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Best gravel bikes under £1,000 2022 — go beyond the tarmac for less

On a tight budget? Here are what we think are the best gravel bikes under £1,000

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Although prices of just about everything just keep on going up, getting your hands on one of the best gravel bikes doesn't have to break the bank. In fact, with the explosion in gravel riding, there’s now a great choice of gravel bikes at all price points. Here's our roundup of the best gravel bikes under £1,000.


What will you get for your money when spending under £1,000 on a gravel bike? When it comes to the frame, you’ll be looking at aluminium. This might not be as light as carbon but it can still delivers a comfortable and fast ride, and carbon fans can take comfort from the fact many gravel bikes under £1,000 feature carbon forks to smooth out the bumps. 

The best gravel bikes for under £1,000 will, of course, employ similar geometry to the best carbon gravel bikes, which means generous tyre clearance and a design that’s generally more stable than that of the best road bikes. Numerous mounts come as standard for bottle cages and storage, while the handlebars are often flared or greater comfort. Gearing will be mechanical (you'll rarely see electronic gears appearing on bikes under £3,000 nowadays) and you're likely to get between nine and 18 gears. 

As previously mentioned, if you're after better components or a carbon frame but you're still on a tight(ish) budget, then one of the best gravel bikes under £2,000 might be a good place to start your search. If you're after an electric gravel bike, unfortunately your budget will need to extend quite a way beyond a grand.

Here’s a selection of the best gravel bikes for under £1,000 chosen by the road.cc team…

The best gravel bikes: our top picks

Vitus Substance V-2

Vitus Substance V-2

10
Best gravel bike under £1,000 overall
Buy now for £719.99 from Wiggle
Excellent value
Trickle-down tech from higher end models
Carbon fork
Cable disc brakes not as powerful as hydraulic

Vitus has enjoyed great reviews on road.cc in the past, including the Vitus Substance CRS-2, which comes in at £1,999.00 and has the same geometry, so the extremely affordable Substance V-2 is certainly worthy of our top spot in this guide for those on a smaller budget.

The Substance V-2 features a double-butted aluminium frame, so durability and solid power transfer is guaranteed. Comfort levels are cranked up via the carbon fork, further aided by big-volume 700 x 40c tyres on WTB rims that’ll consume humps and bumps for breakfast. It’s also 650b compatible, and that versatility stretches to the groupset as you have the choice of 1x or 2x, though it comes equipped as standard with Shimano’s Sora nine-speed groupset that’ll do a job.

Flared handlebars and multiple mounts for bottles and luggage complete an impressive value-packed package.

Cannondale Topstone 3

Cannondale Topstone 3

10
Best value gravel bike under £1,000
Buy now for £899 from Evans Cycles
Incredibly good value at this price
Comfort
Dependable 9-speed shifting
Some would prefer 1x gears for simplicity

While the Cannondale Topstone 3 is usually £1,300, it sneaks into this guide because it's currently under that magic £1,000 mark at various retailers, and what a bargain it is if you can nab one for under a grand. 

We said the original carbon-framed Topstone was "a fun, thoroughly competent gravel and adventure bike that offers noticeable more seated comfort than many of its rivals​" and also raved about the Lefty version; and although you don't get the Kingspin suspension on the alloy-framed Topstone 3, this rigid-forked bike multiple mounting points and clearance for up to 45mm tyres for long-distance adventures off-road. It's also dropper post-ready if you want to adjust your seating position when tackling tough terrain. 

Shifting is via 9-speed Shimano Sora, and you get mechanical disc brakes from Promax, 37mm WTB Riddler tyres and a full carbon fork included as standard, 

 

Boardman ADV 8.6

Boardman ADV 8.6

10
Best all-round entry-level gravel bike under £1,000
Buy now for £775 from Halfords
Great value
Men's and women's options
Carbon fork
Those mechanical disc brakes again

“An excellent entry point to gravel riding thanks to sorted geometry and a great ride quality from the Boardman’s frameset.” The words of us here at road.cc when reviewing the Boardman ADV 8.9. This is from the same family so you’ll save cash but still enjoy a helluva ride.

As ever with Boardman, you get a lot for your money. The alloy frame features nice, clean welds for an aesthetic that belies its price tag. Carbon forks cut weight while boosting comfort, on and off road. The easy, more upright geometry amplifies the comfortable experience, while a low bottom bracket boosts stability

Shimano Sora 2 x 9-speed gearing is reliable and, coupled with the 11/48 rear, will provide enough range for the steepest of off-road ascents. Tektro disc brakes provide stopping power, while Boardman’s own-brand wheels use 38mm Schwalbe tubeless-ready tyres for a good mix of dampening off-road and speed on road.

Kona Rove AL 650 SE

Kona Rove AL 650 SE

10
Best 650B-wheeled gravel bike under £1,000
Buy now for £699.99 from Chain Reaction Cycles
650B = big tyre clearance
Very affordable
Great for smaller riders
Basic components

The top-end Kona Rove LTD excited road.cc’s testers in the past. “The beautiful ride quality and sweet handling makes the Rove LTD an absolute joy to ride, whatever the terrain,” our reviewer purred. That bike is £2,399, while this entry-level model comes in £1,700 cheaper, meaning you’ll bag yourself a bargain.

At its heart is 6061 butted aluminium that’s tough, durable and a good weight. Hanging off the alu frame is Shimano’s lowest-level road groupset, the Claris. It’s a 2x eight-speed set-up that clearly won’t be as slick and smooth as the likes of Tiagra upwards but, for the money, it’s a solid offering.

Interestingly, as the name implies, Kona’s plumped for 650b wheels over the 700c alternative. The advantages of a smaller-diameter wheel are its nimble feel and swift acceleration, which is perfect for off-road riding. Critics suggest they’re less appealing on-road but, certainly if you’re new to gravel, that’s probably princess-and-pea territory.

Claud Butler Primal

Claud Butler Primal

8
Cheapest road.cc recommended gravel bike
Buy now for £599.99 from Ash Cycles
Fantastic on and off-road performance
Entry-level price point
Smart frame
Underpowered mechanical disc brakes
Speccing compromises to hit budget

The Claud Butler Primal is one of the cheapest gravel bikes we’ve come across, but that doesn’t mean it’s totally scrimped on performance. It’s a fun machine that’s equally at home on open roads, navigating the urban jungle and moderately slippy trails.

Its aluminium frame ensures good power delivery, while there’s a reassuring quality to its handling. Perhaps the biggest surprise is comfort. The combination of moderately chunky 38mm tyres and a fine saddle results in an impressive ride, especially on tarmac where we suspect much of the Primal’s riding will take place. Internal cable routing and undersized rear triangle adds a contemporary edge.

Of course, at this price point there are compromises. The dual control levers of the 7-speed Shimano Tourney groupset are a little floppy and the mechanical Tektro disc brakes feel spongy. But overall, it's an excellent budget gravel bike for fun times on and off road.

Read our review: 
Cube Nuroad

Cube Nuroad

10
Best gravel bike under £1,000 for speedy riders
Buy now for £999.99 from Tredz
Looks great
Proven, reliable components
Quite aggressive geometry for a gravel bike

The Nuroad, according to Cube, “blends cyclocross ruggedness with road-bike alacrity”. That hints at speed, albeit they also “threw a little mountain-bike DMA into the mix”. How do they achieve this cycling alchemy? And what does it achieve?

Well, the road and CX side stems from the aluminium frame and carbon forks and its ‘comfortable’ all-round geometry that’s designed for speedy efforts when needed but more attuned to long days in the saddle. The mountain-bike side’s covered by the large tyre clearance that can accommodate up to the 45mm tyres the Nuroad comes with or 40mm with mudguards.

Cube’s ordered a double – 2 x eight-speed Shimano Claris – which is fine, though we’ve seen the higher-level Sora on cheaper bikes than this one. As you’d expect, there are numerous mounts for bikepacking adventures.

Rondo RUUT AL 2

Rondo RUUT AL 2

10
Most innovative gravel bike under £1,000
Buy now for £999.99 from Wiggle
'Variable geometry' to switch riding positions
Simple 1x drivetrain
Dependable alloy frame
TwinTip fork is a little marmite

The Polish brand Rondo enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2017 when they created what they termed ‘the first variable geometry road bike in the world’. This chameleon-like quality derived from Rondo’s TwinTip fork that featured a removable axle insert to set the axle in different positions, to make it either more upright or racier.

This technology’s the company’s USP and is seen on the RUUT AL 2. How effective is it? Well, our sister site, off.road.cc, tested the AL 1 and the feedback was mixed. While there was a slight difference in handling, there was no noticeable difference in loop times. The change is also a little bit of a faff.

Still, many of you might love it. As you might the super-strong and responsive 6061 alu frame that forms the core of the RUUT AL 2, which flows into a full-carbon fork and those TwinTips. The drivetrain’s 1x, though a hybrid of Microshift 11-42 11-speed cassette and SRAM Apex rear derailleur. It’ll do the job but the purists in us would prefer avoiding the mix-and-match. Rondo’s wheels are tubeless compatible with 40mm tyres adding comfort.

Forme Monsal 2.0

Forme Monsal 2.0

10
Best British gravel bike under £1,000
Buy now for £989 from Tredz
1x drivetrain for simplicity
Durable frame
Component compromises

UK bike brand Forme electrified the world of gravel, with our sister site off.road.cc giving the Monsal 1.0 4.5 out of 5 stars and commenting that it was “one of the most comfortable and fun gravel bikes for the money”. Which would make it pretty hard not to send you in the direction of the latest edition, that ducks under a grand with some retailers.

A 6061 alloy frame marries to a carbon fork for durability, comfort and power transfer with internal cables offering a hint of aerodynamics. Okay, that might not be important to you. That doesn’t matter as it cleans up the aesthetic. It also gives you the option of upgrading to a dropper post if you’re venturing upon anything particularly gnarly.

Interestingly, Forme’s chosen Microshift for the 1 x 10-speed drivetrain. Microshift are not seen as much as Shimano and SRAM, but these gears are a solid choice and will cope with the rough and tumble of off road, a job made simpler by dropping that front derailleur. But don’t fret about lack of gears as the 11-48 cassette would even tame a sea cliff. WTB Riddler’s 700 x 45c wheels are built for adventure, which is exactly what you’ll have on the Monsal 2.0.

Sonder Camino AL

Sonder Camino AL frame and fork

9
Best gravel bike frame and fork under £1,000
Buy now for £549 from Alpkit
Semi-internal cabling
Dropper post routing
Fork luggage mounts
Huge tyre clearance
Lovely paint
Confident handling
Price
Cable routing is a faff

Ok, so it's not a full bike but if you're a tinkerer, you could easily build up this frameset for under a grand with some budget-friendly wheels and components.

Sonder is the in-house brand of UK outdoors retailer Alpkit, a B Corp-certified brand with arguably some of the best environmental and ethical standards in the business. Our tester rode the previous Camino model two years previous, riding it over thousands of tarmacked, gravelly and bikepacking miles. The latest iteration brings two major developments – a full-carbon fork with triple luggage mounts and internal routing through the down tube – that only add to its appeal.

Wheel clearance is up to 50mm for 700c and 55mm for 650c. As big tyres mean comfort and grip, rough descents are smoothed out for the most enjoyable of adventures. This big clearance stems from the chainstay design, meaning it’s for either a 1x chainset or very small 2x chainset.

Its paint job is stunning and, all in all, it represents cracking value for money that you can build up as a commuter, tourer or bridleway-escape machine. With the right components, you could build this up for under a grand, albeit Alpkit sell a built-up SRAM Apex1 version for the current price of £1,049.99.

Read our review:

How to choose from the best gravel bikes under £1000

faq-icon
What’s the difference between a gravel bike and a road bike?

It might look like a road bike but there are subtle, and less subtle, differences between a gravel bike and a roadster, all aimed at ensuring a far more comfortable and stable ride off road. The most explicit is down to the wheels and tyres that are wider for greater comfort to absorb the bump and grind of the trails. This greater width stems from greater clearance at the forks, meaning tyres up to, and sometimes over, 50mm wide can be accommodated. These are also knobbly for greater grip.

The geometry is also different with the wheelbase (distance between the centre of the wheels) longer and the head-tube angle slacker for greater stability over loose surfaces. Gravel bikes are often a little more upright than out-and-out road racing bikes for greater comfort. Single chainrings – otherwise known as a 1x drivetrain – are also common because of their simplicity. Handlebars tend to be flared for added control, while there’ll be numerous frame and fork mounts for those interested in bikepacking.

faq-icon
What’s the difference between a gravel bike and an adventure bike?

Nothing really, it’s just a terminology thing! Some folks also call them ‘all-rounders’, but essentially any bike described as gravel, adventure or allroad will be suitable for riding on tarmac, gravel light trails and off-road paths. Because gravel bikes often run more sturdy and puncture-resistant tyres, they've also become popular options for commuting in places like the UK, where road surfaces can sometimes be more like gravel than tarmac. 

faq-icon
Are gravel bikes good for commuting?

They are, especially commutes that are medium to long distance. As mentioned already, those wider tyres smooth out pockmarked roads – especially common in the United Kingdom – and other terrain irregularities for greater comfort than a road bike, while the mounting points are useful if you’re looking to replace a backpack for panniers and pannier bags. This is a good option to prevent a sweaty back from a backpack, which isn’t the most sociable scenarios to enter the office!

faq-icon
Why do most gravel bikes have no suspension?

It’s down to several factors. One is weight as even the lightest suspension system is heavier than a tube of metal. It also slows down road performance, makes it more difficult to accelerate and it’s another component to maintain. If the terrain is so gnarly that you need suspension, you might be better off going for a full-suspension mountain bike, or checking out the limited choices of gravel bikes that offer suspension forks. In 2020 Niner even launched a full-suspension gravel bike, although some people at the time said perhaps that was a step too far... 

faq-icon
Do I need tubeless tyres?

Tubeless tyres are growing in popularity in all forms of cycling. But what are they? Well, they look like a standard tube-type clincher but it dispenses with an inner rube; instead, it works in a similar way to the tyre and rim of car in that the valve is fitted directly to the rim.

The tyre needs to fit tightly to the rim to prevent air leakage. You can also pour sealant into the tyre or injected through the valve to plug any leaks if you puncture. This is one of the key benefits of using a tubeless tyre over a clincher tyre, especially on gravel bikes where you’re regularly riding over jutted terrain. Other benefits include the capacity to run lower tyre pressures as there’s no risk of pinching a tube. This aids ride comfort, too.

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What accessories do I need for my gravel bike?

Whether you’re riding for one day or multi-days, a decent range of tools is very sensible to stock up on. We’re talking chain tool and quick link, tubeless repair kit (if you run tubeless tyres) and spare inner tubes. A pump that delivers high volume is a good idea, too.

A GPS bike computer is also a good idea (check out our guide to the best bike computers for our recommendations), particularly one with navigation, and make sure you have sufficient nutrition and fluids to replenish stocks from a hard day in the saddle. If you’re looking for a multi-day challenge, you’ll need a frame pack, handlebar roll and seat pack, too, to carry sleeping gear.

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What do I get for under £1,000?

At this price point, you can expect an aluminium frame that’s durable and relatively light. Often, manufacturers will save money by loading their gravel frames with their budget finishing kit, albeit the bar, stem, seatpost and saddle is often more than up to the job, but at a weight sacrifice.

The groupset will usually be the entry-level model from one of the main groupset component brands, Shimano and SRAM. These function well but aren’t as smooth at shifting as the top-end models. Wheels will also be heavier. As you progress, you can upgrade all of these if you see fit.