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Best gravel bikes under £1,500 | 9 budget adventure bikes from £650

The best budget gravel bikes under £1,500 tested by BikeRadar

Male cyclist riding a Marin Nicasio in the wilderness on a bikepacking trip

Are you looking to sample the delights of gravel riding but don’t want to spend a lot of money? Or perhaps you need a versatile all-weather bike that can take mudguards and a pannier or two. A budget gravel bike might be just the thing.

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Gravel bikes have largely replaced cyclocross bikes as the go-to for year-round practicality. They open up a new realm of riding, with bigger tyres and disc brakes giving them the capability to ride on unpaved surfaces, whether that’s smooth singletrack, fire roads or just your local towpath.

Gravel bikes are also designed with versatility in mind, with many sporting rack and mudguard mounts, making these steeds ideal for cycling to work, bikepacking or winter road riding.

This is BikeRadar’s pick of entry-level, budget-focused gravel bikes, as rated and reviewed by our expert testers. We’ve tested everything from cheap gravel bikes around £500, up to mid-range options around £1,500.

If your budget can stretch a bit higher, why not check out our list of the best gravel bikes.

Best budget gravel bikes in 2022, as rated by our expert testers

Boardman ADV 8.9

4.5 out of 5 star rating
The Boardman ADV 8.9 remains startlingly good value.
Dave Caudery / Our Media
  • £1,150 as tested
  • Budget Bike of the Year winner 2021 and 2022
  • Superb all-round ride

The Boardman ADV 8.9 has won our Budget Bike of the Year award two years in a row, thanks to its versatility, great spec and superb ride both off-road and on.

The bike might not be exciting when it comes to looks, but the majority of welds in the aluminium frame are neat and almost carbon-like, and it has a genuine carbon fork for weight-saving and comfort.

The geometry is inspired by mountain bikes, with longer and lower figures than a standard road bike, providing excellent control off-road.

Boardman has specced the bike with 40mm Schwalbe gravel bike tyres and a Shimano GRX 400 10-speed drivetrain with hydraulic disc brakes, which is impressive at this price point.

The bike has a double chainset with 48/32t chainrings and a wide-ranging 11-36t cassette, giving you a pleasingly low gear. It rolls on tubeless-ready wheels and tyres, another plus for a low-priced bike.

There are plenty of practical touches, such as wide tyre clearance and fittings for mudguards and a rear rack.

Marin Nicasio +

4.5 out of 5 star rating
At £845, the Marin Nicasio + is hard to fault.
Marin Bikes
  • £845 / $899 / AU$1,499 / €899 as tested
  • Brilliant ride and fun
  • Hard to fault at this price

The Marin Nicasio + might not be the most impressive budget gravel bike on paper, with a modest steel frame and fork, own-brand wheels, cable disc brakes and a Microshift drivetrain, but don’t let that fool you.

This is possibly the most bang-for-buck bike we’ve tested in recent times. The ride is cushion-comfortable, the handling is stable over rocky terrain, and the position is ideally set between sporty and relaxed.

The Microshift Advent drivetrain might be unfamiliar to some, but its shifting is as crisp as Shimano and as rapid as SRAM. The clutch rear derailleur stops the chains from bouncing and the FSA Tempo chainset is equipped with a 1x-specific chainring that holds the chain well.

At 12.9kg for a 58cm frame, the Nicasio + is heavy, but this doesn’t stop it from being a lot of fun to ride.

Voodoo Nakisi

4.5 out of 5 star rating
The Voodoo Nakisi is a great-value budget gravel bike.
Wayne Reid / Our Media
  • £650 as tested
  • Good spec for the price with 9-speed shifting
  • Comfortable contact points

The Nakisi’s alloy frame is gusseted at the head tube for strength and paired with an alloy fork. There are comfortable components such as the oval section flared bars.

Kit is good for the Voodoo’s price, with 9-speed Shimano Sora shifting and a Prowheel sub-compact 48/32t chainset, Tektro mechanical disc brakes, WTB Riddler 37mm tyres and a WTB Volt saddle. You could fit even wider tyres, a rack and mudguards if you wanted.

It’s a good ride on drier gravel, although the tyres struggled a little in muddy conditions. On the road, the bike rolls nicely, although its weight holds you back a little on hills. There’s a sub-1:1 lowest gear that helps though.

Boardman ADV 8.6

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Boardman ADV 8.6 offers great comfort and versatility.
David Caudery / Immediate Media
  • £750 as tested
  • Comfortable and versatile
  • Brakes are so-so

The Boardman ADV 8.6 is the less expensive version of the Boardman ADV 8.9, which won our budget Bike of the Year category in 2021 and 2022.

Boardman has specced the neat-looking aluminium frame with Shimano Sora, tubeless-ready wheels and a wide range of gears.

There are wide handlebars and decent 38mm tyres, which both provide comfort and control when you swap the tarmac for the trail.

Our only real criticism is the cable-actuated brakes. These have a single-piston design and are really a case of making do. But overall, the Boardman is great fun to ride and would make a good do-it-all bike, from commuting to gravel riding.

Fuji Jari 1.3 Adventure

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Jari’s slender alloy frame adds up to low weight for the money.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • £1,400 as tested
  • Simple, secure 1x transmission
  • Easily accessorised for bikepacking/touring

The Fuji Jari 1.3 Adventure provides a ride that impresses both on- and off-road, making it one of the best gravel bikes for under £1,500.

The aluminium frame and carbon fork carry all the usual rack and mudguard fittings, plus several more for backpacking accessories.

The gearing from SRAM’s 1x Apex components is low enough to winch you up the steepest gradients and leaves you with just one shift lever to operate.

Its mechanical disc brakes make for good stopping performance whatever the weather, but they’re noticeably worse than hydraulic discs.

If you want to spend less, the £899 Jari 2.3 is the most affordable bike in the Fuji Jari range. It uses a Reynolds 520 steel frame and chromoly fork, but still retains mechanical disc brakes and Shimano Alivio/Sora gears.

Giant Toughroad SLR 1

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The 2020 Giant Toughroad is just a paintjob away from the 2019 bike we reviewed.
Courtesy
  • £1,149 / $1,365 as tested
  • Wildcard flat handlebar choice
  • Practical and comfortable straight out of the box

Giant’s Toughroad is a bit of a wildcard in this list; it’s not strictly a gravel bike, with its flat handlebar and near-mountain bike geometry.

However, if we look to the future of gravel bikes, we don’t think it’ll be too long before you’ll start to see bikes that look more and more like this one.

The alloy frame has plenty of mountain bike DNA on show with its thru-axles and plenty of room around its 700x50mm tyres.

The 2020 Toughroad SLR 1 was virtually unchanged from the bike we reviewed in 2019 and awarded four stars.

Merida Silex 400

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Merida’s bold approach to geometry really pays off when the going gets rough.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • £1,400 as tested
  • Clever mountain-bike inspired geometry
  • Excellent Shimano GRX groupset

The Silex 400 from Merida borrows a lot from the company’s knowledge of mountain bikes. Take the geometry of its aluminium frame, which pairs a long reach with a short stem length in order to improve handling without compromising on the rider’s position. As a result, you can expect a huge fun factor from the ride of the Silex.

It’s also well equipped for the money thanks to a mix of Shimano’s GRX 400 and 600 transmission and braking components, along with plenty of Merida finishing kit.

It’ll take mudguards, racks, bottle cages and more thanks to a plethora of mounts, thus making it a viable bikepacking, touring or commuting companion.

Pinnacle Arkose D2

4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Pinnacle Arkose D2 is a well-specced and feature-heavy budget gravel bike.
David Caudery / Immediate Media
  • £1,205 as tested
  • Great groupset
  • Feature-heavy frame

The Pinnacle Arkose D2 is framed as an adventure road bike, but we reckon the geometry and big tyres mean it’s a good budget gravel bike choice.

Mudguard and rack mounts make the Arkose D2 a versatile bike and there are plenty of bottle mounts for long adventures.

What’s really impressive about this bike is the componentry. It has a Shimano Tiagra groupset with full hydraulic disc brakes, providing great performance. The 45mm WTB Riddler tyres are also a great choice, and help make this bike capable even on trails in your local woods.

Ribble CGR 725 Steel

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Ribble offers customisation options that most manufacturers do not.
Robert Smith
  • £1,349 as tested
  • Classy looks
  • Supremely versatile

The CGR 725 Steel from Ribble is defined by its charming Reynolds 725 steel chassis, which is compatible with 700c and 650b wheels, and tyres up to 47mm.

It’s a classy looking, comfortable bike to ride with heaps of practicality. It’s about as versatile as bikes get thanks to rack mounts, mudguard fittings and bosses galore.

The bike we tested didn’t stray far from Ribble’s off-the-peg configuration and featured Shimano’s Tiagra groupset, Tektro mechanical disc brakes and Mavic Aksium Disc Clincher wheels.

Riders looking for a different spec can toy with Ribble’s Bike Builder, which allows individual component upgrades from groupsets and wheels right the way through to different handlebars. Similarly, those who seek a more individual look can opt for Ribble’s custom colour option.


Also consider…

The following bikes scored fewer than four out of five stars in testing, but they might still tick the right boxes for you.

BiviBikes Graveller

3.5 out of 5 star rating
The BiviBikes Graveller screams quality.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • £1,499 as tested
  • Great frame quality
  • One size fits all

The Graveller is BiviBikes founder Fraser Barsby’s vision of the perfect adventure bike.

It uses skinny steel tubes and smart welds to create a wonderful frameset with all the fixtures and fittings you need for big adventures.

The bike is easy to control and the low gear range guarantees easy climbing. It’s also quick on the tarmac thanks to its large wheels and Schwalbe G-One tyres.

It’s a superb all-road machine that screams quality, but it’s only available in a 55cm frame, so particularly tall and short riders will likely have to look elsewhere.

Genesis CDA 30

3.5 out of 5 star rating
Genesis has created the Croix de Fer’s younger sibling.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • £999 as tested
  • Practical and versatile
  • Could do with better brakes

This aluminium gravel-cum-adventure bike from Genesis is a spin-off from the brand’s well-respected Croix de Fer and has an array of fittings, meaning you’ll be able to easily load it up with all you need.

The bike has a long wheelbase and a shallow head angle for stability. Out on the road, it is a pleasure to ride, but it’s best for cruising along rather than riding fast.

Genesis has specced the CDA 30 with a 10-speed Shimano groupset. We found the gearing to not go as low as we needed, but you’ll rarely run out of gears at the top end.

Unfortunately, we found the braking to be disappointing and you really do need to grab the lever for maximum stopping power.

Having said that, it’s still a very enjoyable – and practical – bike to ride.

Genesis Croix de Fer 10 Flat Bar

3.5 out of 5 star rating
The Croix de Fer 10 Flat Bar would make a great commuter, not just a gravel grinder.
Russel Burton
  • £1,000 as tested
  • Great ride quality
  • A little heavy at 12.2kg

The Croix de Fer’s steel frame gets the flat-bar treatment, making this a good bike for commuters as well as off-road riders who don’t want drop bars.

Like the drop-bar bike, it’s got loads of mounts, including for a front rack and a third bottle. The 2×9-speed Shimano Sora gearing gives plenty of range and excellent shifting and the in-spec WTB Nano tyres should provide a fast ride and plenty of grip. There’s room for 40mm tyres at the back and 50mm at the front.

We loved the on-road handling and the ride quality of the robust steel frame, but it does add a bit of weight over an alloy number at 12.2kg.

Marin Gestalt

3.0 out of 5 star rating
The Marin Gestalt is great off-road.
David Caudery / Immediate Media
  • £795 / $889 / AU$1,399 / €899 as tested
  • Handles like a dream
  • Questionable components

The Gestalt stops shy of being a mountain bike interpretation of gravel and is framed by Marin as a touring bike.

As you might have guessed, this means the Gestalt is specced with 38mmm tyres to make covering distance easy, and it has plenty of mounting options for racks and fenders. However, it still feels capable of taking on technical gravel terrain.

Fit the Marin with wider tyres and upgrade the brakes and you’ll have a bike for some seriously fun riding. But keep it as it is, and you’ve still got a bike that is comfortable, capable and will let you clock up a lot of miles.

Triban RC 120 Gravel

The Triban 120 Gravel is, unsurprisingly, a gravel version of the RC 120 Disc road bike.
Decathlon
  • £599.99
  • The cheapest gravel bike around
  • Mechanical disc brakes and tubeless-ready wheels

This is the gravel sister bike of Triban’s superb RC 120 Disc road bike, which scored four and a half stars in our test.

Priced at a fraction of the cost of many gravel bike framesets, it’s impressive that Decathlon is able to equip this bike with a carbon fork, mechanical disc brakes and tubeless-ready wheels.

The single-ring transmission from Microshift is also bang up to date with its clutch derailleur and 11-42t cassette. Even the 38mm Hutchinson tyres have trendy tan walls.

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