If you're after a new gravel or adventure bike but don't want to spend more than £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.
[Updated 8th October 2019]
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. Anyway, read on for some great gravel grinders for under a grand...
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, but it's a mighty fun jack-of-all-trades - which is exactly what an off-road touring machine should be.
Specialized Diverge E5 Sport
The £1,000 Specialized Diverge E5 Sport brings the US company’s latest 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.
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.
Vitus Substance Tiagra
In 2018 you could buy the Substance as a Tiagra equipped model for under a grand but in 2019 it seems that the only option is a Sora model with drop bars for £950. There's also a flat bar Sora versiona and also the carbon Substance CRX at a much higer price of £1,700. We've previously tested the 2018 Apex equpipped 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 2019 so you just need to decide if the spec and the price suits you.
Another all-rounder to make it to the list, we really liked the 2017 Gestalt 1 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" We now have a 2019 Gestalt (£750) in for test and will update you with a full review soon.
We tested the alloy Merida Silex 700 recently and really liked its mountain bike inspired geometry. Whilst the 700 costs £2,100 there is also a version for bang on 1k. The wallet-friendly 200 has the same geometry at the pricier versions but comes equipped with Shimano Sora and Promax Decode R mechanical disc brakes.
Boardman ADV 8.8
Our mates over at road.cc tested the Boardman ADV 8.8 earlier this year, they said the bike was "well made, well specced and fun to ride, this latest 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." For £750 you get a carbon fork, Shimano Sora gearing and Tektro mechanical disc brakes.
Raleigh Mustang Sport
Also tested by road.cc is the Raleigh Mustang Sport. They reckon it is a decent all-rounder that will do nicely for the commute and can also take on off-road forays if you're looking to get into gravel/adventure riding. They also said it's not too heavy, looks cool, and while some of the cheaper components might be underwhelming, with its relaxed geometry it's a fairly comfortable and capable bike for the money.
Calibre Dark Peak
This bike is just £450 at Go Outdoors at the moment, which is crazy low money for a well-equipped bike, though limited sizes are available. 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.
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