We've done best mountain bikes for under a grand, now we are going to have a look at the best gravel bikes you can get for under £1000. We've picked out gravel grinders from Marin, Boardman, Vitus, Sonder and Calibre and we reckon this lot pack a punch in terms of ride and value.
Marin Four Corners
Marin's Four Corners might make the most of the current bikepacking and adventure trend to sell itself, but at heart, it's an affordable off-road tourer with planted handling and a versatile steel frame. On the downside, it's heavier than similarly priced rivals and that's something that makes itself known on hills. If you're after something super lively feeling that'll spend most of its time on road, you should look elsewhere first. There are also more focused gravel racers and better pure commuting machines but the Four Corners is a mighty fun jack-of-all-trades - which is exactly what a touring machine should be.
Sonder Camino Al Apex 1
The Sonder Camino Al is an adventure bike from outdoor specialists Alpkit. Sonder is their bike brand and, as with the rest of their products, aims to provide great value for money. The Camino proves to be a versatile ride for a variety of conditions whilst being great value. This is a bike that enjoys going off-road but would also be quite happy taking you longer distances on tarmac too. The bias - and the way the bike is specced certainly corroborates this – is towards off-road adventuring. The comfortable position is perfect for gravel excursions or riding long distances loaded with luggage, but for my preferences is just a little too upright for longer (proper) road rides. It’s a do anything bike with a definite off-road flavour, but above all, it’s a bike to have fun with at a price that belies its capabilities.
Boardman Bikes CX Team
It's officially called a cyclocross bike but for the money and if you are looking for a good all rounder the Boardman CX Team would be worth further investigation. For £900 you get an alloy frame and carbon fork plus a SRAM Rival groupset, that means hydraulic brakes and a 1x drivetrain, which are both very good things if you ask us. Elsewhere there are Mavic wheels, Schwalbe tyres and a full complement of rack and mudguard mounts. The geometry isn't the most progressive in gravel bike terms, the head angle is pretty steep at 71.5 degrees for example but it is a racier CX bike, after all. It does look like a big bang for the buck though!
Vitus Substance Tiagra
Available as the V1 with steel forks and 700c wheels or as the V2 with 650B wheels, fatter tyres and a carbon fork the Vitus Substance Tiagra is just £800, whichever version you choose. The frames are identical though so if later down the line you wanted to change wheel sizes you can, there's plenty of room for either combo. As the name suggests this steel bike is equipped with a Tiagra 2 x 10 drivetrain and TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes. WTB tyres and Vitus own brand cockpit parts finish the whole build off. Our recent test concluded the Apex version of the bike "wasn't the quickest or the lightest, but a solid bike for far-flung adventures – or just riding to work".
Also from the Vitus stable is the Energie, aimed squarely as an all-rounder rather than an all-out adventurer. This bike will be as well suited to a daily commute as it is to a CX race and to an off-road foray. It has an alloy frame rather than steel and a carbon fork and steerer and for under a grand (£950), you'll get SRAM Apex 1 kit and Apex hydraulic brakes. It doesn't just take super skinny tyres either, the WTB i23 rims are fitted with 700 x 35c WTB Cross Boss tyres. Our road.cc friends reviewed this bike in 2016 and gave it 4.5 stars back then....
Marin Gestalt 1
Another all-rounder to make it to the list, we really liked the 2017 version of the bike when we reviewed it last year, saying it was "A cracking bike for anyone wanting a versatile machine that'll do everything from commuting to gravel grinding" This is the cheapest version in the lineup now, costing £950 for a Sora equipped 2x9 drivetrain Tektro Sypre mechanical disc brakes on the alloy frame and fork. There's full internal hose routing and plenty of tyre clearance for 700Cx35c tyres.
Calibre Dark Peak
This bike is just £549 on Go Outdoors at the moment! Crazy money for a well-equipped bike. The Calibre Dark Peak is an alloy framed bike with a carbon fork and utilises all branded parts. You get a 2x10 Shimano Tiagra drivetrain, Tektro Lyra mechanical disc brakes and Ritchey parts elsewhere. The bike is finished off with WTB ChrisCross i19 rims on Shimano hubs and WTB Nano tyres which are a nice and wide 40c. We took a first look at the Dark Peak here, it's currently out on test so we'll get back to you with a full review.
Specialized Diverge E5
The Spesh Diverge E5, Shimano Claris equipped bike might not be the best value componentry wise for £800 but you do will get a Specialized quality frame and the brands 'open road geometry', which basically means road geometry adapted for use off-road. It's got a lower bottom bracket than the CX bike, the Crux and a slacker head angle than the road equivalent the Roubaix. We've tested the S-Works version of the bike and have a cheaper women's version in for test too, you can see the first look of that bike here.
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