Best gravel bikes 2020: 27 top-rated picks

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

  The products mentioned in this article are selected and 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.
Canyon Grail 7.0 best gravel bike

These are 27 of the best gravel bikes that we have tested.

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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
  • Genesis Datum 20: £2,399.99 / AU$4,675
  • Giant Revolt Advanced 0: £2,999 / $3,465 / AU$4,299
  • Lauf True Grit: $4,990, international pricing TBC
  • Marin Gestalt X11: £1,799 / $2,100
  • Merida Silex 700: £2,100, international pricing TBC
  • 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
  • BiVi Bunker Malvern: £1,399 international pricing TBC
  • Cannondale Slate: £2,499.99 / $2,899–$3,499
  • Cannondale Topstone Apex: £1,799 / $2,100
  • Cipollini MCM Allroad: £5,800, international pricing TBC
  • Fuji Jari 1.3: £1,349, international pricing TBC
  • GT Grade Carbon Pro: £3,500 / $3,900 / €3,799
  • Kinesis Tripster AT: £1,800 / $1,990
  • Lauf Anywhere: $3,340, international pricing TBC
  • Norco Search XR: £1,599–£3,999 / $1,999–$4,199
  • Pinnacle Arkose Dirt D3: £1,300/ $1,463
  • Ribble CGR 725 Steel: £1,199 / $1,257 / AU$1,965
  • Rondo Ruut CF01: £3,299 / $3,399 / AU$4,999
  • Rose Backroad Ultegra: £2,314 / €2,549
  • Salsa Cutthroat: £2,399.99–£3,500 / $2,499–$4,299
  • Specialized Diverge: £799—£8,500 / $1,100—$9,000
  • Specialized Sequoia Elite: £2,000 / $2,000 / AU$2,500
  • 3T Exploro: £3,950–£5,800 / $2,999–$6,800

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.

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.

Giant Revolt Advanced 0

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Giant Revolt Advanced 0 2019
Giant’s Revolt Advanced 0 for 2019.
  • Amazing spec for the cash
  • Highly versatile frameset
  • 700 x 45mm tyre clearance

You can see much of Giant’s TCR, Defy and TCX models when it comes to the Revolt, but this is very much a chassis dedicated to gravel duties.

Happy with either 700 x 45mm tyres or up to 2in tyres with 650b wheels in place, the Revolt proved superbly cossetting across every surface we tested on. Its spec is also exceptionally well-chosen and represents great value for money.

With a 32×34 gear ratio at the bottom end, the Revolt can really take you anywhere a bike like this can be ridden. The stock spec wants for nothing and the main way of tweaking performance will be tyre choice.

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

Lauf True Grit

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Lauf True Grit photographed in Iceland
The True Grit was Lauf’s first bike.
Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
  • The innovative fork makes a real difference in rough terrain
  • Very lightweight builds possible
  • 700 x 40mm tyre clearance

The True Grit is pegged as a gravel racer, designed to chug through miles of tarmac-free road at warp speed.

With a low front end, the position is aggressive and there are no rack or fender mounts to speak of, but there are four bottle bosses. The rear end is designed around 142mm hub spacing, and the bottom bracket is threaded.

Most notably, the bike comes with the Grit fork, allowing for 30mm of leaf-sprung front travel, which takes the corner off square edges.

Despite its aggressive riding position, the handling is calm and the 7.8kg weight means there’s not too much heft to lug uphill or manhandle through techy obstacles.

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.

Merida Silex 700

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Merida Silex 700 shot side on
Merida’s Silex 700 can take 700 x 42mm or 650b x 50mm tyres.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • Unique geometry translates into uniquely competent handling
  • Huge versatility
  • 700 x 42mm or 650b x 50mm tyre clearance

Initially, the Merida Silex left our testers a bit flummoxed with its oddly high riding positing. However, the bike’s nimble character and willingness to accelerate over obstacles prevailed.

Weighing in at 9.59kg, there is a bit of extra heft to drag up the climbs, but the 50/34t crankset and 11-34t rear cluster allow for a 1:1 granny gear combo to help you spin your way up.

With the ability to take 700 x 42mm or 650b x 50mm tyres, our test bike came with 35mm semi-slick rubber which performed considerably better than expected, even at reasonably high pressures. Better still were the Shimano hydraulic disc brakes offering oodles of power and modulation.

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.

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.

Read our Rondo Ruut AL Disc review

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.

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 Slate Ultegra

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Cannondale Slate pictured up against a log pile
Cannondale’s Slate was one of the first gravel bikes equipped with a suspension fork.
Courtesy
  • Lefty Oliver fork adds rough terrain compliance
  • Good deals to be found on bike
  • 650b x 42mm tyre clearance

Credit where credit is due: Cannondale got out ahead of the gravel trend compared to the other big companies. Sure, small brands such as Salsa have been at it for years, but Cannondale’s 650b front suspension drop-bar bike pushed the gravel envelope early.

With clearance for up to 42mm tyres and 30mm of suspension on the Lefty Oliver, the Slate gives you options.

The Slate is now officially discontinued but great deals can still be found on this once groundbreaking bike.

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.

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.

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

GT Grade Carbon Pro

The range topping Pro
The range topping Pro at £3,500 / $3,900 / €3,799 gets lighter WTB wheels and Shimano Ultegra Di2.
GT
  • Trail adjusting flip chip on fork improves handling between wheel sizes
  • 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 the 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.

Even better, the flagship model in the range comes with a sensible Ultegra Di2 2x build drivetrain and WTB wheels and tyres.

We’re yet to complete a full scored review on this bike but early impressions are very positive.

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.

Norco Search XR

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Norco Search XR
The Norco Search XR is an incredibly versatile gravel machine.
Russell Eich / Immediate Media
  • Mudguard and rack mounts improve year-round rideability and versatility
  • Size-specific wheel sizes mean all riders get the same geometry
  • 700c x 45mm or 650b x2.1in tyre clearance

A few companies have gravel race bikes that aren’t too dissimilar from road bikes: stiff, fast and limited clearance. On the other hand, some of the smaller core gravel brands have gone off the deep-end intro true bikepacking weirdness.

If somewhere in between this sounds right to you, let us introduce the Goldilocks of gravel… the Norco Search XR.

The Search can handle the big tyres if you want that, and mounts can be added at discreet points if you want to add fenders or load on racks. And yes, you can load up bottle cages on the fork as well as the frame if you’re into that too.

The Norco is an excellent all-around gravel bike that is a joy to ride, damping the rough chatter a bit without feeling like a plodding mule.

Norco sells this in steel and carbon versions, with not only size-specific frame design but size-specific wheel choices, so shorter riders can get the same geometry as larger riders without toe overlap.

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.

Rondo Ruut CF1

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Rondo Ruut CF1
The Rondo Ruut CF1 was one of our headline bikes for 2018.
Ben Healy / Immediate Media
  • Flip chip allows for a well-mannered ride on the road as well
  • Good spec for the cash
  • 700 x 40mm tyre clearance

Rondo’s Ruut — one of our key bikes of 2018 — has an interesting flip chip that allows riders to lower the front end to improve the bike’s handling on the road. We found this to be genuinely useful and backed up by a generally excellent ride quality overall.

The build is also decent for the money, though we’d like to see a dropper option added.

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.

Salsa Cutthroat

Salsa Cutthroat side on view
The Cutthroat is designed for multi-day gravel races such as the gruelling Tour Divide.
Salsa
  • Perfect bikepacking rig
  • Enormous tyre clearances
  • 700c x 2.4in tyre clearance

Speaking of small companies that have been banging the gravel drum for years, Salsa has a whole range of gravel bikes. While the Warbird is the American company’s gravel racer, the Cutthroat is its burly bikepacking sibling.

There is no mistaking this guy for an endurance road bike. Consider: 445m chainstays, four-bottle capacity on a small frame and five bottles on M to XL frames, rack ready, top-tube bag mount ready, one or two chainring ready.

With its slack geometry and enormous clearance for up to 2.4in tyres plus, the Cutthroat is essentially a rigid 29er with dropbars. If your idea of a great ride finishes on a completely different day than when it starts, check out the Cutthroat.

Specialized Diverge Comp

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Specialized's Diverge Comp being ridden
Specialized’s Diverge Comp.
Robert Smith / Immediate Media
  • Future Shock system adds real comfort
  • Super stable ride in rough terrain
  • 700c x 42mm tyre clearance

Specialized introduced the Future Shock on its Roubaix endurance road bike, and while some of the BikeRadar crew loved it, others found it a little weird for a road bike. But a little suspension for the gravel? Now we’re talking.

The Future Shock is still undamped, but it has a stiffer spring on the Diverge, which boasts a low bottom bracket and slack front-end for stability in the rough stuff, and tyre clearance for 42mm 700c tyres or 47mm in 650b.

A women’s version of the bike is also available.

Specialized Sequoia Elite

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Specialized Sequoia Elite shot side on
Specialized’s Sequoia Elite puts ride quality and practicality ahead of ultimate performance.
David Caudery/Immediate Media
  • Tour-ready steel chassis is very versatile
  • Super comfy riding position
  • 700 x 40mm tyre clearance

When you think of a gravel bike from Specialized, the first thing that comes to mind is the aforementioned Future Shock-equipped Diverge. While it may not grab headlines the way its suspended cousin does, Specialized’s Sequoia is no slouch on a dirt road.

With a steel frame and burly carbon fork, the Sequoia is more at home as a touring bike than a gravel racer — it’s a bike that wants to keep rolling, especially loaded down with luggage, but with an 11.85kg mass it’s not exactly nimble when negotiating potholes and ruts.

With the frame eating up quite a bit of the budget, the build kit is eclectic with a mix of Shimano 105 and non-series parts, FSA 2x cranks and Sunrace cassette, but they all play nice with one another.

3T Exploro

3T Exploro side on view
Many gravel races are long and relatively flat, so aerodynamics can play a significant role — the 3T Exploro aims to capitalise on that.
Matthew Allen / Immediate Media
  • Aero-optimised frame shape makes the Exploro a true racer
  • Vast tyre clearances
  • 700c x 40mm or 650b x 2.1in tyre clearance

The 3T Exploro is an aero gravel race bike. Sure, you can find plenty of stiffer, lighter endurance road bikes that might be faster on light-duty gravel, but the 3T Exploro is a legit gravel bike, with clearance for 40mm tyres in 700c or up to 2.1in in 650b.

3T claims the Exploro with 40mm knobbies and two water bottles is faster — aerodynamically — than a round-tube road bike with 28mm tyres and no bottles when tested at 20mph.

So if it’s speed you’re after on the gravel, this could be the rig for you.

You may also want to consider…

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.