Whether you are a dirt road rider or a gravel road racer, you need a different set of wheels than a road bike. Gravel bikes are around – but it can be hard to figure out which is best for you and your cycling lifestyle. Below are the best gravel bikes that are currently on the market.
A brave introduction from GT, the Grade was one of the pioneers in this segment. Available in carbon and alloy frame versions, the Grade has consistently scored highly among industry testers.
The Revolt is Giant’s adventure bike line and features three affordably priced models that are ready to hit the rough stuff. BikeRadar recently reviewed the range-topping Revolt 1, where it scored just short of a perfect five-star score.
Cannondale’s Slate is unique, even in the gravel bike world. Rather than using typical 700c wheels, the Slate uses 650b mountain bike wheels and massive 42mm tires. Another standout feature of the Slate is its Lefty Oliver suspension fork, offering 30mm of adjustable suspension – it’s totally unique in this sector and truly cranks things up a notch for those who want to.
Another bike that’s been built to take the rough with the smooth is Specialized‘s Diverge. Available in carbon and alloy versions, each gets endurance geometry and clearance for up to 35mm tires.
The Search is Norco’s stab at the gravel bike market, and over the past couple of years the company has produced steel, alloy and carbon fiber examples.
Jamis is also big on the gravel scene. Its Renegade range offers a variety of alloy, steel and carbon adventure bikes.
So, what makes a gravel bike different than a regular off-road bike? Well, you need wide wheels and proper tires, wide wheels and tires comes the need for big clearances, and gravel bikes should have these as standard. The go-anywhere nature of these bikes means that more often than not they’ll feature rack and mudguard/fender mounts too. Another place where a gravel bike differs from other road bikes is its geometry. Off-road excursions require different handling priorities to riding on tarmac and so a gravel bike’s geometry sheet will reflect this. Being more specific, when compared with a traditional road bike, you can expect to find longer frame and overall wheelbase plus a slacker head angle. These tweaks, most often spoken about in the world of mountain bikes, usually add up to a bike that is more stable at speed.
A gravel bike will also usually have a taller head tube than a regular road bike; this is to improve comfort over long distances. Comfort is key with these machines, and so it’s not unusual to find narrower, more flexible seat posts and frames and forks that boast increased vibration damping qualities. Handlebars may also be wider and more flared for greater off-road control. Gravel bikes often feature a lower gearing range than road bikes too, to account for steep off-road terrain and the extra rolling radius of a larger tire.