Best budget gravel bikes: gravel bikes under £1000, or $1500, in 2021

Trying something new doesn't have to mean breaking the bank, as we explore with these sub £1000 budget gravel and adventure bikes

Budget gravel bikes are increasingly becoming available which opens up the opportunity for more of us to go on a different kind of riding adventure, without a massive outlay. 

Trying out a new discipline can be daunting, and buying a bike can be quite a gamble if it's something you haven't tried before. Thankfully, there are a number of great bikes on the market that offer cracking value under £1000/$1500, making the perfect starting point for rides with a little more spice!

Of course, if your budget exceeds this, then check out our complete gravel and adventure bikes guide.

Spanning the gap between road and mountain bikes, gravel and adventure bikes have surged in popularity over the last few years. Arguably the most versatile of bike categories, these steeds not only excel on bridleways, byways, dirt roads and singletrack, but can also make great commuters or winter road bikes too. 

Our pick of the best budget gravel bikes

Below is our pick of the best budget adventure road bikes and gravel bikes. Read on for more tips on what to look for when shopping for a budget gravel bike to help you venture off the beaten track.

With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Best Deal’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.

Ribble CGR AL Shimano Tiagra gravel bike

Best for versatility

Specifications
Brakes: Shimano Tiagra 4700 levers w/ Tektro MD510 mechanical calipers
Gearing: 50/34t chainrings w/ 11–34t 10-speed cassette
Wheels: Mavic Aksium DCL 19 Disc 700c
Max tyre clearance: 700c x 45mm or 650b x 47mm
Sizes: XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL
Weight: TBC
Colours: Orange, Dark Blue (Custom colour from £299)
Reasons to buy
+Robust build+Versatile for different uses+Confident handling+Nice aesthetics
Reasons to avoid
-Chainring tooth count is a little high for a gravel bike-Single piston actuated mechanical calipers are harder to adjust and don't give as good a feel as dual actuation mechanical calipers 

The Ribble CGR Al is a versatile bike. If you want to slot in under £1000 choose the Sport build with Shimano Tiagra groupset. This build gets you a 10 speed 2x setup with Mavic Aksium 700c wheels and a road focused 35mm tire.

Leave everything right there and you've got an excellent all-around bike that is perfect for commuting or well packed gravel. If you feel like you want to get into more serious gravel. Swap the tyres all the way up to a 45mm and you can likely handle most gravel you'd want to tackle. Stretch an extra £100 at the time of purchase and you can customize the build with a 650b wheel and 47mm tire for serious off-road credentials.

That's the amazing thing about the Ribble CGR AL. The frame is something you can grow with. Swap in a better groupset either at the time of purchase or down the road. Change tyres or wheels as your interests change. Wherever your journey with cycling takes you the CGR AL can follow.

Trek Domane AL3 Disc road and gravel bike

The Trek Domane leans heavily towards the road side of things but disc brakes and extra clearance make it work for all-road riding.
(Image credit: Jim Carman)

Trek Domane Al 3 Disc

Best for higher speeds and tamer trails

Specifications
Brakes: Shimano Sora R3000 levers w/ Tektro C550 mechanical disc brake
Gearing: 50/34t chainrings w/ 11–32t 9-speed cassette
Wheels: Bontrager Affinity TLR 700c
Max tyre clearance: 700c x 35mm
Sizes: 44, 49, 52, 54, 56, 58, 61
Weight: TBC
Colours: Lithium grey/Volt
Reasons to buy
+Dual-pull mechanical disc brakes+Good range of mounting options+Helpful integration for lights and bike computers
Reasons to avoid
-Narrow tyre clearance -Gearing on the high end 

If you feel like you are more of an adventure touring or all-road rider the Trek Domane Al line of frames is a good fit. The endurance bike geometry works well both on and off road there's clearance for tires up to 35mm. In today's world 35mm isn't big but it's more than enough to tackle well-groomed gravel roads.

For a lot of people this makes perfect sense as a first, or only, bike. Everything that makes it capable of heading off-road also makes it versatile. There are mounts for racks and fenders if you want to do some bike packing, or commuting, and weekend use just means changing tires.

Best budget gravel bikes

Kona Rove AL 650

Best for durability

Specifications
Brakes: Shimano Claris levers w/ Hayes CX Comp mechanical disc calipers
Gearing: 50/34t chainrings w/ 11–34t 8-speed cassette
Wheels: WTB SX19 with Formula hubs
Max tyre clearance: 650b x 50mm
Sizes: 48, 50, 52, 54, 56, 58
Weight: TBC
Colours: Gloss Metallic Canyo
Reasons to buy
+Large tyre clearance+Durable components+Nice paintwork
Reasons to avoid
-QR axles make it a bit more of a faff to avoid brake rub-Single pull mechanical calipers aren't as good as dual pull-Chainrings are a little large for a gravel bike

Based in Vancouver, Canada, Kona is no stranger to beefy touring bikes and now gravel bikes. This entry-level Rove is one of their aluminum alloy offerings, and available in either 700c or 650b builds at the same price.

With beefy 47mm WTB Venture tyres fitted and mounts on the fork legs in addition to standard mudguard and rack eyelets, the Rove is a great choice for anyone wanting to dip their toe into the world of bikepacking.

Marin NICASIO+

(Image credit: Marin)

Marin Nicasio+

Best for hitting the singletrack

Specifications
Brakes: MicroSHIFT Advent levers w/ Tektro Spyre mechanical disc calipers
Gearing: 42t chainrings w/ 11–46t 9-speed cassette
Wheels: Marin Aluminium
Max tyre clearance: 700c x 40mm or 650b x 47mm
Sizes: 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60
Weight: TBC
Colours: Satin Tan
Reasons to buy
+1x drivetrain with clutch rear derailleur+ Dual pull brake calipers offer better performance over single pull+Good range of mounting options
Reasons to avoid
-QR wheel axles make it harder to avoid brake rub-Large jumps between the gears

One of the few steel gravel bikes that you'll find on a budget of less than £1000, the Marin Nicasio+ is a great choice for budding bikepackers. There are loads of water bottle cage mounts, and you'll have plenty of options for storage alongside traditional rack and guard mounts too.

Vitus Substance V-2

(Image credit: Wiggle)

Vitus Substance V 2

Best blend of frame and component quality

Specifications
Brakes: Shimano Sora R3000 levers w/ TRP Spyre mechanical disc calipers
Gearing: 46/30t chainrings w/ 11–34t 9-speed cassette
Wheels: WTB ST i23 TCS 2.0 in 650b
Max tyre clearance: 700c x 42mm or 650b x 47mm
Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
Weight: TBC
Colours: Nardo Grey
Reasons to buy
+Carbon fork+Wide internal rim width wheels+Variety of mounting options+Good range of gears
Reasons to avoid
-Only one colour option

There's a lot more to the Vitus Substance V-2 than just a snazzy paint job to make it a great budget gravel bike. You'll get quality tyres from the outset with a pair of chunky 47mm WTB Byways fitted to the 650b wheels for instant dirt capability.

Vitus has opted for a good gravel gearing set up, with an FSA sub-compact double (46/30T) paired with an 11-34T cassette.

The finishing kit is Vitus' own, including Vitus' flared Adventure bars with a very subtle three-degree flare.

REI Co-op ADV 2.2 adventure gravel bike

Lacking any real on-road aspirations the ADV 2.2 is a through and through off-road bike.

(Image credit: REI)

REI Co-op ADV 2.2

Best stock spec

Specifications
Brakes: Shimano Tiagra levers w/ Tektro MD-C550 mechanical disc calipers
Gearing: 46/30t chainrings w/ 11–36t 10-speed cassette
Wheels: WTB ST i23 TCS 2.0 in 700c
Max tyre clearance: TBC
Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
Weight: 10.6kg
Colours: White
Reasons to buy
+Very wide gearing range+Fully housed cables+Clutch rear mech+Dual pull brake calipers+Carbon fork
Reasons to avoid
-Limited mounting options

While some bikes in this price range skew a bit towards the commuter and all-road part of the gravel biking spectrum the Co-op cycles ADV 2.2 is different. REI has a long history of making and selling some of the best outdoor gear on the market and the Co-op Cycles ADV 2.2 Bike follows the pattern.

The naming convention of the Co-op cycles bikes would seem to suggest a linear progression of price and features. It's not quite like that though. The ADV 1.1 is a little bit cheaper at $1399 but it's also a steel touring bike.If you are looking for what most people would consider a traditional gravel bike the ADV 2.1, ADV 2.2, and ADV 2.3 should be where you look.

The ADV 2.2 represents the mid-range in the lineup. All three options use an aluminium frame with a carbon fork. The ADV 2.2 uses a Shimano gravel specific GRX groupset with a 2x10 setup and super wide range gearing. A 30/36 easiest gear means there's no reason to fear hills. The impressive 23lb weight should help climbing as well.

Gravel bikes

(Image credit: Decathlon)

Triban GRVL 520 SRAM APEX 1

Best braking power

Specifications
Brakes: SRAM Apex 1 levers w/ TRP HY/RD calipers
Gearing: 40t chainrings w/ 11–42t 11-speed cassette
Wheels: Triban Gravel 650x23c Tubeless Ready
Max tyre clearance: 700c x 42mm or 650b x 47mm
Sizes: S, M, L, XL,
Weight: 10.9kg
Colours: Abyss Grey / Black
Reasons to buy
+1x11 drive train with a clutch rear derailleur+Carbon fork
Reasons to avoid
-QR axles make it harder to avoid brake rub

With an impressive 11 speed spec at under a grand, Decathlon's in-house brand Triban has a couple of budget gravel bikes, and this one isn't even the cheapest! At £500, check out their Triban RC 120 gravel bikes, in both men's and women's specs for a super cheap option.

This RC 520 is kitted out with tubeless-ready Hutchinson Touareg 47mm tyres on 650b wheels, as well as flared bars with gel bar tape. There's also mounting points for mudguards and pannier racks, making it a versatile all-rounder for touring and commuting too.

Camino Al Apex1 gravel bike

Best for super wide tyres

Specifications
Brakes: SRAM Apex 1 levers w/ Tektro MD-C550 mechanical calipers
Gearing: 40t chainring w/ 11–42t 11-speed cassette
Wheels: Sonder Nova 700c
Max tyre clearance: 700c x 50mm or 650b x 53mm (2.1in)
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Weight: TBC
Colours: Pacific, Black, Sage
Reasons to buy
+Built for anything you can throw at it+Affordable+Supreme comfort+Practical mounting options
Reasons to avoid
-Extreme flared bars not to everyone's taste

British brand Alpkit may be better known for its camping gear, but its in-house gravel and mountain bikes from Sonder certainly shouldn't be overlooked. Coming in at a slice under £1000, with cash to spare for pedals perhaps, the Camino Al Apex1 has many of the features of a modern gravel bike at a cracking price.

Simple 1x gearing with an 11-42 cassette and 40T chainring, 12mm thru axles, flared handlebars, a carbon fork, rack and mudguard eyelets all nod to the forward-thinking design. You'll also find extra mounting points on the fork legs for additional bikepacking bags or bottles too.

It's worth noting that the picture above is of a more expensive build; the one that comes in under a grand has mechanical disc brakes rather than hydraulic. These ones do have dual piston actuation, which provides a massive step up in terms of brake feel and ease of adjustment.

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!

The finishing kit including seatpost, stem, bars, seatpost clamp, bartape and also the wheelset are from Alpkit's in-house brand Love Mud, and although robust and great value, can easily be upgraded later.

What should you expect for your budget of £1000/$1500?

With an entry-level budget of £1000/$1500, you'll want to make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to selecting your first gravel bike. Here's what you can expect to find at this price point.

Frame material

Inexpensive frames are sometimes steel but almost always expect aluminium. Metal frames are robust, durable, and inexpensive to manufacture. Alloy frames tend to be a little lighter than budget steel frames but steel is easy to repair if you find yourself in a remote region of the world. 

Whatever material you end up with be sure to protect it for use with bags. Use a strong, clear, adhesive material anywhere that a bag will come in contact with the frame. Even the best bags will wear through the paint.

Groupsets - Shifting

SRAM Apex 1 groupset

The SRAM Apex 1 groupset is an excellent option at any price range.
(Image credit: Nils Nilsen)

At this price point, there are a few different options on the market, from SRAM's Apex 1X groupsets to double chainrings or even triples. Budget Shimano Sora or Claris options help to keep cost down, and simplify shifting with 10, 9 or 8 speed set ups.

These lower speed groupsets tend to wear more slowly and hence last longer, but will be a bit heavier than more expensive options. Be aware that you'll need a chain quicklink specific to your 'speed', so you might need to buy a different spare to carry with you compared to for example an 11 speed quicklink.

Groupsets - Braking

Mechanical disc brake set ups are almost unanimous at the sub-£1000/$1500 mark. These are less costly than hydraulic disc brakes but still yield benefits over rim braking systems. Disc brakes make it possible to fit big tires and wide wheels without any decrease in braking power. 

Even cable actuated disc brakes offer greater power and modulation than cantilever brakes. Disc brakes will also save your wheelsets from wearing out in mucky conditions, unlike rim brakes. 

Although not as powerful as hydraulic disc brakes, cable-operated brakes can be easier to maintain. Future upgrades are also always possible.

Wheels and tyres

WTB Resolute gravel tires on a gravel bike being chased by a dog

Even at this cheaper end of the gravel bike market, you can now choose between standard 700c wheels or smaller 650b wheels. A lot of these bikes will be compatible with both sizes too, so you can change as you like or even have a pair of each with different tyres fitted.

For easier terrain or longer rides where efficiency is key 700c wheels are a good choice. Choose 650b wheels to run wider, chunkier tyres for more technical terrain. The larger volume tyres add extra comfort over rooty and rocky trails.

Tyres make a huge difference to the quality of your ride, and are also an easy element to switch out when you buy a bike. Having said that, it's great to see so many great tyres fitted as standard, even at a budget level.

For mud and loose gravel look for more aggressive tread on the centre line and shoulders. Slick, or file tread, tyres will be faster for road or less technical terrain.

It's worth bearing in mind that entry-level wheels can come at the cost of greater weight. Heavier wheels take more energy to get moving and can feel sluggish. When you're convinced that gravel riding is for you wheels are a good first upgrade.

Finishing kit

Best budget gravel bikes

Many budget gravel bikes come from brands that offer their own in-house finishing kit. For example Sonder's Love Mud seatpost, stem, handlebars, bar tape and saddle. This helps to keep costs low, and although not the flashiest, these parts tend to be well made and robust. Finishing kit is easy to swap out if you fancy an update at any point in the future too.

Handlebars are the one piece of the finishing kit you might want to really pay attention to. Flared bars of around 12 degrees can give a more stable position in the drops for rough descents. They also accommodate bikepacking bags more easily.

Upgrading your budget gravel bike

SRAM Rival Hydraulic Disc Lever

Once you're happy that your new gravel bike is the best steed you've ever owned, you might want to consider a few upgrades to make the ride even more enjoyable. If you've got a little over £1000/$1500 to spend initially, you might consider these features for your first bike too.

Although it sounds strange, better braking can actually help you go faster. With more powerful braking, from hydraulic disc brakes, you can stop faster. With great breaking performance at the end of your fingertips you'll have more confidence to let rip on the descents.

If you don't already have flared handlebars on your bike. Consider this upgrade for confident descending and more room for bikepacking bags up front.

Your wheels can make a huge difference to the quality of the ride, and unfortunately, at lower price points the quality of these can suffer. Upgrading your original wheelset to a lighter and higher quality build can make the world of difference.

Don't feel stuck with the tyres that come on your bike. Your preferred terrain and conditions might need something different. Experiment with different volumes and tread types until you find some that work for you.

Setting up your wheels tubeless can be one of the biggest (although not always the easiest) upgrades to your bike out of the box. With no tube to worry about you can run lower pressure for better traction and a more comfortable ride. Tubeless sealant can also seal small punctures before you even know something happened.