5 Best Gravel Bikes under $500 – Sturdy and Versatile

We have found the best gravel bikes under $500 and ranked them so that you can get the perfect model to suit your needs.
Last updatedLast updated: September 13, 2021
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When picking a bike, you might think that you can only choose between a road bike and a mountain bike, but that wouldn’t be right. You could also select one of the best gravel bikes under $500 for your biking adventures.

When selecting the models for our list, we first looked into framing material, and frame size since this will determine how comfortable it is and how durable the bike will be. Next, we considered the tire size range, as this will determine the type of terrain you can ride on. Finally, we looked at the mechanics of the bikes, including the brakes, gears, and suspension. These mechanics will help you to find the right bike for your style of riding.

Top 5 Gravel Bikes under $500 Review 2021

1.

Hiland 26'' Aluminum Mountain BikeEditor's Choice

Features
  • Frame size: varies
  • Frame material: aluminum
  • Wheel size: 26 inches
  • Suspension type: front
  • Number of speeds: 24
  • Brakes: disc
  • Weight: 31 lbs.

More features: double mechanical disc brake, rear-wheel quick release

This bike is made with an aluminum frame that comes in a variety of sizes and has 26-inch wheels. It features a front suspension and has 24 different speeds to choose from. This model also has mechanical disc brakes and weighs in at 31 pounds.

If you are someone that has experience riding on a multi-speed bike that is looking to explore rougher trails, this is a good option for you. Its brakes make it easy to stop, and the front suspension works well on tough terrain. It has lots of speeds to choose from, which might make it a bit hard to handle for a beginning rider.

What are our favorite features?

  • Plain and simple, there is a lot to like about this bike. For starters, it has a highly durable aluminum frame that is just thick enough to provide the right amount of rigidity for off-road use without weighing a ton. Another huge positive for this bike is that you can get it in a variety of sizes. This will make it that much easier to get the right fit for every rider in your family. The brakes and gears are top-notch, as well. Finally, we love that this bike comes to you 85% of the way assembled. This will make it that much easier to get out on the road right away.

What could be better?

  • While this is an exceptional bike, we wish that the wheels could be a bit bigger or at least came in a variety of options. These wheels are 26 inches, which is perfect for light to moderate riding without a lot of bumps in the road. If you are thinking of riding on the toughest of trails, these wheels might need to be replaced with something a bit bigger, which will add extra cost to your purchase price.
Features
  • Frame size: 54 cm
  • Frame material: aluminum
  • Wheel size: 29 inches
  • Suspension type: rigid
  • Number of speeds: 14
  • Brakes: mechanical disc
  • Weight: 30 lbs.

More features: large front rack, ergonomic internal cable routing, integrated frame bag, fender mounts

This offering from Mongoose only comes in a 54 cm aluminum frame. It features 29-inch wheels and has a rigid suspension. The bike weighs around 30 pounds and has 14 different speeds to utilize. This model has mechanical disk brakes.

This bike is perfect for anyone with a smaller stature. It is also good for riding on smooth surfaces and moderately tough terrain, thanks to its rigid suspension. It comes with lots of storage space, which would work well for longer rides.

What do we love it for?

  • There is a lot to like about this bike from Mongoose. For starters, we love all of the different racks and storage areas on this bike. These spaces make it very easy to travel long distances since you can carry lots of water and gear with ease. Another positive for this bike is its larger-than-average wheels. These will help to get over rough terrain with ease. The lower number of gears also serves to make this a very accessible bike, even for a beginner.

What were we disappointed with?

  • The biggest issue that we have with this bike is that its frame only comes in one size. While this works perfectly for youth riders or adults with a smaller stature, it won't be all that comfortable for anyone that is on the taller side of the spectrum. This also goes for the pedals as well. If you have larger feet, you might have a tough time keeping them on these smaller-than-average pedals.
Features
  • Frame size: varies
  • Frame material: aluminum
  • Wheel size: varies
  • Suspension type: rigid
  • Number of speeds: 24
  • Brakes: disc
  • Weight: 28 lbs.

More features: made in Taiwan, 85% pre-assembled, 5 years warranty, hybrid

This bike has an aluminum frame that comes in a variety of sizes. You can also choose from several different wheel sizes as well. The suspension on this 24-speed bike is rigid. This bike also has disc brakes. It has an overall weight of 28 pounds.

As the name suggests, this is a great option for anyone that wants an urban commuter bike that could also handle the occasional rough trail. The rigid suspension is best for smooth paths, though the high level of speed works well on steep inclines and declines.

What are its best features?

  • The thing that we liked best about this bike is how light it is. Weighing in at only 28 pounds makes this a great bike for apartment dwellers. It also means that this bike is very maneuverable as well. Another high point is that its frame and its wheel size are variable. This will make it a whole lot easier to find the right fit for the type of riding that you intend to do.

What could be improved?

  • This bike is great for riding on smoother roads and gentler trails than the others on our list. Its frame is built to be lightweight, which greatly limits its durability. If you are thinking of riding on tougher trails, then we would suggest other bikes over this model. Another point to keep in mind is that, even though this bike is mostly assembled upon arrival, it is harder to put together than other models. The hex screws are on the smaller side, which makes them harder to tighten.
4.

Schwinn Mesa Adult Mountain BikeMost Durable

Features
  • Frame size: varies
  • Frame material: aluminum
  • Wheel size: 27.5 inches
  • Suspension type: front
  • Number of speeds: 21
  • Brakes: linear pull
  • Weight: 39.7 lbs.

More features: relaxed trail geometry, all-condition stopping power

This Schwinn bike comes in a variety of frame sizes and can weigh upwards of 39.7 pounds. It features a front suspension and 21 speeds. The brakes are linear-pull, and the wheels are 27.5 inches high.

This is a great bike for anyone that is looking for an extremely durable option. Its thick frame adds a lot of weight but, in conjunction with its front suspension, makes this a perfect option for extremely rough terrain. The linear-pull brakes are easy to maintain and replace, making this a good value as well.

What do we love it for?

  • The thing that really stounds out about this bike is how durably built it is. The frame is made to last, weighing in at almost 40 pounds. This, when combined with the forward suspension, makes this an exceptional option for use on even the roughest of trails. The brakes are linear-pull models. These are very easy to maintain and replace. We also really like the relaxed geometry of this bike, as it makes it a very comfortable ride, even on tough trails.

What were we disappointed with?

  • This bike's greatest strength is also something that might make it harder to ride for some users. The thickness of the frame and extra weight make this bike a lot harder to maneuver. The heavy frame makes transporting the bike a bit of a challenge, as well. Even if you are a stronger individual, the weight of this bike might make riding for a long time quite hard on your arms and legs, too.
5.

Royce Union Gravel BikeBest for Beginners

Features
  • Frame size: varies
  • Frame material: aluminum
  • Wheel size: 27.5 inches
  • Suspension type: rigid
  • Number of speeds: 16
  • Brakes: dual hydraulic disc brakes
  • Weight: 30 lbs.

More features: lightweight, versatile, RMG is also equipped with a full Shimano drivetrain, quick release seat

This model has an aluminum frame and comes in a variety of sizes. The wheels are 27.5 inches, and it has a rigid suspension. The brakes are hydraulic discs, and the bike features 16 speeds. Overall, the bike weighs in at 30 pounds.

This bike is a great entry-level adventure bike. It has a limited number of speeds to learn, making it good for beginners or experts. The dual hydraulic disc brakes are well made and durable, all while providing exceptional stopping power. The rigid suspension makes this a good option for moderately tough terrain.

What are its best features?

  • If you are someone that is getting their first bike with gears, then we highly recommend this model. For starters, it is lightweight and maneuverable. Secondly, it doesn't have a ton of gears to fiddle with. It only comes with 16 speeds, which lessens the learning curve quite a bit. Finally, though this is a great beginner-level book, it comes with some of the best brakes on the market. The dual hydraulic disc brakes are durable and powerful, which is a great combination for any rider.

What could be improved?

  • As we mentioned above, this bike is a great option for beginners that are just hitting the trail. As such, it probably would not be the best purchase for anyone that is looking to explore more advanced terrain. The limited number of gears, while good for a beginner, are somewhat limiting on steeper inclines. The smaller frame and rigid suspension also make this a bike best suited for beginning riders.

Things to Consider

In this section, we will go through everything that you need to know to find the best gravel bike under $500 for your needs. We have also answered several frequently asked questions as well, so be sure to read through those too if you need any further information.

Advantages of Gravel Bikes under $500

5 Best Gravel Bikes under $500 - Sturdy and Versatile

We all know that bike riding is beneficial Trusted Source 15 benefits of cycling: why cycling is great for fitness, legs and mind | Cycling Weekly There are so many ways that exercise can boost your mood: there’s the basic release of adrenalin and endorphins, and the improved confidence that comes from achieving new things (such as completing a sportive or getting closer to that goal). www.cyclingweekly.com to our health. This is also true for a gravel, or adventure, bike. Using this type of bike also offers other benefits as well, such as:

  • Versatility – Perhaps the best thing about gravel bikes is just how versatile they are. These bikes can be used for a daily commute or for the roughest trail in the world. This is thanks to the fact that you can easily change out tires. Their frames are made to be used with a wide array of tire sizes, which means you can ride on roads or trails, dirt or macadam with ease.

These bikes also provide you with the versatility to choose from a wide variety of hand grips as well. Since most gravel bikes feature a flared bars that allow for a multitude of grips, you can easily find the one that works best for you. Of course, you can change the handlebars as well if you prefer a flat setup instead.

Finally, with a few modifications, it is very easy to alter the seat to suit your needs on a gravel bike. These bikes usually have you sitting higher up than a road bike but a bit lower than a mountain bike. Thankfully, with a few slight modifications, you can get the seating arrangement that you desire from a gravel bike.

  • Durability – One of the best things about a gravel bike, when compared to a standard road bike, is how durable these bikes are. They are built thicker than a road bike so that they can be used in a wider array of places. While road bikes can only be utilized on roads, you can easily take a gravel bike out on the roughest trail imaginable and not have to worry about it breaking down on you.
  • Better for Beginners – Whereas mountain bikes and road bikes can get pretty complicated with a larger variety of gears to fiddle with, gravel bikes are relatively straightforward. While these bikes do feature gears to get you up and down rough terrain or steep places, they are usually a bit simpler. They don’t usually have as many gears as you would find on road and mountain bikes, which makes them much easier to use from the get-go.
  • Slower Pace – Something else that makes these bikes so good for beginners is that they are designed to be operated at a slower pace. Since they usually use larger tires and allow for a higher seating arrangement, these bikes will give you the opportunity to take trails at your own speed. Not only is this safer, but it also gives you the chance to actually enjoy the views, rather than zipping through them too quickly as you would on a mountain bike.

Important Features

As you can imagine, there are lots of different features and factors that you need to consider in order to find the right gravel bike for your needs. In this section, we have laid everything out for you in complete detail so that you can make the right decision.

Frame size

A major consideration when you are looking for a new gravel bike has got to be the size of the frame. After all, bikes are not a one-size-fits-all sort of product. If you get a bike that is too large for you, you won’t be able to balance it correctly and ride comfortably. If you find a model that is too small for your body, you will quickly cramp up and have difficulty riding for extended periods of time.

Most models, like the Hiland 26” Aluminum Mountain Bike, come in a variety of sizes so that you can get the perfect one for your needs. To find the right size bike, you need to first measure yourself. Obviously, the taller you are, the larger the frame you will need, and vice versa. In that case, the Mongoose Men’s Elroy Adventure Bike and its standard 54 cm frame might make the most sense.

Frame material

The most common frame material, and the one used on all of the bikes for our list, is aluminum. Aluminum is extremely durable yet lightweight when compared to other metals, such as steel. Simply put, an aluminum frame can take a lot of punishment without breaking down on you, even on the roughest trails. Of course, since these frames are on the thicker size, they are going to be much heavier than you would find on a road bike, so bear that in mind before you make your final purchase.

They also have the added benefit of being completely rustproof as well, which is a huge plus if you intend to ride on trails that might be a bit wet.

Wheel size

The size of the wheel that you decide upon should be based on the type of terrain that you are going to be riding on. If you are going to be on flat surfaces, you can get by with a smaller wheelbase, as these tires will allow you to go faster over smooth surfaces than a larger tire. If you plan on making your bike live up to its name, however, you might want to aim for larger wheels.

Larger tires have an easier time going over rough terrain, so bear this in mind before you make your final purchase.

Suspension type

Much like the wheel size, the type of suspension that you select should be based on the roads or trails you tend to travel. If you are looking to ride on smoother roads, then a rigid suspension is a fine choice as it will provide you with a stable and smooth ride. A front suspension fork is made to be used for rougher trails, however, and will allow you to navigate bumpy terrain with ease.

Number of speeds

The number of speeds that you will need is going to depend on your comfort level with changing gears and the variety of terrain you intend to ride on. If you are going to be using your bike on flat surfaces, then you could probably get by with a lower number of speeds on your bike. In this case, the Mongoose Men’s Elroy Adventure Bike is a good option, as it only has 14 speeds.

If you intend to ride your bike on more rigorous terrain, you might want to get a bike with more gears.
This will make it easier for you to tailor your riding experience to the steepness of the incline or decline you are riding on. In this case, a bike like the Hiland Road Hybrid Bike Urban City Commuter Bicycle might make a lot of sense since it has 24 gears to offer you.

Brakes

There are several different types of brakes that you can employ on your bike. Disk brakes, specifically hydraulic ones like those on the Royce Union Gravel Bike, will last the longest but are also the most expensive. These brakes are completely sealed up, unlike mechanical disk brakes, which help to keep them clean and to operate correctly. Linear pull breaks, like those on the Schwinn Mesa Adult Mountain Bike, are also a good option since they are easy to replace and maintain.

5 Best Gravel Bikes under $500 - Sturdy and Versatile

Weight

Since the frames of these bikes are designed to be rugged and durable, it should not come as a surprise that they are on the heavier side when compared to other types of bikes. This will become especially apparent if you are used to road bikes, which are designed to be as lightweight as possible so that they can be as fast as possible.

If you are looking for a lighter gravel bike, then the Hiland Road Hybrid Bike Urban City Commuter Bicycle is a good option. This model only weighs around 28 pounds, which makes it a versatile option for use on the road and on trails. If you want a highly durable option, however, then the Schwinn Mesa Adult Mountain Bike is a good choice. This bike almost weighs 40 pounds, making it perfect for the roughest trails you can find.

FAQ

If you order a bike offline, then you will need to assemble it when it arrives. Most likely, the gears, rear tire, and breaks will already be set up and assembled. From there, you simply need to add the seat stem, handlebars, seat (saddle), front tire, and pedals. You will need a set of Allen wrenches, hex screws, or a ratchet to attach these pieces. Once you have it all fit together, simply add the right amount of air to the tires with a pump and hit the road!

The general rule of thumb for changing tires is that you should do it every 2,000 to 3,000 miles. Of course, this will largely depend on the type of riding that you are doing. If you are riding on flat and smooth surfaces like a paved road, then you can probably go a bit longer. On the other hand, however, if you are riding on rougher trails, your tires will probably need to be replaced sooner.

You should keep a close eye on how your tires appear. If the tread is wearing thin or any bulges appear in the tires, it is definitely time to swap them out. You also might notice that they take longer to break or are harder to control as well. This is another clue that you should start thinking about new tires.

While you certainly don’t need to clean the gravel out of your tires after every single ride, it isn’t a good idea to leave those little passengers in the treads for too long. They can start to burrow into your tires, which can cause them to deteriorate faster than they would if you kept them clean. You also need to make sure you clean your entire bike every few weeks as well, as this will keep it from breaking down on you too soon.

Our Verdict

The best gravel bike for your needs is going to be the one that is tailor-made for the kind of riding you want to participate in. You need to make sure to find the right size bike with the right suspension and wheel size to handle whatever you have in mind.

Out of all the bikes on our list, the Hiland 26” Aluminum Mountain Bike is by far our favorite. This bike comes in a variety of sizes and features a sturdy frame and great brakes. If you are in the market for an exceptional gravel bike, we highly recommend you check this one out!

The Mongoose Men’s Elroy Adventure Bike is an awesome option for anyone on the smaller side that wants to hit the trail. It features a lot of storage space as well, making it a great option for long-distance rides.

If you are looking for a budget-friendly option to take the title of best gravel bike under $500, then the Hiland Road Hybrid Bike Urban City Commuter Bicycle is a great choice. It is lightweight and maneuverable, making it perfect for urban environments and the trail.

References

1.
15 benefits of cycling: why cycling is great for fitness, legs and mind | Cycling Weekly
There are so many ways that exercise can boost your mood: there’s the basic release of adrenalin and endorphins, and the improved confidence that comes from achieving new things (such as completing a sportive or getting closer to that goal).
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