Best Gravel Bikes under $1,000: Buying guide (2022)

(Last update on May 10, 2022

Join the gravel movement and ride the gravel bike that’s perfect for your next adventure. There are many models available in this category, making it difficult to choose. This guide will help you find the best gravel bikes for under $1,000.

Gravel Biking: Now and Then

Gravel bikes make it easy to ride on multiple surfaces and cross between cobblestones and gravel paths. Many gravel bikes have frame mounts that allow you to attach racks and bags to your bikepacking adventure. Gravel bikes are a great option for cyclists who want to explore new terrain on two wheels.

As the category’s Popularity grows, more and more brands are developing their own gravel bikes to catch consumers’ attention, sometimes even making multiple models.

The Minnesota bike manufacturer Salsa Cycles made the first so-called ‘gravel bike’ back in 2013 to split the difference between Design for road and cyclocross. The Warbird was the first of many gravel bikes that were made.

Multi-surface riding has become a fad in 2022. The competition between brands gives riders countless options. This selection includes the top models under $1,000. They are perfect for beginners to gravel biking and those who need a single bike to take them to work, commute, and off-road.

Buying Guide: How To Choose the Best Gravel Bike Below $1,000

There are many gravel bikes available on the market at an affordable price. This means that you have plenty of options to choose from and it can be difficult to sort through all the choices. This helpful buying guide will simplify the process of searching for your next gravelbike. Continue reading to learn which gravel bike options and components will work for you.

Which size wheel is best?

Gravel bikes come with 700c and 650b wheels, depending upon the model and your riding style. Riders can choose between two sizes, unlike road bikes that come with 700c wheels. This debate is also common for mountain bikers moving to gravel bikes.

650b wheels have a slightly smaller diameter than 700c wheels, which means they can fit wider tires that won’t rub against the frame. The larger tires provide better grip and absorb bumps more effectively. The 650b size is recommended for riders who plan to ride on rocky or coarse gravel paths.

Large 700c wheels have narrower tires that roll faster over moderate terrain but can’t handle tough conditions. 700c gravel tires are wider than normal road tires that provide traction on light gravel paths or dirt routes but aren’t as cushy as 650b options. The 700c size wheel is ideal for riding on fire roads and fine gravel. It can also be used to switch between paved and unpaved surfaces.

How many chainrings should I have?

Similar to the wheel size debate, there isn’t a universal standard for the number of chainrings on a gravel bike. Gravel bikes can have one or two chainrings at the front.

Many of the tech used by Gravel bikes is borrowed from mountain bikingMany gravel bikes choose the 1x drivetrain configuration, which is common to most modern MTBs. Other models utilize the two-wheeled road bike system with more gears. The type of riding you do will determine the best drivetrain setup.

Mountain biking riders will get used to riding with one chainring. The 1x drivetrain is simple to use and performs well on rough terrain. There’s no front derailleur, so it’s virtually impossible that the chain can pop off while shifting on bumpy surfaces. The 1x system works well for those who intend to ride off-road most days.

Double chainrings are similar to road bikes. They can be used for mixed-surface riding. You can switch between cobblestones, light gravel, and paved roads. Two-wheel drivetrains with more gears than one have more options, even though some gear ratios may be redundant. If you prefer speed over gnarly trails and more control, then two chainrings will allow for optimal pedaling.

What about the Geometry and Frame Material?

Nowadays, gravel bike frames can be made from aluminum, carbon fiber, steel, and titanium. Frame material and geometry can make a big difference to ride feel and comfort, so here’s some quick information to make the right choice:

Carbon fiber: This is the lightest material that can be molded into many shapes to achieve remarkable stiffness and compliance. Carbon frames that are well-engineered and cost very little will be very expensive.

Aluminium: Reliable and economical material that balances weight and strength. Carbon bikes are outclassed by high-end frames made of aluminum.

SteelAluminum: Stronger than aluminum, but it can be repaired if the frame is broken. Although not as strong, high-quality steel adds a classy and nostalgic touch. 

TitaniumUltralightweight, strong and a more affordable frame material than the common gravel rider. The coolest metal is titanium.

The frame geometry of the Gravel bikes is more relaxed than those on road, which are meant to be fast on smooth surfaces. Gravel bikes aren’t as upright as mountain bikes, though, so you’ll have to lean over a bit to reach the handlebars.

These Bikes: How I Rated Them

This list of the top gravel bikes under $1,000 was compiled from extensive research, specifications by manufacturers, and user and expert reviews. There are many bikes on the market, making it difficult to choose between models. Gravel biking has grown in popularity since its inception nearly ten years ago. These reliable gravel bikes will withstand the harsh conditions on gravel roads. These criteria were used to determine my ratings.

  • UtilityDesigned with gravel roads in mind and multi-surface biking. This includes wide tires clearance, 1x2x drivetrain, disc brakes, gravel biking and bikepacking accessories, as well as 1x or 2x drivetrains.
  • Ride feelHigh quality componentry and geometry make for a more comfortable ride on rough terrain. Carbon forks are a big plus.
  • DurabilityGravel bikes must be strong enough to withstand bumpy terrains and cobblestones. You need a quality groupset and powerful disc brakes.
  • PriceA good deal is something everyone loves. These bikes cost less than $1,000, though there are some models that are slightly more expensive but are still worth the extra money.

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Compare the Best Gravel Bikes At a Glance

Model Terrain Dimensions of wheels Price Drivechain Frame
Salsa Journeyman Claris Gravel, road, and bikepacking 700c / 650b $949 2×8 Aluminium
Marin Nicasio   gravel, bike touring 700c / 650b $989 2×8 Steel
Kona Rove AL 650 Off-road, gravel roads, dirt roads 650b $999 2×8 Aluminum
Decathlon Triban GRVL120 Disc Roads, gravel and dirt roads 700c / 650b $899 1×10 Aluminum w/ carbon fork
GT Grade Elite Gravel Bike   Road, gravel, off-road 700c / 650b $1,200 2×8 Aluminum
Octane One Gridd 2 gravel, cyclocross, endurance route 700c $1,099 1×10 Aluminum

Best Overall Budget Gravel Bike

Salsa Journeyman Claris

Rating: 9.5/10

Terrain: gravel, road or bikepacking

Salsa produced the world’s first gravel bike back in 2013, so they know a thing or two about making a good gravel bike. The modern, gravel bike the Journeyman Claris offers many handlebar and wheel options to suit your riding style. Minnesota’s brand offers the model with either flat bars or drop bars. Riders can also choose from 700c wheels or grippier mountain bikes wheels of 650b.

Shimano Claris includes a double-style road-style chainring to give you plenty of gearing options when using the 8-speed cassette. Salsa includes lots of mounting bolts to mount water bottles cages and bikepacking bags.

To ensure comfort on long days spent in the saddle, the Salsa Cowbell dropbar offers several ergonomic hand positions. The Journeyman is not rated perfect due to its quick-release front hub and less durable thru-axle.

The 6061 T6 aluminum frame offers durability and affordability. The Journeyman Claris is perfect for riders wanting extra gears and expecting to do some bikepacking— the frame mounts and wheel choices adapt this gravel bike to just about anything.

Pros

  • Flared ergonomic dropbar handlebars
  • There are many frame mounts
  • Numerous options for wheels

Cons

  • aluminum fork
  • No rear thru-axle

Price: $949

Best Steel Gravel Bike

Marin Nicasio

Rating: 9/10

Terrain: gravel, bike touring

Marin Nicasio

Marin Nicasio is an updated version of the classic steel touring bike. It can fly on all surfaces and can also be adjusted for more difficult terrain. Double-butted CrMo frame is more comfortable than aluminum frames. It can also be repaired in the case of damage. This entry-level gravel model is equipped with an eight-speed Shimano Claris Shimano double chainring Shimano Claris Shimano Claris groupset. It’s a popular choice for bikes of this type.

The 700c wheels are supplied with the very narrow Vee Apache Chief 30mm tires out of the box. That rubber does fine on smooth surfaces but isn’t wide enough for serious gravel, knocking a point off my rating. However, the frame’s tire clearance goes up to 40mm, so riders can easily upgrade their tires. Promax mechanical disc brakes are 160mm in diameter, so you can feel confident about slowing down.

The traditional steel frame looks great and I love the drop seat stays. This gravel bike can be transformed into a reliable machine for bikepacking adventures by adding rack and fender mounts.

Pros

  • steel frame material
  • Mounts for fenders and racks
  • Accepts 650b Wheels

Cons

  • Stock tires very narrow at 30mm
  • Instead of using thru-axles, use quick release skewers

Price: $989

Best 650b Gravel Bike

Kona Rove AL 650

Rating: 9/10

Terrain: gravel roads, dirt roads and off-road

Kona Rove AL 650

The Kona Rove AL 650 gravel bike is inspired by mountain biking geometry and terrain capabilities. The 650b wheels are smaller, which increases the tire clearance. Kona uses grip 47mm WTB Venture comp tires.

The tires have a larger volume of air which provides more cushioning and traction for off-road and coarse gravel. The 650b wheel is ideal for gravel bikers who plan to ride on a lot of dirt trails and chunky gravel.

The 6061 aluminum frame is more relaxed than the other bikes in this list. It’s reminiscent of hardtail mountain bike from the 1990s. Like the Salsa Journeyman the Rove Al 650 is equipped with an 8-speed Shimano Claris double chainring Shimano Claris drivetrain. The aluminum fork rather than a carbon option knocks a point off this bike’s rating.

Disc brakes should be a standard feature on gravel bikes. This model features Hayes CX mechanical disc brakes with 160mm wheels. The classic gravel bike, this bike, is extremely capable and can handle tough terrain with its wide tires and 650b wheels.

Pros

  • All-terrain 650b tires
  • great aesthetic
  • Available in many sizes

Cons

  • Aluminum fork, instead of carbon

Price: $999

Best Budget 1×10 Gravel Bike

Decathlon Triban GRVL120 Disc

Rating: 9/10

Terrain: Gravel, dirt roads, road

Decathlon Triban GRVL120 Disc

The Triban GRVL120 Disc is an impressive gravel bike with 1×10 gearing, and a carbon fork offered at an even better price. This bike, which is part of the Decathlon sports retail chain, punches above its weight and boasts solid specs.

The 6061 aluminum frame includes a carbon fork to upgrade the ride feel and decrease weight— this feature distinguishes this model from many of the bikes on this list. The 1×10 drivetrain is from the lesser-known brand Microshift which offers almost identical performance at a fraction of the price.

38t front chainring matches an 11-42t back cassette. This gives you a wider range than the Octane One Gridd 2. This bike doesn’t score full marks because the relatively small tire clearance maxes out at 38mm. Triban GRVL120 is a great option for riders who are looking for a 1x-grid bike at a reasonable price.

Pros

  • Carbon fork
  • 1×10 groupset
  • rear derailleur clutch system

Cons

  • smaller tire clearance
  • Quick-release Skwers in place of thru-axles

Price: $899

Best Frame Design Gravel Bike

GT Grade Elite Gravel Bike

Rating: 9/10

Terrain: gravel. Off-road. Road

GT Grade Elite Gravel Bike

The GT Grade Elite gravel bike is ultra-compliant and features a frame design that shines. The unique triple triangle geometry at the rear of the aluminum frame allows for the seat tube’s freedom to move and deflect over bumps. This seat tube combined with the narrow seat post provides serious comfort and compliance when riding over gravel and cobblestones.

It can be used with 700c or650b wheels and fits up to 42mm or 47c tires, respectively. The bike comes with tubeless-ready WTB ST TCS 2.0 wheels with WTB RIDdler tires. This is a common gravel tire. Shimano Claris 2×8 is a reliable entry-level groupset, and I would have expected a higher-end component for the price, knocking a point off my rating.

GT Grade Elite provides riders with a high level of attention to ride feel and frame geometry.

Pros

  • triple triangle rear end
  • intelligent frame geometry

Cons

  • Groupsets with low specs for a reasonable price

Price: $1,200

Best Overall 1×10 Gravel Bike

Octane One Gridd 2

Rating: 9.5/10

Terrain: gravel, endurance road, cyclocross.

Octane One Gridd 2

The Octane One Gridd 2 is one of the few 1x gravel bikes in this list. It has great specs and a good price. The aluminum frame’s aggressive geometry and SRAM GX 1×10 groupset with APEX levers remind me of more expensive gravel bikes. It’s priced at $100 over this round-up’s budget, but the bike’s excellent capabilities are well worth the extra cash.

The One Gridd 2 runs large 700c wheels that come with 38mm WTB Riddler tires, but there’s room in the frame for up to 40mm gravel tires. Top-tier touches include the rear and front thru-axles. The front chainring is 40t and can be hooked up to a Sunrace 11-40t cassette rear for many gear options.

This bike is a perfect setup for gravel biking, but it doesn’t have to stop there— the One Gridd 2 can be a multipurpose machine for beginners to cyclocross or endurance road riding. The bike doesn’t score a perfect 10 because I would like to see a carbon fork instead of an aluminum one.

Pros

  • 1×10 groupset
  • fender mounts

Cons

  • aluminum fork
  • No bikepacking mounting bolts

Price: $1099

Frequently Asked Question (FAQs).

Are 1x or 2x better gravel bikes?

1x groupsets are more like a mountain bike and easier to use, but they have a smaller number of gears. 2x drivechains, which are based on roadbike gearing, offer more options than 1x groupsets. Riders need to maintain their chainline.

Can you ride a gravel bike with a road groupset?

A gravel rider can use a road-specific set on their bike. Light gravel is best suited for the 2x system, which is faster and requires less shifting. 1x systems are ideal for unlevel terrain such as mountain trails.

How much should I pay for my first gravelbike?

New Gravel riders can purchase their first bike for as little as $1,000 and get the chance to improve their skills. Bike prices that are lower than this may have less durable parts, or be much heavier.

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