The Best Gravel Bikes of 2023 for Gravel Grinding and Ripping On Dirt Roads

People riding Gravel Bikes


If a road bike, a mountain bike, and a cyclocross bike were engineered into a single bike, you'd have something that looks like the best gravel bike. While hybrid bikes may be a mash-up of a mountain bike and a commuter bike, gravel bikes are similar to road bikes and cyclocross bikes in terms of their design and performance.

Gravel bike frame angles may be slightly relaxed (less steep angles) compared with a full-on road racing bike, but are not as slack as a downhill racing mountain bike. This gives gravel bikes a nimble feeling while also affording the control and precision needed when on a surface that may move while riding on top of it.

So, if you’re in search of the best gravel bikes, you’ve come to the right place. We took our favorite features of gravel bikes into account when selecting our 10 favorites. Our list includes budget-friendly options, electric bikes, and more, so there’s a little something for every biker.

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The Best Gravel Bikes — Our Top Picks

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Best Overall Gravel Bike - Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX2

Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX2

SPECS

  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL
  • Tire clearance: up to 40mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Ultegra RX 2x11

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While the Cannondale Topstone Ultegra RX2 gravel bike looks very similar to the brand's road bikes, it has a few features which clearly make this bike particularly suited for gravel and off-road riding. Cannondale's Kingpin rear suspension offers 30 millimeters of travel and superior traction on almost any surface. Adding to its ride comfort is a carbon seatpost, which helps to reduce fatigue that may come from riding on "washboard" and other less-than-smooth trails.

The Shimano Ultegra RX mechanical drivetrain with a Cannondale crank is lightweight, durable, and offers fast, reliable, precision shifting. The rear derailleur even has a clutch to ensure minimal chain slap when you're bouncing around. And the hydraulic disc brakes with 160 millimeter rotors (another gravel-bike difference as most road bikes are fit with 140 millimeter rotors) provide excellent stopping power when dry or wet.

What We Like

  • Kingpin rear suspension offers a smooth, connected ride
  • Top-performing Shimano Ultegra drivetrain
  • Lightweight design
  • Strong and durable aluminum cockpit provides responsive control

What We Don't Like

  • Geometry for each size might skew large for some riders
  • Externally routed cables and hoses aren't tidy

BUY: Cannondale Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX2

Best Budget Gravel Bike - Schwinn Sporterra Adventure Adult Gravel Bike

Schwinn Sporterra Adventure Adult Gravel Bike

SPECS

  • Sizes: M/L
  • Tire clearance: Up to 40mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Tourney 2x7

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Schwinn's Sporterra Adventure Adult Gravel Bike is a solid choice for those new to riding gravel and who are not yet ready to make a significant financial commitment to a gravel bike. Its aluminum frame and fork offer a firm ride. Plus, it’s lighter than other steel bikes at the same price point. And with a tool-free saddle height adjustment, this adventure bike can serve multiple riders of different heights.

One of the features that sets a gravel bike apart from other bikes are the tires. The 700 by 38 rubber on the Schwinn Sporterra are robust enough for light off-road riding on light gravel and cinder, but smooth enough to use on the road and still have a comfortable ride. However, to be safe, we recommend having this bike be assembled and serviced by an experienced bike service technician to ensure it's damage-free on arrival, and that the brakes and gears are properly adjusted.

What We Like

  • Good value for entry-level gravel bike
  • Quick-release saddle clamp means tool-free adjustment
  • Durable aluminum frame offers firm ride

What We Don't Like

  • Bit heavy of a design
  • Home assembly may be challenging for those not mechanically inclined

BUY: Schwinn Sporterra Adventure Adult Gravel Bike

Best Flat-Bar Gravel Bike - Diamondback Division 2 Bike

Diamondback Division 2 Bike

SPECS

  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL
  • Tire clearance: Up to 48mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Alivio 1x9

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The Diamondback Division 2 is a gravel bike that does dual-duty as a commuter and a weekend adventure bike. Fitted to an aluminum frame and fork, the Shimano Alivio 9-speed drivetrain offers gearing that's best suited for relatively flat riding on fine gravel, hardpack dirt, and paved roads. The standout features of this bike are the hydraulic disc brakes, which offer excellent stopping power with plenty of control that's superior to mechanical disc brakes and rim brakes.

And we like that the Shimano brake levers are mounted to a flat handlebar that offers an upright riding position, which means plenty of comfort and easy visibility. However, while the 650b wheels offer plenty of room for wide tires that offer a plush ride, these tires might not be the best for chunky, rail-road gravel, or venturing too far off the beaten path.

What We Like

  • Tool-free saddle height adjustment
  • Sizes accommodate riders 5'2"-6'7"
  • Grippy pedal bodies that don't require cycling shoes

What We Don't Like

  • Tires suited for paved surfaces and not gravel
  • Gearing too low for fast descending

BUY: Diamondback Division 2 Bike

Best Carbon Gravel Bike - Cannondale SuperSix EVO SE

Cannondale SuperSix EVO SE

SPECS

  • Sizes: 46, 51, 54, 56, 58cm
  • Tire clearance: Up to 45mm
  • Drivetrain: SRAM Rival eTap AXS 2x12

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The Cannondale SuperSix EVO SE shares its name with the American brand's premier road bike, but there are also a number of other similarities. The frame and fork of the Cannondale SuperSix EVO SE are constructed of the same type of carbon fiber as the road bike, which gives a buttery-smooth ride. To be sure, this is a gravel racing bike; the geometry of this Cannondale gravel bike puts you in a more aggressive position for performance.

And it doesn't take a pro cyclist's eye to note the asymmetric, offset shape of the right-rear of this gravel racer. Shifting cables on the Cannondale SuperSix EVO SE? Nope. Shifting wires? None of those, either. The SRAM Rival eTap AXS is a wireless electronic drivetrain. There are small batteries in the brake levers, and also on each of the derailleurs that power your gear changes.

What We Like

  • Allows wide, 45mm tires
  • Racing geometry means nimble but stable handling
  • Materials and construction offer a sublimely smooth ride

What We Don't Like

  • Asymmetric frame does not accommodate all brands of after-market wheels
  • Wide pedal stance (“Q Factor”) might be noticeable for some
  • No gravel-specific SRAM Rival XPLR eTap AXS components

BUY: Cannondale SuperSix EVO SE

Best Electric Gravel Bike - Cannondale Topstone Neo Carbon 3 Lefty Electric Bike

Cannondale Topstone Neo Carbon 3-Speed Lefty Electric Bike

SPECS

  • Sizes: S, M, L, XL
  • Tire clearance: Up to 47mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano GRX 1x11

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Cannondale's Topstone Neo Carbon 3 Lefty Electric Bike is not just a motorized version of the Topstone. To be sure, this gravel e-bike is engineered around the Bosch Performance CX 500Wh motor, which offers up to 28 miles per hour pedal-assist and has a claimed 78 mile range. This motor is powerful enough to spin out the rear wheel on soft surfaces, but you can dial back the power assist to keep control and also check on battery reserve with the digital display on the cockpit. Plus, the battery is removable for easy charging, so you don't have to lug the 40 pound bike to the nearest power source.

The Lefty Oliver suspension fork and Kingpin rear suspension each offer 30mm of travel, and should enhance the traction and smooth feel of this e-bike. When climbing or when a rigid-fork feel is desired, a lockout lever that turns the Lefty Oliver into a rigid fork is within reach so you can tune the performance on the fly. Keep in mind, though, that the front end of the bike and the performance of the suspension may offer a tall position and firm feel.

What We Like

  • Bosch Performance CX motor boosts to 28mph
  • Great battery life when in Eco mode, optimistically up to 78-mile range
  • Suspension fork with lockout feature for dynamic ride adjustment

What We Don't Like

  • Lefty Oliver fork adds significant weight to already hefty bike
  • 30mm of suspension travel may not be enough for combined weight of rider and bike
  • Power assist mode may chew through battery quickly when not sipping battery juice

BUY: Cannondale Topstone Neo Carbon 3 Lefty Electric Bike

Best Gravel Bike for Beginners - Vilano Diverse 3.0 Performance Hybrid Bike

Vilano Performance Hybrid Road Bike

SPECS

  • Sizes: 49, 53, 57cm
  • Tire clearance: Up to 35mm
  • Drivetrain: Microshift 3x8

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If you're gravel-curious, the Vilano Diverse 3.0 Performance Hybrid Bike is a good starter bike for checking out light gravel, hard-pack dirt trails, and, of course, road riding. Another positive: It won't break the bank. At a slightly lower price point than the budget-friendly Schwinn Sporterra, the Viano Diverse 3 has many similar features including 700c gravel-friendly tires that look also to be good for road riding, and easy-to-use 24-speed shifting.

Unlike other bikes at this low price point, the Vilano Diverse 3.0 comes in three different sizes so you can choose the size bike that fits you best, instead of hoping a simple saddle height adjustment will work. But, this same benefit also means that you'll need an allen wrench to adjust the saddle height.

What We Like

  • Good value
  • 3 sizes to suit wide range of rider heights
  • Mechanical disc brakes offer better stopping than rim brakes

What We Don't Like

  • Microshift components can make assembly challenging; professional assembly recommended
  • Gears and brakes may require frequent servicing

BUY: Vilano Diverse 3.0 Performance Hybrid Bike

Best Lightweight Gravel Bike - Co-op Cycles ADV 2.1 Bike

Co-op Cycles ADV 2.1 Bike

SPECS

  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
  • Tire clearance: Up to 38mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Claris 2x8

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If you're not ready to drop thousands of dollars on a gravel bike, but are willing to make a small commitment, put the Co-op Cycles ADV 2.1 in your sights. The aluminum frame and fork promise a firm but responsive ride, and keep the overall weight low. The complete bike weighs only 23 pounds which is relatively light. And the handlebars on the Co-op Cycles ADV 2.1 have a modest 12-degree flair that offers more control off-road than traditional-drop road handlebars or flat bars.

The 700 by 38 Kenda Flintridge tubeless ready tires offer a tread that can bite when cornering on gravel, and a smooth center ridge for comfortable road riding. However, while the Co-op Cycles ADV 2.1 is available in five sizes to fit riders from 5'0” to 6'3” tall, we suggest sizing down if you're between sizes.

What We Like

  • 5 sizes to fit riders from 5'0"-6'3"
  • Frame designed for compliance, comfort, and performance
  • 700c tubeless ready wheels and tires

What We Don't Like

  • BYO pedals adds to cost
  • Shimano Tiagara would be a better component spec than Claris components

BUY: Co-op Cycles ADV 2.1 Bike

Best High-Speed Gravel Bike - Cervélo Aspero 5 Ekar Gravel Bike

Cervelo Aspero 5 Ekar Gravel Bike

SPECS

  • Sizes: 48, 51, 54, 56, 58, 61cm
  • Tire clearance: Up to 43mm
  • Drivetrain: Campagnolo Ekar 1x13

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The Canadian brand Cervélo may best be known for its Tour-de-France-winning road bikes and it's Kona-crushing triathlon bikes, but make no mistake: The Cervélo Aspero 5 Ekar gravel bike is just as top-notch as its road-centric siblings, with a few features that make this a go-to gravel bike. Cevélo intends this bike for fast riding and racing, and the frame design is on the aggressive side. You can even set the saddle height and handlebars in similar configurations as a road bike. The Aspero 5 can accommodate two different wheel sizes, 700c or 650b, and the Trail Mixer chip in the fork dropouts allow you to customize the bike's handling.

The low-drag shapes of the frame tubes mean you can sustain a given speed with slightly less effort. The semi-integrated cockpit also cuts down on wind resistance, and offers more adjustability and ease of maintenance compared with a one-piece bar/stem combo that has internally routed hoses and cables.

What We Like

  • Trail Mixer dropout chip allows changing ride feel and behavior based on wheel size
  • Pro-level 13 speed Campagnolo Ekar drivetrain performs flawlessly
  • Road bike geometry means you can set this bike like a road bike

What We Don't Like

  • Limited availability for Campagnolo components
  • Pricey

BUY: Cervelo Aspero 5 Ekar Gravel Bike

Best Performance Gravel Bike - GT Grade Carbon Elite Gravel Bike

GT Grade Carbon Elite Gravel Bike

SPECS

  • Sizes: 48, 51, 55, 58, 61cm
  • Tire clearance: Up to 42mm
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Tiagra 2x10

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The appearance of the GT Grade Carbon Elite gravel bike is eye-catching, to be sure, but it also packs a punch when it comes to performance. The GT Grade Carbon can be ridden with either 700c or 650b wheels, and has a reversible chip in the fork that allows you to tailor the bike's handling depending on wheel size. If you're riding with accessories mounted to the fork, flipping the chip to enhance handling may allow for a more stable ride when under load. Like the Cervélo Aspero and the Cannondale SuperSix, the GT Grade geometry is closer to that of a road bike—more racy than flowy—and the numbers portend speed with control.

Shifting and braking functions are provided by the reliable Shimano Tiagara 10-speed group with hydraulic disc brakes. The climber-friendly gearing range is ample, and are fine when riding on the flats or descending. Plus, the abundance of accessory mounts won't leave you wanting for places to store drinks, snacks, or gear.

What We Like

  • Design is striking, promises low-fatigue riding
  • Plenty of accessory mount-points
  • Racer geometry

What We Don't Like

  • Externally routed cables
  • Weighs more than the competition

BUY: GT Grade Carbon Elite Gravel Bike

Best Gravel Bike for Rough Terrain - Pivot Vault Pro Ultegra Di2 Gravel Bike

Pivot Vault Pro Ultegra Di2 Gravel Bike

SPECS

  • Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL
  • Tire clearance: Up to 48mm with 650b tire
  • Drivetrain: Shimano Ultegra Di2 2x12

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The Pivot Vault Pro Ultegra Di2 gravel bike promises fun and adventure on gravel or road. The ISO FLEX system incorporates an elastomer that is fitted where the seat post mounts into the seat tube. Available in either 27.2 or 30.9 millimeters (to accommodate a dropper-post), the elastomer may dampen vibrations that are not muted by the tires, or the bike's carbon fiber construction.

Also noted is the massive amount of clearance for high-volume tires. Those who like 700c wheels can use up to 47 millimeter tires, while 50 millimeter is the maximum tire clearance for those using smaller, 650b wheels. More volume means lower tire pressures, so more comfort and better traction. And, fitted with Maxxis Rambler TR Tan Wall EXO tubeless ready tires wrapped around DT-Swiss wheels that are secured by thru-axles, this Pivot bike features up-to-date tech.

What We Like

  • Massive amount of tire clearance
  • Frame designed to accommodate aftermarket suspension fork
  • Excellent Shimano Ultegra 12-speed electronic shifting

What We Don't Like

  • No gravel-specific Shimano GRX component group
  • Praxis crank and bottom bracket are simple to service or replace

BUY: Pivot Vault Pro Ultegra Di2 Gravel Bike

How to Choose the Best Gravel Bike


Price

When searching for the best gravel bike, make sure to set a budget that includes the bike, any necessary components (e.g., high-end gravel bikes do not come with pedals), accessories, assembly, shipping, and taxes.

Proper Fit

We also recommend getting your bike fit from a professional bike fitter, or at the very least, visit a bike shop and throw a leg over different size gravel bikes to see what size fits best. This is also an opportunity to develop a relationship with a bike shop which may lead to additional buying and service opportunities that are not afforded elsewhere. Many bike fitters credit the cost of a bike fit towards the in-store purchase of a bike.

Purpose

Are you gravel-curious but plan to do most of your riding on mostly paved surfaces? If so, maybe you'll want a hybrid bike that can be used on gravel. Or, do you plan to use a dedicated gravel bike for riding mostly gravel? If so, look for gravel specific bikes with more gravel-specific features.

Once you've determined where you'll do the majority of your riding, prioritize the features you cannot do without, features that are nice to have, and features which you don't need or will use. The more features you need, and the more sophisticated those features are (e.g., suspension, electronic shifting, or tubeless wheels and tires) the more you should expect to flex your budget. Hardcore gravel riders may want a gravel-specific drivetrain, handlebars, and tubeless tires. Casual gravel riders might want something that can be used for commuting, too.

Gravel Bike Suspension

Many gravel bikes are designed around a rear suspension system like a mountain bike. This offers enhanced rear-wheel grip and smooths the ride. Some gravel bikes may also have a suspension fork. The range of movement afforded by a suspension system is called travel. While a mountain bike may offer 140 to 180 millimeter of travel, gravel bikes usually offer 30 to 60 millimeter of travel. Forks that do not feature suspension are commonly referred to as "rigid" while bikes without rear suspension are called "hardtails."

Gravel Bike Tires

Gravel specific tires are wide and chunky, and provide superior traction off-road, but still offer a smooth ride when on paved surfaces. A technology well-suited for gravel bikes are tubeless tires and wheels. Similar to tires on cars or trucks, there are no inner tubes needed in tubeless ready wheel systems. Tires are mounted to the rim and when seated, create an air-tight lock. A liquid sealant (usually natural or synthetic latex) is put into the tires when they are mounted onto the wheels to further prevent air escaping, and may stop air leaking if you sustain a small puncture.

Another benefit of tubeless-ready tires is they can be inflated to relatively low pressures. Lower tire pressures mean good grip on- and off-road, as well as being very plush and comfortable when riding on any surface. Proper tire inflation pressure based on rider weight and intended riding surface makes for comfortable riding, and good grip. One of the few drawbacks of tubeless tires, though, are they may need to be topped off with air prior to each ride.

Gravel Bike Components

Disc brakes are best for gravel bikes as they provide superior modulation and stopping power compared to rim brakes. Hydraulic disc brake variants offer more feel and even more power than mechanical disc brakes. Other components like the drivetrain (chain, crankset, front and rear gears, front and rear derailleurs), seatpost, and cockpit (stem and handlebars) are also specifically designed for gravel, but will perform equally well when road riding. It's not uncommon for gravel bike drivetrains to have a single chainring and a wide range of gearing in the rear, similar to mountain bike gearing.

FAQs About Gravel Bikes


Can a gravel bike be a road bike?

Yes—look for a bike that has tires with a smooth center ridge, or hybrid-like tires that are not quite as knobby as purpose designed off-road tires.

Do gravel bikes go as fast as road bikes?

Generally, no. Gravel bike gearing usually may not allow you to go as fast on the road as on gravel or other off-road surfaces.

Can gravel bikes go on trails?

Absolutely! Gravel bike frame geometry and tube shapes, tires, gears, and other components are intended for off-road use.

Why are gravel bikes expensive?

Like many other consumer items, the more you spend the more features you should expect. Expensive gravel bikes may weigh significantly less than value-oriented bikes (except for e-bikes which have a hefty battery). Pricey gravel bikes are often hand-assembled and have high-quality components that are much more durable, light, and reliable compared to inexpensive versions. Of course, budget-friendly gravel bikes exist, and you can buy a gravel bike without spending a fortune.

How heavy should a gravel bike be?

It depends. Steel gravel bikes weigh more than aluminum gravel bikes. Some carbon gravel bikes weigh a lot less than some aluminum gravel bikes. Gravel bikes with front and/or rear suspension weigh more than gravel bikes without suspension. If a gravel bike has a battery-powered motor assist, expect it to weigh significantly more than a similar, non-motorized gravel bike.

Non-motorized gravel bikes may weigh as little as 16 pounds or as heavy as 30 pounds. Expensive gravel bike parts almost always weigh less than inexpensive components.

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