Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

The Independent's journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission. Why trust us?

9 best gravel bikes for pedalling off the beaten track

Ride out gnarly terrain with wheels that won’t compromise on speed, spec or comfort

Paddy Maddison
Monday 23 May 2022 11:17 BST
From cheap and cheerful to UCI World Gravel Series-ready superbikes, there’s something here for all budgets
From cheap and cheerful to UCI World Gravel Series-ready superbikes, there’s something here for all budgets (The Independent)

Bored of monotonous tarmac and fed up with fighting your way through traffic? Then a gravel bike could be your ticket to a more organic way of riding. These beefed-up drop-bar bikes are designed to venture places regular road bikes would fear to tread, while retaining much of the speed and handling of their tarmac-faring counterparts.

They do this by borrowing elements from mountain-bike design – clearance for wider tyres, low gearing, 1x (single chainring) groupsets, and relaxed geometry – to create a sort of hybrid machine that sits somewhere between a hardtail MTB and road bike.

So, if you want to get off the beaten track, where you can reconnect with nature, soak up the scenery and forget about the hustle and bustle of modern life, then keep reading to see our pick of the best gravel bikes to buy in 2022.

Read more:

How we tested

Our tester is out on the rough stuff most days, putting all sorts of gravel bikes through their paces in and around Northumberland and the Scottish Borders. Each bike featured here has been ridden on mixed surfaces – including tarmac, unpaved roads, woodland single-tracks and mud (which is far more abundant in the UK than actual gravel) – and judged for comfort, handling, ride feel, spec and value for money.

Below, you’ll find our picks, covering a range of budgets, from cheap and cheerful to UCI World Gravel Series-ready superbikes. What do they have in common? They are, in our opinion, the best gravel bikes to buy in 2022.

The best gravel bikes for 2022 are:

  • Best all-rounder – Canyon grizl cf sl 8: £2,849,
  • Best titanium gravel bike – Ribble cgr ti grx: £3,099,
  • Best pro-level gravel bike – Specialized s-works crux: £11,300,
  • Best aluminium gravel bike – Canyon grail 7: £1,749,
  • Best gravel bike under £1,000 – Pinnacle arkose 1: £800,
  • Best suspension gravel bike – Lauf true grit weekend warrior: £2,590,
  • Best mid-range gravel bike – Specialized diverge sport: £3,000,
  • Best female-specific gravel bike – Liv devote advanced 1: £2,599,
  • Best steel gravel bike – Genesis fugio 30: £3,199.99,

Canyon grizl cf sl 8

Canyon grizl cf sl 8.jpg

Best: All-rounder

Rating: 10/10

Canyon added the grizl to its mixed-surface fleet in 2021 and it’s been one of our favourite gravel bikes ever since. It sits at the more adventure-focussed end of the gravel spectrum, boasting a bevy of mounting points for bottles and bags, along with tyre clearance that puts it closer to an MTB than a road bike.

The grizl cf sl 8 is the mid-rage option, featuring a carbon-fibre frame and fork, Shimano grx gravel-specific groupset and 45mm tyres, although it’ll comfortably accommodate anything up to 50mm. You can also opt for a dropper post and front suspension, courtesy of a Rockshox Rudy fork, which might be a good option if you plan to tackle particularly rough ground or technical trails.

The bike itself is a joy to ride, and we were reluctant when the time came to send it back.

Back to top

Ribble cgr ti grx

Ribble cgr ti grx.jpg

Best: Titanium gravel bike

Rating: 9/10

This well-priced titanium gravel bike from UK-based brand Ribble was our gravel bike of the year in 2021. Had the grizl not arrived last summer, there’s every chance it would still be at the top of the list in 2022.

The cgr, which stands for “cross, gravel, road”, is a bike that’s designed to do it all depending on the parts it’s built up with. This version is fully equipped for off-road adventures, with 47mm tyres and grx groupset, but swap the 650b wheels for 700c, pop some slick tyres on and it’ll comfortably hold its own on the road, too. This makes it a great option for anyone on the hunt for a do-it-all bike as opposed to having two separate machines for road and gravel.

We also love the timeless look of this bike. Raw titanium is low maintenance, doesn’t show scratches or scuffs, and will always look the part. Plus, the classic diamond-shaped frame isn’t going out of fashion anytime soon – not a dropped seatstay in sight.

Back to top

Specialized s-works crux

S-Works Crux.jpg

Best: Pro-level gravel bike

Rating: 9/10

Specialized’s flagship cyclocross weapon had a gravel makeover late last year and this is the result. The s-works crux is claimed by Specialized to be “the world’s lightest gravel bike”, and having ridden it extensively over the last two months, we have no reason to doubt that for a second.

The updated crux might just be the best gravel bike we’ve ever ridden. It goes like a rocket, readily eats up anything thrown its way, weighs next to nothing (full builds start at around 7kg), and has a buttery-smooth quality to the handling that encourages the rider to push harder and go faster. That said, it’s also the most expensive gravel bike we’ve ever ridden, but if money was no object, this would be the bike we’d choose.

Spec-wise, everything is top of the line. From the SRAM red xplr group set to the featherweight Roval carbon rims. The bike we tested was supplied with 38mm Specialized pathfinder pro tyres, which were perfect for our local dirt tracks, but there’s clearance for 47mm on 700c wheels, or more if you go down to 650b. It’s a bike fit for a king or queen – the Bugatti Veyron of gravel bikes, with the eye-watering price tag to match.

Back to top

Canyon grail 7

Canyon grail 7.jpg

Best: Aluminium gravel bike

Rating: 8/10

Now joined by the grizl, the grail was Canyon’s first gravel bike and is still a firm favourite among cycling media, keen amateurs and everyone we know who has ever owned one. It’s a Jack of all trades that’s fast rolling on the flat and glides over rough(ish) ground with ease.

The grail 7 is the second most affordable bike in the grail range, coming in at well under £2,000 for a full Shimano grx810 groupset, aluminium frame, carbon fork and DT Swiss gravel-specific wheels. There is a cheaper option in the grail 6, but while the two look identical, the key difference is that the 6 features a lower-spec grx groupset.

We love this grail 7 and think it would be perfect for anyone looking for an entry-level gravel bike with room to grow. It’s reasonably priced for what you get, and it shouldn’t leave you hankering after an upgrade a few months down the line either.

Back to top

Pinnacle arkose 1

Pinnacle arkose 1.jpg

Best: Gravel bike under £1,000

Rating: 8/10

You don’t have to spend thousands to get off the beaten track. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly gravel bike to get out and about on, this capable machine from Pinnacle has got everything you need.

The bike is built around an aluminium frame in a rather appealing sparkly finish, with shifting courtesy of a Shimano claris groupset and braking taken care of by a set of Tektro mechanical disc brakes.

Changes are sufficiently smooth and there’s a good spread of low gears for tackling big hills and uneven ground. The stopping power is decent, but admittedly there’s never going to be the same level of precision, responsiveness and modulation as with the hydraulic equivalent. Still, it does what it’s supposed to do, and it’s a lot easier to service, too.

Back to top

Lauf true grit weekend warrior

Lauf true grit weekend warrior.jpg

Best: Suspension gravel bike

Rating: 8/10

If you’ve ever doubted the off-road credibility of drop-bar bikes, get yourself in the saddle of a Lauf true grit. This tank of a bike is built exclusively for the rough stuff and would be perfect for those who plan to take their gravel adventures onto technical woodland terrain and singletrack.

The true grit weekend warrior comes with a SRAM rival mechanical groupset, a full carbon frame, tubeless-ready wheels, 40mm tyres with clearance for up to 45mm on 700c wheels, and even a bottle opener just above the front derailleur to facilitate that #gravel lifestyle.

What really sets this bike apart, however, is the bizarre-looking fork. It’s called the grit sl and it caused quite a stir when it first launched – not least because it looks pretty unconventional. It’s essentially a suspension fork without all the maintenance, relying on a series of glass-fibre springs as opposed to air and a damper. It gives the rider 30mm of travel for cruising over rough ground, and carries next to no weight penalty, particularly when compared with more traditional shocks.

Back to top

Specialized diverge sport

Specialized diverge sport.jpg

Best: Mid-range gravel bike

Rating: 8/10

Now joined by the updated crux, the diverge is Specialized’s original gravel bike and, out of the two, it’s the one you should choose if you’re looking to plan epic off-road adventures.

The diverge sport offers more mounting points for all your bikepacking kit, relaxed geometry and boasts Specialized’s futureshock suspension built right into the headset for a smooth ride. It also comes with SRAM apex 1x, hydraulic disc brakes, 42mm Specialized pathfinder pro tyres and DT Swiss tubeless-ready gravel wheels.

This bike is a lot of fun to ride, while the futureshock suspension is marvellous at taking the bite out of gnarly terrain without noticeably compromising power transfer on hard, flat ground.

Back to top

Liv devote advanced

Liv devote advanced.jpg

Best: Female-specific gravel bike

Rating: 9/10

So-called unisex frames are the norm in the bike industry, but it’s a fact that men and women are built differently. Liv doesn’t merely optimise male frames for female riders; it designs every part of the bike around women’s physical requirements, including frames that are created specifically for female cyclists.

The devote advanced is Liv’s mid-range adventure/gravel bike and is fully equipped for the road less travelled. It’s peppered with mounting points for racks, bags and mudguards, and clearance for tyres up to 45mm in width. It also features a full Shimano grx groupset for silky-smooth shifting, even in less than favourable off-road conditions.

Back to top

Genesis fugio 30

Genesis fugio 30.jpg

Best: Steel gravel bike

Rating: 9/10

This fluoro fun machine was one of our top gravel bikes in 2021 and it’s still our favourite steel off-roader. If you’re after an energetic ride with heaps of personality and the ability to turn heads, there is no ready-built bike currently on the market better suited to satisfy your needs.

If you can look away from the paint job for a few seconds, you’ll notice that the fugio 30 is kitted out with full Shimano grx, 47mm WTB venture tyres and even a dropper post. That considered, you’d probably assume that this bike is ready for serious off-road action, and you’d be right. We spent a good month last year throwing this thing around our local dirt paths, forests and fire roads, and it’s a seriously capable piece of kit. Not to mention how magnificently it pops in woodland bike photos.

Back to top

The verdict: Gravel bikes

It’s really hard to fault the Canyon grizl and we genuinely think it’s one of the best gravel bikes currently on the market in terms of the ride and what you get for your money. For a slightly cheaper option, you can’t go wrong with the Canyon grail 7. For anyone who’s happened to win the lottery lately or inherited the estate of a wealthy relative, get yourself an S-works crux and you won’t look back.

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on bikes and other outdoor gear, try the links below:

For wheels that go the distance, these are the best endurance road bikes for long days in the saddle

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in