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Best Gravel Bikes in 2022 – Reviews & Buyers Guide

review of the best gravel bikes in 2022

Gravel Bikes hit the market a few years ago in force, and it looks like they are here to stay. They are amazing do it all bikes, and many cyclists are now going from having three bikes of different disciplines to just having a single gravel bike. We think it’s amazing that a gravel bike just offers the rider so much more than most general bikes like a hybrid.

BEST OVERALL
BEST BUDGET

MARIN DSX FS 700C 2022 BIKE

BEST VALUE

VAAST A/1 700c

What do we look for in a Gravel Bike?

Gravel bikes come in all shapes and sizes, and there are very few rules for companies on what gravel bikes should be, because of this, companies have got quite creative. To ensure we are getting the right bike for us and not just a mismatch of parts a company threw together. The best way to do this is to break the bike down into;

  • Frame and Forks
  • Groupset
  • Brakes
  • Wheels and Tires
  • Special Features

Looking at these things, we can find the best of the best gravel bikes available and get you exactly the bike you need to be riding on all types of terrain.

Our Top Picks for the Best Gravel Bikes in 2022

1. Niner RLT 9 RDO 2-Star Bike

Niner RLT 9 RDO 2-Star Bike

Do you want to go beyond the pavement without sacrificing too much road performance? If so, then the Niner RLT 9 RDO 2-Star is the bike to do it. Niner has a huge heritage when it comes to off-road cycling, and they have put this into their gravel bikes.

Features of the Niner RLT 9 RDO 2-Star Bike

Frame and Forks: Niner RDO Carbon Fiber Frame and Forks
Groupset:SRAM Apex
Brakes: SRAM Apex HRD Hydraulic Brakes
Wheelset and Tires:Niner Alloy 700c
Special Features: Lightweight, Fast, Mounts

Let’s start with the frame and forks. You have here Niner RDO technology carbon fiber on this bike. RDO stands for Race Day Optimized, and Niner produces a higher quality, stronger light carbon fiber than the majority of companies on the market. The frame and forks are also full of mounts for drink cages and bikepacking gear to make this bike very adaptable for touring. Then we have the groupset. You have an excellent groupset here in the form of the SRAM Apex 1×11. This groupset is ideal for off-road riding with only having a single front chainring and a huge cassette on the rear.

Then you have the brakes. The Niner RLT 9 RDO has SRAM Apex Hydraulic disc brakes. Not only are these excellent for stopping fast. They are reliable, require very little maintenance, and are much easier on the hands to use. Then you have the wheels, and they are Niner 700c wheels. Not only are these fairly lightweight alloy they are also tubeless-ready, which could save you a fortune in converting later in time if you wanted to. They come with Schwalbe G-One Allround TLE in a 40c. Excellent tires for on and off-road riding. As far as special features, the mounts for bikepacking will come in very handy.

Pros and Cons for the Niner RLT 9 RDO 2-Star Bike

Pros 

  • Looks amazing
  • Very lightweight
  • Great Groupset
  • Excellent Brakes
  • Tubeless Wheels
  • Mounts

Cons

  • Not the cheapest
  • Not a bike you want to drop

Why We Like It

The Niner RLT 9 RDO is an excellent bike, and no corners have been cut anywhere. It’s not the cheapest, but it will more than likely become your favorite bike after riding it once.

2. Best Overall: BMC URS LT2

BMC URS LT2

Features of the BMC URS LT2

BMC is known for making incredible bikes. It’s like the designers are just on another level. BMC is a Swiss company, and they have created something very special in the URS LT2.

Frame and Forks: BMC Premium Carbon
Groupset: SRAM Rival 12 Speed
Wheelset & Tires: DT Swiss G1800 700c
Brakes: SRAM Rival Hydraulic Brakes
Special Features: Lightweight, Suspension, Rack and Fender Mounts

The BMC isn’t like other gravel bikes, and a lot of it comes down to the frame and fork. This bike is super light with BMC’s URS premium carbon, and it also has micro travel technology. What is micro travel technology? It’s the 20mm of suspension travel this bike produces with the front fork. This doesn’t add too much weight, but it does offer so much relief on gravel for your hands, and also, you tend not to need to go around potholes. The Groupset is the SRAM Rival, and this is one above the Apex. It is silky smooth shifty on a 1×12 setup.

The brakes are SRAMs Rival Hydraulic Disc brakes, which are amazing for gravel riding. They stop fast and require such little pressure on the levers. The wheels are alloy DT Swiss G1800. An excellent gravel wheelset with incredible hubs. They come equipped with WTB Riddler 40c, perfect for mixed riding. As far as special features go, the suspension is just unbelievable, and the rack and fender mounts make it a very versatile bike for touring.

Pros and Cons for the BMC URS LT2

Pros 

  • Looks Great
  • Very lightweight
  • Suspension
  • DT Swiss Tubeless Wheels
  • Mounts

Cons

  • Quite Costly

Why We like It

The BMC is a very cool bike, and it does offer so much in every department. It is costly, but you are getting a lot for your money. It comes very highly rated from us.

3. Evil Bikes The Chamois Hagar

Features of the Evil Bikes The Chamois Hagar

When I first saw the Chamois Hagar, I didn’t entirely know what to think. It has such a unique character to it. I almost didn’t believe it was a gravel bike, and though it was a company’s custom build project. It is very special and is a very versatile gravel bike.

Frame Material: Unidirectional Carbon Fiber
Groupset: SRAM AXS 01 Eagle
Wheelset & Tires: WTB Proterra Light i23 50c WTB Tires
Brakes:SRAM Force Hydraulic Disc Brakes
Special Features: Lightweight, Off-Road Geometry, Lot of Mounts

The Evil bike frame is very cool and actually is more of a mountain bike frame than a road or gravel frame. This is the way we are seeing many companies go with their gravel bike frames. You can see its low slung geometry and short stem makes it a candidate for getting down low and keeping full control of the bike. It’s made with Evil Bikes unidirectional carbon fiber keeping it light and agile, and comes in a very cool stealth matt black. The gearing is incredible and is SRAM’s AXS 01 Eagle Wireless groupset. This is incredible, and you will get lightning-fast shifts and barely feel the change.

The brakes are SRAMs Force brakes which give excellent stopping power and a lot of reliability. Whatever the weather, these are going to have the ability to stop you straight away. The wheels are the tubeless-ready WTB Proterra Light i23 wheels, and they are equipped with giant 50c WTB Tires. As far as special features go, what makes this bike unique is that it’s a pretty much a rigid mountain bike pretending to be a gravel bike, and we love it because of this.

Pros and Cons for the Evil Bikes The Chamois Hagar

Pros 

  • Amazing Handling
  • SRAM AXS Wireless Groupset
  • Very lightweight
  • Unique Frame Geometry
  • WTB Wheelset with WTB Tires
  • Mounts

Cons

  • Not to everyone’s taste
  • Mainly for off-road

Why We like It

The Evil Bikes Chamois Hagar is very unique, and you won’t see many bikes like it on the market. It has some amazing advantages for handling, and if you’re looking for a very capable gravel bike, this is it.

4. Best Value: VAAST A/1 700c

VAAST U/1 Street 650B Bike

Features of the VAAST A/1 700c

VAAST makes a unique bike in the A/1, and throughout the years, the models have really progressed into something very special.

Frame & Forks:ELITE Super Magnesium Frame
Groupset: Shimano GRX
Wheelset & Tires: Stans Wheelset with 38c Tires
Brakes:Shimano GRX Hydraulic 
Special Features: Magnesium Frame, Mounts, Internal Cable Routing

The VAAST A/1 is a very cool bike, and instead of Carbon Fiber like the rest of these bikes on this list, you are looking at a Super Magnesium frame here with Carbon Fiber Forks. It’s light, fast, and strong. What’s not to like? You can expect an amazing ride quality from this bike, and even if you drop it on some rough terrain, it will be fine. The groupset it is paired up with is the legendary Shimano GRX Gravel Groupset and has been specially made for dusty fun. They use the GRX600 model here and have paired it with a Praxis crank, which is ok, but the GRX front chainset would have been nicer.

Then we have the brakes. Of course, the best set to suit this groupset and bike is the Shimano GRX Hydraulic brakes. They give excellent stopping power and are very reliable. The wheels have been outsourced. They are using a Stans wheelset with 38c Maxxis Rambler tubeless tires. Stans are known for making excellent tubeless products, so you will find this bike fully tubeless-ready to go. It also comes with a carbon fiber seat post and rack mounts on the front.

Pros and Cons for the VAAST A/1 700c

Pros 

  • Super Magnesium Frame
  • Shimano GRX 1×11 Groupset
  • Strong and Fast
  • Stans Tubeless Wheelset 700c with Maxxis Tires
  • Mounts
  • Carbon Seat Tube
  • Price

Cons

  • It will be heavier than a carbon bike
  • We would have preferred the GRX Chainset

Why We Like It

The Vast A/1 is a very cool bike and just offers something a little different. You get a lot for your money, and it is an excellent ride. t not only will make an excellent endurance road bike but will be amazing on gravel roads and other rough terrain.

5. Cannondale Topstone 2 Lefty

Cannondale Topstone 2 Lefty

The Topstone 2 Lefty is the most equipped bike on this list and isn’t just going to give you gravel ability, but on a trail, it will handle itself amazingly.

Features of the Cannondale Topstone 2 Lefty

Frame & Forks:Carbon Fiber with Lefty Suspension Fork
Groupset:Shimano GRX
Wheelset & Tires:WTB KOM light rims and 44c tires
Brakes: Shimano GRX Hydraulic
Special Features: Suspension, Dropper Ready, Internal Cable Routing

There are many different models of Topstone on the market, and Cannondale has made an excellent bike here. What’s special about the Topstone is the small rear triangle on the frame’s rear. It massively improves handling and extends the chainstays further back. This frame is a carbon fiber frame and has a kingpin suspension system. It has a rear pivot and a small suspension fork at the front giving 60mm travel. It’s a lightweight frame and fork and is very forgiving. Then you have the groupset. Of course, you have a GRX 1×11 speed with the beautiful shadow derailleur.

It has Shimano hydraulic brakes to help with stopping power, and the front and rear have 160mm rotors which are very different compared to the 140mm / 160mm combos we typically see. The wheels are the WTB KOM lite i23 in a 700c. These are great gravel bike wheels. They have 28 spokes but don’t be fooled. They are very strong, lightweight, fast, and tubeless-ready. These are paired up with WTB Riddler 44c tires, which I think are one of the best gravel and trail tires available. This bike not only has suspension, but it also has internal routing for a dropper post if you really want to get deep into off-road riding.

Pros and Cons for the Cannondale Topstone 2 Lefty

Pros 

  • Lightweight Carbon Frame
  • Shimano GRX 1×11 Groupset
  • Suspension
  • Lightweight WTB Wheelset and Tires

Cons

  • It will be heavier than a bike without suspension
  • Quite Costly

The Cannondale Topstone is very special, and as far as the best gravel bikes go, this is one of the most capable on this list. This is one of the best gravel bikes on this list and far from a road bike.

6. All-City Bicycles Gorilla Monsoon

All-City Bicycles Gorilla Monsoon

All-City makes some very cool bikes, and when we first saw the Gorilla, we were impressed. It’s just what Gravel biking is about and is just gorgeous to look at.

Features of the All-City Bicycles Gorilla Monsoon

Frame & Forks: 612 Select Chromoly Steel
Groupset:SRAM Apex 1×11
Wheelset & Tires: WTB ST i25 27.5″ and 2.4″ Tires
Brakes: Tektro Mechanical
Special Features: Suspension, Dropper Ready, Internal Cable Routing

The All-City Gorilla is an excellent example of a grassroots gravel bike. It has a Chromoly frame and fork and is the first steel bike we have on this list. The 612 Select Chromoly gives amazing strength and flexibility while not taking too much of a weight penalty. Riding steel is amazing, and it just rolls over bumps much better than carbon fiber and aluminum. I love the color scheme, and it very much stands out in a crowd. The groupset is the SRAM Apex 1×11. It gives you an excellent range of gears to choose from and is very reliable.

Then you have the brakes. This is where the bike is a little letdown. It has mechanical disc brakes, which are good, but they are not as strong as hydraulic, and although easier to maintain, I just feel they missed a trick here. The wheelset is the WTB STi25, and instead of being 700c in size is 650b, so it’s a very heavy duty off-road ready machine. The Gorilla has 2.4″ WTB Riddler tires, and these are massive and will give you a huge amount of traction.

Pros and Cons for the All-City Bicycles Gorilla Monsoon

Pros 

  • Steel 612 Chromoly Frame
  • Apex 1×11 Groupset
  • 650b Wheelset and Huge Tires
  • Looks Incredible

Cons

  • Not the lightest
  • Would have liked to see Hydraulic brakes
  • Laggy on the road

The Gorilla is an incredible bike, and as far as mixed-terrain riding is ideal. I love the smaller wheelset with oversized tires, but if I got this, I’d probably want to upgrade to hydraulic brakes.

7. Best Budget: MARIN DSX FS 700C 2022 BIKE

MARIN DSX FS 700C 2022 BIKE

For 2022 Marin has stepped their game up massively, and we have something extraordinary here. This bike has to be on the best gravel bikes list. The DSX FS is an excellent mix and borderlines a gravel bike and a mountain bike, and I think they have found a remarkable gap in the market here.

Features of the MARIN DSX FS 700C 2022 BIKE

Frame & Forks: Aluminum Frame with Suspension Forks
Groupset: Shimano SLX / Deore Groupset 12 Speed Groupset
Wheelset & Tires: Marin 700c with WTB Tires 45c
Brakes: Shimano Hydraulic Disc Brakes
Special Features: Suspension, Flat Bars

Where do we start with the new Marin DSX FS? There’s a lot to speak about. The frame is aluminum, and they have gone for a very relaxed gravel style geometry. They have paired this up with some suspension forks that give you 60mm of travel. It’s not mountain bike suspension, but it is perfect for light trails and gravel. This bike also comes with flat bars, and it’s the first bike on this list to see them. The groupset is actually a mountain bike groupset, and you even have trigger shifters on this. It’s a 12 speed groupset and a mix between Shimano SLX and Deore, which are amazing groupsets. The range is incredible, and steep hills will not be an issue.

The brakes, of course, are hydraulic and come from Shimano. You have mountain bike brakes levers controlling them on this bike, which alongside the trigger shifters, gives you a huge amount of control off-road. Marin has put their own wheelset on this bike and equipped them with 45c WTB Riddler tires. This bike is going to be very capable on gravel roads and challenging trails.

Pros and Cons for the MARIN DSX FS 700C 2022 BIKE

Pros 

  • Series 3 Aluminum Frame
  • SLX / Deore MTB Groupset
  • 700c Wheels with large tires
  • Suspension
  • Flat Bars

Cons

  • Not the lightest
  • Won’t be the fastest on the road

Why We Like It

I like what Marin has done here. They have made a flat bar gravel bike with suspension that does offer something very few other gravel bikes can. It’s very close to hardtail mountain bike territory but holds itself in the gravel market.

8. Rondo MUTT ST

Rondo MUTT ST

Rondo makes prime candidates for the best gravel bikes list. You can see by looking at the other bikes in their range, such as the RUUT. We really like the new MUTT ST, and it has some pretty cool features that set it apart.

Features of the Rondo MUTT ST

Frame & Forks: Steel Frame and Carbon Fork
Groupset: Shimano 105 2×11
Wheelset & Tires: Rondo Superlight 650b wheels with 47c tires
Brakes: Shimano 105 Hydraulic
Special Features: Fenders, 650b Wheels, Adjustable Geometry

The Rondo MUTT is such a great bike and offers the user a bit of everything. Starting with the frame, we have a super comfortable steel frame with geometry for all-day comfort. To keep the weight down and make it look sportier, they have given the MUTT a carbon fork. The fork is pretty unique, too, and it has the ability to literally change the rake geometry via a small plate where the axle goes through. You can change it for road riding or off-road. Then we have the groupset, and it runs a Shimano 105 hydraulic road bike groupset, but with an FSA small ratio crankset, this means you have much lower gearing for climbing and off-road riding.

The brakes are Shimano hydraulic and have excellent stopping power. The wheels are Rondo’s own, and they are very good. They come tubeless ready as standard and are reviewed well by long-term users. They have gone for smaller 650b wheels here for better off-road control and to give the bike the ability to hold larger tires. They are equipped with an excellent set of WTB tires, a Byway 47c tire on the front and Horizon on the rear. These are excellent gravel tires that also hold their speed on the road. The bike also comes with color-coded fenders, which look incredible against the detailed gold fork.

Pros and Cons for the Rondo MUTT ST

Pros 

  • Steel Frame, Carbon Fork
  • 105 Modified Groupset with Low Ratio
  • 650b Wheels with unique tires
  • Color-Coded Fenders
  • Looks incredible
  • Adjustable fork geometry

Cons

  • Not the lightest
  • Very gravel focused, Road, Trails will be ok

Why We Like It

The Rondo MUTT ST is a gorgeous bike to look at and will be amazing on gravel. It’s going to be a lot of fun and would make an excellent bikepacking bike too.

9. GT Carbon Pro Gravel Bike

GT Carbon Pro Gravel Bike

GT has been around for many years in the cycling world and continually produces a good bike. They recently have hit the gravel market, and they have made some very cool bikes. The top of the line GT Carbon Pro is one of their best models, and it’s very fast.

Features of the GT Carbon Pro Gravel Bike

Frame and Forks: Carbon Frame and Carbon Fork
Groupset: Shimano GRX
Wheelset and Tires: Stans Notubes Crest with 40c Tires
Brakes: Shimano GRX Hydraulic
Special Features: Dropper Post

The GT is an incredibly light bike, and a lot of this comes down to this super lightweight carbon fiber frame and fork. The triple triangle frame and floating seat stays provide the user with a decent level of comfort on a very stiff racing frame. It performs great, but it also looks the part with a stealthy black edge to it. The Groupset is the Shimano GRX R800, so you have a 1×11 speed groupset here. They have made one modification and given the bike a Praxis Zayante Carbon-S crank to make the bike even lighter. 

The brakes are Shimano GRX too, and these are so powerful and very reliable. The wheelset is 700c, and they have gone with a Stans Notubes Crest MK3 wheelset, which is excellent. The tires are the WTB Nano TCS, and this setup is tubeless and ready straight out of the box. One very nice special feature is the dropper post this bike comes with. A dropper post drops the seat lower, giving you the ability to lower your body to help with control. It’s very useful if you like a trail with a cheeky steep descent.

Pros and Cons for the GT Carbon Pro Gravel Bike

Pros 

  • Carbon Frame, Carbon Fork
  • Triple Triangle Frame Design
  • GRX Groupset with Carbon Praxis Crank
  • 700c Tubeless Wheels with WTB tires
  • Looks incredible
  • Dropper Post as standard
  • Very light

Cons

  • Not a bike you’re going to want to drop

Why We Like It

The GT is a very performance focused gravel bike, and if you are looking to be very fast, then it’s the bike for you. It will be a lot of fun but not a bike you’ll not want to drop or crash on too much.

10. Surly Ghost Grappler

Surly Ghost Grappler

The Surly Ghost Grappler is an amazing bike, and we expect it to be up there with some of the legendary bikes Surly has given us in the past. It’s probably the most comfortable and capable bike on this list and is made for massive miles.

Features of the Surly Ghost Grappler

Frame and Forks: Chromoly Frame and Fork
Groupset: Microshift 10 Speed Groupset
Wheelset and Tires: WTB ST i40 TCS Rim and Teravail Tires
Brakes: Tektro Mechanical Brakes
Special Features: Dropper Post

Surly has a huge pedigree when it comes to off-road bikes, and the Ghost Grappler does keep up. The frame and forks are made of Chromoly steel. It’s very forgiving when it comes to bumps and is designed full of mounts for bikepacking and touring. One thing I liked about this bike is the geometry. You can see it has a tall headtube and nice high handlebars so the user can stay in a nice upright position keeping them on the bike for longer. The groupset is a microshift 10 speed with a single front chainring. It’s good for gravel, gives you plenty of options for climbing, and is very easy to use.

The brakes are Tektro Mechanical. We prefer hydraulic, but on around the world trips, mechanical brakes are much easier to work on the roadside. They will work well, and if you look after them, they will give you no trouble. Then we have the wheels and tires. These are actually mountain bike wheels and are 27.5″ in size. They are equipped as standard with 2.5″ Teravail Ehline tires, which are massive. You have clearance to go even bigger as well if you need it. The bike also comes with a dropper post, and if you are planning on some serious off-road, this will come in very handy.

Pros and Cons for the Surly Ghost Grappler

Pros 

  • Solid Chromoly Steel Frame
  • Huge tires for off-road
  • Microshift 10 speed groupset
  • WTB Tubeless wheelset
  • Very comfortable geometry
  • Dropper Post as standard

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Color is not to everyone’s taste

Why We Like It

If I had to pick a bike to go around the world on, it would probably be this. It’s very easy to maintain, it can go everywhere, and it’s just so rough and ready for anything.

11. Breezer Doppler Cafe+ Bike 2022

Breezer Doppler Cafe+ Bike 2022

You won’t see many gravel bikes like this, and that’s exactly why we must tell you about the Breezer Doppler Cafe+ because it’s amazing and so unique.

Features of the Breezer Doppler Cafe+ Bike 2022

Frame and Forks: Chromoly Frame and Fork
Groupset: Shimano Deore 
Wheelset and Tires: WTB ST Lite i23 TCS 650b Rims and WTB Tires
Brakes: Shimano Hydraulic Brakes
Special Features: Lighting and Fenders

You have probably taken a look at this bike and thought that it looks like some kind of round-town shopper, don’t be fooled. This bike has got some serious clout. The frame is high end Chromoly steel and has flat bars with a super relaxed geometry. It has a Chromoly fork too and attached to that, you have off-road flat sweeper bars. The groupset is the Shimano Deore 10 speed and has a huge 11-42 cassette on the rear, making this bike a climber.

The brakes are also pretty awesome and are the Shimano MT200. These are powerful hydraulic brakes that typically you see on off-road mountain bikes. The wheels are the WTB ST Lite i23 TCS rims. These are tubeless-ready and 650b in size. They are equipped with WTB’s legendary 47c Horizon tires, and these are excellent for multi-surface riding and very comfortable. One thing I absolutely loved about this bike was the fact it had lighting front and rear. It gives you another level of safety and looks good all mounted on the fenders. Speaking of fenders, this bike has a set too to keep you clean and dry.

Pros and Cons for the Breezer Doppler Cafe+ Bike 2022

Pros 

  • Solid Chromoly Steel Frame and fork
  • 650b WTB wheels and tires
  • Deore MTB Groupset
  • Hydraulic Disc Brakes
  • Very comfortable geometry
  • Fenders and Lights

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Looks like a casual bike more than a gravel bike.

Why We Like It

The Breezer Doppler Cafe+ Bike is pretty amazing, and it just is so well equipped but also so casual. There are very few bikes like it, and it’s perfect for gravel riding and long tours.

Gravel Bike Buyers Guide

gravel bike buyers guide
Image by TheArkow on Pixabay

Gravel bikes are an amazing tool. They have a fantastic ability to be able to take you anywhere. If you are going to own one single bike, we highly recommend it be a gravel bike as you will get more out of it than any other type of bike. The gravel bike market can be very challenging to navigate because they differ themselves so much. We are going to break down a gravel bike and tell you what you need to be looking for when it comes to frame, forks, gearing, brakes, wheels and tires so you understand exactly what you’re getting.

Frames

Gravel Bike Frame Geometry
Image by TheArkow on Pixabay

Ok, let’s start with frames. The first thing you want to think about is material. Steel is the most comfortable, cheapest to buy, and heaviest. Then you have Aluminum, which is quite stiff, reasonably cheap to buy, and fairly lightweight. Then finally, you have carbon fiber, which is very stiff, expensive to buy, and very lightweight. Another honorable mention is titanium, it has the flexibility of steel, and it’s nearly as light as carbon, but it can be very expensive to buy.

Then we have geometry. You can get seriously aggressive racing gravel bikes, and you can get long distances cruisers too. Without going into a full bike fit terminology, the key is to ensure you’re going for the right bike for what you want to do. A good rule of thumb is to look at the height of the handlebars. High handlebars and big headtubes typically mean the bike is made for comfort and not speed.

Forks

assembling frame and forks
ctto

When it comes to forks, they will typically be made of the same materials as frames and share the same properties. Steel for comfort, Aluminum for a mix of speed and comfort, and Carbon for speed. You also get suspension on some gravel bikes, which typically comes on the fork. Suspension does take the edge off all the bumps but does come with extra servicing and a weight penalty.

Gearing

Fixed Gear With Yellow Bike Chain
CTTO

You can expect anything on a gravel bike when it comes to gearing. You will see Shimano 105 and SRAM rival, typically seen on many road bikes. You might find Shimano Deore and SRAM eagle seen on many mountain bikes. Gearing is normally equipped to a gravel bike for its intended use. If it has a road groupset, then assume it will be for road and light off-road. If it has a mountain bikes groupset, then it will be made mainly for off-road riding. The thing I would recommend looking out for the most is to ensure it has a decent range to it to help with those steep climbs which might need some serious spinning.

Brakes

ctto

On a gravel bike, you are going to want disc brakes. They stop you quickly, work in all different types of weather, and they are very reliable. You will see two different types of disc brakes on gravel bikes hydraulic and mechanical. Hydraulic is where you have fluid in the system, and mechanical is where you have a cable in the system. Hydraulic is much better, and not only will it stop you faster, but it’s also much easier to use on the hands. The only real drawback to hydraulic is it can be difficult to work on when on the roadside and at home as these need to be bled if broken. Mechanical brakes are much easier to work on but typically require more maintenance and are not anywhere near as powerful. They will lock your wheel, but for those long gravel days out, you notice your hands will struggle after a while.

Wheels and Tires

Gravel Bike Wheels and tires
Image by distelAPPArath on Pixabay

Wheels on gravel bikes come in two sizes, typically 700c (29″), which is the same size as a typical road bike wheel, and 650b (27.5″), the same as a typical small mountain bike wheel. The larger 700c wheels will typically have smaller tires on and be more suited to road and light off-road terrain. The 650b wheels will have larger tires and suit off-road riding but still be capable on the road. I would recommend the 700c if you are going to do a lot of road riding and the 650b if you’re going to be off-road a lot.

Tires come in all shapes and sizes. The larger the tire, the more surface contact it will have and the better it will be able to handle rough terrain better. The smaller the tire, the more efficient it will be on the road, but it will have less capability off-road. Then you have tread, the more knobbly the tire, the more it will be suited to different terrains such as forest paths and slippy terrain, but it does reduce the contact patch. Pick a tire that is right for the riding you want to do.

Tubeless is another feature you will hear a lot about. This is where you have sealant inside instead of a standard inner tube. It is typically lighter, has a chance of self healing after a puncture, and can be run at lower pressures. It is amazing, and we highly recommend going tubeless as that’s the way it seems to be going in the tire market is going now and in the foreseeable future. It is more expensive though, and you still might need a tube if you get a rip in the tire. 

Special Features

gravel bike special feature-groupset

Special features like suspension stems, flared bars, lighting, fenders, and even bottle openers go a very long way, and we highly recommend keeping an eye out for these as they can add so much value to your riding. The most important special feature I would look out for is rack mounts if you plan to use the bike for touring. A lot of steel bikes will have them, but many carbon and aluminum bikes won’t, and it can be very limiting.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much should I spend on a gravel bike?

I personally think it comes down to what your budget is more than anything. If you are going into professional gravel bike races, you will want to spend a lot, but for general riding, even an entry-level gravel bike will be ok.

What are gravel bikes good for?

Gravel bikes are good on the road, they are good on light trails, but they excel on gravel. The beauty of a gravel bike is that it is very adaptable to various situations.

Are gravel bikes good for bikepacking?

They are excellent for bikepacking. They are strong, light, fast, and also can carry gear well and go on multiple terrains.

What is the most unique feature on a gravel bike?

The most unique feature was probably the Canyon grail cf sl twin top handlebars. There have been many and will be many more.

Are gravel bikes like road and cyclocross bikes?

Most gravel bikes do look like a typical road and cyclocross bike but the biggest difference is the larger tires and slack head angle.

Conclusion

Gravel bikes are excellent, and we can see why they have become such a big thing in cycling. Riding gravel bikes gives you so many options of routes to go on. They can be used for touring and bikepacking, and they do look incredible with those oversized tires and flared bars. We believe if you are going to invest in one bike, the best bike for most is by far a gravel bike. We hope by reading this article you found the best gravel bike for you.

Expert Tip

When you get a gravel bike, don’t be scared to modify it. Go with smaller tires on those road rides, larger tires for the off-road rides, and shorten the stem to make it feel more agile, even add bags and go bikepacking. Embrace the adaptability of a gravel bike and suit it to your riding style.

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
Mongoose Men's Elroy Adventure Bike 700C Wheel Bicycle, Blue, 54cm frame size
  • Versatile adventure touring bike features capable adventure bike geometry, a sleek alloy frame and steel fork for the ultimate ride
  • 2x7 drivetrain with Shimano Tourney derailleurs, an integrated Micro shift shifters/brake lever combo and mechanical disc brakes keep the ride smooth
  • Integrated frame bag features a stylish embroidered patch and all the room you need for your riding essentials
  • Large front rack (with an integrated bottle opener!) can easily carry two panniers, while the rear rack mount offers even more carrying capability
  • Internal cable routing leaves room for 3 Distinct water bottle cage mounts (and 2 more on the fork) so you'll always stay hydrated when you ride
Bestseller No. 3
Tommaso Sentiero Gravel Bike, Shimano Claris Adventure Bike with Disc Brakes, Extra Wide Tires, Perfect for Road Or Dirt Trail Touring, Matte Black, Red - Large
  • DURABLE & RELIABLE: Aluminum Compact Frame combined with an SST Steel Fork for Maximum Durability, backed up with our industry leading Lifetime Frame & Fork Warranty. Frame is drilled for all varieties of racks and fenders, making the Sentiero the ultimate commuter and touring bike.
  • POWERFUL PEFORMANCE & SPEED: 3x8 Shimano Claris Groupset, featuring a 30/39/50T Claris crankset and 12x25T Claris cassette. Perfect for varying and rugged terrain, from flats to hills to rocky climbs, offering a wide range of gears for all levels of riders in all conditions
  • RUGGED, ALL-TERRAIN CAPABILITIES: Tommaso TC-20D rims and offer the rugged durability of a 28 spoke rim that can handle all types of terrain and keep rolling. And new for 2019, we have added wider 700x 40c tires. The Sentiero 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 Sentiero 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.