Don't like to be confined to smooth tarmac? If the lure of the fire road, gravel track or bridle path is too strong to resist, you'll need a bike that can take a little rough treatment.
Enter the gravel bike or adventure bike. Designed to be tough and comfortable, they usually come fitted with disc brakes. They're also ideal for commuters or even adventurous touring, as they will usually allow mudguards and racks to be attached. While gravel has been perhaps the big trend among road bikes in recent times, cyclocross bikes – which may have racier geometry – can also make excellent tough commuters or off-road explorers, so we've included a few of that longer-standing breed here too.
Not tried gravel biking? Don't worry – we've got all the info you need to get ready for your first gravel race.
Litespeed T5 Gravel Ultegra Disc (2015)
A titanium-framed steed designed to be an all-round versatile bike – and that includes adventure riding. Litespeed says this bike is good for everything from gravel grinding to cyclocross to touring, and with a Shimano Ultegra drivetrain gearing plus Shimano hydraulic disc brakes you've got plenty of stop and go built in. The Hutchinson Toro CX tyres provide the grip, seated on Stan's No Tubes Grail Comp wheels.
Mekk Pavé AL 2.0 Tiagra (2016)
If your budget it determined by your work cycle scheme voucher, then the Meek Pavé AL 2.0, with an aluminium frame and carbon fork, comes in a very reasonable £839.99 in the sale. The 2x10spd Shimano Tiagra compact crankset provides a good range of gears to play with in a robust package. The TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes are the best of their type.
Verenti Substance 105 (2016 / shop-soiled)
Okay, we may be cheating a little by including this Verenti Substance 105. There's only one of them – a 54cm specimen – which will probably mean a lot of you will be disappointed. But with the model below getting an impressive four stars in its BikeRadar review, we couldn't really not include it.
With a tough chromoly frame and steel fork, Shimano 105 CX groupset and more of those excellent TRP Spyre cable disc brakes, it's also a good choice for those after a robust commuter bike. Let's face it – after the last winter quite of lot of UK roads resemble gravel tracks anyway!
Merlin X2.0 Sora 9 Speed Alloy CX 2015
We admit this bike is more towards the commuting end of the adventure bike spectrum. Designed as a cyclocross bike, Merlin has specced this with mudguards already attached, plus there are eyelets in place should you wish to attach a pannier rack for touring. You may want to swap out the Continental Cyclocross tyres the bike comes with for something more robust if you're planning on riding roads, but they'll be fine for a little light off-roading.
The bike is completed with Shimano Sora nine-speed groupset, Avid BB7 disc brakes, and a carbon fork on the aluminium frame.
Felt F3X (2015)
At the other end of the spectrum, how about a full carbon cyclocross bike for your off-road adventuring? And it's an eye-catching one at that. The Felt F3X features a Shimano Ultegra 11-speed groupset, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, Mavic Aksium One disc-ready wheelset, and Vittoria Cross XL Pro tyres.