Gravel is a discipline that is taking the cycling world by storm. There's something about stitching together a variety of road surfaces that evokes a sense of solace and adventure that is quite unlike the quotidian grind of discipline-specific terrain. As a result, the best gravel bikes are fast becoming more and more capable, equipping riders to even excel on terrain types that were once reserved for mountain bikes. And this shouldn't come at a massive expense - nope. Read on for everything you need to know about the best gravel bikes under £1,500.
Spending up to £1,500 on a bike might seem like a sizeable outlay - especially considering the current cost of living crisis we're currently facing. But the gravel bike is probably the most versatile, value-for-money bicycle you can currently buy. Without the additional cost of suspension components and the subsequent servicing bill, gravel bikes that cost under £1,500 offer a balance between value and performance.
Keep reading for our pick of the best gravel bikes under £1,500 or skip to the bottom to find out how to choose the best gravel bike for you.
The best gravel bikes under £1,500 in 2022
Giant Revolt 1 2020 – £1,149
Giant Revolt 1 Detail whole bike.jpg, by Rachael Gurney
The Revolt 1, like its alloy brothers the Revolt 0 and the Revolt 2, is an all-rounder, a versatile design for those who commute, road ride and go on gravel adventures.
At just £1,149 the Revolt 1 is priced well to accommodate both those new to the sport and seasoned riders looking to dip a toe in the gravel pool (pit?) without having to plan the perfect heist first.
The Revolt 1 has a good, familiar spec for the money and a thoughtful design. The aluminium frame comes with a full carbon fork, and internal cable routing that exits by the bottom bracket, and you get thru-axles front and rear. You also have mounts for racks and mudguards on both the frame and fork.
This is the latest gravel-adapted version of Decathlon's acclaimed RC520 endurance bike and boasts a number of new modifications making it significantly more off-road capable. It now comes with 40mm Hutchinson Touareg tyres for trail and dirt-road riding and the gear range has been widened thanks to a 48/32 Praxis chainset and 11-34T cassette. The Shimano 105 components include the GS rear mech that'll handle a 40T largest sprocket if you want to go even lower.
It's a favourite of our sister site road.cc whose reviewer Stu said: "When out for four or five hours riding purely on a mix of gravel byways and smaller dry, dirt trails, that steady, confidence-inspiring steering just lets you get on with the job of ticking off the miles and enjoying the scenery."
For actually quite a lot less than £1,000 Claud Butler's Primal is one of the cheapest gravel bikes we've encountered, but anyone considering this budget friendly bike won't feel short-changed as it provides an impressive ride experience across a wide range of terrain. However, while it puts forward a good argument for being all the budget drop-bar bike you might ever need, a look at the price-point-focused spec sheet suggests it's not necessarily all the drop-bar bike you'd ever want.
For a notch more, the £729.99 Claud Butler Radical is also a bike at a very reasonable price with a better specced Shimano's 8-speed Claris groupset.
In a relatively small pool of female-focused gravel bikes, the Liv Devote 1 delivers a fun and sporty but confidence-inspiring ride, on tarmac or trail.
One of the areas that have been lagging behind over recent years is women's gravel bikes. If you're looking for a do-it-all steed for tracks, trails and our country's fantastically variable road surfaces, a gravel bike makes a lot of sense.
The Devote range of gravel and adventure-focused bikes from Giant's women's bike specialist arm Liv is one of very few in the market with a female focus. With two aluminium-framed models and three carbon, there's something for everyone, too.
The Sonder Camino Al is an adventure bike from outdoor specialists Alpkit. Sonder is the company's bike brand and, as with the rest of their products, it aims to provide great value for money. The Camino proves to be a versatile ride for a variety of conditions whilst being of 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 affirms 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.
GT was one of the pioneers of mass-market gravel bikes, with the first Grades back in the mid-2010s. The latest version of the alloy Grade frame boasts more tyre clearance than its predecessor and 'floating' seat stays that are claimed to improve comfort. The complete bike also gets fatter tyres and a wider gear range than the first-generation equivalent, both of which will make it more capable off-road.
GT’s Grade is one of a new trend of road bikes (some call it gravel and adventure, GT calls it EnduRoad) built with the intention of providing the capability to tackle more than just smooth roads, because with its relaxed geometry and bigger tyres, the Grade is as happy hurtling through the woods on a thin slither of singletrack as it is chasing wheels on the Sunday club run. Fit some mudguards and it can be pressed into service as a daily commuter.
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 the road, you should look elsewhere first, but it's a mighty fun jack-of-all-trades - which is exactly what an off-road touring machine should be.
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.
The Specialized Diverge E5 brings the US company’s adventure and gravel bike design down to an attractive price point and produces a package that works well in a multitude of uses. With the stock tyres, it’s a solid and dependable bike for road riding and commuting, but needs a tyre swap to open it up to more varied terrain, where it will be decently capable for the rougher stuff.
Tester, David Arthur commented, "Based on riding my local roads and trails, I’ve been really impressed with the Diverge E5 Sport. It’s a competent bike for daily commuting and road rides that take in lots of rough surfaces, and with a change of tyres, it can contend with much more varied terrain. The equipment is thoughtful but where it does fall down, and it’s the usual problem for Specialized, is that it’s not the best equipped for the money."
Our mates over at road.cc tested the Boardman ADV 8.8, and said the bike was "well made, well specced and fun to ride, this adventure machine covers plenty of bases, from blasting the local gravel byways to year-round commuting. It's a lot of bike for not a lot of money."
The 8.9 has the same frame and fork but upgrades the components to Shimano's gravel-specific GRX parts. That includes hydraulic brakes, making this probably the cheapest drop-bar bike around with hydraulic stoppers.
The 8.8 has been replaced by the £700 Boardman ADV 8.6 if your budget is limited.
Another all-rounder to make it to the list, we really liked the 2017 Gestalt 2 when we reviewed it, saying it was "A cracking bike for anyone wanting a versatile machine that'll do everything from commuting to gravel grinding".
The Marin Gestalt is the least expensive bike in the brand's ‘beyond road’ line up. The gravel and adventure bike is slightly portly and only has an alloy fork but it’s surprisingly agile to ride with a good turn of speed. You will have to give serious thought to spending the extra dollar on the Gestalt 1 or 2 though as the base model Gestalt is probably best left on the pavement.
The 2021 Gestalt 1 uses Marin's Series 3 Beyond Road frame, and full-carbon fork, with Tektro dual-piston brakes, fixing two of our major criticisms of the base-model Gestalt.
How to choose the best gravel bike
What is a gravel bike?
At this price point, you can expect an aluminium frame material that is durable and inexpensive to produce. The paint will be hardwearing, but if you intend to load the bike up with bags it'll be wise to fit some frame protection. At a glance, gravel bikes share the same drop bars as their road bike cousins. Though, the difference is these bars are often wider and can flare out to offer a choice of positions to help combat fatigue, improve control while descending and allow ample space to install a bar bag for your longer adventures.
Don't be put off even if the roadie comparisons continue. Gravel bikes feature either 700c wheels like a road bike or smaller 650b seen on some mountain bikes allowing space for a tyre, therefore more grip and comfort. Furthermore, even at this end of the gravel bike market, some bikes are still compatible with both sizes of the best gravel wheelsets, further boosting versatility.
The tyres fitted at the budget end of the spectrum will offer a fantastic ride. Choosing a tyre will always be somewhat of a compromise. The consensus is that rides featuring mud and loose gravel require more aggressive tread on both the centre line and shoulders. On the other hand, the drier seasons or less technical terrain might allow you to utilise slick tyres or at least an option with smaller tread blocks that will be faster on harder surfaces. Whether your new gravel bike wears either 700c or 650b size tyres, they give away the slightest amount of rolling efficiency on tarmac yet are far more capable off-road than any road bike. In addition, their frames boast excessive tyre clearance and disc brakes like a mountain bike. Perfect for those mucky winter hacks and the more relaxed riding position, the humble gravel bike doubles up as a great commuter. So effectively, you are getting three bikes in one; a road, off-road and commuter.
The best gravel bikes shown here can be a real bargain and a cheaper bike doesn't mean a weaker bike. These low-cost options will fly along bridleways, forestry roads, farm tracks and singletrack trails for all-year-round fun on rides right from your front door.
Upgrades to your steed might be all you need to improve the fit, performance, and experience while on the trails. The wheelsets and tyres will be an excellent place to start, with these wallet-friendly bikes significantly impacting your gravel rides. Switching these heavier wheels out for the best gravel wheelsets will reduce the rotating mass and improve the handling. Likewise, swapping the tyres for tubeless-ready rubber will reduce the weight and allow you to run lower pressures.
These bikes usually have the manufacturer’s budget finishing kit like bars, stems, seat posts, and saddles that are more than up to the task. Swapping these out is an easy way to adjust the characteristics and personalise your ride.
Can my road bike ride on gravel terrain?
While it is possible to ride your road bike on gravel terrain, the ride quality will be harsh and unforgiving with the risk of damage to your wheels not to mention punctures. In addition, the lack of frame clearance on road bikes may cause the wheels to clog up with mud and dirt, especially in the wetter winter months.
What wheel size do I need: 650b or 700c?
There is an argument for both wheel sizes but it will depend on how you will use your gravel bike. The 650b wheel will allow for a tyre with more volume aiding comfort and offering better control in the more technical terrain. However, the 700c wheel size is faster rolling if you ride tamer trails where speed and efficiency are needed.
How many chainrings do I need?
The answer to this will come down to where you ride most and if you intend to do any bikepacking. A two-by drivetrain will offer you crawler gear for those days in the big mountains. Lugging bags full of everything you need for days on and off the bike adds some serious weight to your bike, making the ride up the slightest incline or into a headwind pure torture. Alternatively, a 1x drivetrain will allow for better chain security, keeping the chain on the front ring through the roughest sections of a trail littered with rocks and roots.
Do I need tubeless tyres?
While not essential, using the best tubeless tyres will radically alter your riding experience. They will not only save weight but also help stave off punctures. Other benefits include lower tyre pressures as there is no risk of pinching a tube. These all improve the gravel bike experience but be warned that some entry-level bikes might not come with tubeless-compatible wheels or tubeless-ready tyres but this can be solved by purchasing a new, tubeless-specific wheelset.
What accessories do I need?
There is a wide range of gravel-specific clothing and accessories on offer. The areas in contact with the bike will be the best place to start. While flat pedals will work fine and might be a better option if you spend time camping, a pair of clipless shoes with two-bolt cleats should give you plenty of grip for walking on all terrains and weather conditions.
A pair of gloves will offer you more comfort on the bar tape. In addition, they will help protect your hands from the elements in the event of a crash. Talking of crashes, don't forget to factor in a well-fitting helmet. If you wear tight-fitting clothing, a more aerodynamic road-style helmet will do the job just fine but for those who wear more relaxed riding apparel, a well-vented mountain bike helmet is equally up to the task.
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