11 Best Gravel Bikes – Smoothest Ride for Various Terrains (Winter 2022)

In this article you will find the best gravel bikes - beginner-friendly budget models, lightweight items for travel as well as bikes for tall and heavy riders
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Last updatedLast updated: October 28, 2022
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Why settle for a road bike or a mountain bike when you can simply get both types in a gravel bike? Frankly, going for a gravel bike is a no-brainer, thanks to its versatility. With almost every bicycle maker now offering various models with different users in mind, picking the best gravel bikes can be a challenge.

Hence, we decided to help out. We’ve ridden as many highly rated gravel bicycles as possible. Ultimately, we identified and reviewed the best options based on tires, frame size, frame material, drivetrain, gear ratio, design, weight capacity, pedals, handlebars, brakes, weight, and other factors that make a high-quality gravel bike. In our assessment, there are specific gravel bikes for certain categories or people. Not to worry, this article will cover everything you need to buy the right bike.

Top 11 Gravel Bikes Review 2022

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Editor’s Choice

Tommaso Sentiero Gravel Bike

Features
  • Frame: aluminum
  • Rider height range: 5’8’’-5’11’’
  • Wheels: 700Cx40
  • Speeds: 24
  • Weight: 32.2 lbs

More features: disc brakes, Shimano Claris R2000 shifters, 2-year limited warranty, steel fork

Riding the Tommaso Sentiero Shimano Claris, the only conclusion we could come to was it is the best around. During our exercise, we could not help but notice the bike’s aluminum compact frame that oozes reliability and durability. It’s arguably the best aluminum gravel bike. Besides the robust construction, this bike’s incredible performance is an eye-catcher. It uses a 12x25T Claris cassette and a 30/39/50T Claris crankset to deliver powerful performance. Furthermore, it features a rugged rim that is designed to handle every type of terrain. There are also Avid BB5 disc brakes that provide the bike with added stopping power in harsh weather conditions. Surely, it’s not hard to imagine why this bike is our editor’s choice.

Besides, this version of the Tommaso Sentiero Shimano Claris is an upgrade to the 2018 model. The upgrade includes wider 700 x 40c tires that are designed to handle tougher terrain types/conditions. Also, there are new, more effective brakes that make riding easier and much safer. Without any doubt, the Tommaso Sentiero Shimano Claris is an attractive choice for anyone who wants a gravel bike that can work both off and on-road. It boasts various gears engineered for several conditions. Additionally, this bike is a smart choice for riders who like compact frame geometry and handlebars for comfortable rides.

Why did it make our list?

  • Aluminum compact frame with an SST steel fork provides maximum reliability and durability
  • Ideal for various terrain types, including flats, hills, etc.
  • Brakes are quite effective and reliable
  • Compact frames geometry and handlebars provide increased power and comfort

What is not ideal about it?

  • The bike’s frame reliability does not extend to the weak wheels which develop problems after a short period of use
  • Professional assembly is required
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Best Electric Gravel Bike

Ride1Up ROADSTER V2

Features
  • Frame: 6061 aluminum alloy
  • Rider height range: 5’8’’-6’3’’
  • Wheels: 700Cx28
  • Speeds: 1
  • Weight: 33 lbs

More features: LCD screen, 350W motor, 24 mph max speed, 1-year limited warranty, 25.4×550 mm handlebars, 4 hrs max charge time, 275 lbs weight capacity

The Ride1Up ROADSTER V2 is another gravel bike we enjoyed riding during our exercise. In case you have not noticed, this is an electric bike. It is powered and much easier to ride. Little wonder we had fun riding it! It boasts a quiet and efficient 350 watts geared hub motor with 40nm torque, which helps you pedal quite fast at a top speed of 24 Mph. Depending on your weight, incline, terrain, and a few other factors, this bike offers a range of 20-30 miles. Besides, the bike boasts a smart construction with a 6061 aluminum alloy frame that conceals a 36V battery smartly. There is also a compact LCD screen that helps you operate your bike easily. In our opinion, this is the best gravel e-bike.

No doubt, choosing the Ride1Up ROADSTER V2 is a no-brainer for riders who want a top-quality electric gravel bike. Not only does it feature an LCD to display commands but it also uses a rechargeable battery that makes it easy to use. With a weight capacity of 275 lbs, this bike is designed to carry both light and heavy people. If you are a heavy rider and you fancy the best electric gravel bike, this is a smart option to consider. Additionally, it’s a great option for those who want the best flat bar gravel bike.

What are our favorite features?

  • The motor makes riding very easy and quick
  • The rechargeable battery is well integrated and concealed from onlookers
  • LCD's presence makes control and riding easy
  • Dual pivot brakes are impressive
  • Quick-release seat post clamp makes seat height easy to adjust

What could be better?

  • The kickstand is not absent, which is frustrating and disappointing
  • Despite being an electric bike, there is no headlight for night use
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Best Value

Hiland Road Bike

Features
  • Frame: aluminum
  • Rider height range: 5’9’’-6’1’’
  • Wheels: 700Cx40
  • Speeds: 24
  • Weight: 32 lbs

More features: disc brakes, 5-year limited warranty, 600mm wide handlebars

The Hiland Road Bike stands tall among the best gravel bikes on the market. We were impressed by the bike’s aluminum frame which is sturdy and seems durable. With 24 speeds, this bike boasts a great speed change system that provides you with a stable experience. The 24-speed gearshift includes efficient components that allow riding on hills. This bike also features front and rear brakes that ensure precise braking and safe riding in any terrain or weather. Besides, it comes with a 5-year warranty that protects your investment. At less than $500, this is the best value gravel bike in our opinion. You won’t have exaggerated if you called it the best cheap gravel bike or the best budget gravel bike.

Moreover, the Hiland Road Bike is arguably the best gravel bike for the money for riders who are on a budget. Despite this bike’s relative cheapness, it does not lack the most important features you want on a reliable gravel bike. It’s also a good choice for those who want a bike they can easily assemble themselves. Although the bike comes 85% pre-assembled, it comes with free assembly tools that will make your job easier. Also, you can access an assembly video that will help you. If you are concerned about safety, this bike makes a good choice as it abides by the American bicycle standards with two certificates to show for it.

What are its best features?

  • Speed change system makes switching between different gears while riding very smooth
  • Comes mostly pre-assembled with assembly tools to finish the job
  • Gearshift uses Shimano components to facilitate riding on hills
  • Five years warranty provides the necessary cover

What could be improved?

  • No kickstand means you have to extra for attaching one
  • Disk brakes rub each other frequently with almost no solution
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Features
  • Frame: 6061 aluminum alloy
  • Rider height range: 6’2’’-6’5’’
  • Wheels: 700Cx40
  • Speeds: 21
  • Weight: 32.3 lbs

More features: BB5 disc brakes, lifetime limited warranty, composite flat pedals, SST steel fork

The Tommaso Siena Shimano is all about smooth rides regardless of the terrain. That’s mostly thanks to its efficient construction. It boasts an aluminum compact frame that combines with an SST steel fork for durability. We found that the frame is drilled for various racks and fenders. With a 3×7 Shimano Tourney Groupset that features a 12x28T Tourney cassette and a 30/39/50T Claris crankset, there is no limit to the terrain types you can ride on. The bike’s 700x40c tires help with more stability on rougher terrain. Also, the Siena features Avid BB5 disc brakes for reliable stopping power. Plus, this bike has a rider height range of 6’2’’ – 6’5’’, so it’s no surprise that it is our best choice for tall cyclists.

You’ve probably noticed that the Tommaso Siena Shimano is a bit similar to the Tommaso Sentiero Shimano Claris. While the former uses a 3×7 Shimano Claris Groupset, the latter uses a 3×8 Shimano Tourney Groupset. The most significant difference between them is the number of speeds they offer. The Tommaso Siena Shimano offers 21 speeds compared to the Tommaso Sentiero Shimano Claris’s 24 speeds. Overall, the Siena Shimano offers similar features to most Tommaso bikes. Moreover, it is a perfect bike for tall cyclists. It’s also a great option for riders who want to ride well on gravel, dirt, and more surfaces.

What stands out?

  • Aluminum compact frame and SST steel fork combination ensures durability
  • Perfect for every terrain, regardless of conditions
  • Avid BB5 disc brakes are quite effective and reliable
  • Lifetime frame and fork warranty
  • Compact frame geometry and handlebars provide more power and comfort

What cons did we manage to find?

  • Assembly requires the help of a professional which costs extra
  • Spokes are not reliable and can snap after a short period of use
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Best for Heavy Users

Schwinn Sporterra Adventure Bike

Features
  • Frame: aluminum
  • Rider height range: 5’7’’-6’0’’
  • Wheels: 700Cx28
  • Speeds: 14
  • Weight: 30.6 lbs

More features: lifetime limited warranty, steel fork, KMC Z7 chain, alloy QR discs

The Shwinn Sporterra Adventure is another top gravel bike on our list. Honestly, we had fun riding it, thanks to its many positives. It boasts an aluminum frame with a rigid fork which is excellent for fast riding on a variety of terrain. Plus, you get 14 speeds to explore when riding this bike. The 14-speed Shimano brake lever/shifter combo and Shimano rear derailleur combine to deliver fast gear changes. This bike also features alloy mechanical disc brakes that provide you with superior stopping power. On top of this, there is a quick-release seat post that makes saddle height adjustment an easy process. Despite the bike’s lightweight design, it can carry up to 275 lbs, making it the best for heavy users.

If you are a heavy rider, you should consider the Schwinn Sporterra Adventure. With this gravel bike’s robust construction, you can ride your bike for as long as possible without ruining its frame due to your weight. The 700c wheels are also fit for riders 5’4” to 6’2” in height. Hence, this bike is an attractive choice for riders who are heavy and tall. It’s also a great choice for riders who want to ride through every terrain, thanks to the multi-terrain tires.

What do we love it for?

  • Brakes provide great stopping power for optimum safety
  • Saddle height is easy to adjust with quick-release seat post
  • Gears changes are quick
  • Weight capacity is good enough for most heavy riders
  • Limited lifetime warranty

What were we disappointed with?

  • The chain may rub on the chain guard frequently and requires professional help
  • Assembly instructions are bad as they are not for this specific model
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Best for Short Users

Schwinn Phocus 1400

Features
  • Frame: aluminum
  • Rider height range: 5’2’’-6’2’’
  • Wheels: 700C
  • Speeds: 16
  • Weight: 31 lbs

More features: 19-in frame, carbon fiber fork, Shimano rear derailleur, double wall rims

Come out, you short riders, the Schwinn Phocus 1400 is here! This bike fits riders who are as short as 5’2” in height. Of course, this only does not make the bike the best for short users. Many other factors make it the best for this category of riders in our assessment. While riding this bike, we liked its aluminum frame and suspension fork that ensured a responsive ride. Featuring a 24-speed drivetrain, shifting is easy with the trigger shifters. And the mechanical disc brakes offer reliable stopping power. With the alloy double-wall rims, you enjoy added stability while riding.

Besides, the Schwinn Phocus 1400 is similar to the Schwinn Sporterra Adventure in terms of construction and features. However, the former uses a 24-speed drivetrain, unlike the latter’s 14-speed drivetrain. Interestingly, the Schwinn Phocus 1400 has other styles in its line, including the Schwinn Phocus 1500 and the Schwinn Phocus 1600. These styles boast different designs and heights. The Phocus 1400 is the shortest of the three styles, so it makes sense that it is the best gravel bike for short users. If you are short, this bike is one to consider.

Why is it special?

  • Trigger shifters as well as front and rear derailleurs make gear shifting easy
  • Aluminum frame and sport suspension fork provide a responsive ride
  • Disc brakes offer steady speed control on descents and reliable stopping power
  • Light alloy rims are light and strong for added stability

What are the flaws?

  • Assembly instructions do not make sense because they are not specific to this model
  • Buyers will most likely need to visit a local bike shop for truing, incurring extra costs
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Features
  • Frame: aluminum
  • Rider height range: 5’3’’-6’1’’
  • Wheels: 700Cx29
  • Speeds: 14
  • Weight: 29 lbs

More features: lifetime limited warranty, cargo rack, frame bag

The Mongoose Elroy is one of the most versatile gravel bikes you will ever find. With a sleek alloy frame and a steel fork, you can ride on every terrain you choose. Featuring a 2×7 drivetrain, Shimano Tourney derailleurs, and an integrated 14-speed shifters/brake lever combo keep your ride as smooth as possible. We also liked using the effective mechanical disc brakes. Moreover, this gravel bike has an integrated frame bag that provides a spacious room for your riding essentials. Weighing only 29 lbs, this gravel bike is the most lightweight option on the market.

There is no question that the Mongoose Elroy gravel bike is an attractive choice. It is ideal for riders who want a lightweight, yet sturdy, gravel bike to do their adventures. It’s also perfect for those who want a bike that can easily carry their riding essentials for long rides. Additionally, this bike features five water bottle cage mounts, making it a great option for those who want to use a gravel bike on their camping trips. You’ll never run out of water while camping!

What makes it stand out?

  • Lightweight
  • Mechanical disc brakes work fine
  • Integrated frames bag helps to keep riding essentials
  • Five water bottle cage mounts provide perfect camping

Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?

  • Available in only one size of 54cm, thus not giving buyers size options
  • Brakes need to be tightened regularly
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8
Best for Long Rides

Micargi Cross 5.0

Features
  • Frame: 6061 aluminum
  • Rider height range: 5’3’’-6’1’’
  • Wheels: 700CX38
  • Speeds: 24
  • Weight: 32 lbs

More features: Micargi Alloy 80mm travel fork, V-brake, LCD screen

With the Micargi Cross 5.0 gravel bike, long rides are a breeze! Knowing that a lot of riders will likely want to go on long rides, the maker has made things convenient for them. The bike treated us to an impressive vibration damping during our exercises, thus ensuring smooth rides. Complementing the vibration damping are the bike’s strong and wide tires that offer excellent traction and stability. Surely, we did not miss the straight and narrow handlebars that make steering convenient by allowing an upright sitting position. Also, this bike boasts alloy V-Brakes that get the job done. Additionally, its 8-speed Shimano drivetrain lets you pedal easily.

As you might have guessed from the name of the Micargi Cross 5.0, it is an upgrade to old gravel bikes. Unsurprisingly, it boasts some improvements over its predecessors. For example, the original Cross uses Shimano Radius mechanical disc brakes but the Cross 5.0 uses the improved Micargi alloy v-brakes for stronger stopping power. But there is no difference between their 700x38c wide tires that provide good grip for long rides. If you are a fan of long rides, the Micargi Cross 5.0 is one to consider. We must also mention that this gravel bike is designed for only men.

What stands out?

  • Durable and reliable rides
  • Convenient narrow and straight handlebars protect the rider's back
  • Wide tires are durable and deliver a good grip on rough terrain
  • 8-speed drivetrain allows easy maneuverability through turns and curves

What cons did we manage to find?

  • Available in only one size of 52cm, denying buyers multiple size options
  • The bike does not come with a drivetrain
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9
Best Beginner Gravel Bike

Schwinn Volare 1300

Features
  • Frame: aluminum
  • Rider height range: 5’4’’-6’2’’
  • Wheels: 700Cx28
  • Speeds: 14
  • Weight: 32 lbs

More features: trigger shifters, sport saddle, rear derailleur, alloy rims

The fascinating strength of the Schwinn Volare 1300 gravel bike comes from its aluminum fitness frame and its rigid fork. These frame and fork combine to deliver quick and agile riding. Besides, this bike boast 14-speed shifters that provide easy and smooth gear changes. With the alloy crank and its double change rings complementing the shifters, you get optimal gearing. Also, the bike features an alloy seat post that keeps it light and comfortable to wear. Additionally, there are alloy caliper brakes for steady speed control and quick stopping. Clearly, this is an easy-to-ride bike, making it the best entry-level gravel bike in our opinion.

As the name of the Schwinn Volare 1300 gravel bike suggests, it has some other styles, including the Schwinn Volare 1200, Schwinn Volare 1500, and the Schwinn Volare 1400. Unsurprisingly, these styles have some differences. The most obvious is their design but they have another major difference. As you now know, the Schwinn Volare 1300 features 14-speed shifters but the Volare 1200 sports 21-speed trigger shifters while the Volare 1500 features 24-speed shifters. Like the Volare 1200, the 1400 features 14-speed shifters. Nevertheless, the Volare 1300 is a friendly choice for beginners.

Why are we impressed?

  • 14-speed shifters deliver easy and smooth gear changes
  • Alloy caliper brakes offer steady speed control and quick stopping
  • Aluminum frame with rigid fork offers quick riding
  • Alloy rims are strong

What negatives must you be aware of?

  • Assembly instructions are not Volare 1300-specific, making them difficult to understand or even use
  • Freewheel is not reliable and does not last long
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Features
  • Frame: aluminum
  • Rider height range: 5’0’’-5’6’’
  • Wheels: 27.5
  • Speeds: 21
  • Weight: 30 lbs

More features: 10-year limited frame warranty, 300 lbs weight limit

If the men-specific gravel bike does not work for you, then the women-specific Royce Union RMT gravel bike might do. This bike boasts a hardtail frame molded from no-rust, durable aluminum. With the frame lighter than steel, we found it easier to accelerate, maintain momentum, and handle the bike. The bike’s zoom suspension fork also provides solid performance, leaving you in full control throughout your rides. As if that wasn’t enough, the RMT features a 21-speed drivetrain that offers comfortable gearing to all categories of riders, including beginners and seasoned riders. In our assessment, it’s the best women’s gravel bike around although we were not comfortable with the ease of assembly.

Everyone likes to be given options because that provides them the luxury of finding the best fit for themselves. As expected of a top gravel bike like the Royce Union RMT, there are various frame size options to choose from. This bike is ideal for riders who want different frame size options. It’s also a good option for those who prioritize warranty, thanks to its limited 10-year frame warranty. Lastly, this bike is mainly designed for the riding pleasure of women. So, if you are a woman and you want a high-quality gravel bike that rides through every terrain, you should consider this product.

What makes it stand out?

  • The aluminum frame is lightweight and durable
  • Easy to accelerate and maintain momentum during rides
  • Drivetrain allows seamless switching between gears
  • Padded saddle is easily adjustable for the right fit
  • The frame is covered by a limited 10-year warranty

Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?

  • Difficult to assemble due to unclear instructions
  • Does not come with a kickstand, forcing you to incur extra costs
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Features
  • Frame: 661 aluminum
  • Rider height range:
  • Wheels: 700Cx29
  • Speeds: 14
  • Weight: 30 lbs

More features: integrated brake lever shifter, water bottle cage mount, 250 lbs weight limit

Whether it is commuting, exercise, weekend club rides, or rocky climbs, the Vilano Shadow 3.0 gravel bike does it all in our experience. While riding it, we were first treated to the beauty of its lightweight aluminum frame that makes riding enjoyable. The frame features internal cable routing as well as an integrated headset. With 14 speeds, this bike boasts brake lever integrated shifters that provide you with precise and stable shifting and braking. Moreover, the wide 700c tires are made to run through any terrain, making the bike the best for terrain variety.

Besides, the Vilano Shadow 3.0 is an upgrade to the Vilano Shadow 2.0. Even though there is no significant difference between both bikes, the latter boasts improved shifters. Also, the Shadow 3.0 comes with free pedals, a luxury that you won’t get from the Shadow 2.0. If you are an adventurer and you want a gravel bike that will take you everywhere, the Shadow 3.0 is your guy. This bike is specifically designed to ride through an impressive variety of terrain.

What makes it stand out?

  • Versatile
  • The lightweight frame makes riding fun
  • Inexpensive gravel bike for entry-level riders
  • Brake lever integrated shifters offer precise shifting and braking

Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?

  • Assembly takes time and requires specialized tools that are not included in the box
  • No kickstand; buyers need to pay more to get one for their bike

Things to Consider

As we mentioned earlier, identifying the gravel bike can prove difficult in a market where there are loads of options. Hence, we’ve developed a comprehensive buying guide that contains every vital information you need to make the right choice for your riding adventure. Read on to learn everything you need to buy the best gravel bike.

What’s Special About Gravel Bikes?

Gravel bikes are a hybrid of traditional road bikes and mountain bikes. Hence, they are ideal for all sorts of off-road and on-road riding. While they are quick on the tarmac, they can handle technical off-road descents. Surely, the incredible versatility of gravel bikes is the most special thing about them.

Pros

  • Simple design with fewer components
  • Off-road use
  • Rides through any terrain
  • Ideal for long rides and bikepacking
  • Usually lighter than mountain bikes
  • Accessories such as frame bags, etc.

Cons

  • Slower than road bikes
  • Heavier than road bikes
  • More expensive than road bikes and mountain bikes

Wheel types consideration

In gravel bike tires you’d usually have a choice of between a wider heavier 650B model and thinner more versatile 700C one

In case you have not noticed, gravel bikes generally feature 650b and 700c wheels. These wheel types are not different in name only but they are also different in features and results. For example, 700c wheels are better suited for rolling small obstacles because they are bigger. However, 650b wheels are wider, so they can deform better around obstacles and conserve forward momentum.

In terms of weight, 650b wheels are slightly heavier than 700c wheels and that impacts speed and acceleration. Specifically, 700c wheels are a bit faster than 650b wheels. But 650b wheels are the winners when it comes to giving better control over the tougher terrain. That makes these wheels the best option for beginners.

Overall, 650b and 700c wheels deliver good results but the former seems to be the better choice in our opinion, thanks to the better control it offers. Ultimately, you will need to make your choice based on what you want; 650b wheels for great control and 700c wheels for greater speed.

Price Range

Gravel bikes are made from various materials that determine their prices. For example, aluminum gravel bikes cost around $450 to $2,000 while the prices of carbon gravel bikes range from around $1,000 to $2,900. Also, steel gravel bikes cost between $800 and $2000.

What about gravel bike parts?

No matter how durable a gravel bike is, some of its parts will need to be replaced at some point. To buy gravel bike tires, you will need to part with around $50 – $150 depending on how much you are willing to spend. The tubes cost between $7 and $40. While the brake rotors sell for $30 – $200, the brake pads cost between $10 and $30.

In case a kickstand does not come with your gravel bike and you want one, you will need to spend between $8 and $25.

How to Pick the Best Gravel Bike

Knowing where to look when shopping for the best gravel bike is frugal and time-saving. Below, we will discuss, in great detail, the many vital factors you should consider before opting for a gravel bike:

Frame size

From our review of the top gravel bikes, you’ve probably noticed us mention a bike’s frame size. That’s because your bike’s frame size is a huge determinant of whether it fits you or not. Your height will have to determine which frame size you choose. Gravel bike frames often come in various sizes. While some gravel bikes will give you various options, others will give you only one.

For example, the Tommaso Sentiero Shimano Claris gravel bike offers five different frame sizes. These sizes are made for different rider heights. The 52cm variant is designed for rider height range of 5’6” – 5’8” while the 54cm variant is for a rider height range of 5’8” – 5’11”. A very tall rider can opt for the 60cm variant which goes 6’2” – 6’5”.

The Hiland Road Bike is another bike with different frame size options. With its 49cm, 53cm, and 57cm frame sizes, you can choose the one that best fits your height.

Tires

Consider roads you’re going to ride along when choosing the perfect tire – this will determine the comfort of your ride

By now, you know that gravel bike is quite different from other kinds of bikes such as road and mountain bikes. When shopping for a road bike tire, for example, you are often considering only performance, durability, and cost. However, that’s not the case with gravel tires.

Before choosing gravel tires, you need to decide what you intend to use the bike for. That helps you choose tires that are compatible with your needs. Besides, gravel tires are typically wider than road or mountain bikes.

If you will be riding on rough gravel, you will need a wider tire like that of the Tommaso Siena Shimano XL. Such a tire can work with lower PSI to minimize vibration. A wider tire also works for riding on some loose gravel, sand, and dirt.

However, if you think you will be riding on wet, greasy trails, you may decide to go for more “knobbier” tires like those on the Royce Union RMT gravel bike. Overall, the best gravel tires should range between 32mm and 45mm in width. After choosing a tire that works for you, ensure that it is tough enough to not puncture easily.

If you want to avoid the constant flats that come with tires with tubes, you should consider tubeless tires. That way, you won’t have to worry about developing flat tires on a boulder or a sharp rock.

Drivetrain

Another important factor that you do not want to turn a blind eye to is the drivetrain. Your bike drivetrain will determine the ease of shifting between gears as you adjust to different paths during your rides. The last thing you want is to buy a bike with a disappointing drivetrain. Various gravel bike drivetrains boast different speeds.

For example, the Micargi Cross 5.0 gravel bike has an 8-speed drivetrain, the Shwinn Sporterra Adventure has a 14-speed drivetrain, and the Schwinn Phocus 1400 features a 24-speed drivetrain. Of course, the higher the number of speeds, the more options you enjoy during your adventurous rides.

Ultimately, you should choose a gravel bike with a drivetrain that suits your preference.

Frame material

Bike frames come in various materials – from lightweight aluminum alloy that is perfect for traveling riders to heavy-duty carbon steel or titanium

Like other kinds of bikes, gravel bikes are made from all common frame materials. The material of a gravel bike determines how great it looks and how durable it’s good to be. So, you must take your gravel bike’s frame material seriously. The common frame materials are aluminum, carbon, steel, and titanium. Each of these materials has its advantages and disadvantages.

Firstly, aluminum frames such as those of the Ride1Up ROADSTER V2 and the Schwinn Volare 1300 gravel bike are very cost-effective to produce. They boast uncompromising stiffness which can be a good thing as well as a bad thing. While this stiffness gives you an advantage on the road, it can struggle to generate enough comfort to help you enjoy your ride.

Interestingly, aluminum frames are constantly being improved and refined, thanks to new alloys. That means some high-quality aluminum frames still offer comfortable rides on the road.

Another frame material is carbon. Even though it is engineered to be very stiff, it is the lightest of all the materials. With carbon, it is easier to provide special features such as big tire clearances. However, carbon frames are prone to damage and likely invisible defects. Contrary to popular belief that carbon frames are always good due to their high costs, they are not without their faults.

Furthermore, steel is used in marking some gravel bike frames. It is a multifaceted and tough material. In terms of costs, this material is almost similar to aluminum. It is relatively cheap and is usually durable.

Lastly, titanium is the most expensive of the frame materials. This is not surprising considering its unique looks and other attractive properties. Even though it is lighter than steel, it’s just as robust. Not many brands use this precious material to make their gravel bikes because of its extremely high costs.

Whether you want the best aluminum gravel bike, the best steel gravel bike, the best carbon gravel bike, or the best titanium gravel bike, you must consider performance, durability, and cost. Overall, aluminum frames are the best, thanks to their high quality, durability, and relatively low cost.

Suspension

Suspensions makes your bike riding as smooth as possible due to front and rear vibration dampening

Suspension offers a significant amount of front and rear cushions. This feature also helps to dampen high-frequency vibration. This can make rides more comfortable and stable. So, it’s no surprise that suspension is fixed on most bikes.

However, it is not the most important feature for gravel riding. It adds weight to the gravel bike and that can be worrying on smooth terrain. The suspension also adds complexity and cost, thus leading to maintenance headaches in some cases. Notwithstanding, it benefits gravel riding when it comes to climbing on rocks or climbing down a hill.

So, if you can afford the luxury of a gravel bike with suspension systems, go for it.

Gear ratio

Another factor to consider when shopping for the best gravel bike is the gear ratio. The gear ratio is important for determining the speed a given gear chain will produce. As a rule of thumb, the higher the ratio, the harder it will be to accelerate. However, the higher ratio is much easier to maintain high speeds.

Not too long ago, many gravel bikes featured a 50/34t compact crankset usually found on road bikes, with a narrow range cassette. Frankly, that does not cut it for gravel riding although it’s a good option if your riding doesn’t exceed a mix of tarmac and gentle off-road rides. You will need easier gear options once you hit steep surfaces.

Hence, most new gravel bikes will give you a low ratio of 1:1 or below. With that, you can climb loose, steep off-road ascents. This low ratio also provides you with more range to load up your bike for days-long bikepacking trips.

Design

You can choose plainly colored bikes as well as pay extra for custom design

The last thing you want is to spend $500 or $1000 on an ugly gravel bike. That is why you must pay attention to the design of the bike you are choosing. Of course, gravel bikes, like other kinds of bikes, sport various designs. Even though all bikes are structured the same, their designs differ and are mostly aimed at attracting buyers.

If you pay close attention to most bikes, including gravel bikes, the difference in design mostly lies on the crossbar/top tube. While some crossbars like that of the Schwinn Volare 1300 are straight, some like that of the Tommaso Sentiero Shimano Claris are slanted, while others like that of the Royce Union RMT go straight down. Ultimately, you will have to choose the crossbar design that looks best to you.

Furthermore, the paintings on gravel bikes pronounce their designs. While some bikes look ordinary, others boast bright, eye-catching colors. If you do not like flashy colors, a single-colored bike might do it for you. On the other hand, a multi-colored bike will be a great choice if you fancy bright colors on your bike.

Weight capacity

If you are a heavy person, you will be making a huge mistake not to consider weight capacity when shopping for a gravel bike. Gravel bikes have different weight capacities, which is not surprising in any way. While some bikes can only carry 200lbs or less, others can carry more than that. For a heavy rider, going for a bike that carries more than 250 lbs is the smart move.

If you look carefully, there is no shortage of gravel bikes with sufficient weight capacity on the market. For example, the Shwinn Sporterra Adventure and the Ride1Up ROADSTER V2 can carry up to 275 lbs. That means they have enough capacity to carry heavy riders without incident.

In the case of insufficient weight capacity for a rider, there will be trouble for the bike. It’s best to not get yourself in that sort of mess. As long as you opt for a bike with the right capacity to carry your weight, you can ride as much as you want without any weight concerns.

Pedals

In gravel bikes you can usually choose between clipless and flat pedals – the first option is more comfortable to ride with yet requiters special shoes

In the world of gravel bikes, the most popular and commonly used pedals are the clipless and flat pedals. Clipless pedals are well regarded because they provide your pedal stroke with more power and they secure your feet when climbing and descending.

Even on rough terrain, clipless pedals ensure that your feet stay securely connected. However, clipless shoes are not the best to walk on rough surfaces such as gravel.

On the other hand, flat pedals are the smarter choice if you often ride from one point to the other and then walk without changing your shoes.

No doubt, both types of pedals have their strengths and weaknesses. Your choice of either of them will be determined by the kind of riding you’re familiar with. For example, a lot of riders who come from a road background will be familiar with clipless pedals. Those who come mountain bike background will prefer two-bolt clipless pedals.

However, if you are new to riding or have plans to bikepack with many adventures, flat pedals will work better for you. These pedals also allow you to ride through muddy or mucky patches without worrying about clearing out the pedals for them to work. Finally, choose the pedals that work for you.

Handlebars

Choosing handlebars comes down to wider and narrower options – wide grip provides more control while narrow one is more comfortable for speedy riders

Handlebars are very important components of all bikes, including gravel bikes. These components largely determine the ease of cycling. If you cannot get your handlebars right, then you will be making life difficult for yourself. There are two popular types of handlebars you will find on gravel bikes; drop handlebars and flat handlebars.

Most gravel bikes are equipped with drop handlebars. That is obvious with a lot of bikes on our list such as Vilano Shadow 3.0, Tommaso Sentiero Shimano Claris, Tommaso Siena Shimano XL, etc. These handlebars are designed in such a way that you have your hands positioned wider apart.

The wider grip provides you with more control of your bike in technical terrain, leaving you with more confidence. So, it’s no surprise that most gravel bike handlebars are a bit wider than those on traditional road bikes.

Something else you should know; the drop, damping, stiffness, and shape of the handlebar often vary from one product to the other. Hence, you will need to experiment with various products to find the right option. If you don’t have that luxury, read user reviews to be informed.

Flat handlebars, on the other hand, are great alternatives to drop handlebars. Good examples of gravel bikes with flat handlebars are Hiland Road Bike, Ride1Up ROADSTER V2, etc. These handlebars provide you with extra space for handlebar bags. Also, you will get more control of your bike in the rough terrain and on descents.

Ultimately, your choice should be based on your preference.

Brakes

Gravel bikes come equipped with either disc- or V-brakes, disc brakes are more convenient due to activating both front and rear systems

Almost every gravel bike these days come equipped with disc brakes but there are a few like the Micargi Cross 5.0 that feature V-brakes. V-brakes consist of two levers connected to your bike’s handlebars that engage both front and rear brakes through two cables.

When you pull the lever, it pulls the cable, which consequently actuates the brake. This action causes the brake pads to squeeze the bike’s rims, thus slowing down the bike. V-brakes are effective but disc brakes take the edge from our experience of using both braking systems.

Disc brakes are used on top gravel bikes such as Schwinn Phocus 1400, Mongoose Elroy, Tommaso Sentiero Shimano Claris, etc. They provide you with incredible wheel clearance that stops your bike steadily and smoothly. We recommend disc brakes due to their superiority but that does not take anything away from the importance of V-brakes as well.

Weight

Do not mistake the bike’s weight with the weight capacity. While weight capacity is all about what the bike can carry, weight is about how much the bike weighs. There are advantages to buying a lighter gravel bike and there are disadvantages too. Likewise, a heavier gravel bike has its advantages and disadvantages.

While a lighter bike is more fun to ride, handling might be a problem. However, a heavier bike will give you more control during rides. Your choice of weight should depend on your needs. For example, a lighter bike like the Mongoose Elroy is perfect for exercise and short trips. However, a heavier bike is ideal for bikepacking or long-distance racing where you are carrying more gear.

Assembly

Depending on the brand or model, the top gravel bikes come 80-90% fully assembled with necessary assembly tools.
They also come with clear assembly instructions. While some of them can be assembled by a layman, others need a professional touch.

For example, the Hiland Road Bike comes 85% pre-assembled and the box contains assembly tools. Plus, there are precise instructions for seamless assembly and you can assemble the parts yourself. No doubt, pre-assembled bikes with assembly tools and easy-to-understand instructions are very attractive choices.

But if you do not mind taking your new bike to your local bike shop for assembly, go for it.

Durability

Durability is another important factor to be considered. This is mostly determined by many components of a bike, including the frame, brakes, pedals, etc. We advise that you go for a gravel bike made from materials of the highest quality. We also advise that you read user reviews to learn from the experiences of cyclists who have used certain bikes. That can help you tell whether a bike is durable or not.

Warranty

No one wants to throw away their money. A warranty ensures that you get good value for your money when you buy a gravel bike. Most top gravel bikes offer a generous warranty. For example, the Hiland Road Bike offers a 5-year warranty while the Royce Union RMT comes with a limited 10-year frame warranty.

More impressively, the Tommaso Siena Shimano offers a lifetime frame and fork warranty. You should go for a gravel bike that offers a satisfactory warranty.

FAQ

Yes, you can put gravel tires on a road bike if you are trying to save costs. Essentially, you can convert your current road bike into a gravel bike using gravel tires. However, the gravel tires you are attaching to the road bike should be able to fit. So, find the right size for your road bike.

You can use a gravel bike on a regular road. Gravel bikes are reputed for their versatility in working on any type of terrain. These terrain types include a regular road.

Yes and no. Some gravel bikes feature front suspension while most do not. The absence of front suspension on most gravel bikes is mainly to avoid overcomplicating a lightweight all-terrain bike.

Generally, gravel bikes are gender-neutral but some are gender-specific. The main difference between male and female gravel bikes lies in their sizes. On average, women are shorter than men, so female gravel bikes typically have shorter stack heights. Men-specific bikes, on the other hand, have taller stack heights.

Also, female gravel bikes generally have low top tubes that make wearing a skirt convenient. This is definitely not a consideration for male gravel bikes. If you are a woman and you’re struggling to find the right fit, look up the best gravel bikes for women.

Our Verdict

Whether you want to drive on-road or on rougher terrain, gravel bikes are your best bet to fit any occasion. In this article, we’ve reviewed the best options on the market with the Tommaso Sentiero Shimano Claris gravel bike as our editor’s choice. This choice came due to the bike’s important features such as robust aluminum compact frame, rugged rim, Avid BB5 disc brakes, and more.

In our assessment, the Ride1Up ROADSTER V2 electric gravel bike deserves to take second place. No doubt, the bike’s electrical design is attractive and it makes it perform incredibly well. If you want more options, check out the best electric gravel bikes.

Our Budget Pick, the Hiland Road Bike offers the best value, sporting features such as a 24-speed gearshift, a 5-year warranty, front and rear brakes, assembly tools, etc., at a great price.

With our comprehensive buying guide at your fingertips, there is no better help to find the best gravel bikes for your riding adventure.

References

1.
Health benefits of cycling: a systematic review - PubMed
The purpose of this study was to update the evidence on the health benefits of cycling. A systematic review of the literature resulted in 16 cycling-specific studies.
2.
Cycling - health benefits - Better Health Channel
To be fit and healthy you need to be physically active. Regular physical activity can help protect you from serious diseases such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, diabetes and arthritis. Riding your bicycle regularly is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
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