Best Entry Level Gravel Bike [Review] in 2021
written by Cycle expert Alex Bristol
Check out the results fast – here are our review winners
Looking to find a gravel bike that not only provides brilliant versatility but also offers suitability to the everyday rider?
Well, good news my friend, you’re on the right page as I’ve answered everything you need to know about finding the best entry-level gravel bike.
After looking at 27 top-class gravel bikes, I have noted some of the most crucial points that are always overlooked when finding one to match your riding style.
Specifications such as frame material, geometry, and gearing can be detrimental to your ride, if not researched correctly.
So, what does this mean for you?
I have factored in all the confusing, and sometimes boring, factors such as weight, price, and much more.
Here’s a cool tip– gearing is crucial when it comes to your setup so, if you’re heading off-road, pay extra attention to lower gears in order to help tackle steep climbs and tough terrains.
Coincidently, our top choice considers everything I just said above, it’s definitely worth adding to your bucket list.
We’ve spent the time so you don’t have to:
Our Best Entry Level Gravel Bikes Contenders
Octane One Gridd 2 Gravel Bike
Looking to enter the realm of gravel bikes but not sure where to begin? Let me introduce you to this sexy beast.
Octane’s gravel bike features an elegant and high-performance alloy frameset, SRAM Apex 10-speed drivetrain all along with disc brakes, you’ll definitely have the best grip with the 700c wheels for the most endurance filled adventures with these components.
This bike is the perfect gravel grinder, with a lightweight frameset that provides a strong, agile, and stable ride and even provides that extra padding of comfort on the longer rides.
This gravel bike is aggressive and ready for action, but at the same time comfortable enough so you can push on harder and further. This makes this the perfect bike for beginners as it is both reliable while also having room for you to grow as a rider.
This gravel trooper is packed with a consistently reliable drivetrain and wide-range cassette that’ll get you up the toughest of climbs and keep you safe on the speedy descents for an always dependable braking performance no matter the weather.
But here’s the kicker
It is also super versatile so it can be used as either a fun gravel bike or an all-day commuter, the possibilities of this bike are endless.
I wish I had this bike when I first started my off-road journey.
- SRAM Rival 10-speed drivetrain
- Excellent grip
- Lightweight frameset
- None so far
Latest deal: Octane One Gridd 2
Marin Nicasio Bike
The second spot has to go to this incredible machine by Marin; the Nicasio Bike is ready for adventure. Whether you are cruising the bike paths, backpacking, discovering new areas of riding, or discovering new riding terrain, this Nicasio is prepared for the journey.
With the Series 1 Double Butted CrMo Beyond Road steel frame that offers ultimate comfort and durability when tackling terrain far away from the ol’ beaten track.
It even features ultra-wide tire clearance with fenders and rack mounts which can transform this bike from an adventure bike to a daily commuter or tourer if you want to push the limits– the only thing stopping you from your next adventure is you.
You won’t want to miss these pretty incredible features.
Featuring the 9-speed drivetrain, this cassette even includes an ultra-wide 11-46T gear range, making climbing and pedaling through rough terrain like a breeze.
Plus, with mechanical disc brakes, this bike will be sure to get you out of trouble with the consistent braking performance you can rely on, no matter the weather or the terrain you come across– in both wet and dry conditions.
All this paired with Marin aluminum double-wall rims and WTB Horizon tires, you’ll be able to roll as smoothly as you would on the pavement, even when the dirt trail begins. These tires also provide ultimate grip on uneven surfaces, making them the ideal bike for adventure.
What’s stopping you?
- 9-speed drivetrain
- ultra-wide tire clearance
- steel frame for added durability and comfort
- grippy tires
- None found at the moment
Latest deal: Marin Nicasio Bike
Checkpoint ALR 4
Now for number three on my list, it has to be the well-renowned for reliability, TREK. With such a great starting point for all riders, you’ll be in great hands with this bike.
Checkpoint ALR 4 is an excellent aluminum gravel bike that offers masses of capability for at a great value for money. It is built to tackle the rigors of both gravel and dirt roads but also for morning commutes and adventures on the weekend.
The capabilities of this bike are endless, knowing no boundaries, it’ll be your best friend on the gateway to your next adventure.
You may be wondering- can this bike tackle weather?
You bet your blooming socks it can, nothing will be stopping you from getting on the trails and exploring new capabilities.
With an aluminum alloy frame and shock-absorbing carbon fork, a 2×10 Shimano Sora drivetrain with lower gears to grind up the hills or through the rough surfaces, this bike was built for these tough terrains. But also this bike has hydraulic disc brakes for efficient braking capabilities no matter the weather.
The internal cable routing keeps the look of this bike sleek and attractive making it an excellent choice for beginners.
Here’s the best bit though- it comes with racks and fender mounts so you can stash all your favorite essentials on your ride. The wide mid range gravel tires are a massive hit also for ultimate grip.
Bring it on gravel, this bike is ready to tackle anything while still remaining super comfortable. Go have a sneak peek at the glowing reviews.
- 2×10 Shimano drivetrain
- Ready to tackle any surface
- Endless opportunities with the hydraulic disc brakes to get you out of trouble
- Thick and grippy tires
- Limited on color choices
Latest deal: Hiland Gravel Cyclocross
Cannondale Topstone Neo 5 Electric Bike
best electric gravel bike
Looking for a gravel bike designed for all those gravel adventures, trekking, commuting, and more? Well, have you ever considered getting a gravel e-bike? They are bundles of fun and allow you to take your adventures even further!
The Cannondale Topstone Neo e-bike is a capable and versatile choice for chasing routes you would never have thought of before. It is an ideal beginner that you won’t quickly outgrow; the components are of high quality and will see you through years of fun.
So, where should I get started?
Well, for starters, it is made with a SmartForm C1 alloy frame and a full carbon fork for efficient vibration dampening, lightweight feeling durable frame that offers high-end performance in every pedal stroke. No matter how rough or how off-road your ride is, NEO 5 is up to the challenge.
With Shimano GRX 1×11 speed shifting and GRX hydraulic disc brakes, you have reliable performance and complete confidence of control and power when riding across varied and technical terrain.
Now, what’s the point of an adventure bike if you can’t build up some serious mileage?
With the Neo 5, that will never be a thought in your mind again with the Bosch Performance Line Speed Motor with a 500 Wh Power Tube battery and pedal-assist up to 28mph for up to 70 miles! That’s certainly enough for a good ride.
But make sure that you check the laws and regulations for riding an electric bike on the road in your country before you buy.
Many cyclists worry about buying an electric bike in the worry that cyclists will judge them, but this bike is as quiet as a mouse that no one would even tell the difference.
Now wait, here’s the best bit:
It comes with an easy-to-use Bosch Purion display and control unit, which allows you to keep in command with a high-contrast data screen and intuitive mode no matter where or how you ride.
Talking about convenience, let’s also talk about the comfort of this legendary e-bike. The dialed riding position is upright enough for comfort over the long haul, but it is forward sufficient to offer speed and power when tackling off-road adventures.
To top it all off, it comes with 700cx36mm tires which offer both grip and comfort with lots of clearance, so there’s enough room for fenders; there are also multiple mounts to provide space for water bottles and essential storage.
If you’ve never really thought about getting an electric bike for your gravel adventures, I would recommend it; they’re a bundle of fun!
- Pedal-assist up to 28 mph
- Full carbon fork and durable frame
- Hydraulic disc brakes
- Bosch Purion display and control unit
- None of Rei bikes come with pedals
Latest deal: Cannondale Topstone Neo 5 Electric Bike
Niner RLT 9 RDO 4-Star Bike
Now sometimes we all dream of the bike that can do it all, whether that it’s a country road adventure or delving much more profound than what the beaten track can offer, Niner can take you there. You can ride on the pavement and carry ongoing when the dirt begins.
The Niner RLT 9 RDO 4-star 1x bike is designed for adventure, fun, and versatility.
With an RDO carbon frame and fork, this bike is super lightweight and offers an efficient level of suspension and vibration dampening. They do an excellent job at smoothing the road, which also aids comfort on the longer rides.
This frame is compatible with both 700x50c and 650b x 2.0″ tires; it even comes with integrated frame mounts, internal cable routing, and rack and fender mounts, so you can easily use this adventure bike. For your daily commutes and even touring if you fancy!
Sounds pretty awesome so far, right?
Well, this impressive gravel bike by Niner also comes with GRX 800 1×11 speed drivetrain, which includes a cassette with an ultra-wide gear range that will make climbing and pedaling through technical terrains a breeze– so you can push further and for longer!
Plus, you’ll never have to worry about not being able to brake in unfavorable conditions as this gravel bike is packed with Shimano GRX8PP hydraulic disc brakes which offer confidence-inspiring stopping power and control no matter what terrain you come across.
Plus, paired with Schwalbe G-one all-around tires that can be set up tubeless for a much smoother rider with better traction– plus, you’ll never have to worry about flats getting you down on your ride.
Yet another brilliant ride, which components that will be sure to have other gravel riders swoon!
- Carbon frame and fork
- Hydraulic disc brakes
- Can be used on both road and off-road
- Has a lot of clearance for fenders and mounts
- None as of yet
Latest deal: Niner RLT 9 RDO 4-Star Bike
Tommaso Sterrata Gravel Bike
When it comes to performance, durability, and strength, Tommaso Sterrata Shimano Claris R2000 is the best, especially when it comes to gravel bikes for entry level riders.
In order to boost comfort, it has a compact frame and premium compact handlebars. All the other parts are uniquely made to provide maximum comfort and efficiency.
The TC-300 rims and the 28 spoke rim makes the bike suitable for all terrains. You will also find that it uses 700c x 40c tires which provides additional versatility, stability, and traction while in your riding position.
But wait, let me tell you something.
It is also equipped with different gears which means that you can use it anywhere, giving you that versatility to go where no bike has even dreamed of before.
This bike is both durable and powerful, while still looking beautiful making it perfect for a gravel rider new to the rough terrains. The frame is compact giving you a much smoother ride in comparison to other frame geometries.
This may be your perfect beginner gravel bike but you’ll have to take a look for yourself.
- Excellent quality
- Super comfortable
- Ideal for all terrains
- Very strong and durable
- More expensive that other bikes on this list
Latest deal: Tommaso Sterrata
Tommaso Siena Shimano Disc Gravel Adventure Bike
If you are searching for a powerful bike you can use on rugged or any other terrain, Tommaso Siena Shimano will be a perfect choice. It is made of an aluminum compact frame which is combined with an SST steel fork to enhance durability.
The frame is drilled for a variety of racks and fenders so you can store all your kit making this the ultimate gravel bike
Whether you will be riding on hilly or flat terrains, this bike is equipped with several gears which makes it easy to use even on the most difficult terrains making this one of the best gravel bikes for entry-level riders.
Now here’s the deal…
The Tommaso TC-20D rims feature 28 spokes and they enable the bike to roll easily. Note that the bike uses Avid BB5 disc brakes which provides incredible stopping power.
This bike gives powerful performance and speed for all levels of riders. With 700c x40c tires for added versatility and stability even on the roughest of terrains in all conditions. All this with Avid BB5 disc brakes for superior stopping power, even in rough weather conditions.
This bike will reward performance for every rider.
- Powerful performance
- All-terrain capabilities
- Optimized for comfort
- Tires have more pull back on tarmac than other tires
Latest deal: Tommaso Siena
Vitus Substance VR-2 Adventure Road Bike
Last but certainly not least is your “do-it bike,” the Vitus Substance VR-2 Adventure Road Bike, which combines a rigid aluminum frame with a powerful and responsive carbon fork. This agile bike is designed for all kinds of terrains.
The possibilities are endless with a T6-6061 double-butted aluminum frame and carbon fork that are designed to take both 700c and 650b wheels and tires. This bike is super versatile, rearing, and ready to go on your next adventure.
The Vitus Substance VR-2 also features a tapered headtube and full T-700 UD carbon forks and substance steel which is born tough and durable; this bike was made for all world adventure or even comfortable commuting, with the clearance for mounts and fenders.
It even comes with multiple handy water bottle holders!
But that’s not the only remarkable feature; the VR-2 also comes with Shimano’s GRX 400 groupset, which is the world’s first dedicated gravel groupset, plus paired with the GRX 600 chainset, this ten speed 2x groupset offers smooth and quiet riding, tuned for gravel riding.
The tires are crucial in gravel bikes; they need to be grippy enough to tackle unpredictable terrain but smooth enough to roll over flat surfaces easily. Luckily this bike is fitted with wide, high-grip WTB gravel tires.
650b is perfect for adventure riding as it offers a large outer diameter so you can keep your wheels rolling over bumps, roots, rocks, whatever the dirt brings. At the same time, the added tire volume allows you to adjust the tire pressure depending on the terrain for grip and comfort.
Vitus have outdone themselves with this pretty incredible bike!
- Aluminum frame and carbon fork
- Hydraulic disc brakes
- Tuned gravel groupset
- Wide, high-grip WTB gravel tires
Latest deal: Vitus Substance VR-2
Best Entry-Level Gravel Bike– A Buyer’s Guide
If you’re looking for jumping on the bandwagon for getting a gravel bike, you’re at the right place. I will help guide you through to find the best gravel bikes for beginners.
Gravel is an unpredictable terrain, you can skid here and there while your road bike wheels are trying to grip on for dear life. If you find yourself tackling gravel often I would definitely recommend investing in a gravel bike.
They give you that extra grip on the uneven roads. But finding the right one that is won’t break your bank but while also being high quality can be tedious at the best of times.
As the gravel bike become more and more popular and companies are offering affordable options that are more than capable of keeping up with the fast-changing demands of off-road biking and gravel riding.
But not to worry I’m here to help to break down all the confusing features to look out for before you click buy so we can get you the best gravel bike.
What To Look For When Buying The Best Gravel Bikes:
Fork – Ensure that the fork can comfortably fit your bike wheel size. Such a fork will provide a better rolling resistance and also a wide range of tire clearance.
Gear ratios and shifting: Mechanical drivetrains are very common due to their cheap price. They work by pulling a steering cable that runs across the bike frame either internally or externally. High-end gravel bikes use electronic shifting. These bikes do not use cables or any housing since they are wireless. When shifting, you do not need to use a lot of effort since everything is electronic
Weight: If you plan to use your gravel bike for racing or speeding around the terrains, you’ll want a gravel bike that is as lightweight as possible- no one wants to drag around unnecessary weight.
Price: Price is a huge factor to consider before buying a gravel bike, especially when you’re new to riding. You can find a range of quality gravel bikes without breaking your bank but you have to be careful, some manufacturers will cut corners in order to save an extra buck. Before you click buy make sure you check the reviews from other riders.
What you will realize about the gravel bikes for entry-level riders that we have reviewed is that they have every feature you would expect from a top-quality gravel bike. Remember we have spent a lot of time trying to compare different products to come up with the ones that suit you most.
Drivetrain: As a beginner, I would definitely aim to look for a gravel bike that has 2x gearing as it makes off-road climbs and the rougher gravel much easier and more enjoyable.
2x drivetrains are also much cheaper than any other making it perfect for newer riders. A great example would be Salsa Journeyman 1 with this drivetrain.
Hydraulic Disc vs Mechanical Disc Brakes?
Brakes are one of the most important safety features on every bike but even more important on a gravel bike as gravel can be unpredictable and have the risk of skidding. You’ll find yourself choosing between the hydraulic and mechanical disc brakes.
But which one is better?
Mechanical disc brakes engage with the brake calipers through cables whereas hydraulic disc brakes use brake fluid that create pressure to engage the brakes. Good brake calipers include a Shimano Sora BR-R3000 brake Caliper
The majority of people agree that hydraulic brakes are better as they give you superior stopping power no matter the riding position you may be riding in But they are also easier to control and allow you to brake more gradually.
On many entry-level bikes, you’ll find that they are equipped with mechanical disc brakes but I would definitely recommend changing them up to hydraulic brakes will give you that superior stopping power even in the uneven gravel terrains.
Bike frame geometry
If you want a good gravel bike for rough terrains, choose one with a long wheel size base. This will provide the required stability in such terrains. Again, the handlebars should be wider than those on a typical road bikes to enhance control and maneuverability.
Also, the height of the bottom bracket should be low to boost stability in high-speed situations. When it comes to the material you will find yourself faced with aluminum, carbon frame, or steel frame and fork.
But which one should I pick?
The aluminum frame is cheap, lightweight, and strong to tackle off-road biking. The majority of entry-level gravel bike frames and forks such as carbon forks helps with shock absorption, especially on rough terrains.
A steel frame are the most durable out of the three but they often are the heaviest which adds that extra unescessary.
A carbon frame always come at a higher price point than an aluminum frame, therefore, may not be suitable for newer riders, especially if you’re looking for a quality road bikes without breaking the bank.
Another factor you should look out for is whether it has a rack, a top tube or fenders to store your favorite kit. Nothing I hate more than having to carry everything on my back because my bike doesn’t have fenders. For a beginner especially, it’ll make gravel biking a more enjoyable experience.
Wheel size and tires
If possible go-between 32c and 37c wheels, these are the mid range. These ones provide better control and maneuverability as compared to the 27.5-inch wheels and wider tires. They will offer more shock absorption, especially on uneven surfaces, providing more traction.
Narrower tires will offer better rolling as they are generally lighter in weight.
Most entry-level gravel bikes you’ll find will have 700c x 32c wheels and tires up to 650b x. 700c x wheels are better in my opinion.
You may also find gravel bikes with a smaller 650b wheel on the wheels allowing a range from 42c to 47c which is the mid range of gravel tires.
It would also be good to consider tubeless-ready or clincher rims if you’d like to upgrade your entry-level gravel bike as they may not be in your price range originally. Tubeless-ready tires reduce the likelihood of flats especially on terrains like gravel, it’ll be tougher and better for tackling rough terrains.
Finding a bike wheel that is tubeless compatible is important if you’re thinking of upgrading in the future.
The wheels also have two options. You can choose either aluminum alloys or premium carbon fiber models. The problem with carbon fiber wheels is that they break easily. In terms of durability, aluminum alloy wheels are the best.
Click here for the best tires for puncture resistance, they’re perfect for the gravel terrains.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a gravel bike?
Gravel bikes are also known as adventure road bicycles. They combine the benefits of off-road , road, and touring bikes. You can easily confuse them due to their close resemblance. However, their parts are slightly modified to handle tough terrains. Again, they feature racks which enables them to carry extra items.
What makes gravel bikes better than road and mountain bikes?
In terms of durability, they last longer than road bicycles. They are also faster as compared to mountain bikes.
What are the key features of a gravel bike?
The most common feature you will find in these bikes includes, fatter tires, dropped handlebar, mounts for racks and mudguards.
Whether you are searching for a quality bike for commuting or touring, gravel bikes are the best. What makes them stand out from the rest is because they provide better performance in trough terrains.
You can also mount racks when you want to carry various items and this is one of the reasons why they are preferred for touring.
Stay safe on the gravel trails and happy biking!
Content Manager at Pedallers
Alex is a cycling expert at and focuses on reviewing bikes, accessories, and general cycling. He searches for the most up to date products that match the needs of cyclists across the world. Whether it's recent news or the best bike set-ups, Alex is a trusted source for anything around cycling.