Although we have our off-road.cc Best Bike Awards that rounds up a year's worth of testing pretty well we thought we'd take a look at the 'most read' bike review articles to see what you, our lovely reader base, liked reading about this year. Read on for the top 6 gravel bikes that received the highest reading figures throughout 2018.
Of course, just checking out our statistics for the 'most read' isn't necessarily the most accurate way of finding out which bikes you wanted to read about last year. For example, we reviewed the Lauf True Grit late in the year which was a hugely popular read but since it was only published in December it didn't leave the bike that long to rack up larger viewing figures before the year was out. To compensate for this, after the top 6, we've also added a few interesting bike reviews that went down a storm at the time of publishing. Let's get started:
6. All City Cycles Space Horse Disc
The All City Cycles Space Horse is one of those ‘one bike does it all’ types, it’s built to be a commuter, a roadie, a tourer and a singletrack slaying gravel bike. To keep matters simple, there is just one spec level available from Ison Distribution but it is one that sports pretty good kit attached to the double butted 612 Select cromoly steel tubing for a £1,600 price tag. This bike is happy being a pony of many professions, it will be happy traversing tarmac or going on gravel, it’s described as a ‘road bike meets tourer’ and it really is just that, it’s a bike to churn out the gravel miles in comfort and with character. We’ve thrown it down some singletrack and whilst it’s a lot of fun in its attempt to conquer skinnier trails, it really is a bike for pointing at the gravel road horizon, settling in and seeing where the adventure takes you.
5. 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. It's a fair hint at what this bike is made for that the skinny steel tubes of the frame and fork are peppered with mounts for racks, guards and cages, while the super long 198mm (medium frame) headtube gives an upright riding position that's comfy to be in all day, whether on the drops or the tops.
It's an absolute hoot to thrash off-road, with the stability to link up fireroad turns like they are giant singletrack berms but also enough pop and play to make you want to bunny hop it over whatever you can. 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. Now if it could only go on a small diet then it'd be even better...
4. Merida Silex 9000
Merida’s mountain bike inspired gravel bike, the Silex 9000, got our tester grinning over a variety of terrain, offering excellent off-road handling whilst still able to turn a wheel easily to road riding too. The bike allows a smooth flow through the bends of a twisty gravel track or flicking the Silex between roots and potholes as you bomb down through a forest trail. Without suspension obviously you need to choose your route through the trees a little more carefully, processing all of the incoming terrain detail and adjusting your line consistently and it's here that the Silex 9000 really comes alive. It was like I'd been transported back to my teenage years when I was doing the same on rigid steel MTB's, that same grin on my face as your elbows and knees fire up and down like demented shock absorbers. The Silex carries a lot less heft than those old bikes though, at just 7.98kg in this build means that the Merida is so flickable and bunny hops with absolute ease.
Overall the Silex is the perfect bike if you are going to spend a lot of time off the beaten track thanks to that excellent handling and fast, responsive ride. The fact that it doesn't really sacrifice its tarmac manners makes it a true all-rounder.
3. Rondo RUUT AL
The RUUT AL is the new aluminium adventure gravel bike from new Polish brand Rondo. It’s a super comfortable multi-surface machine with agile handling that can be adjusted between fast and racy to more upright and relaxed through its cleverly designed, geometry adjusting Twintip fork.
If you are thinking of trimming down the number of bikes you have or if you only have enough room or money for just ‘one’ bike the Rondo RUUT AL should be taken for a test ride. It’s a really a very good gravel and adventure machine for storming the byways and bridleways and a fabulous commuter to boot. I’m not sure that it makes a lot of sense to flip the Twintip back and forth on a regular basis, you’re bound to have your favourite. But if you are looking for one bike to do most of your riding, having a sneaky second bike available for weekend trips at the flip of that Twintip is a bonus. Added to that there's the ability to fit 27.5x 2.1" mountain bike wheels and you actually have two more choices to play with, so overall it's a beautiful, geometry morphing, do anything adventure bike and is highly recommended.
2. Sonder Camino Al Apex 1 Hydraulic V2
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.
1. Calibre Dark Peak - the 'most read' review
With a solid spec that wouldn’t look amiss on a bike the next price bracket or two up, the Dark Peak is a super value for money gravel-cross-adventure-do-it-all bike that is also reliable and fun to ride. Specced with branded components throughout and built around a double-butted 6061 aluminium frame with carbon forks, if you are looking at dipping your toes into the gravel bike market on a budget, then this is a great place to start.
It's actually pretty refreshing for something so economical to have so little to criticise. I always felt the Dark Peak was a hoot to ride, mainly because of the feeling that it was so much bike for its price tag, but also because all the parts fully functional and shouldn't wear out or let you down as they aren’t at all compromised even at the price point.
Other popular reviews
Lauf True Grit Race Edition
Lauf's True Grit shuns the usual versatility of most gravel bikes for a pin-sharp focus on racing, with their unique leaf-sprung fork taking centre stage on a bike that's quite unlike most others out there. As a complete package for going very quickly on dirt roads, it's hard to beat.
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.
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