider rims of the Rondo wheels, but that doesn’t stop this rolling stock from still being a bit of a step down from the DT Swiss G1800 Spline wheels of the Canyon Grizl, which manage to be both reasonably lightweight and have a wide 24mm internal width.

Of course, the main selling point of this bike is Campagnolo’s Ekar groupset, which was excellent. On road sections, there were no awkward occurrences of being stuck between two gears, one too hard and the other too easy, as you do get a little bit on most gravel bikes. There’s also the shifting simplicity of 1x, which really does make a difference to lowering cognitive load.

Read more: Tifosi Cavazzo Ekar full review

Rondo Ruut CF2 2x Best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Future)

Best for fun on the trails

Frame : Rondo Ruut Flex Design EPS carbon
Fork: Rondo TwinTip 2.0 carbon
Groupset: Shimano GRX 2x10 // 46/30 x 11–36t
Wheels: Rondo aluminium 622-23, tubeless-ready, 700c
Tyres : WTB Riddler 700x37c (Max clearance: 700x45 or 650b x 57 (2.2”))
Weight: 10.6kg
Reasons to buy
+Huge tyre clearances+Great handling on twisty trails+Variable geometry fork increases stability
Reasons to avoid
-Wheelset is quite heavy-2x10 GRX groupset is a lower tier than you’d expect at this price point

Asking a bike to handle confidently and accurately on technical off-road terrain, while also expecting speed and efficiency on tamer gravel and back roads, presents quite a challenge for any bike. But the Ruut took it all in its stride.

With the fork in the high position and rolling on those 37mm Riddler tyres with their file centre tread, I was able to motor along at a respectable pace, with my position on the bike feeling reasonably low and efficient. 

The tyres were too narrow for the large rocks South Downs Way or the roots of my local woods, but on the smoother hardpack surfaces you get on converted disused railway lines, the Riddlers were a pretty good match – although on that kind of non-technical terrain you don’t really get to know the character of a bike

Once I swapped in the 45mm Schwalbe G-One Bites and flipped the fork for a slacker angle, that became much more apparent. With the right rubber I was able to properly attack the trails – the sort which are a little boring on a mountain bike, but come alive once you ditch the suspension and flat bars.

In terms of value, the Ruut isn’t the best. The 2x10 GRX groupset (which is equivalent to Shimano’s fourth tier Tiagra road groupset) and a relatively heavy OEM wheelset are all a step below what you’d expect at this price point.

Other bikes on test come with groupsets around the second tier mark, while both the Canyon Grizl and BMC URS are treated to quality DT Swiss wheelsets.

The Ruut is still super fun to ride, with its sorted geometry and the ability to go between fast 700c wheels and huge MTB style 650b wheels. But with the poor value for money, and the lack of underside of the downtube bottle bosses, it’s harder to recommend it against the competition.

Read more: Rondo Ruut CF2 2x full review

Dimondback Haanjo 7c Carbon Best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Dimonback)

Best gravel bike for versatility

Frame : DB Carbon
Fork: Full Monocoque Carbon
Groupset: Shimano GRX/ Praxis // 48/32 x 11–34t
Wheels: HED Tomcat Disc 24h
Tyres: WTB Riddler 37mm (Max clearance: 700x40c or 650b x 51 (2.0”))
Weight: 10.4kg / 22.92lbs (size large)
Reasons to buy
+Versatile for gravel and road riding +Great value for the components
Reasons to avoid
-Geometry won't suit all-US only

NB: Diamondback bikes are available online at, the Diamondback Haanjo 7C Carbonis priced at $2950. Currently, the brand only ships within the US, international shipping is not available.

At $2,800.00, the Diamondback Haanjo 7C Carbon offers a carbon frame, excellent GRX shifting and hydraulic disc brakes, paired with a quality pair of tyres representing excellent value. The only cost saving measure is the Praxis chainset, but on test worked effectively and didn’t detract from the ride.

The Haanjo is an excellent all-rounder. If you invested in two sets of wheels, you could comfortably go from sportives to singletrack with one bike and still ride to the office on Monday morning.

With wide flared bars, a relatively short reach and a high stack height, the Haanjo puts you in a comfortable position for longer rides and does make the bike more confidence inspiring on the trails.

However, with the bike being so much shorter and taller than more racey builds, if you’ve been riding road bikes for a while, you should just do a quick check on the geometry to see if you’ll be comfortable ( is great for comparisons). If it’s only slightly off, a longer, negative rise stem could be all you need to get the bars into a position that feels right.

For a bike that could cover just about all cycling needs at the cost of less than some race wheels, the Haanjo seems like a great deal.

Read more: Diamondback Haanjo 7c Carbon full review

Liv Devote Advanced Pro best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Liv)

Best gravel bike with women's specific geometry

Frame : Advanced-Grade Carbon Composite
Fork : Advanced-Grade Composite, full-composite OverDrive steerer
Groupset: SRAM Force eTap AXS // 43/30 x 10–36t
Wheels: Giant CXR-2 Carbon Disc WheelSystem
Tyres: Maxxis Velocita Tubeless 40mm (Max clearance: 700x40c or 650b x 50 (2.0”))
Weight: 8.1kg / 17.85 (size small)
Reasons to buy
+Confidence inspiring geometry+Range of luggage mounts+Versatile for tarmac speed and off-road capability 
Reasons to avoid
-Seatpost clamp cover doesn't stay in place-Bars could do with a greater flare-Tyres aren't well suited to off-road conditions

The Liv Devote Advanced Pro is a very capable bike, it's got all the mounts you'd need for bikepacking, rides like a super endurance bike on the road and - with spec changes - could be a trail slayer.

Keen to really push the Devote through its paces, we spent an afternoon circling the manmade trails of Swinley Forest. Now, Swinley's Blue and Red trails are fairly tame, but the bike handled the berms and rollers well considering it's not exactly the intended use. That said, a set of 45mm tyres and a more strongly flared handlebar would have instilled a bit of extra confidence.

For many riders, the pull towards the gravel trend is the ability to stitch together sections of road, gravel, trail, fire road and cycle path, so we also took the Devote out for several mixed bag jaunts and it was these where the devote felt most at home. It might not be the absolute perfect tool for tarmacked roads, unpaved doubletrack and forest trails – but unlike bikes with a greater specificity, it still is a blast to ride on each of them.

Although this build of the Devote is quite expensive, it still represents reasonably good value for money. You get SRAM’s second tier Force groupset, with its powerful hydraulic disc brakes and 2x12 gearing – providing both an excellent range and small jumps between the gears.

There are also carbon wheels – which match the frame and fork – and these are shod with a pair of speed oriented Velocita tyres. If you’re planning on spending time riding in looser conditions, be it on mud or small shingely rocks, you’d likely want to swap these out for something with a bit more tread.

Read more: Liv Devote Advanced Pro full review

Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra best gravel bikes

Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra

Best gravel bike for all day adventures

Frame: BallisTec carbon
Fork: BallisTec carbon
Groupset : Shimano R8000 Ultegra / Cannondale
Wheels: Cannondale HG22 Hollowtech
Tyres: WTB Riddler TCS Light 37mm
Weight: 8.46kg / 18.65lbs (size large)
Reasons to buy
+The ride feel+Comfortable+Good value spec
Reasons to avoid

When we tested this bike, we awarded it a very coveted 10/10, which shows just how much we liked it.

The Topstone could be anything from an off-road bike to a winter road bike, but with 'Kingpin' rear suspension coupled with the lightweight carbon frame, we see it fitting best in the gravel category, although the range now has a full suspension, 'Lefty' fork, 650b wheels and even an electronic version in the mix (see below), so it could fit in a number of different pigeon holes.

The chainstays, seat tube and top tube have ‘flex zones’ designed to deflect bigger impacts than in a traditional fixed-stay frame setup, creating a comfortable ride with a relaxed geometry which inspires confidence.

At this price point, you'll enjoy a Shimano Ultegra groupset, paired with Cannondale's own HG22 Hollowtech carbon rims and WTB Riddler TCS Light 37c tires.

Cannondale Topstone Lefty 3 best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Cannondale)

Best gravel bike for techy trails

Frame : BallisTec Carbon Frame
Fork: Lefty Oliver
Groupset: Shimano GRX/ Cannondale // 40 x 11–42t
Wheels: WTB ST i23 TCS 650
Tyres: WTB Venture TCS Light, 47mm (Max clearance: 650b x 47)
Weight: 10.6kg / 23.40lbs (size Xlarge)
Reasons to buy
+Excellent fork+Balanced +Responsive
Reasons to avoid
-Lefty hub limits wheel choice-Would like more clearance

The Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 3 leans much more towards the “fun” end of the gravel spectrum than the “fast” end. If you’re a rider likely to attempt the sort of ‘gravel’ that borders into mountain biking territory, it could be your best friend.

With 650b wheels, 47mm tyres, and the very distinctive Lefty Oliver fork, this bike would not look out of place on a cross country trail were it not for the drop bars.

The rear serves up an additional 30mm of travel, making this full-suspension version of the Cannondale Topstone grippy and planted in corners.

There's a great range of models and specs available, with our test version coming with Shimano GRX 1x set up Formula rear hub (Lefty specific front) and WTB Byway i23 650b tubeless ready rims and WTB Byway TCS Light tyres.

Read more: Cannondale Topstone Lefty 3 review

Sonder Camino AL Rival1 best gravel bikes

Best gravel bike on a budget

Frame : Camino 6061 Aluminium
Fork : Camino 6061 Aluminium
Groupset: SRAM Rival Hydro // 40x 11–42t
Wheels: Love Mud Nova
Tyres: WTB Resolute 42mm (Max clearance: 700 x 50mm or 650b x 53 (2.1”))
Weight: 10.3kg / 22.7lbs (size medium)
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Supreme comfort+Practical+Huge tyre clearance
Reasons to avoid
-Extreme flared bars not to everyone's taste

The combination of a well-designed frame coupled with the incredible value combined to give this bike a well earnt 10/10.

Although aluminium frames have a reputation for harshness, the slack head angle, long wheelbase and tall headtube, combined with some well-engineered flex, serve to isolate you from the road buzz. The plump 42c WTB tyres help in this department as well. 

With mounts for front and rear panniers, as well as some for mudguards and an extra set of bottle bosses on the downtube, many luggage solutions are open to you for bike packing. The large flare of the handlebars leaves a lot of room for a bulky handlebar bag, whilst also putting your wrist in a more comfortable position.

The confidence inspiring geometry, along with the capacity to take 650b x 2.1 inch or 700c x 50mm tyres, meant that it was able to handle trails normally traversed by mountain bikes - and was a whole load of fun when doing so!

Read more: Sonder Camino AL Rival1 full review

Kinesis G2 gravel adventure bike best gravel bikes

Best gravel bike for off road ambles

Frame: Double Butted Alloy 6061
Fork: Carbon Fork, Carbon Tapered Steerer
Groupset: SRAM Apex Hydro // 40 x 11–42t
Wheels: Alex Rims GD26 Tubeless Compatible
Tyres: Schwalbe G-ONE Allround 38mm (Max clearance: 700 x 45mm)
Weight: 9.7kg / 21.4lbs (size small)
Reasons to buy
+Comfortable+Versatile +Plenty of tyre clearance+Value
Reasons to avoid
-Gearing compromise -Needs more size options

Unlike many of Kinesis' frame-only offerings, the G2 adventure bike comes as a full build, aimed at providing versatility rather than targeting any specific gravel sub-genre.

At for the price the G2 represents great value for money that provides all the confidence you need for mixing up your ride with off-road segments. The build isn't particularly lightweight, but upgrading both the finishing kit and wheelset could be quick wins to knock a bit of weight off.

Read more: Kinesis G2 adventure bike full review

Ribble CGR AL 105 best gravel bikes

Best gravel bike with bang for buck

Frame : CGR Aluminium
Fork : CGR Carbon
Groupset: Shimano 105 hydraulic // 50/34 x 11–32t
Wheels: Mavic Aksium Disc
Tyre: Schwalbe G-One Allround Raceguard 40c (Max clearance: 700 x 45mm or 650b x 47)
Weight: 9.72kg/ 21.43lb (size large)
Reasons to buy
+Looks+Versatility+Robustness+Confidant handling
Reasons to avoid
-Handlebar shape

Ribble’s CGR says what it does on the box – it’s the UK-based brand’s 'Cross, Gravel and Road bike. This machine is all about versatility.

Ribble offers the chassis constructed from aluminium, titanium or steel – in this case we went for the entry-level alloy option.

It’s a fairly hefty machine that you can trust on rooty trails, though it has been slimmed down when compared to former iterations. The seat stays especially are now more slender and dropped for extra compliance.

The geometry is very relaxed, with a short reach and tall head tube lending to stability off-road, though there’s plenty of room to get a bit more aggressive if you want to.

Thanks to Ribble's bike builder you can have this bike any way you like according to needs and budget. 

Read more: Ribble CGR AL 105 full review

Pinarello Grevil best gravel bikes

Best gravel bike with aero properties

Frame : T700 UD carbon fibre, asymmetric
Fork : Onda gravel disc
Groupset: Shimano Ultegra Hydro, RX rear mech
Wheels: Fulcrum Racing 7B DB, 650b
Tyres: Vittoria Terreno Zero 650b x 47mm
Weight: 8.87kg/19.6lb (size 530cm)
Reasons to buy
+Flashy aero frameset+Loads of clearance+650b wheels with excellent Vittoria tyres+Fast both on and off road
Reasons to avoid
-Short saddle limits weight shift over obstacles while seated-Rather thin bar tape-Price

The Pinarello Grevil has the flashy aero looks of the brand’s top-end bikes yet doesn't lose its footing when the tarmac ends, to let you go where no Pinarello ought to be. We found it great fun to ride and no slouch on tarmac either.

It's certainly a considered purchase price-wise, but the Grevil actually sits at the mid-point range when compared to Pinarello's road-going lineup. If you're after one of the best all-around, do-it-all bikes, then you'd be hard pushed to find a better option.

Read more: Pinarello Grevil full review

Fustle Causeway GR1best gravel bikes

Best gravel bike with an off road bias

Frame: 6061 aluminium alloy
Fork: Full carbon fibre
Groupset: Shimano GRX // 40 x 11–42t
Wheels: DT Swiss GR1600
Tyres: WTB Resolute TCS Light 42mm (Max clearance: 700 x 50mm or 650b x 57 (2.2”))
Weight: 9.46kg/ 20.86lb (size M/L)
Reasons to buy
+Class leading handling+Durable build quality+Extremely capable off road+Ability to tune spec
Reasons to avoid
-Wheels kill the ride -Not as quick on the tarmac-UK and EU only 

The Causeway range has recently been updated to the Causeway GRX , which means the groupsets are now gravel specific. The Northern Irish brand may be relatively new to the market but founder, Alastair Beckett, is anything but. With a career designing mountain bikes for the likes of Nukeproof and Forbidden, it's no real surprise that Alastair's drop bar offering has a strong MTB bias.

Fustle offers full build customization with their direct to consumer model, so you can choose from a range of wheel brands, 700c or 650b, a dropper post, tires, saddle and cockpit to suit you and your local terrain straight out of the box.

Read more: Fustle Causeway GR1

Merida Silex 6000 best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Merida)

Best gravel bike for multiday adventures

Frame : SILEX Lite (aluminium)
Fork : Carbon
Groupset: Shimano GRX // 40 x 11–42t
Wheels : Merida Expert
Tyres: Maxxis Rambler 38mm (Max clearance: 700 x 42mm or 650b x 50mm)
Weight: 9.74/ 21.5lbs (Size M claimed)
Reasons to buy
+Large range to choose from+Well specc'ed+Multiple mounting points
Reasons to avoid
-Handlebars offer too much reach

As with the Caynon Grail below, we've only played with the electric version of this bike, which will offer quite a different package and ride feel, but our experience with Merida bikes in general tells us that the non-electric version is worth a look too.

The bikes are multiday adventure ready, with several mounting points for bottle cages and bags, and the choice between 700c or 650b wheel size, for extra of tyre clearance.

There are several versions to choose from, with the entry £2k model coming with a Aluminium 6060 frame and carbon fork. The range topping Merida Silex 7000, pictured above, features a full carbon frameset, Shimano GRX groupset and Fulcrum Racing 700 DB wheels.

Read more: Merida Silex+ 8000-E review

Canyon Grail CF SL 8 best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Canyon)

Canyon Grail CF SL 8

Best gravel bike for balancing comfort and confidence

Frame : CF SL Disc (Carbon)
Fork: Canyon FK0070 CF (Carbon)
Groupset: Shimano GRX
Wheels: DT Swiss G1800 Spline db
Tyres: Schwalbe G-One Bite 40 mm
Weight: TBC
Reasons to buy
+Huge range to choose from+Well specc'ed
Reasons to avoid

It's hard to know where to start with the Canyon Grail, there are so many in the range, 17 at the last count, that you'd be hard pushed to know what one is right for you.

Pitched as Canyon's all road all day gravel adventure bike, the Grail comes with the, as expected, dropped-bar and fast tyres for covering big distances, but with more relaxed geometry to help keep you fresh.

We've only seen the electric version, but liked it so much that we gave it a 2020 Editors Choice award. We found the frame geometry and ride quality are excellent and boosts confidence whilst remaining comfortable and as per usual with Canyon the spec vs price is highly competitive.

For us, we could have done with slightly more aggressive tyres to really let it shine, but apart from that found it to be the whole package.

Obviously there's going to be some stark differences with the non-ebike version, but its certainly a reason to want to know more and worth checking out in more detail.

Read more: Canyon Grail CF SL 8

Trek Checkpoint SL 5 best gravel bikes

Trek Checkpoint SL 5 gravel bike

Best gravel bike for adventure with out compromise

Frame : 500 Series OCLV Carbon
Fork: Checkpoint carbon
Groupset: Shimano GRX
Wheels: Bontrager Tubeless Ready
Tyres: Bontrager GR1 Team Issue 45mm
Weight: 9.72 kg / 21.43 lbs (size 56cm Claimed)
Reasons to buy
+IsoSpeed+Horizontal sliding dropout+Carbon armour on downtube
Reasons to avoid

Trek's Checkpoint is actually the third off-road drop-bar bike in the brand's range, with the Boone and Crockett being pitched more towards the CX crowd. The Checkpoint SL5 is made from the brand's OCLV 500 carbon and sees Trek's bump-eating IsoSpeed decoupled, and the sliding Strangle Hold dropout for those who want to run a singlespeed, or make slight tweaks to handling characteristics.

The frame comes with a Shimano GRX 2x11 speed drivetrain and is shod with rack and fender mounts throughout, including on the top tube for a bento-style snack box. There is room between the stays for 45c tires, but Trek sends the bike out with 40c Bontrager GR1 rubber, so depending on where you ride it may be worth adding burlier bike shoes to your shopping cart.

Gravel bikes: all you need to know

What are gravel bikes?

Gravel bikes are drop-bar bikes that allow you to veer off paved roads and onto more exciting terrain.

From racing to bikepacking, there'll be a best gravel bike for you, built ready to cope with the demands of tricky terrain and longer, multi-day off-road rides.  As with all bikes, it's vitial that you get the best bike to fit you, and it doesn't need to be a gender specified. But if you are after a women's specific model, which often include smaller sizes, you might want to check out best women's gravel bikes for off-road adventures page. 

If you're juggling a tighter budget, but still want the best. Our page dedicated to the best budget gravel bikes: gravel bikes under £1,000, $1500 is idea for getting the best value for money adventures on two wheels. 

Born with the spirit of adventure, the best gravel bikes sit somewhere between the  best endurance and sportive bikes and the best cyclocross bikes, with a blend of the best hardtail mountain bikes. Nimble on paved sections of road compared to fat-tired MTB steeds, but confidence inspiring when it comes to tackling rough surfaces over their slicked tyred road going siblings. 

These bikes are ideal for mixed-terrain adventures; gravel paths, broken pavement, fire roads, and of course unpaved dirt tracks. Taking cues from their cyclocross cousins and MTB siblings, don't let the drop bars fool you, these bikes can tackle some pretty technical terrain too including flowy mountain bike trails.

This cross over discipline can add a slight confusion in the cycling gear department too, e.g to Lycra or not to Lycra. Thankfully our guide on the best gravel bike clothing: cycling kit for your gravel ride should sort out any kit woes.  

The best gravel bikes will come with wide tyres, with room for extra mud clearance, and nowadays disc brakes as standard. Expect anything up to 47c on either 700c or 650b wheels.

Mounts for pannier racks and extra storage will also feature on the best gravel bikes, as will the option for fitting mudguards. In fact, that's probably the biggest difference between gravel and cyclocross bikes, that along with bottle cage mounts.

Are gravel bikes good for road?

Compared to road bikes, you'll also find wider gear ratios on the best gravel bikes, which will help you ride over loose or hilly terrain especially when carrying luggage for bikepacking.

Best bikepacking bags: A buyers guide for multi-day adventures

In general, the best gravel bikes will also have a lower bottom bracket than a cyclocross bikes, helping to provide enhanced stability on rocky, rooty and rough terrain.  For more details on exactly what the differences are, you might find gravel vs cyclocross bikes: what is the difference page really helpful. 

For those wanting to head off the beaten track, but worry about keeping up, you might want to consider a electric version. Electric gravel bikes: dirt loving drop bar e-bikes with added oomph give you the all-terrain capability, confidence-inspiring stability, but with some additional assistance.

What is the appeal of a gravel bike or adventure road bike?

If you’ve ever gone out on a ride on your best road bike and unpaved roads, fire trails or alluring single track as you passed, wondering where they lead but hesitating to head off the tarmac, then a gravel bike or adventure road bike may be for you.

These bikes aim to meld on-road efficiency with off-road capability, so you'll find overlaps in design features with both road and cyclocross bikes, as well as incorporating elements from mountain bike technology. As standard you should expect disc braking and clearance for wider tires.

Where as Cyclocross bikes  are designed with short, muddy races in mind, gravel and adventure bikes take longer unpaved rides into account. You'll still find race-orientated builds in the gravel category for long-distance or enduro-style events, alongside adventure bikes that feature additional clearance and mounts to accommodate luggage and often wider tires for more remote journeys.

Adventure and gravel bike frame geometry

Stability and handling are key when it comes to riding off-road. Expect to see a lengthened wheelbase, slack headtube angle and lower bottom bracket compared to road bikes, which aid with technical terrain and steeper descents.

The rider position is typically more upright than on road bikes, both for comfort over long rides and to allow the rider to move their weight around more easily when negotiating off-road obstacles.

Best gravel and adventure bikes

15mm thru-axle and hydraulic discs on the GT Grade

Do gravel bikes have front suspension?

While thru-axles have quickly become standard, a technology borrowed from mountain biking along with disc brakes, front suspension, and even rear aren't as commonplace yet.

Quick-release wheels are still sometimes found – particularly at the rear – the new norm is 12mm or sometimes 15mm thru-axles, which make for easier disc brake alignment. Rear-axle spacing for disc brake wheels is typically 135mm (quick release) or 142mm (thru-axle), or occasionally 148mm boost spacing for stronger wheelsets.

More adventure or utility centric frames will come with mounts for racks and fenders, so that the bike can be used as a sturdy commuter or year-round road bike. At the most extreme end of the adventure bike market, fork leg mounts are becoming increasingly common for even more storage options.

Gravel bike and adventure bike tyres

You can find adventure road and gravel bikes shod with tires of pretty much any width between a narrow 28c and 47c, plus tires measured in inches on 650b wheel builds! There's a real range in tread patterns available off the peg or fitted to gravel and adventure builds dependent on their intended use. You can always consider changing these to suit the kind of terrain you'd like to ride.

Best gravel and adventure bikes

More aggressive tread patterns can help in wet and mucky conditions

There’s not really a consensus on the best pattern, with some bikes coming with fat, slick tires, whilst others have file treads or low profile knobs. It's all depends on where you find yourself riding, and what the conditions are like. In the UK, you're more likely to come across patches of wet mud year-round, so a more aggressive tread can be useful in those situations to help you maintain grip, although at the expense of road speed. While in the US gravel roads can range from well-graded packed dirt that almost resembles tarmac, to the crushed and graded limestone you find in the Flint Hills of Kansas. Finding the right tires for your riding terrain may take some experimentation, and don't be afraid to try something with more or less tread than you're used to.

Most gravel and adventure bikes are specc'ed with tubeless or tubeless-ready tires and rims, ready for conversion to a tubeless set-up. Rather than having to replace an inner tube every time you flat, the sealant in the system will (in theory) plug any punctures from sharp objects like thorns, which is a real advantage when it comes to riding off-road. You may need to re-inflate the tire a little if you have a puncture, and make sure you're equipped with a spare tube and full tubeless repair kit for more serious tire damage.

Gravel bike and adventure bike gearing

Adventure road bikes and gravel bikes are designed to be ridden on the road as well as off, so you'll typically find a wide range of gears to allow both efficiency and speed on the road, as well as enough gears to cope with loose and steep terrain off-road. 

Best gravel and adventure bikes

A 1X drivetrain keeps it simple and can allow for greater rear tire clearance

The choice between a double or single chainring upfront is usually down to rider preference. A 1X (one-by) set up gives ultimate simplicity and often allows for greater tire clearance, often at the cost of top-end road gears for quick descending or sprinting. Double chainrings offer more options for riders that prefer to spend more time on smoother terrain or on the road.

Adventure and gravel bike pedals

Pedal choice is a matter of personal taste and will be dependent on your riding style. If you ride predominantly on roads and well-maintained paths where you rarely need to put a foot down, then road shoes and cleats may be a good choice.

Best gravel and adventure bikes

Mountain bike style pedals make walking, mounting and dismounting easier

On the other hand, more demanding off-road riding may mean that you need to dismount and walk with the bike or put a foot down for stability. In this case, mountain bike pedals and shoes may be a better choice for their ease of walking, with grippy treaded soles and recessed cleats.

Adventure and gravel bike components

Adventure and gravel bikes almost exclusively use disc brakes for their better modulation and more consistent stopping in dry, wet and muddy conditions. This also has a really positive impact on wheel longevity compared to rim brakes for off-road riding.

On higher value models the brakes will be hydraulic, while budget bikes typically have mechanical calipers. With Shimano's GRX gravel-specific groupsets available in hydraulic disc only, this tends to be the preference. You'll occasionally find mechanical disc brakes on adventure bike builds, where long-distance riders find them easier to maintain and repair in more remote situations.

Best gravel and adventure bikes

Canyon's double-decker handlebar certainly divided opinion on release

Different types of handlebars are also worth considering on adventure bikes. Flared bars are generally accepted as a good upgrade to give greater stability in the wider drops for rough terrain and descending off-road. The wider the flare, the easier it is to fit a handlebar bag on the front of the bike and still be able to fit your hands on the drops and brakes at the same time. Raised bars such as the Specialized Hover Bar also help to give more clearance over the front wheel for smaller riders, as well as providing a more upright riding position.

With a lack of innovation-quashing UCI rules in the gravel sector, more ambitious designs are being tested, like Canyon's radical double-decker bar, designed to add additional compliance to the ride.

Stefan Abram
Stefan Abram

Starting off riding mountain bikes on the South Downs way, he soon made the switch the road cycling. Now, he’s come full circle and is back out on the trails, although the flat bars have been swapped for the curly ones of a gravel bike.

Always looking for the next challenge, he’s Everested in under 12 hours and ridden the South Downs Double in sub 20. Although dabbling in racing off-road, on-road and virtually, to date his only significant achievement has been winning the National Single-Speed Cross-Country Mountain Bike Championships in 2019.

Height: 177cm

Weight: 67–69kg