[Updated June 17, 2021]
If you're after a new gravel or adventure bike and want to spend around £1,000 then you're in luck, as there are plenty to pick from - and we've tested an awful lot of them. So, if you want some dirty drop bar action but don't want to dent your bank account, read on for the best in test.
If there's a bike you know you like, hit the links below to jump straight to that one. If your budget can stand a bit more, then we'd suggest you also check out our pick of the best gravel and adventure bikes we've tested for under £2,000.
Contents: the best gravel bikes for around £1,000
The very best gravel bikes around £1,000
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 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 11-34 cassette. The Shimano 105 components include the GS rear mech that'll handle a 40-tooth largest sprocket nif 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 anybody with limited funds 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.
Check out the £729.99 Claud Butler Radical for a bike at a very reasonable price with a rather better spec based on Shimano's 8-speed Claris groupset.
The kid sister to Liv's excellent Devote 1, the Devote 2 is built around the same aluminium frame, but saves a bit of money by using Shimano Sora components instead of Tiagra.
Tester Lara described the ride of the Devote as "stable and planted, both on the road and off, with the geometry and lower bottom bracket position placing me firmly within the cockpit for maximum control and confidence.
"Climbing is an absolute pleasure, and even on a fairly tricky off-road climb, it gave no twitchiness in terms of handling or issues with front wheel lift at all. It actually climbs better than my hardtail mountain bike!
"There are no issues with flex or lack of power transfer – the ride is sprightly and fun. The steering is responsive without being twitchy, and it corners well. Descending is also confidence-inspiring."
Find a Liv dealer
9 more great gravel bikes around £1,000
In 2018 you could buy the Substance as a Tiagra equipped model for under a grand but for 2021 the only option in our price range is a Sora model with drop bars for £950. There's also a flat bar Sora version and more expensive aluminium and carbon fibre models from £1,100.
We've previously tested the 2018 Apex equipped version of the bike and though it "wasn't the quickest or the lightest, but a solid bike for far-flung adventures – or just riding to work". Geometry is the same in 2021 so you just need to decide if the spec and the price suits you.
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.
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' seatstays 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.
Find a GT dealer
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, but it's a mighty fun jack-of-all-trades - which is exactly what an off-road touring machine should be.
When we tested the alloy Merida Silex 700 we really liked its mountain bike inspired geometry. Whilst the 700 costs £2,100 there is also a version, the Silex 200 for bang on a grand. The wallet-friendly 200 has the same geometry at the pricier versions but comes equipped with Shimano Sora components and Promax Decode R mechanical disc brakes.
Also look at these bikes, just over £1,000
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 road bike for road riding and commuting, but needs a tyre swap to open it up to more varied terrain, whereupon it’s decently capable for rough stuffing.
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 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.
The Giant Revolt 2 is a decent gravel and adventure bike at a respectable price. It has a quality alloy frame, a carbon fork, and plenty of scope for adventures. The Revolt 1 nails its brief as a versatile bike: it has the ability to be a speedy commuter, a bag-laden gravel machine or a good time on the singletrack – just take your pick come the weekend. At £300 less than the Revolt 1, it's also a good-value entry point to gravel biking, touring or fast commuting that's easily upgradeable should you really catch the bug.
You might also like: