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Best 1x bikes – is single-chainring simplicity best?

Whether you're riding road, grinding gravel or 'cross racing, these are the best 1x bikes for the job

KISS — Keep It Simple, Stupid. There’s a lot to be said for simplicity, and one way to make a bike’s transmission simpler is to ditch the usual pair of chainrings and get by with just one. Here's a rundown of our pick of the best 1x bikes for road, gravel and cyclocross.

  • With just one chainring, 1X bikes give you less mechanical gubbins to think about so you can focus on the ride

  • Gear range isn't as wide as a double-chainring system, but 1X fans are happy to sacrifice a bit of top- or bottom-end for simplicity

  • SRAM's latest AXS wireless systems and Shimano's GRX components have brought 1X gearing right into the mainstream

33 single-chainring bikes for 2021

Polygon Bend CT5 - riding 1.jpg

A few years ago a single-chainring gear system for anything by a cyclocross bike would have been unthinkable. The unquestioned way to get a wide range of gears on road bikes was to have at least two chainrings. It’s generally a good idea for gear ratios to be fairly closely spaced. An eight- or nine-speed cassette and two chainrings gave you two overlapping ranges of reasonably closely spaced gears. When you ran out at the high end of the small chainring or the low end of the big ring, you just changed chainring and maybe changed a sprocket or two as well to get to the next higher or lower gear.

It’s taken the bike industry a while to catch on, but the development of 11-speed cassettes changed things substantially. You can now have 11 reasonably closely-spaced gear ratios with just one chainring. You save the cost and complexity of a double chainring, front derailleur and shifter, and it’s one less thing to think about as you ride.

Single-chainring systems are now almost universal on mountain bikes, where they're known as 1X (say "one by", as in 1X10, 1X11 and 1X12). That’s driven development of the technology that has now spilled over to drop-bar bikes. Mountain bike designers had extra incentives to ditch the front mech; getting rid means no longer having to design a suspension system around it. You can put your suspension pivot where you like, and it’s also easier to accommodate fatter tyres if you don’t also have to find room for two or three chainrings between the frame and the crank arm.

Merida silex 9000 drivetrain crop

Initially, most the spillover of single chainring systems to drop-bar bikes was for cyclocross racing. Cyclocrossers have been using single-ring set-ups for decades, because if you’re going slowly enough to need the low gears of a small chainring, you should probably be running. Single chainrings with teeth designed to keep the chain in place have helped make this more popular; some previous cyclocross single-ring systems used a pair of chain guards to keep the chain on. Effective, but hardly elegant.

Boardman CXR 9.4 - riding 3.jpg

Gravel/adventure riding is another genre where single chainrings have traction, for the same reasons of simplicity that make them popular on mountain bikes. However, at the moment you could argue that single-ring transmissions have a small problem with limited gear range for riding that often involves very steep climbs or luggage. Hubs with SRAM’s XD and XDr freehub bodies help solve this problem by allowing a ten-tooth smallest sprocket. SRAM also offers 12-speed transmissions in the wireless eTap AXS systems, allowing the combination of a 10-50 Eagle 12-speed cassette, AXS mountain bike derailleur and drop handlebar shifters. If your budget won't stretch that far, and you’re looking at a bike with SRAM’s 11-speed 10-42 cassette and want lower gears, you can always fit a smaller chainring and coast on steeper descents.

polygon bend ct5 rear cassette

Speaking of SRAM, most of the bikes here still have SRAM transmissions. Shimano was slow to get on the single-ring mountain bike bandwagon and only introduced drop-handlebar groupsets with straightforward single-ring compatibility in the GRX series. Nevertheless Shimano is making inroads; we're seeing more single-ring bikes with Shimano transmissions now that manufacturers don't have to bodge them together.

Is a single-ring set-up right for you?

Like all new developments in bikes, single-chainring systems divide opinion. Among the editorial team, for example, founder Dave Atkinson has enthusiastically embraced 1X and does most of his riding on a single ring. He says: "There are plenty of good reasons to run a 1X setup. For a start there's no front mech, and front mechs are a faff. They jam up easily because of their mounting position, they rub on the chain and they drop the chain or push it over the top of the big chainring if they're not perfectly set up. You don't get any of those problems with a single ring, and a thick-thin chainring never, ever drops the chain, in my experience. Ever.

Kinesis Tripster ATR v2 - riding 5.jpg
Big Dave gives it some on a single-ring Kinesis Tripster ATR V2

"Secondly, gearing becomes rational, simple and logical. Too hard? Change up. Go faster? Change down. There's none of the psychological baggage that comes with swapping chainrings and no having to adjust your gear at the rear too when you do. And there's one less gear cable to look after as well. They're quieter, too: no chain slap because of the clutch (or stronger spring) in the mech, no movement of the chain on the chainring and no rubbing of the front mech plates.

"I've been running a single ring transmission on my main bike, a Kinesis Tripster ATR, for a couple of years now, and I'm sold on on it as a great general purpose setup. It'll depend on what you use your bike for, but for an everyday machine they're great."

Polygon Bend CT5 - riding 1.jpg

Mat Brett searches for a higher top gear on the Polygon Bend CT5

On the other hand, technical editor Mat Brett is a sceptic. He acknowledges the simplicity of 1X and the way you can't get chain rub on a front mech that's not there, but says: "You get some gert big jumps in gear ratios across such a wide-range cassette. In a typical set-up, the 38-tooth chainring and 42-tooth sprocket give you a 24.3in gear while the next largest sprocket is 36-tooth and gives you a 28.3in gear. It can be difficult to keep your rhythm when swapping from one to the other.

"That said, the 42-tooth sprocket will get you up nearly anything – not necessarily quickly, but at least you'll keep progressing.

"At the other end of the scale, I find myself running out of gears on long, fast descents. If you want to pedal at over 28mph you have to spin at more than 100rpm in an 11-tooth sprocket. If you want to pedal at over 33mph you're looking at 120rpm, so I find myself just coasting more often than usual. If you're going to ride only on tarmac and unladen you might find many 1X systems under-geared."

The bikes

Let’s take a look at some single-chainring bikes.We've listed the gear range for each one, in gear inches based on a 27-inch wheel. That's about the rolling diameter of an ETRTO 584mm (650B) wheel with a fat tyre or an ETRTO 622mm (700C) wheel with a 32mm tyre. A change of tyres will change the gearing, but these numbers provide a basis for comparison of gear ranges between bikes.

Cannondale SuperSix Evo CX — £3,800.00

2022 Cannondale SuperSix EVO CX

Announced in August 2021, the SuperSix Evo CX takes Cannondale's SuperSix aero bike and boosts the tyre clearance to brew up a mud-racing speedster. There's a gravel-racing version, the SE with a double chainset, and this bike, with 33mm tyres and a 40-tooth single ring. With an 11-36 cassette the gearing is very much tailored to racing; you won't be grinding your way up any mountain dirt roads with a full camping load on this set up.

Gear range: 30-98 inches

Read about the new fat-tyre-compatible Cannondale SuperSix Evo bikes
Find a Cannondale dealer

Fuji Jari Carbon 1.3 2021 — £2,499.99

2021 Fuji Jari Carbon 1.3 - riding 3.jpg

Tester Stu was deeply impressed with the Jari, describing it as "a really fun bike to ride, whether as a stripped back, lightweight gravel machine or loaded up for adventures further afield. It has a great ride quality, geometry that flatters – especially when the terrain becomes tricky – and a decent spec list for the money.

"Everything just feels right: the riding position is easy to set up for the kind of saddle-to-handlebar drop I like, and the geometry makes it easy to ride off-road, without making it dull on the tarmac.

"The Jari has an FSA Omega chainset set up to run a 1x 40T FSA chainring. The cassette is a Shimano Deore 11-42t, so you are getting a good spread of gears. My main gravel route has plenty of steep climbs and descents on a whole range of surfaces, and I always had the ratio I needed."

Gear range: 26-98 inches

Read our review of the Fuji Jari Carbon 1.3 2021
Find a Fuji dealer

Canyon Grizl CF SL 8 1by — £2,949.00

2021 Canyon Grizl hero

Tester Matt thought the Grizl was "a little undercooked" for off-road riding but "for general riding, it will suit plenty of riders. The increased tyre clearance is the biggest plus, especially for British riding."

"Against Canyon's existing Grail, the increased tyre clearance is a big positive for grip, control, comfort and speed. The difference between 40mm and 45mm tyres is surprisingly large, and the option to go wider still is welcome

"It feels best on a mix of road and unsurfaced tracks, especially where the tracks are not too technical or steep. Handling is fast and agile with quick direction changes, while the steep 73.5 seat angle puts you forward for efficient pedalling."

Gear range: 26-98 inches

Read our review of the Canyon Grizl CF SL 8

Vielo R+1 Alto SRAM Force e-Tap AXS — £6,999

2021 Vielo R+1 Road.jpg

Tester Stu Kerton loved the Vielo R+1 Alto, calling it "one of the most beautiful bikes I ever had the pleasure of riding".

He continued: "Its comfort levels are quite simply stunning for such a performance-orientated bike, while the handling is impeccably smooth and direct.

"Efficient; that's probably the best way to describe the Vielo. The R+1 isn't all about speed, but that doesn't stop it delivering a high-performance ride.

"On paper its 7.7kg overall weight may not sound exceptional, but the way it responds to your commands and power input makes it feel a kilo lighter out on the road. Even when hitting a steep ascent, it feels much lighter than it should, which in fact makes climbing a lot of fun.

"This is also down to the stiffness levels. The R+1's lack of an inner chainring means Vielo has been able to make the bottom bracket shell wider without affecting the Q-factor (the distance between the pedal faces). This wider shell allows for much larger tube cross-sections to mate up with it, which brings incredible stiffness."

The 1x12 gearing was a revelation too: "The biggest shocker for me, though, is just how well the 1x gearing works on the road."

Gear range: 36-130 inches

Read our review of the Vielo R+1 Alto SRAM Force e-Tap AXS

Specialized Diverge Pro Carbon – Campagnolo LTD — £7,250

2021 Specialized Diverge Carbon LTD Campagnolo Ekar on white

A common grumble about 1X bikes is that they don't provide the same gear range as bikes with double chainrings or, if they do, the gears have gaps that make keeping a steady cadence all but impossible. Campagnolo's answer to those complaints is the new Ekar groupset, seen here on Specialized's stellar Diverge platform.

Ekar has 13 sprockets in three combinations, 9-36, 9-42 and 10-44, providing both reasonably close gears and a big range for versatility. You can read more about the Ekar groupset here and find out what endurance off-road legend Matt Page thought about it here.

The Diverge is one of our favourite bikes of recent years. Dave Arthur described it as “one of the best adventure bikes I've ridden” and added: “It's a sophisticated ride with buckets of capability for going fast and tackling big journeys over varied and challenging terrain.” It’s not exactly cheap though.

Gear range: 24-114 inches

Read our review of the Specialized Diverge Pro Carbon
Find a Specialized dealer

Cannondale Topstone Carbon 1 Lefty 2021 — £7,499

2021 Cannondale Topstone Carbon 1 Lefty

With its front and rear suspension, 650B wheels and wide-range SRAM AXS Force/Eagle hybrid gear shifting the 2021 Topstone might just be the future of gravel bikes.

SRAM kicked multiple goals with the AXS eTap wireless electronic shifting they launched in 2019 and one of them was making the mountain bike and road bike versions interchangeable so that you could assemble a hybrid gear system like this, with a SRAM XX1 Eagle AXS rear derailleur, drop-bar brake/shift levers and a huge 10-50 12-speed sprocket selection.

SRAM recently introduced a 10-52 12-speed cassette that's compatible with the AXS X01 Eagle rear derailleur. We haven't seen anyone speccing it on production bikes yet, but it's surely only a matter of time

Up front, there's a new incarnation of Cannondale's single-sided Lefty fork with 30mm of travel, which should be enough to improve comfort and road-holding on dirt roads and frost-hammered UK country lanes. Out back there's the Kingpin suspension system that Cannondale introduced in 2019.

Gear range: 22-108 inches

Ribble CGR SRAM Apex 1x 650b — £1,899


Ribble's CGR 725 SRAM Apex 1x 650b is a hugely versatile bike that offers incredible value to boot. The combination of steel frame and plump but fast-rolling 47mm tyres delivers a comfortable ride on dirt while still being plenty quick on road, with sorted handling that's a happy medium between stability and steering agility; it's quite possibly all the drop bar bike you need for gravel, road or commuting.

The CGR 725 is Ribble's steel-framed option in the versatile CGR lineup, with all bikes getting very similar geometry but offering you a choice as to the low weight of carbon, affordability of aluminium or more premium pleasures of titanium. While the skinny Reynolds 725 tubing means you get some traditional good looks, the downside is a little extra heft in the frame - a claimed 600g or so over the aluminium CGR we've tested previously.

It's nice and modern elsewhere, though, with a full carbon fork, a neat tapered headtube with internal bearings, plus 12mm through axles at either end. There's a full complement of rack, mudguard and bottle mounts, including a bento box mount on the top tube, so you're well catered for.

Gear range: 27-103 inches

Read our review of the Ribble CGR SRAM Apex 1x 650b

Merida Mission CX Force Edition — £4,200

Merida CX Force Edition.jpg

Merida's Mission CX Force Edition is a top-quality cyclo-cross bike that's ready to race straight out of the box. It'll turn its hand to fast gravel riding and winter riding too, if you're looking for something more than just a dedicated race bike.

The Mission CX is designed as a cyclo-cross race bike and as such it's not going to mollycoddle you over rough ground: this is a bike for attacking stuff on. It's at its best when you're sprinting up a steep, loose gravel climb or you're finding a fast line through a swoopy bit of singletrack. It's a direct, responsive bike that goes where you point it.

Gear range: 31-103 inches

Read our review of the Merida Mission CX Force Edition

The Light Blue Robinson V2 Rival 1X — £1,849.99

Light Blue Robinson V2.jpg

Gorgeous retro looks and classic Reynolds steel ride meets modern 1X gearing and hydraulic brakes in this all-rounder that just exudes class and comfort.

Gear range: 32-103 inches

Read our review of The Light Blue Robinson V2 Rival 1X 2020

Orro Terra C Adventure 2021 — £2,099.99

2021 Orro Terra C Adventure GRX600

Orro's Terra C Adventure gravel bike has that familiar balance of comfort versus performance that the company seems to do so well. It feels like a a very capable endurance road machine but with room for bigger tyres and a slightly more relaxed front end to take the twitchiness out of the equation when on the rough stuff.

Gear range: 26-98 inches 

Read our review of the Orro Terra C Adventure 2020
Find an Orro dealer

Shand Stooshie — £3,395.00

Shand Stooshie.jpg

The Shand Stooshie is a comfortable and relaxed-handling all-road and occasional gravel bike with enough versatility to serve multiple uses. This new version with regular dropouts makes it more affordable than the Rohloff model if you only ever want to run a derailleur-based drivetrain.

Gear range: 26-98 inches 

Read our review of the Shand Stooshie

Merida Silex+ 6000 2021 — £2,700

Merida Silex+ 6000 gravel bike

The Merida Silex+ 6000 is a nimble-handling gravel/adventure bike that offers plenty of versatility along with a comfortable ride courtesy of chunky 650B tyres. The smaller wheels allow the fitting of larger tyres into the same frame and fork, so you get more grip and cushioning at a small cost of weight and speed.

The 2021 model has sold out but here's a good deal on the functionally identical 2020 bike.

Gear range: 24-93 inches

Read our review of the Merida Silex+ 6000 2020

Enigma Endeavour — £2,999.00

enigma-endeavour (1)

The Enigma Endeavour is not only the prettiest looking bike I’ve seen in a while, it’s also one of the sweetest riding, with delightful smoothness and fine handling – on the road and in the woods. It isn’t exactly cheap, but it is handmade in the UK, which might just be enough to convince you it’s worth it.

Gear range: 26-98 inches 

Read our review of the Enigma Endeavour

Cube Nuroad EX 2021 — £1,599

2021 Cube NuRoad EX

Our Stu really liked the ride of the Nuroad's twin-chainring version, calling it "a much more fun bike to ride than you might expect; it's comfortable, and offers a smooth ride".

The SL uses the same 6061-T6 aluminium frame that gives that bike its very balanced steering and beautifully weighted feel that seems to offer plenty of feedback throughout so you can still push on into the bends knowing exactly what the tyres are up to.

This stripped-down 1X version should offer all the sizzle of the Nuroad platform without the Race FE extras, giving a simple, fun all-rounder.

Gear range: 26-98 inches

Read our review of the Cube NuRoad Race FE

Cervelo Aspero Force eTap AXS 1 Disc 2021 — £6,049

2021 Cervelo Aspero Force eTap AXS

Cervelo's speciality since it founded in 1995 has been high-end road race bikes, but that all changed with the launch of the Aspero, its first foray into the gravel bike market. What we have here is a rapid full-carbon gravel racer that marries the performance of Cervelo's road bikes with some smart details that create a multi-surface capable bike, chief of which is adjustable fork offset.

Cervelo has used SRAM's Force AXS wireless electronic shifting here, which incorporates a new approach to gearing, using smaller chainrings and sprockets to give a wide gear range with less weight. With 12 sprockets on the rear wheel it's currently the best way to get a speed-orientated, closely-spaced set of gears.

Gear range: 26-98 inches

Read our review of the Cervelo Aspero Force eTap AXS 1 Disc
Find a Cervelo dealer

Genesis Fugio 30 — £2,999.99

2021 Genesis Fugio 30

The folks at British brand Genesis have been making gravel bikes since before they were called gravel bikes, and really know what they're doing when it comes to steel frames. The Fugio has clearance for 47mm tyres, Shimano's GRX 800 components and mounting points for just about anything you might want to attach to a bike. With the screaming purple/pink paint job, it's not hiding its light under a bushel

Gear range: 26-98 inches

Find a Genesis dealer

Ibis Hakka MX — from £3,599

ibis hakka mx7

The Ibis Hakka MX provides a smooth and fast ride with great handling and space for wide tyres and versatility by way of mudguard mounts, and it’s light on the scales, but it is a pricey prospect in a competitive marketplace.

While probably best known for its mountain bikes (it’s one of the oldest mountain bike brands having been founded in 1981) Ibis isn’t immune to the charms of the growing adventure category and two years ago redesigned its cyclocross bike into a much more capable adventure and gravel bike.

It still retains some of that cyclocross DNA. The ride is fast and direct with the geometry not as slack or stretched as some more progressive bikes in this burgeoning adventure and gravel category. If you want to race CX on a Sunday and ride gravel on a Monday, the Hakka MX would be a good choice.

Gear range: 26-98 inches

Read our review of the Ibis Hakka MX
Find an Ibis dealer

Kinesis G2 — £1,680

Kinesis G2.jpg

British bike brand Kinesis Bikes has good form when it comes to versatile all-terrain drop bar road bikes with its Tripster AT and ATR, and this new G2 continues that trend but ups the accessibility factor with an aluminium frame, SRAM Apex 1x groupset and £1,500 price tag. It's huge fun off-road, fast and comfortable on the road, and adaptable to different riding requirements.

For mixing up rides with stretches of country lanes and diving into the woods and along bridleways, dirt tracks and through skinny singletrack, before pottering back into town along the cycle path for a flat white and brownie to recover and Instagram your adventure, the G2 is bob on.

Gear range: 26-98 inches

Read our review of the Kinesis G2
Find a Kinesis dealer

Bergamont Grandurance 8 2021 — £1,689

2021 Bergamont Grandurance 8

The Bergamont Grandurance 8 is a well equipped aluminium gravel bike or ‘all-road’ bike. It’s decent value and has got a striking paint job, if not paired with the most progressive geometry. This is a classic endurance road bike with allowances for gravel tyres, mudguards and racks but for the price, I think it’ll make any owner a great weekend gravel adventure bike that will commute with ease on the weekdays too.

The Bergamont Grandurance is capable, tough and will happily turn a wheel to most situations. It is a myriad of contradictions. The tyres are really built for the road or at least dry fire roads, and the position isn’t particularly aggressive, think endurance road bike rather than mountain bike. The head tube length is a bit shorter than other bikes in its class but there was plenty of room left on the steerer to choose your bar height, something I left rather high to prevent me feeling too tipped over the front, giving the feeling of better balance and control on off-road descents. The gearing is aimed at adventures off road rather than on it but if you've chosen a 1x bike, that's likely your intention anyway. The parts complement each other and this bike is a brilliant jack of all trades, it gives you the option to stray from the beaten track and widen your route horizons.

Gear range: 26-98 inches

Read our review of the Bergamont Grandurance 6
Find a Bergamont dealer

Mason Bokeh Force — £3,425

Mason Bokeh gravel bike

The Mason Bokeh is a highly capable adventure bike with a feature-packed aluminium frame, splendid aesthetics, and handling that ensures it's as at home on the road as it is on the trail.

The Bokeh combines an aluminium frame and carbon fork with all the key ingredients of an adventure bike, including wide tyres, disc brakes, thru-axles, relaxed geometry and mounts for mudguards and racks. The Bokeh goes the extra mile with a front dynamo mount, third bottle cage mount, 700C and 650B wheel size compatibility and fully internal cable routing.

You can have all Mason's bikes with 1X gearing, and the set-up Mason has chosen here is as versatiled as it gets.The wide-range SRAM 10-42 cassette paired to the 42-tooth chainring up front will get you up and down most climbs and descents without unduly running out of ratios.

Gear range: 27-113 inches

Read our review of the Mason Bokeh Force

3T Strada — from £2,425

2020 3T Strada Pro

One of the most exciting road bikes around, 3T's Strada is a single-chainring aero road bike, and while its tight clearances and inability to run a double chainset might put some people off, those issues fade away when you ride it. It's a truly stunning bike with breathtaking speed, impressive smoothness and fine handling balance.

Gear range: 38-122 inches

Read our review of the 3T Strada
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Bombtrack Hook EXT-C 2021 — from £2,499

2021 Bombtrack Hook EXT C

This is the carbon fibre version of a bike we reviewed and really liked in 2017, and in going composite it's shed a couple of kilos of weight, which is impressive. We expect the Hook EXT-C to be as big a bundle of fun as its steel cousin, but less work on climbs and on the road. Trail riding is where the Hook EXT really excels though, thanks to huge 2.2-inch ETRTO 584mm (650B) tyres.

Read our first look at the Bombtrack Hook EXT-C
Find a Bombtrack dealer

Gear range: 27–98 inches

Specialized CruX 2021 — £2,750

2021 Specialized crux

All of Specialized’s Crux cyclocross bikes now have singe chainrings, and this one is a simply brilliant crosser that provides really good handling, bags of pace and all the benefits that disc brakes bring to the party, all wrapped up in a bold looking package. It's ready to race, but is equally at home blasting along bridleways and through the local woods for a couple of hours.

Gear range: 30-98 inches

Read our review of the Specialized Crux Elite
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Trek Crockett 5 Disc 2021 — £2,050

2021 Trek Crockett 5

Trek's Crockett is mostly a race-ready cyclocross bike, but features like the double bottle boses and relatively tall head tube make it more than a one-trick pony.

Gear range: 30–88 inches

Find a Trek dealer

Marin Headlands 2 — £2,795

2020 Marin Headlands 2

Marin's latest gravel/adventure bikes, the two bikes in the Headlands range have carbon fibre frames and a huge selection of mounting points for backs, racks, and any attachments you can imagine.

For the top model, Marin has used Shimano's new GRX 800 components, including the wide-range rear mech that accommodates a 10-42 cassette. The left-hand shifter operates a dropper post so you can shift your weight down for improved cornering on fast descents.

Gear range: 27–113 inches

Find a Marin dealer

Giant TCX Advanced Pro 2 2021 — £2,699.00

2021 Giant TCX Advanced Pro 2

Giant's flagship cyclocross bike, the TCX Advanced Pro 2 has a carbon fibre frame, tubeless wheel and proper cross racing tyres in its Maxxis All-Terrenes.

For the 2021 version, Giant rolled out a new TCX Advanced frame and fork that they say is 260g lighter than previously and a ride that's smoother thanks to the introduction of new features.

Gear range: 30–98 inches

Read more about the new TCX Advanced pro bikes
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Kona Libre CR DL 2021 — £3,699.00

2021 kona libre cr dl

With its carbon fibre frame, 45mm tyres and massive selection of gear mounting points, Kona's Libre platform is billed as coming "packed with everything you need for the ultimate adventure". There are plenty of rack and mudguard mounts, four bottle mounts, a top-tube bag mount and Salsa-style three-bolt rack mounts on the fork legs.

Bit spendy for you? There's now an aluminium Libre with many of the same features for just £1,699.

Gear range: 26-98 inches

Find a Kona dealer

Rondo RUUT AL 1 2021 — £1,799.99

2020 Rondo Ruut AL2

The RUUT AL is an aluminium gravel/adventure bike from Polish brand Rondo. It’s a super comfortable multi-surface machine with agile handling that can be adjusted between fast and racy to more upright and relaxed through its cleverly designed, geometry adjusting Twintip fork. The 43mm Panaracer Gravel King tyres work well in all but silly conditions, and there's scope for 55mm ETRTO 584mm (650B) tyres and wheels if you want to go even fatter.

The RUUT distinguishing feature is that fork, which has swappable 'chips' in the tips that change the offset and ride height. The difference is not that noticeable at the handlebars as it’s only 1cm in height difference, but turning into switchbacks and barrelling along the singletrack, the difference in steering feel is noticeable. In the low axle position with the longer trail, the bike needs more input to take the same lines as the high axle position with the shorter trail. It's a clever feature, letting you choose the handling that you like best for your own trails and style.

Gear range: 27-103 inches

Read our review of the Rondo RUUT AL
Find a Rondo dealer

BMC Roadmachine X 2021 — £1,899

2021 BMC roadmachine x

As the name implies, this is an endurance road bike with adventure tendencies, the only one of BMC's Roadmachine family to dispense with the traditional double chainset. By the standards of many of the bikes here it has skinny tyres at 34mm, indicating its purpose is more Tarmac than trails, but with a wide, low gear range it looks well suited to long days in the hills.

Gear range: 26-98 inches

Find a BMC dealer

Vitus Substance CRX-1 2021 — £2,199.99

2021 Vitus Substance CRX 1

Drop-bar bikes with ETRTO 584mm (650B) tyres are still in the minority, but Vitus has chosen the smaller and arguably more versatile wheel size here, and built it in carbon fibre to keep the weight down. With hydraulic disc brakes, 1x groupset and full-carbon fork, this Substance CRX holds plenty of appeal for the modern day on/off-roader.

Gear range: 32-98 inches

Read our review of the Vitus Substance V2 Apex

Whyte Glencoe 2021 — £1,599

2021 Whyte Glencoe

Whyte is also clearly a believer in the 650B concept too, enough to call the Glencoe " the best all round road bike we have ever made". But like the Merida Silex it shows strong signs of Whyte's expertise in mountain bikes, with a long frame, short stem and wide bar for control on crummy surfaces. The 47mm tyres put the Glencoe in the RoadPLUS category, Marin says and we've certainly been impressed by the capabilities of the WTB Horizon tyres Whyte has chosen. If you're looking for something a bit out of the ordinary, the Glencoe deserves close examination.

Gear range: 28–108 inches

Find a Whyte dealer

Vitus Energie VR 2021 — £1,299.99

2021 Vitus Energie VR

The Energie VR is an excellent tool for thrashing round in the mud for an hour on a Sunday, and it's versatile enough for more general riding. The drivetrain is excellent and it's tubeless-ready out of the box. For the money, it's hard to fault. It's built around a 6061-T6 triple-butted hydroformed aluminium alloy frame that's mated to a full carbon fork, and both of those are tidily built. The bike has mounts for a rack and full mudguards and two sets of bottle bosses, so it's properly versatile if you want to run it as a winter bike/adventure bike/tourer.

Gear range: 30–98 inches

Read our review of the 2017 Vitus Energie

Sonder Camino Al Apex 1 Hydraulic — £1,199


With its wide, flared bar, the Sonder Camino from outdoor equipment specialists Alpkit is very much at the 'off-road adventure' station on the liine spectrum from pothole-basher to intercontinental expedition. This is a bike that enjoys going off-road but would also be quite happy taking you longer distances on tarmac too. The bias – and the way the bike is specced certainly corroborates this – is towards off-road adventuring. The comfortable position is perfect for gravel excursions or riding long distances loaded with luggage, but is just a little too upright for longer (proper) road rides. It’s a do anything bike with a definite off-road flavour, but above all, it’s a bike to have fun with at a price that belies its capabilities.

Gear range: 26–98 inches

Read our review of the Sonder Camino Al Apex 1 Hydraulic V2

Boardman CXR 8.9 — £1,100

Boardman CXR 8.9

Chris Boardman has always said that his cyclocross bikes are his favourites in the range. With a big gear range, SRAM Apex hydraulic discs, and mounts for racks and mudguards, the CXR 8.9 exemplifies the versatility Boardman loves about cyclocross bikes, and it's outstanding value for money.

Gear range: 28-108 inches

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Cafe Wisdom: readers talk 1X

Many of our readers who are experienced cyclists will have used all manner of gearing systems over the years, so are a valuable source of knowledge when helping you decide which is best for you. Here's some of the best comments we've had about 1X gearing in previous versions of this article.

zeeridesbikes said: "For me 1x works well for my towpath commute and also means less maintenance. I don't think it shines out on the road. I never seem to be able to find the perfect gear like I can on my ' traditional' 52-36/11-32. Might be that I just need to get used to it. If I only had one bike I'd chose the 2x option."

slappop said: "If it works for you, fine. I personally don't have any problems at all with a front mech (adjusting it is extremely simple) and like the close ratios it gives. In fact, there's a certain pleasure in operating one in the same way that double-declutching a manual gearbox in a car is. I can certainly see the advantage if you need the clearance under the bottom bracket."

Drinfinity said: "I'm using my Cyclocross bike on the road now as a ShopperCross. Rival shifters and mech, with 11-42 and a 34 chainring. Would go up the steep hills with a full load from the co-op, but going to the shop it was undergeared. An 11-46 Shimano XT cassette (with spacer) allowed me to get a 40 chainring for faste descending, but still easily climb back home. The Rival mech handles the 46 with no issue."

TRV56 said: "Been using 1x Rival with 10-42 on my commuter and gravel bikes for almost two years now and would never go back to 2x. Have 1x12 on my mountain bikes, so using 1x11 on the road and gravel was an easy transition. Sure, if I was a hardcore roadie and cared about cadence I’d stick with 2x, but 1x, particularly with the xd 10-42 gives me all the gears I want with none of the blather of dealing with my old nemesis, the front derailleur. I switch between 40, 42, and 44 wolf tooth chainrings depending on terrain, and have never had a drop."

matthewn5 said: "If people want simple, why not go for hub gears? No derailleurs, no problems, last for ever."

fukawitribe replied to matthewn5: "Well, they're really no more simple but I think it's mainly that currently they tend to be significantly heavier and far more expensive in general *... and seen as 'not cool'. Hopefully all three of those will continue to change in the future, it seems to be happening but it's slower than many would like, myself included. I'd like to think that the increase in popularity in e-bikes is pushing the gearbox developments a wee bit faster, but difficult to tell for sure.

* Up-front costs anyway - the amortised cost due savings in cassettes, chainsets and chains can certainly be compelling but no help if the initial purchase price makes it difficult to get."

TheSmallRing said: "Just started using 1x on my new commuter. Haven't noticed the big jump between gears, probably only an issue when on a fast pace club run or racing. What I do notice is the lack of chain slap, especially when hitting potholes or jumping up curbs. Very satisfying. Indexing seems a bit more fiddly though."

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John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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