Putting fat, low-pressure tyres and disc brakes on a tough drop-bar frame and heading out wherever you want on- or off-road is always a huge amount of fun. Whether you’re into gravel racing, singletrack adventuring or bikepacking epics there are definitely bikes that’ll put a bigger grin on your face than others so finding the best gravel bike for your riding style is key.
So what are the best mid-priced options available for the different flavours of gravel and what should you look for when shopping for your ideal drop bar all-rounder? Our bike experts have put together their thoughts to point you towards your perfect ride.
Jump to: How to pick your the best gravel bike under £2000
Best gravel bike under £2000
Definitely don’t be put off by the alloy frame on the Diverge as Specialized has been doing amazing things with its metal bikes for a while now. This smooth but sparky-feeling bike is as light as most carbon options but with a lively feeling to its ride that leaves a lot of carbon fibre bikes feeling chewy. A full set of bottle and bag mounts – including the carbon forks – gives you tons of bikepacking options while 35mm Road Sport tyres will still get you to work fast. It’ll take a 47mm 700c tyre though or up to a 53mm tyre if you switch to 650B wheels – perfect for making the most of the confident handling.
A double chainring version of Shimano’s GRX 400 with matching brakes does a perfectly good job of propulsion and stopping too although you might find posher kit for a similar price. Specialized contact points are always a big win though and we love the dazzle camp green paint option.
Trek sells its Checkpoint ALR 5 as the best bike it makes in terms of the amount of adventure you get for your money and we’re not arguing. The top-spec Shimano GRX 810 gears are the obvious spec list highlight but the Alpha alloy frame is an excellent host. Classically conventional good looks allow extra room around the standard-fit 40mm Bontrager tyres. Stranglehold dropouts let you adjust wheelbase and stability or even set it up single speed if your gears get ripped off in the middle of nowhere. Multiple bottle and fork mounts make carrying the stuff you need to get out to the middle of nowhere easy. Carbon fork and Bontrager tubeless wheels and tyres will mean it’s a comfortable journey, too. Handling angles are nearly road-bike steep though which won’t suit more radical riders.
Cannondale was one of the first companies to build bikes from oversize alloy tubing. 30 years later the SmartForm C2 frame of the Topstone is competitive with carbon chassis and rides as smooth as its sleek welds look. Extensive bag and rack mounts open up cargo options and it’s dropper post compatible if you want to get wild in the woods. The BallisTec full carbon fork uses Cannondale’s MTB derived OutFront geometry too.
The transmission is a mix of Shimano, KMC and FSA but there’s more of the top range GRX 800 than you’ll find on most bikes. A Fabric Scoop saddle is a nice seating upgrade, too. WTB 23mm rims and the fast-rolling WTB Riddler tyres are ready to go tubeless for extra puncture proofing
UK brand Whyte has always pushed the limits with its MTB designs, particularly when it comes to geometry. No surprise then that the Friston uses a stretched top tube, short stem, super-wide 500mm bars and slack head angle to set up a really confident, grin guaranteeing ride if you like to push the line between gravel and mountain biking. They’ve also fitted chunky 42mm WTB Resolute tyres on broad 25mm internal WTB rims and you even get a short-stroke dropper seat post for easy weight shifts.
The alloy frame and carbon fork are built to be tough but comfortable with rack, fork mounts and mudguard mounts for everyday versatility. The SRAM Apex 1 single ring transmission is super reliable although heavy but if you can stretch £50 over our buyers guide budget you can get the Gisburn with top of the range Shimano GRX 810/800.
A full carbon version of GT’s award-winning Grade frame and matching full carbon fork gets the Elite version of GT’s Grade off to a great start. The signature Triple Triangle seat stay design gives it an instantly distinctive look as well as setting up the smooth-rolling ride. A mix of the RX8000 version of Shimano’s Ultegra rear mech and a 105 front mech is mixed with Shimano GRX 600 shifters and brakes and a 30mm axle FSA double chainset for an eclectic but effective stop and go mix.
WTB Nano tyres have been an all-round all-terrain favourite since before gravel was fashionable and the 23mm wide WTB rims come from a strong MTB heritage, too. They’re super easy to set up tubeless as well.
Giant Advanced carbon frames are made totally in house from fibre to finished paintwork by the Taiwanese bike production powerhouse. That level of control gives it a deservedly excellent reputation for strength and ride quality that plays perfectly with gravel-bike priorities. The sloping top tube ‘Compact’ frame style it pioneered gives an agile feel with plenty of standover and the unique D-Fuse seatpost design also gets extra extension to smooth out life in the saddle. Flattened seat tube and top tube plus D-Fuse bar increase comfort but the massive MegaDrive downtube and extra-wide PowerCore bottom bracket mean it can still crank out a race-winning performance. Giant’s Smart Mount system gives lots of cargo options too and there’s space for 45mm tyres even in muddy conditions.
The top-quality carbon frame does mean you take a slight hit on components but Shimano GRX 400 is still functionally fine and you can always upgrade later to save weight if you want.
It’s only a small firm but Kinesis has enjoyed a world-class reputation for its Tripster ATR titanium bikes and the more recent alloy Tripster AT bikes inspired by its collaboration with long-distance and all-terrain riding legend Mike Hall. The G2 sits on the border of burly road bike and lightweight gravel bike with a double-butted alloy frame and carbon fork to create a lively and responsive ride. You still get 45mm tyre clearance, rack and guard mounts and confidence-boosting flared bars and short stem to match the stable, low bottom bracket geometry.
The slick tread 38mm Panaracer Gravel King tyres on 26mm Alex rims also underline it’s rough proof but mileage happy credentials. It’s then completed with a SRAM Apex single ring transmission with hydraulic disc brakes for cost-effective go and stop action.
Despite beating a lot of alloy and steel bikes in terms of kit value, the direct-sell model means Titus can deliver not just a basic titanium frame but a really well-detailed one. The main tubes are butted to save weight and tune ride feel but it’s the neatly machined ribbed and logo’d chainstay plate, through-axle dropouts and laser-etched graphics that really stand out. It’s got a full set of guard, rack and bottle mounts with generous clearance around 50mm tyres in the frame and carbon fork. Not only does it look great but titanium also adds corrosion, crush and scratch-resistant advantages with a steel ride feel at an alloy weight.
Despite all this, they still fit SRAM’s top-level Force 1 mechanical gears and brakes and a tough handbuilt wheelset. As the bikes are built to order you can also change contact point kit and components such as tyres if the default Selcof spec isn’t quite what you want. Either way you’re getting a really good quality, structurally and cosmetically tough frame with a great kit at a bargain price. You are getting it in a box, not from your local bike shop though so you will need to factor in putting the bike together.
Canyon’s flagship Grail CF SLX carbon bike with its distinctive biplane ‘Gravelcockpit CF’ handlebar might be the headline-grabbing bike, but this alloy framed version hits the performance-for-price sweet spot. The premium quality, extensively tube-shaped frame comes in at under 1,500g, has decent tyre clearance, triple bottle mounts, rack mounts. You can also add a bolt-on fender bridge and custom fender set for wetter rides. The oversize steerer carbon fork is precise without being punishing and geometry is much closer to road than off-road standards which gives the whole bike a super keen feel through corners or on the pedals. A Shimano GRX 810/600 mix is good value already, but the DT Swiss Spline C 1850 wheels with skin wall Schwalbe G-One Bite 40mm tyres make it hard to beat for the money.
You will be getting it in a box not from your local bike shop though and not everyone will get on with a press-fit bottom bracket or the sharp handling.
Cotic’s Escapade has been sitting quietly in the corner of its range as ‘the other bike’ for years before gravel became a fashion statement. The MTB-style sloping top tube layout using its custom Fe tube set with Ovalform top tube gets a full set of bottle, rack and mudguard mounts and decent tyre clearances (700×45 or 650×50). The latest version gets a thru-axle rear end to match the carbon fork, dropper post routing and ‘inside out’ cable management so there are no redundant bosses spoiling the slim steel looks. The result is as rugged and resilient as it is sweetly sprung and lively to ride on the roughest terrain. Or stick on skinny slicks and road tyres and line up in the grid of the commuting Grand Prix.
While Cotic has a range of different default build options (starting at £1,299) as all the bikes are built to order in the Peak District workshop you can personalise your Escapade build to get exactly the bike you want to be delivered to your doorstep. Or you can just buy the frame and switch your existing parts across.
Salsa was one of the first companies to stretch the capability of drop-bar bikes well beyond conventional tourers and cyclo-cross bikes. It now does a whole range of different options from racing to distant adventure under the ‘gravel/all-road’ umbrella including the Vaya. The triple-butted Cro-Mo steel frame uses slim tubes to emphasis the smoothly flowing ride character of the metal and gets a full set of rack and fender mounts alongside triple bottle mounts. It’s got QR dropouts for old school replacement compatibility in the back of beyond, too. The Waxwing fork is full carbon with bolt through dropouts though which might find sourcing an upgrade wheelset awkward. It’s got triple bag mounts though and built smooth to match the frame.
The quality frame cost eats into the parts budget a bit so you get a mix of GRX 800, 600 and other Shimano with cable operated TRP brakes. The Salsa finishing kit is proper expedition gear though and the Teravail Cannonball 38mm tyres are a great set of rubber however the rims are a bit narrow for rougher conditions.
How to pick your the best gravel bike under £2000
1. Frame and geometry
The frame is the heart of any bike and there are loads of material, handling and added extra options in the mid-price gravel bike market. Material is obviously a big defining part of a bike’s character but don’t assume a bike will always ride a certain way because of what it’s made of. For example, good carbon can give a weight advantage and be formed to either be stiff or super smooth. Cheap carbon can feel really dull though and crush/crack damage is more likely if you’re chucking it on and off lorries in the back of beyond. Top-end alloy comes close to carbon in weight terms and can give a really bright ride feel without being too bruising. It’ll dent without being a write off too and they’re generally the best value in terms of kit you’ll get as well. Steel is the heaviest option but done right it gives an amazingly smooth, warm ride feel for a lifetime of adventures as long as you don’t let it rust too badly. You can also get some top value titanium options at this price which give a similar sprung ride feel to steel but with better raw material strength at a lower weight with no worries about corrosion or chipped paint.
Whatever material you choose, check the geometry, too. Steeper angles and shorter wheelbases make for a more agile, lively bike for racing or road use. Slack angles and long wheelbase will be more stable and predictable for goofing around in the woods or bombing down mountain passes when bike packing.
Make sure you get all the accessory mounts you need too. Going epic? Then three bottle cages and as many places to bolt bag holders and racks on are a good idea. Racing? Then a couple of bottle bosses is all you need? Weekday workhorse and weekend warrior? You’d best have mudguard mounts. Borderline MTB usage, dropper post routing could be handy and so on.
Tyre clearance is a key concern too. You should have space for at least 40mm tyres but 50mm of clearance means you can choose from the full range of conventional gravel rubber or have mudroom to spare. If you’re really pushing the terrain limits though a bike that can take 2.2-2.4in 29er tyres will really smooth out your ride and add impact insurance, too.
2. Wheels and tyres
Wheels can get hammered on gravel bikes so you want a decent quality set of rims and hubs at least. The best gravel bike wheels will have wide rims (23-25mm internal) will support broader tyres better and tubeless compatibility is essential. We wouldn’t worry too much about tyres as you can always change them to the best gravel bike tyre to suit the conditions you ride in, but if you get a good set that’s obviously a bonus.
In terms of brand, your basic choice is between SRAM’s Apex, Rival or Force groups or Shimano’s GRX options depending on the price and value of the bike. They all work fine and the biggest difference between the two brands is the feel of the hoods, shifters and brakes rather than any significant mechanical gain. While single-ring simplicity and cleanliness is deservedly very popular for primarily off-road use, going with a double ring set up can still make sense if you’ll still be riding on the road a lot.
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