It's probably safe to say that gravel is not a fad, the exploration and adventurous riding possible is drawing in all sorts of riders to the discipline. From mountain bikers or road riders looking to mix up their riding, to new cyclists wanting a versatile bike that works great off- and on-road. Luckily the cost of entry is becoming increasingly affordable with plenty of cheap gravel bike options around these days
Cheaper gravel bikes keep getting better too, as tech from the best gravel bikes filters down, we are seeing budget bikes becoming lighter, faster, and most importantly, more fun to ride.
Keep reading for a list of some of the best cheap gravel bikes you can buy for gravel and adventure riding. This guide focus' on bikes between $1000 and $1500, if your budgets are a little tighter check out our best gravel bikes under $1,000 guide.
Best cheap gravel bikes
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At this price point, it's hard to fault the GT Grade Elite gravel bike. With its stylish aluminum frame, carbon fork, tubeless-ready WTB rims built around 12mm thru-axle hubs and shod with WTB Riddler tires – it's a versatile and affordable bike that's raring to go.
Similar to other bikes in this list, the Grade Elite comes equipped with a 2x8-speed Shimano Claris groupset, offering reliability, alongside the Tektro mechanical disc brakes for stopping power.
The aluminum frame and carbon fork combo keeps the weight off somewhat and results in a nimble-feeling gravel bike that can handle a decent amount of rough stuff. If you want a bit more cushion, swap out the 37mm Riddlers for up to 42mm of rubber.
Giant recently updated its Revolt gravel range and despite the Revolt 2 being the base model, it has a lot in common with the premium models like the Giant Revolt Advanced 0 which we found to be fast and versatile gravel bike when we reviewed it.
The Revolt features a alloy frame and carbon fork with modern gravel inspired geometry that lengthens the top tube and shortening the stem to lengthen the wheelbase and improve the stability. You also get a flip-chip to adjust the chainstay length and plenty of mounting options for bikepacking. Giant has even included it's D-Fuse seatpost which has a flattened section to dampen trail vibrations - you can still run a dropper post too if you want.
Where the Revolt 2 excels is the wide spectrum of riding it can cover, whether its as a super-smooth fat tire road bike, with fast handling, big slick tires,and enough bottle mount points to embarrass a camel. Throw on some knobblies and the big tire clearances make it very capable off-road.
The Topstone got a refresh this year with the most obvious update is Cannondale's decision to drop the seat stays to bring it aesthetically in line with the carbon Topstone models – although it doesn't share the Kingpin suspension.
What you can't see is that Cannondale has increased tire clearance and the Topstone can now run a 45mm tire for increased off-road grip and comfort. An alloy frame and carbon fork keep weight down while the front and rear thru-axles add stiffness and steering precision.
With an abundance of bottle cage mounts around the main triangle, and touring rack mounts on the seat stays, there is no doubting the Topstone 4's ability for adventure. It's good to see WTB Riddler Comp tires equipped too, rather than the big slicks seen on some other bikes.
The most affordable Specialized Diverge might hot have the Future Shock steering damper, but it is a thoroughly convincing gravel bike.
The Specialized Diverge has been designed to allow for big tire clearance, running a 700c wheel the Diverge will clear up to 47mm. If you prefer the 650b wheel size, the E5 will run a 2.1in tire without issue.
Like most of the aluminum value gravel bikes on our list, the Diverge E5 has a carbon-fiber front fork and extensive mounting points. All cable routing is internally routed through the frame and fork for a neat finish.
Specialized markets no less than seven derivatives of its Diverge E5 and the geometry is wonderfully adapted to specific sizes. Stem lengths vary from 60- to 100mm, across the size range. The uppermost 54-, 56-, 58- and 61cm frame sizes all feature rather steep geometry, with a 71.75-degree head angle, balanced by a 73.5-degree seat angle, which prioritizes the Diverge E5 for long days of gravel climbing.
For $1,299 the Fuji Jari 2.3 gravel bike will give you access to the open dirt roads while also coming back with a hefty amount of coins in your pocket. For an entry-level bike it has plenty of offer, including a good amount of tire clearance – it comes stock with 37mm WTB Riddlers, but can take up to 42mm rubber – as well as plenty of mounting options for all the accessories you might want to add.
A mixture of Shimano Alivio and Sora drivetrain components leaves you with 2x9 gearing, and while these aren't high up in Shimano's road groupset hierarchy, you still know you're getting solid and reliable Japanese shifting performance.
Add to this the Tektro Mira mechanical disc brakes with 160mm rotors, you're getting a decent amount of gravel bike for a small investment when you compare it to the rest of the market.
Marin does a couple of versions of its Nicasio budget gravel bike. The Nicasio + is a 1x drivetrain-equipped gravel bike that opts for 650b wheels and big tires. The extra tire volume, paired with a steel frame enhances the Nicasio's comfort. The 47mm WTB Horizon's are good quality tires too, although the smooth profile is better suited to tarmac and dry speed rather than enhanced grip.
Marin has specced a MicroShift 1x9 drivetrain that is equipped with a clutched derailleur and narrow-wide chainring that stops the chain from falling off on rough terrain. The 42t chainring on the Nicasio + is quite big, meaning it's nippy on flat or rolling terrain, but budding bikepackers or those climbing steep hills will probably want to invest in a smaller chainring so they can have lower gears.
We think the State Bicycle 6061 Black Label All-Road has to be one of the best-looking gravel bikes on this list and it packs a lot of punch beyond its racey aesthetic.
The alloy frame and carbon fork feature internal cable routing and thru-axles for a sleek and direct ride. State gives the option to spec the bike with either 700c wheels and Vittoria Terreno Zero (38c) tires or 650b and Vittoria Terreno Dry (47c). or you can have both for an additional $399 for a versatile setup.
The 6061 Black Label All-Road comes with a 1x11 State Bicycles branded drivetrain with a 42t chainring and 11-42T cassette. This will give a decent range but riders may want to drop to a smaller chainring for bikepacking. The brakes are also State branded mechanical units.
Most riders picture drop bars when they think of gravel bikes, that doesn't mean flat bar (or riser bars) don't have a space in the gravel-sphere. In fact, some riders much prefer the more upright position, added control on descents, and extra real estate to fit the best bikepacking bags.
Sonder's flat bar Comino is also outstanding value as well. Not only do you get a SRAM Apex 1x11 speed drivetrain but the Comino is equipped with powerful hydraulic disc brakes, something that we aren't seeing on other gravel bikes at this price range.
This is on top of an alloy frame and carbon fork that has thru-axles and all the mounts you need whether it's mudguards, racks, bottles, or bikepacking bags. While the bike might only come with 40mm tires, you can upgrade these to 50mm on 700c, if you choose to switch to 650b the Camino can fit a monstrous 2.2in tire.
You probably didn't expect to see a bike from the legendary bikepacking and touring brand Salsa feature in this list, but its Journeyer gravel, bikepacking, and touring bike slips into budget with a good chunk of change left as well.
As you would expect from Salsa, the alloy frame has an abundance of bikepacking, rack and mudguard mounts ready for all riding from big gravel tours to daily commutes. The Journeyer also comes in both 700c and 650b options too with a healthy tire clearance of 650b x 58mm / 700c x 56mm.
Salsa has specced a 1x9 speed microShift Advent drivetrain which offers simplicity and chain security on rough terrain, at the expense of smaller gear ratio gaps and a smaller 11 - 42t gear range.
How to pick the best cheap gravel bikes
How much should I pay for a good gravel bike?
Luckily for those shopping for cheap gravel bikes, you don't need to spend a fortune on a bike for off-road adventures. Like any type of bike, spending more will return a noticeable increment in performance. However, with the best cheap gravel bikes coming with disc brakes, bolt thru-axles and decent tire clearance the difference between the budget and mid-range gravel bikes has been greatly reduced.
Ultimately though cheap gravel bikes are still going to require some compromise to meet particular budgets. When choosing which is the best bike for you, we recommend prioritizing frame, drivetrain and brake quality as these parts are the most expensive to replace and should have the biggest effect on a bike's ride quality.
What material should I choose for my budget gravel bike?
At this price range you are going to most likely be choosing between aluminum or steel. Soem bikes might feature a carbon fork but no frames will be made from carbon, and if they are its probably worth avoiding them.
Steel is a popular material due to its low production cost and, if well made, comfortable ride feel. Aluminum is a bit lighter and although it has had a reputation for being stiff, modern manfacturing techniques mean alloy frames are a lot more comfortable these days.
What is bolt-thru and why should I choose it?
Bolt-thru refers to the axle size and configuration – the part of the bike that attaches the wheels to the frame. Many older bikes use skinny skewers, sometimes with quick-release, whereas more and more bikes nowadays have the thicker and more robust thru-axles.
They're important because they make a significant difference to the lateral stiffness of a gravel bike. When you are rolling along on rough roads and encounter ruts or broken-up surfaces at speed, you want those wheels to track as accurately as possible.
Most aluminum gravel bike frames, with carbon-fiber forks, use thru-axles, although steel frames and forks often revert to the traditional quick-release configuration.
Should I get a 1x or 2x drivetrain?
All the bikes in our list have either a 1x or 2x drivetrain. This refers to the number of chainrings on the cranks. 1x drivetrains offer better chain security using a narrow wide chain ring and clutched derraillur to keep the chain on when riding over rough terrain. In order to achieve a wide gear range, 1x drivetrains use large cassettes which means there are bigger gaps between each gear.
Using a 2x drivetrains have smaller jumps between the cassette sprockets giving a faster smoother gear shift. Having the double ring upfront also adds the complications of cross chaining as well.
Are hydraulic disc brakes better than mechanical disc brakes?
All the gravel bikes on our list have disc brakes, but most use cable-operated actuation. Although a cable disc brake will still be more powerful than a rim brake, the best braking systems are hydraulic disc brakes.
If you can, opt for a gravel bike with hydraulic brakes. They be a bit harder to find at this price point, and more burdensome in terms of maintenance (since they require a bleed occasionally), but the improved modulation, fade-free deceleration, and reduced finger fatigue will be hugely beneficial on those long fire road descents.
Internal vs external cable routing
Some internal cable routing systems can be annoying, allowing your shift or brake cables to rattle inside the frame, which can become maddening on a long gravel ride. That said, a slick internally routed frame does look a lot more premium and hides it from potential damage.
If you are planning to do some bikepacking, an internally guided cable arrangement is a lot more accommodating of frame bags than conventional external routing.