It’s time to reveal which of the bikes we rode and reviewed in 2020 were the best of the best. These are all bikes that have been reviewed by either ourselves or our good friends over at road.cc and as such are joint awards. All the bikes here are the ones that stood out over all the others, we've sweated it out over many test miles, pooled opinions and come up with the best gravel and adventure bike you can buy. This is the overall off.road.cc Gravel Bike of the Year 2020/21, plus the Benchmark Bike, the Bargain Buy, the Editors Choice winners.
The best gravel bikes you can buy in 2020/21
Without wasting any time, let's get on with presenting the awards, from ten to one, we list our top 10 bikes of the year. Combining all reviews between both off.road.cc and road.cc meant that this was the biggest category of bikes we had across both sites, as well as this these bikes were some of the most widely read reviews. We have sweated it out down, slimming the list down to just ten rides. In this list, you will also find awards for our Benchmark Bike, the Bargain Buy, the Editors Choice and then finally in the top spot the 2020 Gravel Bike of the Year. If it's mountain bikes you are really interested in then check out those awards here.
10. Merida Silex+ 6000
The Merida Silex+ 6000 is a nimble-handling gravel/adventure bike that offers plenty of versatility along with a comfortable ride courtesy of chunky 650B tyres. Merida says that the 650B wheeled option on this Silex+ makes the bike a perfect all-rounder, capable of tackling more demanding terrain and we'd agree. It's a mountain bike inspired gravel bike that is nimble, versatile and a whole heap of fun.
Our reviewer, Mat Brett, the Tech Ed over on road.cc says the bike really does incline towards the performance of a mountain bike, something that makes it a great choice for multiple surfaces, best when it's on technical routes where the sprightly handling is a real boon.
9. Claud Butler Primal
Claud Butler's Primal is just about the cheapest gravel bike 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. Our tester loved it for both the on and the off-road performance at the entry level price point.
This bike puts forward a good argument for being all the budget drop-bar bike you might ever need but we do concede a look at the price-point-focused spec sheet suggests it's not necessarily all the drop-bar bike you'd ever want. Still, it's an excellent budget gravel bike that offers fun times on road, track or even the commute.
The Bargain Buy is the bike that we feel gives the biggest bang for the least buck; basically picking a superb riding bike but with an emphasis on value for money.
This year we were most impressed by the Ragley Trig gravel bike. Of all the bikes we tested this one stood out for us as a seriously fun and adaptable bike. The Trig was updated in 2020 and this steel framed iteration of the bike has confident geometry, a wide gear range and a spec that is great value for money.
Our test bike costs just £1,199 and, for the dollar you get a steel frame and fork with a stiff 44mm head tube and neat cable routing. There is a 2x Shimano Tiagra 10 speed drivetrain, reasonably wide WTB rims, 700x37mm diameter WTB tyres and some, perhaps underwhelming TRP Spyre-C mechanical brakes. Our tester thought this was a frame deserving of future upgrades, where you'll have a capable bike that is lots of fun for big days in the saddle.
7. Ribble CGR ALe
An e-gravel bike reaches the top ten! Something we think we are going to see plenty more of in future years. The Ribble CGR AL e proves to be a cracking bike for the money, comfortable, stable and capable over very rough ground or while effortlessly eating up road miles, it adds intuitive, discreet electric assist to a fundamentally great chassis. Our reviewer said, it's a bike that opens up huge possibilities in covering serious ground – and having a lot of fun along the way.
Our reviewer loved the experience of riding the e-bike on some epic trips across Scotland and he says he "welcomes our new e-Gravel overlords". He says the Ribble CGR AL e is a fantastic and very capable machine great for the reasonably fit rider who'll benefit from the boost to clear large hills with heavy loads on really long days – it's not cheating, it's just great.
6. Ritchey Outback Frameset
The Ritchey Outback is a steel-framed, carbon-forked gravel and adventure frameset designed for everything from road to bikepacking and off-road touring, with all kinds of gravel in between. Its premium steel tubes and carbon forks have all the mounts you could want, and it's a supremely comfy ride. As a frameset this bike costs £1,299 and we think for this build you can easily double that and then some.
It might be missing a few creature comforts such as internal routing for Di2 or a dropper post and out reviewer, Matt, thinks that full outer cabling would be preferred but if you are looking for a comfortable gravel frameset with fantastic build quality then you should take a look at the Outback.
The Editor's Choice is a bike that, in our opinion, gives the best combination of performance and value for money. It's a bike that is not just a good bike for the money; it's a bike that's more than capable of shaming machines double or triple the price.
For £1,499 the Giant Revolt 0 gravel bike offers very impressive performance on the road and in the woods, with an easy agility that makes it fun to carve through the corners and that ultimately makes it our Editor's Choice bike. The fast-rolling tyres aren't for the committed off-roader, and the alloy frame can be a little harsh despite its carbon fork, but the Revolt 0 is a great all-rounder – and there's nothing to hold you back on your commute or weekend road ride either.
Giant has done an excellent job with the Giant Revolt 0. It might not have the cachet of posher brands, but it gets on with the business of transcending road and off-road paths jolly well. We've also ridden the cheaper alloy Revolt 1, a bike which also impressed.
If you’re looking to embark on some of this gravel and adventure fun but don’t want to spend a massive chunk of cash –the Revolt 0 is seriously worth considering. Our tester also thought the bike was superbly versatile making it ideal for the daily commuters looking to enjoy the benefits of big tyres, disc brakes and relaxed geometry.
4. Condor Bivio Gravel Thru-axle frameset
Boasting a beautifully made Columbus steel frame with a stunning ride quality, the Condor Bivio Gravel is the bike in at number four. Our tester, Stu from road.cc, said the bike is well suited to long adventures whatever the terrain. The comfort levels are impressive while the endurance-based geometry delivers a machine that is stable on loose surfaces but with just enough 'edginess' that you can really have some fun.
This is another frameset, costing £1,399 but this build would set you back £3,700. Overall, Stu reports that the Bivio Gravel is an absolutely beautiful frameset, especially in the way it rides. Yes, compared with lightweight carbon and aluminium machines it is giving away a chunk of weight, but in the real world you're only going to notice that on the steepest of climbs and its sublime ride easily cancels that out.
3. Kinesis Tripster ATR V3 frameset
Standing in third place on our podium is the Kinesis Tripster ATR. Tester Dave Atkinson says he sees this bike as a founding father of the new gravel/adventure bike scene. ATR stands for Adventure, Tour, Race; this third iteration of the bike feels like it's come of age in terms of its adventure capability whilst keeping the comfort, road manners and reasonably lightweight it's always had for covering distance at speed. It is an excellent frameset, around which you can build any number of different bikes.
At £2,200 this frameset isn't cheap but it is titanium and it boasts good looks and easy going geometry. New on the frame this year are reworked seat stays for more compliance and heel clearance, internal cable routing ports have been tweaked, there has been a redesign to the bottom bracket shell and the seat tube weld areas have been beefed up to help carry heavier loads. You'll have to read the full review to find out about all the other tweaks that make this bike one of the best Dave has ridden in 2020!
In his conclusion Dave says, "the Kinesis Tripster ATR is a genuinely great bike that's everything from a fast audaxer to a fully laden bikepacker, depending on how you build it. It's fun and engaging, well thought out and beautiful. I can fully recommend it. Again. Overall, this is the best one yet.
Our Benchmark Bike is the one that offered the highest level of performance outright - it's a bike that sets the technical and performance standards against which all the rest are judged and price didn’t even come into it. Think of it as the money-no-object dream bike.
The Benchmark bike award goes to the Cannondale Topstone Lefty 1, a bike that also sits at number two in the top ten of 2020 bikes. This bike is a technological tour-de-force: a sub-10kg, full suspension gravel bike with a monoblade Lefty fork. Our Dave also tested this one, he says, it's a hoot to ride, and well-suited to fast riding on a wide range of surfaces. Yes, we know it's expensive (£6,600 to be precise) but nice things often are.
The Topstone is a light rig and, we reckon, going to be of most interest if you're wanting to move fast on any kind of off-road surface. For any kind of competitive gravel event, the Topstone Carbon would be an obvious choice. Dave thought that for something like the 200km Dirty Reiver, a bike like this would be a perfect choice: swap the tyres for something a bit narrower and more aggressive, and let the frame and fork add a bit of cush back.
This bike also got us thinking; it's often easy to think of state-of-the-art bikes like this, with their top-spec components and technological innovations, more as look-at-me statements than actual bikes you'd buy. But it's good the boundaries between riding types are blurring, and that companies are trying interesting things.
For all its cleverness, the abiding impression of the Topstone Carbon is of a bike that's a lot of fun. It's light and fast – you can keep up on the road, and shoot off on the gravel. The suspension is a tangible benefit for riding on mixed surfaces at speed, and everything on it works brilliantly. There's lots to like here, it's a fast, light gravel ripper with top-notch equipment and useful suspension tech
The 'off-road.cc Gravel Bike of the Year' is quite simply the best gravel bike we have tested in 2020. It's a bike we can safely say is the best due to its great performance and good value for money. With this bike you don't just get a good value bike, you get a proper bang for your buck and a shed load of versatility too. It's a bike that we reckon, should you drop the dollar on buying one, will last you a lifetime and will be easily upgradable when and if the time comes.
This accolade goes to the Ribble CGR SRAM Apex 1X 650B gravel and adventure bike. Our old editor Jon tested this bike and he said that it was a superb do-it-all drop bar machine. He reckoned that is was a great looking traditionally styled frame that had lots of modern details such as the 650B wheels, the large tyre clearance, a full carbon fork and thru axles at both end plus plenty of rack and mudguard mounts.
To ride the steel framed bike with its carbon fork proved to be comfortable and versatile, as at home on some big road miles as it is heading off fully laden for a bikepacking adventures. Jon said "there's little not to like about the CGR 725. It's equally adept on tarmac or fireroad, with the combination of steel frame and fat 650b tyres giving comfortable cruising ability, no matter what surface you're on. It's stable on dirt without feeling lethargic on tarmac, while it feels just as happy weaving in and out of traffic as it does at the end of the long, full laden day of bikepacking."
Above all, it was good value too as just £1,549 and, if you aren't familiar with Ribble's bikes, you can tweak pretty much every element of the build on the website once you've chosen you base groupset, SRAM's Apex 1x 11-speed group set as in this case.
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