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Best Gravel Bikes Under $1500

best gravel bikes under $1500

Gravel bikes have made a tremendous impact in the cycling community, and it looks like they are here to stay. They are unique in the fact that they come in many different shapes and sizes. Getting the right Gravel bike for you at the right price can be difficult, and when there are so many options to pick from, it can be a challenge. In this article, we want to help you find a great budget gravel bike for you.

The beauty of having a Gravel bike is that it can do many different cycling disciplines. Some people use them for road riding, some use them for Gravel, others find themselves riding on forest trails, and I have even seen some on Mountain bike Trails. They are great for cyclists who want one bike to do it all.

best gravel bikes under $1500
Image by TheArkow on Pixxabay

What we look for in Gravel Bikes Under $1500

In my opinion, when I start looking for the best gravel bikes under $1500, I split the bike down into four categories which I feel are the fundamentals.

Frame – We should be looking at high-end Steel or lightweight Aluminum at this price.

Groupset – I’d personally be looking for a good quality brand with a good range and we want it to be a decent brand as this makes it much more reliable.

Wheelset – 650b or 700c I prefer either, but we need a quality set, a good branded wheel set can really make a bike.

Unique Features – Anything in particular that makes this stand out.

Cost – Some bikes will have low end Groupset and wheel set but an amazing frame, others will have an amazing Groupset but a low end frame. We look at bikes’ cost to make sure it has value overall for all the parts put together.

We Think You’ll Like It: Best Gravel Bikes Under $2000

what we look for in gravel bikes under $1500
Image by TheArkow on Pixxabay

Our Top Picks for Gravel Bikes Under 1500

1. Best Road/Light Gravel: Marin Nicasio 700c

Marin Nicasio 700c

Features of the Marin Nicasio 700c

Frame Material:Chromoly
Groupset:Shimano Claris 2×8
Wheelset700c Alloy
Tire Size:30c
Brakes:Mechanical disc brakes
Unique Features:Cost, Rack Mounts

The Marin Nicasio is an excellent example of a Gravel bike and needs a place on the best gravel bikes under $1500 list. It is for cyclists who mainly love riding on the road and might shoot down a dusty path every so often. It’s very no thrills basic and falls into the road and gravel bikes category, which reflects in the bike’s price, which is incredibly low.

This gravel bike has a Chromoly steel frame, and forks are Chromoly Steel too. This will soak up bumps beautifully, but it will be on the heavier side when it comes to frame weight. The bike uses a 2×8 Shimano Groupset which is excellent. I like that they have used a road bike groupset on this bike to give you many options.

Its ability off the road will be light as the tires are tiny at only 30c, so on the rough terrain, you will feel it, but the gravel bike can accommodate up to 35c on a 700c wheelset, or you can fit 47c tires on if you drop to a 650b wheelset. The bike runs cable mechanical disk brakes, which will stop you but won’t have the same power as hydraulic disc brakes, which other bikes on this list will have.

Pros and Cons for the Marin Nicasio 700c

Pros
  • Cheap
  • Robust
  • Steel Frames usually are comfortable
Cons
  • Tyre Clearance could be better
  • Very close to being a road bike
Why We Like It

This gravel bike lands on this list because it has fantastic value for money and ticks all the light use Gravel bike boxes. This would suit someone who loves riding the road but wants to try the odd bit of Gravel riding. It is very close to a road bike in my opinion, but it will do some good adventure riding.

2. Fastest: GT Grade Elite

GT Grade Elite

Features of the GT Grade Elite

Frame Material:Aluminum
Groupset:Shimano Claris 2×8
Wheelset700c Alloy
Tire Size:37c
Brakes:Mechanical disc brakes
Unique Features:Carbon Forks

The GT Grade Elite is a beautiful gravel bike. Not only is it amazing to look at, but it also has a lot of clout when it comes to being an excellent Gravel bike. The frame is lightweight Aluminum, and this is going to be much lighter than the Chromoly bikes on this list. Paired with the Carbon fork, this is a beast.

The groupset is the same as the Marin Nicasio 700c and is the Shimano Claris 2×8. The bike uses a tubeless ready rims. This WTB Wheelset and is matched up with 37c Riddler tires is an excellent combination. It also sports mechanical disc brakes, which are ok, but they will not have the stopping power of hydraulic disc brakes but will work well.

Pros and Cons for the GT Grade Elite

Pros
  • Lightweight and Fast
  • Great on light Gravel fast off-road
Cons
  • Cable Brakes
  • Aluminum Frames are stiffer less comfort
Why We Like It

This will be a high-speed Gravel bike, and GT has put time into the finer details, such as the carbon fork and the WTB Tubeless Wheelset. This is going to give you some fast gravel riding and be fun and agile.

3. Best Value For Money: Marin Nicasio + 650B

Marin Nicasio + 650B

Features of the Marin Nicasio + 650B

Frame Material:Chromoly
Groupset:Microshift 1×9
Wheelset650B Alloy
Tire Size:47c
Brakes:Mechanical disc brakes
Unique Features:650B Wheelset

It’s not often I recommend a gravel bike from the same bike manufacturers. Still, it needs mentioning as this other Marin is incredible and shares no characteristics compared to the standard Nicasio. Although also Chromoly, the steel frame shares a much more mountain bike geometry than the road style geometry of the 700c Nicasio.

The groupset is a micro shift 1×9 meaning it will be easy to move around the gears but does give fewer options, but the same range as the Shimano Claris 2×8. The wheelset is one of Marin’s own, but instead of being 700c. It’s 650b because the wheelset is slightly smaller. This bike is equipped with much larger tires that will be excellent on the rough terrain and they come in at 47c.

They are much wider tires than the other gravel bikes on this best bikes under $1500 list. This gravel bike is another bike on this list to see mechanical disc brakes, which again will work but are not as effective as hydraulic disc brakes. It is an epic gravel bike and falls under my adventure bikes category as well.

Pros and Cons for the Marin Nicasio + 650B

Pros
  • Ready for any rough terrain
  • Great Price
  • Very comfortable to ride
Cons
  • Slow on the road
  • Less gearing options on the 1×9
Why We Like It

This gravel bike will be an absolute force off-road, and for me, who loves a challenging trail would be well up to my street. It wouldn’t suit the road very much though.

4. Best Climber: Tommaso Sterrata R2000

Tommaso Sterrata R2000Check Latest Price

Features of the Tommaso Sterrata R2000

Frame Material:Aluminum
Groupset:Shimano Claris 3×8
Wheelset700c Alloy
Tire Size:40c
Brakes:Mechanical disc brakes
Unique Features:Triple Chainset

I like the Tommaso Sterrata R2000. Firstly a tremendous-looking Gravel bike. Secondly, a lot of great features to back up those looks. Firstly the lightweight Aluminum frame is paired with a set of lightweight Cabron Forks. Next is the groupset, so this is interesting in the fact it uses a Triple Chainring.

This is quite an old-school technology, but the range of gears and amount of gears you get will be a lot more than the majority of the bikes on this list, making it a perfect bike for cyclists who live in hilly areas. It’s on 700c Road wheels with a massive set of 40c tires, which will easily take you on a lot of the rough terrain. At a price under $1500 I wouldn’t expect Hydraulic disc brakes, but this bike does tick many boxes.

Pros and Cons for the Tommaso Sterrata R2000

Pros
  • Lightweight Frame with Carbon Forks
  • Amazing Gearing
Cons
  • Stiff with a more Road Geometry
  • The Tommaso is on this list is because, in my opinion, this bike is well equipped for any cyclist, and the Triple crank is excellent for climbing.
Why We Like It

I really like the Tommaso it’s built to be light and with that triple crank is going to get up a hill really easily, great if you live in a hilly area.

5. Best Overall: Royce Union

Royce UnionCheck Latest Price

Features of the Royce Union

Frame Material:Aluminum, Steel Forks
Groupset:Shimano Claris 2×9
Wheelset700c Alloy
Tire Size:40c
Brakes:Mechanical disc brakes
Unique Features:9 Speed Sora Groupset

The Royce Union is a great all-rounder and deserves a place on the best gravel bikes under the $1500 list. The frame is lightweight Aluminum and is paired up with steel forks.

Although steel forks may be heavier, they offer a considerable level of comfort compared to Carbon. The groupset is the new Sora 2×9 speed groupset, and I rate it because of the silky smooth shifting and more gearing options.

It will suit a road bike and gravel bike well. The Wheels are the legendary WTB Rims, and they are paired with 40c WTB Nano tires, an excellent combination. The Shimano cable disk brakes are probably one of the best mechanical disc brakes on the market and will be fantastic.

Pros and Cons for the Royce Union

Pros
  • Great All-Rounder
  • 9 Speed Sora Groupset
  • Excellent price
Cons
  • Very few I feel Carbon Forks instead of Steel would have made this perfect.
Why We Like It

This gravel bike is such a brilliant all-rounder, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a fast, fun, and comfortable gravel bike. It deserves a place on the best gravel bikes under $1500 list.

6. Best Off Road: Marin DSX 2

Marin DSX 2

Features of the Marin DSX 2

Frame Material:Aluminum, Carbon Forks
Groupset:Shimano Deore 12 Speed
Wheelset700c Marin
Tire Size:45c
Brakes:Hydraulic disc brakes
Unique Features:Mountain Bike Equipped

The Marin DSX isn’t like many other Gravel bikes, and it had to be on this list for so many reasons. Firstly the frame, lightweight Aluminum with Carbon forks. The next thing to mention is unlike the other bikes on this list. It has flat bars, not drop bars. This is a lovely touch and drifts the cycle into Mountain bikes territory. The groupset is a Shimano Deore, not just any Shimano Deore, the new 12 speed Deore.

The wheelset is a 700c with 45c tires, but they can be swapped out for 29″ Mountain bike wheels and fit tires up to 2.1,” This is an incredible feature of this bike, giving you a lot of options for gravel bike tires. The Hydraulic brakes are Shimano Deore, and these are going to be outstanding. They will stop you on a pin and used it on many mountain bikes on the market.

Pros and Cons for the Marin DSX 2

Pros
  • Deore 12 Speed Groupset
  • Incredible brakes
  • Massive Tyre Clearance
Cons
  • Flat bars are not for everyone
  • Very close to being a hardtail MTB without Suspension
Why We Like It

This Gravel bike this the closest to a mountain bike you will get. I love it and see the value, but not everyone I believe will like the flat bars.

7. Best All Rounder: Kona Rove

Kona Rove

Features of the Kona Rove

Frame Material:Aluminum
Groupset:Shimano Claris 2×8
WheelsetWTB 700c
Tire Size:37c
Brakes:Cable
Unique Features:Great Bikepacking Rig

The Kona rove had to be on the list for the best gravel bikes under $1500 as it screams what gravel riding is all about. Let’s start with the frame. It’s Aluminum and comes with aluminum project two-disc forks. This frame will offer a well-responding light ride and a comfortable geometry for on and off-road riding.

The group set is the Shimano 2×8 Claris, and as we know, this is a reliable road and gravel group set as you will see many bikes equipped with this. The wheels are tubeless ready rims and WTB, and it runs 37c tires as standard. This is an excellent Wheelset. The Tektro mechanical disk brakes are a nice touch as these are used heavily in CX racing.

Pros and Cons for the Kona Rove

Pros
  • Good all-rounder
  • Great Price
  • Light
Cons
  • All quite basic equipment
Why We Like It

Great bike but very basic all-rounder. It will be a good starter, but it would take a lot to upgrade in the future. Suitable for adventure riding especially.

We Think You’ll Like It: Best Carbon Fiber Gravel Bikes

Buyers Guide

Getting the right Gravel bike can be a challenge because there are so many different types, and they have very different abilities. You can have Gravel bikes that fly on the road but struggle technically, or you can have a Gravel bike that will struggle on the road but destroy a trail. In this guide, I want to run through what parts on the bike will give it specific characteristics, and this information will help you make an informed choice.

buyers guide for gravel bikes
Image by Pascvii on Pixabay

Frame

The material typically defines frames, but I want to dig deeper than that in this guide and talk about geometry. Firstly let’s start with the material. Steel frame gravel bikes will be very cheap to buy and will ride very smoothly as they’re metal. It is highly forgiving and can be repaired easily if you have an accident. Aluminum frames are a little bit more than Steel frames generally.

It is much lighter but a lot less forgiving over bumps, and when it comes to getting it repaired, they are pretty much written off as soon as they crack. Aluminum frames, in my opinion, to go faster is best paired with a carbon fork. If you were looking for comfort, a steel or suspension fork would suit much better. The next material I want to speak about is Carbon.

It’s costly, extremely light, very fragile if knocked in the wrong way, but oh my, is it fast and responsive. You also have titanium which is a very lightweight metal. It is a compound that is very expensive to make a bicycle frame out of but offers the comfort and forgivingness of Steel and still, it is near as light as Carbon Fibre. You also have some other materials such as Bamboo, which the frame is made from the trees and glued together.

Usually, these are homemade, and all come out slightly differently. You also will soon see materials such as Graphene, which is the new competitor to carbon fibre. These materials you won’t see in this list of best gravel bikes under $1500 but do get an honorable mention. I am a huge fan of Steel frames when it comes to gravel bikes, but I ride for distance and fun, so I prefer comfort over anything. A smoother ride is desired.

Forks

Forks are worth mentioning in this section as they can completely change the way a gravel bike rides. You will see a few different types of fork materials. Firstly, we will start with Steel. Steel forks are the cheapest to manufacture and will offer a vast comfort level, but they do weigh a lot. Next, we have aluminum forks that weigh less than Steel. Also cheap to manufacture, but they are very stiff.

Although the stiffness provides responsiveness, it also gives a harsher ride. This wouldn’t be a big issue on a road bike, but this can cause discomfort on a gravel bike. A Carbon fork is the last one to speak about, and when it comes to gravel bikes are a popular choice. They are by far the lightest but are again very stiff and can be pretty expensive to buy.

When it comes to gravel bikes and forks though, it won’t be the most significant issue as to increase comfort you can easily run bigger tires which will dampen the front. I run a Steel frame gravel bike with Carbon forks and big mountain bike tires.

Frame Geometry

The range of Geometry in gravel bikes is vast, and there’s so much to think about when making a good handling bike. I find you usually have three styles of gravels bikes. Gravel bikes that look like road bikes with drop bars and aggressive fast geometry. You have Gravel bikes with a Hardtail MTB Geometry and sport drop bars. These bikes will offer you more control but less speed and aerodynamics.

Finally, you have Gravel bikes that have a Hardtail MTB Geometry but flat bars. These are very close to being a rigid MTB and off a tremendous amount of control but not as fast. In general, when looking at Geometry, some bikes are made to be aggressive, and some are made to be comfortable. This comes down to the purpose of the bike.

A good example is that a road racing bike will put you in pretty awkward positions to make you more aerodynamic, providing you with a quicker ride. This typically comes in the form of the handlebars being lower than the saddle pulling your body over more.

Then you have touring or relaxed geometry, which will see your handlebars higher, supporting your back more, making you less aerodynamic, but your body will be able to sustain the position for much longer. When it comes to gravel bikes, what makes this awkward is that some are made for racing and aggressive, and some are made for Bikepacking and to be comfortable, so the geometry is a huge mix. I think it’s essential to think about what you want the bike for before buying it.

Groupsets

When it comes to Groupsets, this is how your bike is geared, and there is quite a lot of confusion about what will work for gravel biking the best. The first thing to think about is the brand. A good groupset will last years, and a cheap knock-off groupset just won’t. The top brands, in my opinion, are Shimano, Sram, and Campagnolo.

You can’t go wrong with these. Now we need to think about the front chainset. A 3x System will give you a massive range and options but is heavy. This will mostly be seen on a touring bike and, occasionally, a Gravel bike. A 2x System will commonly be seen on a gravel bike and mainly on road bikes. It gives fewer options and a slightly smaller range of gears compared to a 3x system.

groupset gravel bike
Image by fotoblend on Pixabay

A 1x system is what you will commonly see on mountain bikes and offers a similar capacity to the 2x system but fewer options. When we speak about options, this comes in the number of cogs on the rear cassette, and we class this as speeds. For example, a 2×8 is a 2x speed front chainring with eight speeds on the rear, giving you 16 options of different gear ratios.

On a 1×9, you will only have nine other options of different ratios. The best groupset for a Gravel bike is either a Road 2x set up if you are doing a lot of road riding, but if you are doing a lot of off-road, the 1x is much more efficient as it is much easier to move around the gears more. All groupsets will work on gravel bikes well and but the main thing to be sure of is that you have some low gears to get you through the rough stuff or up those big climbs.

Wheelsets and Tires

Wheels are a fascinating subject on a good gravel bike. You will see two types, a 700c wheelset and a 650b wheelset. For the Gravel Bike, a 700c Wheelset will be suitable for fast Gravel and roads. The 700c originates from road bikes can also be called a 29″, and the 650b originates from mountain biking is also called a 27.5″.

The 700c will generally have smaller tires faster at higher speeds and can roll over objects better. The 650b will typically have bigger tires up to about 2.2″ and be better at lower speeds and much more agile, and will suit the user who likes to be off-road. A 650b will be better for off-road and technical terrain. Remember, wheels and tires are very easy to change and completely change how a bike rides and feels.

Wider tires should always be in your thoughts. It’s very difficult to recommend as it comes down to where you ride your bike. Make sure you get the wheels and tires that suit the gravel bike that you want. A good gravel bike could use any Wheelset well and compensate for wider tires if needed.

Brakes

When it comes to brakes and Gravel bikes, you have two main types: mechanical disk brakes and hydraulic disk brakes. Cables brakes are ok and will stop you, but as far as stopping power, hydraulic is much more efficient and requires much less pressure on the hands.

I have two bikes personally, and one has cable brakes, and one has hydraulic. I prefer the Hydraulic, but if I were new to cycling, I’d start with cable brakes as they are much easier to work with when maintaining your bike.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Gravel bikes good for Bike packing?

Yes, they are perfect for bike packing and touring as they can carry lots of equipment, go on very rough roads, and often have rack mounts for panniers. The best advice when it comes to bike packing and using a gravel bike, keep it simple in the bike and set up, and comfort is king. Cheap gravel bikes are the best for this kind of riding.

Does a Gravel bike need to be super light like a road bike?

No Gravel biking is about adventure and fun, and the difference of 1kg on a bike that weighs 11kg will only make a minimal difference.

Are Gravel Bikes Comfortable?

They are very comfortable. The relaxed geometry and the bigger tires make a gravel bike one of the quickest, most comfortable bikes to ride on the market.

Conclusion

Gravel Bikes are a fantastic tool when it comes to cycling and especially adventure cycling. I would highly recommend a Gravel bike for anyone who either wants to get into cycling or add something a little different to their riding. I don’t own many bikes. I find my Gravel bike is enough for most of the riding that I do. Gravel biking has recently become a professional discipline of cycling and is being celebrated, and competitions are coming up worldwide.

Expert Tip

When it comes to gravel bikes it’s a great idea to do your research on tire pressures. Getting the right pressure can completely change the way your bike works on different terrains. The tire pressure will be different for most cyclists as you have to take into account your weight, the tire size, and also the terrain. There are apps that can do this for you, getting it right will give you much better comfort and speed.

Did you know?

Some Gravel bike races, available for anyone to enter, can go as far as 3000km in distance. These races are normally done of the bikes you are seeing on this gravel bikes under $1500 list.

Amazon Recommends:

Bestseller No. 1
Schwinn Sporterra Adventure Adult Gravel Bike, 14 Speeds, 700c Wheels, Light Weight Aluminum Frame, Black
  • Schwinn aluminum gravel/adventure frame with rigid fork is great for fast riding on varied terrain. 700c wheels fit riders 5’4” to 6’2” in height.
  • 14 speeds with Shimano shifter / brake lever combo and Shimano rear derailleur provide quick gear changes.
  • Alloy mechanical disc brakes deliver superior stopping power.
  • Schwinn 700 x 38c Multi -Terrain tires provide go-anywhere traction.
  • Quick release seat post makes for easy saddle height adjustment.
Bestseller No. 2
Vilano Gravel Bike with Disc Brakes, 14 Speeds, Road and Trail Bicycle Drop Bars
  • Versatile adventure road bike for city streets, gravel trails, fire roads
  • Integrated Brake Lever/Shifters for controllable braking and shifting in a convenient single unit
  • Wheelset: 700c wheels, 700c x 38c tires
  • Brakes: Mechanical Disc
  • Bike arrives factory direct and requires assembly and tuning.
Bestseller No. 3
Tommaso Sterrata Gravel Bike, Shimano Claris R2000 Adventure Bike with Disc Brakes, Extra Wide Tires, and Carbon Fork Perfect for Road Or Dirt Trail Touring, Matte Black, Gold - Medum
  • DURABLE & RELIABLE: Durable Aluminum Compact Frame combined with a High Modulus Carbon Fiber Fork For Maximum Vibration Dampening and comfort, backed up with our industry leading Lifetime Frame & Fork Warranty. Frame is drilled for all varieties of racks and fenders, making the Sterrata ideal for the trail riding, commuter, and touring.
  • POWERFUL PEFORMANCE & SPEED: 3x8 Shimano Claris Groupset, featuring a 30/39/50T Claris crankset and 12x25T Claris cassette. Perfect for varying and rugged terrain, offering a wide range of gears for all levels of riders in all conditions.
  • RUGGED, ALL-TERRAIN CAPABILITIES: Tommaso TC-30D rims offer the rugged durability of a 28 spoke rim, that can handle all types of terrain and keep rolling. New for 2019, wider 700x40c tires for increased versatiliy and stability give you the added grip and control needed for off road riding. The Sterrata is also equipped with Avid BB5 disc brakes for added stopping power in adverse weather conditions, making this bike perfect for all weather and terrain conditions.
  • OPTIMIZED FIT FOR ADDED COMFORT: Compact frame geometry and premium compact handlebars offer increased power and comfort in a sleek package. Every part of the Sterrata is designed for maximum comfort and efficiency, so you are getting the most out of every ride, whether it is 10 miles or 100 miles. SIZING: If in-between sizes, sizing down is a more comfortable ride and sizing up is a more aggressive, race feel.
  • PROFESSIONAL ASSEMBLY REQUIRED: To ensure optimal performance and to validate the warranties of your new bike we recommend that you have it professionally assembled before riding.
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Robbie Ferri

Robbie Ferri

Robbie Ferri is a cyclist living in Norfolk in the UK. From breaking World Records to competing in some of the hardest Bikepacking races in the world he is not shy of riding the miles. He has been lucky enough to work at some amazing shops and with some big cycling brands. Alongside this he even had input in designing bikes and has also been a tester for unreleased products. He absolutely loves cycling and believes everyone should have a bike.