Gravel Bikes

Best Gravel Bikes: Top 7 Adventure Bicycles in 2024

Gravel bikes for adventures

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A halfway house between a road bike and a mountain bike, a gravel bike offers riders the chance to dabble in all kinds of two-wheeled fun.

Their origins can be traced back to the rise of Americans exploring the vast network of gravel tracks and fire roads right across the country.

In this guide, we’ve condensed our favourite gravel bikes into a small, but perfectly formed list of seven. Seven bikes that, whatever your budget, should deliver a fun and rewarding ride, no matter the terrain.

Best Gravel Bikes (Top 7)

  1. specialized diverge comp e5 gravel bike

    Gravel bike from the big S

    Specialized Diverge Comp E5

    Perhaps the most popular gravel bike from the most popular bike brand. You won’t go wrong with this aluminium, 1x gearing model.

  2. trek checkpoint sl5 gravel bike

    Carbon frame

    Trek Checkpoint SL5

    A gravel bike that’s more suited to riding fast on light-off road sections and fire roads, than bumping over some uber-challenging singletrack.

  3. ribble cgr al all terrain bike

    All-terrrain performance

    Ribble CGR AL

    UK bike manufactuer, Ribble’s CGR – that’s Cross, Gravel, Road – would be the perfect one bike solution.

  4. cannondale topstone carbon 2l bike

    Feature packed

    Cannondale Topstone Carbon 2 L

    This is a top-end gravel bike. Carbon-framed this version of the Topstone has a rear suspension system and on-board lights powered by a unique battery systenm.

  5. marin dsx 1 gravel bikes

    Flat-bar gravel bike

    Marin DSX 1

    Not all gravel bikes have drop handlebars. This bike from Marin has all the capability of a gravel but with ‘bars that some riders might find more appealing.

  6. alchemy ronin titanium

    Money no object

    Alchemy Ronin Titanium

    Handmade in Colorado, this bike is comfortable off-road, but it remains efficient for long road rides or commutes. Titanium frames are known to add comfort.

  7. kona libre off road bike

    Off-road companion

    Kona Libre CR/DL

    With a dropper post, oodles of extra mounts, and wide 45c tires this bike is setup to explore backcountry and beyond.




What is a Gravel Bike?

A gravel bike is a bike designed to be ridden fast on light off-road trails or gravel. Depending on their exact specification they may err more towards a road bike or more toward a mountain bike.

Borrowing wide, knobbly tires and a more stable frame geometry from mountain bikes, gravel bikes should be able to cope with some rough riding. Today, some of the more rugged gravel bikes are even fitted with a front suspension fork.

Looking somewhat like a road bike (most have drop handlebars – although flat handlebar options are also available) gravel bikes are capable on tarmac too. The more road-orientated gravel bikes will have gearing that suits riding fast, but also a low enough gear that small, steep hills are no trouble either. This kind of gravel bike is also usually light in weight, with some weighing under the 10kg mark.

Like all regular bikes these days, there are electric variants of gravel bikes too.


Men riding gravel bikes outdoors
Image credit: Cannondale

Who Are Gravel Bikes For?

Gravel bikes, like all bikes really, are for anyone, but if you’re new to cycling and stuck between the idea of buying a road bike or a mountain bike, then a gravel bike is a sensible option.

It’ll allow you to pile on some long road miles, but if you want to head away from busy traffic and explore some backcountry, then it’ll allow you to do that too.

Gravel bikes’ versatility allows them to extend to other uses like commuting to work or even taking on some bikepacking or cycle touring on the weekends.


Gravel Bikes Pros + Cons

Before buying a gravel bike, it’s a good idea to weigh up their pros and cons.

Thanks to their versatility, gravel bikes may well be viewed as the “jack of all trades”. On the flip side of that argument you could argue that they are “master of none” – with road bikes and mountain bikes outperforming them on their respective terrains.

If your budget is on the low side, under $750 for example, you may find your choices limited. But if there’s only room for one bike in your life, and you like the idea of riding both on and off-road, there’s no other type of bike that matches a gravel bike in the fun stakes.

Pros

  • Versatile
  • Fun to ride
  • Growing availability
  • The best ‘one bike’ option

Cons

  • Won’t be as fast as a road bike on the tarmac
  • Unable to cope with more severe off-road trails
  • There’s not a huge number of options below $750

Best Gravel Bicycles in the World

We’ve scoured the World Wide Web to find you seven of the best gravel bikes. Here at Discerning Cyclist, our emphasis is mainly on commuting and city riding, so we’ve made sure that all of the options included in our list could easily adapt to that kind of riding should you wish.

1. Specialized Diverge Comp E5

specialized diverge comp e5 gravel bike
specialized diverge comp e5 gravel bike features
specialized diverge comp e5 gravel bike colours
  • UK Flag £2,550
  • US Flag $2,500
  • EU Flag €2,700

Prices are approximate

  • Frame Material: Aluminium
  • Weight: Not Stated
  • Gears: 11-speed 
  • Wheel Size: 700c
  • Max Load: 124.7kg (275lb)
  • Lights:
  • Fenders:
  • Pannier Rack:

This alloy-framed version of the Specialized Diverge is equipped with all the right tools needed to make gravel rides fun, fast and fuss-free.

It’d be fast and nimble enough on road rides and commutes but with reassuring steering, stable geometry and a unique front shock system, it’s good enough on gravel, fire roads and singletrack too.

This bike can be fitted with fenders.

Pros

  • Front fork has “future shock” dampening
  • Sold in 7 frame sizes
  • Strong colour options
  • Premium finishing kit

Cons

  • 38c tires might not be wide enough for all
  • High price for an alloy frame
  • Front shock can’t be “locked-out” so it could be annoying when commuting solely on tarmac

2. Trek Checkpoint SL5

trek checkpoint sl5 gravel bike
trek checkpoint sl5 gravel bike view
trek checkpoint sl5 gravel bike features
trek checkpoint sl5 gravel bike colours
  • UK Flag £3,700
  • US Flag $3,399
  • EU Flag €4,099

Prices are approximate

  • Frame Material: Carbon
  • Weight: 9.7kg (21.39lb)
  • Gears: 22-speed 
  • Wheel Size: 700c
  • Max Load: 125kg (275lb)
  • Lights:
  • Fenders:
  • Pannier Rack:

The Checkpoint is Trek’s competitor to the Specialized Diverge. To change things up, we’ve selected a Checkpoint with a carbon frame. All-in, this model weighs under 10kg and with the 2×11 Shimano gearing, the setup will immediately appeal to road riders wanting to make the switch to gravel riding.

Whilst the SL5 comes fitted with 40mm tires, it will accept 45mm tires in a 700c wheel size – plenty wide enough for more gnarly, off-road escapades.

Pros

  • Available in 6 frame sizes and 2 colours
  • Genuinely useful internal frame storage
  • 2×11 gearing is good for fast road riding too
  • 40mm tires offer grip off-road

Cons

  • Perhaps too precious to commit to daily commuting duty

3. Ribble CGR AL

ribble cgr al all-terrain bike
  • UK Flag £1,400
  • US Flag $1,700
  • EU Flag €1,600

Prices are approximate

  • Frame Material: Aluminium
  • Weight: 10.3kg (22.66lb)
  • Gears: 22-speed 
  • Wheel Size: 700c
  • Max Load: 120kg (264lb)
  • Lights: Optional
  • Fenders: Optional
  • Pannier Rack: Optional

Although it’s been a fair while now, Ribble’s CGR platform continues to be held in high regard by all sorts of bike riders.

For this list, we chose the CGR AL option, with the Enthusiast gearing setup – that’s Shimano 105 for the uninitiated.

This bike would make an excellent commuting bike, especially if your commute is 10 miles+ and could involve a few light off-road sections.

Once the working week is out of the way, this bike could easily handle some bikepacking trips or a quick gravel jaunt.

Pros

  • Can be customised
  • Good value
  • 40mm tires as standard

Cons

  • Road gearing isn’t suited to steep off-road climbs
  • Customising can lead to long lead times
  • Only two frame colour options

4. Cannondale Topstone Carbon 2 L

cannondale topstone carbon 2l bike
cannondale topstone carbon 2l bike in use
  • UK Flag £4,500
  • US Flag $4,250
  • EU Flag €5,199

Prices are approximate

  • Frame Material: Carbon
  • Weight: 9.6kg (21.1lb)
  • Gears: 22-speed 
  • Wheel Size: 700c
  • Max Load: 138kg (305lb)
  • Lights: ❌
  • Fenders: ❌
  • Pannier Rack: ❌

With the inclusion of a rear rocker suspension system and onboard lights, Cannondale has really marked out the Topstone from its competitors.

This model (Carbon L 2) has a sensible gearing setup. The 2×11 specification shouldn’t leave riders wanting when loaded up on a bikepacking trip or shouldered with a backpack heading to work. The highest gear (48×11) should also be enough to keep up on a fast group ride on the road.

If you don’t like the idea of the integrated lights, then there are other options of the Topstone Carbon without it.

Pros

  • Rear suspension for comfort
  • Great looks
  • Goldilocks gearing

Cons

  • We’d like some neater cabling for this price
  • Lack of frame colours in some countries/territories
  • Lights might not offer enough power for off-road riding at night

5. Marin DSX 1

marin dsx 1 gravel bike
marin dsx 1 gravel bike sideview
  • UK Flag £985
  • US Flag $999
  • EU Flag €950

Prices are approximate

  • Frame Material: Aluminium
  • Weight: 11.4kg (25lb)
  • Gears: 11-speed 
  • Wheel Size: 700c
  • Max Load: 150kg (330lb)
  • Lights:
  • Fenders:
  • Pannier Rack:

Not all gravel bikes have to have drop handlebars and the Marin DSX is a good example of this species.

With 1×11 gearing, disc brakes and wide-ish tires its got enough gravel bike DNA to enable it to perform on and off-road. Marin themselves say it would be the perfect mixed-surface commuting bike.

Although it’s sub $/£1000, the DSX features thoughtful touches like mounts on the fork for adding bags and other carrying equipment. Go bikepacking or weekend adventuring on the DSX and you shouldn’t be disspointed with its performance.

Pros

  • Flat bar comfort
  • Nips under the four-figure mark
  • Fork mounts

Cons

  • 1×11 gearing has its limitations

6. Alchemy Ronin Titanium

alchemy ronin titanium
alchemy ronin titanium in use
alchemy ronin titanium colours
  • UK Flag £7,325
  • US Flag $9,000
  • EU Flag €8,444

Prices are approximate

  • Frame Material: Titanium
  • Weight: Various
  • Gears: Various
  • Wheel Size: Various
  • Max Load: Various
  • Lights: Optional
  • Fenders: Optional
  • Pannier Rack: Optional

Yes, it’s wildly expensive and yes you’ll have to wait a few months before you receive it, but the Ronin from Alchemy is a gravel bike that you’ll cherish for a very, very long time.

Built in Colorado, using titanium which itself is made in the US, the Ronin is a fine example of traditional craftsmanship paired with modern-day gravel bike geometry and componentry.

For the price, a custom fit is included, so whatever your height and body intricacies, you can be sure the Ronin will fit you like a glove.

Pros

  • Customised to meet your desires
  • Titanium delivers a plush ride
  • Standout looks
  • Definitely not mass-market

Cons

  • Long build times
  • Not available in the UK/EU
  • Expensive

7. Kona Libre CR/DL

kona libre off-road bike
kona libre off-road bike features
  • UK Flag £2,899
  • US Flag $3,799
  • EU Flag €3,341

Prices are approximate

  • Frame Material: Carbon
  • Weight: Not Stated
  • Gears: 11-speed 
  • Wheel Size: 700c
  • Max Load: Not Stated
  • Lights:
  • Fenders:
  • Pannier Rack: ❌

Kona’s Libre is the last bike on our list. In our book, the CR/DL model offers rides the most bang for their buck. It runs the best gravel groupset going, Shimano GRX and comes pre-fitted with nice and wide 45mm tires.

The cherry on the top of this bike is the dropper post. Once you’ve got one on your gravel bike, you’ll probably never want one without it. Popped down, its ideal for slaloming road descents or technical singletrack sections.

Pros

  • Great specification for the money
  • Loads of bottle mounts
  • Dropper post

Cons

  • Limited frame sizes
  • Only one frame colour

Best Gravel Bike Brands

In our list of the best gravel bikes, we’ve included: Specialized, Trek, Ribble, Cannondale, Marin, Alchemy and Kona. But what about some other brands? Here’s a list of other brands that have a decent gravel bike offering.

Of the larger bike manufacturers, Giant (and their women-specific sister brand Liv), Merida, Scott, Cube and Canyon should be on your browse list. Brands of this size usually have at least two models of gravel bikes. More often than not, one is more road-focused, and the other is more adventure or mountain bike-inspired.

Medium-sized brands that have one type of gravel bike in their lineup include, Orbea, Focus and Cervelo.

If you’re after a smaller brand, perhaps one with a laser focus on gravel bikes then give the likes of Fairlight, Argonaut or Mason Cycles a tinkle on your keyboard.


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