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The best gravel bikes are versatile enough to be everyday road bikes, long distance tourers and off-piste explorers. The Voodoo Limba from Halfords is the cheapest beginner gravel bike we could find that seemed to tick all the boxes we’d look for in a true all-rounder. But can you really get a decent bike for less than half the price most brands start at?
Design and geometry
You might expect a plain pipe frame at this price but Voodoo have graced the Limba with a kinked downtube and coffin cross section top tube. It gets a neat pipe chain stay bridge where many bikes this price use a crude plate brace. A forward facing seat slot stops rear wheel spray seeping into the frame and both bottle cage mounts are inside the mainframe to keep your bidon nozzles clean. Rack mounts at the rear and mudguard mounts front and back make it a practical all-weather commuter or tourer too. The shaped head tube has an actual head tube badge (not just a sticker or painted logo) for a quality feel, with only the external cable routing and quick-release rather than bolt-through axles giving a clue it’s a bargain bike. Well that is until you stick a magnet on the fork and realize it’s steel, which adds a ton of weight compared to a more expensive carbon or alloy alternative.
Voodoo have picked some good progressive numbers for the geometry too, with a 70.5-degree head angle and 74-degree seat angle on the medium I rode. The 520mm seat tube leaves plenty of exposed seat post for comfort boosting flex and bike packing seat packs while the 540mm top tube gives a reach of just under 630mm. Voodoo restrict the size range to small, medium and large bikes only though so petite and proper tall riders are unfortunately left in Limba limbo.
Components and build
Voodoo have worked some serious magic on the spec for the price too. You get Shimano Claris shifters which route the gear cables under the tape for a really neat front end. The Prowheel twin crankset has hill friendly 46/30 tooth chainrings and while the 8-speed rear cassette has a limited 11-28 tooth range, it’s a slick shifting Shimano block. The Tektro Mira disc brakes are cable not hydraulic, but stopping is OK as long as you adjust them regularly for pad wear. The WTB Riddler Comp tires look great with their brown sidewalls, but neither tires or rims are tubeless ready so you’ll need to rely on traditional inner tubes. The hubs get rubber seals though (not guaranteed at this price and the 32 plain gauge spokes in each wheel should make them solidly durable if weighty.
The Limba scores high on the all important contact points too. The bar is narrow across the tops at 410mm but flares out to 480mm at the drop sections. The 80mm works well with the steering and reach and the WTB Volt saddle has always been a favorite and is a real highlight when most bikes this price have a foam lump not a proper seat. Even the bar tape is OK, when most price rivals use horribly thin tat.
Ride, handling and performance
If this all sounds like it’s heading in a really positive direction then you’re right. The Voodoo not only looks a lot pricier than it actually is, it rides like it too. The contact points are better than a lot of thousand pound bikes I’ve ridden and the handling and overall geometry just feels really sorted. It’s relaxed and stable on loose gravel or faster off road sections but it doesn’t feel like a barge on the road. That stability is a bonus when you load it up too although it can flop around slightly if you’re lurching around on a climb at low revs.
While the Claris shifting is predictable and decent enough, the small rear block does mean that even with a 30-tooth chainring you might find you’re straining on the steepest roads or steeper off road sections. Thankfully the gears have enough span to upgrade to an 11-34 tooth cassette if the contours are close together where you’re planning to go.
While I can see why Voodoo have fitted relatively narrow 35mm tires in anticipation of most Limba owners not being that adventurous, you could fit up to 50mm rubber into the frame and fork for a more floated feel. You might want to do that even if you’re mostly staying on road too, as the alloy frame isn’t particularly forgiving and the steel fork can be spikey if you hit bigger holes or stutter bumps of any kind. I’d also fit a stay protector as the non-clutch rear mech means the chain will give the paint a beating on rougher surfaces.
Voodoo have done a great job in making the Limba a really sorted and good looking on/off road all-rounder for the money. Bigger tires and a bigger rear cassette range are going to make life more comfortable if you’re going properly off-piste though.
Tech specs: Voodoo Limba
- Discipline: Gravel
- Price: $647 / £525
- Head angle: 70.5 degrees
- Frame material: 6061 alloy
- Fork material: Steel
- Size: S, M (tested), L
- Weight: 12.26kg
- Wheel size: 700c
- Gears: Shimano Claris R2000
- Drivetrain: Shimano CS-HG50, 8-speed, 11-28T cassette. Prowheel twin crankset with 175mm arms and 46/30 tooth chainrings.
- Brakes: Tektro Mirą cable operated discs with 160mm rotors
- Tires: WTB Riddler Comp 700 x 35mm
- Wheels: Voodoo alloy rims with 32 plain gauge spokes on QR hubs
- Cockpit: Alloy 410/480mm flared drop bar and 80mm stem
- Seat post: 350mm alloy
- Saddle: WTB Volt