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.
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, fireroads 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
- Fuji Jari 1.3 Adventure: £1,400
- Giant Toughroad SLR 1: £1,149 / $1,365
- Merida Silex 400: £1,400
- Pinnacle Arkose D3: £1,350
- Ribble CGR 725 Steel: £1,199
- Triban RC 120 Gravel: £499.99
- Triban RC 520 Gravel: £849.99
Fuji Jari 1.3 Adventure
- £1,400 / international pricing TBC
- 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.
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 manages to retain mechanical disc brakes and Shimano Alivio/Sora gears.
Giant Toughroad SLR 1
- £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.
Merida Silex 400
- 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 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 D3
- £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.
Ribble CGR 725 Steel
- £1,349 / international pricing TBC
- Classy looks
- 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.
Triban RC 120 Gravel
- 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
- 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.