Best Gravel Bikes [2021 Guide]

Once you start going down the rabbit hole of various bicycle types, you’ll learn about all the different models you didn’t know existed.

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Gravel bikes, for instance, unlike their road/street-focused counterparts, are much better for exploration riding. That fire road that you found too challenging on a typical road bicycle is no match for a gravel bike’s 700x38c-wheels.

This is why gravel biking has so many synonyms – all-road, adventure, groad, gnarmac, and gravé are only some of the examples. Whichever of these terms you go with, it will signify one thing – taking a prepared bike off the beaten path, looking for adventure.

In this article, you’ll learn more about this bicycle type, plus we’ll give you a rundown of some of the best gravel bikes on the current market.

5 Best Gravel Bikes

1. Hiland 650B Road Gravel Bike


Hiland 650B is quite possibly the best beginner’s option on the list. It comes with 27.5x1.95 WTB (Wilderness Trail Bikes) tires. These are knobby and wide, which is precisely what you need for trail/gravel adventures.

Then, there’s the question of weight. A gravel bike shouldn’t be too cumbersome. At the same time, this type of a two-wheeler needs to be strong and resilient. The low weight is necessary because you’ll need as little gravity impact as possible during those literal uphill battles. On the other hand, you can’t have the frame bending awkwardly after one brush against a fallen branch.

Hiland 650B is built out of the aluminum 6061 frame, which is the best option on the gravel bike market.

Another vital factor with gravel bikes are disc brakes. Although Hiland’s proprietary Harvey disc brakes aren’t the best in the world, they get the job done. Regardless of the surface you’re on, and no matter what weather conditions you’re riding in, the Harvey brakes will help you stop your 650B bike quickly and, most importantly, safely.

The front fork on the 650B has been made to be shock-absorbent, boosting ride comfort on rough paths.

Pros of the Hiland 650B Road Gravel Bike


  • Wide tires
  • Sturdy frame
  • Great build
  • Comfortable front fork

Cons of the Hiland 650B Road Gravel Bike


  • Lower gearing would be great

2. Royce Union Men's Gravel Bike


Royce is a Canadian bicycle company founded almost a century ago. It’s a renowned manufacturer, popular among professionals and amateurs alike.

In addition to various other bike types, Royce makes gravel bikes, and the Royce Union model is among the most popular.

Royce Union bikes aren’t high-end. They are affordable solutions for those who don’t mind a bit less durability compared to the expensive, professional models. But what Royce Union bikes are truly famous for is their high-end performance. Some much more expensive bikes will offer identical performance as a Royce Union model.

The lack of durability here, however, doesn’t mean a lack of resilience. You shouldn’t expect a Royce Union bicycle to last you for decades, but these models can take quite a punch.

Although an assembled Royce Union Men’s Gravel Bike 27.5” is almost ideal for a beginner rider, it’s not a perfect solution for the inexperienced, in general. Let us explain. Royce Union models are those bikes that you need to assemble by yourself. Now, if you’re an experienced cyclist, you may even find the assembly process fun. However, a seasoned rider will probably aim higher in terms of durability than Royce Union.

Still, this is not to say that these models aren’t a perfect, affordable solution. The ride that these models offer is almost impeccable.

Pros of the Royce Union Men's Gravel Bike


  • Perfect ride
  • Affordable
  • Great for pros and amateurs
  • High-end performance

Cons of the Royce Union Men's Gravel Bike


  • Has to be assembled

3. Giordano Trieste Gravel Bike


Don’t be deterred by the fact that the Giordano Trieste is considered a mountain bike. Your journey doesn’t have to be upward-directed to enjoy the resilience and flexibility that this bike offers. And despite its “official” classification, the Giordano Trieste is a gravel bike, as well.

Its build gravitates toward a gravel bike first, and a mountain bike second (although the two categories do have many overlapping features).

The Trieste is a lightweight bike. It owes its gravel-favorable weight to the Chromoly steel frame and fork. This is a fairly lightweight material, and yet it’s still steel, meaning resilience and sturdiness. This is exactly what you’ll want to see on a gravel bike.

Still, resilience and light weight don’t ensure a perfect fork for a gravel bike. The best gravel bikes are the models that have soft, shock-absorbent forks. Although the Giordano Trieste fork is sturdy and lightweight, it may lack in the shock absorption department.

Then, there are the 30mm-wide tires, which ensure a smooth ride and more control.

Don’t worry about the tough conditions or rough roads, either. The Trieste comes with mechanical disk brakes that can quickly and easily put your ride to a stop in various conditions, on any surface.

Pros of the Giordano Trieste Gravel Bike


  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Great handling

Cons of the Giordano Trieste Gravel Bike


  • Portability – not foldable

4. W.A.R Gravel Evader GSR


The high-performance 6061 aluminum alloy frame has been widely renowned as the best frame option for gravel bikes. Although alternatives do exist, the 6061 rules supreme. With this frame, the W.A.R Gravel Evader GSR is one of those bikes that are pretty much made for gravel use.

But there’s more to the Evader than just gravel use. Make no mistake, this model is very much a mountain bike, as well.

The full-carbon fork ensures versatility, resilience, and shock absorption for a smooth, soft ride, even on the roughest of trails. This is definitely the best fork option for gravel bikes.

But one thing that truly sets the Gravel Evader apart from most gravel bikes are the high-end hydraulic brakes that work much better than mechanical discs and rim brakes. The difference between mechanical and hydraulic brakes is that the former use a cable to operate, while the latter rely on fluid transfer. Hydraulic brakes are much more effective and reliable.

Although the Gravel Evader can’t be considered low-end in any way, thanks to all the brilliant gravel-riding features, it’s well worth the investment. Plus, you get a five-year warranty on the entire frame, as well as the carbon forks.

Pros of the W.A.R Gravel Evader GSR


  • Hydraulic brakes
  • Full-carbon fork
  • 700x38c wheels
  • 6061 aluminum alloy frame

Cons of the W.A.R Gravel Evader GSR


  • Pricey

5. Tamland 2 Gravel Bike


The Tamland 2 from Raleigh isn’t the best gravel bike on the market. That’s okay, it doesn’t even aspire to be the best. Its air-hardened Reynolds 631 frame is fairly lightweight and reasonably resilient, but not as brilliant as the famed 6061 aluminum alloy frames.

The carbon monocoque fork is better than most, but it’s still a long way from full-carbon.

The suspension is non-existent, and don’t expect mountain bike tires, either. This is not a bike fit for rough hills. Still, its 631 frame is fairly impressive at dampening road vibrations.

Another surprising thing about the Tamland 2 is its handling – at first glance, you wouldn’t expect it to be this smooth.

Still, the Tamland 2 is, quite simply put, a bike. It does boast solid performance on rougher roads such as gravel, but it won’t make your jaw drop. However, at the price, it’s more than great for an occasional gravel excursion.

Pros of the Tamland 2 Gravel Bike


  • 631 frame surprisingly good at dampening vibrations
  • Great handling
  • Performs well on gravel
  • Affordable

Cons of the Tamland 2 Gravel Bike


  • Pricey

Buyer’s Guide

If you’re serious about purchasing your new bike, you know that merely shuffling through recommendation lists of best gravel bikes won’t cut it.

You need to get deep into the subject and learn more about what makes a gravel bike great. This buyer’s guide will help you determine what you need to pay attention to when making up your mind.

Wider Tires

Some five years ago, the 32mm tire width was the standard in the world of gravel bikes. Today, the best gravel bikes are those with 40mm-wide tires. Some predict that the 42mm tire is shaping up to be the hot trend of 2021.

For now, though, 40mm are probably your best bet. To avoid any confusion, make sure that you understand that the 38c measurement doesn’t mean 38mm. 38c tires are 40mm – it’s an old French classification.

Most frequently, the bike tire stats are represented like this: “700x38c.” This means that the tire is 40mm wide and 700mm in diameter. This tire type is considered the best option for gravel rides.

With that said, this is just a general rule of thumb. Some riders still prefer 32mm for their gravel rides, while others go well beyond 40mm in their tire width.

Regardless, you’ll prefer a wider tire on your gravel bike than you’d otherwise want for a racing or road bike. Wider tires give you more room for comfort, while helping you retain more control and providing better handling in rougher road conditions, such as gravel.

Geometry

Every bike, gravel or not, can be upgraded, customized, and tweaked over time. In some instances, this pays off; in others, it’s a waste of money. But there’s one thing that’s set in stone for every bike model out there, and it’s the bike’s geometry.

In a sense, it’s this that best defines any particular model.

To explain, let’s take handling for example – if you don’t like how it handles on day one, you’re not going to like it after a year of use. This is how it works with a bike’s geometry. The only difference being, you can improve a bike’s handling, while the geometry is the way it is.

As a rule of thumb, the ideal geometry for a gravel bike consists of long front triangles and big slacker head tube angles. The best way to go here are test runs. This is why you should never buy a bike (especially if it’s pricey) before you do a tryout ride. If the geometry doesn’t suit you on gravel, consider looking at a different model.

High-performance 6061 aluminum alloy frames are probably the most popular choice among gravel bikers.

Gearing

The 50/34t compact chainset (commonly found on road bikes) is a great option for tarmac riding with a hint of occasional off-road trailing. Hit a bit more of a technical climb, especially off the road, and you’ll either fail to keep pedaling, or your rear wheel will lose its grip.

Low gearing is particularly popular with gravel biking nowadays.

However, the downside of low gearing is that you’ll run out of the top-end gears, which are great for fast descents on the tarmac and other non-gravel surfaces. So, consider the type of rides that you plan on doing with your gravel bike. And keep in mind that an all-round ideal solution for all conditions, surfaces, and ride types doesn’t exist.

Suspension

Perhaps the biggest difference between a mountain bike and a gravel bike is its suspension. Where suspension (at least fork suspension) is a must with mountain bikes due to off-road comfort and control, gravel bikes are often seen without any form of suspension.

Gravel bikes use more rigid designs for a simple reason – this bike type is supposed to be as light as possible. Suspension gives you a smoother ride, which is desirable in gravel conditions. On the other hand, it adds up in the weight department and causes efficiency loss.

You’ll have a hard time finding a gravel bike with rear suspension. Front suspension, or suspension forks, however, are an increasingly common thing here.

The gravel bike fork, however, needs to be as lightweight as possible. Some of the best gravel bikes on the market have full-carbon forks to ensure shock absorption and comfort, without compromising the ride efficiency and without adding up too much in the weight department.

Conclusion 

Each gravel bike from this list will find its ideal owner. But if we’re talking about the best of the best, there is only one answer here.

The W.A.R Gravel Evader GSR Road Bike, 11 Speed is far from an affordable gravel bike. However, you get the 6061 aluminum alloy frame and the ideal 700x38c (700mmx40mm) tires. 

It boasts a full-carbon fork, which means a perfect combination of ride efficiency and comfort on gravel. Finally, it’s geared particularly low – it is a bike made with gravel biking in mind.

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