23 of the very best gravel bikes tested and rated by our team
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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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The CGR Ti might be pretty, but it has a very tough core and is a joy to ride everywhereRobert 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Is the Cipollini MCM Allroad as brash as its namesake and former pro cyclist, Mario Cipollini?Robert Smith
Fast and stiff frameset
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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’s CGR ‘adventure bike’ range has had a comprehensive makeover for 2019.Robert Smith
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jack has been riding and fettling bikes for his whole life. Always in search of the hippest new niche in cycling, Jack is a self-confessed gravel dork, fixie-botherer, tandem-evangelist, hill-climbing try hard, and thinks nothing of taking on a daft challenge for the BikeRadar YouTube channel. With a near encyclopaedic knowledge of cycling tech — from the most esoteric niche nonsense to the most cutting edge modern kit — Jack takes pride in his ability to seek out tech and stories that would otherwise go unreported. Jack has been at BikeRadar for three years now and is regularly testing an esoteric mix of weird and wonderful bikes.