Best gravel bikes 2020: 29 top-rated picks

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

  The products mentioned in this article are selected or reviewed independently by our journalists. When you buy through links on our site we may earn an affiliate commission, but this never influences our opinion.
Best gravel bikes

If you’re looking for a list of the best gravel bikes on sale in 2020 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.

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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.

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The best gravel bikes in 2020, as rated by our expert testers

  • Canyon Grail Al 7.0: £1,349 / $1,899 / AU$2,199
  • Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX: £3,500 / $4,200
  • Devinci Hatchet Carbon GRX LTD: $3,299 / CAD$3,999 / €3,499
  • Enigma Escape: £3,888 / €4,666 / $5,063
  • Genesis Datum 20: £2,399.99 / AU$4,675
  • GT Grade Carbon Pro: £3,500 / $3,900 / €3,799
  • Liv Devote Advanced Pro: £4,699 / $5,500 / €5,000 / AU$7,299
  • Marin Gestalt X11: £2,100 /$2,100 / €2,199 /AU$2,900
  • Mason Bokeh Ti GRX Di2: £6,195 / International pricing TBC
  • Orbea Terra M20-D1x GRX: £2,599 / €2,929 / 3,299
  • Reilly Gradient: £3,249
  • Ribble CGR Ti: £2,099, international pricing TBC
  • Rondo Ruut AL Disc: £1,699 / $2,200
  • Trek Checkpoint SL6: £3,400 / $2,899 / AU$4,699
  • Vielo V 1: £5,499, international pricing TBC
  • Vitus Energie EVO CRS eTAP Force: £3,499 / €3,999 / $4,299
  • BiVi Bunker Malvern: £1,399 international pricing TBC
  • Cannondale Topstone Apex: £1,799 / $2,100
  • Canyon Grail CF SL 7.0: £2,049 / $2,499 / AU$3,599
  • Cipollini MCM Allroad: £5,800, international pricing TBC
  • Fuji Jari 1.3: £1,349, international pricing TBC
  • Giant Revolt Advanced 0: £3,249 / $3,465 / AU$4,299
  • Kinesis Tripster AT: £1,800 / $1,990
  • Lauf Anywhere: $3,340, international pricing TBC
  • Pinnacle Arkose Dirt D3: £1,300/ $1,463
  • Ribble CGR 725 Steel: £1,199 / $1,257 / AU$1,965
  • Rose Backroad Ultegra: £2,314 / €2,549
  • Specialized Diverge X1: £2,199 / $2,500 / AU$3,700
  • Vitus Substance CRX: £2,300 / $3,000 / €2,700

Canyon Grail Al 7.0

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Canyon Grail 7.0 best gravel bike
The Grail 7.0 boasts a seriously good value for money build.
BikeRadar / Immediate media
  • Named as our best all-round bike in our 2019 Bike of the Year awards
  • Amazing performance for the money
  • 700c x 40mm tyre clearance

Winner of the best all-round bike in our 2019 Bike of the Year awards, the alloy version of the Grail ditches the ‘hover bar‘ for a standard cockpit, and is combined with an 80mm stem for a lively ride.

The alloy frame also loses the bump in the top tube, features heavily hydroformed tubing and oversized 1 1/4in steering and a full carbon fork.

With a 50/34t crankset mated with an 11-34t cassette, the Grail gives you a 1:1 climbing gear. The Schwalbe G-Ones performed well, but durability is likely to come into play.

We were most surprised by the Grail AL’s performance, especially considering the price.

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
  • 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

£

Huge tyre clearances

Superbly stable yet fun handling

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

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.

Genesis Datum 20

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Genesis Datum 20
Genesis’s Datum 20 has excellent ride quality and versatility.
Russel Burton / Immediate Media
  • Super comfortable but springy ride
  • Confidence-inspiring long and low position
  • 700 x 45mm tyre clearance

While the Datum isn’t a featherweight at 9.29kg, the bike more than made up for the mediocre performance on the scale with its ride quality. Our tester loved the spring up to speed when you put a bit of pressure on the pedals and the dynamic ride feel.

It’s slightly longer and lower than most gravel bikes, but the stretched front end, flared bars and 72-degree head angle make for a safe and stable feel so you can confidently push when things get greasy or gravelly. At the back, a 27.2mm seatpost and leaf-spring stays work together to eat road vibrations.

In a throwback to the origins of the gravel and all-road bike, the Datum 20 is not without its quirks with a 15mm front thru-bolt in the fork and a quick release skewer at the back.

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
  • 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
  • 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 Gestalt X11

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Marin Gestalt X11 being ridden
Marin’s mountain-bike heritage shines through the Gestalt.
Robert Smith / Immediate Media
  • Mountain bike-inspired geometry is astonishingly capable
  • Dropper post makes it a joy to ride in rowdy terrain
  • 700c x 42mm tyre clearance

Marin has a long history in mountain biking and has adapted some of the lessons learned with the current crop of ever longer and slacker mountain bikes into the Gestalt X11 gravel bike.

With a slack front end and a steep seat angle, the bike puts you in an aggressive pedalling position, yet maintains predictable, surprise free handling on and off the road. The combination of an angled top tube and hydraulic dropper post allows Gestalt to get into some pretty unruly terrain.

Remembering that this is still a drop bar road bike, it’s got a full carbon fork, a range of rack mounts and will take up to a 42mm x 700c tyre or a 47mm tyre when using 650b wheels. The only real complaint we can muster is about the saddle.

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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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.

Rondo Ruut AL Disc

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Rondo Ruut AL Disc
The Ruut AL is good on road and great off road and fabulous fun, too. Who needs carbon?
Robert Smith
  • Clever switchable geometry
  • Great build kit
  • Very comfortable

As a relative of our 2019 Bike of the Year, we had a sneaky suspicion that the Rondo Ruut AL Disc was going to be good and we weren’t wrong.

The sculpted aluminium frame is dressed in a great selection of kit including SRAM’s excellent 1x gearing and hydraulic disc brakes.

The wheels don’t only look great but they’re tubeless-ready and play nicely with the 43mm wide Panaracer Gravel King tyres.

Then comes this bike’s party piece: a patented oval insert at the fork lets you swap between two different geometries, subtly altering stack, reach, length, fork offset, head and seat angles. That means you can alter the bike to offer a racier or more relaxed feel depending on which terrain you’re tackling.

It’s good on road and great off road but also includes all the fittings you could require for bikepacking.

Trek Checkpoint SL6

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Cyclist riding black bike in countryside
What’s immediately apparent is how smooth the Checkpoint SL6 feels.
Robert Smith
  • IsoSpeed decoupler improves comfort massively
  • The bike strikes a good balance between high-speed gravel cruisability and low-speed stability
  • 700c x 40mm tyre clearance

Sitting at the top of Trek’s range of gravel bikes, the Checkpoint SL6 carries the brand’s IsoSpeed decoupler on the seat tube to make rough and tumble gravel roads feel almost velvety smooth, with the fork being no slouch in this department either.

At the back, the Checkpoint also gets a dropped driveside chainstay to leave extra room for tyres and mud and is said to accept up to 40mm rubber.

The Checkpoint SL 6 comes with a 50/34t crankset and 11-34t cassette, giving a 1:1 climbing gear for when the gravel gets really steep.

We found the Checkpoint leaned towards faster rolling terrain and wasn’t as confident in techy mud and rocks. Even still, the bike finds a good balance between high-speed gravel cruising and low-speed rock crawling.

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
  • 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
  • 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.

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
  • 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.

Cannondale Topstone Apex

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Cannondale Topstone Apex
The Apex 1 model offers workhorse sensibilities and good value.
David Caudery / Immediate Media
  • Super clean and well-equipped alloy frame
  • Tall and relaxed ride position is great for all-day riding
  • 700c x 42mm tyre clearance

While Cannondale was one of the first mainstream brands to go #fullgravel with the Slate, for some, putting a Lefty suspension fork on a drop bar bike was a tad too radical.

The brand’s latest entry to the gravel market should satisfy those who are looking for something a bit more traditional and are on a budget.

The alloy frame is well presented with clean finishing and plenty of bottle, rack and fender mounts throughout. The geometry offers a tall, relaxed position, and with a 50mm dropper you can get your butt all the way back to the tyre on steep descents.

Unfortunately, when things go back up, the Topstone isn’t exactly a mountain goat thanks a bit of junk in the trunk, tipping our scales at 10.26kg.

The bike handles pretty similarly to Cannondale’s SuperX cyclocross bike, but with a longer wheelbase and lower bottom bracket, it’s a confident descender.

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
  • 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.

Cipollini MCM Allroad

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Cipollini MCM Allroad
Is the Cipollini MCM Allroad as brash as its namesake and former pro cyclist, Mario Cipollini?
Robert Smith
  • Fast and stiff frameset
  • Stable handling
  • 700 x 40mm tyre clearance

Cipollini’s MCM Allroad gravel bike is the brand’s first off-road focussed model and available in a number of builds, with this SRAM Force-1 equipped bike coming in at a fairly heady £5,800. The frameset will set you back £3,200.

Out on the (gravel) road, the bike is stiff, fast and well mannered, but the slightly uneven finish and middling tyre clearance is slightly disappointing for the money.

Fuji Jari 1.3

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Fuji Jari 1.3
The Jari is a comfortable bike that’ll cope with just about every surface you throw at it.
Robert Smith
  • Usefully low gearing
  • Ideal for bikepacking
  • A fun if not particularly fast ride

The Jari 1.3 isn’t particularly light, neither is it that quick. But it’s a top choice if you’re looking for a comfortable, practical and versatile gravel bike that’ll cope with just about every surface you throw at it.

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

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.

We were also big fans of the 38mm tubeless-compatible Panaracer Gravel King tyres that come with this bike. We’d have preferred to have seen hydraulic rather than mechanical disc brakes, but at this price, you simply can’t have it all.

Read the full review of the Fuji Jari 1.3

Giant Revolt Advanced 0

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bikes
A wonderfully capable go-anywhere machine.
David Caudery / Immediate Media
  • 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.

Kinesis Tripster AT

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Kinesis Tripster AT shot side on
Kinesis’s new Tripster AT in Arran Blue with the SRAM Rival 1x groupset.
Kinesis Bikes / Upgrade Bikes
  • Very capable for a budget-focussed frame
  • Competitive build for the money
  • 700 x 45mm tyre clearance

Using design ideas from the late Mike Hall, the Tripster AT began its life as the ATR titanium all-rounder and has now evolved into a more budget-friendly aluminium version.

The bike will take 650b x 52mm or 700 x 45mm rubber, and has room for three bottles with room for a frame bag.

With an on-trend gravel geometry and tipping our scales at 9.6kg it’s not the lightest bike, but on paper it’s a very competitive gravel ride.

In practice, the handling is rock solid but the frame has a firm ride quality, even with the 40mm Schwalbe G-One tyres at relatively low pressure.

The drivetrain is geared towards adventuring with a 40t chainring at the front and an 11-42t at the back, and the simplicity of the 1x drivetrain did not go unnoticed. However, the tight bend in the flared drop bars lacks space for riders with big mitts.

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.

Pinnacle Arkose Dirt D3

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Pinnacle Arkose Dirt D3
The Arkose Dirt D3 is as composed on tarmac as it is on loose gravel and it’s fun to ride.
Courtesy
  • Very practical and good value for money build
  • Full complement of rack and mudguard mounts
  • 700 x 45mm tyre clearance

Evans Cycles argues that the Arkose was a gravel bike before the term ground its way in to our collective consciousness. As it’s been around for several years, Evans has a point.

This latest iteration of the model gains a raft of tweaks that should widen its appeal to the maturing UK all-road bike market and, with such a large retailer behind it, it looks to be great value too.

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.

Rose Backroad Ultegra

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Rose's Backroad Ultegra
Rose’s Backroad Ultegra.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • Typically impressive value for money from Rose
  • Opportunity to refine specs
  • 700 x 42mm tyre clearance

The Backroad is Rose’s take on a go-anywhere road bike that takes in the gravel genre too. In typical online retail style, value for money is high, and the price is usually not a round number.

The ride is a little firmer and the bottom bracket a bit higher than most but, overall, it’s a really well-rounded package.

Specialized Diverge X1

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Best gravel bikes
Specialized’s Diverge X1 gravel bike.
Simon Bromley
  • Comfortable, confident and fun to ride
  • Effective handlebar suspension
  • 700 x 42mm tyre clearance

The cheapest carbon model in Specialized’s 2020 Diverge range (which has just been updated for 2021), the X1 is designed to ‘shred’ singletrack, gravel and normal roads, and it doesn’t disappoint.

The Future Shock suspension system, which sits between the head tube and the handlebars, impresses and, as we’ve noted before, genuinely makes a difference to the comfort and handling.

The 1x SRAM Apex drivetrain features a 40t chainring paired with an 11-42t cassette out back, giving it plenty of top speed for road use but on super-steep off-road climbs our tester did find it a struggle to keep cadence high. The simplicity of a 1x setup is a real winner on rough, undulating tracks though.

To truly sing off-road it does need a change of tyres because the stock ones have a slick central tread that isn’t well suited for the muddy conditions we often get here in the UK.

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.

Geometry

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.

Gearing

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.

Suspension

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.

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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.