It’s time to reveal the best gravel/adventure bikes reviewed on road.cc over the past year.
We review hundreds of bikes, components, accessories and clothes each year and add the best of them to road.cc Recommends every month. Only a select bunch make it in.
We’ve now been back to road.cc Recommends and chosen the best of the best for our awards – not just the impressive products but the ones that are truly outstanding.
This means that all of the gravel/adventure bikes in our top 10 have been reviewed by road.cc or our sister title off.road.cc in 2022. If a particular company didn’t send us their bike, we can’t ride or recommend it.
We judge every bike on its merits and take price into account. You wouldn’t expect a £2,000 bike to come with a similar spec to a £5,000 or £10,000 model. We factor that into our decisions.
The cheapest gravel/adventure bikes don’t tend to be as affordable as budget road bikes but our top 10 covers a broad range of prices, starting at £1,680.
Our list is diverse in other ways too. There have always been niches within the gravel market but they have become more distinct over the past two or three years. You get lightweight, slimmed-down bikes that are designed for gravel racing, while at the other end of the spectrum, you have models intended for bike-packing with mounts aplenty for carrying all the luggage you need.
We’re also seeing dropper posts and suspension in the gravel market now, some of the developments having drifted over from mountain biking. They’re worth considering if more technical gravel/trail riding is your thing, although they do bump up the price.
The upside of this diversification as the gravel sector develops is that you can get a bike that’s perfectly suited to the type of riding you want to do.
Right, let’s start our top-10 countdown…
Cotic's steel Cascade is a tough and versatile adventure bike that’s happy to charge around your local woods, explore bridleways, and head out on multi-day off-road rides in the wilderness. It has the ability to take massive tyres and a dropper seat post, and it’s very happy tackling technical trails.
The Cascade – with a Reynolds 853 steel mainframe with a 4130 cromo rear end – is built to a geometry that’s inspired by mountain bikes, the slack head angle, long wheelbase and short stem providing a hugely stable feel. This is a bike that holds its line beautifully over rough terrain, so you don’t have to spend as much time and energy as usual trying to avoid smaller rocks and holes.
Cotic has designed the Cascade around a long fork so that you can swap from this rigid design to something like a RockShox SID SL Ultimate – with 100mm of travel – without messing up the geometry.
The Cascade isn't particularly fast out of the blocks, but its versatility is a real strength. If you fancy tackling singletrack and even the occasional drop-off, it’s more than up for the challenge.
The Cascade is equally well-suited to load-carrying and taking you long distances in comfort. It has bosses for fitting racks, mudguards, bottle cages, top tube bags, frame packs… you name it. The stability we mentioned is a real advantage when you have it loaded up too, and lengthy chainstays mean you're less likely to clip a heel if you fit panniers at the back.
Overall, the Cotic Cascade, which is available in various builds, is a lot like a rigid mountain bike with a drop handlebar. If you like to keep your options open, this is a whole lot of fun.
The second-generation Vielo V+1 Strato offers a fast and fun ride, and thanks to massive tyre clearance you aren't restricted in your choice of terrain. It's comfortable too, and has smooth, clean looks.
The front end feels tight and the Vielo is responsive and alert when you stamp on the pedals. It really shines when you blast along flatter sections of gravel or get out of the saddle at the base of a climb.
Carrying your speed through the corners or on downhills is easy too because the geometry isn't as aggressive as you’ll find on some gravel bikes. You get plenty of stability and predictability too. You might want to scrub off speed for the really tricky bits, but everywhere else the Vielo flies.
Weighing 9.24kg, this isn’t the lightest bike ever but the wide spread of usable gears on the 1x system certainly helps on the climbs. If you want a lighter weight, you could always upgrade from the 1,100g Strato frame to the 880g Alto.
Although stiff where it counts, the frame offers plenty of comfort thanks to slender, flattened seatstays. You’re also likely to be running quite a bit of exposed seatpost, which adds a little more flex.
Switch from the standard 45mm-wide tyres to something like a 35mm width and you’ll get a capable all-road machine that’s ideal for mixed-terrain riding or even a commute.
The V+1 is 1x compatible only, meaning the down tube can be as wide as the bottom bracket shell for increased frame stiffness. The single chainring also means Vielo doesn't have to drop the driveside chainstay for tyre clearance, so the chainstays mirror each other for size and shape while still allowing 50mm tyres.
The Vielo V+1 is available in various builds starting at £4,599.
Senior Product Reviewer Stu Kerton says: “On paper the V+1 Strato doesn’t necessarily scream ‘class leader’, but as a complete package I found it to offer a stunning ride, loads of versatility thanks to huge tyre clearances (for a performance-based gravel bike) and plenty of comfort.
It’s defining factor though is just how easy this bike is to ride. It remains unflustered regardless of speed or terrain thanks to a planted feel and ‘easy to live with’ geometry.
You don’t have to be super-talented in the handling department to get the most out of this bike.”
This latest version of the Tifosi Cavazzo is light, capable and lots of fun. The frame is versatile and light with accurate handling and a forgiving nature while the Campagnolo Ekar components are a deserved hit with a wide, simple gear range and powerful brakes.
Tifosi has nailed the handling here, this bike doing exactly what you want it to do. Even if you push it beyond the tyres’ limit, the Cavazzo has an easily controlled, balanced slide, which makes recovering from trouble very easy. It's surefooted and accurate in turns, too.
Downhill riding is a planted, stable whoop-fest whether you’re on dirt or tarmac, and course corrections at speed are a doddle,
The Cavazzo's not as eager as a road bike on the climbs, but it’s still pretty damn good, responding well to surges of effort or measured pedalling.
The Toray carbon fibre frame is rated for tyres up to 45mm wide but you could get 50mm in there at a push. You get mounting points for mudguards and racks, three pairs of bottle cage mounts and a bento box mount at the front of the top tube. There are also mounts on each side of the fork if you really want to load up.
The Campagnolo Ekar brake levers have a broad tip so they're easy to grab from the drops, the shift paddle behind them has a lip so your fingers don't slip off it as you shift into lower gears, and the C-shaped upshift switch is easy to reach from the drops or the hoods. On the flip side, the costs of replacement parts are high.
If you've got three grand to spend on a gravel bike, the Cavazzo is excellent value, and with a second set of wheels fitted with slick tyres, it could easily be your one bike to do (pretty much) everything.
The Dolan GXT is a hugely capable gravel bike whose titanium frame offers a great balance of stiffness and comfort, while the geometry allows you to feel in total control whatever the terrain. It's beautifully made too, comes with all of the mounts you could need, and though not cheap it's good value compared with rivals.
Even though the GXT is one of the stiffer titanium frames out there, the underlying tone of vibration cancelling is still there, noticeable when riding on hardpacked gravel or tarmac.
With mounts aplenty, the Dolan can be used for some serious load carrying and the tautness of the frame will stop any flex when hauling all of that baggage up a steep climb. The bike's ability to take tyres more than 40mm wide – our test bike had 43mm Panaracers fitted – adds plenty of comfort.
The front end is slightly slacker than that of an endurance road bike, but not so much that you'd notice on the road. It gives a positive feel and the bike never feels out of control, even on fast descents or wet tarmac.
Head off-road and the handling is on the fun side of neutral – not twitchy enough to be a handful, but fast enough to allow you to tackle technical sections or high-speed downhills while remaining fully in control.
The length of the wheelbase adds stability, giving you the confidence to maintain a loose grip on the bar and let the GXT flow and slide about, knowing that you can bring it back under control without too much of a fight.
The quality is great, it's well-priced and the amount of customisation available in the builds – starting with Shimano 105 at £2,524.99 – lets you build the bike of your dreams.
Ribble's Gravel 725 brings a classy, comfortable and fun-to-ride steel frame to the mix, paired up with a full-carbon fork. It has a forgiving ride, and thanks to a multitude of mounting points it can be loaded up for adventure as well as used for a blast on the rough stuff.
This new Gravel model has the geometry to exploit aggregate-based trails, giving a confidence-inspiring ride quality and behaviour, regardless of how technical or loose the surface.
The 725 offers a long and low stance with a generous top tube and a shortish head tube, and it feels secure and confidence-inspiring. It’s nimble, flowing nicely through the corners, and it's fun to bunnyhop and jump over the worst of the potholes and tree roots. If you want a gravel bike that’s fun to ride on dry or hardpacked twisty singletrack through the woods, the Gravel 725 is a good choice.
The handling is on the neutral side of twitchy thanks to a relaxed front end, and the chassis tracks well. The 725 feels natural to control via shifts in bodyweight; you can either let it drift or bring it back into line. On any ride that’s simply about getting out for a blast, the Ribble is a fun place to be.
The only place the 725 doesn't feel especially lively is on the climbs, where its 10.8kg weight dampens your aspirations. One thing is for sure, though: it is definitely a comfortable and easy-to-ride big-mile machine. Over various surfaces and terrains, this bike never struggles. It even zips along tarmac nicely.
The Gravel 725 is available in three key builds, starting with the Sport at £2,099, and you can customise the spec via Ribble’s online Bike Builder.
Overall, this is a great all-rounder. If you just want to get out and ride in the wilderness it has got your back.
Senior Product Reviewer Stu Kerton says: “Ribble launched its new gravel range with frames created from virtually every material available, but it was this Reynolds 725 steel model that really struck a chord with me.
You are getting the long and low stance geometry found across the range for a fast-riding style, yet it provides plenty of stability. On top of that though you are also getting that excellent ride feel that only a quality steel tubeset can deliver.
Ribble have delivered a quality all rounder here, with loads of versatility for bikepacking and long-distance touring too.”
Orro’s Terra C is a brilliant bike, especially for the money, and if you want something that’s fast and capable over a wide range of surfaces then this frame and build are hard to beat. Save up for some nicer wheels and tyres, and stick some slicks on the old hoops for winter road duties, and you've got a bike that’ll be first out of the shed nearly every time.
The Terra C is very much at home on the road and on the trails. The ride position isn't too relaxed; it’s a pretty comfortable position, but in the drops it's still quite aero.
There's no judder from the carbon fork and the bike is very well-behaved under braking. The seatstays aren't dropped, which is a way that bike manufacturers often make the rear of a gravel bike more compliant, but with a fairly long exposed seatpost the rear end of the bike is well matched with the front.
It's not necessarily a bike that majors on damping, but it does a good job of filtering out trail buzz and also feels planted when descending.
The Orro Terra C is a very efficient bike, and there is absolutely no sideways flex even when you're pushing hard up a steep off-road climb.
Our review bike came fitted with the new Shimano 105 Di2 groupset which is more or less perfect if you're splitting your time between the roads and the tracks, but if you're looking for a bike you can load up for longer adventures it's probably not the one for you.
This carbon frame features fully internal cable routing through the head tube, which makes for clean lines and also makes it much easier to fit bar bags, and it has impact-resistant Sigmatex Innegra inserts in crucial areas to guard against rock strikes and other trail damage.
The carbon Pearson On And On is the perfect machine for those whose gravel rides are on the faster side. It has all the characteristics of a race machine – it’s lively, nimble and has a lightweight ride feel that belies the scales – and comfort levels are high which means it doesn't only go fast, it's capable of going far.
The On And On has a geometry that puts you into quite an aggressive position and it feels shorter and more nimble than most gravel bikes. At 8.6kg It’s lightweight too
At 8.6kg this is as light as many road bikes. Hammering down chalk or mud trails the On And On can change direction very quickly and it's easy to bunnyhop over obstacles you can't go around.
The handling is quick enough to get you out of trouble, but not so quick it gets you into trouble in the first place, and on descents, the Pearson reacts smoothly to small inputs or shifts in bodyweight.
Get out of the saddle and the stiffness of the bottom bracket shell, chainstays and down tube mean this is no slouch. The whole rear end feels very tight indeed, and it's the same at the front. The tapered head tube and full carbon fork staunchly resist any braking or steering forces.
Despite that, Pearson has managed to deliver a comfortable ride. There’s little in the way of high-frequency vibration. This also means the On And On can be ridden for hours without inducing fatigue. Overall, the ride quality is excellent.
The On And On we reviewed came with a 1x Shimano GRX Di2 groupset that was hard to fault (complete bikes in other builds are available at prices from £3,500). The shifting is superb, the shape of the hoods gives an ideal platform for riding off-road, and the brakes offer plenty of power and modulation.
Senior Product Reviewer Stu Kerton says: “The On and On was one of my favourite gravel bikes of 2022 thanks to the way it manages to blend light weight, stiffness and comfort.
If you want a something that mimics your road bike’s performance and handling on the gravel tracks, then this offering from Pearson will literally tick all of the boxes.
It’s fun and fast, for those that just want to get out for a blast.”
The Lauf Seigla is a gravel racer that achieves huge tyre clearances without sacrificing its geometry or performance. The leaf-sprung Grit fork is a tidy albeit odd-looking solution to gravel bike suspension and completes a bike that’s comfortable, controlled and fun to ride. It is hard to beat both in terms of value for money and when putting the hammer down on dirt tracks.
The fork is sure to divide opinion. Whether or not you like the aesthetics, it functions well with 30mm or so of undamped travel provided by 12 glass fibre springs. They’re stiff so you don’t feel the fork bobbing on tarmac climbs and as you pick up speed the suspension deals with high-frequency vibrations very well. The Grit fork adds just 430g to the total bike weight and is maintenance-free.
The fork does have its limitations when it comes to rocky descents better suited to a mountain bike – there’s no rebound adjustment so repeated big hits can cause confusion – but it’s still much better than full rigid (which is an option).
The Seigla frame features a long top tube which can be paired with a shorter stem for snappy steering and the chainstays are impressively short, further adding to the agile feel.
The lengthy wheelbase makes the bike track straight and stable on descents and you get a confidence-inspiring feel on steep, techy descents where you don’t feel like the front wheel is going to disappear underneath you on sharp corners.
Dropped seatstays add compliance at the rear and the Seigla is a very comfortable place to be. The top tube is vertically slim to help soak up imperfections and there’s room for 57mm tyres on 700c wheels.
Lauf has achieved such huge clearances by using a wider threaded BSA73 bottom bracket as opposed to the road standard of BSA68 and making the Seigla 1x only. It also uses a drive-side chainstay that’s a solid plate of carbon. This does mean that mechanical gears can only be routed as far as the bottom bracket but if you do wish to run a mechanical or wired Di2 groupset then the rubber chainstay protector doubles as outer routing,
Overall the Seigla is fast, comfortable, innovative, and very good value. Whether you’re on quick or technical terrain, the Lauf does a great job and it’s cheaper than the competition.
Our runner-up spot goes to the Specialized S-Works Crux – once a cyclocross race bike and now an exceptional gravel bike for fast riding… and it can still excel on the cyclocross course. Yes, our top-level review model is outstandingly expensive although the range starts at £4,600.
This lightweight (7.2kg) package is insanely good at climbing, whether the terrain is steep, technical, or both. The low weight of the front end is a real help on hills with rocks or big step-ups and you get impressive stability when the gradient slows you down.
On faster sections, the longer wheelbase comes into play, as does the aggressive riding position. It’s fun to flick from one line to another and this bike is great at making you feel more skilful than you are.
The Crux really shines when you're piecing together gravel sections with stretches of road. It is so nippy that twisty back lanes are some of the best places to ride this bike. The 38mm Pathfinder tyres provide a huge amount of cornering grip and there's no issue when you run into a poorly surfaced section.
On twisty and tight gravel with loads of climbs and descents, the Crux's low weight, nippy ride and excellent handling are ideal. The ability to take 47mm tyres on a 700C wheel or a 2.1in on a 650B opens it up to serious technical ground.
If you want a gravel bike that can put in a shift as an endurance road bike, stick slick tyres on the Crux. It doesn’t have mudguard eyelets, though, and while there is a spot under the down tube to store a third bottle cage, you won't be able to mount a frame bag without the use of straps. This is a bike that’s designed for speed rather than overnight adventure.
Specialized has used the frame layup technology that it developed for the Aethos. The tube shapes do away with the need to reinforce certain areas with extra material. Less resin is used and thus you have a lighter frame.
The S-Works model we reviewed is made with FACT 12r carbon. A 56cm frame has a claimed weight of just 725g, and the fork is around 400g. This fork is shared with the Pro and Expert bikes that use 10r carbon. With these models you get a frameset that isn't much heavier for significantly less.
Built up with an excellent SRAM Red eTap AXS groupset and Roval Terra C wheelset, the Specialized S-Works Crux is a brilliant bike for racing cyclocross, batting through the lanes or flying along twisty gravel trails. For the fast, hilly riding that it is designed for, it is exceptional.
Why it’s here An exceptionally light gravel bike that excels on the climbs and is a blast to ride fast
Buy now for £11,700 from Specialized Concept Store
Read the review
Top spot goes to the most affordable bike here, the Forme Monsal 1. Why? Because this aluminium option is an absolute belter. It’s fun and engaging on the fast stuff, and comfortable enough for those longer days in the saddle, and it offers great value too.
This is one of those bikes where you just have to ignore the spec sheet and put the scales back in the cupboard. At 10.87kg the Monsal sounds on the weighty side, but it’s anything but sluggish. It feels lively and responsive when you get out of the saddle for a short sharp climb or a sprint and it gives you the confidence to push on just a little bit harder and faster. In fact, that bit of extra weight makes it feel very composed. It’s a flattering bike to ride.
The geometry has a racy edge, putting you into a position that’s aggressive enough to help you get the power down. It offers quick handling on the rough stuff without ever feeling twitchy or out of its depth.
The front end is low enough for tackling a headwind or descent but not so extreme that you can't sit with your hands on the hoods for many, many miles at a time.
For epic jaunts, comfort is key and this is where the Monsal excels. The tubing delivers a quality steel frame feel. It has a smoothness to it, taking the edge off any buzz and rattling that would otherwise come through from the road/track surface. You get enough feedback to know exactly what’s going on beneath your tyres but without the chatter.
Stiffness hasn’t been sacrificed to provide that comfort. The Monsal is tight around the bottom bracket area, helped by the oversized down tube and beefy chainstays.
Up front things are also taut thanks to the tapered head tube and the stiffness of the carbon fibre fork that copes well with the loads from steering and heavy braking. Reviewer Stu said that this is one of the nicest aluminium alloy frames he’s ridden in a long time.
The Monsal doesn’t come with quite as many mounting points as some gravel bikes, but it’ll take a couple of water bottle cages, mudguards and a rear rack.
The frame and fork provide plenty of space for the 45mm tyres that come as standard, and if you’re worried about creaks after riding in the wet or dust, the fact that it is specced a threaded bottom bracket should allay your fears.
The Monsal 1 uses a Sram Apex 1x groupset that provides crisp and clean shifting across the cassette, and the tall hoods on the shift-brake controls give you plenty of purchase at speed on rough terrain.
Overall, the Monsal has one of the best frames on the market when it comes to balancing ride quality, comfort and stiffness, the geometry works beautifully on all kinds of surfaces, and the spec is great. Like we said, it’s an absolute belter – and that's why it comes out on top here.
Senior Product Reviewer Stu Kerton says: “Forme have absolutely nailed the ‘affordable gravel bike’ with the Monsal 1.
"The ride quality, feel and feedback are all of levels normally found on much higher-end bikes – and I’m including all materials here – while the geometry is beautifully balanced and just works regardless of the terrain and speed you want to travel.
"You could equip the Monsal with the blingest components out there and it still wouldn’t be out of its depth – that is simply how good a bike this is.”
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.