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Best gravel bikes 2021: 27 top-rated picks

27 of the very best gravel bikes tested and rated by our team

Best gravel bikes

If you’re looking for a list of the best gravel bikes on sale in 2021 then you’ve come to the right place. All of the bikes in this article have been ridden and rated by BikeRadar’s expert testers.


Gravel and all-road are terms used for this rapidly growing segment of the drop bar bike market. These bikes have generous tyre clearance and geometry that is more stable and forgiving than traditional road bikes.

Gravel bikes were born out of the American Midwest, where racing on gravel roads took hold a decade ago and has steadily gained popularity.

In the early days, riders tackled these endurance events on cyclocross bikes with the largest tyres that would fit between the stays. Today, there are numerous purpose-built machines that gravel-curious riders can choose from.


The best gravel bikes in 2021

Canyon Grail 6

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Canyon Grail 6
While it’s a gravel bike, the Grail 6 feels completely at home on the road too.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media
  • £1,649 / $1,699 as tested
  • Top components for the cash.
  • Amazing performance for the money
  • Gravel-specific gear ratios

The Canyon Grail 6 is a versatile aluminium gravel bike that’s a direct replacement for the hugely successful Grail AL.

Despite being the cheapest aluminium frame Canyon Grail build, it’s still a very well equipped bike with no obvious holes in its spec sheet.

The Shimano GRX 2×10 transmission and matching hydraulic disc brakes can be thought of as Tiagra equivalents while the RX600 crank is nominally Shimano’s 105-level.

Trusty DT Swiss C 1850 db alloy wheels are another spec highlight, particularly when shod in 40mm Schwalbe G-One Bite tubeless-ready tyres.

The Grail is a confidence inspiring bike to ride, and one that beats its predecessor off-road thanks to gravel-specific gearing. It’s a comfortable enough bike as is, but run the tyres tubeless and you can further take the edge off. It’s also a competent ride on the road but a tyre swap would really get the most from this bike on the tarmac.

It’s a real shame that Canyon dropped the rack mounts for 2021 but thankfully mudguard mounts are still present.

Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bikes
A gravel bike that can cut it on the road with the best.
David Caudery / Immediate Media
  • £3,500 / $4,200 as tested
  • Fast and racy machine with great wheels
  • Effective rear suspension
  • 700 x 40mm tyre clearance

The Topstone is a racy gravel bike with a firm, fast handling front end and clever rear suspension unit that provides up to 30mm of travel.

You also get a nice smart set of Cannondale’s own Hollowgram carbon wheels, which are tubeless ready and weigh around 1.5kg, which helps keep the overall weight of the bike down to 9kg in a size large.

With stack and reach figures similar to Cannondale’s Synapse endurance road bike too, the Topstone makes a compelling option as a do-it-all bike (if you’re looking to break the n+1 cycle). A simple swap of tyres is all it takes to make this a bike that shines both off-road and on.

A new full-suspension Cannondale Topstone Lefty has been announced for 2021 and we’ll be reviewing it as soon as possible.

Devinci Hatchet Carbon GRX LTD

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Devinci Hatchet Carbon GRX LTD
The Mk2 Hatchet from Devinci is a seriously accomplished gravel bike.
Robert Smith / Immediate Media
  • $3,299 / CAD$3,999 / €3,499 as tested
  • Huge tyre clearances
  • Superbly stable yet fun handling
  • Something a little different

Devinci’s Hatchet is a fun, fast and versatile gravel bike. There’s clearance for 700c x 45mm tyres with mudguards, and 700c x 50mm tyres fit. It’ll officially take 650b wheels with tyres up to 53mm, too.

We loved the ride of the Hatchet and found the factory fit dropper post really helped us exploit the impressive stability from its long, slack geometry.

Whether you’re passing through technical singletrack, rocks, gravel and tarmac, deep sand or slick mud, the Hatchet has immense composure.

For a headline bike the spec is pretty modest, but the value it represents is competitive.

Enigma Escape

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Enigma Escape gravel bike
The Escape won’t be going out of fashion anytime soon.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media
  • £3,888 / €4,666 / $5,063 as tested
  • Seriously versatile
  • Timeless looks
  • on-and off-road versatility

If versatility and practicality are what you’re after and you’ve got a taste for titanium then this is a fine option. 

We love the timeless look of this bike and its ride delivers a pleasantly damped feel that’s devoid of fatiguing buzz. 

The Escape’s versatility means it can competently serve as everything from a posh commuter to a long-distance adventure bike.

Some will find the fact it commands a significant premium over comparable steel bikes hard to swallow, and it’s heavier than similarly priced carbon options too.

Focus Atlas 6.8

Pack shot of the Focus Atlas 6.8 gravel bike in a forest
The Focus Atlas 6.8 presents superb value for money.
Felix Smith / Immediate Media
  • £1,899 / €1,999 / AU$3,099 as tested
  • Touring and bikepacking friendly
  • Progressive geometry
  • Excellent value package

The Atlas 6.8 is a very capable bike straight out of the box.

It’s a particularly talented off-roader thanks to progressive geometry that keeps things notably calm even when the going gets steep or rough.

The entertaining ride of the Atlas means it’s a fun way to scale singletrack, cruise along bike paths or even take on a mixed commute.

It’s great to see a mix of Shimano’s excellent GRX RX600 and RX800 groupset components at this price.

The stock wheels are tough and form a great foundation for WTB’s 45mm wide Riddler tyres, though the Boost axle spacing could make potential upgrades more complicated.

Focus has included plenty of mounts and provisions for luggage and accessories, making the Atlas ideal for bikepackers.

GT Grade Carbon Pro

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bikes
The bike is designed for adventure, to be raced at a gran fondo and still get off the beaten track.
Russell Burton
  • £3,500 / €3,799 / $3,900
  • Trail adjusting flip chip on fork improves handling between wheel sizes
  • Nimble, yet super comfortable ride
  • 700c x 42mm tyre clearance

GT’s Grade was one of the first adventure / all-road / gravel bikes, and at the time it was well ahead of the curve in terms of versatility, but after four years, it had become a bit of a dinosaur. Newly revamped, the Grade has matured into a fully-fledged gravel grinder.

The bike still has GT’s signature ‘triple triangle’ at the back, but the seat tube is now entirely free-floating and the seatstays have lost some girth allowing for heaps of compliance.

GT has also added a rear thru-axle and employed a flip chip in the fork to allow the trail figure to be adjusted by 15mm for changeable handling characteristics.

Tyre clearance has also been upped to 700c x 42 mm, and the brand has added mounts galore with the carbon versions capable of carrying five bottles and the alloy version eight.

The position on the bike has been lowered and lengthened a touch, and the handling is confident even when the road or trail gets treacherous — the bike has become more cable overall than its predecessor.

Our Gravel Bike of the Year winner for 2020, the GT Grade Carbon Pro ticks a lot of boxes. It combines excellent compliance with fast handling and great kit that provokes a feeling of childlike exuberance.

Kit wise, there’s very little we’d change, but it’s definitely worth converting the tyres to tubeless if you can.

Liv Devote Advanced Pro

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bikes
The Liv Devote Advanced Pro, the first women’s-specific gravel bike from Liv.
Phil Hall / Immediate Media
  • £4,699 / €5,000 / $5,500 / AU$7,299 as tested
  • Clearance for 45mm (700c) and 50mm (650b) tyres
  • Women’s-specific geometry
  • Dropper seatpost compatibility

Liv’s first gravel bike is a true do-it-all bike for women seeking on- and 0ff-road adventures.

As with the rest of the Liv range, the frame’s geometry/sizing and carbon layup has been chosen specifically for female riders. Giant’s shock-absorbing seatpost is very effective at reducing trail buzz, although the 30.9mm hole it sits in will willingly accept a dropper post should you want to maximise the bike’s handling on descents.

It’s a bike that is supremely comfortable over long distances and has mounts for mudguards, luggage, bottles and accessories, so it’s ready for as much adventure as you can take on.

We thoroughly enjoyed the huge gear range, slick shifts and easy set up of SRAM’s eTap AXS groupset, and its AXS brakes were not short of power or feel.

This flagship Devote model is big bucks but there are two cheaper carbon bikes and an aluminium frame starting from just £1,400 / $1,150 / €1,100 / AU$1,699.

Marin Nicasio +

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bikes
Marin’s Nicasio + delivers a brilliant ride for the money.
Marin Bikes
  •  £845 / €899 / $899.00
  • Amazing value
  • Ideal for bikepacking
  • Seriously fun to ride

The Nicasio + proves that simplicity is key when you’re working on a budget.

It would be easy to discard this bike based on its simple steel frame and fork and relatively high weight, but that would be a real mistake.

Yes, you’ll feel the weight on steeper climbs, but the cleverly chosen spec and excellent geometry make this bike a treat as soon as the going gets rough.

This is one of the most fun bikes to ride of its kind and yet it retails for less than the frameset of many other gravel bikes.

Mason Bokeh Ti GRX Di2

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bikes
There are loads of striking details, and a lot more going on than is the case with most titanium frames.
Robert Smith / Immediate Media
  • £6,195 as tested
  • Sublime frame with lovely ride quality and great kit
  • The chunky tyres make it a little pedestrian on the road and it’s pretty expensive
  • 700c x 45mm tyre clearance

We’ve long been big fans of Mason’s aluminium gravel bike, the Bokeh, so we were pleased to see much of what we loved about that bike has translated across to the titanium version.

There are smart details galore, from the numerous mounts for bottles, racks and mudguards, to the MultiPort cabling system that ensures compatibility with all kinds of drivetrain. As you’d expect, the ride quality is also excellent. The frameset, custom Mason/Hunt wheels and chunky tyres make for a wonderfully composed ride off-road.

The only issue is that it comes at a relatively high price, but if you’re willing to part with this much cash, we think you’re unlikely to be disappointed.

Orbea Terra M20-D1x GRX

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bikes
It’s an ideal companion for challenging off-road terrain without the laborious stretch on tarmac in-between trails.
Getty Images /Immediate Media
  • £2,599 / €2,929 / $3,299 as tested
  • Lively, well priced bike with a bold paint job
  • 1x gearing is very off-road focused
  • 700c x 40mm tyre clearance

Highly capable both on- and off-road, Orbea’s Terra M20-D1x is an excellent all-round bike for all kinds of adventures.

It absorbs rough terrain with ease, but doesn’t feel like a wet noodle on the road. It also has integrated mounts for racks and mudguards, so a simple swap of tyres or wheels could easily turn this into a ‘one-bike-for-all’ option.

If we’re really nitpicking, the only thing to be aware of is that the 1x gearing is quite off-road focused, so you could find yourself slightly undergeared for group riding on the road.

Orbea also offers a host of customisation options, meaning you can upgrade the spec to suit, if your budget allows. Plus, if the rowdy stock paint job isn’t for you, customising that is also an option.

Reilly Gradient

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Pack shot of the Reilly Gradient road gravel bike
The Reilly has a truly superb chassis.
Robert Smith
  • £3,249 as tested
  • Well priced for titanium
  • Clever build kit
  • Comfortable and quick

The titanium Reilly Gradient frame is not only a thing of beauty, the ride it delivers also manages to hit the sweet spot between comfort and speed.

The well-considered build puts Hunt’s 1,629g 4Season tubeless-ready alloy gravel wheelset at either axle and is driven and stopped by Shimano’s excellent gravel-specific GRX groupset.

It all adds up to a ride that feels road-bike precise on tarmac, yet controllable off it. It’s reasonably priced too, particularly for a titanium bike that’s built in the UK.

Ribble CGR Ti 650b

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Ribble CGR Ti 650b
The CGR Ti might be pretty, but it has a very tough core and is a joy to ride everywhere
Robert Smith
  • £2,099 as tested
  • Great value for money build
  • Classic ti’ looks are hard to beat
  • 700 x 47mm tyre clearance

Ribble’s CGR Ti presents exceptional value for money and buckets of versatility but, let’s get real here — it’s the classic brushed titanium finish that really got us excited.

The frame isn’t just a pretty face, though — at 1,700g it’s not too heavy for a non-carbon frame and, with generous clearances alongside mudguard mounts, it’s super versatile to boot.

The CGR Ti has recently been updated with dropped seat stays, a stouter head tube and more road friendly gearing, but we’ve not had a chance to test whether any of those changes makes a significant difference to the ride quality.

Vielo V+1

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Everything about the V+1 has been an exercise in meticulous planning and execution
Everything about the V+1 has been an exercise in meticulous planning and execution.
Mick Kirkman
  • £5,499 as tested
  • Super light and comfortable frameset
  • Dropper improves control in rough terrain
  • 700 x 45mm tyre clearance

Vielo’s V+1 is built around one of the lightest gravel frames on the market, with the (claimed) sub-900g frame and sub-400g fork giving a really lively, exciting and fast ride.

Uniquely, the bike is built around a RockShox Reverb dropper post, which massively improves confidence in rough terrain.

Vitus Energie EVO CRS eTap Force

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Vitus Energie EVOS CRS cyclocross bike pack shot
The Vitus Energie might be a ‘cross bike, but it’s very capable at gravel too.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media
  • £3,499 / €3,999 / $4,299 as tested
  • Wildcard choice due to cyclocross race origins
  • Supremely versatile
  • Great value for money

The Energie is Vitus’ cyclocross race bike, but don’t discard it as just that. Providing you aren’t discouraged by geometry that’s on the racier side, this makes a top gravel or even winter road bike thanks to heaps of clearance, well-chosen components and mudguard mounts.

Vitus’ big name buying power (their parent company is Chain Reaction Cycles/Wiggle) means specification is great for the money and includes a full SRAM Force eTap AXS groupset, a Prime Black Edition 38 Disc carbon wheelset and mostly carbon finishing kit, again from Prime.

We loved the subtle yet classy finish including those lovely tan wall tyres.

3T Exploro RaceMax

4.0 out of 5 star rating
3T Exploro RaceMax
The Exploro RaceMax is an exotic alternative from most gravel machines.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • £3,849 as tested
  • Tons of versatility
  • Aero design
  • Clever all-rounder

The Exploro Max builds on what 3T’s original Exploro gravel bike offered, yet does so in a package that is more versatile thanks to bigger tyre clearances and an aerodynamic design.

Our tester praised the Exploro RaceMax for its superbly balanced handling and supreme versatility.

Different builds provide either 700c wheels with 35mm tyres or a 650b wheelset with 47mm tyres, plus the choice of either a 1x or 2x drivetrain.

The out and out stiffness of its chassis means it can’t match a dedicated gravel bike off-road but what it loses here it more than makes up for with its road credentials.

It doesn’t offer the greatest value out there, but many will be prepared to pay the premium for its exclusivity.

BiVi Bunker Malvern

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Bivi Bunker Malvern
The Bivi Bunker is an appealingly simple bike.
Matthew Allen / Immediate Media
  • £1,399 as tested
  • Charming retro appeal
  • Mountain bike derived drivetrain
  • Something a little different

This one’s a bit of a wildcard, you can either see it as an on-trend flat bar gravel adventure bike or a retro mountain bike with a few modern touches.

Either way, the Bunker is an appealing, versatile choice and something a little different to the rest of the bikes in this list.

We really enjoyed the way this bike combines a retro ride experience with some modern niceties. The 1×11 SRAM GX drivetrain is a good example of this, offering dependable and smooth shifts that are endlessly more appealing than the loose triple setup a 90’s MTB would wear.

Canyon Grail CF SL 7.0

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bikes
The Canyon Grail CF SL 7.0 is available only with Canyon’s controversial Hover bar.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media
  • £2,649 / $2,699
  • A real head turner
  • Superb kit for the cash
  • Unique cockpit

Despite being the most affordable carbon fibre Canyon Grail, this model still arrives with a great spec. It’s a composed off-roader that manages to feel fast and relatively uncompromised on the road too.

The distinctive double deck ‘Hover bar’ is the bike’s most defining feature, though it’s one that brings its own fit and compatibility complications.

Shimano’s GRX groupset brings a huge range of gearing, a secure, clutch-equipped rear derailleur and hydraulic disc braking.

If the fit works for you and the handlebar is to your preference then this is a great choice for those riding on mixed terrain.

If you can’t live with the compromises of this bike’s divisive cockpit then we’d encourage you to try out the cheaper aluminium version of the Grail (shown above in this list) which foregoes the biplane setup. 

This GRX equipped version is the cheapest way to get your hands on a carbon Grail, but if you’ve got a bit more money to spend we also got on very well with the SRAM Force eTap build as well.

Fuji Jari 1.3 Adventure

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bikes
The Jari’s slender alloy frame adds up to low weight for the money.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • £1,400 as tested
  • A great package for the price
  • Decent ride characteristics on- and off-road
  • Full set of fittings for accessories

The Jari 1.3 is a very well kitted out gravel machine for the money, and it’s a bike that impresses both on and off the road.

The slender aluminium frame and carbon fork include plenty of fittings for touring or bikepacking accessories as well as the usual mudguard mounts.

It’s great to see WTB’s excellent and hardy STi23 tubeless-compatible gravel rims, and equally impressive to find them paired with 38mm Gravel King SK tyres from Panaracer.

The SRAM 1x drivetrain starts out with a really low crawler gear that will become your very best friend when climbing or riding off road. It’s a shame that Fuji couldn’t stretch the budget to hydraulic discs, although the performance of the Tektro mechanical discs was a pleasant surprise.

Giant Revolt Advanced 0

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bikes
A wonderfully capable go-anywhere machine.
David Caudery / Immediate Media
  • £3,249  as tested
  • Amazing spec for the cash
  • Highly versatile frameset
  • 700 x 45mm tyre clearance

With a racy geometry, similar to Giant’s Defy endurance road bike, the Revolt Advanced is a quick handling machine that’s also smooth to ride over rough terrain.

That smoothness is down to the slim back-end, but also some smart component choices. The D-Fuse seatpost and handlebars both allow for flex in the directions you want it, without impacting stiffness in those that you don’t.

Tyre clearance is excellent, with space for 700 x 45mm or up to 50mm tyres on 650b wheels. Kudos to Giant for setting the wheels up tubeless out of the box, and the 32x34t bottom gear should be low enough for practically everything even if the bike’s loaded up.

The versatility of this bike is really something too, it’s easily adaptable for commuting, road training, gravel racing or adventuring with luggage attached.

Juliana Quincy CC Rival

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bikes
A beautiful-looking steed and the perfect crossover bike for the indecisive roadie/gravelista.
Robert Smith / Immediate Media
  • £3,699 / €3,899 / $3,699 as tested
  • Multi-discipline capability
  • Heaps of tyre clearance and mudguard mounts
  • Stunning looks

The Juliana Quincy is the women’s version of the Santa Cruz Stigmata. Like the Stigmata, it started out as a cyclocross bike but naturally makes a great gravel or adventure option.

Whether you like long road miles, bikepacking, gravel grinding or tame off-roading, the Quincy can take on all of those – meaning some riders could feasibly consolidate their bike collection into just one.

The carbon frame and fork is particularly comfortable and sports mudguard mounts as well as room for three bottles.

There’s a huge amount of clearance, with room for 45mm tyres if you’re on 700c wheels or a full 2.1in with 650b wheels in place.

Lauf Anywhere

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Lauf Anywhere shot side on in woods
The Lauf Anywhere is a versatile gravel bike with a conventional fork.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media
  • Same great race-ready frame as the True Grit
  • Regular fork opens up options for mounting luggage
  • 700c x 45mm tyre clearance

When you think of Lauf, the first thing that comes to mind is its crazy looking leaf spring fork, which allows for 30mm of front travel. However, the brand’s Anywhere gravel grinder doesn’t get one and instead it comes with what Lauf calls a JAF or ‘Just a Fork.’

The frame features its Long-4-Speed geometry, which entails a short head-tube, lengthy top-tube and short chainstays paired with a short stem and a slack (for a road bike) head angle. The idea is that it’s stable at speed but lets you get tucked up in an aero position when the need arises.

Lauf has also opted for a threaded bottom bracket shell, full-length internal cable guides and mounts galore, but the bike has no provisions for mudguards/fenders.

As the name implies, the Anywhere rides well on both tarmac and F-Roads as they’re known in Iceland (gravel roads) as well as smooth singletrack, but is somewhat limited by the 40mm slick tyres that come stock.

Merida Silex 400

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bikes
The Silex features a tall front end, long top tube, slack head angle and a short stem.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • Unusual MTB-inspired geometry
  • Quality hydraulic disc groupset
  • Good overall value

There’s a lot of mountain bike influence in Merida’s Silex 400 and that’s a very good thing. By combining a long reach figure with a short stem, the aluminium frame of the Silex 400 positions its rider perfectly to make the most of its brilliant off-road handling.

The frame features mudguard mounts, rack mounts, two cages and double bosses on the fork legs, meaning getting accessorised for touring, bikepacking or adventure riding will not be an issue.

Shimano’s GRX transmission and braking components are mixed with a lot of own-brand parts for a spec sheet that amounts to decent value.

To get even more from the Silex chassis, we think this bike could do with tyres a little wider than the 38mm Maxxis Rambler parts that come as standard (42mm is max for this frame and fork). Unfortunately, the narrow internal width of Merida’s narrow Comp SL wheelset means you’d have to plump for a wheel upgrade at the same time.

On-One Free Ranger SRAM Force 1

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bikes
It’s near impossible to match the value of On-One’s Free Ranger.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • Great value for money
  • Tidy handling
  • Rack and mudguard mounts

With a carbon frame and fork, and SRAM Force hydraulic disc groupset, the £1,800 On-One Free Ranger is in a league of its own when it comes to value.

Its geometry is on the racier side for a bike of its kind, making it perfect for singletrack blasts. It’s impressively light too, with our extra-large test bike weighing just 9.87kg (21.76lbs).

All the fittings are present for full-length mudguards and a pannier rack, too.

Pinnacle Arkose D2

Pack shot of the Pinnacle Arkose D2 gravel road bike
The Pinnacle Arkose D2 is a well-specced bike that’s designed for riders who like to get off the beaten track.
David Caudery / Immediate Media
  • £1,205
  • Fabulously capable off-road
  • Decent componentry
  • Commuter versatility

Evans own brand Pinnacle refers to its Arkose as being an adventure road bike rather than an out and out gravel machine.

For the price, you get a lot of equipment, including 2×10 shifting and hydraulic braking components that are mostly form Shimano’s latest Tiagra line.

In truth, it’s only really a flared handlebar away from being a proper gravel bike, but it’s a perfectly usable drop handlebar road bike too. There are mounts for mudguards and racks for those who want this bike as a rugged commuter.

The standard 45mm tan-wall WTB tyres excel off road with huge amounts of comfort and grip but you’ll likely want to swap them if you’re using this bike mostly for commuting. Similarly, you’d be best going for skinnier rubber should you want to make the most of the mudguard mounts.

Ribble CGR 725 Steel

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Ribble CGR 725 Steel
Ribble’s CGR ‘adventure bike’ range has had a comprehensive makeover for 2019.
Robert Smith
  • Immensely versatile
  • A touch on the heavy side
  • Classy steel frame

The CGR 725 Steel gets its name from the slender Reynolds 725 steel tubes it’s constructed with. The frame offers not only a classy look but a cossetting ride that is more about comfort than smashing personal bests.

You can fit 700c, 29er or 650b wheels, making this is a chassis you can really tailor to your preferences. Rear rack mounts, clearance for up to 47mm tyres and bosses at the top tube add further versatility.

The CGR could happily clock commuting, fitness, adventure or even training rides.

At a smidge over 11kg, it’s a little weighty though, and the TRP mechanical discs are good rather than great.

Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bikes
The Diverge Comp Carbon’s Future Shock 2.0 suspension system is a real highlight.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media
  • Future Shock 2.0 suspension
  • SWAT storage box
  • Fun yet composed ride character

The Diverge is a supremely versatile bike that could successfully do everything from fully-loaded touring through to ultra-light gravel racing.

We feel this model with its Shimano GRX 810-level groupset, sensible alloy wheels and decent finishing kit represents the best balance of performance and value from the 2021 Diverge range.

Its party piece is the Future Shock 2.0 suspension system, which is remarkably effective yet delightfully simple.

This bike is a real hoot to ride on rough terrain, with a notably composed ride manner at high speeds and on steep trails.

It’s so good out of the box that there’s little beyond the tyres that we’d look to change in the future.

Vitus Substance CRX

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Vitus Substance CRX
The Substance CRX is impressively light, thanks in part to its carbon wheelset.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • Lightweight carbon wheelset
  • True mountain bike character
  • Exceptional value

The Substance CRX may be Vitus’s first foray into the world of gravel bikes but you’d never know it. Make no mistake, this is a bike that has been specced to really excel at gravel riding itself with geometry, gearing and component choices that work best in the rough.

Vitus really makes this bike’s retail price stretch a long way. The carbon fibre frame is made from Toray T-700 carbon which has previously been exclusive to the likes of premium brands such as Pinarello.

There’s a SRAM Rival groupset, lightweight 650b carbon fibre wheels from Prime with a generous 24.5mm internal width and WTB’s Venture 650b x 47c TCS tubeless tyres.

Our sub-9kg XL test bike is impressive for a gravel bike at this price, particularly when you consider the aforementioned 47mm tyres. It’s a real hoot off road with true mountain-bike character while mudguard bosses, fork-mounted bags and a third bottle boss at the down tube make it a viable option for adventuring or even tough commutes.

What is a gravel bike?

Four key features can usually be used to distinguish a gravel bike from a traditional road bike.

Wider tyres

WTB Nano tyre
High volume tyres are par for the course on gravel rigs.
Thomas McDaniel / Immediate Media

First and foremost, gravel bikes have wider tyres. Since these bicycles are designed to traverse miles of unpaved roads, their tyres are substantially larger. Likewise, mud clearance is also a concern in these conditions.

Tyre widths range anywhere from 30mm to 48mm. In addition to 700c wheels, it is also common to see smaller diameter 650b wheels used with higher volume tyres.

Most gravel tyres feature a fast-rolling centre tread with knurling or side knobs to improve cornering ability on mixed surfaces. Tubeless tyres are also commonly found on gravel bikes, because the latex sealant provides a degree of insurance against punctures.

In addition to wider tyres, gravel bikes have geometry that favours stability and comfort.


Specialized gravel bike
Given the terrain gravel bikes are expected to cover, frame geometry often rests somewhere between road and cross-country mountain bikes.
Felix Tranker

The wheelbase of a gravel bike is longer than most road bikes thanks to longer chainstays and slacker head-tube angles.

Head tubes are generally taller as well, placing the rider in a more relaxed, upright position. Bottom brackets are often lower, which gives the rider the sensation of riding in, rather than on the bicycle.

The end result of these geometry differences is a more comfortable, confidence-inspiring and forgiving ride than one would find in a typical road bike.


Cannondale Slate crankset
Wide range 1x drivetrains are common for gravel grinding.
Josh Patterson / Immediate Media

Gearing is another area where these bikes diverge from the pack. Given the terrain, many gravel bikes feature compact or smaller gearing and wide-range cassettes.

Cranksets with 50/34 or 48/32t are common. Likewise, many gravel bikes come with 1x gearing and wide-range cassettes.


Lauf Grit fork
A growing number of gravel bikes feature suspension systems, such as this Lauf Grit suspension fork.
Arnold Bjornsson

In addition to wide tyres, relaxed geometry and low gearing, many gravel bikes have active or passive suspension systems built into them.

Much like bikes in the endurance road category, these features could take the form of slender chainstays, a bowed top tube, or a skinny seatpost, all of which are designed to flex in order to absorb road chatter.

Some gravel bikes take things one step further by using short-travel suspension forks such as the Lefty Oliver or aesthetically odd but very effective Lauf Grit fork.

How much do I have to spend on a gravel bike?

Well, that depends on what you define as a gravel bike. A used cyclocross bike, for example, could work perfectly well as a gravel bike and cost you a fraction of the cost of even the most basic ‘true’ gravel machine.

If you’re looking at a purpose-built gravel / all-road bike, expect to pay around £800 / $1,200 for an alloy frame with entry-level components.

A mid-range build from a major brand will likely cost in excess of £2,000 / $2,800 but should feature a carbon frame and hydraulic disc brakes.


As is normally the case in the cycling world, it’s possible to spend a small (or not so small) fortune on a custom-built bike should you wish.