Gravel bikes are no longer classed as a fad by anyone but the very grumpiest commenters.
Investment in developing new standalone models — including a number of very affordable bikes — by the biggest manufacturers out there is a testament to this.
With this in mind, and a deluge of new bikes released in the wake of Eurobike 2018, we thought it was about time to round up the five most interesting gravel bikes of 2018 and beyond.
For buying suggestions, check out our roundup of the best gravel bikes as tested by BikeRadar.
The Topstone is Cannondale’s all-new, very recently announced line of affordable and adaptable alloy gravel bikes.
With generous clearances, rack and mudguard mounts and a comfort-focussed geometry, on paper at least, the Topstone looks like an ideal bike for touring, gravel racing and year-round road riding.
But what makes this affordable yet fairly unadventurous gravel bike one of the most important of 2018?
The keenly priced CAADX — a more traditional, cyclocross-focused model — is a hugely important bike for Cannondale, and in the UK at least, is supposedly one of the best selling bikes out there.
We suspect the Topstone, with its more all-round geometry, improved clearances and increased versatility could dethrone the CAADX as number one, so this is one we’ll be watching very, very closely.
Trek tentatively dipped its toes into the world of gravel bikes in November 2017 with the launch of the Domane Gravel, which we quickly called out as… well, not really a gravel bike.
Fast forward to March 2018 and Trek properly threw its hat into the gravel-coated ring with the Checkpoint, a range of alloy and carbon gravel bikes.
The Checkpoint features massive clearances for both 650b and 700c tyres, an adjustable wheelbase and mounts for between 3–4 bottles, mudguard racks and bags.
This highly adaptable nature and its great ride quality has won the heart of a number of BikeRadar testers and is one we’re looking forward to spending even more time on.
How could we talk about the most important gravel bikes of 2018 without mentioning the Canyon Grail?
The Grail is, without doubt, one of the most divisive bikes to be launched in any category in recent years.
The main talking point is, of course, the whacky double-decker ‘hover bar’.
Unlike every other drop bar in existence — where the stem attaches to a clamping area in the middle of the tops of the bar — the Hover bar places the tops of the bar above a stem that connects to an additional bar that in turn connects to the apex of the hooks.
If that sounds confusing, that’s because it is, and we recommend you closely examine photos of the bike to actually understand what’s going on.
The bar was developed in a bid to improve front end comfort and control without the added complication and weight of a suspension fork, and from the accounts of a number of BikeRadar testers that have ridden the bike, it does work... to a point.
The Grail’s divisive aesthetics mean that it is unlikely to have mass market appeal, but we applaud Canyon for trying something totally new.
Lauf True Grit
Continuing with the odd looking but oddly compelling theme, we turn to Lauf’s True Grit.
The bike has been around since last year, but its crazy carbon leaf spring fork continues to turn heads today.
It’s not just unique looks that separate the True Grit from the pack, the bike is a real performer too, with the suspended front end making for a uniquely nimble and confident ride over rough terrain. Who would have thought gravel riders could learn something from mountain bikers?!
Any hardtail MTB
On that note, here’s one that’ll really ruffle the collective feathers of the comments section…
Whenever we report on a new gravel bike, there’s an inevitable deluge of commenters keen to weigh in on the similarities between modern gravel bikes and XC mountain bikes of only a few years ago.
The thing is, there’s truth to that!
With the introduction of more progressive geometry, suspension and dropper posts on production gravel bikes, the boundaries between mountain and gravel bikes are becoming increasingly blurred.
There will, of course, always be a place for svelte, go-fast gravel race bikes — i.e. cyclocross bikes with fat tyres, but we digress…
As the terrain that riders want to tackle on gravel bikes becomes increasingly adventurous, gravel bikes themselves could soon become more mountain bike in design, just with drop bars.
So, if you want to get ahead of the gravel curve, it could be best to dig out that old XC bike, put on some drop bars and call it a day.
What are your top gravel bikes of 2018? Are there any models you’re looking forward to trying? As always, leave your thoughts in the comments.