The 11 best budget gravel bikes for bikepacking Reviews and comparison of the top cheap gravel bicycles for less than 1000/1500$
Including single-speed, monster cross & more
Gravel bikes are an explosive market, with so many new brands and redesigned old bicycle models from the big players like Giant and Specialized, finding the best gravel bike for your needs is not an easy task.
In this guide, we’ll review 11 (but we’ll add more) of the best and cheapest gravel bikes out there, bikepacking and adventure-ready bikes for less than 1000$/1,500$, the real bangs for the buck for those on a budget.
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What is a Gravel Bike?
In between the frenzy and performance-driven worlds of road cycling and cyclocross, sits the more leisurely and versatile category of the gravel bikes.
Some say gravel bikes are a mix between the two, but they are actually something more. Happy both on tarmac and on mud, gravel bikes are adventure machines giving up a bit of performance in exchange for comfort and durability.
Disc brakes, fatter tires, eyelets and mounting points which you won’t find on a road bike make most gravel bicycles ideal machines for the increasingly trendy discipline of bikepacking.
The geometry is more relaxed compared to a race bike. The head tube is often taller and the head angle is slicker for more relaxed steering (less twitchy than a racing bike, less responsive on technical off-road sections than a cyclocross), somehow similar to that of an aggressive touring bike, a world from which gravel designers drew a lot of inspiration.
Another characteristic of many gravel bikes is the longer wheelbase, to make them more stable both on asphalt and dirt, to provide extra comfort over long distances, and to handle medium-heavy loads for multi-day bikepacking trips.
The bottom bracket will usually be a little lower than a cyclo-cross bike, most have drop-bars but flat bars and alternative handlebars like Jones Loop H are becoming a common sight on gravels.
A sloping top tube offers more stand-over height, which is useful in a get-off, while taller head tubes than what you’d expect to see on a ‘cross’ or race bike allow for greater comfort in a more upright rider position.
The gearing is also pretty unique, while cyclocross requires a narrower gear range (short circuit can’t have big long climbs), gravel riding is done on more varied terrain: steep mountains, flat and smooth tarmac, farm roads, single track… this calls for a much wider choice of gear. The choice is usually towards 2×11 or 1×10, often with the bigger sprocket going up to 36 or even 42T.
Although the initial purpose of gravel bikes is to compete in a cycling discipline called gravel grinding (long races on varied terrain, mostly off the sealed road), their versatility makes them indeed a great solution for multiple cycling pursuits.
They are suitable for all but the fastest of road riding, while the wider tires and wider-range gearing make off-road trails, gravel and single tracks manageable. When you buy a gravel you get a commuter, a racer, a tourer, and a cross-country all in one – of course with the due compromises.
We just described some of the common characteristics that are found on gravel bikes, but there’s no standard for this type of bicycles yet. Bicycle brands like to call “gravel” bikes wich are very dissimilar from each other. In this article, we’ll try to give you different options, suited for different styles, tastes, and purposes.
Are you ready? Let’s get started with the cheapest ones! Will you find the best gravel bike for you? NB: bikes are numbered to help you navigate the article, they don’t represent a ranking.
1. Bianchi Via Nirone Allroad Tiagra 2019 Gravel Bike – Price: $900
From legendary Italian brand Bianchi, the Via Nirone 7 is one of the best budget gravel bikes available for under 1000$. The name comes from the address of Bianchi’s first workshop in Milan, Via Nirone 7 indeed.
A responsive and rigid frame in triple-butted 6061-series aluminum throughout with hydroformed sections is complemented by a carbon fork, of course designed for disk brakes.
Driven by a Shimano Tiagra groupset, it gives the rider 20 gears with a 50x34T chainring and a classic 11-34T cassette, a very standard range of gears.
This gravel-road bike is designed for mid to long-distance rides, the wheelbase is long enough to ensure comfort and light load handling, but the geometry is still pretty performative, with a relatively low rider position, a short and reactive fork rake. Moreover, the Bianchi Via Nirone is quite lightweight at only 9.7kg (full built, M-Size).
The fork is built using K-Vid technology, kevlar inserts are interwoven into the fork to eliminate and filter the vibrations coming from the road surface. This is supposed to improve comfort on longer rides, making riding less tiring… and surprise, it actually works.
The maximum tire-clearance is 40mm (1.57″), enough to grind the thickest gravel – although still far from a proper Adventure Bike.
The Bianchi Via Nirone 7 is a great bike for those who want a well-balanced gravel bike able to perform well both on tar and off-road – without spending a fortune.
Pinnacle Bikes is the own brand of British bicycle retailer Evans Cycles. Started in 2006, Pinnacle is now a well-established manufacturer of urban, hybrid and cyclocross bicycles. http://tidd.ly/41f2a1cb
The Pinnacle Arkose was a pioneer of gravel bikes, been around since 2013 before the term “gravel” became a trend. For 2020 it’s had the most significant re-design in its 7 years in the market.
The 2020 Arkose is a benchmark for the versatility this type of bike can offer. The frame has full compatibility for wheel size (650B x 52C or 700C x 45mm), rear axle and Di2/cable gearing options.
With such a tire clearance, this Pinnacle bike is sure to perform well on long-distance rides along challenging roads. The geometry is close to a tourer or adventure bike, with a long wheelbase and chainstay for stability under loads, the rider’s position is more upright compared to some competitors, it really seems a great gravel for bikepacking.
The Pinnacle Arkose 2020 is equipped with a 48-32 tooth chainset (46-30 tooth on women’s models) and a standard 11/34T cassette, a good range for most unloaded or light-loaded rides.
It features 3 bottle-cage mounts, mudguard and rack eyelets, just like a serious touring bike – another characteristic moving this rig more towards the long-distance adventure cycling world, and a bit away from the race-performance market.
The Pinnacle Arkose is a great adventure/bikepacking gravel bike – comfortable, reliable, and pretty cheap
Ok, this could make someone’s nose turn up, why is a single-speed bike in this list? Well, since most gravel bikes have very similar characteristics, we thought of adding a few different options to this review blog article, maybe we could give you some ideas you haven’t thought of.
With their efficiency and low-maintenance requirements, singlespeed drivetrains are already a popular option for commuting, but more and more cyclists are starting to use single-speed bikes for adventure rides.
If you mostly ride in flat areas, considering a single-speed gravel bike like the Genesis Day One 10 is far from foolish. The steel frame and fork are high-quality Genesis stuff, with ample room for full-length mudguards for year-round, dry bottom commuting and off-road rides, while the Promax DSK-300 disc brakes ensure adequate stopping power.
UPDATE! Now the Genesis Day One is available also with internal Shimano hub gears, have a look!
The Genesis Day One 10 2020 is a great buy for those looking for a maintenance-free commuter that could double as a light adventure/gravel bike.
Back to the real stuff with one of the most popular gravel bikes around, the Specialized Diverge. Yes, you can get it for under 1,000$ if you go for the E5, mounting a Shimano Claris 8-speed groupset and Axis Sport Disc wheelset.
The Diverge by Specialized is a very sporty bike with a geometry slightly more compact than most competitors. It’s a responsive and agile bike that goes fast on tarmac and grinds the gravel pretty smoothly, with a max tire clearance of 42mm, pretty standard on gravel bikes.
You can think of the Diverge’s geometry as a road version of a modern trail bike. It cuts the corners and skids on dirt quite playfully but keeps stiffness up enough to satisfy your inner-racer.
To achieve this, Specialized lowered the bottom bracket (over a half-centimeter lower than the previous Diverge), slacked-out the head tube angle, shortened the chainstays and the overall wheelbase.
The aluminum frameset and carbon fiber fork are high quality, but for its geometry and general built, the Diverge is certainly not a bike meant to carry heavy loads.
One of the best gravel bikes for long day adventures on mixed surface or ultralight bikepacking trips
Now this is a real bikepacking-ready gravel bike, introducing the new Grade Elite Gravel Bike from GT.
Although a glance at the specs might give you the impression of a pretty standard all-road/gravel, the GT Grade Elite 2020 is more than that. Yes, the choice of component (Shimano Claris, 2×8 32/48-11/34) and materials (alloy frame, carbon fork) is definitely in the norm but there are some details that make a difference.
First the braze-on mounts on the frame, no gravel bike has more than the GT Grade Elite. Besides the bosses for mudguards and racks on the front and rear, this rig has 4 bottle cages mounting points, plus bosses on the seat stay and the top tube! Also, the carbon fork is “anything cage”-ready, meaning that the options for bikepacking set-ups are almost unlimited.
Another very interesting feature is the new re-engineered triple triangle. GT’s iconic Triple Triangle has been around for 24 years, a sort of brand design signature meant to reinforce stays, reduce lateral flex, improve durability, lateral stiffness and vertical compliance, and response.
However, there is a difference here; the long, low dropped seat-stays are no longer welded to the seat tube. They are Floating Stays, made of an alloy league that dampens vibrations, instead of sending the vibrations to the seatpost they are delivered to the top tube.
This results in an impressive reduction of trail noise and, more importantly, an improved comfort on any terrain. Together with the long wheelbase they really make the GT Grade Elite a cushioned bike that can ignore most surface imperfections.
For the rest, tire clearance is standard for gravel bikes (comes with 37c tyres but can accommodate up to 42mm) the fender bridge is removable and the frame is compatible with dropper post (a height-adjustable seatpost that allows a rider to lower the seat height while riding).
The GT Grade Elite is, in my humble opinion, one of the best gravel bikes for serious bikepacking trips
Another bike that made it into this list without being exactly what most of us will call a gravel bike. The Genesis Vagabond is a monster-cross in the loosest sense of the term, “the illegitimate lovechild of a road and mountain bike, a frankenbike…” thus Genesis poetically describes the 2020 version of the Vagabond.
A 29er with a humongous tire clearance that can accommodate up to 3″ (it comes with 2.1″), a bulletproof Seamless/Double-Butted/Cromoly-Steel frame, and a range of gear able to bring you where most of the best gravel bikes in this list can’t.
It’s indeed powered by a SRAM GX 2×10 speed drivetrain 42-28T/11-36, complemented by reliable and tested TRP Spyre-C 2-piston mechanical disc brake.
The Genesis Vagabond can work as a loaded tourer, a fast and comfortable commuter, a mountain trail bike, and the ultimate bikepacking machine with a simple tyre swap.
The raised stem and sloped geometry put the rider in a more upright position, sacrificing a bit of speed on tar in favor of a more comfortable feeling, also nice for looking at the scenery on easy tracks when your hands are on the hoods.
Of course, the Genesis Vagabond, with its steel frame, is not as light as the usual gravel, ranging between 11 and 13kg according to the size and choice of pedals.
The Genesis Vagabond 2020 is an all-rounder gravel/mountain bike which makes a great buy for those who like to practice different cycling disciplines but can’t afford multiple bikes
From German renowned brand Cube, here is a rapid and rampant budget gravel bike for tackling rough routes. The Cross Race Pro by Cube gives a nice performance with its 2×11 Shimano 105 drive train – 50x34T in the front, 11x24T at the back, this is more of a road range than what you expect on cyclocross bikes.
This Superlite aluminum frame mounts 700cc wheels up to 622 x 35, giving you a confident grip on most dirt surfaces, although it’s certainly not a rig for the harshest terrains and weather conditions, also the gears are not great for extreme climbs.
The frame finishings are clean and neat, as usual for Cube, the internal cable routing is very welcomed, eyelets for fenders and rear rack definitely add in versatility. The carbon front fork with a tapered head tube saves some grams and performs quick and agile in tight corners.
The ground clearance is ample enough to avoid pedal strikes, and the bike is reasonably comfortable on rough terrains.
The Cube Cross Race Pro CX is a quick and versatile cyclocross bike, that could double as a fast commuter
Orro is a young bike brand from Sussex (Southern England), which is outputing an inreasingly rich range of cool bikes.
The Terra Gravel Bike, comes with chic components such as a 3T cockpit and seatpost, a Prologo saddle, and Fulcrum wheels a rare sight for this price range.
The tire clearance goes up to 42mm wide, which makes the Terra a proper gravel bicycle suited for serious offroading. The frame angles though are more those of a roadie (73-degree head, 72.6-degree seat), also the rider position is pretty low on the front, which will make happy those in need for speed.
The strong and lightweight OSD 6061 aircraft-grade aluminium frame though is extremely comfortable, wheelbase is quite long at 105cm, giving much greater stability when compared to a race bike. The finishings are a work of art and the overall look very attractive, with the nice aesthetic touch given by the carbon fork.
Shimano 105 11-Speed Drivetrain and TRP Spyre Mechanical Disc Brakes
Driven on by a Shimano 105 11-Speed drivetrain to soar you up the steepest climbs, across daring terrains and down speedy descents with exceptional traction. Plus, it’s fitted with TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes for confidence-inspiring stopping power and sensational braking control in all weather conditions.
The standard components though, make it come out of the box more as an endurance race bike than a rig suited for extreme adventure. The limited gear range and slim tires call for an upgrade.
The Orro Terra Gravel is a great value bike, able to bring you way out of your comfort zone with just a few upgrades
ORRO Terra Gravel
ORRO Terra Gravel Superlight 2.0
Shimano 105 7000 Mechanical
Deda Zero 1
ORRO Alloy Setback
TRP Spyre Disc Mechanical
Fulcrum Racing Sport DB
Vittoria Zaffiro 28c
Shimano 105 7000
Shimano 105 7000 11-30
Shimano 105 7000 50-34
Cannondale Topstone Alloy Gravel Bike 2021 – $1500
The Cannondale Topstone is a highly versatile bicycle that sits firmly in the gravel category.
Its svelte lines make an impression of elegance seasoned with a pinch of adventure and are clearly meant to convey tremendously enjoyable riding in all kind of road and weather conditions.
Since it’s designed to be the ultimate combination of road racing and cyclocross bicycles, it can be considered a mixed-surface tourer as well as a 4 seasons commute bike. At any time, with only a few adjustments, you can set up your rig for a camping bike trip, or join the group of your roadie friends.
The big tire clearance allows plenty of room for tires up to 42mm wide for comfort grip and adventurous capability.
Although the front fork does not support any eyelets for cages on either side, it is a beautiful piece of carbon fiber, with a longer-than-usual rake (55mm) for stability and hidden full-fender mounts. It is a light and performing fork, rare on a bike at this price range.
With mounts for three water bottles plus mounts for top tube storage Topstone is ready to go long. Multiple bottle cage positions on the downtube mount let you configure for big frame bags.
This extremely interesting and good-looking gravel bike comes from the designers at Octane One, a relatively young (since 2015) brand from Poland. Lightweight, responsive, and dependable, this flat-bar adventure/gravel bike is built with compact and aggressive geometry, while still providing optimal comfort on longer rides.
The choice of components this time deviates towards the MTB world, which is the homeland of Octane, a Shimano Deore 10-Speed drivetrain with an 11-42T cassette at the rear and a single 38T crown at the front. This low maintenance gearing setup is enough for most hills, although the rider might struggle on extremely steep trails. The Shimano hydraulic disc brakes are a reliable industry standard for gravel bikes in the budget price range.
The 6061 Aluminium frame features mounts for pannier rack and mudguards, add a tire clearance up to 700x43c and you have a nicely equipped adventure machine ready to go off the beaten track.
This outstanding ride may fall into the entry-level class due to its extraordinary cheap price, but it’s engineered and equipped to perform way above your expectations of what a gravel bike in this range can achieve.
One of our favorite gravel bikes on this list. Low priced, well designed, and with a cool set of components
Giant Revolt 2 is an entry-level gravel bike optimized to enjoy back roads and uneven pavements
Among Giant Revolt range, no less than five Revolt Advanced series is made of Advanced-Grade carbon fiber, while only one model, the Revolt 2, is made of ALUXX Grade Aluminum with a carbon fork.
All Revolt bikes look similar, except for the joints, the seat-tube, and, most relevantly, the wheelbase, which is a bit longer in the aluminum version.
Any Giant carbon components (whenever the bike is purchased in the USA) are covered by a two years manufacturer warranty previously unheard of in the whole bicycle industry.
Giant Revolt 2 is the ideal bike for beginners or for everyone approaching the gravel world. For a bike so rigid, it turns out exceptionally smooth over rough gravel roads.
It’s a forgiving and cushioned gravel bike without suspension. Supporting fenders and racks mounts, it is also suitable for commuting and short touring.
It can definitely be the only bike needed by most occasional riders. It is modern, beautiful, and optimized to motivate first-time cyclists to ride more, allowing them to enjoy all kinds of roads, to forget about handling, and to focus instead of pedaling.
No worries about the bike being twitchy: the Revolt 2 is super stable and is certainly going to convey a sense of satisfaction to inexperienced riders.