I’m looking to buy my first gravel bike. I live in Northern California so I’ll be riding more hilly terrain than pan flat gravel. Does anyone have recommendations on any entry level gravel bikes?
I’d recommend a used cyclocross bike, either 2x or 1x if you’re willing to spend some more money on the drivetrain to make it more gravel oriented. Should be able to get a really nice carbon bike with disc brakes for under $2k. The geometry won’t be modern gravel, but it’ll be a lot nicer of a bike than any new gravel bike you can get for that money.
Cyclocross vs. gravel is about what kind of riding you’ll be doing. Bikepacking, touring, commuting, single-track, long and leisurely picnics? A gravel bike is a better bet: the geometry will be more comfortable, it’ll have a bunch of frame mounts for storage, the tire clearance will be wider, and the stock gearing will be more flexible. Every big manufacturer and a bunch of the littler ones have a sub-$2k gravel bike at this point, and there’s not really a wrong answer among them. It’s all about what fits your body and your riding. At that price point you’re looking at aluminum frames, which are fine, and Shimano-105-level groupsets, which are also fine.
I picked up a 2016 cyclocross bike before “gravel bikes” were a marketing thing, and replaced it with a gravel bike a year later. I don’t recommend getting a nicer-specced bike that doesn’t line up with the kind of riding you want to do.
Totally valid answer here, and I agree to a large extent. I’m a gear head who always wants the “best” components, but @ellotheth is right that comfort and geometry trump all. I’ll just say that riding roads on cyclocross geometry isn’t as bad as the current industry would like you to believe!
At that price point, I’d take a hard look at the alloy Topstone. Three was an extensive (and positive) review over at RidingGravel, as well as a sporadic set of updates on how the author is making targeted upgrades to it.
The biggest knock on the stock setup that I see is the crankset.
This is a fantastic bike! I swapped out the crank on mine for a GRX one so I could get a Stages left side power meter and I’ve been thrilled with the bike.
For $2k, you can’t go wrong but most manufacturers should have something comparable in aluminum with 105/GRX components.
I’m tempted to merge these threads, but the $1000-$1500 range on the prior one is different than the $2000 state here. But I suggest a review of the other one at the very least, since there is likely some useful overlap.
The Canyon aluminum one I believe is under 2k.
Check out the Giant Revolt 2. Got ours last year for $1,650. List is higher, but sure you can get it for $2k easily. Great bike, carbon, modern Geo, nice wheel size capability. Rides awesome on gravel - I am amazed how well it soaks up the chatter…
With the trend to wider tyres I’d be careful of older frames. I happened to be talking about this today with a mate who runs a bike mechanic business - another customer came in who had been having “wheel” problems. It turned out he’d bought a set of wide carbon wheels but with the narrowest tyres possible they fouled both frame and fork. He’d paid £1000 (something like $1200) for them! An expensive mistake.
I definitely like the used option for your first bike. Three years ago I bought a used S-Works Crux for $3500. It was a $9,000 build with like new Force 1 parts and Zipp tubular race wheels. I sold those wheels for $1000 and was all-in for $3000 on a really nice bike. The frame alone on an S-Works is $4000.
I’ve been a roadie all my life and I took the Crux easily. Even though it’s a cross race bike, it’s more laid back than my road bikes and has a little less stack and reach. I love it, especially for the price.
The gravel market has obviously evolved in the last few years towards slacker, more mountain like geo but I’m not sure it’s a huge game changer.
That said, a couple of club mates bought Salsa Cutthroats. They are bike packing gravel bikes. My Crux is faster than theirs but I do like that they can take up to 2.6" tires! I’m limited to 40mm. I’d go up to 45 or 50mm if I could. It comes down to what terrain you will mostly ride and what wheels/tires you’ll want to run.
If I were buying new today I’d take a look at the Salsa Warbird. You can get a carbon frame and Tiagra for $2000 MSRP or with Apex1 for $2500. Weirdly, the frame alone costs $2000. The Warbird will take up to 45mm tires and can also take 650b wheels. It seems like a lot of bike for the $$$.
I’m just editorializing here but it’s kind of ridiculous how the large brands can turn out nice entry level road bikes below 1k yet very few options exist for gravel/Cx in a more entry level range. I got super lucky with my Raleigh CX bike for $700 new (2x11 sram but with cantilever brakes). Poseidon is the only bike I can think of in the budget range for gravel, seems like there’s a premium attached to these labels. Off the soapbox now! Lol
I did the cyclocross to gravel switch out. Bought a used Trek Cronus (2012) for cheap. Put used 3T ergonova car bars, Hunt Aero wheelset (tubeless) w/ Gravel Kings, a Selle Italia Cross saddle on a Redshift suspension seatpost. Did my first gravel race last weekend (65 miles in the Texas Hill Country area around Llano). Had a blast and it did great (to include some serious water crossings). Even take it on single track behind my house and it feels like riding a mountain bike. My two cents worth
I’d check out the Cannondale Topstone. Entry level price but some good components.
Thats a pretty sweet frame.
Don’t know if you can get UK brand Kinesis but this was circa £1.5k, GRX, Miche handbuilt cwheels. The frame was designed for adventure riding, forks are adjustable too.
Picture not great but man it’s an awesome bright orange.
Very nice, but you better trim that steerer tube before I come over there and do it myself!
Since you’re in California, I’m surprised no one mentioned Marin Gestalt X10. A review should show up on CyclingTips.com some time in next 5 weeks.
Yeah I saw that. I dig Marin as a company bc I’m 30min from Marin county