Best Steel Gravel Bikes in 2024: Comfort and Simplicity Combined
Steel is most definitely real according to plenty of current bike manufacturers, which is why we’ve made a list of the best steel gravel bikes.
Known for its strength and durability, steel is one of the most desirable bike frame materials out there. Steel-framed bikes can absorb more damage and take more blows than aluminum or carbon fiber.
Steel bikes can also often produce better ride quality, with the absorption of bumps more noticeable, which is especially important on gravel bikes.
Some of the main reasons why steel bikes are making a comeback include:
- Great vibration-damping qualities
Steel gravel bikes are nothing new, but this article will help you understand why steel is a material of choice for many bike builders and manufacturers and give you a list of a few top models to get you started.
One downside to steel as a bike frame material is its cost. Often it costs more than aluminum, and if it’s a bespoke bike it can cost even more as you pay for the labor of the bike being made specifically to your size.
So although steel is a great material, let’s look at the alternatives and their cost compared to steel.
- Related: Bicycle Frame Materials Guide
Top Alternatives to Steel
Aluminum is the cheaper alternative to steel. Why? Because it’s generally mass-produced and lighter than steel. It’s a great budget option for gravel bikes (and other bikes), and it’s corrosion-proof. It may not have the superior ride quality that steel does, but it’s a great option for those on a budget.
Carbon fiber is one of two main options if you’re looking to spend more money. It’s stronger than aluminum and much lighter. The downside is, of course, the cost. A carbon fiber gravel bike will set you back a lot more than aluminum and more than a steel gravel bike. Carbon fiber frames are usually only mass-produced as it is difficult to make carbon molds in-house for bespoke models.
A further issue of carbon fiber is its durability. Although it’s strong, it needs to flex to absorb some of the energy from the road or gravel. If it is constantly hit by rocks or large impacts, it could fracture and you could easily weaken the carbon fiber structure.
If carbon fiber isn’t your thing, titanium is the next best upgrade from steel. Titanium might be among the most expensive frame materials you can buy, but it’s for good reason. It’s a sort of wonder material, in that it doesn’t require painting (so you can worry less about scratches and stripping the paint back).
And it’s also corrosion-resistant and wear-resistant, so you don’t need to worry about hitting rocks or stray bits of gravel hitting your downtube as if it were a carbon frame.
Titanium gravel bikes are often things of beauty and are usually made by bespoke frame builders rather than mass-produced, off-the-shelf brands. Titanium bikes are incredibly durable and often outlive their owner’s riding interests. Scratches can be easily buffed out and it’s not rare to see decades-old titanium bikes still thriving.
1. Co-op Cycles ADV 3.1
- Shimano Deore/SLX 2×11-speed
- WTB Ranger 27.5 in. (650b) x 50 mm
- Weight: 27.4 lb
- TRP Hylex hydraulic disc brakes
- Sizes XS-XL
The Co-op Cycles ADV 3.1 is a Chromoly steel gravel bike that gets a place on our list due to its versatility and affordability.
It’s perfect for group gravel rides, bikepacking, commuting, or bicycle touring on all-terrain, thanks to the wealth of rack, bottle cage, and fender mounts.
With the appropriate accessories, riders will be able to pack plenty of gear for long journeys. In addition, the 22-speed gearing allows you to ride diverse gradients.
TRP hydraulic discs provide powerful braking on this gravel touring bike, and beefy 50mm tires are suitable for the most gnarly gravel you can find.
All in all, it’s a versatile machine and one of the best steel gravel bikes around.
2. Salsa Vaya
- Shimano GRX 600/810 2×11-speed
- Clearance for 50mm tires (45mm with fenders)
- TRP Spyre-C Mechanical disc brakes
- Weight: 25lbs
The Salsa Vaya is another excellent steel gravel bike on our list that’s worth shortlisting.
This model comes with a Shimano GRX 600/810 blend, including a 46/40t crankset and an 11-34t 11-speed cassette, giving you plenty of options for varied gradients.
The major downside of this bike is the mechanical disc brakes. At this price, we feel they should be hydraulic, but they can be easily upgraded if you like the rest of the build.
- Related Review: Salsa Bikes Brand Review
The Vaya also has a set of Teravail Cannonball 38 mm tubeless-ready tires on WTB ST i19 TCS 2.0 rims. The tire clearance is wide enough for 45mm tires with fenders or 50mm without, which is more than wide enough for even the roughest gravel.
Taking all of this into consideration, the Salsa Vaya offers good bang for the back, but leaves something to be desired when it comes to the brakes.
3. Marin Nicasio+
- Steel frame & fork
- 650b x 47mm tires
- 700c x 40mm clearance
- MicroShift Advent 1×9 drivetrain
The Marin Nicasio+ combines versatile upright geometry, plenty of mounts for bikepacking, and off-road components and capability.
It features Tektro mechanical disc brakes and WTB Horizon 47mm tires so you can tackle anything from asphalt to chunky gravel.
This bike can also climb steep hills easily, thanks to a 1×9 MicroSHIFT Advent drivetrain with an 11-46T cassette.
The Beyond Road geometry balances endurance road geometry with extra stability for off-roading, so the Nicasio+ offers a well-balanced riding experience.
Finally, this steel gravel bike comes with 650b x 47mm tires as stock but can also accommodate tires up to 40mm wide on 700c wheels.
Don’t miss out on the Marin Nicasio+ gravel bike if you’re on a tight budget, as it’s quite durable and versatile.
4. State Bicycle Co. 4130 All-Road
- 4130 ChroMoly steel
- 700x38c / 650b x 2.1″, thru-axle
- State Bicycle Co. All-Road 1 Flat-Mount disc brakes, 160mm rotors
- 1×11 State Bicycle Co. drivetrain, 11-42t cassette
The State Bicycle Co. 4130 All-Road is another steel-framed gravel bike ready for adventure. The steel frame helps to absorb trail chatter, making for a smoother ride.
This bike has clearance for 700x38c or a 650b x 2.1″ tires, giving you plenty of options for different terrains and seasons. The stock tires are Vittoria Terreno Zero 38c tubeless-ready or 2.1″ Vittoria Barzo.
As with most SBC bikes, the 4130 All-Road uses the brand’s proprietary components, including a simple 1×11-speed drivetrain, mechanical disc brakes, and tubeless-ready double-wall rims. These are low-performance but durable components.
Overall, this is a budget gravel bike that makes a great, cheap starter for riders with a tight budget who do a mix of paved and off-road riding.
5. All-City Cycles Zig Zag
- Shimano Ultegra 2×11
- 700c x 35 mm clearance
- Hydraulic disc brakes
- Carbon fiber fork
The All-City Zig Zag is one of the best steel gravel bikes around.
Designed to be at home either on or off the tarmac, it comes with clearance for 35 mm tires with 700c wheels and powerful Shimano hydraulic disc brakes.
Mounts for bags make the bike versatile enough for bikepacking, while this steel-framed gravel bike also comes with a 2×11 Shimano Ultegra drivetrain with a wide range of gears, ideal for steep climbs.
Other notable features include the lightweight carbon fiber fork, carbon fiber rims, and grippy Teravail Rampart tires for a durable and controlled ride off-road.
If you want a seriously stylish steel gravel bike that’s ready for all-road adventures, the All-City Cycles Zig Zag is an excellent option.
6. Kona Rove DL
- Chromoly steel frame and fork
- 650b x 50mm tire clearance
- SRAM Rival 1 11-Speed drivetrain
- Kona Deluxe Thumb seatpost
Whether you’re after a backcountry adventure or a long bikepacking trip, the Kona Rove DL is a great steel-framed gravel bike to choose.
It comes with numerous mounting points so you can equip it however you like, with racks, fenders, panniers, frame bags, and so on.
The Chromoly steel material gives the Kona Rove a great ride quality in terms of comfort, and the bike also comes equipped with a SRAM Rival 11-speed drivetrain, which makes maintenance easier.
The Rove comes with unusual cable-actuated disc brakes with hydraulic calipers, which provide good braking power but means they aren’t as durable as typical fully hydraulic systems.
Finally, WTB Venture TCS DUAL or Maxxis Receptor EXO 47mm tires will allow you to tackle everything from asphalt to singletrack while rolling relatively fast on pavement.
7. Rondo Ruut ST2
- 700c or 650b wheel options
- 700c x 40mm or 650b x 2.2″ tire clearance
- SRAM Apex 1×11 drivetrain
- TRP hydraulic disc brakes
The Rondo Ruut ST2 is one of the best steel gravel bikes in this brand’s selection of adventure bikes.
It is ideal for commuters looking for a smooth ride on a versatile bike or for gravel riders and off-road adventurers looking for a heavy-duty bike that’s capable of tackling the rough stuff.
It comes with mounting points for various racks and frame bags and a wide gear ratio of 11-42t on the cassette. This is a decent ratio designed to be able to help you get up the steepest of inclines.
Rondo has made this gravel steel bike with custom-shaped heat-treated tubing, by using a rounded top tube for more front-end compliance.
Finally, the carbon fork is stiff, light, and plenty wide, accepting 40mm tires with 700c wheels and 2.2″ tires with 650b wheels.
8. Marin Four Corners
- 700c or 650b wheel options
- 42 mm tires
- CrMo steel frame and fork
- Shimano Sora, 3×9-Speed
Marin Four Corners is a popular gravel bike with huge potential for touring and bikepacking.
Marin has used their proprietary steel design for the frame, ensuring this is a super comfortable and long-lasting bike.
The Four Corners has been used for bikepacking and touring across the globe with plenty of success and can be ridden with either 700c or 650b wheels. Either size comes with 42mm tires, but there’s clearance for even wider rubber in the frame and fork.
This bike is a tried and tested formula for Marin and they have refined it to create a bike that’s versatile and exciting to ride. It’s priced at only $1,200 and comes loaded with mounts for any accessories you want.
It also boasts mechanical disc brakes and a 3×9 Shimano Sora drivetrain, so it’s also ready to climb!
9. Co-op Cycles ADV 1.1
- 700c x 38 mm tires
- Fully equipped for gravel touring
- Shimano Deore 3×10 drivetrain
- Hydraulic disc brakes
The Co-op Cycles ADV 1.1 is a great all-around steel gravel bike, specifically equipped for gravel touring.
The ADV 1.1 is not a classic gravel bike built for racing or rough off-road riding, but a touring-style bike built for long adventures. It has a 300 lb load capacity, so you can fit it with front and rear panniers and carry everything you need with you.
Co-op Cycles has used its own double-butted steel tubing to create a comfortable and durable ride featuring upright geometry suitable for long days in the saddle.
This version comes with a Shimano Deore 3×10-speed drivetrain and powerful hydraulic disc brakes. The only thing that it lacks is fenders, which are a must if you plan to do long bike trips where the weather could become unpredictable.
10. All-City Cosmic Stallion
- 700c wheels
- 700x42mm or 650b x 47mm tire clearance
- 2×12-speed SRAM Rival AXS drivetrain
- SRAM Rival hydraulic disc brakes
- Weight: 22lbs
One of the best gravel bikes on the list, the All-City Cosmic Stallion is a great steel-framed do-it-all bike with a premium Whisky No.9 carbon fork.
The brand uses an A.C.E. steel frame combined with a carbon fork for the ultimate ride experience and to keep the weight of the frame low.
The Cosmic Stallion comes with a 2×12-speed SRAM Rival AXS electronic groupset, with a 10-36t cassette and a 30/43t crankset, which is an excellent gear ratio for even the steepest climbs.
Ready to tackle anything you throw at it, the 23mm internal width of the wheels and wide fork clearance allow for tires up to 47mm on 650b rims. Additionally, SRAM hydraulic disc brakes are included to help you stop on a dime.
The Cosmic Stallion is priced at $4,049 and comes in a sleek frame finish, but unfortunately doesn’t have internal cable routing.
11. Niner RLT Steel RDO 2-Star
- 700c x 45mm tire clearance (42mm with fenders)
- SRAM Apex 1 11-Speed drivetrain
- SRAM Apex 1 hydraulic discs
- Carbon fork
The Niner RLT Steel RDO 2-Star is an adaptable and versatile steel gravel bike with a high-quality Reynolds 853 steel frame.
Designed to be ridden wherever you want, this bike is happy as a commuter bike, a road bike, or an extreme gravel bike.
The high-quality SRAM Apex 1 drivetrain with an 11-42t cassette and 40t crankset allows you to tackle steep hills without getting out of the saddle.
The RLT Steel RDO 2-Star also has Apex 1 hydraulic disc brakes and Schwalbe G-One Allround Performance Raceguard 40c tires.
Finally, you have basic Niner tubeless-ready alloy rims to cap off a solid spec.
With a plethora of frame mounts, the Niner RLT Steel RDO is perfect for bikepacking and touring, so we recommend it to adventurous riders looking for a capable companion.