Are you looking for a good bike to ride the unpaved roads?
For sure, your road bike will take a lot of beating and will put your safety at risk.
Luckily bike manufacturers thought of an ingenious way to solve this problem — gravel bikes.
Mongoose Men's Elroy Adventure Bike
Tommaso Sentiero Gravel Adventure Bike
Schwinn Vantage Gravel Adventure Bike
I’m going to show you all there is to know about this new breed of bikes and tell you which are the best on the list.
In this article, I review 7 of the best gravel bikes under $1000 for 2020.
- Tommaso Sentiero Gravel Adventure Bike
- Mongoose Men’s Elroy Adventure Bike
- Raleigh Willard 1 Gravel Adventure Road Bike
- Schwinn Vantage Gravel Adventure Bike
- Retrospec AMOK v3 8-Speed Urban Gravel/Commuter Bike
- Diamondback Bicycles Haanjo 2 Gravel Adventure Road Bike
- Mongoose Artery Expert Gravel Road Bike
#1. Tommaso Sentiero Gravel Adventure Bike
The Tommaso Sentiero Gravel Bike is my number one on the list to be the best gravel bike under 1000 dollars.
It comes with wide 700 x 40c tires for better stability and versatility on different kinds of terrain.
Don’t worry about its quality; its aluminum frame is built from premium compact aluminum compound. This matches the SST steel fork which is more durable compared to a carbon fork.
Next to this, it comes with Tomasso’s Lifetime Frame and Steel Fork Warranty as well.
This bike features a 3×8 Shimano Claris groupset that features a 30/39/50-teeth crankset, allowing easy climbing capability.
It’s the perfect bike, especially if you’re into cycling through rugged and varying terrain. The Claris groupset takes care of it.
Its rims are Tomasso’s stock TC-20D featuring 28-spoke rims, making this a bike built for rugged use without sacrificing its lightweight nature.
You’ll love the SRAM Avid BB5 hydraulic disc brakes as well, ensuring reliable stopping power even on wet and slippery roads.
Its aluminum alloy frame geometry is specifically designed for speed, durability, and comfort.
The handlebars of the Tommaso Sentiero also give you a road bike look & feel, making this perfectly suit for road bikers. The bike arrives completely assembled when ordered.
#2. Mongoose Men's Elroy Adventure Bike
The Mongoose Men’s Elroy is an entry level gravel bike and second on the list for the best gravel bikes under 1000.
It features a 700c wheel size and a 54cm aluminum frame. It’s slack head angle and steep seat tube geometry makes it a great bike.
This goes perfectly well with the sleek-looking alloy aluminum frame and fork made from premium steel upfront.
The 2×7 Shimano Tourney drivetrain keeps gear shifting accurate. The Micro-shift brakes and shifter combo also make it easier to maneuver, especially on technical terrain.
It comes with an integrated frame bag to keep all your cycling essentials tucked in safely.
There’s also a large front rack that features an infused bottle opener where you can safely mount up to two water bottles.
You can put more things inside the rack mount on its rear. The Mongoose should be on your list if you’re looking for the best budget gravel bike.
#3. Raleigh Willard 1 Gravel Adventure Road Bike
Raleigh has nailed the niche with its Willard 1 Gravel Adventure Road Bike.
What sets this bicycle apart from the competition is its frame geometry.
It has a slack head angle for a better attack position on downhill trails, while its steep seat angle helps you with climbing.
This is one of the most versatile gravel bikes in the market as it does well, either on fire roads or pavements.
It’s light, comfortable to ride, and can take a whole lot of beating.
The thru-axles on its front and rear wheels add security and make your ride more responsive compared to the skewer type models of other gravel bikes.
You’ll also find its wide tires helpful, especially in loose trails, but still capable of rolling smoothly and lightly on paved roads.
It comes with fender mounts and a rack. Very helpful, especially in wet weather.
You should choose this bike if you like to ride around unpaved roads and cycle your way across long rural pathways.
The bike does an excellent job for those bike-to-work lads because it’s lightweight, making this a do-it-all bike.
The Raleigh Willard 1 features multiple size options. The extra small size is for riders who have heights of 5’ to 5’3, while its small size frame is for 5’3 to 5’6 riders.
Its medium size is fit for those who have a 5’6 to 5’9 height, while the large and extra-large sized frames are for tall bikers who have heights of 5’9 or above.
Just make sure that you have some knowledge in assembling because the bike is partially disassembled and send inside a sealed factory box when shipped.
However, they require minimal assembling effort as you just need to install a few parts and adjust its components.
If you’re not that confident in assembling it yourself, you always can bring it to your local bike shop.
#4. Schwinn Vantage Gravel Adventure Bike
The Schwinn Vantage is another great pick on my list.
Made for moderate to advanced riders who prioritize speed and durability with a high-performance bike.
The bike is ideal for tall riders, especially those with a height of 6’1 to 6’4. This bike has a soft-tail suspension made from an elastomer material. It provides comfort even on the roughest roads.
This alloy frame bike comes with an 18-speed Shimano Sora drivetrain that gives you accurate shifting and a wide gear range ratio.
The seat post is from aluminum and measures 350mm by 15mm with a 27.2mm offset.
It has Continental Sport Contact II tires that measure a wide 35C in width, as well as an Alex DP21 safety breaker mounted on its alloy rims to avoid flats and punctures. The safety breaker provides you with added confidence in rocky trails.
You’ll also love the Schwinn Ergo drop bar, specially designed for easier maneuverability on trails and it looks good with the Shimano Sora shifters.
The fork is made out of premium carbon material that perfectly matches its aluminum steerer for added durability. For reliable braking, you can trust the mechanical Spyre C disc brakes from TRP.
#5. Retrospec AMOK v3 8-Speed Urban Gravel/Commuter Bike
The Retrospec AMOK v3 Bike is one of the most versatile bikes in this list because the bike can function both as a gravel bike and commuter bike.
Because of this, it’s undoubtedly one of the best bikes under $1000.
It features a 6061 alloy frame that assures durability, compared to a regular steel frame. You don’t have to worry about it even if you’re the kind of cyclist who loves to go through rough terrain. It’s one of the best gravel adventure bikes out there.
The bike comes with a Shimano Acera eight-speed rear derailleur to ensure precise shifting even on gnarly roads. It matches with the Shimano Rapid Fire shifter that you see more often on cyclocross bikes.
The shifter provides better control and maneuverability, making it easy for you to tackle technical trails.
Next to this, the 30mm rise helps a lot with that, and it’s made from alloy as well. So it’s light and durable, which is what you need if you’d give your bike a beating.
The wheels measure 700C and are made out of double-walled aluminum alloy. and the combination with the Innova tires is perfect. They feature a dual-purpose tread pattern, making it grippy on trails, but still slick and fast-rolling on paved roads.
The Retrospek AMOK comes with mechanical disc brakes from Tektro to ensure mighty braking power, compared to the rim brakes of other lower-end adventure bikes.
#6. Diamondback Bicycles Haanjo 2 Gravel Adventure Road Bike
The Diamondback Haanjo 2 is one of the best gravel bikes on this list because of its durable construction and its priority on rider comfort and safety.
What’s great about this gravel bike is its geometry. It’s an excellent bike as well because you’ll feel comfortable with the positioning of its saddle and handlebars.
It features a stock Diamondback gravel fork made from steel. Though it’s a bit heavy, this isn’t an issue because it’s very durable. It comes with rack mounts and a fender to block mud from splashing.
The Diamondback gravel bike has a 2×8 Shimano Claris groupset drivetrain that’s ideal for accurate shifting. It will help you conquer climbs with minimal effort.
It’s got mechanical disc brakes from Tektro. The Lyra mechanical disc brakes from Tektro are reliable and offer strong braking power.
Another cool thing about the Diamondback Hanjo 2 is that it has a limited lifetime warranty on its frame. That’s how confident Diamondback is that they’re creating one-heck of a powerful and capable off-road machine built for speed
#7. Mongoose Artery Expert Gravel Road Bike
The Mongoose Artery Expert features an aluminum frame that goes well with its 700c wheels.
You don’t have to carry a heavy steel frame that’ll slow your speed down. The frame measures 15 inches, a small size.
Plus it features a single-crown fork that’s made from premium steel, making this a real bike. It’ll give you a comfortable ride even on the roughest terrain imaginable, without compromising its commuter bike origins.
A Shimano Acera and Alivio hybrid serve as its groupset, giving you a reliable and smooth shifting even on gnarly terrain and with climbing uphills.
Furthermore, its braking system is from a Shimano’s EF-500.
Classic linear-pull brakes made from alloy. These brakes give you efficient braking power with a soft modulated feel to it. Its what you need if you’re continually riding on rough terrain and downhills.
This gravel bike got double-wall rims from Exposure MT-25 and fits perfectly with the Arisun Metro ZRS tires that are built specifically for gravel riding.
It features a 700c diameter and 38c width, making this a stable and durable tire that has lots of clearance, and that’ll surely boost your speed.
You also get the stable pedaling efficiency of a Shimano M171 crank that features a 38/38/48T cogs. Perfect for speed, easier pedaling, and low maintenance care.
Conclusion – The Best Gravel Bike Under $1000
Out of the 7 gravel bikes reviews, the one that stood out from the rest is the Tommaso Sentiero Gravel Bike.
Not only is it very easy to handle, but it will also maneuver flawlessly, even at speed in the gnarliest of tracks. Next to this, it’s a durable gravel bike built for an all-day adventure.
If you’re always in for epic rides, this is the gravel bike you want.
It’s lightweight and can easily conquer any terrain thanks to its precise shifting from Shimano Claris.
Though you need to regularly true the spokes, but that’s not a problem with this Tommaso, bike because it’s got sturdy and stable spokes.
* BUYING GUIDE *
Things to Consider When Buying a Gravel Bike
1. Frame Geometry
The first thing you need to consider when choosing one of the best gravel bikes under 1000, is the frame geometry.
Choose one that has a long wheelbase so that the bike will be more stable in rough terrain.
Handlebars should be wider than the typical road bike for better maneuverability and control on the trails. You want to make quick adjustments to your path easily.
The average handlebar width for gravel bikes is around 650 mm, compared to the 700 to 800mm of a mountain bike.
The bottom bracket height should be low as well for better stability in high-speed situations and rough terrain.
The bottom bracket height is the vertical distance from the bottom bracket to the wheel axles.
Lower bottom brackets improve stability and cornering, but it sacrifices your ground and tire clearance.
It means that you’ll have a higher chance of having big rocks scratch up your bottom tubes.
While higher bottom brackets are better in clearing rough sections, but at the expense of stability as it’s most likely to wobble at high speed.
Gravel bikes need good forks to ensure performance and safety.
You’re going to ride it over rough terrain, across long distances compared to regular adventure road bikes.
Choose a fork that can fit 29-inch wheels. It’s the current trend and offers way better rolling resistance and a wide range of tire clearance.
The clearance of tires is important if you’re looking for a fork and want to place it on a bike under $1000.
The reason for this is that some companies miscalculate it due to their affordable prices. It’s essential for gravel adventure cycling.
Also, choose forks that have accessory mounts and use threaded inserts that are molded directly to the frame dropout and fork.
You can opt for a lighter carbon fork instead of a steel fork if you’re after speed and want to focus on having a lightweight training. However, having a carbon fork for your gravel bike is expensive.
3. Gear Shifting
You have three options when it comes to choosing your gear shifting mechanism.
These are mechanical, electronic, and hydraulic drivetrains.
Mechanical drivetrains are the most popular type. They’re the cheapest and most practical option.
Mechanical shifting works by having your shifter pull a steel cable that runs across your frame, either externally or internally inside a cable housing. It’s connected to your derailleur, which shifts the chain on your intended cog gear.
Electronic shifting is becoming the trend on higher-end gravel bikes and mountain bikes. They don’t need cables and any housing because they’re wireless. You don’t even need to exert much effort when shifting, because everything is already electronic. (1)
Shimano’s Di2 and Campagnolo’s EPS electronic have wired drivetrains. While SRAM’s lightweight eTap drivetrain is wireless, you’ll see this one on a carbon gravel bike.
Then there are the hydraulic systems, with Rotor being the only company that produces it. Hydraulic systems work by using hydraulic fluid to initiate the shifting process.
It has the same mechanism as with hydraulic brakes, except the fact that it’s in an enclosed and secure system that doesn’t need much maintenance.
4. Tires and Wheels
Choosing the tires and wheels are another essential consideration to make when selecting the best gravel bikes.
In the past, most gravel adventure bikes had 26-inch wheels, just like a regular mountain bike at that time. But as time progressed, so too did the wheel sizes as they became bigger.
It didn’t take long for 27.5-inch wheels to become the norm, and then the 29ers took over. Many say that 29-inch wheels don’t offer the same maneuvering capability and control that 27.5 bikes have.
However, they do offer better-rolling resistance and faster top-speeds.
While talking about tire diameters, gravel bikes have wider tires compared to regular bikes, anywhere between 32mm to 40mm width.
The wheels have two different options. Either you go for the aluminum alloy ones, or opt for the higher-end carbon fiber models.
I find the alloy wheels better when it comes to durability because if hell breaks loose, the worst thing that can happen is that they take a dent. Compared to carbon fiber wheels, that can break once it takes a substantial hit on a big rock, for example.
Choose the tread pattern of your tires so that it’ll fit your riding style. Are you going to cycle mostly on rough terrain?
Yes? Then you need to have an aggressive tread pattern that features bigger side knobs. Take note that there are tires specifically designed for dry and muddy conditions.
Should you go tubeless or not?
My advice is to go tubeless.
Tubeless means that you don’t need to use an inner tube for your tires. Instead, you pour sealant into your tubeless-ready rims along with a plugged-in tubeless valve.
You don’t have to worry about punctures with this setup, because the sealant immediately seals it. Tubeless tires aren’t just for mountain biking, but for gravel cycling as well.
Which rim width to choose?
Road bikes have internal rim widths of only around 13 to 15mm.
Compare this to the bigger 17 to 25mm rim widths of gravel bikes. There are now even 30mm widths available in the market, making it very similar to a mountain bike.
The drivetrain is another essential consideration to make because this is what makes your bike run. Make sure your drivetrain has the right gear ratio to make your bike capable of tackling uphills, downhills, and flat sections easily.
Most middle to high-end gravel bikes have 1x drivetrains with 11 cogs at the back.
This means that you only have to deal with one chainring up front to free unnecessary weight from the extra chainrings from second and third drivetrains.
But if you’d want the best, then I recommend you choose 12-speed drivetrains just like SRAM’s Red eTap AXS.
It’s a wireless groupset that’s tailor-made to tackle rough sections but still stay as lightweight as possible. It’s best you future proof your drivetrain by getting the 12-speed options if you’ve got the budget. But if you’re budget conscious, then 2×9 or 2×10 drivetrains will do fine.
Shimano’s entry-level drivetrains are the Shimano Sora (2), Claris, and Tiagra, with Ultegra and Dura-Ace being their pro-level models.
Shimano also has its gravel-specific drivetrain called the GRX. The best drivetrain to choose if you’ve got the bucks. SRAM also has its RED and RED eTap AXS drivetrains.
A lightweight bike is what you want if you’d like to get the best entry-level gravel bike. Choose those that are between 7 to 10 kg. weight range.
The debate between flats or clipless pedals has been raging in for some time.
Clipless pedals are those that clip into your clipless pedal-specific shoes. While flat pedals are the usual ones, you see that feature pins to hold your flat shoes in place.
Most road bikes and adventure bikes riders choose clipless pedals for improved pedaling efficiency. You create a push and pull motion, which makes your ride smoother and easier for you, requiring you to exert less effort.
However, this isn’t always the case with gravel or adventure bikes because you need to dub your feet out sometimes, especially if you’re tackling gravel roads.
Dubbing is easier done when you’ve got flat pedals. With this said, it still boils down to your preferences. Try both, weigh their pros and cons, and know which type of rider are you.
What are gravel bikes?
The cycling industry has come a long way. Gone are the days when you compromise your safety just because you don’t have a specialized bike to do exactly what you want.
That’s what gravel bikes are about. They’re basically road bikes which you can ride safer and more comfortable on rough roads.
Because in the first place, there’s no assurance that you’re going to ride across paved roads, right?
They durable to handle moderately rough terrain such as fire roads and gravel trails, but still nimble and light enough to ride long paved distance.
At first glance, they look like your regular road bike because of the class dropped bars and shifters along with 29 or 27.5-inch wheels.
However, they’ve got a few tweaks and upgrades to make it kind of the off-road version of the road bike. Their lower bottom brackets and longer wheelbase make them faster and more stable in cruising through uneven terrain.
They also have bigger 32mm and 35mm tires that boost my confidence when riding through fire roads. And they’re tubeless as well allowing for lower tire pressures and giving better grip.
Gravel bikes have disc brakes that provide better braking power compared to mechanical rim brakes found on other bikes.
Are gravel bikes any good?
Based on my experiences, I find gravel bikes a necessary addition to your “bike fleet.”
This is especially true if you’re into road cycling, and you want to ensure that you get a safer and more comfortable ride without having to worry about riding off-road.
They’re as light as most road bikes, but can still take a fair amount of beating on gravel roads. (3)
Do gravel bikes have suspension?
Gravel bikes don’t necessarily need suspension, but most of them do — especially the high-end ones.
These, however, differ from the usual suspension you see on cross-country or enduro mountain bikes. Because gravel bikes only need a minimum amount to keep them as light as possible.
These suspension features come in the form of carbon fiber layups that reduce vibration or frame and fork-integrated elastomers.
Some also come with seat posts that have short-travel suspension, such as the Cane Creek Thudbuster.
Is a gravel bike the same as a cyclocross bike?
No gravel bikes and cyclocross bikes aren’t the same.
They are two different kinds of bikes but have many similarities. One of the most significant differences between the two bikes is their function.
Gravel bikes are made to provide comfort for cyclists who ride over long distances. Usually across fire and gravel roads, while cyclocross bikes are made to be ridden on smoother roads and are intended for short race events.
Cyclocross bikes also need to be easily maneuverable so that it can go over obstacles and make tight turns in the best way possible.
They’re all about speed, while gravel bikes prioritize comfort over long distances.
Gravel bikes also have longer wheelbases and chainstays and have a slacker angle for the head tube for a better attacking position on downhill paths.
Their seat tube angle is also slacker and has a lower bottom bracket for improved stability over rough terrain. Their gear range is more extensive than cyclocross bikes because they ride over more varied terrain, including uphills, downhills, and flat sections.
Thus, they should have extensive gear ranges so that you’ll have an easier time climbing, and you won’t get spun out on descents.
Gravel bikes also have simpler frame designs compared to cyclocross bikes to accommodate water bottles and mounted bags.
Cyclocross bikes are all about racing, and this is why every gram matters. The lighter your bike, the better it is for you.
Cyclocross bikes ride on less rugged terrain for a shorter amount of time. They need to be as light as possible so riders and racers can easily carry them upstairs or over obstacles and barriers.
They don’t carry any accessories such as bags and racks because they’re made purely for racing. They have thinner frame tubs and are mostly made from carbon fiber.
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1. Google Patents – Electronic shifting systems and methods, retrieved from https://patents.google.com/patent/US20140102237A1/en
2. Shimano Sora – Shimano Sora R3000 Series, retrieved from https://bike.shimano.com/en-US/product/component/sora-r3000.html
3. Aaron Gulley – 3 Reasons to Buy a Gravel Bike Instead of a Roadie, retrieved from https://www.outsideonline.com/2395568/gravel-bike-vs-roadie