8 gravel bikes for under £1,500: affordable adventure bikes for dirt, gravel and commuting

Recommended rides for those going off the beaten track

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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 cheap 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 also 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.

Included below is a selection of entry-level gravel bikes that we can recommend.

Cheap gravel bikes: Bargains for the backroads

  • Canyon Grail AL 7.0: £1,299 / $1,999 / AU$2,199
  • Fuji Jari 1.3: £1,349 
  • Ribble CGR 725 Steel: £1,199 
  • Norco Search XR Apex 1: £1,350 
  • Giant Toughroad SLR 1: £1,149 / $1,365
  • Pinnacle Arkose D3: £1,350
  • Triban RC 120 Gravel: £499.99
  • Triban RC 520 Gravel: £849.99

Canyon Grail AL 7.0

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Canyon Grail 7.0 best gravel bike
The Grail AL 7.0 is our highest rated affordable gravel bike.
BikeRadar / Immediate media
  • £1,299 / $1,999 / AU$2,199
  • Incredible spec for the money
  • Well chosen gear ratios

One of our favourite gravel bikes full stop is Canyon’s most affordable Grail.

The Grail AL 7.0 might go without the unusual ‘hover handlebar’ its sister bikes use, but that doesn’t stop it from being an amazing performer for the money.

The hydroformed alloy frame is paired to a carbon fork and dressed in Shimano’s 105 groupset with well-chosen gear ratios and superb hydraulic disc brakes. Gravel-specific wheels from DT Swiss and 40mm Schwalbe G-One Bite tyres complete a stellar spec sheet that only direct-sale competitors can really get close to.

The success doesn’t stop on paper though, this is a bike with a ride that can outshine bikes costing twice as much.

It was good enough to scoop best all-round bike in our 2019 Bike of the Year awards, narrowly missing out on a full five-star score.

Fuji Jari 1.3

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Cheap gravel bikes
With its road-flavoured tyres, it makes a great commuter-cum-training bike.
Courtesy
  • £1,349 / international pricing TBC
  • Easily accessorised for bikepacking/touring
  • Supremely versatile

This bike really impressed us with its versatility, practicality and comfort. It’s best suited to long days in the saddle over broken surfaces thanks to its 38mm tyres.

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.

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

It’s so versatile that fitting narrower road tyres is all that’s required to make this a fully accomplished commuter or training bike.

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

Ribble CGR 725 Steel

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Cheap gravel bikes
Ribble allows customisation options that most manufacturers do not.
Robert Smith
  • £1,349 / international pricing TBC
  • Easily accessorised for bikepacking/touring
  • Supremely versatile

The CGR 725 Steel from Ribble is defined by its charming Reynolds 725 steel chassis, which is compatible with 700c, 29er 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.

Norco Search XR Apex 1

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Cheap gravel bikes
The geometry of the Search XR is ideal for endurance riding.
Courtesy
  • £1,350 / international pricing TBC
  • Compliant frame and tyre combo
  • Low gearing for the steepest climbs

With its comfortable steel frame, simple single-ring gearing and mechanical disc brakes, the Search XR Apex 1 is an attractive proposition for those looking for a gravel bike that won’t break the bank.

As you’d likely expect, you won’t have issues fitting a rack, mudguards or drinks bottles.

The low gearing might see you spin out on fast descents but is really useful for steep climbs. It’s a plush ride thanks to a compliant frame and WTB’s 42mm Resolute tyres.

The Search puts its ride in a slightly upright riding position, which is more comfortable than it is dynamic, but opens this bike up as a welcome companion for commuting or touring.

Pinnacle Arkose D3

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Cheap gravel bikes
Evans Cycles’ buying power sees the Pinnacle dressed in quality components.
Courtesy
  • £1,350 / international pricing TBC
  • Full of practical touches
  • Exceptional spec for the money

Evans Cycles own-brand Pinnacle is known for putting out great value bikes and the gravel-focused Arkose D3 is no exception.

The geometry of this bike’s aluminium frame and carbon fork finds a real sweetspot between stability and agility. Its 10.15kg overall weight figure is reasonable given the price, and the comfort and versatility provided by the large volume 45mm tyres is not to be overlooked.

It’s great to see Shimano’s excellent 105 hydraulic brakes where we’d often see mechanical discs at this price.

Practicalities come in abundance thanks to three bottle cage mounts, fixings for a rear rack and full mudguards – there’s even internal routing for dynamo lighting.

Giant Toughroad SLR 1

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Cheap gravel bikes
The 2020 Giant Toughroad is just a paintjob away from the 2019 bike we reviewed.
Courtesy
  • £1,149 / $1,365
  • Wildcard flat handlebar choice
  • Practical and comfortable straight out 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  700 x 50mm tyres

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

Also consider

Triban RC 120 Gravel

Cheap gravel bike
We can’t wait to try out the Triban RC 120 Gravel bike.
Decathlon
  • £499.99
  • 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 itself scored four and a half stars in a recent BikeRadar test.

Priced at a fraction of the cost of many gravel bike framesets, it’s simply staggering 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.

Stay tuned because we’ll soon have a full review of this bike.

Triban RC 520 Gravel

Cheap gravel bikes
Even at full price, the Triban represents great value.
Decathlon
  • £849.99
  • TRP Hy / Rd cable-actuated hydraulic discs
  • Practical and comfortable straight out of the box

Decathlon’s Triban range has always offered remarkable value for money and the RC 520 Gravel is no exception.

Even at full price it puts other brands to shame with its spec, offering 105 shifting (with the latest R7000 components) and TRP Hy/Rd cable-actuated hydraulic disc brakes, the next best thing to full hydraulics.

The RC 520 Gravel is essentially a fatter-tyred version of the standard RC 520 with different paint – a bike that scored a healthy 4.5 out of 5 stars when we reviewed it last year. If you’re not bothered about the bigger rubber, the standard bike is £120 cheaper.

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