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The 10 Best Gravel Bikes of 2022

By Mark David Hartley   /  Last updated - April 19, 2022   /  Best-Of-Reviews, Gravel Bikes, Reviews

gravel bike on logs stack

Gravel bike riding has exploded in popularity over the past few years, particularly in central US states with long stretches of dirt tracks.

Recently, more and more commuters are moving towards using gravel bikes as an alternative to hybrids or road bikes due to the versatility they offer. The main advantage of gravel bike riding is being able to ride fast in areas with less vehicle traffic and more natural beauty. Many gravel enthusiasts find it more fun than MTB riding due to the bikes being lighter and quicker.

What is a Gravel Bike?

gravel bike essential features

Gravel riding comprises anything from smooth single-track to rocky jeep tracks, hardpack dirt, or forest paths. These days many bike manufacturers make gravel-specific bikes that are tailored to operate best on dirt and single-track.

Gravel bikes combine elements of road bike racing with mountain biking and involve race-style drop-bar bikes with thicker-treaded tires to handle off-road conditions.

What Is a Gravel Bike? Must-Have Features Explained

Image source: Cannondale.com The question "what is a gravel bike?" regularly arises in cycling circles as it is a ...

Many gravel bikes have internal cable routing and components that are designed to better resist dirt and grime. Usually, the frames will come with extra mount points for water bottles, racks, or other bikepacking-related gear.

All gravel bikes typically have the following features:

  • Drop-bar
  • Slack geometry
  • Comfortable stance
  • Increased tire clearance
  • Multi-surface performance

Are Gravel Bikes good for everyday commuting?

Gravel bikes make excellent everyday commuters and touring bikes, particularly for cyclists who need to cross varied terrain and have a fair bit of cycling background. They are quicker on tarmac than mountain bikes but can handle dirt track far better than traditional road bikes.

For this reason, they make good all-rounders but are not ideal for specific tasks like road racing or downhill mountain biking.


Best Gravel Bikes of 2022

1. Niner – MCR 9 RDO
2. Orbea – Terra H40
3. 3T – Exploro Team
4. Cannondale – Topstone 1 Alloy
5. Niner – RLT 9 3-star
6. Co-op Cycles – ADV 2.3
7. Santa Cruz Bicycles – Stigmata Carbon CC GRX
8. Marin – Nicasio+ 650B
9. Ibis – Hakka
10. Diamondback – Haanjo 5


1. Niner – MCR 9 RDO

A full-suspension gravel bike

niner full-suspension gravel bike

MSRP: $4,700

Shimano GRX800 – Shifters, Rear Derailleur & Brakes / Carbon frame / X-Fusion 50mm rear shock & Fox 32 SC 40mm front fork

The MCR 9 RDO by Niner bikes is a gravel bike with a Shimano GRX groupset and a full-suspension frame. As most gravel bikes in this list feature a rigid fork for the fastest riding experience, the MCR 9 RDO-series is among the most innovative of them all.

This is due to the inclusion of both front and rear suspension, laying the claim for the “first-ever full-suspension gravel bike“. It’s an interesting concept and probably the first drop-bar bike we’ve seen with rear suspension.

So isn’t it just an MTB with drop bars? Not exactly. Just from looking at it, you can see this Niner full suspension gravel bike is a different beast altogether. It has dedicated gravel-specific frame geometry designed to handle well at speed, with the suspension tuned to swallow vibrations rather than high-gravity drops.

MCR stands for Magic Carpet Ride, suggesting a ride so smooth it feels like a magic carpet.

This means you get a far more rigid ride with full power transference out of each stroke of the pedals. Clearly, a simple gravel bike with front suspension is no longer enough – full suspension gravel bikes are the future.

Rather than the wave-like bounce of a mountain bike, the Niner MCR simply glides over rough surfaces like a hoverboard, reducing fatigue on the rider and allowing for faster speeds.

Unlike a standard gravel bike with front suspension, the Niner doesn’t need to rely solely on frame flex to absorb high-pressure cornering or sketchy descents. This allows you to ride more aggressively with the knowledge that you’ll stay on track.

MCR 9 RDO Builds

The MCR 9 RDO is available in two different SRAM builds, the Rival 22 and SRAM Force ETAP AXS which are $5,400 and $8,200 respectively. There are also five Shimano builds including the GRX 400 for $4,200 and variations of GRX 800 with 1x and 2x gearing from $5,900 to $7,000.

All builds come with Niner’s patented CVA full-suspension system, Fox 32 SC Float front suspension, Stands NoTubes Grail S1 wheels, and Schwalbe G-One Evo tires.

Buy from Jenson USA


2. Orbea – Terra H40

orbea terra h40

MSRP: $2,099

The Terra Orbea gravel bike is a notable pick by a brand that specializes deeply in the mountain bike scene. They have covered a broad spectrum of mountain bikes, and here’s their take on a gravel bike.

2×10-speed (11-34t) GRX 810 drivetrain, GRX hydro brakes, and an aluminum frame w/ full carbon fork. The Terra boasts a rather sweet set-up for both performance gravel racing, and touring alike.

  • Aluminum frame & full carbon fork)
  • Orbea Rims, Shimano RS470 28H Hubs
  • Vittoria Terreno Dry Gravel G2.0 TNT 700 x 38c

To conclude, we’ve chosen to add the Terra as number two due to its superb price-to-quality value. It truly resembles a performance set-up that is hard to compromise at this particular price range. There isn’t anything to add or remove for most users out there.

Buy from Jenson USA


3. 3T – Exploro Team 

3t exploro team carbon

MSRP: $4,799
Aventuron

  • Fulcrum Rapid Red 900, 650b wheelset
  • Sram Rival AXS Hydraulic Discs
  • Frame – Unidirectional pre-preg carbon, High-modulus/high-strength performance blend layup
  • Fork – 3T Fango TEAM
  • Fits tires from 28-54mm wid

The Exploro Team is a well-known competitor in gravel races, known for great performance and an outstanding finish. Yes indeed, gravel bikes get dirty rather quickly, but who doesn’t love a beautiful gravel bike.

Having a carbon frame, carbon fork, and 12-speed SRAM Rival AXS eTap drivetrain consisting of powerful and sturdy Rival AXS components, the carbon is a great tool for performance gravel riding.

Buy from Aventuron


4. Cannondale – Topstone 1 Alloy

Product image for slate

MSRP: $2,150

Cannondale is one of the top competitors in bike sales due to its great value in every possible cycling discipline. The Topstone series has been well proven to fit most gravel riders’ needs, and the Alloy 1 is no exception.

The lightweight aluminum frame coupled with a carbon fork, 2x11speed Shimano GRX drivetrain, and 700x37c tires speak for the bike. The braking department is guarded safely by Shimano GRX 400 hydro disc brakes, which are great at this price range,

You’ll also get 3x water bottle mounts, a Fabric Scoop Radius Sport saddle which are must-have components at this price range. There’s hardly anything to change or upgrade at this price point – awesome value!

Buy from REI


5. Niner – RLT 9 3-star

One of the best gravel bikes under $3000

Niner 3-Star Rival 650b Gravel Bike

MSRP: $2,900

SRAM Rival Derailleurs & Brakes / 650 x 47mm Maxxis Rambler TLR EXO / 6061 Aluminum frame & Niner RDO carbon fork

This impressive Niner gravel bike doesn’t come cheap but does it live up to its price tag? The SRAM Rival drivetrain combined with a Shimano Ultegra HG800 cassette is certainly a good start, especially with the integrated SRAM flat mount hydraulic disc brakes.

Keeping our interest piqued, the Stan’s NoTubes tubeless rims with the ever-popular Maxxis Rambler TLR EXO tires are a clear winner. The choice of aluminum over carbon for the frame is questionable but Niner has included both a Niner RDO carbon fork, stem, AND Seatpost.

These, combined with the well-formed RLT 9 endurance geometry, make for a surprisingly smooth ride.

Buy from Competitive Cyclist


6. Co-op Cycles – ADV 2.3

Best-value men’s gravel bike out of the ADV series

Co-op cycles adv 2.3

MSRP: $2,399
REI

11-speed Shimano GRX600 drivetrain / WTB Nano TCS 700c x 40mm  / Aluminum frame & carbon fork

The Co-op ADV 2.3 is a mid-level aluminum gravel bike that offers some impressive features for the price. Notably, the lightweight frame with a carbon fork, front and rear rack, and fender mounts plus internal cable routing and a dropper post as standard.

The groupset uses excellent 11-speed Shimano GRX/SLX components for reliable off-road performance. The grouping works well together and integrates perfectly with flat-mount Shimano GRX800 hydraulic disc brakes.

  • Shimano GRX bottom bracket
  • WTB Silverado Comp saddle
  • Shimano GRX Hydraulic Disc brakes w/ center lock rotors

The wheelset utilizes standard WTB Nano TCS 40mm tires and WTB ST i23 rims, which are decent but nothing to write home about. Overall, this Co-op gravel bike offers great value-for-money from a well-trusted brand.

Buy from REI


7. Santa Cruz Bicycles – Stigmata Carbon CC GRX

Best Carbon Gravel Bike

Santa Cruz Bicycles Carbon CC GRX Gravel Bike

MSRP: $5,499

Shimano Force & X01 eTap AXS / 650×2.0 Maxxis Ranger / Carbon frame & fork

Santa Cruz is already well known for its excellent trail and MTB bikes and is now making waves in the gravel bike scene. The 2021 Stigmata CC Force 1X is a full carbon bike with a top-quality SRAM Force groupset, 12-speed SRAM XG cassette, and Force hydraulic disc brakes.

It’s built in the traditional XC style with no suspension but provides a surprisingly smooth ride due to the tough but highly absorbent Carbon CC frame. Naturally, Santa Cruz didn’t scrimp on the wheelset, giving us impressive Race Face ARC rims and the ever-popular Maxxis Ranger 27.5×2.0 tires.

This is a professional-level Santa Cruz gravel bike so unfortunately, it comes with the price tag to match but, hey – that’s what you pay for quality!

Buy from Mike's Bikes


8. Marin – Nicasio+ 650B

Best cheap gravel bike!

marin nicasio+ 650B

MSRP: $1,179

Microshift Advent 1×9-speed / WTB Horizon 650Bx47mm / Tektro Road Mechanical Disc Chromoly steel frame and fork

As gravel bikes gain in popularity, we are seeing more and more gravel eBikes on the market. This new bike from Marin’s gravel range is one of the best we’ve seen for under $1,500. 

The Nicasi+ is loaded with mounts for a rack, fenders, and accessories, huge 47mm tires for tearing up heavy gravel paths, and a durable Chromoly steel frame. 

With a 9-speed drivetrain, double-wall rims, this bike is focused on maintaining the challenge and sport of cycling. 

Buy from Jenson USA


9. Ibis – Hakka MX 

Best Gravel Bike For The Money

Ibis Hakka MX Disc

MSRP: $3,599
Competitive Cyclist

The Ibis Hakka is a true all-rounder with the ability to smash CX races, long-distance gravel rides, and even keep up on the road. The Hakka can run both 700cx40mm and 650bx2.1″ setups. Long and low geometry allows unbeatable stability off-road. This is truly a beast of a machine if you are looking for a performance-based gravel bike.

Powered by the SRAM Rival groupset, full carbon frame and fork make up a deal at this price point. Hydraulic disc brakes, 27.5×2.1″ Schwable tires, and Ibis 733 rims, the bike is decorated like a Christmas tree, while hiding all its features behind this subtle matt black frame.

Is there anything to add or remove about the bike? Most likely not as Ibis has proved to be one of the top names in the game.

Buy from Competitive Cyclist


10. Diamondback – Haanjo 5

Is it a gravel, touring, or CX bike?

Diamondback Haanjo 5 Gravel Bike

MSRP: $2,050

  • Shimano GRX600 Dual Control 2×11 Speed
  • WTB Riddler 700cx37mm tires

The Haanjo is a beast of a gravel bike with a Shimano GRX groupset and an alloy frame, carbon fork combination. Shimano BR-RX400 hydraulic disc brakes are as good as a set-up found on a CX race bike while having all the comfort and versatility borrowed from the touring bikes.

Is it great for touring? Of course. Is it suitable for gravel races? Of course. Is it overkill for commuting? No.

Buy from Backcountry


Gravel Bikes Buying Guide


Are Gravel Bikes suitable for bike touring?

Adventure, touring and gravel bikes are all very similar in their geometry.

While adventure and touring bicycles are basically the same – built for long-distance touring with panniers and racks, a gravel bike in its essence is more performance-driven, while not as rigid as a cyclocross bike. Many cyclists use gravel bikes also as touring bikes while having the capacity to use it for training only.

  • Touring bicycle – 2x or 3x front cogs for a large variety of gears, generally $1,000 – $1,500 on average.
  • Gravel bicycle – 1x or 2x front cogs, slightly pricier due to ‘heavy-duty’ purposed use. from $1,500 to $3,000 on average

Is a gravel bike worth it?

Any bike is worth it if you are going to use it often and for its intended purpose. If you enjoy spending a lot of time riding fast on gravel, dirt, or singletrack, you will appreciate the subtle differences that gravel bikes offer. They are not simply road bikes with thicker tires.

Are gravel bikes a fad?

Gravel bikes are certainly a niche that fits somewhere between off and on-road cycling. However, their practicality and varied range of uses mean they are likely here to stay. Many people thought mountain bikes were a fad when they first came out in the 70s and now they dominate the cycling landscape.

What are the best gravel bike brands?

Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, Kona, Scott, Salsa, Surly, Niner, Bianchi, Santa Cruz, Fuji, Marin, Orbea, Co-op, Evil, Jamis, Norco, Ibis, Pivot, Look, All-City

How much does a gravel bike cost?

ShortcomingsCheap gravel bikes start from around $1,000, while mid-entry gravel bicycles cost around $1,500. The variety of bikes, designs, and components start to get better at around the $2,000 to $2,500 price range.

Don’t forget, that a Gravel bike is an above-average bicycle type since it has to perform well on different terrains and hold up on rather demanding trails where you simply can not use weak components!

Gravel vs Road Bikes

However, many road bikes can be converted to adequate gravel bikes with the simple addition of thicker, treaded tires. However, dedicated gravel bikes do have certain additions and frame adjustments that make them far more comfortable on the dirt. Most notably, they fit wider tires and have hydraulic disc brakes for better braking and control on loose gravel.

Gravel Bike vs. Road Bike — What Are the Main Differences?

Over the past few years, gravel bicycles have experienced massive growth in popularity. Although they look like ...

Gravel road bikes are the models which can be used as road bikes when changing out the wheels to 700c wheels.

Gravel Bike vs Hybrid Bike

Since their introduction a few years ago, gravel bikes have often been compared to hybrids but there are several important distinctions. Most notably, hybrids usually use flat handlebars whereas gravel bikes are almost exclusively designed with drop-bar handlebars. Similarities are commonly made between the road-style frames and thicker tires, two characteristics that both hybrids and gravel bikes share.

However, beyond these obvious similarities, dedicated gravel bikes incorporate several features that make them distinct from hybrids. They are usually built from higher quality materials and have lighter frames with more expensive components designed to reduce wear and tear from offroad riding. However, with a few minor tweaks, a high-quality hybrid or road bike could be converted into a decent gravel bike.

Gravel Bike vs Cyclocross

Cyclocross and gravel bikes both look the same while having a ‘slightly’ different approach towards their field of use

  • Cyclocross bike (CX) = A more performance-driven for fast, tight, and twisty courses. Stiffer geometry with steeper head angle.
    – No braze-ons for the lightest set-up
    – Generally Quick-Release axles for fast repairs (not a rule of thumb though!)
    – Knobby, thicker tires
  • Gravel bike = Best for long rides on gravel roads or marathons. Slacker head angle with more comfort-orientated geometry.
    – Braze-ons for racks, fenders
    – Smoother tire pattern, wider tires

 

Yes, you can race cyclocross on a gravel bike and you can use a cyclocross bike on gravel, but in order to maximize comfort on gravel roads or speed on cyclocross races, there’s a reason why these bikes have a subtle difference.

650b vs 700c wheels

650b (27.5″) =  Stronger, best for off-road touring. Slightly smaller than 700c which gives a better acceleration
700c = Fast-rolling, ideal for on-road commutes. Slightly larger than 650b

Steel, Aluminum, Titanium, or Carbon Gravel bike frame?

Steel is known to be somewhat bulletproof while adding a little extra weight. Aluminum frames are lighter. When it comes to touring bikes, chasing the grams is not much of a deal.

  • Steel frames = One of the strongest. Inexpensive, but also the heaviest.
  • Carbon frames = Super lightweight, good vibration reduction qualities. Expensive.
  • Aluminum frames = Lightweight. Great stiffness & flexibility. Not as durable as steel frames. Affordable.
  • Titanium frames = Super tough, best vibration reduction qualities. Titanium won’t rust or corrode! Rides smooth & comfortable like a steel frame. Expensive.

Related: Bike frame materials

1x / 2x / 3x drivetrains

x1 drivetrain – Often seen on high-end mountain bikes, or cyclocross bikes. No derailleur on the front = less maintenance and weight
x2 drivetrain – Popular section among mid-range bikes
x3 drivetrain – Mainly used on entry-level, or long-distance touring bikes.

Hydraulic vs Mechanical disc brakes on gravel bikes

disc brakes and thru-axle wheel

Although hydraulic brakes have become a standard for even the cheapest bikes, it doesn’t play such a big role in cyclocross or gravel bike riding. You see many mid-range bikes with cable-actuated mechanical disc brakes as you don’t actually want to entirely block your wheel on softer surfaces with a touch of a finger.

It’s also common for cyclocross bikes to use 160mm rotors in the front and a 140mm rotor in the rear to prevent locking the wheel.

Where to find the best gravel bike deals?

You can buy gravel bikes nowadays in most well-equipped bike shops or from online bike retailers.

REI – Cannondale, Co-op Cycles, Salsa Cycles

Aventuron – Salsa, All-City

JensonUSA – Argon 18, Bjorn, Devinci, Evil, GT, Ibis, Look, Marin, Masi, Niner, Norco, Orbea, Rocky Mountain, Sage Bicycles, Santa Cruz Bicycles, VAAST

evo.com – Evil, Giant, Juliana, Marin, Santa Cruz

Trekbikes.com – Trek Gravel Bikes (Very few models can be ordered online)

Specialized – Official Specialized Gravel bikes

Giant-Bicycles – Giant gravel bikes

Canyon – Canyon gravel bikes are one of the most popular

2 thoughts on “The 10 Best Gravel Bikes of 2022

  1. Sam Millers says:

    Hi Raphael,

    Thanks for pointing that out. We’ve added Giant as a brand to “Where to buy” section, as Giant bikes can be found all around the country basically in every large town across the US. Their bikes and selection are indeed very good. We made this post to diversify the selection and point out some of the best bikes you can order online, without the middleman.

  2. Raphael says:

    Curious as to why Giant isn’t listed as one of the best gravel bike manufacturers. Their Revolt Advanced series is top-notch.

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