Best gravel bikes 2022: 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

Image shows a cyclist riding one of the best gravel bikes
(Image credit: Future)

The best gravel bike for you will depend on the type of riding you want to do. 

The best gravel bikes for fast riding now often include aero features, snappier handling geometry, and lighter weight gravel bike wheels. On the other hand, a racy frame may lack the clearance for really wide gravel bike tyres and may not have a comprehensive set of mounting points for gear. 

At the other extreme are gravel bikes designed for bikepacking. They'll have plenty of mounting points to carry bikepacking bags along with really wide tyre clearance so that you can fit tyres to give you traction and comfort on long off-road rides. They tend to be a little heavier and not quite as responsive in the corners – but if you're laden down by a suite of bags, you're not really going to miss or notice that much.

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.

Best gravel bikes

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Image shows the Vitus Substance CRS-2 eTap AXS Rival which is one of the best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Future)
Best for value

Specifications

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. 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 light weight 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 650b tyres, 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. 

This model isn't currently available, but there are plenty of others being sold at Wiggle (opens in new tab), with prices ranging from one grand to well over three.

Read more: Vitus Substance CRS-2 eTap AXS Rival full review (opens in new tab)

Image shows the BMC URS One which is one of the best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Future)
Best for blending trail-readiness with speed

Specifications

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.

Availability is a little restricted in the US for this exact model right now, but there are builds with other groupsets available from Mike's Bikes (opens in new tab) and The Pro's Closet (opens in new tab)

Read more: BMC URS ONE Apex full review (opens in new tab)

Image shows the Ribble Gravel AL Sport which is one of the best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Future)
Best for bikepacking on rough terrain

Specifications

Frame : Ribble Gravel AL
Fork: Gravel AL carbon
Groupset: Shimano GRX RX400
Wheels: Mavic Allroad
Tyres : WTB Sendero 650b x 47mm
Weight: 10.87kg

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable ride on wide tyres
+
Plenty of grip except in the muddiest conditions
+
Excellent value

Reasons to avoid

-
No rack mounts
-
Quite long reach

The Ribble Gravel Al Sport has 47mm tyres on 650b wheels, although you can also spec 700c wheels. The 650b option makes it a highly capable go-anywhere option that doesn't break the bank. 

The alloy frame is long and low, with a slack headtube. longish reach and short stem. There are loads of mounting points, although oddly not those needed for a rack. The 2x10-speed Shimano GRX 400 build is the bottom of the range, but still offers excellent performance and ratios down to 30x34t to tackle the rough stuff. 

Although not light, the bike feels quick and it copes well with both degraded tarmac and rough tracks, although grip tended to wane on muddier passages. 

Read more: Ribble Gravel Al Sport full review

Image shows the Specialized S-Works Crux which is one of the best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Future)
Best for racing speed

Specifications

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 (opens in new tab)

Image shows the Cervélo Aspero-5 Force eTap AXS 1 which is one of the best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Future)
Best for high speed riding and racing

Specifications

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 and eye-catching paint job
+
High-end spec
+
Fast and nimble ride - 420mm chainstays
+
Lightweight for gravel bikes at just over 8kg

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 (opens in new tab)

Image shows the Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon which is one of the best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Future)
Best gravel bike for do-it-all

Specifications

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 blends stiffness with comfort
+
Great handling
+
Perfect mix 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. 

Read more: Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon full review (opens in new tab)

Image shows the Scott Addict Gravel 10 which is one of the best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Future)
Best gravel bike for performance

Specifications

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 the 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 into 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 frame's 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 under load, although having the 46/33 chainset meant there were 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 (opens in new tab)

Image shows the Tifosi Cavazzo Ekar which is one of the best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Future)
Best for high-value components

Specifications

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 - max. 700 x 45c or 650b x 54mm

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 flip side, 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 (opens in new tab)

Image shows the Rondo Ruut CF2 2x which is one of the best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Future)
Best for fun on the trails

Specifications

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 - 700 x 45mm or 650b x 2.2"
+
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 larger rocks on the 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 bottle bosses on the underside of the downtube, it’s harder to recommend it against the competition.

Read more: Rondo Ruut CF2 2x full review

Image shows the Liv Devote Advanced Pro which is one of the best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Future)
Best gravel bike with women's specific geometry

Specifications

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 (opens in new tab)

Image shows the Canyon Grizl CF SL 8 1by which is one of the best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Future)
Best for bikepacking on rough terrain

Specifications

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 (opens in new tab)

Image shows the Cannondale Topstone Lefty 3 which is one of the best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Cannondale)
Best gravel bike for techy trails

Specifications

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 with 30mm of travel
+
Balanced ride
+
Can handle rough and technical trails 

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 (opens in new tab)

Image shows the Sonder Camino AL Rival1 which is one of the best gravel bikes

(Image credit: Future)
Best gravel bike on a budget

Specifications

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 with an array of mounts
+
Huge tyre clearance - 700 x 50mm or 650b x 2.1"

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 (opens in new tab)

Image shows the Kinesis G2 which is one of the best gravel bikes

Best gravel bike for off road ambles

Specifications

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

+
Versatile, works well both on road and off
+
Plenty of tyre clearance
+
Good value - RRP £1,680

Reasons to avoid

-
Gearing compromise  - you might want a lower gear for bikepacking trips
-
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 (opens in new tab)

Image shows the Ribble CGR AL 105 which is one of the best gravel bikes

Best gravel bike with bang for buck

Specifications

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

+
Versatility - works well across varied terrain
+
Robust enough to handle rough trails
+
Confidant handling, with lots of stability

Reasons to avoid

-
Handlebar shape might not suit all but Ribble does offer build options

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 (opens in new tab)

Image shows the Trek Checkpoint SL 5 which is one of the best gravel bikes

16. Trek Checkpoint SL 5 gravel bike

Best gravel bike for adventure without compromise

Specifications

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 adds compliance
+
Horizontal sliding dropout allows for customisation
+
Plenty of mounts 

Reasons to avoid

-
TBC

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 decoupler, 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 tyres, 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 vital that you get the best bike to fit you, and it doesn't need to be 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 ideal 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. They're nimble on paved sections of road compared to fat-tyred MTB steeds, but confidence inspiring when it comes to tackling rough surfaces over their slick tyred road going siblings. 

These bikes are ideal for mixed-terrain adventures; gravel paths, broken tarmac, 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 crossover 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 disc brakes as standard. Expect anything up to 47c or more 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, along with bottle cage mounts.

Are gravel bikes any good on the road?

Compared to road bikes, you'll also find wider and lower 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 bike, helping to provide enhanced stability on rocky, rooty and rough terrain.  For more details on exactly what the differences are, you might find our gravel vs cyclocross bikes: what is the difference page really helpful. 

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

Why are gravel and adventure bikes so popular?

If you’ve ever gone out on a ride on your best road bike and noticed 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 tyres.

Whereas 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 tyres for more remote journeys.

How does gravel bike geometry differ from road bikes?

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.

Gravel bike fork

12mm thru-axle and hydraulic discs on a gravel bike

(Image credit: Future)

Do gravel bikes have other specialised features?

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

The norm is 12mm thru-axles, which make for easier disc brake alignment. Rear-axle spacing for disc brake wheels is typically 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

What are the best tyres for gravel and adventure bikes?

You can find adventure road and gravel bikes shod with tyres of pretty much any width between a narrow 28c and 47c, plus tyres 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. 

There’s not really a consensus on the best pattern, with some bikes coming with fat, slick tyres, whilst others have file treads or low profile knobs. It 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. But 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 tyres 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. You might also want to change your tyres between summer and winter to get the best width and tread pattern for the conditions.

Most gravel and adventure bikes are specced with tubeless or tubeless-ready tyres 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 tyre a little if you have a puncture. Make sure you're equipped with a spare tube and full tubeless repair kit for more serious tyre damage.

To find out which will suit you best you can read our extensive guide to gravel tyres (opens in new tab).

What are the best gearing options for gravel and adventure bikes?

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 gear range to allow both efficiency and speed on the road, as well as enough gears to cope with loose and steep terrain off-road. 

The choice between a double or single chainring up front is usually down to rider preference. A 1X (one-by) set up gives ultimate simplicity and can allow for greater tyre 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 and may give you greater overall range with smaller jumps between ratios.

Best gravel and adventure bikes

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

Gravel bikes often feature a drivetrain that goes below 1:1 for off-road climbing. That might be via a 1x set-up like SRAM XPLR with a cassette that goes to 42 teeth or greater or a two ring supercompact chainset with 48/32 or 46/30 chainrings paired with an 11-32 or 11-34 cassette. You'll even find "mullet builds" that mix a road chainset with an MTB cassette and rear derailleur for ultra-low gearing.

Read our guide to gravel bike gearing for more.

What pedals are best suited to gravel and adventure bikes?

Pedal choice is a matter of personal taste and will be dependent on your riding style, but check out our guide to the best gravel bike pedals for advice. 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.

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 and easier foot engagement with the pedal, with grippy treaded soles and recessed cleats. There's a wide range of gravel bike shoes available too.

Best gravel and adventure bikes

Mountain bike style pedals make walking, mounting and dismounting easier

What components should I expect to find on the best gravel bikes?

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 callipers. With Shimano's GRX and SRAM's 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.

Different types of handlebars are also worth considering on adventure bikes. Again, we've got a guide to the best gravel bike handlebars for more info.

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.

Best gravel and adventure bikes

Canyon's double-decker handlebar certainly divides opinion

Short travel suspension forks like the RockShox Rudy Ultimate XPLR and the Cannondale Lefty Oliver are also an option that is sneaking into gravel bike design.