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

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, and now most brands have their own gravel offering.

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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.

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People opt to try gravel riding for many different reasons. Some are experienced road cyclists looking for new trails to enjoy, and some are mountain bikers seeking more pedaling fitness and riding straight from the door. For new cyclists, gravel bikes offer a great combination of sturdiness and road efficiency that can inspire more confidence than skinny tyre road bikes.

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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.

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Camino Al Apex1 gravel bike

Sonder Camino Al Apex 1

Groupset: SRAM Apex 1x11 40T 11-42, Tektro cable disc brakes
Wheel size: 700c supplied, also compatible with 650b
Tyre clearance: 700c x 50mm or 650b x 2.1''
Reasons to buy
+Built for anything you can throw at it+Affordable+Supreme comfort+Practical
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.

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 their in-house brand Love Mud, and although robust and great value, can easily be upgraded later.

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. REI
(Image credit: REI)

REI Co-op ADV 2.2

Groupset: Shimano GRX 2x10 46/30 11-36, Tektro cable disc brakes
Wheel size: 700c
Tyre clearance: 700c x 42mm

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 aluminum 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.

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

Groupset: Shimano Sora 2x11, Tektro cable disc brakes
Wheel size: 700c
Tyre clearance: 700c x 35mm

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 usejustmeans changing tires.

Triban RC520 Gravel bike

Triban RC 520 Disc Gravel Adventure Bike - 105

Groupset: Shimano 105 50/34T 11-32, TRP hydro/cable disc brakes
Wheel size: 700c
Tyre clearance: 700c x 36mm or 650b x 42mm tyres

With an impressive Shimano 105 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 Overide 35mm tyres on 700c 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.

Best budget gravel bikes

Kona Rove AL 650

Groupset: Shimano Claris 8spd 11-34 /FSA 50/34, Hayes cable disc brakes
Wheel size: 650b (700c model also available)
Tyre clearance: 650b x 47mm or 700c x 40mm

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.

Ribble CGR AL Shimano Tiagra gravel bike

Ribble CGR AL - Sport

Groupset: Shimano Tiagra 4700 10-Speed 11-32 with a 50/34 crankset, Tektro MD510 Mechanical Disc
Wheel size: 700c (650b model also available)
Tyre clearance: 650b x 47mm or 700c x 45mm
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
-Handlebar shape

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 ofpurchaseand 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 ofpurchaseor down the road. Change tyres or wheels as your interests change. Wherever your journey with cycling takes you the CGR AL can follow.

Vitus Substance V-2 Adventure Gravel Bike

Vitus Substance V 2

Groupset: Shimano Sora 9spd 46/30T 11-34, TRP cable disc brakes
Wheel size: 650b supplied, also compatible with 700c

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 more road-like 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.

Marin Four Corners Gravel Bike

Marin Four Corners

Groupset: Shimano Sora 3x9spd 11-34, TRP cable disc brakes
Wheel size: XS and S use 650b M, L, XL use 700c
Tyre clearance: 700c x 50 or 650b x 2.1"

One of the few steel gravel bikes that you'll find on a budget of less than £1000, the Marin Four Corners is a great choice for budding bikepackers. There are loads of water bottle cage mounts, including three in the front triangle and one on each leg of the steel fork. You'll have plenty of options for storage alongside traditional rack and guard mounts too.

The smallest two sizes (suitable for rider heights down to 150cm) feature 650b wheels and the rest have 700c, all fitted with grippy 42mm WTB Resolute tyres.

Using a triple Shimano Sora chainring with a 9-speed configuration gives you lots of gear options and greater longevity, although at the cost of additional weight.

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 aluminum. 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.

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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.

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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.