You don’t need us to tell you that gravel bikes and adventure bikes are hot stuff right now, with more manufacturers rushing to launch new bikes all the time, and what actually constitutes a gravel bike or adventure bike evolving constantly.
Gravel bikes have generally taken a step up in tyre width — where 35mm was standard a couple of years ago, most gravel bikes will take now tyres over 40mm wide; almost 50mm isn't unusual
The ability to take 650B wheels with even fatter tyres is common on the latest gravel bikes, and some come with this wheel size
Shimano's GRX components are making inroads in a gravel bike sector previously dominated by SRAM's 1X drivetrains
The bike industry can't seem to make up its mind whether gravel bikes should have single or double chainsets; neither can we, so it's good to have a choice of 1X for simplicity or 2X for wider gear range
Here then are 18 of the hottest gravel bikes you need to know about from Specialized's Campagnolo-equipped Diverge LTD Carbon to Condor Cycles latest and lightest gravel bike.
If you prefer skinny slick tyres, be sure to check out the hottest road bikes.
The first gravel bike from Focus, the new Atlas is born to lose, according to the German brand: "lose your mind, lose track of time, to lose yourself", that is.
All the current gravel bike design trends are here: room for 47mm tyres, wide-range 2X gearing on most bikes, long front-end and shallow head angle for stability, loads of mounting points for bags and of course compatibility with 650B wheels if you want even fatter tyres.
Focus has come up with some tidy cable routing, taking the cables from the handlebar straight into an oversized head tube, which keeps the handlebar clear for a bar bag and should make changing cables easier, along with the cable yoke at the bottom bracket.
The four Atlas models all have aluminium frames with carbon fibre forks. The range starts with the £1,499 Atlas 6.7 with Shimano GRX 400 and tops out with the only 1X bike in the range, the £2,299 Atlas 6.9 with GRX 800 and DT Swiss LN Gravel wheels. In between, the £1,649 Atlas 6.7 EQP is an Atlas 6.7 with rear rack, mudguards and built-in hub-dynamo lighting and the £1,849 Atlas 6.8 has Shimano GRX 600 2X gearing.
Rondo says its latest gravel bikes are for, well, everybody: "cyclists that race throughout the seasons on and off-road, … those that ride thousands of kilometres each year, commute to work, and tear up the trails with friends on the weekend. With specific designs and features for adventure and endurance, these are the bikes for the everyday rider, the avid racer, and the adrenaline junkie". It's all a bit overblown really, and it's actually not why these bikes are interesting.
No, Rondo's brace of Shimano GRX400-equipped gravel bikes are notable because they buck the trend for 1X transmissions, and do so in the best possible way, exploiting the GRX400 rear mech's ability to run an 11-36 cassette to provide a really wide gear range. With a 46/30 crankset that's a 502% gear range, which is otherwise hard to achieve without spending big on electronic gears or bending manufacturers' usage recommendations.
Or as Rondo puts it, these bikes provide “more versatility, wider gear ratios and further opportunities for the riders who need nearly unlimited gears in tough terrain”.
Bravo, Rondo: you can never have to wide or too low a gear range on a gravel bike.
The Kinesis Tripster ATR is a founding father of the gravel/adventure bike scene. ATR stands for Adventure, Tour, Race; this third iteration of the bike feels like it's come of age in terms of its adventure capability whilst keeping the comfort, road manners and reasonably light weight it's always had for covering distance at speed. It is an excellent frameset, around which you can build any number of different bikes.
In essence, the Tripster ATR V3 remains the same thing as it's always been: a multi-surface, multi-purpose drop bar bike made from cold-drawn, butted, seamless 3Al/2.5V titanium tubing. Like the V2 before it, the new bike has 12mm thru-axles – now with a neat removable lever – and flat mount discs.
Tester Dave Atkinson adds: "The Tripster ATR V3 is, simply, a lovely thing to ride. It has the sort of unhurried calm that translates into distance at a reasonable speed. Mostly I've been riding the Tripster on 36mm Challenge Strada Bianca TLR tyres, which are big enough to cope with proper gravel roads – which we're lucky enough to have a bit of round here – while not giving too much away on the flat. Set up like that, with a Shimano GRX Di2 groupset and a flared bar, the Tripster feels like a bike that's at home on the road, but comfortable well beyond it too."
Boasting a beautifully made Columbus steel frame with a stunning ride quality, the Condor Bivio Gravel is well suited to long adventures whatever the terrain. The comfort levels are impressive while the endurance-based geometry delivers a machine that is stable on loose surfaces, but with just enough 'edginess' that you can really have some fun.
Tester Stu Kerton writes: "The Bivio delivers everything I want from a gravel bike. I enjoy heading out over Salisbury Plain for a day of riding the gravel tracks and trails, so I want comfort, I want a smooth, neutral-handling bike for when the fatigue kicks in or the surface beneath is moving around a lot, but most importantly I want all of that to be able to change in a split second.
"When I find a technical section, or just want to get the hammer down, I want the bike to deliver fun, performance and a racy edge to the proceedings. I want a 'gravel racer' that I can live with day to day. The Condor totally defies its 10.3kg weight thanks, in part, to the sensible ratios of the Shimano GRX groupset, but mostly because of the 'get up and go' way it ride – the Bivio Gravel is an absolute blast."
Fairlight’s original Secan was a highly adaptable adventure road bike that could be built up to be a rugged off-road bikepacker, or shod with slick tyres and a set of mudguards for commuting duties, and the Secan 2.0 continues the theme – it's a capable steel bike that can be loaded up with bags and bottles for multi-day bike packing trips, with a brand new carbon fork.
The Secon 2.0 sits in the middle of Fairlight’s range in terms of capability, with the Strael 2.0 for road riding and the recently released Faran 2.0 designed for do-it-all adventure riding.
The main change for the 2.0 version is the brand new fork, though there have also been some smaller changes to add to the increased amount of cable integration that sees the cable for the rear light disappear into the driveside chainstay.
Specialized has jumped straight on the launch of Campagnolo's 1 X 13-speed Ekar gravel bike groupset with this gorgeous-looking version of the 2021 Diverge, a platform that itself gets a major makeover for 2021. The new Diverge has Future Shock 2.0 front suspension, a re-jigged geometry, increased tyre clearance, and storage inside the down tube.
Ekar squeezes 13 sprockets on to the rear hub for a wide gear without too many cadence-disturbing large jumps between sprockets, and two of the three offered cassettes come with a 9-tooth smallest sprocket to provide a high gear even with a fairly small chainring.
Specialized says there'll be just 100 of the Diverge LTD Carbon made, so if you're already drooling you'll have to move fast.
If £6,400 is too steep, the rest of the Diverge range starts at £999 for the aluminium-framed Diverge Base and goes up to the £9,500 S-Works Diverge with SRAM Red AXS eTap shifting.
For the new Croix de Fer 50, Genesis continues the use of the steel tubing that gives the line its name, but bumps it up to Reynolds 853, one of the highest-strength (and therefore lightest) tubesets from the renowned British tubing maker.
Up front there's a carbon fibre fork and braking and shifting is courtesy of Shimano's GRX 8xx components, with a GRX FC-RX600 46/30 chainset for a wide gear range with the 11-34 cassette.
It's positively festooned with braze-ons for racks, cages and a top-tube food box and it'll take
For just £1,000 for a gravel bike with hydraulic brakes and wide-range Shimano GRX gears, we think we're going to see a lot of these on the dirt roads and lanes over the next year.
The updated ADV 8.9 gets a thru axle fork for increased stiffness and more precise handling, plus it's now bolt through at the rear too. The head angle has been slackened to 71 to 71.5° (depending on size) for steadier handling and there's more bottom bracket drop compared with last year's bikes which the brand says will inspire more confidence as it will increase also stability off-road.
It's shod with some of our favourite tyres too, 38mm Schwalbe G-One All Rounds in tubeless ready variety.
Gravel riders who believe steel's still real have an abundance of riches to choose from in 2021 bikes, and here's Fairlight joining the fray with an updated 2.0 version of the Faran steel do-it-all adventure bike.
The new Fairlight boasts a revised geometry that focuses on front end handling to give what the brand says is a good balance between loaded and unloaded handling.
Fairlight says that the release of this updated version has been a little delayed due to demand for their other models, but taking a look at the amount of neat integration and solutions for different setups, it looks like their time has been well spent.
A long-standing favourite in these parts, Cotic's Escapade was one of the early do-it-all drop bar bikes, predating the current gravel riding trend by a good few years. For 2021, the fourth iteration of the design keeps the skinny steel tubing but revises the cable routing to better suit 1x setups and gets a 142x12mm through-axle rear end.
The geometry, ride feel and versatility all remain - just as well, because we liked the old bike a lot when we reviewed it. The frame is made from butted chromoly steel, with an ovalised top tube, with a full carbon fibre fork plugged in the front. There's loads of clearance for 700x42mm tyres or chunky 650bx47mm in the rear and even fatter in the front, while there's a full complement of rack and guard mounts too.
The main update to the bike comes from a move to the now-standard-for-road-bikes 142x12mm hub spacing at the rear, while the front is 100x12mm. You also get flat-mount brakes front and rear.
UK brand Factor's first pure gravel bike offers increased tyre clearance of up to 43mm over their 35mm Vista all-road bike. Factor has also focussed on keeping the weight down to a claimed 950g per frame.
The LS also offers mounting points for three bottle cages, compatibility with a frame bag, bar bag, top tube Bento mount and dropped seatstays. The frame is also able to take 1x and 2x drivetrains with electronic or mechanical shifting.
Bristol's Temple Cycles has launched a new Adventure Disc 1 bike based around a heat-treated Reynolds 725 steel frame, along with the Adventure Disc 1 tourer at a more accessible price.
"A couple of seasons ago, we released our long prototyped Adventure Disc model," says Temple Cycles. "From seeing what this bike was being used for – such as gravel epics in the High Atlas, multi-week tours across Africa and hardcore daily commutes – the team decided it only natural to branch out and offer more models of this versatile platform. They also now come with lifetime warranty on the frameset."
The new version of the CGR Ti is the latest bike from Ribble to get the dropped seatstay treatment. They claim that they’ve boosted front end stiffness while keeping the ride quality of this “dream metal.”
While Ribble is aiming to add rear-end compliance with the dropped stays, they’ve beefed up the headtube to 44mm, claiming “further stiffness when riding out the saddle along with increased handling confidence”. Head of Product at Ribble, Jamie Burrow says that “this detail is a personal favourite of mine, bringing a beautiful touch of class to a very elegant bike designed to perform at every level”.
The Ritchey Outback is a steel-framed, carbon-forked gravel and adventure frameset designed for everything from road to bikepacking and off-road touring, with all kinds of gravel in between. Its premium steel tubes and carbon layups have all the mounts you could want, and it's a supremely comfy ride.
The Outback itself is not new, but for 2020 it's been updated with increased tyre clearance – it can now accept 650b wheels – a new carbon fork with mounting points, thru-axles front and rear, and disc brake flat mounts.
First launched in 2014 into an emerging gravel scene, GT's Grade hit all the right notes for roadies just beginning to venture off-road. An update quickly became overdue, it happened for the 2020 model year and carries on into 2021.
Some key changes ensure it’s still as relevant now as it was all those years ago, whilst retaining everything that was so loved of the original.
The Grade is brilliant at being fast and comfortable on rough roads, and right at home on forest trails and gravel roads. The new frame, with its 'floating stays' design, is impressively smooth at the saddle. Rough tracks, jagged roots and rippled fields are soaked up exceptionally well thanks to the seat post flexing backwards. It's freer to do this on the new frame since the seat tube can bow forwards, unhindered by the seat stays.
US brand Cannondale entered the gravel bike market properly with the aluminium Topstone bikes, then followed up with carbon versions, including the Topstone Carbon Lefty 1 above, with 30mm of built-in suspension front and rear. This a range of bikes packed with all the details we’d expect on bikes designed to be able to do everything from a bikepacking weekend to daily commuting duties.
For the aluminium bikes, Cannondale has used its considerable expertise in shaping aluminium to produce a smart frame with space for 42mm tyres on 700c wheels, but you can run 650b if you prefer. There is internal routing and provision for a dropper post, plus rack and mudguard mounts.
As well as the Kingpin suspension, the carbon frames feature lots of bottle and rack mounts, wide tyre clearance and SpeedRelease thru-axles.
The new G2 builds on the success of the company’s ATR and AT gravel bikes with a more affordable package, it costs £1,500 with an SRAM Apex groupset and that includes hydraulic disc brakes and a wide range cassette.
"Building on the huge success of our Tripster AT and ATR models, the G2 offers a well thought out complete bike", says Kinesis. "Sitting as the third model in our Adventure category, the G2 is a bike that delivers versatility in spades coupled with the same DNA of the even more adventurous Tripster models.”
This is the second-generation gravel bike from the mountain bike company brought to you by Chain Reaction Cycles, and it’s got a lot of crossover design and tech from mountain bikes. The aluminium frame is adorned with 650b wheels and 47mm wide tyres, a 120mm dropper post for tackling steep descents without squashing your bits and all the versatility you want for everything from commuting, road riding and off-road adventures.
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David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.