Cyclinghacker is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Best Steel Gravel Bikes in 2022 – Reviews & Buyers Guide

Best Steel Gravel Bikes in 2022 – Reviews & Buyers Guide

Gravel bikes are the new big thing in cycling. They are popping up everywhere, and every company wants a piece of the action. We are seeing so many new styles of bikes, and they are all being made for the dusty tracks and days out where you don’t know what the terrain will be.

When it comes to Gravel bikes, you will hear the term. Steel is Real. Steel in the Gravel bikes world is a highly rated material. It is tough enough to take lumpy trails, and it’s flexible enough for all day long comfort. It’s a cheap material to produce and also looks great.

Gravel bikes come in all shapes and sizes, and when it comes to Steel gravel bikes, they differ significantly. You get some mainly made for road riding, and then you get some that are best suited to riding off road. In this article, I want to tell you about the best Steel Gravel bikes on the market and where to find them.

BEST OVERALL

Marin Nicasio 2

BEST BUDGET

Marin Nicasio 700c

BEST VALUE

All-City Space Horse

What Do We Look for in a Steel Gravel Bike?

steel gravel bike parked on the roadside
Photo by chris robert on Unsplash

What makes an excellent Steel Gravel bike? As they come in all different shapes and sizes, the best way to understand what makes steel gravel bikes superior is to break it down into parts and see what it is designed for so we can find the best gravel bikes.

  • Frame and Fork

With Steel bikes, we look at the design, geometry, and also any unique features

  • Groupset

Gearing is often overlooked, but in our opinion, it makes or breaks a bike

  • Wheelset and Tires

It’s essential to be rolling on good wheels, and tires are the primary contact point on the ground

  • Brakes

Stopping is very important, and you need to know how good the bike will be at it

  • Unique Features

Gravel bikes often have unique features such as suspension, and they must be spoken about

Buying a new bike can be challenging for many reasons, the most common one being that bikes are built differently depending on where you buy them. You could have the same bike sold in two different places but with entirely different gearing and wheels. With that being said, let’s look at some of the best gravel bikes.

1. Best Budget: Marin Nicasio 700c

Marin Nicasio 700c

Features of the Marin Nicasio 700c

Frame and Fork: Series 1 CroMo Steel Frame and Fork
Groupset: 2×8 Shimano Claris
Wheelset: Marin Alloy 700c
Brakes: Promax Mechanical Disc Brakes
Unique Features: Price, Rack mounts, and eyelets

Marin makes some excellent bikes, and we rate them very highly here at Cycling Hacker. Marin Nicasio 700c is by far the best budget bike on this list, and for what you get, it’s incredible value for money. Firstly the frame, a Series one CroMo frame, will not only be reasonably light for steel it will also give the user a considerable amount of comfort through its flexibility. They have also paired the bike up with a CroMo fork. This is going to provide the bike with so much flexibility and strength. They have added eyelets to add racks and extra bottle mounts for water or storage, which I thought was a lovely touch too.

The groupset is a basic Shimano Claris 2×8 speed. This will give you 16 gears overall, and it will be plenty enough for a new rider or someone who has experience under their belt. The fact they have gone Shimano is significant because the quality is high. The Wheelset is Marins own alloy set which is going to be solid and rigid and work for heavy and light users well. As far as tires, they have equipped the bike with 30c, tiny for gravel, but the steel bike has clearance to go bigger if needed. If you are going to be doing a lot of off road, I would be on 35c. Brakes, we have the Promax Mechanical Disc Brakes. These will stop you well and require very little maintenance, but they won’t be as strong as hydraulic.

Pros and Cons for the Marin Nicasio 700c

Pros
  • Very Comfortable and Robust Frame and Forks
  • Introductory but strong reliable groupset
  • Eyelets for touring and loads of mounts
Cons
  • Not the lightest bike on this list
  • Mechanical Disc brakes are ok but hydraulic are much better
Why We Like It

This is an excellent bike, and the price for all this is just ridiculously low. Well worth checking out. It’s very much suited for road other than off road.

2. Best Value: All-City Space Horse

All-City Space Horse

Features of the All-City Space Horse

Frame and Fork: 612 Select Steel Tubing, Steel Fork
Groupset: Shimano Tiagra 2×10
Wheelset: WTB Sti19 650b
Brakes: Tektro MD-C550
Unique Features: Rack mounts, eyelets, and flared bars

I have always been a fan of the All-City space horse. It’s a beautiful looking bike, and I can’t stress enough how nice it looks for the price. The first thing I have to say about the bike is that they have made it super comfortable. The 612 Select Tubing will take all the vibration from the road, and even the steel fork will continue to smoothen the ride. The Shimano Tiagra Groupset is incredible. It’s a 2×10 speed with a vast range of gears for the flats and climbing. It’s stepped up from the Claris that the Marin above has.

The wheelset is the WTB Sti19. This is a tubeless ready wheelset and is 650b. The wheels being 650b means they are smaller than many gravel bike wheels. They will fit bigger tires and be much more agile than the bigger 700c wheelsets other bikes on this list have. It is equipped with some 38c gravel tires, which will be great for rough terrain. The brakes are Tektro mechanical, which are pretty good and will stop you but again, not as fast as the hydraulic brakes some of these other bikes have. The All-City Space horse also has rack mounts for panniers, Eyelets and some beautiful flared off road drop bars upfront.

Pros and Cons for the All-City Space Horse

Pros
  • 612 Tubing will make a very comfortable ride
  • Excellent Shimano 2×10 Speed Groupset
  • Flared Bars
Cons
  • Mechanical Disc brakes are ok but hydraulic are much better
Why We Like It

Suppose you’re looking for a comfortable bike that can crush some gravel this is it. It is much more suited to off road than road riding, and it’s a lot of bike for the money.

3. Breezer Doppler Cafe+

Breezer Doppler Cafe+

Features of the Breezer Doppler Cafe+

Frame and Fork: Chromoly Frame and Forks
Groupset: Shimano Deore 1×10 Speed
Wheelset: WTB STi23 650b
Brakes: Shimano MT200 Hydraulic Disc Brakes
Unique Features: Rack mounts, Mudguards, Breezer Bars, Front and Rear Lights

The Breezer Doppler is a bike made purely for comfort and good rides. I absolutely love what they have done here. The Frame and Fork are full Chromoly Steel and just look amazing. This frame looks clean and is going to give the user a lot of happy miles with the relaxed geometry. It has flat bars and is equipped with a Shimano Mountain bike groupset. The Deore 1×10 speed is excellent. It’s a very rugged groupset and has a massive range of gears ready for any climb.

The Wheelset is WTB STi23 and is excellent. It’s nice and wide for big tires and ready for a Tubeless setup. Like the All-City this is 650b, so the smaller, more agile wheels. It comes equipped with 47c tires, which are going pretty much to take you on any trails or rough track. With tires this big and off road wheels like this, it needs hydraulic brakes, and yes, it has them, the legendary Shimano MT200 brakes with oversized 160mm discs. These will stop you on a pin. The Doppler has loads of extras such as Mudguards to keep you clean, custom Breezer bars for comfort, and front and rear lights.

Pros and Cons for the Breezer Doppler Cafe+

Pros
  • Super Comfortable Chromoly Frame and Fork
  • MTB Groupset with an extensive range
  • Breezer Flat Bars
  • Loads of Extras
  • Hydraulic Disc Brakes
Cons
  • Although comfortable, this setup is heavy
Why We Like It

The Breezer Doppler Cafe+ is Epic, and it is going to give the rider a lot of comfortable, happy miles. If you are not in a rush, this bike is for you.

4. Surly Disc Trucker

Surly Disc Trucker

Features of the Surly Disc Trucker

Frame and Fork:Surly 4130 CroMoly Steel Frame and Forks
Groupset: Shimano Sora 3×9 Speed
Wheelset: Alex Adventurer 2 Rims 700c
Brakes: TRP Spyre C
Unique Features:Relaxed Geometry, Unique Bars, Large Headtube

The Surly Disc Trucker is a very popular adventure and gravel bike, and this list wouldn’t be complete without it. The frame is very unique in the fact it has a very relaxed geometry compared to most gravel bikes. The oversized headtube and special heightened handlebars offer an incredible height up front to keep the rider comfortable and heavily improve the ride quality. It’s not the most aerodynamic position, but who cares when you’re on an adventure. The groupset is excellent, and it’s a triple crankset that is commonly used on touring bikes. It has a significant range on the low end, so if you like climbing mountains, the Surly Disc trucker is terrific at it.

The wheelset is the Alex Adventurer 2 Rims, which are pretty good, and it is equipped with 41c tires. This setup will be excellent on and off road. They are 700c, so perfect for road and touring especially. The brakes are Mechanical TRP Spyres C’s. What’s unique about these brakes is the calipers pull from both sides, making them much more efficient than a lot of mechanical disc brake systems. They won’t be as strong as hydraulic, but they will be good.

Pros and Cons for the Surly Disc Trucker

Pros
  • Comfortable Geometry ChoMo Frame and Fork
  • Triple Groupset
  • Large Headtube
  • Unique Handlebars
Cons
  • Mechanical Disc Brakes
  • Surly Frames are bombproof, but a lot of money
Why We Like It

The Surly Disc Trucker is a fantastic bike, but it is more of a tourer and a gravel bike put together. I rate it highly as it’s all day comfort on any surface.

5. Best Overall: Marin Nicasio 2

Marin Nicasio 2

Features of the Marin Nicasio 2

Frame and Fork: Series 2 CroMo Steel, Beyond Road Geometry, Full Carbon Fork
Groupset: Shimano Tiagra 2×10
Wheelset: Marins Own Wheelset 700c
Brakes: Shimano Hydraulic Disc Brakes
Unique Features: Very Off Road Ready

The Marin Nicasio and the Marin Nicasio 2 are very different bikes, and they both need to be on this list. The Nicasio is a road bike with Gravel capability, and the Nicasio 2 is a rugged, rough, and ready trail hunter. The Nicasio 2 has a CroMo Steel Frame but comes with a full Carbon Fork. The geometry is a much better setup for off road than the Nicasio. It has an uprated groupset and runs the Tiagra 2×10 speed, an excellent road and gravel groupset.

The wheelset is Marins own, which is alloy and works well. The tires are 37c and ready to make some dust. When it comes to braking, Marin has upgraded the Nicasio 2 to Hydraulic. This is really what we needed to see on a more rugged version of the original Nicasio. They will stop much faster and generally are much more efficient. It even comes with flared bars, which is a lovely touch and will help on the gravel trails with ride quality.

Pros and Cons for the Marin Nicasio 2

Pros
  • Great CroMo Frame
  • Tiagra 2×10 Speed Groupset
  • Hydraulic Brakes
  • Off Road Geometry
  • Carbon Fork
Cons
  • Not Tubeless
Why We Like It

I love this Marin Nicasio 2. Overall it’s just such a great bike and ticks every box. Excellent value for money, and it would be the bike I recommend the most out of all of them, it’s what modern gravel bikes should be and one of the best gravel bikes available for the price.

6. All-City Gorilla Monsoon

All-City Gorilla Monsoon

Features of the All-City Gorilla Monsoon

Frame and Fork: 612 Select Steel Tubing, Steel Fork
Groupset: SRAM APEX 1×11
Wheelset: WTB Sti25 650b
Brakes: Tektro MD-C550
Unique Features: Rack mounts, eyelets, flared bars, big tire clearance

The Second All-City is on this list, and it is an epic steel bike. Not only does it have the 612 Frame and Forks, but the design also looks incredible with this beautiful bold purple. One thing super unique about this frame is the tire clearance. You can put up to a 650b 2.4″ Mountain bike tire in, and that’s the largest I have heard of on a Gravel bike. The groupset is the SRAM Apex 1×11. SRAM is known for an excellent off road groupset, and the APEX is a great example of this.

The wheelset is the WTB STi25 650b which is tubeless ready, and it is paired up with some monster 2.4″ Mountian bike tires. These are absolutely huge, and you won’t find many trails that will stop this bike. It has a mechanical braking system which honestly, I would have wanted hydraulic on a bike with this much capability, but still, these will do, and you can always upgrade.

Pros and Cons for the All-City Gorilla Monsoon

Pros
  • Great Frame Design and 612 Tubing
  • APEX 1×11 Groupset
  • Huge Tire Clearance
Cons
  • Mechanical Disc Brakes are a bit of a letdown.
Why We Like It

I love the All-City Gorilla. It’s an absolute beast. The massive tires and solid groupset make it ideal off road, and it is just let down by the Mechanical Brakes, in my opinion.

We Think You’ll Like It: Gravel Bike vs Touring Bike

Steel Gravel bikes buyers guide

blue gravel bike on a snowy road
Photo by chris robert on Unsplash

Let’s say that none of these bikes takes your fancy. How do you know what to look for when buying a Steel Gravel bike. In this next section were going to speak about what to look for when you come to finding the right Gravel bike for you. Let’s break the bikes down and tell you what to look for.

What kind of Gravel Bike do you need?

Gravel bikes come in many different shapes and sizes, but you can typically put it down to either a light gravel bike or an off road gravel bike. These two types of Gravel bikes have very different characteristics, and you will need to think about what kind of riding you will be doing. If you want a gravel bike to go on the road and you rarely see a trail, then a light gravel bike. If you plan on epic adventures on trails, you will need an off road gravel bike.

Light Gravel Bike

A light gravel bike is the most common you will see out on the roads and a few trails. These bikes naturally look like Road bikes with a large triangle in the mainframe. They will have the standard drop handlebars and won’t have any kind of suspension on them. The tires are much smaller and sit between 30c to about 35c. The wheels are 700c which is the same size as a road bike, and you will also find these to have reasonably aggressive geometry and focus on the user being in an aerodynamic position. This is not a cyclocross bike, as these won’t fit big enough tires compared to gravel bikes.

Off Road Gravel Bike

An off Road Gravel bike is something you’re commonly going to see on a trail more than anywhere. They will happily go on the road but won’t be very efficient. These off road gravel bikes are much more low slung, and the frame can look a bit like a rigid mountain bike. It can have a drop or flat handlebars, typically drop with a flared bottom. They can even have suspension, and it could be a set of light forks or a suspension seat post or stem. Wheels will generally be 650b, these are smaller wheels that are the same size as 27.5″ mountain bikes, and their tires can be anywhere from 38c to 2.4″ mountain bike tires. These are made for the rough stuff.

We Think You’ll Like It: Gravel Bike vs. Hybrid Bike

What to look for on Steel Gravel Bikes

Frame and Forks

steel gravel bike frames and forks
Photo by A. L. on Unsplash

When looking at Steel bikes, you’re going to want to look for a good brand. Commonly steel is very cheap to produce, and you can pick up frames for less than $200. These cheap frames will be cumbersome. A reasonable brand steel frame such as Surly or All-City will be lighter and more robust. This is the same with Forks, and it’s essential to have a high level of quality as you don’t want these to fail. This also goes for all other frame materials, don’t go cheap it’s the most important part of the bike.

Another thing to think about is tire clearance. If you are getting a light gravel bike, you need at least 700 x35c. For an off road gravel bike, you should look at least 650b x 47c. This is important on a steel frame to give you options in the future when you come to changing tires. Bigger tires often gives you a better ride quality and some of the best gravel bikes have the ability for very big tires.

Groupset

groupset gravel bike
Image by fotoblend on Pixabay

When it comes to gravel bikes and groupsets, anything goes. They use road and mountain bike groupsets. Most will give you a decent range, but you want to ensure it can go nice and low. With gravel bikes, you need low gears to get up hills and for loose terrain as that’s what gravel riding is about.

Wheels and Tires

wheels and tires
Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

When it comes to wheels, the alloy is absolutely fine. Many riders feel the need for carbon fiber, but either is fine. The alloy is just a little heavier. They are both very strong materials, and modern wheels are super strong compared to old wheels. Tires, you need to be equipped for what you’re doing. The rougher the road, the wider the tires. It will make it much more comfortable and easier to work. On the road, 30c is pretty good for most routes. Steel bikes will offer great comfort wherever you ride.

Brakes

The most important thing on the bike is when it comes to stopping. Disc or Rims brakes are the most common types of brakes. On a gravel bike, you should only see disc. You will either get mechanical or hydraulic. Mechanical uses cables to pull the calipers onto the disc, and Hydraulic disc brakes use fluid to pull the calipers shut. Hydraulic is much better for performance and takes a lot less maintenance. Cables are ok, but they are limited. Most bikes these days have flat mount disc brakes but post mount disc brakes are just as good.

Finishing Kit

The finishing kit is all your add ons. Try not to overthink this, as you can upgrade these reasonably easily. On gravel bikes, you will commonly see flared bars, suspension seat posts or stems, extra padded seats, and even extra thick bar tape for rough terrain.

Frequenty Asked Questions

Is steel good for Gravel Bikes?

Yes, it’s excellent. It’s strong and can withstand harsh bumps. It’s flexible to give you extra comfort, and it’s easy to repair if broken and cheap to manufacture.

Are Steel or Aluminum Bikes better?

Aluminum is lighter, but it is stiffer, it might be a little faster, but it won’t give you the comfort of steel. If you are looking for a quicker gravel bike and plan to race, use an aluminum bike. If you want a cheap, very comfortable ride get a Steel gravel bike. They are different, but there’s very little in it.

Why Ride Steel?

Steel is such an excellent material for a gravel bike. It’s great for off road riding and absorbing bumps. They can be designed in many different ways and make it easy for companies to fabricate them cheaper. Unlike some other bike frame materials, they last for many years and are just great fun to ride.

Conclusion

Whatever Gravel bike you choose, you will get a bike you’re going to have a lot of fun on, and it’s going to open you up some fantastic riding. I have been riding gravel bikes for years personally, and I wouldn’t go back to a road bike now. Many Cyclists are now dropping all their different types of bikes and just having a gravel bike, and I completely get why.

Expert Tip

When you first get a gravel bike, the best thing you can do is get the wheels set up tubeless. Tubeless wheels and tires are fantastic. They are lighter, can run lower pressures, and can self heal after punctures. Tubeless has been used in mountain biking for years and now has come to road and gravel.

Did You Know?

Gravel Biking has now become recognized by the UCI and will be a professional sport soon, which will have world champs. Many road riders are currently going across to gravel, and it will be huge.

Amazon Recommends

Bestseller No. 1
Giordano Trieste Gravel Bike, 700c Large, Gray
  • Chromoly Steel Frame
  • Chromoly Steel Fork
  • Shimano Claris STI Shifters
  • 32 Hole Double Wall Alloy Rim, 700c x 30mm tires
  • Mechanical Disc Brakes
Bestseller No. 2
Castelli Women’s Anima 3 Jersey for Road and Gravel Biking l Cycling - Brilliant Pink/Dark Steel Blue - Medium
  • IDEAL FOR: Perfect for female cyclists looking for a classic, solid color jersey equipped with all the technical details for performance on every ride.
  • WICKING PROPERTIES: Body fabric provides great moisture management by wicking moisture away from the body, to keep you comfortably dry.
  • VENTILATION: YKK Vislon full-length zipper with neck protector allows you to dump heat on your uphill climbs.
  • FEATURES: Drop tail with 3 rear pockets to safely provide storage for energy bars, gloves, or arm warmers.
  • VISIBILITY AND SAFETY: Reflective piping to keep you visible in low-light conditions.
Bestseller No. 3
Car Tire Cleaning Hook Clear Stone Tool Rust-Resistant Stainless Steel Wheel Tread Slot Stone Gravel Auto Remover Tire Stones Removing Tool for Car Motor Bike Tire
  • Groove Remover -- It cleans the stones, glasses, metal objects and other objects in the tire groove for tire noise reduction.
  • Extend Tire Life -- It reduces tire pattern wear to extend tire life and decreases the possibility of tire burst.
  • Wheel Tire Brush -- When covered with dirt, remove nails from your tires or scrape the dirt off your tires.
  • Rust Resistance -- This tire groove tool is made of 304 Stainless steel, solid, rust-resistance, and durable.
  • Comfortable Hold -- Rubber handle design, comfortable to hold and save labor.
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on print
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.