We tested 9 off-road machines to crown our gravel bike of the year

Giant, Canyon, Trek, BMC, Scott, Specialized and more go head-to-head on the trails

male rider in yellow jersey riding a Giant revolt gravel bike
(Image credit: Future/Phil Barker)

Having recently unveiled our selection for Race Bike of the Year, the time has now come to take this show off the road - and onto the trails! Welcome to Cycling Weekly’s 2023 Gravel Bike of the Year awards.

The first thing to note is that ‘gravel’ is in the process of ascending from being a ‘mere’ subcategory of drop-bar bikes - think ‘endurance’, ‘aero’, ‘lightweight’, etc. - to sit atop of a genus all of its own. Just as mountain bikes can be split into ‘cross-country’, ‘enduro’, ‘downhill’ etc. - each getting progressively burlier and more capable - the same is true for gravel bikes. 

You can trust Cycling Weekly. Our team of experts put in hard miles testing cycling tech and will always share honest, unbiased advice to help you choose. Find out more about how we test.

Meet Cycling Weekly's Gravel Group

Just as we did for Race Bike of the Year, our testing of these gravel bikes consisted of two halves: the long term testing which all the bikes we review are subjected to, and the back-to-back testing on a set test loop.

This two-pronged approach has allowed us to put (in aggregate) a four figure mileage into the bikes on test, providing the insights you only get from time and hard miles. But it’s also equipped us with the direct comparisons only possible from successive rides in familiar conditions.

The task of the comparative testing again fell to our Tech Features Editor, Stefan Abram (no complaints there…), with the test loop devised to take in the greatest variety of terrain possible in one location. Using the broad network of trails in Swinley Forest, wide, open fire-roads doubletrack was an easy inclusion - as were steep, punchy climbs, technical and non-technical descents and flowing ribbons of singletrack.

For the most part, the surfaces consisted of hard-packed, slightly sandy, soil. Some areas were almost completely smooth, others were moderately rocky. There are many UK bridleways with much gnarlier surfaces than these - for those, we’d recommend maxing out your tyre clearances: if you can fit 2.1 inch tyres, then do. But with most of the models on test coming stock with 40mm rubber, these trails were a good match for those widths.

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